Today’s episode is with Dermot O’Mahony who is talking about Elevate church that he leads in Limerick, Ireland. I met Dermot many years ago when he came to CCV just looking to learn how to start a church. He came on board CCV's sports ministry as an intern and his journey began. Now a successful Lead Pastor in his hometown, Limerick, Ireland. Dermot explains that his church is a group of people who believe life is an adventure. He talks about the church is not about mere religion or a specific denomination, but they are about introducing people to the adventure that a life with Christ can bring, and then challenging and encouraging them to live a life of significance. Dermot wants Elevate to be an Irish church that is known for its service to you and the city of Limerick and he does not want to be a church that talks the talk, but a church that serves people. And that is exactly what they are doing. Elevate is made up of dozens of volunteers, reaching people each week with the good news of Jesus.
Larrie: [00:00:19] Welcome to the Let's Go 360 podcast, a podcast for listeners who want to know more about what God is doing around the world here near and far. God is on the move like no other time in history. Let's go 360 is sponsored by Christ’s Church of the Valley, also known as CCV, One Church, but many locations across the Greater Phoenix area with plans to expand wherever God wants to go. My name is Larrie Fraley. I'm your host and lead pastor of the local and global missions here at CCV. As always, all podcasts will include show notes and important links of information that we discuss in each episode. Our guest today is Dermot O'Mahony from Elevate Church in Limerick, Ireland. Dermot is the senior pastor there at Elevate and is also its founding pastor and has been serving in this capacity for the last nine years. I met Dermot almost ten years ago when he came to CCV as a as an intern in Our Stars Youth Sports Program. He served for a year and felt called to Ireland, married and off he went. Dermot. Welcome to the show.
Dermot: [00:01:32] Thank you for having me, Larrie.
Larrie: [00:01:33] So, Dermot, before we dive in today, tell us a little bit about you and your family.
Dermot: [00:01:40] So I grew up and I'm from the west coast of Ireland and a city called Limerick. I have one beautiful wife and three kids. Tara is 11, Samantha's nine, and Daniel is six. So we're all all back in Limerick serving at the church and the kids, too.
Larrie: [00:01:55] Fantastic. So I guess one question to start with here, what problem did you want to solve starting a church in in Limerick?
Dermot: [00:02:05] The biggest problem that that we saw and wanted to resolve was people's apathy and complacency towards church. They knew about church and about God, about Jesus. But they had this complacency in their faith that was keeping them stuck. So one of the things we wanted to solve was how do we get them from a head knowledge of faith to an active faith in Jesus.
Larrie: [00:02:32] So tell us a little bit about the demographics in Limerick and maybe Ireland.
Dermot: [00:02:38] So in Limerick specifically, it's quite a young city, it's a college city. There's quite a number of students. So it would be quite a white collar kind of kind of city. There's a lot of technological companies, finance. You have all these kind of office jobs for want of a better word. So the demographics is actually quite young because that attracts quite a young environment. So one, one of the things and it's reflected in the church is the people that were kind of reaching out around the same demographic as the city that that young kind of, you know, modern type of type of person.
Larrie: [00:03:17] Right. And what kind of social issues do the young people face?
Dermot: [00:03:21] At the biggest social issue is is something to do with their time. I mean, one of the things that Limerick really lacks is an outlet. So most coffee shops, entertainment, it all, believe it or not, closes at six. So these students and these workers are finishing up at six in the evening and all of a sudden everything is closed, you know, so that their only alternative is to meet maybe in a bar or to meet, you know, in a nightclub, which is when it's your only alternative, becomes a little dreary and mundane. So there actually isn't quite a bit of outlet for them to have other than a bar. So as a church, that's what we're trying to combat, is to create opportunities for them to have a social outlet that isn't just the same old thing.
Larrie: [00:04:08] Right. So we all know what happens with when a especially when a teenager has time on their hands with nothing to do that could lead them into some things that they shouldn't be into. Right. So given that you've started the church, what are some of the tactics that you are using? In other words, how are you solving the problem?
Dermot: [00:04:32] So a lot of people's impression and on my own are, you know, through information and observations. So people's impression of the church from what they've been told, but also what they've seen and what they're observing. So the tactic that we're using isn't just informing people about, hey, I know you have this image of Jesus or this impression of Jesus, so we can tackle that, you know, maybe through conversation and information. But the best way is really through observation. Let us show you what the church is about. Let us show you that the love of Jesus. Now, the thing in Ireland is because it's a first world country, we're not solving problems like, you know, feeding, you know, people and building houses and things like that. It's a first world country. A lot of these people are, you know, they have a decent income and they don't have physical needs. But what they do lack tremendously is more of a spiritual need. But but also even that social need and those close friendships. So what we do as a church is we reach out and serve them in that capacity, create opportunities to to better different organizations in the city, serve alongside them. But then when we get to do that through the observation of head the church, the impression of the church is to just want something from me. So when we don't ask anything from them, only their, their friendship, then that creates the information aspect of being able to share it. I know this is your impression of Jesus or your impression of God that that isn't the case. So being able to kind of re-educate or or reinform them and show them the God of Scripture rather than the God of culture, really creates those opportunities to to combat and battle those impressions that they have of the church.
