A Fresh Perspective with Jennie Lusko“How beautiful and how much stronger would relationships be if we would just have the courage to have that hard conversation from the beginning.”
Rooted in her love for the sun and beach, West Coast native Jennie Lusko had no intentions of living anywhere else. That was until she met her soon-to-be husband Levi during an internship in Albuquerque, NM. The two instantly fell in love and through their journey wound up in Montana. For the first time in their adult lives, Jennie and Levi took a leap of faith and followed God’s path for them as they created their own place of worship in Fresh Life Church. Through trials and tribulations, Jennie and Levi have built a safe haven for people to worship, read the Bible and foster community.
WC: Tell us about yourself.
Jennie Lusko: I was born and raised in California, and my husband and I met in ministry where I believe is the best place to meet your mate—in the church and serving the Lord. I’m so grateful that I met Levi in church serving in youth ministry. We moved to Southern California a year after we got married, then we moved to Albuquerque, but after just a couple years we felt God was calling us to Montana. We always had the calling to reach people with Gospel so we assumed we would end up in a major city such as New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, but our hearts lead us to Montana, even though everyone else told us we were crazy and there’s no one in Montana.
But we felt God was leading us in that way. We were reading the Bible where God told Abraham, “Hey, I want you to go to this place, but I will show you when you get there.” And it was kind of that crazy faith that inspired us to move to a new place we’ve never been to before, and as a California native, I had never even seen snow before! Being in this new place, we knew we had to follow God’s calling to preach the Gospel and create a loving community. After 17 years and five children, I am so grateful for what God is doing in my life.
WC: How did you meet your husband, Levi?
Jennie: When I moved to New Mexico, I was interning in their Missions Department, learning how to plan mission trips, growing in my walk with the Lord, and within that year, one of the guidelines for that year was committing to not dating romantically for a whole year. Since I was just getting out of a relationship, I was very much looking forward to that. And so I moved my life to Albuquerque, NM, started this internship, and about halfway through that year, I met Levi, and he was serving in the youth ministry. He didn’t make a dating commitment though, so it was really special because there wasn’t that pressure of like, “Oh my gosh, does he like me?” Well, it was pretty obvious that he did but there was no pressure of wondering if he was going to ask me out on a date because I had committed and told him that I was not going to date during this time. Through this, a truly beautiful friendship developed and right after my internship ended, we went on our first date.
WC: What led you to create Fresh Life Church?
Jennie: Levi and I both grew up in church and Levi is the son of a pastor and even when he was young, he knew he always wanted to be a pastor too. And for me, I grew up in church, gave my life to Jesus at a young age and loved church and loved learning about God. I have a natural passion for serving and helping people, and it felt as if God was creating a path for us to meet later on in life. I even knew at a young age that I wanted to marry a pastor one day, and I didn’t know exactly what my adult life would look like, but that was a desire that I felt like God put in my heart.
When Levi and I first started our life together, we both knew we wanted to serve in a church but we both had this dream of creating our own safe haven to preach and teach the Bible. We wanted to lead people and we had this great crew of people to support us. At the time, there was this family from our church that vacationed in Montana and they kept telling us that we should think about moving to Montana and start a church out there, but at the time it was not something we were interested in doing. But we couldn’t get the idea off our minds, so we turned to God and asked, “Okay, God, are you doing this? Is this something that we should do?” That’s when we decided we would commit to this project and gave ourselves a five-year mark. We left the rest up to God at that point. And within five years, the church had grown so much, and we had grown so much and it was obvious that God was doing work.
WC: What makes your ministry different from others?
Jennie: At the end of the day, churches are created to give people a safe space to worship. And when we first started it, our heart was to provide a place for everyone to be welcomed and a place to preach the Bible. We give space every weekend for people to give their lives to Christ and to surrender their lives to Him. We have a super simple approach because sometimes it can feel like more of a burden to go to church rather than a willingness. We want Fresh Life Church to be a place of refuge and safety that anyone can use. When people show up and learn the fact that their loved by a God who created them and see that He has a purpose for them, where they can grow in community, that is why we do what we do.
We really seek to make it not all about what you can do for God, but what God has already done for you and how that can radically change your life to live a life of strength and flourishing vibrance. You can face your struggles, heartache, pain, grief and difficulty with hope and with a fresh look and perspective on what you’re going through. And so that really has always been our center point in serving and leading people to the Lord. It might be different than some churches and that’s what’s so cool about the body of Christ too, across the world is that there are so many different ways to approach church, and for Fresh Life Church, it’s really about loving God, loving people, being in a community that’s where you’re going to find strength and of course to serve Him.
