How Bayside Started
Bayside Church was birthed in the Spirit in 1988 when Pastor Rob Buckingham was driving north along the Nepean Highway. On seeing the sign “Cheltenham”, Rob heard the Holy Spirit say to him that one day he would pioneer a church in the area. He shared this vision with a few close friends at the time (including his Senior Pastor) and then committed the vision to the Lord for fulfilment at the appointed time. During 1991 he sensed God unsettling him where he was and he knew that time to pioneer Bayside Church was drawing near.
It was the Sunday morning before Christmas 1991, at the end of a service at Lighthouse Church, that Pastor Ken Van Eeden had an amazing prophecy over Rob. This prophecy served as the catalyst that led to the pioneering of Bayside Church. The Holy Spirit said,
“The Lord is saying by His Spirit today that the hour of change is coming in your whole sphere of ministry. God is preparing your heart and bringing about a culmination of the desires of the things that He Has spoken to you about in recent times.
There is desire in your heart, there’s a pulsating in your heart that God is confirming even here, even right now. It seems to have been so long; it seems to have been so forgotten, but God is saying right now that the time is coming and now is, my son, that He is releasing and putting in your hand a sceptre that people will know that when you come, you come in the Name of the Lord. You will shine for the Lord Jesus, and you will be His man and walk where He wants you to walk. You’ll hear a voice behind you saying, “Rob, this is the way, walk ye in it.” My son, this is the time for which I’ve been preparing you, and I’m bringing about that release within your ministry and life and what I have for you, my child. It’s to me not only for progress or promotion but being released into the sphere and dimension that God has for you.
You’ll hear things in the next month that God will speak very clearly direction-wise, very clearly to your spirit, the very next thing that He has for you; the very next sphere and dimension. You’ll know very clearly God’s ways, God’s direction and God’s leading. There’ll be no shadow of a doubt, it’ll be very clear, very cut and dried, what God wants you to do.”
Within one month of receiving this prophetic message, the plans were in place to pioneer Bayside Church Cheltenham. It was during this time that three more prophecies were given all confirming the direction that was being taken.
Sunday 19 January, 1992 – Pastor Ian Lugden – “You are like a boat which has been moored in the bay, enjoying the safety of the bay. But now is the time to cut the moorings and go out into the winds and waves.”
Monday 20 January 1992 – Jose Gasset (Member of Lighthouse Church) – “The Lord wants to release you; to give you liberty to do what you have had in your heart for many years.”
Thursday 23 January 1992 – Pastor Charles Widdowson – Ps Rob says, “As Pastor Charles and Alice were praying for another pastor and me, he saw a vision of a cake. The cake represented Lighthouse Church, and there was a piece missing from the cake that represented the previous church plants (Waverley, Frankston and Rosebud). As Pastor Charles and Alice prayed he saw the knife cut off a slice from the cake. This was placed on a separate plate and as it was it became another sort of cake that remained fresh and healthy”.
Bayside Church Opens Its Doors
The fulfilment of these prophecies was the planting of Bayside Church on Sunday morning 22 March 1992. Bayside Church sprang into life in the most unlikely of places – W.D. Rose and Sons funeral chapel in Cheltenham. About 80 people packed the 40-seat chapel on the first morning. Some had come to stay, others had come to look, and over the next few weeks, a core group of about 40 became committed to the vision of Bayside Church.
The church continued to meet in the funeral chapel for about one and a half years until no further growth was possible at that venue. Short-term accommodation was found just up the road at the Cheltenham Primary School, and then three months later the church relocated to Mentone Girls’ Secondary College where it continued to meet every Sunday until August 2000.
During the 1990s the church grew consistently, averaging about 40 new people each year. Some of these people transferred from other churches while some came back to the Lord after being out of fellowship. Others found faith in Christ for the first time through the ministry of Bayside Church.
In the first year of opening, the Bayside Community Christmas Lunch started, feeding people in the community who would otherwise be alone a beautiful traditional Christmas on Christmas Day. This has been a key event in the life of the church.
