START

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START

Last Sunday we talked about one of the "Big Three" for our church, Serving.  We have three core convictions for our ministry: Everyone needs Jesus.  Everyone is meant to grow.  Everyone is gifted to serve.  I used the image of a puzzle.  Each piece is unique and each piece is necessary for the puzzle to be complete.  When we find our place of service we contribute our unique gifts, talents and abilities to the work of Christ through His church.

But it is not only that when we share in this way it helps to advance the kingdom of God.  It also helps us to more fully connect to the family of God.  What's more, there is a tremendous joy and satisfaction that comes from discovering, and living into, the purpose for which God made us.  My hope is that everyone of us will find a way to employ our gifts and talents in meaningful service. So I will repeat the offer I made on Sunday.  If you are not yet serving in some area of ministry, but are ready to START, then take the first step.  You can email me directly at steve@rock-church.org and just say "I'm ready to START!"  I would be honored to help direct you to a place that fits your calling.

I also want to take a moment today to remind us about some very exciting things coming up for us at Rock Church Ministries.

Brian and Chris cooking at last year's Blessing of the Bikes

Brian and Chris cooking at last year's Blessing of the Bikes

  • Blessing of the Bikes!   That event takes place tomorrow (Saturday) at our Sandown campus.  Gathering and continental breakfast at 9 am., blessing at 10 am, group ride and BBQ back at the church at lunch time.
  • Membership class.  If you are not yet a member of our church, there will be an inquiry class Sunday (May 21) at 2 pm at our Plaistow campus. If you would like to attend, please drop a quick email to Lynette.
  • Golf Tournament. Our Rock Church Golf Tournament to support missions is coming up on June 24.  Registration is open now.  We are also looking for hole sponsors.  If you, or your business, would like to sponsor a hole, please email Julie at japalladi@yahoo.com.
  • Baptisms.  We are going to try something we have never done.  On Pentecost, June 4th, we will incorporate full immersion baptisms into a Sunday morning service.   For this first time, we are going to be doing this at our Amesbury campus during the 10:10 Sunday service.  If God is calling you to a deeper walk through baptized, please email Pastor Jon at Jon@rock-church.org.

This is just a sampling of some of the great and exciting things we have going on at Rock Church Ministries.  Be sure to read through the newsletter and catch all the rest.  I look forward to having you join us this Sunday at one of our morning or evening services. If you are out of town, we invite you to join us at our online campus www.RockChurchAir.tv.

Have a great week and God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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Exciting Times!

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Exciting Times!

Pastor Paul and Lisa Nolden

Pastor Paul and Lisa Nolden

Something exciting is coming.  Some of you may recall that the launch of our Newburyport campus got delayed a bit due to a transition of leadership.  But I am excited to announce that Pastor Paul Nolden is now officially on board and ready to rock and roll!  Paul has more than two decades of ministry experience, including a successful church plant in the Chicago area.  He is a gifted leader and communicator, and I couldn't be more thrilled that God has sent him our way.

The first step will be to build a core team, drawing on people from our existing congregation.  We will begin with 3 informational meetings to discuss the vision for the ministry as well as get input from those interested in helping us launch.  These informational meetings will be on June 8 and 15 and July 20 at 6:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m., and will be hosted at The Rock Church Amesbury Campus.

Following the informational meetings, we will begin meeting weekly on Thursday evenings beginning August 10 with a meal served from 5:45 until 6:30 (come when you can) and then the Life Group from 6:30-8:00.  If you think you might be interested or are just curious you can contact Pastor Paul at 815.303.5446 or paul@rock-church.org (or catch him Sunday mornings in Amesbury).  I believe God is preparing to do something amazing in this Newburyport campus!  I would ask us all to keep Paul and his wife Lisa in your prayers as they help us launch this new location.

Speaking of exciting things, I also wanted to celebrate what amazing successes our Spring Concerts were.  We packed the house full for both concerts and had hundreds of unchurched guests come and hear of the good news of Jesus through the gift of music.  I want to take a moment to thank everyone involved.  I want to thank Beth Soucise for her extraordinary leadership and the entire choir for their commitment and dedication. But I also want to thank some of those unseen heroes.  Our hospitality team did an amazing job managing a very full house while making every person feel welcomed.  Our audio, video, lighting and computer techs provided great support behind the scenes.  Then there were all those who set up, broke down and provided support in a dozen different ways.   Most importantly, I want to thank those who stepped out of their comfort zone to invite an unchurched person to experience the love and hope of Jesus Christ   We are a congregation full of people with true servant hearts, and I am grateful for everyone of you!

I look forward to seeing you this Sunday as we continue our series "One Heart and Mind."

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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All in the Family

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All in the Family

What does it really mean to describe the church as the family of God?   Recently we began a new teaching series "One Heart and Mind" where we are exploring that very question.  The church is not intended to be a collection of individuals who all happen to gather in a certain space once a week to worship God.  The church is community.  It is a gathering of people who seek to share life together.  And it is a community of people who come together to pursue a common mission and vision.

Blessing of the Bikes coming up on May 20

Blessing of the Bikes coming up on May 20

This past Sunday we talked a bit about what that mission is and how that common vision binds us together.  There is actually something very powerful about a shared vision.  When hundreds of people, gathered in a particular geographic area, are all headed towards the same goal, the potential impact is amazing.

In our church, the vision is to reach and disciple people for Christ.  The illustration we used in worship was that of sowing and nurturing seeds. We sow seeds of faith as we share Jesus with others, and we nurture those seeds as we help people grow in faith.  As we grow increasingly unified around that vision, not only is our family bond strengthened, but our impact is multiplied.

