3:00 a.m.

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3:00 a.m.

Have you ever had God wake you up early in the morning?  I had that experience on Wednesday.  I woke up a little after 3:00 a.m.  Try as I might, I couldn’t fall back asleep.  So around 3:45 a.m. I got up.  I did my morning devotions and worked on my sermon a bit.  Then I just spent some time listening to God.  I’ll be honest, I don’t do that as often as I should.  But that morning I had a sense that God had something he wanted me to hear.

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Rock Church has had an amazing summer and early fall.  We had 15 baptism a couple of weeks ago.  Our new NextGen program is off to a great start.  We are seeing guests in worship every week.  But I still have the sense that there’s something more God wants for us.  Something deeper.   In my early morning conversation with Him, I felt God calling us, all of us at Rock church, to a season of prayer.  I know that many of us pray at home, in our personal time and with our families.  But more specifically, I believe God is calling us to spend time in prayer together on Sundays.

In light of that calling, I want to invite us to gather in our respective worship spaces this Sunday, perhaps just 10 to 15 minutes before the service begins, and just pray.  Pray for our church.  Pray for our kids, the lost, our youth.  Pray for the addicted and the hurting.  Pray for our nation and our world.  Pray for our leaders and our pastors.  Pray for our ministry than we would be powerful and effective in the work of Jesus Christ in our communities.

Rock Church is awesome.  I love our church, and we’re doing great work.  But we will never be all that we can be for Christ if we try to operate on our own power, our own strength.  We need the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We access that power through prayer.   In II Chronicles 7 we read words that I suspect are familiar to many of us “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and heal their land.”  There is real power in prayer.  I want our church to access and experience the fullness of that power of God.

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I believe God has amazing things in store for us.  I don’t want to miss out on any of it.  So, if you know as I absolutely do know, that there is power in prayer, and if you are as convinced as I am that our church needs that power from the Holy Spirit to be all that it can be, I invite you to join me in prayer this Sunday morning before our respective services.  I believe God is preparing to do something great in and through us, but it needs to begin with us on our knees.

This Sunday we will continue our Series “Real Hope.”  It has been a great series, and I know you won’t want to miss this week as we dig into what it really means to have FREEDOM in Christ.

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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I love this

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I love this

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There are a lot of things about ministry that I love.  But I’m not sure if there is anything that brings more joy to my heart than being a part of someone’s baptism.  This past Sunday at our annual beach service, we celebrated believer baptism by immersion.  There is nothing quite like seeing the joy on someone’s face as they come up out of the water, hair swept back, water running down their face, hands raised high with a shout of praise!   Priceless!

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What makes it even more powerful for me is that I know many of these people’s stories.  These are lives that have been genuinely transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Some of these people have had unimaginable tragedy in their lives.   Some have battled addiction, others anxiety or depression and still others abuse.  Some of these folks have tried to find hope and meaning in worldly things.   Some have experienced great success in the eyes of the world, but still felt empty.  The one thing they all have in common is they have found hope, healing, meaning and purpose in Christ!

In baptism we allow the old to pass away, and the new to come.  We are new creations in Christ through our baptism.  Last Sunday after the baptisms, I sat for a few minutes reflecting on the people who had been baptized.  I thought about the extraordinary transformation many of them had been through.  In that moment I thought to myself, this is why we do what we do.   This is why we serve Jesus.  This is why we share the Good News.  Every time a soul is saved for eternity, the angels in heaven rejoice!  

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Serving Jesus by loving and serving others can be hard work.  It is sacrificial.  But when one person’s life is changed, when one soul is saved for eternity, when one life goes from despair to hope, it is worth it all.  I just wanted to take time today to thank each and every one of you from our Rock Church family for all that you do to make this ministry possible.  For the time, talents and gifts that you share, for the love that is poured out in service to Christ and the world, I thank you.  Know that all that you do to lift up Jesus IS making a difference!

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Along with a great beach service, we launched our new NextGen program this past Sunday.  We got off to a great start!  But if you were not able to make it the first week, it is certainly not too late.  You can get all the info and register right at this link. Ladies, coming up in just a couple of weeks is our ALIVE! Women's Retreat with Kelley Latta.  This is going to be an awesome event.  Here is a link to all the details.  And finally, after months of preparation, the Rock Run Raiser is coming up next month.  This is a new event for us that is an opportunity to both connect our friends and neighbors with our church family and to raise support for several great causes.  There are a number of ways you can help with that.  You can run the race.  You can volunteer.  You can spread the word.  And you can pray for this event.

I look forward to seeing every one of you this Sunday as we continue this great new series entitled "Real Hope."   Invite a friend!  Remember, everyone needs Jesus!

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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A Big Weekend

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A Big Weekend

I can't begin to tell you how excited I am about this weekend!  About 8 months ago God placed it on my heart that we needed to make a significant investment of time, energy, resources and prayer into the redevelopment of our Children's Ministry.  In the past decade, the world has changed dramatically, particularly for our children and youth.  Like many churches, we had begun to struggle with how to effectively reach this emerging generation for Christ.

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While culture has changed, the need has not changed. This generation of young people growing up in our homes, our neighborhoods and our communities needs a spiritual foundation as much as any generation before them.   In fact, with all the challenges our kids are facing, I think it more critical than ever.   So for the past 8 months our children's ministry directors and our pastors have been dreaming, visioning and working to redevelop our children's ministry space and program.  Our dream is to offer a NextGen program that is so engaging and transformational that our kids don't want to miss a single week.  So, after months of preparation, this weekend we launch our new NextGen program.  You can find more information or register your children at this link.

