God's Great Plan

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God's Great Plan

Dear Friends,

     Did you know that the Bible is actually one great continuous story of God’s redemption?   At first glance, the Bible appears to be 66 individual books bound together under one cover.  It is true that it was written by dozens of authors over hundreds of years.  But what is amazing is how cohesive the story is.  In our current teaching series “God’s Great Plan~From Creation to the Cross” we are digging into the stories of the Bible in a way that helps us gain a big picture understanding of how God is working in our world.

     I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure at first how well people would connect to a series like this.  But I have to say, the response has been off the charts.  I think people are loving this series for several reasons:

  • It is helping us understand an overview of the Bible in a way we never have before.  
  • It is making the stories of the Bible both understandable and applicable to our daily lives.
  • It is connecting the Old and New Testament.  Until we really see the Bible revealed as one great story, we don’t realize that the entire Old Testament leads us to the cross and the empty tomb.  Ultimately, it all points to Jesus.

     This series is a little longer than usual.  Between now and Easter we will journey from the Garden of Eden to the cross of Christ.  We are just getting started, but I have already had many people tell me that they intend (snow or no snow) to be in worship every week during this series.  They don’t want to miss a single step in this journey.

     I’ll make you a promise.  If you are with us in worship every week during this series, by the end you will understand your Bible, and God’s plan for our world, better than you ever have.  But more than that, you will be able to apply it to yourself in a way that is life changing!   As an added bonus, we will be sharing some great news this week about our Newburyport campus.  I look forward to seeing you all on Sunday.  

   God Bless,

Pastor Steve

 

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The Gift of Gathering

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The Gift of Gathering

In Hebrews 10:24-25, the author writes "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another."  That passage is meant to remind us of what a precious gift our time together is.  When we gather as the body of Christ for weekly worship, it is a time to express our love for God, to learn and grow, and to experience Christian community.  It is a place where we are loved, supported and encouraged, and where we can love, support and encourage others.

It seems like we are living in such a busy time that there are more and more things that would rob us of our time together.  Work, travel, sports, recreation, vacation and more all potentially rob us of the great blessing God has given us; the opportunity to be together as the family of Christ.   So I have a crazy idea.  At the end of 2018, I am going to have a very nice prize (still deciding what it will be) for anyone with 90% or higher attendance.  I will also have a special additional gift for anyone with perfect attendance.  

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Since I didn't announce this last week, we will start tracking that this Sunday.  To be counted as in attendance, you must be at one of these experiences:  Sandown 8:45, Plaistow 9:45, 11:11 or 6:00 PM, Amesbury 10:10 or Tuesdays night CR worship, or Newburyport Thursday nights.  The other thing we really need is for you to fill out your connection card each week.  With so many locations and times, there is no way we can do this by memory.  

Now to be clear, this isn't a competition.  It is just a fun incentive to remind ourselves how important it is that we not miss out on God's gift of gathering.  So, I look forward to seeing you all tomorrow.  We've just launched a new series entitled "God's Great Plan~From Creation to the Cross."  It is a little bit longer series than we sometimes do. But I promise you, if you are with us each week for this teaching series, at the end you will understand your Bible better than you ever have.  It is going to be GREAT!

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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Grow

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Grow

There are certain words that I believe need to be a part of the vocabulary of every Christ follower.  At the heart of who we are should be such words as love, serve, share and bless.  One other word, that I particularly think of as we begin a new year, is GROW.  In fact, one of our core convictions as a church is that "everyone is meant to grow."

There are many ways that we can grow in our faith.  We can grow through worship.   We can grow through daily prayer and Bible reading.  We can grow when we trust God to take steps of faith.  But in my experience, one of the most effective tools we have for spiritual growth is lifegroup. I love my lifegroup!   Every Tuesday evening a group of us gather for prayer, study, conversation, mutual support and encouragement.  It is definitely one of the highlights of my week.

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Currently we have over 30 lifegroups running in our church, with about half of our folks participating in a lifegroup.  These groups vary in time, location, style and subject.  But they are all opportunities for growth.  Because lifegroup is such an important part of our ongoing growth, my goal is to see every active member of our church have that opportunity. 

I believe lifegroups are an essential part of our ministry for several reasons.  First, they are a place of community.  As a church with four locations and seven weekly services, it can sometimes be hard to connect.  Lifegroups give us a place to build relationships within the church.  Lifegroups are also a place of care.  Over the years that our lifegroup has been together, members of the group have gone through health issues, loss, job transitions and much more.  As a group, we have provided the support and care that was needed.  And of course, lifegroup is a place to grow in our faith.  Lifegroup is really where discipleship happens.

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The start of a new year is a great time to get conncted to a lifegroup.  Almost all of our existing lifegroups still have openings for new participants.  You can get a current listing of our groups at www.rocklifegroups.org.  We also have several new groups starting this week.  We have two alpha groups starting.   Alpha is a great overall introduction to the Christian Faith.  There will be a new alpha group at our Plaistow Campus this Sundays at 2:00 PM, and on Monday at 6:00 PM at the Lucia's home in Chester.   We are also launching new Sunday Morning lifegroups at our Plaistow campus.  At 9:45 AM Doug Little will lead an in depth study of the book of Galatians.  Then at 11:11, Jim and Jody Michaels will be leading "Upon this Rock."  This class will lay the foundation to know what we believe about many of the basic teaching of scripture and to share it with others.  We invite you to join us for either of these this Sunday morning.