I know we are a pretty big family, but we ARE family.  And that family connection is strengthened by our shared desire to see Jesus be lifted up in our communities and our region.  One opportunity we have this weekend to lift up Jesus and begin to sow some seeds is our Spring Concert.   I would ask you to do three things in regards to our concert.  First, plan to attend one of the performances (Saturday at 7:00 p.m. or Sunday at 5:00 p.m.).  Second, invite a guest to attend with you.  A concert like this is a fairly non-threatening entry point for someone who doesn't necessarily attend church.  Third, pray for the concert.  Pray that guests would come and pray that the Holy Spirit would so anoint this concert that the words and the music would draw people towards Jesus.

I look forward to seeing you this weekend as we continue our series "One Heart and MInd."  This is a great and important series.  I know you won't want to miss a single week.

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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The Next Generation

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The Next Generation

Sunday was an interesting day.  At our Sandown campus I had the opportunity to baptize a child whose mom grew up as a child in our church.  There is always something special about seeing the next generation begin a journey of faith.  But when it is the child of someone you helped raise in the faith from their childhood, that is particularly cool!

A short time later, at our Plaistow campus, our choir shared an anthem.  I know I'm biased, but I think we have the best choir in New England.  But what was especially moving to me was to see a young man, Colby, singing the solo part.  Colby also leads our Rock@6 praise team.  To see a new generation of musicians and worship leaders raised up in our church is awesome!

At the same time, at our Amesbury campus we have a host of young adults serving and providing leadership for this rapidly growing part of the Rock congregation.  From hospitality to worship team to trustees, the next generation is being raised up in ministry, and they are doing an awesome job.

Then at the Rock@6 service, our Sunday night service in Plaistow, we consecrated Dan Elliott as the campus pastor for that service.   As I mentioned last week, Dan has completed his CLM training, has been approved by the District Committee on Ministry and is now ready to service in a pastoral capacity.  Dan also grew up in our church.  Again we see the next generation responding to God's call to serve.

As I reflected on all of this, I suppose it could have made me feel old.  But that is not at all what I felt.  Instead I felt encouraged, and I felt proud of our church, that we are a place that invests in the next generation.  I'm grateful that at the Rock we are a congregation making a priority of pouring into the lives of young people and giving them the opportunity to grow and serve.

I believe the church, at its best, is meant to be a place where all generations can work together to advance our mission and vision.  We need to be constantly raising up the next generation.  But to be fully effective, those of us a little further along in the journey also need to bring wisdom and experience to the work.  Additionally, we need to be mentoring the next generation as it is raised up to serve and lead. 

That won't always be easy.  With new generations come new ideas and approaches that will inevitably require some measure of change.  But when we see the next generation raising their children in faith, finding ways to serve and responding to God's call to ministry, it is all worth it. 

I can't wait for this Sunday as we continue our series "One Heart and Mind."

God Bless,

 Pastor Steve

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New Frontiers

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New Frontiers

I got to hang out with the Youth Group at our Sandown this week.  What an awesome group of youth people.  Love them!

I got to hang out with the Youth Group at our Sandown this week.  What an awesome group of youth people.  Love them!

"See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?"   That was God's message to the people of Israel, spoken through the prophet Isaiah.   Even though those words were recorded about 2700 years ago, I feel like God is speaking them to us today.  Right here in Rock Church Ministries God is moving in new and powerful ways, and it is exciting!

Just this past weekend as we celebrated Easter over our three campuses we hit an all time high for Sunday morning worship services.  We had almost 1000 people in total attendance.  By our best count (not everyone fills out connection cards so it is hard to be exact) we had over 20 first time guests and over a dozen people prayed to invite Jesus into their lives.  In light of our core conviction that everyone needs Jesus, THAT IS EXCITING NEWS!

Speaking of new things, I have two other pieces of exciting news to share with you.  The first is that Dan Elliott has completed his training and District Committee on Ministry evaluation to be approved as a CLM (Certified Lay Minister).  Dan has already been providing leadership for the team that leads the Rock@6 Sunday evening service.  This approval as CLM will allow him to officially serve as the campus pastor for that service.  This Sunday evening at 6, as a part of our Rock@6 service, we will be consecrating Dan for that role.  We invite everyone to join us in celebrating this important step for Dan and for our church.

The Pancake Breakfast and Egg Hunt in Amesbury raised over $250 for the Amesbury PTO and blessed many families with the Good News of Jesus.

The Pancake Breakfast and Egg Hunt in Amesbury raised over $250 for the Amesbury PTO and blessed many families with the Good News of Jesus.

I also have news to share regarding Newburyport.  You may recall that a number of months ago we were asked by the Annual Conference to partner in the launching of a new ministry in Newburyport under the leadership of David Kemper.  Unfortunately, around the start of the year David shared with us that he was going to have to step back from leading that work. 

Without David to lead that new campus, but still convinced that God has called us to reach out to the hurting people in the Newburyport area, we pushed the pause button as we began the search for a new pastor.  Around that same time, Paul Nolden and his wife Lisa began worshiping with us at our Amesbury campus.  Paul is an ordained United Methodist Pastor who had recently relocated to the north-east after serving a number of years in the Chicago area.  Paul is a very gifted pastor who, among other things, has experience as a successful church planter.  Paul’s timely arrival was a God thing and I'm excited to announce that after a time of prayer and discernment Paul has agreed to head up our new campus in Newburyport.  The work will begin with building a core team and one or more lifegroups in Newburyport, but we will not be launching Sunday morning worship there immediately.  So Paul and Lisa will continue to participate in Amesbury as they develop a core group for Newburyport.

New Series begins this week at all campuses!