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But that is not the only reason I am excited about Sunday.  This week we are also introducing a new teaching series entitled "Real Hope."  The series is built on a very powerful passage from Isaiah 61.  This is the passage Jesus proclaims as he is beginning his public ministry.  We live in a world that is hurting in so many ways.  But God promised real hope through the prophet Isaiah.  And as we will see in this series, Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise.  He came to heal the brokenhearted, free the captive, bring light into the darkness and bring beauty from ashes.  This is going to be an uplifting and hope-filled series that you will not want to miss.  It is also a great series to invite an unchurched friend or neighbor to experience.

The other truly exciting thing coming up this weekend is our annual Beach, BBQ and Baptism celebration at Camp Tasker in Newton, NH.  This year we are adding a special element to the service that everyone of us will want to engage in.  We will gather at Camp Tasker at 1:00 p.m. We will provide the BBQ.  Feel free to bring a side dish or dessert to share.  After lunch we will gather at the beach for our special combined baptism service.  If you wish to be baptized, please contact Lynette to let us know.

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The beach service will take the place of our Rock@6 Sunday night service this week, but next Sunday we will be relaunching that service with Pastor Lee as our new leader.  Our Rock@6 service is an excellent opportunity for those who are away or working Sunday mornings, or those who attend one of our morning services but want to dig in a little deeper.

On final thing I wanted to share with you is that we have officially launched Newburyport with a Thursday evenings dinner worship.  It runs from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. with dinner, fellowship, informal worship and great community.  It is open to children and adults.  If you are interested in getting involved or would like more info on Thursday nights in Newburyport, please contact Pastor Paul or visit the web page.

Don't forget the free pancake breakfast this Saturday (Sept 9) as a part of the Sandown Old Home day celebration.

Have a great day.  I look forward to seeing you all this weekend.  It's going to be awesome!

God Bless,

 

Pastor Steve

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How quickly they grow!

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How quickly they grow!

This weekend I will have the privilege of joining in marriage two wonderful young people from our church, Julia Howard and Mitch Grew.  This past week on Facebook and Instagram I have seen dozens of pictures of our children and youth starting out a new school year.  Often there have been side by side comparison pictures of these great kids “then and now.”   In the photos, we get to see how they’ve grown as they have gone from kindergarten to grade school, middle school, high school, and in many cases on to college.  

A few of our young men in a breakout session during the men's retreat last weekend.

A few of our young men in a breakout session during the men's retreat last weekend.

I never cease to be blown away by how quickly our kids grow up.  Mitch and Julia are getting married!  Chloe is starting kindergarten!   Damian and Alicia are seniors?  What?  How did that happen?  Adolescence can seem very long at times.  But the reality is, the years fly by.  It struck me this week that the time we have to invest in our young people during their formative years is really so brief.  And yet, these are the years that will often set their path for a lifetime.  And these are also the years that people are most receptive to the good news of Christ.

We’ve made a commitment as a church to pour significant time, energy and resources into our NextGen children’s ministry.  That doesn’t mean that other ages and stages of life are not important.  They certainly are.  But it is during childhood, and through the teenage years, that most people are establishing patterns, priorities, values and beliefs that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.  As a church, we don’t want to squander the opportunity we have to help our young people build a great foundation on their relationship with Christ.  

I want to ask you to pray for our kids, and our Children’s ministry team as we prepared to launch an all new NextGen ministry on September 10. I would also ask you to register your kids today.  We are putting together an amazing program.  We want every child and youth in our church to experience it.  And some of you may have time and gifts that could be shared in this ministry area.  If that is you, please speak with one of our pastor’s or ministry leaders.  You could also email Chrissy at this link and she will help you get connected.  If God is calling you to ’Serve One Another’ through the NextGen Ministry, don’t miss this opportunity to impact a young person’s life.  The impact is eternal.  

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On another note, I am sure you are already praying for the people of Texas and Louisiana in the wake of disastrous storm.   This Sunday we will have special offering baskets at each location to assist with relief efforts.  I will also tell you that we are already talking with our friends in Texas about returning there with a mission team in February.  If you think that is something you might like to participate in, please set aside the dates of the NH February school vacation week.  

We have some awesome events coming up!  Next weekend, September 9- 10 is a big weekend for us.  Saturday is the Sandown Old Home Day.  We will be doing a free breakfast and have a community outreach booth.  If you would like to help in any way, please email Pastor Beth.  Then on Sunday is our really big Fall kick off.  We will open the doors to our new NextGen program.  We will be starting a great new teaching series entitled “Real Hope.”  And in the afternoon we will have our all church Beach, BBQ and Baptism outing at Camp Tasker.  This is a day you will not want to miss!

I look forward to seeing you all in worship this Sunday.  If you are traveling for the holiday, I invite you to worship with us online through Facebook live or at www.RockChurchAir.tv.

God bless,

 

Pastor Steve

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NextGen Makeover

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NextGen Makeover

Have I mentioned how incredibly excited I am about our NextGen makeover!  I think we all agree that helping the next generation come to know Jesus Christ is one of the most important things we can be about as a church. The question has never been “should we reach the next generation for Jesus?”   The real question we, like many churches, wrestle with is how do we go about that?  The world has changed dramatically over the past decade.  Those changes have been particularly impactful on the generation of young people growing up right now.  This is the first generation to grow up with more computing power in their pocket than it took to put a man on the moon, the first generation with video on demand, the first generation who could not imagine a world without internet.