WC: What are some challenges facing your ministry?
Jennie: I think some of the biggest challenges facing all ministries right now is moving everything online and adapting to a changing and constantly moving world, especially during the pandemic. So now there are people who are watching multiple church services online, which isn’t bad, but it’s not allowing you to root into one place and finding that community to flourish and grow with. It’s almost like binge-watching Netflix, you get a little of this and a little of that, but people aren’t planting themselves in one place where they’re tithing, where they’re serving, or where they’re placing themselves under the leadership of one. But if you can commit to letting yourself be under one pastor, then you’re receiving everything in one place.
Another challenge we are seeing more often is the challenge to not offend people. I think that in this day with social media—even if you don’t mean to—you can easily offend someone. You have to truly balance and take into account what is good for your soul and those are the people you should follow and interact with. You’re never going to get the whole picture on a phone screen. You’ll never truly understand a person’s story or what’s causing them to be so angry to the point where they are willing to attack others online. And so it’s hard when you’re getting that thrown at you and you’re just wanting to love God and lead the best that you can—imperfectly, yes, because I think there is no perfect leader except for Jesus—and so we’re going to make mistakes and we’re not going to do everything perfectly right, but I think that that is definitely a challenge when you’re trying to teach the Bible and then things can either get thrown out of proportion or your words can get twisted and you end up hurting someone without even realizing it.
I believe that there is a beauty of planting yourself in a church and letting yourself be offended and seeing what comes out and how you can learn and grow through it and learn from your leaders and small group leaders and pastors. We should be able to humble ourselves and put ourselves under leadership and allow God to teach us through that. I believe that God would really be able to get to our hearts and that there would be more humble believers and more Christians who want to hear what someone else is saying, not just immediately judge or want to understand where someone is coming from and not put a label over them. Jesus shows us what it looks like to love, to eat with sinners and how to love them. I never want to be someone who’s pointing fingers, judging and stirring up stuff. I want to be a vessel of God’s love to people and yes, that sometimes means having tough conversations and showing tough love in moments, but it’s with the heart of humility knowing that I’m not perfect and I cannot perfectly lead and perfectly love. That’s Jesus’s job. And when I do face challenges in ministry, I just have to remind me of that.
WC: With everything being moved to online in this post-pandemic world, how do you handle negativity that you might see on social media, online or even on your Church’s website?
Jennie: My natural human response to negativity online is anger. It’s that feeling I think we all get when that just anger kind of rises up and you can almost feel it in your throat. You feel as though you want to yell at the world, but you can’t and you know that you shouldn’t.
I find in those moments that I have to take a deep breath and pray. I ask God to give me His perspective in this situation because usually people will lash out or be mean because they’re hurting and they just want to hurt someone else. I mean, we’ve all heard the saying that “hurt people hurt people,” and so in those moments, when I see something, I don’t usually respond. But there are times where I have felt that God is leading me to respond in love to someone who takes a jab and so, in those moments, I take a deep breath and I pray to Him, “God, give me Your eyes to see this person. Give me Your eyes to see the situation. I ask for Your wisdom. I ask for Your love to exude from my response.” And every time, He is so faithful to do that.
When I receive negative comments in real life, my husband and I tackle the situation head on. My husband is really good with that, sometimes better than me. He will pick up the phone and just say things like, “Hey this is where I was coming from, where are you coming from? What do you think we can do to solve this issue?” That is so huge! If we all just seek a conversation versus condonement right away, I feel we will be more understanding people. We should be able to hear someone else’s perspectives and be open minded. It’s okay if we say things that people don’t agree with 100% of the time, but that doesn’t make others “wrong.”
If a friend or a person you care about is giving you a cold shoulder, ask them about it, don’t talk to someone else about it. The other thing is though, not all friendships are meant to last our whole lives. There are friendships for seasons and friendships for a lifetime. I think it’s important to nurture and treat all friendships with respect, but something that God has taught me is that I could hold on so tightly to a relationship or friendship, but I have to keep an open hand and allow God to bring people in to and out of my life. I always pray that they’re better because of my influence in their life as they go, but how beautiful and how much stronger would relationships be if we would just have the courage to have that hard conversation from the beginning. I feel like that would change everything if we all just had a listening ear.
To learn more about Jennie visit jennielusko.com and follow her on social media @jennielusko.