New Series begins this week at all campuses!

Please keep both Dan and Paul in your prayers as they launch out in new and exciting ways as leaders in our ministry.  God is doing new and exciting things at the Rock!  I looking forward to seeing you all this Sunday as we launch into a new series, 1 Heart and Mind.  I promise this is going to be such an awesome series you will not want to miss a single week.

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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My Easter Invitation

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My Easter Invitation

I did it!   I actually invited an unchurched person to Easter worship.  There is a mixed blessing in being a pastor.  On the one hand, we have the gift and joy of being able to work day in and day our with wonderful, amazing brothers and sisters in Christ.  Much of what I do involves interacting with people who already know Jesus.  The challenging aspect of that is I seem to have fewer opportunities than many people to engage those who do not yet know Jesus. 

Mark your calendar for this great workshop.  This is open to our church as well as our communities.  Feel free to invite a friend.

Mark your calendar for this great workshop.  This is open to our church as well as our communities.  Feel free to invite a friend.

But I know I am not alone in that.  In my experience, the longer any of us are part of a great church family, the more that becomes our social circle.  It is great to have good friends who share our beliefs and values, with whom we can do life.  But if we are not careful we may wake up one day and realize that we have no unchurched friends.

I came to the conclusion a number of years ago that if I was going to ever have the opportunity to share Jesus with people who do not yet know him, I would have to intentionally develop some new relationships.

I will confess to you that as an introvert this is not easy for me.  I have always envied those people who seem to be able to comfortably initiate conversations wherever they go in a way that just draws people in.  It's not a natural gift for me, but because I love people and want to see everyone come to know Jesus, I'm determined to develop relationships outside of my church circle.

Is anyone with me?  Does anyone else struggle with this?  One of the ways I try to develop these relationship is by what I might call marketplace outreach.  In other words, I try to use the same garage, shop at the same stores, eat at the same restaurants in a way that opens the opportunity to build relationships. 

This brings me to my invitation.  While eating at a restaurant we often frequent, being served by the person whose section we always sit in, I asked the question. "So, what are you doing for Easter?"  She shared a bit of her plans, which lead to us sharing our plans, which of course included Easter worship. At that point it seemed like the most natural thing to say was "Why don't you join us for Easter worship.  I think you would really enjoy it."

I was excited, and a little surprised, when she replied "That would be great.  I would really love to do that."  So we told her the times of services and where we are located.  As we were leaving, I wrote the times and address on a piece of paper for her. The whole experience reinforced for me that it is not as hard as it sometimes seems (even to an introvert) to extend an invitation. 

I don't know for sure that she will come on Easter, but I do know that we have opened a door.  Even if it is not this Sunday, I believe that one day she will attend worship.  When she does, she will be warmly greeted, she will experience engaging worship and she will hear the Gospel.  I believe that one day soon, the angels in Heaven will rejoice over her as she opens her heart to Jesus. 

Have you invited anyone for Easter yet?  There is still time.  Don't forget we have our Maundy Thursday service at our Sandown campus at 6:30 p.m.  Good Friday service is at our Amesbury Campus at 7:00 p.m.  And if you are not able to make Easter worship on Sunday morning, we are also offering a full Easter worship on Saturday at 5:00 p.m at our Plaistow Campus.

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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The Big Week!

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The Big Week!

This Sunday marks the beginning of our "Big Week."   This Sunday, Palm Sunday, marks the beginning of what Christians call "Holy Week."  For Christ followers, Holy Week is our Superbowl.  It's our World Series, our Stanley Cup, our Final Four!  Actually, as much attention as the Superbowl and World Series get, they pale in comparison to the importance of Holy Week.

Holy Week observes and celebrates the events of the final week of Jesus' life.  From His procession into Jerusalem, to the cross, to the miracle of his resurrection, this was the week that changed the world.  The sacrifice of the cross and the glory of the empty tomb took our world from despair to hope.  It brought us from sorrow to joy, from broken to healed, from dead to alive. 

Holy Week is a big week for us for two reasons.  For ourselves, it is an opportunity to walk with Jesus on His journey to the cross.  In many ways, it is like a roller coaster ride.  It begins with this great high as everyone comes out to celebrate Him on Palm Sunday.  But in a few short days comes the rapid descent into the last supper, the betrayal, the arrest and the crucifixion.

On Thursday we will have a special service at our Sandown campus at 6:30 p.m. to observe the last supper and the events in the Garden.  On Good Friday we will have a service at our Amesbury campus at 7:00 p.m. to remember Christ's sacrifice at the Cross.

Then, of course, on Easter weekend we will celebrate his resurrection.  We will have services at all of our regular Sunday morning times.  But we will also offer a Saturday evening service at our Plaistow campus at 5:00 p.m.  This is particularly great for those who may be traveling on Easter Sunday but still want to be able to celebrate Easter with your church family at the Rock. 

I said this is a big week for us for two reasons.  First, for ourselves to celebrate the week that changed our lives.  But secondly, it is one of our best opportunities to live out one of our core values as a church.  We believe "Everyone Needs Jesus."  Easter is the perfect time to invite an unchurched friend to worship with us. Let's make the most of this opportunity.

I hope you will be able to join us throughout Holy Week as we journey towards the celebration of the most important event in the history of the world, the resurrection of Jesus.

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

 

Mark your calendars.  Invite your Friends.  This is going to be a great event.

Mark your calendars.  Invite your Friends.  This is going to be a great event.

