For the most part, I’m just another small town southern boy from Kentucky. I grew up in a Christian home where my parents were, and still are pastors. I am the eldest of four boys. And for as long as I can remember, I have always been very passionate about personal greatness.
As a child, I just knew that I was destined to play professional basketball in the NBA. Despite not having the height, I worked hard and eventually spent each summer traveling as a Nike sponsored athlete. I competed in some of the most premier tournaments along with the nation’s top college prospects.
It was a good time in life.
But unfortunately, my identity was too heavily invested in my ability to perform as an athlete. While I excelled at playing ball, I disregarded most everything else—family, education, and any necessity to maintain great character. Sometime shortly after, I was kicked off my High School basketball team, losing any opportunity to receive an athletic scholarship.
This was not such a good time in life.
Very bitter and confused, I ran. I ran away from God, away from family, and away from love. I quickly became very heavily involved in alcohol, drugs, and violence. I was depressed and carried very little hope for the future.
The good news is, God had a different plan. He relentlessly pursued me!
There came a point when I could no longer resist Love. Surrounded by pain and addiction, I encountered Jesus in a supernatural way way that changed my life forever. In a single moment, I was delivered and saved. I moved home, and dedicated myself entirely to God and my family.
It was a great time in life!
Every night, my Mom would make dinner for the family and afterwards, my Dad endeavored to disciple me with the help of T.D. Jakes DVD’s. I was like a sponge. I did what I thought every Christian did. Prayed, fasted, and read the Bible. And in just six months, I was in full-time ministry—preaching at several neighboring youth ministries and churches.
I also began playing basketball again. Not only playing, but training. I wanted to compete at a collegiate level. And now that I was in a much better headspace, it became totally possible. However, I had also become entirely devoted to my new life in the ministry. I knew that God had called me to preach. I was conflicted. Sport or ministry?
I moved to Austin, TX in diligent pursuit of ministry training. There I attended the Issachar Institute at PromiseLand Central Church led by Pastor Jonathan Suber. Pastor Suber and I connected right off the bat, and soon enough, I became his intern and personal assistant. We traveled the world together—preaching and teaching in mud huts and some large crusades. I owe so much of what I understand about ministry today to Pastor Suber.
"The ministry of Lyle Phillips has affected my life greater than any other ministry that I've had the privilege of mentoring and teaching. Lyle was an avid student of the Word at our Issachar Institute classes. A young man with an unquenchable thirst for the Holy Spirit and the mission of Jesus, as well as a great passion for justice. His first trip to Africa was with me. I remember when he realized he was truly called to the world. And now, just a few short years later, we are all witnessing what one life surrendered to the Father heart of God might do." — Jonathan Suber
While working alongside Pastor Suber, I also served the PromiseLand Church as an Associate Youth Pastor, and eventually the College and Career Pastor—working directly with students at the University of Texas and Campus House of Prayer (CHOP).
I spent a year and a half with Pastor Suber, Bishop Kenneth Phillips, and the PromiseLand. It was a season of rapid spiritual growth!
When the internship concluded, I returned home to Kentucky to serve my parents in ministry. I became the Youth Pastor of their growing church, PromiseLand McLean.
The students and I experienced an unprecedented move of God in Calhoun, KY. Our youth group exploded! Not only numerically, but spiritually too. Unto this day, I cannot remember serving young believers any more passionate and radically full of faith as some of those students.
It was in this season of life that I discovered the ministry of Heidi Baker. Funny enough, I found an old VHS tape of Heidi preaching at an “Awaken Deborah” Women’s Conference in Pensacola, Florida from the 90′s in a local pastor’s library. He had no idea how the tape got there and didn’t know anything about Heidi himself. I bet I watched that tape more than fifteen times in two weeks!
Heidi's message left me with the impression that she was willing to die for the sake of the Gospel—a lifestyle that I was looking to follow. She also rescued orphans. This was something else that I had always dreamed of doing myself.
So, in 2008, I raised over $5,000 and flew to Mozambique, Africa with my brother to attend the Iris Ministries Harvest School of Missions #9. I watched, along with the other students, as Mama Heidi gave her life to the poor in front of our eyes. Not only was I inspired, but also motivated to practice what she was preaching. I was hooked!
While at the school in Pemba, Mozambique, I met a semi-orphaned girl named Zaina. Her father had passed away and her mother had been roaming from house to house in a nearby village, in search of enough food for the family. I am not sure what it was that drew me to Zaina initially, but I knew that no matter what happened after I left the Harvest School, I wanted to be a part of her life and to help her as much as I could. It was through this little girl, that I felt God definitively speak to me about my calling to serve poor children like her throughout the world.
After arriving home to America, I launched a non-profit organization called Mercy29 to help poor children like Zaina. It started as a simple sponsorship program, partnered with Dr. Don and Elizabeth Kantel of Iris Ministries in Pemba. Zaina was our first child to sponsor.
Mercy29 gained momentum quickly and within just a month, we were sponsoring thirteen children!
I traveled back to Mozambique the following summer, joined the Iris Ministries Harvest School Staff, and personally looked after each child that Mercy29 was sponsoring.
It was a great time in life!
Mercy29 was growing and I was living from my deepest passion—to be a great Dad.
After arriving back home from a wonderful summer in Mozambique, a few friends and I heard about the terrible practice of child prostitution in India and decided to take our passion there too.
We wanted to rescue trafficked children and begin a Mercy29 Missions Base that would become their home. We formed a small team, including my mother, and flew into Andhra Pradesh, India to meet a contact I’d made via Facebook. It seemed like a crazy idea to most, but we went for it. Without any experience or education, we were taken to a place in India that was made famous for the trade of children, using young kids to mine slate rock, marble, and granite.
Both boys and girls were enslaved, forced throughout the day to collect and stack slate for their owners. In the evening their jobs got worse, as they were sold as prostitutes to be raped by older men.
We were able to rescue two children on our first trip. One boy and one girl. It took days of negotiation and $7,000.
This began a landslide of abolition work for Mercy29 in India.
Within three years Mercy29 rescued over 400 children from the atrocious practice of human trafficking, child labor, and sexual slavery.
Today, Mercy29 is still working in India. We’re helping to care for more than 2,000 children daily.
In 2011, I moved to Nashville, TN to plant Iris Nashville, one of many Iris Global Missions Bases throughout the world, but one of few bases in America. We began with the goal to receive, train, and send happy missionaries to the poorest places on the planet.
I was ordained as an Iris Ministries Pastor by Dr. Heidi Baker on August 18th, 2012 in Nashville, TN.
"Lyle Phillips is one of my heroes. He is truly an example of the believer. He is one who walks with God. I have rarely seen a young man with so much passion and purpose. I pray my ceiling will be his floor. Please join him in rescuing the children!" — Heidi Baker
My wife Allyson and I were married in May, 2013 in Nashville, TN.
My greatest joy in life is to inspire and motivate others to make a difference, as well as personally help impoverished children.
I know Lyle to be a passionate follower of Jesus. — David Hogan
We love having Lyle as one of our guest speakers; he's humble, humorous and honoring to his audience. — Alyn and AJ