Phil Fischer and Jesus Lives Grassroots Ministry on a Mission to Spread the Gospel Within America’s Most ‘Godless Region’

By  //  June 25, 2021

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Across the United States and around the world, the Pacific Northwest is known for its beautiful coastline, cool and rainy climate, and lush, vibrant forests. Perhaps more troublingly, however, this part of the United States, which includes Idaho, Oregon, and Washington is also unique for being one of the least religious regions in the entire country. 

According to a survey conducted by Gallup, forty-seven percent of adults in Washington state alone claim they are not religious and seldom attend services, compared to only between ten and twenty percent of those living in southern states like Alabama or Mississippi.

Given the area’s abundance of non-believers, creating a grassroots ministry dedicated to spreading the word of God and building new disciples may sound like an insurmountable challenge. However, for Phil Fischer, a tech trailblazer, rock musician, former atheist, and founder of Jesus Lives in Bellevue, Washington, all things are possible through Christ.

“God will use whatever He has to in order to bring you into the kingdom,” Fischer said. “I had assumed Christianity was all B.S., then I got hit with the Holy Spirit and I began seeing the world as it really is, and many are living in a dream world” he added. “We’re just souls walking around in bodies–only here for a brief moment–broken and battered and bruised. They don’t see that we’re in a great struggle between good and evil until the Holy Spirit opens their eyes, as He did mine.”

A different kind of church 

As a successful church, the mission of Jesus Lives is to inform and equip Christians with knowledge about the troubled times of the world. As part of its general philosophy, more emphasis is put on fostering a spiritual relationship with God as opposed to rigorous religious teachings. 

“We’re not a religion,” Fischer said. “We’re a place for people to come and deepen their faith and relationship with the Lord.” 

The church holds services every Thursday and Saturday at 7:30 PM, with Fischer serving as the main church leader. His wife, Jamael, is also part of the leadership team at the church along with several other dedicated individuals. Once a month on Saturday’s it’s Latina Night where services are in Spanish and taught by Pastor Fonseca, a member of Jesus Lives. 

For Fischer, the biggest lesson he’s learned in starting and leading Jesus Lives is to not wait. He said that many people feel stuck in churches right now and are confused about what their destiny is, and they often put off their true calling or desires in order to fit a mold. 

“Many people are stuck in churches right now and  are very unhappy,” he said.  “I was waiting 20 years in a church that wasn’t there to help me, push me, mold me and lead me into my Christ Destiny. Many people have such a powerful anointing and such a calling on their life that even their own churches will keep them from breaking free.” 

While many churches, particularly megachurches, have been criticized for their leaders lapping up large salaries, at Jesus Lives, it’s all about serving completely out of the love of Jesus Christ. No one is paid a salary. 

“None of our teachers, none of our elders and none of our childcare staff are paid a dime and I have never earned an income from Jesus Lives,” Fischer said. “And I promise I will never take money from Jesus Lives. It all goes to rent, food, and helping those in need” 

Fischer said this method keeps the service and worship experience pure and authentic. 

“You’ll notice a difference in the anointing and the atmosphere,” he said. “It’s hard to serve Christ in this world, so when you see people all banding together to serve Christ and doing it for free, you know you’re in a good church.” 

A not-for-profit Christian ministry is a far cry from the life Fischer used to lead, yet another aspect that makes Jesus Lives so unique within its community. 

Driven from a young age

Fischer made a name for himself in the Seattle tech sector back in 1989 when he started Northwest Online, which was the 202nd website on the internet starting on Gopher. Northwest was known for building the first versions of many of today’s well known sites such as AOL and Ebay.

Armed with a wealth of knowledge and an impressive array of credentials, Fischer struck out on his own and it paid off. He began with website development, and since then, his agency has evolved into a high-in-demand roster of expert developers, coders, engineers, marketers and branding professionals. 

During the same time, Fischer found success in music as a ghost writer, hitting the studio with several Seattle based grunge bands of the 90’s and early 2000’s writing several top ten hits.

Fischer released his own album Wounded Soul which found chart success and his album with The XBox Boys climbed to #2 on Myspace. Fischer even wrote a Christian Album before he came to Christ and both albums Chronicles of the Orb and New Believer each received millions of downloads respectively.

Looking back at his early success, Fischer said he can see now that there was a calling in his life, even though at the time he was unaware of it. But back then, he said if some well-meaning believer had invited him to a church service or a Bible Study, he would have blown them off. So when he experienced professional setbacks in 2001, he wasn’t inclined to see it as a wake-up call to be introspective. To him, it was an opportunity for a new career venture.