 

 

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Love God. Love Others.  Do Good

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Love God. Love Others. Do Good

During my time with God this morning I was reading in Paul's letter to the Galatians.  In chapter 6, verses 9 and 10, Paul writes these words.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Weary.   Synonyms: tired, worn out, exhausted, fatigued.  Do you ever feel weary?  I have to be honest, I'm growing weary of winter.  We all grow weary sometimes.  But Paul's encouragement is that we not grow weary of doing good, helping others, being a blessing.   

I've come to believe that one of the greatest and most effective forms of outreach that we have as Christ followers is simply to "do good."  When we express kindness and generosity, when we help another human being expecting nothing in return, it allows others to see and experience the love of Christ through us. 

Did you know it is Josh Nimmo's Birthday!   Find him on Facebook and wish him a Happy Birthday!

Did you know it is Josh Nimmo's Birthday!   Find him on Facebook and wish him a Happy Birthday!

Paul says "as we have opportunity let us do good."  I want to encourage us to always be on the watch for opportunities.  I believe God provides opportunities for us to love other and to do good every day.  But we have to be living with eyes wide open, seeking and responding to those opportunities. 

Paul also says in this verse that we are to do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of God.  I think this is another important reminder.  We certainly want to show love to those outside the church.  But we must also be intentional in loving and caring for one another.

One of the places we see this happen in our church is through lifegroups.  I'm in a weekly lifegroup.  In our lifegroup we study God's word, we pray, we grow.  But we also care for one another.  There is a level of caring that takes place on Sundays around worship.  But when we gather as lifegroups, we have the opportunity to really know what is going on in people's lives.  It is in lifegroups that we support, encourage and help one another. If you are not already in a lifegroup, I would encourage you to get connected here.  Not only is it a great way to grow in faith, but it is a place to love and be loved.

I'm proud of our church.  I believe we love well.  I've watched people from our church family, in the name of Christ, serve others sacrificially, help people in need, bless the world and one another.  My prayer is that we look for every opportunity to love Jesus by loving and serving others.  And I pray that we never grow weary of loving God, loving others and doing good.

In Christ,

Pastor Steve

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The Power of Invitation

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The Power of Invitation

It's funny how you remember certain things.  I remember the first time I went to youth group.  I think I was in the 5th grade.  Our church had recently gotten a new pastor, Faith Chandler.  We didn't have a youth group, but she was determined to start one. 

I was pretty shy as a kid, and I probably wouldn't have gone.  I wanted to go.  But I really didn't know who else was going or if I would know anyone else.  It sounded like fun.  But I wasn't sure what to expect.  Ultimately I did go, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.  It was at youth group over the next several years that I begin to genuinely connect to Jesus and grow in my faith.  A few years into my youth group experience, at the age of 15, I felt the call to ministry.

So, why did I go to youth group that first time?  Because someone invited me, and I knew there would be at least one other person I knew.  I want to remind us that there is power in invitation.  As a church, we do all kinds of outreach activities.  We advertise in the paper, put up posters, place lawn signs and hang banners.  We even promote on social media.  And all of those things have value.  But far and away the most effective tool we have for reaching the unchurched is still personal invitation.

I realize that sometimes we will invite people and they will not come.  But sometimes they will.  And for those who accept the invitation the results can be life changing.  When people have the opportunity to hear and respond to the good news of Jesus, it not only changes their life in the here and now, it changes their eternity. 

While none of us are likely to bat a thousand when it comes to people's response to our invitation, there are some things that can help to increase our averages. 

  • Invite them to something specific.  i.e. Come with me to this concert, join me for worship this Sunday, bring the kids to our Easter Egg hunt on this day.
  • Invite then to come WITH you.  Offer to pick them up.  Tell them you will meet them at the front door.  Maybe even invite them to breakfast before or after.
  • Give them something as a reminder.  We often provide invitation cards that you can hand to people.  All the basic information they need to know is included on it.  People don't always remember details.  With the card in hand they have the address, the time of the service/event and the church website.  It gives them something they can put on their fridge as a reminder.
  • Make the most of high potential times.  There are certain times when people are likely to be more open to an invitation.  For example, Christmas and Easter are times people are more likely to be open to an invitation to worship.
  • Pray.  Pray for the people that you would like to invite.  Ask God to begin to prepare their heart to receive the invitation.   

With Easter soon to be upon us, I would ask you to begin praying for a few of your friends, coworkers, neighbors or family members who do not yet have an active relationship with Jesus Christ.  Ask God to begin to open their heart to an invitation.  Pray for opportunities to extend an invitation.  And pray that God would give you the boldness to seize those opportunities as they come.   Your invitation could change someone's eternity.  Remember, Everyone Needs Jesus!

I hope you can join us this weekend as we continue what has been a great series from the Book of James "Real World." 

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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Together

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Together

As I was traveling north on I-93 yesterday I saw something inspiring.  As I came up over a rise, I saw a fleet of identical power line service trucks.  With the bends in the road, I could only see so far.  But from my vantage point, I could count at least 20 trucks before the line disappeared from view.  Unfortunately I was coming up on my exit, because what I really wanted to do was pull into the passing lane and slowly work my way up the convoy.

Traveling this weekend?  Why not join Pastor Lee at our Online Campus at www.rockchurchair.tv

Traveling this weekend?  Why not join Pastor Lee at our Online Campus at www.rockchurchair.tv

Not only did I want to see just how far the line stretched, but I really wanted to drive along side of each truck, give a quick wave and a thank you.  I could tell from the lettering on the trucks and the license plates that these hard working linemen and women had come down from Quebec.   I didn't know their stories, but I had to imagine that they had left home several days earlier to help restore power during and after the storm.  I suspect many of them had left behind family and friends, traveled a decent distance and had worked under harsh conditions to serve us.

