Spotlight Interview with Roscoe Lilly

By Prestonwood Network Staff

Prestonwood Network: You serve in one of the most unreached parts of the country. How responsive is the culture to the Gospel? What challenges are unique to where you serve?

Roscoe Lilly: According to Barna, Albany is the least Bible-minded city in America! Las Vegas is number six. It’s kind of hard to believe Sin City knows more about the Bible than the capital of New York!

We’ve found that before we get an opportunity to share the Gospel, we have to earn the right to be heard. Demonstration comes before proclamation.

Maybe this would help.… Imagine that I ask you if you want to go get a tattoo with me and you politely respond, “No thanks.” But in an effort to persuade you, I tell you that the guy who gives them out is super funny. Would that change your mind? No? OK, what if I tell you they also play your favorite music while you get a tattoo. Are you ready now? No? OK, well, I know this will make you change your mind.… I’ve been saving the best for last. They have a fun place for your kids to hang out while you get a tattoo. Still no?

No one gets a tattoo based on how funny someone is, the music they play, or a kids’ area. Yet that is the exact thing churches often are trying to use to get non-Christians to want a tattoo of Jesus on their heart.

We’ve found that repeatedly showing God’s love has opened far more doors for us to share God’s love than anything else.

Prestonwood Network: You have been pastoring for a while in the Albany area. What is your favorite story of victory that you have seen in the community?

Roscoe Lilly: I’m often amazed at the community partnerships we have been able to establish. These partnerships allow us to share and show God’s love in places that have traditionally been off-limits. In a state that leans heavily into separation of church and state, we have amazing partnerships with our local government and school leaders.

We were told we would never be able to hold our services in a public school, but we did for seven years! We were told by a town administrator we couldn’t provide lunch for town hall because it would look like a church endorsement. We feed them twice a year and sponsor many of the town events. In fact, we were just told by a town official that many of the Parks and Rec programming wouldn’t happen if it weren’t for our church.

That’s movement on a community level! On a more personal level, after being in one place for a while, it brings me so much joy to baptize the second generation of Christians. Many of the adults weren’t followers of Jesus before Starpoint and now their teenagers are following in their parents’ footsteps. Two of our students are going to college to prepare for ministry!

Prestonwood Network: What ways have you found to be effective in recruiting and training leaders within your church?

Roscoe Lilly: If you call Starpoint home, you are expected to help out in some area because we’re a family and everyone pitches in. Serving inside and outside our church are core pieces of our DNA. As far as training, we’ve found on-the-job training with immediate feedback to be the most helpful. Our leaders are always looking for people with a servant’s heart who are willing to learn, and we keep moving them up our ranks all the way to staff.

Our choice was simple—train leaders or die on the vine. Often, I wish we had money to hire outside talent, because it would be so much faster and easier. We’ve had no choice but to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. Many of our adults are learning the Bible lessons right along with the children they are teaching. We are all growing together!

Prestonwood Network: What are you most excited about for Starpoint Church?

Roscoe Lilly:I’m really excited about what God is doing in our Student Ministry. They keep breaking attendance records, and we keep trying to find them more space. They are the next generation of the Church of the Capital District. Their passion and love for Jesus fills my heart with so much joy! Our students are first- or second-generation Christians. Those who are first generation endure persecution not only from their peers but also from their parents. I don’t deserve to be the pastor of such faith-filled and courageous followers of Jesus. What will God do through such whole-hearted followers?

Prestonwood Network: What is the most difficult and the most rewarding part of church planting?

Roscoe Lilly: Each year the challenges seem more complex, and it causes me to have to update my definition of “difficult.” But God has been so faithful each step of the way. He always writes a new chapter in His book called “Faithfulness.” It seems that lots of the chapters revolve around money.

It’s rewarding to wake up every day knowing we are on the same mission as Jesus, to seek and save the lost. Seeing people raised from death to life in baptism, seeing hands raised in praise of King Jesus every weekend fills me with such joy knowing the tide is turning and God’s kingdom is expanding.

Prestonwood Network: Living in one of the most unchurched areas in the country, how do you raise your kids to love the Lord and not be swayed by the culture?

Roscoe Lilly: One advantage of living here is that our children have no concept of casual Christians. There’s no cultural advantage in identifying as a follower of Jesus. My children don’t know that some people call themselves Christians and act like everyone else. So those who are Christians—even though they are in the minority—have genuine faith.

I think one of the hardest things for my children is inviting their friends to come to church when their friends want to come, but their parents won’t let them.

The jury is still out on my family, and the cultural impact on my children weighs heavily on my heart. We have lots of conversations about why God’s way is the best. Even at their ages, they can see the effects of brokenness around them and the natural consequences of sin. In real-time, they can see that God’s way is best.

Intentionality and authenticity are guiding principles my wife and I use. We are betting on the idea that the culture of home speaks louder than the culture of the community.

Prestonwood Network: What would be your word of encouragement for a struggling pastor right now?

Roscoe Lilly: God sees you! God knows your pain! He hasn’t forgotten you! What you do matters! You’re not crazy and you’re not wasting your life!

At one of the really low points in our church planting journey, I read this verse and cried like a baby. I felt like God was speaking right to me.

God is not unjust. He will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. —Hebrews 6:10 (NIV)

Keep helping God’s people and keep helping more people become God’s people!

Second, don’t do ministry alone. The Prestonwood Network has been a Godsend for me. I need to be around people who believe God still does impossible things. I need to be around people who love Jesus, His Church, and me. I bet you do, too! I’ve made some of my best friends in the Network, and so has my wife! I can’t imagine where I’d be emotionally if it weren’t for the Network.

Prestonwood Network: How can we pray for you and your family?

Roscoe Lilly: Pray for strength for the journey. Pray for wisdom. Pray that we would understand how deep the Father’s love is for us. Pray that our children continue to walk in the truth.

Prestonwood Network: Thank you, Roscoe. We will lift you up in prayer in these areas. We are very grateful for your love for Jesus and for all people. May God continue to use Starpoint Church to bring many people to Jesus.

Roscoe Lilly serves as Lead Pastor at Starpoint Church in Albany, N.Y.

More information on Starpoint Church can be found at www.starpoint.church/. Please feel free to share a word of encouragement or prayer with Pastor Roscoe at roscoe@starpoint.church.