Larrie: [00:06:12] So the word church, it really means something different to the people in Ireland than say it does to here in the States. Correct?
Dermot: [00:06:21] I that's accurate that that would be a very accurate comment where in Ireland you're you're dealing with 800 years of a term church, which I think it's fair to say is kind of more controlling, maybe a little bit mundane. You know, did they think to have this this impression where we're trying to combat that and we're trying to trying to battle that by saying this is more of an act of we are the church. It's not just a location. But but you and I are the church.
Larrie: [00:06:53] So one of your tactics, I'm assuming, is that you would not walk up to a person and say, hey, I want to talk to you about the church.
Dermot: [00:07:01] Absolutely. See, a strange thing about Ireland is the majority of people, I would say, and I think the percentage is 85% or higher, actually believe in God. So you're dealing with a very high percentage of of a culture that you're not trying to convince them in the existence of God. And taking that a step further, you're not even trying to convince them of the existence of Jesus. What you're trying to convince them of is, you know, they have no problem with Jesus or God, but they do have an issue with the church and even the term church just because of the historical issues with that. So what we try and do is, which is why we named it the Church Elevate, is because we didn't want them to really know what it was. It's kind of vague. So when they ask, well, what is Elevate, it gives us the opportunity to explain what the church is rather than letting them just fill it in with assumptions.
Larrie: [00:07:51] I know that when I was there, because there’s not a lot to do in the evening, the local pub becomes the social gathering place, and from what I observed, people went there and talked about anything. So I think you were telling me that it's not difficult to walk into, say, a pub and begin a conversation with someone about Jesus or about God.
Dermot: [00:08:16] Absolutely. I think that as different as the term church can be in Ireland, as it is in the US or somewhere else, the kind of term pub is different to, you know, the pub in Ireland isn't just a place to go and consume beverages or alcoholic beverages. It's very much a social outlet, you know. So you'd have a high percentage of people there who aren't drinking at all, you know, they would just be having that social level. So going in there it's almost like a free for all and Elevate’s first several meetings, I mean, for several months we met in the bar and we just had conversations about God, people's questions or concerns, you know, what do to look for when to look for a gathering. And we were very cautious about using the term church. So we would say if you were to gather in a group of people to talk about spiritual issues, your own spiritual growth, what would that look like for you? And when we described it, What you were actually describing was the church, but you couldn't label it the church.
Larrie: [00:09:17] So given that you've started the church now, tell us a little bit about the size of your church, not in terms of particularly numbers, although you can, but in relation to other churches there in Limerick.
Dermot: [00:09:31] So there are that that I'm aware of about 12 to 15 other kind of evangelical churches in the city. And when I first came to Christ 17 years ago, to my knowledge there was only maybe about three. So the number of churches in the city has increased. But even the numerical, you know, attendance of those churches was pretty small. But when I first came to Christ, now it's much, much higher, you know. So it's wonderful to see that the city is being impacted with the word of Jesus and the just the Holy Spirit working there for us, the uniqueness I think would elevate is about 60% of our attendance, Elevate is their first church home. So Elevate would be their first church experience. So we've a lot more than half of our church would be brand new to church. So, you know, before the pandemic hit our numbers, we were we were in four services. And between those services, you know, we'd have anywhere from 150 to 220 ish in person. And then we had our online attendance. Obviously, since COVID, we're only running 40% of our attendance. You know, it was only last week that the Irish government lifted restrictions. So now hopefully we'll have our attendance, physical attendance shoot up as well as our our online presence.
Larrie: [00:10:56] Well, I know that was good news for us because CCV usually makes one or two trips to Ireland and to visit your church in our local mission, short term trips that we make and we're looking forward to getting back on track with that now that it seems to have been lifted. That's fantastic. You know, I guess in would you say that your church now is one of the larger churches in Limerick?
Dermot: [00:11:20] Yeah, we would definitely be one one of the larger, larger churches in the city. And again, a lot of those even in attendance would be brand new. Or we'd actually get quite a lot of people who are new to the city. So we have a great opportunity when people move to Limerick because it's kind of becoming the financial hub, the technological hub. A lot of people move to Limerick for work and when new people come to the city, you know, they're looking for that community, that connection. Sometimes they'll find it just that social aspect in a bar. But I think people are realizing that there's more to life than this and quite often they'll start watching or attending, for want of a better word, online. But then we see a huge growth and we've seen it since we've been meeting back about three months now. People who are coming to church are asking, you know, we'd introduce ourselves and they're saying, Yeah, we've been watching for two months or four months or whatever it may be. So we would definitely be on the larger end of the churches.