As I pulled off my exit and the trucks disappeared into the distance, I couldn't help but think of our church.  We have an unbelievable team of people who work sacrificially for the sake of the kingdom of God.  I know that many of you sacrifice time, effort and precious resources to make the ministry of our church possible.  I just want to say today that I am truly grateful.  I am grateful for the gifts, time and talents that so many of you share.  And I am grateful to be a part of such an amazing church family.

Guys.  How many of you have already signed up for the men's retreat?  You can do it right on line at this link.

Guys.  How many of you have already signed up for the men's retreat?  You can do it right on line at this link.

I have no doubt that restoring power after a storm like we had this week is a mammoth task.  But when workers pull together, sometimes from far and wide, it is amazing what can be accomplished.  God has called us to a great work.  To bring the love of Christ to the world, to seek to serve so many in need, to share the hope of the gospel with so many that do know know Him, is a mammoth task.

But together as the body of Christ, with the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we can do great things.  And everyone one of us is an important part of that work.  Thank you for all you do!  I hope to see you all this Sunday as we continue to dig into the Book of James in our series "Real World."  

Also, with Easter soon to be upon us, I would like to ask us to be praying about who we might be able to invite to join us.

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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Everyone Needs Jesus

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Everyone Needs Jesus

Friends,

     I would like to share an experience I had this week that reinforced for me all the more the importance of our mission to share Jesus with those who do not know him.  Early in the week I had a voicemail left on my phone from a woman asking me if I could pray with her husband.  I didn't know the couple.  She apparently got my number from the Billy Graham association.

     According to the voice message, her husband wanted someone to pray with him to give his life to Jesus.  Needless to say, with eternity in the balance for this man, I did not hesitate to return the call.  We were able to find a time that worked in their schedule and mine, and we met.  I invite the man to share a little bit of his story. 

     Without getting into the details, this man had faced some significant struggles in his life. He desperately wanted and needed healing for the many hurts of the past.  He needed help and strength for some of the struggles he was currently experiencing.  He needed Jesus. 

     The interesting thing was, he had religion.  He had grown up in a Christian tradition.  He knew the rules and regulations of his religious upbringing.  He knew some scripture.  He felt the weight of conviction for his sins.  He feared he could not truly be forgiven.

     So we talked for a while.  We talked about the unconditional love of God.  I shared my heartbreak over some of hurts he had experienced (sadly, much of it in the name of religion).  I reinforced for him that our salvation comes by faith alone, and not by our works.  I explained the difference between religion and a relationship with Jesus.  Then we prayed together. 

      In those sacred moments, he opened his heart and invited Jesus to be the Lord and Savior of his life.  He confessed his sin, received the forgiven of Christ and genuinely experienced the grace of God.  We talked about next steps.  I gave him a Bible. 

      As they left, his countenance had changed.  He came in broken.  He left healed.  He came in shackle, he left free.  He came in defeated and discouraged.  He left victorious and hopeful in Christ. 

     The church exists for many purposes.  But I am more convinced than ever that we are called, as Jesus said "to seek and to save the lost."  We live in a world full of broken people, desperately seeking help, hope and healing.  I believe the only real hope for this world is found in Christ.  As his followers, we have been entrusted with sharing the life changing, world changing, gospel of Jesus Christ.

     Everyone needs Jesus.  My prayer for all of us is that God would continue to open doors of opportunity for us to share the hope of Christ with others.  And that we would have the courage to seize those opportunities when they come, that many more would know the freedom and forgiveness that come from a relationship with Jesus.

     Have a blessed week.  I hope you can all join us for worship at one of our campuses this Sunday.

     In Christ,

Pastor Steve

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Gifted to Serve

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Gifted to Serve

Dear Friends,

     Greetings from Texas!   Pastor Frank and I are here with a mission team of more than 30 people from our various Rock Church Ministry campuses.  In one week we are building a 60 x 60 facility for a Christian camp that was destroyed by wildfires.  If memory serves me correctly, this is the largest facility we have ever built on a one week mission trip except for the new St. Matthews worship center.  That building, which is 50 x 80, we framed up in one week with volunteers as well.

     We have an incredibly team with wonderfully diverse skills and abilities.  It is an amazing thing to see a team like this come together to accomplish such a project.  When we began the week, there were many on the team who did not know one another, let alone worked together.   But by the middle of the week, the job site was humming like a well-oiled machine.

     Seeing the way this team works together reinforces for me of one of our core convictions as a church.  Everyone is gifted to serve.  On this team we have some people with years of construction experience, and some with none.  We have men and women, people young and old.  But every person has strengths, and everyone is able to contribute to the work of the mission. 

    This team is a macrocosm of how the church is meant to operate.  Every person reading this blog has gifts and abilities. Every person has something to share.  Every person has been designed and gifted by God to have a place to contribute to the overall work of His church.  And to be honest with you, the church will never reach its full kingdom potential until each of us finds the place where we are meant to serve.

     I know that some of you have already found a place where your gifts can be used in the work of Christ. Others of you haven’t yet.  Can I let you in on a little secret?  You haven’t really lived until you have discovered the place of service that God has prepared for you.  This week, being a part of this mission team has been physically and mentally taxing.  We work a very full day.  Honestly, it’s exhausting.  But there is also an indescribable joy that comes from being a part of team that is doing great work for the kingdom of God.  It is a joy nothing in this world can match.

     Many of the people who came on this trip didn’t really know where they would contribute.  But they tried various things and discovered places where they could best contribute.  If you are yet to find a place of ministry and service in the life of the church, I would encourage you to do something similar.  Experiment.  Try some things out.  You may just discover that there are things that you never imagined you would be gifted for. But more than that, you will discover the great joy of being a part of an amazing team of people, doing great work of real significance in this world.  Remember, Everyone is Gifted to Serve!

