Growing up in the average Australian household means a life void of religion, God, or faith. By the time Robert Bakss of Sydney, Australia, was eight years old, his parents had divorced, and he found himself in not one, but two of these average Aussie households. “I went through a bit of an ordeal then,” Robert recalls, “I was going back and forth between two homes, a dysfunctional sort of home life.”
He was fourteen when a high school friend invited him to a Billy Graham crusade. It was there he accepted Christ as his Saviour. Robert’s decision to trust Christ would have far-reaching results.
The next day, he told his mom what had happened. His mother began crying and revealed that when Robert was four, she too had attended a Billy Graham revival and was saved. Together they began attending a Baptist church.
Though God’s hand was already beginning to work in his life, Robert would not surrender to ministry for several more years. Shortly after Robert’s salvation, he and his mother moved to Queensland.
While there, he became occupied with high school and later, with law school. He married his high school sweetheart, Jenny, and began working in a prominent law firm. It was not until the newlyweds had a child that Robert remembered his decision at the crusade. His first child provoked a desire in him to create a different—not average—lifestyle for his family. Because of this, the Bakss family became members at an independent Baptist church in Queensland where they recommitted their lives to Christ. At this point, Robert’s life seemed complete. It wasn’t long, however, until the Lord’s calling became obvious.
Robert reminisces of his occupational success, “At the time we were living on the sunshine coast. I had an office that overlooked the ocean, and the firm was about to make me a partner. Then a missionary I met told me about a Bible institute and invited me to come.”
The opportunity to learn through a Bible institute caught Robert’s attention. “I was torn, but all I really wanted to do was just study the Bible.”
The decision to launch out by faith was not an easy one. For Robert to become a student at the Bible institute, many other facets of his life would have to change.
“We sold our home, moved away to a little one-horse town. That’s where I went to Bible school.” This move of faith proved to be the catalyst that would begin to shake his Australian community for Christ. While learning at the Bible institute, Robert listened to a missionary from Papau New Guinea. It was through this message that God called Robert to preach. From this time forward, Robert preached at every available opportunity but still continued to work in a local law firm.
In 1992, an elderly man asked Robert to pray for a man to come help a small church in Rockhampton. Robert prayed for over a year for someone to fill the need in Rockhampton until God spoke to him and said, “Why don’t you go?”
Rockhampton was a less-than desirable location, and the little church was struggling. But they had a bus that would pick up high school kids on Fridays and tell them about Jesus.
Instantly, Robert knew God was at work. “I quit my job and went. I knew God was going to provide for me.”
The Bakss family’s second act of faith would not go unrewarded. Almost immediately, a position in the mayor’s office was offered to Robert. The job afforded Robert influence and respect in the city. At this time, Norman Park Baptist Church of Rockhamton was led by Pastor Bob Brodie, who became Robert’s close friend.
They began working together to reach the people of Rockhampton. Robert ran the youth program, helped witness to and disciple teenagers, and started a Bible study. During this time, his plan was only to stay and help on a short-term basis. “I thought I’d just stay a while and learn from Pastor Brodie, but that’s not how it happened.”
Soon, the church began growing. Pastor Brodie and Robert started a Christian school with twenty students the first year. Three years into the ministry, Pastor Brodie became ill, and Robert was voted in as pastor in 1997.
The church changed its name from Norman Park Baptist Church to Lighthouse Baptist Church. From the beginning, Robert recognized the importance of learning from other men of God. In 1998, Lighthouse Baptist held its first Leadership Conference with speakers from around the globe.
The church began to grow steadily. Members began reaching out actively in the community. The Lord grew the weekly Bible study until it became the Australian Bible College with students from all across the continent actively learning about ministry.
Nineteen years later, Rockhampton has a growing church flourishing within its city limits. Four to five hundred members attend every service. The community knows about the Baptists in the neighborhood, and they respect them.
The Rockhampton Flood of January 2011 provided an opportunity for the members of Lighthouse Baptist Church to demonstrate God’s compassion to their community. At least seventy towns and over 200,000 people were affected. Thirty-five people in Queensland lost their lives. Though the city was panicked, God’s people were not.
Robert organized teams of people to go door-to-door with the gospel and emergency supplies. “We got in the mud with them. Through that endeavor, people asked, ‘Why are you doing this?’”
“We trust in Jesus as our Saviour,” Pastor Bakss responded, “and we believe it’s our job to show people the love of God.”
Robert reflects on the impact the church had during the flood, “All the police and emergency workers had gone. Everyone had forgotten Rockhampton, but our people were still left with stench and loss. Other churches were able to help us financially. We started special projects for wrecked homes in the community. Through this, we saw families saved, lives changed, and were able to have a huge impact.”
The Rockhampton Flood simply revealed the spirit of an Australian church and pastor who have given their hearts to God. Members in the church who had before been reserved in soulwinning, now had a new fervor to share Christ.
Robert describes the impact on the community in this way: “We built on a spirit of mateship. We ought not to walk around with a sign that says, ‘Do Not Disturb Me.’ As a Christian, our sign should be, ‘Please Disturb Me—I want to help you.’”
Robert Bakss has been used to bring thousands of lives to the Saviour. And God is using Lighthouse Baptist Church to touch countless other ministries.