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The question is not whether these changes are good or bad.  This is simply our new reality.  And while much has changed, some things have not.  What has not changed is that this generation needs Jesus as much as every generation before them.  What has not changed is the gospel message itself.  But in our ever changing world, the methodology by which we share the gospel must change.  This is why I am exciting about our NextGen makeover.  We’ve made an intentional decision to redevelop our children’s ministry space and program in a way that will help us reach the emerging generation.

You can help us make this “NextGen Makeover” a complete success in a number of ways.

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  • Volunteer.  We need folks to help us in redevelopment of the space, and we need additional folks to serve in our NextGen ministry in the coming year.
  • Register.  If you have children pre K through 8th grade, register them for NextGen.  High school aged students can volunteer to serve in the Sunday morning program and then attend youth group on Wednesdays in Sandown or Sundays in Plaistow. 
  • Invite.  I bet you have at least one friend, neighbor or coworker with children in this age bracket.  Tell them about our all new, exciting and fun filled children’s experience and invite them to attend.
  • Support.  We are investing in our children’s ministry space in some significant ways.  If you would like to help support the makeover with a financial gift, that would be most welcomed.  If you would like to do that right now, you can go to www.rockgiving.org.  Scroll down the list of designated giving and you will see a line for NextGen Kids Ministry.
  • Pray.  I’m sure you know that the enemy would love nothing better than to capture the hearts of our kids.  Pray for our church, that we might effectively reach the next generation with the hope and love of Jesus.

By the time you get this blog, I will be on my way to the Men’s retreat.  I’m privileged to have been asked to be this year’s speaker.  God has placed a message on my heart that I am eager to share with the men. 

Ladies, don’t forget the women’s BBQ on Saturday at our Plaistow location.  The woman’s ministry has an amazing and fun evening planned.  And speaking of women’s ministry, don’t forget to sign up for the ALIVE women’s retreat coming up in September.  For more info, click on this link

Families, if you are looking for something fun to do tonight (Friday), we would invite you to join us for the family movie night in Sandown.  You can also get a sneak peek at the Sandown NextGen space.   It is nearly done and it is AWESOME!

I hope you can all join us this Sunday as we continue our series “One Another.”  This has been a great and powerful series.  You won’t want to miss this week’s message.  

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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So Much to Share

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So Much to Share

I have so much I want to share with you that I almost don’t know where to begin.  But I will start with this.  Please pray for our nation.  The events in Charlottesville remind us anew of how incredibly broken and fragmented our country is.  When confronted by hatred and violence, our human tendency is to respond in like kind.  And yet, as we talked about this past Sunday, we are called by Christ to love one another.   I am more convinced than ever that the only real hope for our nation is Jesus Christ.  

Our amazing Hero Central Day Camp!

Our amazing Hero Central Day Camp!

One of the most important opportunities we have to share Christ is among our young people.  I want to celebrate that this week we have had an amazing experience with a sold out Hero Central Day Camp.  Close to 100 kids have gathered every day this week to hear the good news of Jesus in an environment of love, acceptance and fun!  At the same time, teams continue to work at all of our campuses to prepare for the launch of our all new Nextgen children’s program beginning Sept 10.  Wait until you see what we’ve done with the Nextgen space.  It’s awesome.

I know summer is all about relaxing and having some “down time”, but here at Rock Church we are as active as ever.  I want to take a moment to share with you some great upcoming events.

Tonight (Thursday Aug 17).  As an expression of “For Our Community” we are partnering with the Declerck Gallery to promote a student art show that will help support the fountain restoration fund at Winnekenni Castle in Haverhill.  The art show starts at 7:00 p.m.  Admission is free. There will be refreshments and live piano music by our own Donnie Gaudreau.

Another exciting thing happening tonight is the first official gathering of our Newburyport campus.  We are beginning our work there under the leadership of Pastor Paul Nolden.  He and the core team will be hosting a weekly dinner/lifegroup.  We are so excited about what God is doing in Newburyport.  If you would like more info or would like to join them for the Thursday night gahtering, please contact Pastor Paul.

Saturday (Aug 19).  Fishercats Baseball.  Join us for the Faith and Family night at Fishercats stadium in Manchester.  Tickets are on $12, and a portion of the ticket sales supports youth scholarship for Soulfest and other youth special events.  To reserve your ticket, contact Sherri Nourse at this link.

Men's Retreat coming up Aug. 25-27

Men's Retreat coming up Aug. 25-27

Men’s Retreat.  Guys, it’s almost here.  Our amazing annual Men’s retreat will take place in just over a week on August 25-27.  There are still a few tickets available.  You can register right on line at this link.  This is going to be an amazing event.  For the first time ever, I have been asked to fill the role of guest speaker.  I have some things to share with you that you will not want to miss.

Women’s BBQ.  Ladies, we have something special for you next weekend as well.  Our annual women’s BBQ will take place on Saturday Aug 26 at our Plaistow campus.  The ladies will gather at 5:00 p.m.  There is a great fun program planned.  See your attached newsletter for all the details.

Women's BBQ Aug. 26

Women's BBQ Aug. 26

Mark your Calendars for Sunday Sept 10th.   We are planning a BIG DAY!  This is the day we launch our new NextGen children’s program.  We will begin a great new sermon series.  And Sunday afternoon will be our Beach, BBQ and Baptism Bash at Camp Tasker beginning at 1:00 p.m.  You will hear much more about this in the coming weeks, but I would ask you to save the date now.  I hope to have every one of us together for this great celebration day.

We have some great opportunities coming up to share the good news of Christ.  All that is going on in the world around us continues to remind us that there is an urgency to the work of the Gospel.  Everyone needs Jesus!  Let’s continue to serve him, and share him, with all we have!