“I took $200,000, which is what I had left and cooked up this outlandish idea of raising cattle in the icy Yukon. I was going to install heated stalls for the cows,” he said. “I had it all figured out and it was all about me.”

But that plan was put on hold when Fischer had an encounter that changed his life. 

An unexpected conversion

Before Fischer could activate his plan to raise cattle and escape Seattle society, which he had come to resent for a variety of reasons, God’s mysterious workings took effect. 

One evening, Fischer found himself in downtown Kirkland, when he spotted a beautiful woman named Jamael—and he gave pursuit. Like most situations in his life, he saw this, and her, as another opportunity, but she threw him a curveball. She invited him to church. 

He went, of course, assuming he could disabuse her of this Christian superstition once she fell under his charms in a week or two. But little did he know that both Jamael and her God-fearing parents would make it their mission to win Fischer to the Lord. He began attending their church, New Hope International, in Bellevue, a suburb of Seattle. 

Everything changed for Fischer when Jamael’s father, Neal Calkins, took Fischer to a service at TD Jakes church in Dallas, Texas.

“Of course, I’d gone out drinking the night before. When he knocked on my door at 6 a.m. the next morning, I probably should have told him I was too hungover to go—in fact, still a little drunk,” he said.  

“So here I am at the revival, in the front row and trying to hold my puke, and this beautiful woman approaches me and asks, ‘Can I pray for you?’ She laid hands on me and, I swear, I felt the power of the Holy Spirit course through my body, starting with where she was placing her hands. It went into my head and removed my throbbing headache. Suddenly, my dry mouth was gone and I was sober as a judge.”

“See?” she told Fischer. “Now you’re right as rain.”

Fischer, whose favorite Bible verse is the beginning of James chapter 1, begins by stating “count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” In his own life, Fischer believed he had been deluded by evil forces, who told him to “build a search engine to manipulate the masses and I’ll make you rich. Smoke pot. Pop pills. Live the high life.”

But once his eyes were opened, his work and life gave way to an entirely new mission, and he now proudly refers to his business as a Christian company. He also began to lead worship at New Hope International.

“Everyone who gets on fire for Christ begins to serve somewhere and because of my music industry background, I started to serve on the worship team,” he said. But it didn’t stop there at worship music – it continued with the formation of a new church in Bellevue, Jesus Lives.

A new calling

After Fischer’s world turned upside down, everything’s purpose became about serving Christ. In 2017, he became head pastor at New Hope and floated the idea of starting a small group or Bible study in an extra room at the church. Fischer was given permission to use the room, but for the first six months he often found himself just preaching to an empty room.

All of that preaching was for a purpose, however, as Fischer’s goal remained to start his own church. The idea was daunting since, as Fischer notes, his region of Washington isn’t particularly known for being receptive to Christianity or its teachings. Nevertheless, that didn’t scare or deter him. 

Eventually, a few people began to attend Fischer’s services, including Julian Valentine, a discontented bartender looking to take his life in a new direction. 

“I was working with Phil when he introduced me to Jesus Lives,” said Valentine, who now serves full time at Jesus Lives and is on the church’s leadership team.  “I didn’t attend church at the time and really wasn’t interested, but I decided to give it a try and started attending. At the time I didn’t really believe in God, but I wanted to, so I kept coming hoping to see some change in my life. It has given me a new purpose to serve God and help others.”

He and Fischer hit it off, but the church wasn’t growing. After six months, Fischer’s mother-in-law suggested he attend the Azusa Now revival at the Coliseum in Los Angeles. He and Valentine fasted for 40 days on fruits and vegetables to prepare themselves spiritually for the revival.

At the revival, a pastor singled out Fischer in the audience. People laid hands on him and the pastor prophesied that revival would soon “break out” in the Pacific Northwest. He told Fischer that he would be a “father to the fatherless.”

But, lo and behold, people began coming to Jesus Lives and they haven’t stopped since. 

Looking towards the future

As far as future plans for Jesus Lives, it’s mainly about continuing the mission and expanding to hold additional services on new days and times throughout the week. Fischer said they’re also working on expanding their online presence and beginning to get live stream teams in place.

“The only way to truly stay faithful and have a relationship with Christ is to continue to attend a good Bible-based church,” Fischer said. 

“People need to get out of megachurches for the pastors who are driving Lamborghinis and making millions of dollars. People need to get back to the basics like churches that sprouted up in the time of Paul where no one was paid, everyone served for free, and the anointing was stronger than ever.”