In Christ’s love,

 

Pastor Steve

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Generation Z

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Generation Z

I read a book while I was on vacation.  Actually I read seven books, but the one I want to talk about for a moment was entitled "Meet Generation Z".  You may know that sociologist categorize generations of people, giving each generation a name.  There were Builders, Baby Boomers, Gen Xer and Millenials.  And now some sociologist are beginning to call the youngest group coming up "Generation Z."

Every generation has had it unique attributes and influences.  But the generation of young people who are children and youth right now are being shaped by social and technological forces unlike any generation before them.  I couldn't begin to reflect on all of the insights from the book, but there is one attribute I do want to reflect on. 

This generation is not only the first to grow up with the internet in their pocket and having never known a world without social media.  It is also the first generation to grow up entirely in a post Christian culture.  Without getting into all of the statistical data, the long and short of it is that this generation growing up now is less connected (by far) to Christ or the church than any generation before them.

If you work with kids, volunteer at a school, have school age children or grandchildren, this probably is not news to you.  What might be news to you, what I have experienced in our own church, and what the author reports seeing in his research, is that these Gen Z kids (and many young Millennials) who are choosing to follow Christ are doing so with tremendous passion. What I'm seeing in our church, and what we are seeing in culture, is that many of our young people who are choosing to follow Christ are doing so with greater fervor than any generation before them.

In other words, far fewer young people than in previous generations would consider themselves Christ followers.  But those who are choosing to follow Jesus are all in!  They are passionately sold out for Christ and they are world changers.  As such, the Christian church stands on the cusp of what is, at once, the most challenging time in our history and a time of greatest opportunity. 

So the challenge, and opportunity, before our church, and I believe every Christian church, is to figure out how to reach this emerging generation.  I wish I had an easy answer.  Five easy steps to reaching the next generation.  I don't.   But I believe it is possible.  I'm also pretty sure it is going to require change, innovation and some measure of sacrifice on our part.  It won't be easy, but nothing great ever is.

In light of the statistical data, it would be easy to be discouraged. In times like this we could wring our hands and hang our heads in defeat.  Or we could roll up our sleeves and determine to do whatever it takes to reach this next generation for Christ.  I chose the later.  I want us to be a church where more and more young people are coming to know Christ, are experiencing Christian community and are being deployed back into the world to share his love with others.

Thoughts?  Reflections?   Feel free to comment below.

In Christ,

Pastor Steve

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Why I still love New England

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Why I still love New England

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to spend a little time in the Dominican Republic.  The weather was amazing.  The temperature averaged around 80.  The ocean was warm.  The sunrises were beautiful. I'm not going to lie.  It was pretty nice!

I got home just in time for a major winter storm. I look around to see snow piled so high it may still be here in June.  I've exchanged flip flops for winter boots.  And I ask myself "Why do I live here?"   Then, after allowing myself a brief moment to whine, God reminds me exactly why I live here.

THE BEAUTY.  A few days after returning home, God blessed me with one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen (pictures don't do it justice).  Yesterday as I drove down some of the back roads, the snow on the trees formed a canopy that was awe inspiring.  If we will open our eyes to see it, God blesses us with beauty all around.  I love the beauty of our area.

THE PEOPLE.  Everywhere I go, I meet good people.  But I love New Englanders.  I know we can be a little slow to warm up sometimes (kind of like the weather).  But I have found that there is a richness and an authenticity to the relationships people build here. Right here in our own church, I see people who are sacrificial in caring for others.  I see Christ like love poured out in extraordinary ways.  I count myself blessed to have great relationships with wonderful people.  I love you all.

THE MISSION.  People need Jesus everywhere.  But we are living right in the middle of the "least churched" region of our country.  In other words, there is a higher percentage of people in our area who have no relationship with Jesus than any other region in the US.  God has put us in the midst of a rich mission field and called us to a great work.  I am more excited than ever about the work of our church.  We are living in a time and a place that so desperately needs Jesus that I can't imagine serving anywhere else.  I love our church.

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THE PATRIOTS.  OK, I just had to throw that in.  You have to admit, that was an amazing game.  In fact, if you are a sports fan, I don't know that there is any better region to live in than the Boston area.

I'm sure there are a lot of great places in this world to life, but this is why I still love New England.  While it was great to get away for a little while (to a place where I could dip my toes in the ocean and not get frostbite) I was excited to get home.  I can't think of a better, more fulfilling way to invest my life than doing the great work of God's kingdom surrounded by some of the finest people in the world.  I thank God every day for the privilege.

I know the weather has kept us from getting out some Sundays.  But this weekend is supposed to be beautiful.  Let's all get out for worship this weekend.  Let's pack God's house with people and with praise!  I promise you, you will be glad you did. 

In Christ,

Pastor Steve

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To an unknown God

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To an unknown God

Last week in this blog we talked a little bit about Paul and how he shared Jesus boldly and without hindrance.  But he also did so in a way that enabled him to connect to different people with varying backgrounds.   I believe part of what made Paul one of the greatest and most effective evangelists of all time was his ability to understand culture.

Seen on the road

We see in the book of Acts that Paul traveled from city to city to share Jesus as broadly as he could and to establish as many churches as possible.  In each city or region, he would get a sense of the culture and then share in a way that fit that culture.  One great example is found in Acts 17 when he visited Athens. 