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The Power of Welcome

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The Power of Welcome

This week I received a beautiful note from a young mom with two children.  They had worshipped with us for the first time on Sunday.  I happened to see her during that worship service and had an opportunity to talk with her briefly afterward.  But even more importantly, I noticed that several others from our church family made a point to stop and speak with her, and engage her children.  In the note that she sent me, barely an hour after worship had ended, she expressed her appreciation for the way she was made to feel welcomed.  It made my day!

I’m proud and grateful to be a part of a congregation that genuinely cares about people.  I want our church to be the kind of place where even those who are visiting with us for the very first time feel welcomed and loved.  This reflects the formal and the informal welcome that I was talking about last week in my blog.  Members of our hospitality team certainly greeted this family.  But beyond that, they were greeted by other members of our congregation who seized the opportunity to welcome them.

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I saw something similar at Soulfest this week.  We bring a large group to Soulfest (over 120 this year) of primarily youth and young adults, along with the adult leaders.  I watched as a girl, who was there for the first time, was immediately welcomed and brought into the circle of several other young girls who were already friends.  None of them knew her before Soulfest, but they left the week as friends.  How cool is that!

The thing that strikes me about these, and similar, situations is that we never know what is going on in the life of that person that we reach out to.  They may be going through a difficult season and are desperately in need of the love of Christ that can be expressed through a warm welcome.  They may be at a place where God has been stirring in their heart and they are close to inviting him into their lives.  A gracious welcome may put them at ease in a way that allows God to do a work in their heart.

Never underestimate the power of a warm smile and a kind word, be it within the church or in any other setting.  Sometimes that simple expression can make all the difference in a person’s day.  Within the church setting, it may even have an impact for eternity as it helps guests to lower their guard and to begin a relationship with Jesus.  You might have the opportunity to partner with God in changing their life.

Speaking of opportunities for life change, I want to lift up few special events coming up.

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  • Hero Central Day Camp for K through 8th grade begins next Monday.  We are close to capacity, so if you have not yet registered, I would encourage you to do so now at this link.
  • Men’s retreat will take place on the weekend of August 25-27.  It is open to teenage boys and men.  For more information and registration, click on this link.
  • Women’s retreat.  Registration is now open for ALIVE 2017 Rock Women’s Retreat.  For more info and registration, click here.
  • NextGen children’s ministry registration is now open.  Our NextGen team is working very hard on a complete makeover of our space and our program.  If you have children, or you know anyone who does, we invite you to register here for our Fall Launch.  Our theme for the fall is “Come to the Party!”
  • Fishercat’s Baseball game.  Here is one for fun and a good cause.  Joins us for faith and family night at fishercat’s stadium in Manchester.  Tickets will be available at all locations this Sunday before and after worship.

I look forward to seeing everyone this weekend as we continue our new series “One Another.”  If you missed the first week “Forgive One Another” you can catch the rebroadcast at this link.

God Bless,

 

Pastor Steve

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The First 10 Minutes  Part II

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The First 10 Minutes Part II

Greetings from Soulfest!   Last week we began a conversation about the importance of welcome and hospitality.  When folks are newer to our church, the way in which we welcome them can make all the difference.  We practice hospitality both formally and informally, officially and unofficially.  Through our hospitality team, we officially welcome people through greeters, ushers, and other hospitality servants.  But unofficially, we are all a part of the hospitality team.

In response to last week's blog, Judy H. shared this comment:

"I agree that it's important for us to greet newcomers warmly. For me though the issue is that I don't know who is new and who is not. Many people I recognize, but others I do not. The church is growing so rapidly it's impossible for me to keep track of who and who is not. Any ideas? "

That is a great question.  It got me thinking that it might be helpful to offer a few specific ideas.  Here are a few intentional ways every one of us can be a part of the hospitality team.

  • Look for someone you don't know and introduce yourself. To answer Judy's question, don't worry about whether they are new or not as you address them.  Try wording your greeting this way "I don't believe we've met.  My name is Judy."   If they are new to the church, they will often say so.  Either way you have now met someone you didn't know.
  • Look for people who are standing alone.  It often happens that if a person or couple is visiting for the first time, they will grab a coffee and then hang out near the edge of the room.  Did you know that simply being noticed and engaged in conversation can make someone feel cared for and valued?  Try it!  Be that person who loves others enough to dare to reach out.  If one or two people engage them in conversation, it will make all the difference.
  • As you are getting seated in the worship space, look at those immediately around you.  This isn't necessarily the time for an extended conversation.  But a hand shake and a quick "Good morning, great to have you with us" reinforces that welcome they hopefully received in the lobby.
  • As you greet people, if you discover they are new, see if they need directions for anything.  You might word it like this "This is your first week with us?  Awesome.  Welcome.  Are you finding your way around OK?  Is there anything you need?"
  • If someone does need directions, walk with them.  Even if the instructions are relatively simple, it is still gracious hospitality to walk with them.  "The nursery?  I'm headed in that direction, why don't I walk with you and I can introduce you to the nursery coordinator."

  Can you imagine what an amazingly powerful impact it could have on those who are newer to our church if everyone one of us considered ourselves part of the hospitality team.  And in the process, you just might make a new friend!

I look forward to seeing you all in worship this Sunday as we launch a brand new series "One Another."  This is going to be a great series.  You won't want to miss a single week.

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

 

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The First 10 Minutes

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The First 10 Minutes

I read recently that most first time guests at a church will decide within the first 10 minutes if they will come back to that church a second time.  People visit a church for the first time for all kinds of reasons.  They may have seen activity at the church that piqued their curiosity.  They may have seen something posted on Facebook or some other form of marketing.  For many people, it was a personal invitation that helped them to take that step.