Larrie: [00:12:20] Well, as you know, the mission of CCV is Win, Train, Send. And, you know, we're proud of you. First of all, you need to know that you have an amazing job. And so you and Marie have got a family started and doing an amazing job there. We look at you as the send part of our mission. You attended CCV. We helped you get going. And so you clearly have fulfilled the send part of our mission. And another couple has answered the call within our church, as you know, Justin and Laura Gearing, which we'll have on the show sometime in the future. They packed up and went to Ireland with you. And they've been with you pretty much the whole time, right?
Dermot: [00:13:02] Absolutely. They were crucial to the to the launch of Elevate as well.
Larrie: [00:13:06] Yeah. And so that's great. What would you say, given the things you've seen, is your biggest challenge right now?
Dermot: [00:13:15] It's a currently it's getting people back into the serving mentality that over the last two years or so with lockdown not having the opportunity, it's almost a block now of saying, hey, we can go back out now and practically engage with people again. You know, this digital fatigue that everyone's been having and, you know, we're able to meet now face to face and it's trying to help and encourage but also create opportunities for these people and within the church to engage with the community. Again, that that's a huge challenge we have within the church to start that engagement again. Outside, I would say it's a similar issue battling that that complacency of “yeah, I know about God and about Jesus,” but what do you know about them? That's the big, big challenge. And I think the only way we get to battle that is through creating those serving opportunities to create those conversations. But those environments that we can have, those conversations are so important.
Larrie: [00:14:15] I know we've all learned from the COVID pandemic. What would you say are some of the bigger opportunities that you're going to look at? Plans, goals? How do you see the future?
Dermot: [00:14:29] You know, one of the huge opportunities that that I think it's the low hanging fruit is our is our online presence, is to be able to engage people online. And thanks to CCV and just the wisdom of people here we were able to create a great platform for online because people are Googling us before they come they'll watch before they come and that's definitely a huge opportunity that we need to up our game and make sure that we're we have a net there to catch those people when they do attend. But also a huge aspect that we're excited to tell people about is we're launching our youth ministry this year and it's something that the church hasn't had before because of our demographic. The average age attending elevator's mid thirties, low thirties. So there wasn't a massive youth, teen-age congregation in that demographic. Now there is our youth ministries, huge, I beg your pardon, our kids ministry is huge. We're going to be very soon in the next five years, those kids are all going to be teenagers. So we're getting to trying to get ahead of the curve and be able to not just provide something for the kids that attend Elevate, but for the community also with these teenagers coming in. So we're launching our youth ministry this summer, which we're incredibly excited about because it's going to be a whole new aspect to our church.
Larrie: [00:15:51] I know we're excited about that because we're in the middle of planning a CCV mission trip with our youth to go over and actually work with you and their youth there. And that's going to be an amazing experience for your folks and for ours.
Dermot: [00:16:07] And I think it'll be not just wonderful in the help that they'll be able to provide in a practical sense of helping us set up the youth environments, but also for the kids and the youth in Ireland to meet just a group of teenagers who love Jesus, who serve Jesus, and to see, hey, that this isn't just one way we get to serve them too. So to have a group of youth from, from CCV come over, the impact is just going to be wonderful and on a practical level, but also on a spiritual level for the teenagers, the impact.
Larrie: [00:16:42] So as we close up here, what advice would you give our listeners regarding what we've talked about today and the future of your church?
Dermot: [00:16:52] I would say that the largest sort of the biggest thing, biggest piece of advice I could give is we've learned as a church trying to impact a city that doesn't have a massive amount of physical needs, that the biggest impact we can have is true what we say, but also what they observe. And if we don't live what we say, then what we say is void. And we found that, you know, people are going to watch us continuously to see if this misinformation that I have is true. But then when they say, hey, all we want for you is to know Jesus, that's it. We're not looking for anything else but for you to to get to know Jesus and have a relationship with him. But if our attitude and our actions aren't matching what we're saying, the kind of, you know, we're shooting we're shooting blanks. So we need to really, in Limerick step up our game and say, hey, you know what? What we're doing is really reflecting to what we're saying and give people the. Ability to serve and be a part of it.
Larrie: [00:17:57] Yeah, well said. And that same advice and applies right here to where we live here in Phoenix, Arizona, and, and in the US and in our culture. So how can we pray for your church, you and Marie, and in the future?
Dermot: [00:18:12] The wisdom, I would say as a couple for Marie and I pray for us as a couple as being marriage and as parents, because I think that's where it needs to start. And, you know, satan loves nothing better than to divide. And having that healthy marriage and a healthy family, I think, is reflected in the church. And the healthier we're doing, the healthier we can help run the church and be a part of that. And I think as a church itself, just for our leaders, our volunteers, it's so easy to get bogged down in life. But for just prayer that each week and each time we meet what are being home groups or at church, that we can just have that attitude, that that positivity that we need, that's reflecting to Jesus.
Larrie: [00:18:59] Well, thanks, Dermot. It's so good to have you here on the show. We look forward to having you back. I know you get over to the States maybe once a year, one time of year, and we'll try to next time you're in town, see what's happened since this podcast. Thanks, my friend.
Dermot: [00:19:13] Thanks, Larrie.