In Athens he discovered a culture that was spiritually pluralistic.  In other words, some worshiped one god, some another, some none at all.  As he wandered through the city, he saw many different temples and idols.  He even came upon an altar inscribed "To an Unknown God."  Apparently, they wanted to be sure they had covered all their bases.  Athens was also a city know for it's endless discussion and debates about every imaginable social, philosophical or political idea.  In many ways, the culture was similar to what we see today.

What we see taking place in Acts 17 stands is stark contrast to what the apostles experienced in Acts 2.  In Acts 2, Peter and the others were sharing primarily with Jews who had come together in Jerusalem for the celebration of Pentecost.  These were people who believed in God, who knew scripture, who spoke the language of faith.  They simply did not know the Jesus was the long awaited Messiah they had been promised.

In terms of the spiritual climate of the culture in which we live, there has been a dramatic change in recent years.  We are quickly going from an Acts 2 to an Acts 17 culture.  When I was young, most people (even those not active in church) believed in God, knew the Bible, and spoke the language of faith.  That is increasingly untrue in our culture.  We are quickly becoming a culture of the "unknown god." 

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So, like Paul, as we try to share our faith, we must adapt our approach.  We can no longer assume that everyone even believes there is a God, that the Bible is authoritative, or that they will understand our church language.  This is not to imply that we can't share faith.  It simply requires a different approach.  Faith sharing today often requires a sharing of our own experience in a way that is honest and vulnerable. We can no longer assume that people are starting with a spiritual foundation. And It takes speaking a language that people can understand.

The gospel never changes.  But the methodologies by which we share the gospel must change as our culture changes.  I believe the world needs Jesus now perhaps more than ever.  Let's do all we can to share the unchanging hope of Christ in an ever changing world.

God Bless,

     Pastor Steve

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Boldly and without hindrance

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Boldly and without hindrance

Here is a clip from Sunday's choir anthem.

I just finished reading through the Book of Acts as a part of my morning devotions.   In the King James version of the Bible the book was known as the Acts of the Apostles.  I've heard some say it might better be described as the Acts of the Holy Spirit.  Whatever we call it, it is a powerful story of God's Holy Spirit working through people in the early formation of the Christian Church. 

The Book of Acts end with this verse "Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ."  He, in this case, is the apostle Paul.  After reading it, I wrote in my journal "Lord may it be said of me that, like Paul, I taught about Jesus boldly and without hindrance."

Of course, what it means to proclaim the story of Jesus boldly is different from situation to situation and from person to person.  I think we sometimes equate bold with brash, or even aggressive. But if you read the whole of the Book of Acts, you will find that Paul approached different people in different ways.

Paul Colman being interviewed by Dan Elliott at the start of the concert on Sunday.

Paul Colman being interviewed by Dan Elliott at the start of the concert on Sunday.

A few weeks ago, in the Reboot series, we talked about overcoming fear that hinders us from doing and being all that God has called us to.  To me, to be bold is to be courageous.  It is to allow our love for people to overcome our fear of rejection so we can share Jesus without hindrance.  Everyone Needs Jesus.   As the ones who have been entrusted with the gospel, it is now up to use to share that good news with others.

Next week I want to talk a little bit more about Paul's approach to sharing Jesus. I believe there is so much we can learn from him.  On another note, I want to update you on our Newburyport project. For personal reasons, Pastor David has asked to step back from leading that launch.  However, we still believe that this is a community where we can have a significant impact for the Kingdom of God.  So we are in conversation with our District Superintendent about how we can continue the ministry under new leadership from within our ministry.  I will keep you up to date as we have more information.

Something to Celebrate,  A team is just coming back from a week serving orphans in Honduras in the name of Jesus.

Something to Celebrate,  A team is just coming back from a week serving orphans in Honduras in the name of Jesus.

This Sunday we are starting a new series entitled Real Life.  We will be digging deep into the Book of James.  James is one of the most practical, real life applicable, books of the New Testament. This is the kind of series where you might want to have your Bible or your phone app with you and open as we go through it.  It is going to be awesome!

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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Something to Celebrate

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Something to Celebrate

Something struck me this week.   It dawned on me that we really don't celebrate as much as we should in the church. God is doing amazing things in our midst.  But often we don't really stop and take the time to give thanks for what God is doing and to celebrate his victories.  I think what often happens is we have so much going on that as soon as we have come through one event or season, our attention is immediately redirected on the next thing.

Don't miss Paul Colman in concert with us this Sunday night at 6:00 p.m.

Don't miss Paul Colman in concert with us this Sunday night at 6:00 p.m.

For example, at Thanksgiving time our congregation was extraordinarily generous, providing food and financial support sufficient for over 200 families.  But before we ever really had a chance to celebrate that great victory, we were immediately focused on the giving tree.  Through the giving trees at our various campuses we provided over 450 new gifts for needy families as well as elderly members of our communities.  On top of that we provided Christmas food baskets for dozens of needy families. 

Of course by the time we were done our Christmas missional outreach efforts, we were focused on Christmas eve.  Did you know that this year on Christmas Eve we had our largest combined attendance ever?  Just under 900 over three campuses.  But before we had much time to give God thanks for that, we were jumping into a new sermon series, launching new lifegroups for the new year, etc. etc. etc.

When God parted the Red Sea allowing the Israelites to escape certain destruction at the hands of the Egyptian army, the nation celebrated.  In Exodus 15:1 we hear "Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord."  The bulk of the chapter that follows is the spontaneous song of praise lead by Miriam and Moses, celebrating God's victory.  

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord. I will sing to the Lord for he is highly exalted.

In a large and active ministry like ours, there will always be a next challenge, opportunity or event that we will invest ourselves in.  But I want to encourage us to be sure that we always take the time to pause, give thanks to God and to celebrate His victories, even as we are beginning to plan and prepare for the next great opportunity He has provided us.