But regardless of why they visited the first time, there seems to be a consistent reason they do, or do not, return.  That decision, researchers tell us, is made in the first 10 minutes.  What was their experience like in the parking lot?  Were they greeted at the door with a welcome and a warm smile?  What was the hospitality like?  Were they warmly welcomed by the congregation?  Did anyone talk to them?  I certainly believe that engaging music and relevant preaching play an important part.  But what often opens the door for guests to receive the worship experience is how they were put at ease when they arrived. 

I imagine that many of us who have been long time church goers have forgotten what it was like to be an unchurched seeker walking through the doors of a church for the first time.  When you have never been to church, it can be uncomfortable, intimidating or even down right scary.  How we greet and welcome guests can make all the difference.  If we are able to help them feel comfortable in this unfamiliar setting, they are much better able to engage in the worship and hear the gospel.  

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At all of our worship services we have two levels of hospitality; formal and informal.  We have a formal hospitality team that includes greeters, ushers, coffee servants, and the likes.  If you are looking for a place of ministry, this is an awesome way to get involved.  Speak with one of our pastors to find out how to get connected.  Informal hospitality happens as every one of us welcomes guests.  The truth is, we are all on the hospitality team.  It's up to every one of us to help our guests feel loved, welcomed and at home.

The way we ALL welcome people can make the difference for a first time guest.  Let's do our best to intentionally greet, welcome and converse with those who are newer to our church.  It could make all the difference in their experience and it may be the first step in helping them come to know Christ.  Remember, everyone needs Jesus.

Before I sign off, here are a few upcoming things to remember:

  • Men's retreat.  Guys, if you haven't registered, there is still time.
  • Faith and Family Night at the FisherCats.  We've purchased a block of tickets so we can attend together as a church family.  Tickets will be on sale at all campuses this Sunday.
  • Summer Day Camp.  July 14-18 at our Plaistow Campus.  Sign up your kids, tell your friends!
  • Rock Run Raiser.  I've already signed up and started training.  Who's with me!    

Have a great day.  I look forward to seeing you all in worship this Sunday as we finish up our series on Biblical Life Hacks.

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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Why I quit going to church

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Why I quit going to church

I was perusing my Facebook wall the other day when I came upon a blog post from a pastor I know.   The title of the article was "Why Attending Church No Longer Makes Sense."  I couldn't resist.  I had to click on it to see what he had to say.  He began by talking about the changes in our culture, the many activities that compete with Sunday morning worship attendance and a trend being experienced by many churches of members attending less frequently than they once did.  Then he got to the heart of the matter.  As followers of Christ, we are not really meant to attend church, we're meant to BE the church. 

Does that mean we shouldn't gather for worship on Sunday?   Actually just the opposite.  It means we should not only gather, but we should engage.  When we "attend" a ball game, a movie or a play, the implication is that we come, observe and enjoy.  When we come together on Sundays, it is not to attend church.  It is to be the church.  Here is the difference.

To be the church is to be a participant.  When we gather on Sundays, we are not coming just to observe.  We are coming to be a part of an experience.  We sing, we pray, we praise God together.  To be the church is to be relational.  I'm sure you have heard before that the church is not the building.  The church is the people.  It is the body of Christ, His followers brought together in community through shared relationship.  When we gather, we are community.  Being together allows us to build relationship. It allows us to listen to and care for one another.  It allows us to be the family of God to one another. That can only happen when we gather. 

Being the church also means combining our gifts and abilities with the gifts and abilities of others in order for the work of Christ to be done.  We are all gifted to serve.  Some of us certainly serve at times other than Sunday morning, but there are many for whom Sunday morning is their time to serve.  Among those are ushers, greeters, coffee makers and other hospitality staff.  There are worship leaders, praise team members, prayer team and tech staff.  Now add nursery workers, Nextgen leaders and adult life group leaders, and the list is still not complete.    

If you are planning on "attending" church this Sunday, I would ask you to begin thinking differently about that.  Let's all quit just going to church.  Instead, let's be the church.  Let's come prepared to engage ourselves in worship.  Let's come with a desire to serve where ever we can.  And let's come desiring to be true community.  Let's BE the church.

Also, I would ask you to keep our Honduras Mission team in prayer.  If you would like to see an update of how they are doing, please visit this blog post from Pastor Rachel and Jon. I look forward to seeing you all "be the church" as we gather this Sunday to continue our series on Biblical life hacks. 

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

 

Before I sign off I want to highlight a few important thing:

Men's retreat is coming up soon.  Get your registration in!

Men's retreat is coming up soon.  Get your registration in!

  • This Sunday immediately after worship at our Sandown location will be a brief meeting to talk about our nextgen ministry.  I hope all of you in Sandown will take a few minutes to stay and hear some of he exciting things that are coming.
  • Men.  If you haven't signed up for the retreat yet, I hope you will soon.  I believe God has an amazing weekend in store for us.  Click here to register.
  • Summer Day Camp.  If you haven't registered your kids yet, or if you would like to sign up to be a volunteer, you can do both at this link.
  • Soulfest.  We are nearly sold out of ticket.  Last I heard we had just a few left.  If you had hope to go, but have not yet registered, I would encourage you to do that immediately.  If you have registered but haven't paid yet, I would also encourage you to do that right away.  Otherwise, we may think you are not really coming and we will make your ticket available to someone on the waiting list.