The church continued to grow and Jesus brought together the right people into a loving, caring Christian family that, by the year 2000 consisted of just over 300 adults and children, with over 200 people attending weekend meetings.
Pastor Rob & Christie Come Together
Ps Rob and Christie met in 1992 and married in 1994. The church offices occupied the front rooms of their home in Aspendale Gardens. Eventually, Colin and Lisa McInnes-Smith who owned a warehouse in Mills Street, Cheltenham, offered a reduced rent for four offices and the suggestion was gladly accepted.
Argus St Cheltenham
In 1997 the Lord spoke to Ps Rob & Christie about getting Bayside Church into its own building. That started a two-year search that ended one morning when Rob was told about a printing factory that was for sale on Argus Street. The building ticked every box that the leadership was looking for and so an offer was put in and accepted. Bayside Church paid a 10% deposit with a businessman from another church also paying 10%. The church borrowed 80% and leasing the back section of the building to our next-door neighbours, Rian Industries, the interest was paid. Offices were renovated first so the church administration could relocate from temporary accommodation in Mills Street. The auditorium and kids rooms were next and the church had its grand opening at The Bayside Centre on Sunday 2 July, 2000. Over the next 18 months the church doubled in size and in the following four years it doubled again!
After moving into the Bayside Centre a Sunday evening meeting started. Saturday evenings began in early 2004 originally between 7 and 9pm. This was later changed to 6pm and has now become the largest gathering each weekend.
A Voice in the Media
Shortly after moving into the Cheltenham premises, Ps Rob felt Bayside Church had a strong calling to be a voice in the media. People such as Neil Elliott and Tim Glover helped to birth Bayside Media in 2002. As a result, the department produced TV programs such as Bayside TV and The Christie B Show with aired on Australian Christian Channel and Shine TV in New Zealand. It went on in 2012 to produce a weekly cutting edge TV talk show – The Exchange – inviting experts to discuss a current topic airing in Australia. The program aired on C31 in Melbourne as well as ACCTV and Shine TV.
Acres of Love Forever Home
In 2005 Ps Christie was sitting at lunch with Ps Rob and others when she was touched by God powerfully and what she heard was the cry to help children abandoned in South Africa. The couple were aware of Acres of Love ministries that houses children in a forever home environment. By 2006 Bayside Church partnered with Acres of Love to open the Bayside Forever Home. A home that accommodated 11 children. Bayside Church continues to support this home and mission teams have visited Johannesburg and spent time with the children. Some children have been adopted into loving families and many of the children today are becoming fine young adults with a bright future.
Bayside Church continued to grow vibrantly incorporating three services – Saturday night, Sunday morning and Sunday evening. In early 2005, Ps Rob and Christie had a vision of satellite services taking place across the Bayside community and planning for a Frankston campus began immediately. In November 2005 Bayside Church Frankston opened its doors and is building steadily. The Campus moved into its own building in Carrum Downs in 2011.
Bayside Church began mission outreach in Bali in 2012. Ps Christie had gone to Bible College with Gayle Dwije who was now living in Bali with her husband Wayan and pastoring a church. On holiday in Bali, Christie was asked by her friend Gayle whether she would like to go into Kerobokan Prison to minister. Both she and Ps Rob went in and shortly met Bali Nine members Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. The two men had already spent several years in jail and were facing the death penalty. During this time Andrew had become a devout Christian and was running chapel services in the prison. Support was offered in whatever shape and a relationship struck. Both the men were doing outstanding work in the prison to support prisoners being rehabilitated. Computer programs, cooking classes and art classes were being run in the prison.
Mission trips to Bali were run supporting C3 Church Bali in their programs such as Compassion project, slum outreach and prison ministry.
Tragically the two men Andrew and Myuran were executed late April 2015. In the lead up to their deaths, Bayside Church heavily campaigned for clemency alongside Amnesty, Reprieve and Mercy Campaign asking Indonesian President Joko Widodo for a second chance. Spiritual support was offered and Ps Christie became Myuran’s spiritual advisor up unto his death. This was a difficult time, but the church has not stopped being a voice for mercy and justice particularly around issues such as the death penalty.