So regarding our Thanksgiving and Christmas outreaches, I want to thank everyone who shared and helped, and I want to praise God for the lives that were blessed through it.  For an amazing (and record breaking) Christmas Eve, I want to say thank you to everyone who helped make those services go so well and I praise God for seeds that were sown.  And for what God is doing in our lifegroups right now, I just want to thank and praise Him!

Join us this Sunday for the powerful conclusion of our Reboot Series.

Join us this Sunday for the powerful conclusion of our Reboot Series.

God is good!  And we have something to celebrate.  I hope you can all be with us in worship on Sunday at we bring our Reboot series to a powerful conclusion.  You won't want to miss this Sunday.  

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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What you feed will grow

At choir rehearsal, Beth, our Director of Music and Worship, said something during our devotions that struck me as profound.  "What you feed will grow."  I think we all know that.  If you have ever had house plants or a garden you know that if you want them to grow you must water and fertilize them.  If you have ever raised teenagers, you know that we feed them constantly and they seem to grow by the day!

What is true of outward, physical growth is also true of inner growth.  For good or for bad, the things of the heart and mind grow when we feed them.  To feed things of the heart greatly means to dwell on them, to give them time and attention, to focus on them.  That means that if we have been disappointed, the more we dwell on that disappointment, the more it grows within us.  Likewise, if we have been hurt or offended, the more we dwell on it, the great the offense grows within us.

But the converse is also true.  If there are things in our lives for which we are grateful, the more we focus upon our blessings, the greater our gratitude grows.  If there are things in our lives we celebrate, the more we dwell upon them, the more joy grows within us.  What we feed will grow.  I believe where this becomes most important in our lives is in relationship to our faith. 

One of our core convictions as a church is that everyone is meant to grow.  I believe it is our desire, and it is God's desire for us that we are continuously growing deeper in our faith in Christ.  If we want our faith to grow, we must feed it.  That means dwelling on the things of God, giving time and attention to our relationship with Jesus, focusing on the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

So at a practical level, how do we feed our faith?  Worship, participation in a lifegroup, personal prayer time and Scripture reading are all a part of the steady diet that feeds our faith and causes it to grow.  Want to see you faith grow stronger this year?  Feed it!  Be in worship every week. Spend time with God on your own during the week.  Connect to a life group. 

By the way, if you not sure how to get started with a lifegroup, our Sunday morning lifegroups are a great starting point.  In Sandown we have a group immediately after worship.  In Amesbury the group meets over breakfast before worship.  In Plaistow, the adult lifegroup meets at 9:45 while then children are in Sunday School.  In fact in Plaistow, we have a brand new session starting this Sunday focusing on the book of James.  James is a great book to study because of it's practical application to daily life.  If you attend in Plaistow and would like to get in on the start of that class, just show up this Sunday at 9:45 and we'll help you find the room.  If you worship in Amesbury, come at 9:00 and join us downstairs.  In Sandown, stay after worship and we'll help you find the classroom.

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What you feed will grow.  As we press into this new year, let's commit to feeding our faith and watch the growth that God will bring.

In Christ,

Pastor Steve

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Reflections on the new year

As hard as it is to imagine, we have begun another new year.  To be honest, with its short days and cold weather, January is not my favorite month.  But I do love the start of a new year.

I always try to mark this milestone in two ways.  First, I want to celebrate the year that is past.  For our church 2016 was an exciting year of great ministry.  At every campus we saw people come to Christ and be saved for eternity.  Jesus himself said that the angels in Heaven rejoice over a single person who repents of their sin and comes to faith.

In 2016 we held our first ever Night of Worship.  This was the year that we launched our online campus.  2016 saw a significant expansion of our lifegroup ministry.  We had dozens of our folks travel the country and the world in missions.  We launched our Family Ministry Initiative this year.  And perhaps the biggest celebration of the year, after 181 years in our original building, we moved into a new worship center at our Sandown location. 

The night the chairs arrived for our new worship center in Sandown.

The night the chairs arrived for our new worship center in Sandown.

As we begin the new year, I want us to pause and celebrate all the ways God has been at work among us and through us.  It has been an amazing year.  The other important aspect of the new year is to look to the future.  In the same ways we pause to celebrate the year past, we also want to pause to dream about the year to come.

What do you dream of for our church?  How do you imagine God working in our ministry in 2017?  I believe the three core convictions that we talked about in the fall give us a good framework for our future ministry together.

  • Everyone needs Jesus.  I believe that this year more people than ever will come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior through the ministry of our church.  My guess is that every one of us has family and friends who do not currently have a relationship with Jesus.  Wouldn't it be great if this were the year!
  • Everyone is meant to grow.  As a church we want our reach to be outward to those far from Christ.  But we also want it to provide opportunities for those of us already in relationship with Jesus to grow deeper.  In 2017 our Lifegroups are going to continue to expand the opportunities to connect and grow.  I'm also very excited about some of the sermon series planned for this year to take us deeper into God's Word.
  • Everyone is gifted to serve.  In 2017 I also dream of every one of us finding a place of mission and ministry that is exactly what God desires for us.  There is nothing more fun or fulfilling than to be using the gifts God has given you in a meaningful way to make a positive difference in the world!
Join us for our new January teaching series: REBOOT!

Join us for our new January teaching series: REBOOT!

Those are my reflections as we charge into the new year.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.  What do you celebrate about God's work in our church in 2016?  What do you dream of for our ministry in 2017?  Feel free to leave your comments below.

I hope you can all join us this weekend as we continue our series "Reboot~A Fresh Start for the New Year."

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Steve

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