 

 

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Childhood Heroes

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Childhood Heroes

In case you didn't hear, the Men's BBQ on Monday night was amazing.  Great turnout.  Great food.  Great weather.  But what was particularly exciting for me is that we got to hear from one of my childhood heroes; Rico Petrocelli.  As a kid I loved baseball.  I often watched, or listened to (on my transistor radio), the Red Sox play.  As I grew into my teenage years, I loved to watch Fred Lynn and Jim Rice.  But as a kid, it was all about Yaz and Rico!  They were my heroes.

But these weren't my only heroes.  There were others who were by no means famous, but nonetheless heroes to me.  They were people who shaped my early life.  People like Madge and Bill, George, Faith, Dan and Chris.  These were a few of my Sunday School teachers, youth group leaders, camp counselors and other adults who sowed seeds of faith in my life.  I am a pastor today because of adults who poured into my spiritual life as a child and a teen.

A lot of things have changed in the areas of children's and youth ministry since I was a kid.  Terminology has changed.  What we use to call Sunday School is now widely known as "NextGen" ministry.  Methodology has change.  Flannel graphs and filmstrip projectors have given way to ipads and video projection.  Culture has changed.  There was a time when the only thing to do on a Sunday morning was to go to Church and Sunday School.   When it comes to how we reach the next generation for Christ, much has changed.  But one thing that I am convinced has not changed is the potential impact that a loving and caring adult can have in the life of a child. 

Would you like to be a hero?  Consider getting involved in NextGen ministry.  As we look towards the fall, we intend to relaunch our Children's ministry at all campuses with a fresh look, a renewed passion and an expanded team.  We need heroes.  We need people who are willing to pour into the spiritual lives of our children.   We have some great folks who are already serving in this important way.  But we want to expand the team. 

If you think you might like to help or support this effort in any way, I would invite you to get connected.  To find out more, you can speak with any of our pastors, or our Nextgen site leaders (Lisa Post in Sandown, Glenda Maglio in Plaistow, Chrissy Rupp/Kate Moyer in Amesbury).  There will be an informational meeting for the Sandown campus on Sunday July 23 right after worship.

It seems to me that we are living in a time when the faith of our children and youth is being challenged and confronted more strongly than ever.  Our kids need caring adults who want to invest in their lives in a way that helps them to grow in faith in spite of the cultural challenges.  If you feel that God may be calling you to serve in this way, now is the time.  Speak to one of us.  Find a place to pitch in.  Be a hero!

We look forward to seeing you all this Sunday as we continue our series on Biblical life hacks. 

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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Exciting Times

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Exciting Times

These are exciting time at Rock Church.  We’ve just come off an incredible stretch of outreach events.  It began with Plaistow Old Home Day.  Then it flowed into nearly 2 weeks of special events during Amesbury days, culminating in our largest Pancakes in the Pines event in decades.  The very next day we were set up at Salisbury Beach with an outreach booth as a part of a summer concert series at the beach.  This past Friday in Sandown we organized a great outreach to families with a free movie night.  We are truly living out what it means to be For Our Community!

 

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But outreach is not the only exciting thing happening at Rock Church.  This month also marks some exciting new beginnings within our ministry.  In our denomination, new (P)astors “officially” begin their ministry appointment on July 1st.   We are excited to be dedicating two new Pastors to our ministry this July!  First, this Sunday July 9th at our 8:45 service in Sandown, we are welcoming Pastor Beth Soucise as our new Sandown campus Pastor.  The following Sunday July 16th at both the 9:45 and 11:11 services in Plaistow, we are excited to dedicate Pastor James Archibald as campus Pastor of our Plaistow location.  We are offsetting these events by a week because we know there are folks who will want to attend both.  God is so good and I continue to be in awe of the incredibly gifted people that He has called to be a part of our ministry.  I feel blessed beyond words to have the opportunity to serve with such an amazing group of believers, and am excited to welcome both Beth and James to our Pastoral Team.

This would be a good time for me to remind us of one our core convictions: Everyone is Gifted to Serve.  While each of us is gifted in different ways, and called to serve in different capacities, every gift matters.  We are only able to do the work God has called us to because so many of you have discovered your own gifts and callings, and have begun to live out that calling.  If you have not yet found your place to serve, contact any one of our Pastors.  We would love to help you get started.  Not only will your gifts be a blessing to the work of Christ, but you will discover joy in the act of serving.  There is nothing that compares to the sense of satisfaction that comes from discovering that place of service that enables us to make a real difference in the name of Christ.

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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Summertime

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Summertime

I love the summertime.  I love the warm weather.  I love the extra hours of daylight.  Honestly, I don't even mind mowing my lawn!   Another thing I love about the summer is the opportunities we have for outreach.   I know a lot of churches virtually shut down for the summer.  But that is not at all the case for us.

When it comes to outreach, I think we are more active and engaged during the summer than in any other season.  For example, a few weeks ago, we participated in Plaistow's Old Home Day where we had the opportunity to connect with hundreds of people from Plaistow and he surrounding region.  Right now, we are right in the middle of Amesbury days. We've had amazing opportunities at both the Block Party and Kids Day in the Park to engage with unchurched folks as we lived out what it means to be "For Our Community."  We will have two more opportunites in the next few days with the fireworks and Pancakes in the Pines.  All of these are excellent outreach events.

Tonight (Friday June 30) we have a brand new outreach event taking place at our Sandown campus.  Beginning at 7:00 p.m. we are offering the first of several free movie nights.  Free movie, snacks, prize drawing and air conditioning!   We invite you to join us, and bring along an unchurched friend or neighboring family.  You can find details at familymovie.info. 

Later in the summer we will be once again offering our summer day camp.  You will be hearing more about that in the near future.  Registration is already open.  You can get all the details, and register your children on line at this link

Of course there is also Soulfest, Men's retreat, a group outing to a Fishercat's game and much more.  We also have a great summer teaching series that we have just begun entitled "Biblical Life Hacks."   This is an awesome series.  You won't want to miss a single week.  I know some of you are away on vacation this week.  If you can't be with us in person, I invite you to worship with us online at www.RockChurchAir.tv.

All of these special summer events are meant to be opportunities for community connection and invitation.  Invitation is the first step in helping someone come to know Jesus.  So let's make the most of these summer opportunities!

See you Sunday.

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

One final invitation.  On Saturday July 8, Alex Arcisz and Neglest Vegas are being joined in marriage at our Rock Plaistow location at 2:00 p.m.  Because Neglest's family is all in Venezuela, we, the Rock Church, are really her family here.  As such, she asked me to extend the invitation to the whole church family to the wedding. 

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One Matters

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One Matters

One Matters award.jpg

I have some exciting news to share.  Last week hundreds of pastors and laypeople representing approximately 600 Methodist Churches in New England gathered for our Annual Conference.  As the culminating act of the conference Rock Church Ministries was the recipient of the "One Matters" award.  This award is presented by the Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church to a church in each conference that has excelled in baptisms and professions of faith!

Naturally, we don't do ministry for the sake of awards.  But I was excited about this because it represents the very heart of our ministry and our core convictions.  Our mission as a church is to reach and disciple people for Christ, and our first core conviction is that everyone needs Jesus.  And I believe the title of that award is true: One Matters.  Every single person who comes to know Jesus is a heart changed and a life transformed. 

So I want to take a moment to thank every one of you who invites, who serves, who welcomes, who shows love to the community around us in the name of Jesus.  By your efforts, the hope of Christ is transforming our communities, one life at at time.  I know it is not always easy, but what we do matters.  In fact, it matters eternally!

Speaking of exciting things, I want to give you a little sneak peak of our next series.  Beginning this Sunday we will launch a new teaching series entitled "Biblical Life Hacks."  It is going to be a great series.  You won't want to miss a single week.

Before I sign off, I also want to take a moment to celebrate Pastor Frank's ministry.  Over the past 20 years, Pastor Frank has had a tremendous impact on Rock Church.  From his incredible leadership in Men's Ministry to his key role in birthing our Plaistow Campus to leading us through the construction of our Sandown worship center, Pastor Frank has been instrumental in the growth of this ministry.  This past Sunday, Pastor Frank preached his last official sermon in his role as pastor of our Sandown campus.  I know I speak for all of us when I express my sincere gratitude for his faithful service over these many years. 

Have a blessed week.

Pastor Steve

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For Our Community

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For Our Community

We began a conversation this week that I think is incredibly important.  How does the world view Christians and the Church?   And how does that view of the church impact people's understanding of God?  How does that shape their perspective of Jesus?  Sadly, over the last several decades, it seems that people's view of Christianity has become less and less positive.

It seems that to a great extent, churches have become known more for what we are against than what we are for. But I don't think that is a true reflection of God.  I believe God truly is FOR us, all of us.  Think about that for a moment.  What does it mean to say that God is "FOR" us?  It means He loves us.  He is passionate about us.  He desires to be in relationship with us.  Other wise, why would he have sent his son to die in our place.  And I believe that as followers of Jesus, we ought to be FOR others.  We want those outside the church to know that we love and care about them, that we desire God's best for them, that we want to bless them. 

So I am calling us to begin a new initiative in which we intentionally seek to let our communities know that we are FOR them.  How do we do that?  What does that look like?  How do we get that message out?   What does it really mean to be "For Our Community."  This Sunday we will be talking more about that. 

One of the very simple, but highly visible, ways that we share that message is by being present at some of the community events to bless people.  This Saturday is Plaistow's Old Home Day.  As we have for a number of years, we will have a booth set up where we will give away bottles of water, freeze pops for the kids, donuts and other goodies.  Then on June 22 we kick off Amesbury Days with the Block Party.  Over nearly two weeks of Amesbury Days activities, we will have multiple opportunities to bless others in the name of Jesus.

Also coming up in Sandown on June 30th we will be offering a free Family movie night.  The goal here is simple, to bless families and individuals in our community with an enjoyable evening out at no cost.  The movie is free. The snacks are free.  The air conditioning is free!  This is another way that we can let people know that we are for them, that we want to bless them. Each time we do this kind of event, it is an opportunity to break through some of the preconceived notions that some people have about the church.  These are also opportunities to build relationship with people who do not yet know Jesus.  Over time, these relationship become an opportunity to share the Good News of Christ. After all, everyone needs Jesus!

I know you will not want to miss this Sunday as we continue this important conversation of what it means to be "For Our Community." 

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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Amazing!

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Amazing!

I'm so excited I almost don't know where to begin.  God is doing AMAZING things in and through our ministry.   The Spirit of God is moving and we are seeing the fruit of that bursting forth all around us.  For example, this Sunday as we celebrated Pentecost we welcomed the largest class of new members our church has ever seen.  We welcomed 46 new members of three locations and five services!   How awesome is that? By the way, if you had wanted to accept membership, but was not able to do so on Pentecost, please let on our our pastors know.

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We also did immersion baptisms as a part of a regular Sunday morning service for the first time ever, with 6 people choosing to be baptized.  If you were not able to be in Amesbury to see those in person, we will soon have available a video to share some of that experience with the other campuses.  There is nothing more powerful or exciting than to see a person's life transformed by a relationship with Jesus Christ.  In baptism we celebrate that transformation and new life!

Our mission team is getting ready for another trip to Honduras where they will be working directly with the kids, doing construction work to make facilities improvements and they will be giving away tons of food to some of the poorest of the poor.  They are raising some funds for building materials and for food.  If you would like to make a donation towards that work, you do so right on line at this link.

Speaking of mission, we have our 2nd annual golf tournament coming up on Saturday June 24th.  This is a great, enjoyable fund raising event.  The proceeds from the event go to support missions at several levels.  It's "best ball" so even I can play.  So even if you are not a great golfer, come on out, have some fun and support a great cause.  For more information or to register, go to this link.

We have some great community outreach opportunities coming up in the next few weeks.  Next Saturday is the Plaistow Old Home Day celebration.  We will be participating in that at several levels as a way of reaching out to not-yet-churched folks in our community.  The following week is the start of Amesbury days.  We will be participating in the Block Party, Kids day in the Park, the Pancake Breakfast and the fireworks.  This will take lots of help.  If you would be interested in serving at any of these events, please speak with Pastor Jon or Pastor Rachel.

As we think about these outreach events, I just want to take a moment to remind us why we do these.  One of our core convictions is that everyone needs Jesus.  In the communities that surround our churches, there are literally thousands of people who do not have a relationship with Jesus.  These outreach events provide us with an opportunity to connect to some who do know know Him and help them take a first step towards faith. 

This Sunday we will be starting a two week mini-series entitled "We Are FOR!"   In this series we are addressing a significant challenge and concern for the Church.  I believe it is going to be the start of something BIG!  You will not want to miss it.  I look forward to having you worship with us this Sunday.

God Bless,

 Steve

 

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Pentecost

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Pentecost

I can't begin to tell you how excited I am about this weekend.  On Sunday we will celebrate Pentecost.  This is a big day in the life of the church.  In fact, I put it right up there with Christmas and Easter.  This is the day we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the Christian church. 

We will mark this day with great, spirit filled worship.  We will celebrate holy communion.  We will welcome new members at all 5 of our services this weekend.  And at our Amesbury location, we will even celebrate baptism by immersion right in the sanctuary!   These are going to be amazing services and I know you are going to want to be a part of. 

If you are not entirely familiar with the Pentecost story, I would encourage you to take a few minutes to read the account in Acts Chapter 2.  There you will read the story of what happened the day God's Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples and those who gathered to hear them.  But it is actually in Chapter 1 that Jesus begins to prepare them for what they will experience.

"Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised"  Acts 1:4

The Holy Spirit is described in many ways in the Bible: a comforter, a guide, a help, a healer and much more.  In Acts 1:4 Jesus describes the coming of the Holy Spirit as a "gift."   Sometimes I'm not sure we recognize that.  There is a song we sing in worship from time to time entitled "Good, Good Father."   He is a good Father, and we are told in Matthews 7:11 that he is a father who gives good gifts. 

In the Holy Spirit, God has given us a great gift.  It is the gift of His presence with us.  It is the gift of His strength when we are weak, His direction when we feel lost, His healing when we are broken and His wisdom when we need insight.  This Sunday we will celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit!  I look forward to seeing you all as we celebrate this great gift. 

God bless,

Pastor Steve

 

PS.  I would invite you to wear red on Sunday.  It is the color of Pentecost to represent the tongues of fire that descended on the disciples when the Holy Spirit came.

 

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Next Gen

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Next Gen

I have to be honest, I didn't make this up, but I kind of like it.  I've noticed that many churches have begun using the phrase Next Gen to combine what we have often called Children's Ministry and Youth (or Student) ministry.  As you probably figured out, Next Gen is an abbreviated form of "Next Generation Ministry."   I like it for a couple of reasons.  It ties together children's and youth ministry in a way that helps us think more holistically.  But it also reminds us what is at stake.

What is really at stake is the matter of where the church will be in a generation.  In fact, at the risk of sounding dramatic, the question really is, will there be a next generation of Christ followers here in the US?  I'm not an alarmist, but I think we would be naive to not recognize that there are forces at work in our world that would desire to lead this next generation away from Christ.  There are those who are investing significant time, energy and resources in an intentional effort to marginalize Christianity and ultimately remove it's influence from our culture.  And they are wise enough to know that the battle will be won or lost with our children.

This past Sunday we celebrated Children's Day at our Sandown and Plaistow campuses (Amesbury will do the same in a couple of weeks).  If you were there, you know it was awesome.  It was fun and engaging.  The kids felt loved and appreciated. The whole day set the tone that kids matter here.

Going forward, I believe we must act on that ideal, 'kids matter here'.  I believe we must invest even more of our time, energy and resources into raising up a generation of young people who know, love and serve Jesus.  We already have a great team working with our kids and I am grateful for every one of them, but they need our support.  I would ask each of you to look for ways to support, encourage and serve along side our Next Gen leaders and our young people.  I implore you to lift them up in prayer every day.  Most of all, each of us needs to be listening for the whisper of God and His directing to where we are gifted to serve.  

Our Next Gen Leaders attending a training event together.

Our Next Gen Leaders attending a training event together.

Even though the school year is winding down, we are already beginning to prepare for special summer outreach events and for an expanded fall program.  If you can help in any way, please feel free to contact any of our Next Gen site leaders: Lisa Post in Sandown, Glenda Maglio in Plaistow or Chrissy Rupp in Amesbury.  I believe God has exciting things in store for us in our Next Gen ministry.  It's going to be great!

In Christ,

Pastor Steve

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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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