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Lifegroups are a wonderful way to build great relationships, care for one another and to grow deeper in Christ.  If you are not already in a group, this would be a great time to jump in.  If you need help getting connected, you can talk with your campus pastor or our lifegroup ministry directors Ed and Sherry Lucia.

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

One last thing:  Men, this Monday is Men's First Monday at our Plaistow Campus.  We will have as our guest speaker Ralph Ferguson.  Ralph has an amazing testimony that you will not want to miss!

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Hope and Vision for 2018

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Hope and Vision for 2018

Dear Friends,

     I think many of us have a love/hate relationship with “new.”  On the one hand, there’s something comfortable about that which is old and familiar.  But there is also something exciting about the “new.”  New Year‘s, in many ways, is a celebration of both.  It is a time to look back, reflect and give thanks to God for all of the good things from the year that has passed.  But it is also an opportunity to look forward with anticipation of what God will do in the future.

Join us Sunday morning as we celebrate the coming new year in worship at all Rock Church campuses.

Join us Sunday morning as we celebrate the coming new year in worship at all Rock Church campuses.

     2017 has been an amazing year of ministry for Rock Church.  I wish I had time to recount and celebrate every success, every joyful moment, every victory for the Kingdom of God that we experienced this year.  But in the interest of keeping this blog to a reasonable length, I would like to share with you just one story.  A couple of Sundays ago a young woman worshipped with us for the first time.  She was personally invited.  When she arrived she was in warmly welcomed.  She was engaged by the worship, touched by the message and made the life changing decision to accept Jesus into her heart (which she shared with us on her connection card.)  We met this week to talk about next steps.  We talked about prayer.  We gave her a Bible and a little guidance on how to begin reading it.  She is joining a Lifegroup and her daughter is excited to begin NextGen.  As we spoke, you could see the joy of the Lord on her face.

     After our visit I thought to myself “this is why we do all we do as a church.” This past year we have seen many people come to know the hope of Christ and the gift of Christian community.  So what is my hope and dream for us for 2018?  I pray that we would see this experience replicated 100, no 1000 times over.  I pray that every week we would see people transformed by the love of God and made new in Christ.  I believe this is God’s greatest desire, that we would help people find their way back to Him.  But notice that it took a team effort.  Someone invited.  The hospitality team welcomed.  The worship team engaged.  Someone made sure there was a connection card available, and someone else noted her response and shared it.  Someone leads a Lifegroup.  And someone else paid for the Bibles that we give away.  A whole team of people provide Nextgen.  The list goes on.

     I believe 2018 is going to be an amazing year of connecting people to Jesus and helping them grow in their faith.  And every one of us can be a part of that by inviting freely, serving joyfully, giving generously and welcoming warmly.  There is no one person who is responsible for helping people come to Jesus.  Its all of us, working together, doing what God has gifted us for.  If each of us will do all that we can, this is going to be an amazing year.

   God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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Christmas by Candlelight

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Christmas by Candlelight

 

Dear Friends,

     What is your favorite part of Christmas?  I love getting together with family.  As a kid, my mom’s side of the family always held a big gathering at Christmas time.  The Reynolds family Yankee swaps were epic!  Of course I also enjoyed exchanging gifts around the tree.  But even more than the unwrapping of gifts, I loved exploring my stocking early Christmas morning.  I would pour it out on the floor, or on my bed, to discover the treasures within.  But far and away, my favorite part of Christmas is the Christmas Eve candlelight worship.

     There is a joy that is hard to put into words that comes from gathering with family, friends, guests and even strangers to celebrate the birth of Jesus through song and scripture.  There is a sense of warmth, peace and hope that comes as we share the light of Christ from candle to candle, person to person, as we sing Silent Night. As the sanctuary goes from darkness to the warm glow of candlelight it is a beautiful metaphor for the transformation that comes from sharing and receiving Jesus.

     I know I talk a lot about inviting guests, particularly at Christmas time.  But when we have something as wonderful and life changing as the love of Jesus, how can we not share it?  Jesus came to be a light in our world.  Christmas is an opportunity to share that light with others, who in turn can pass it on.  I think what I find so powerful and moving about the Christmas candle lighting is that it all begins with a single candle.  When we share Jesus, we not only impact the life of that person, but the lives of every person they touch.  There is a ripple effect that we will never know the full impact of in this lifetime.

       I look forward to having us all together this Christmas Eve as we receive and share the light of Christ.  We will have our full regular morning schedule, followed by candlelight services at 4:00 PM in Sandown and Amesbury, and at 4:00 and 6:00 PM in Plaistow. 

   God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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Re-gifting

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Re-gifting

Dear Friends,

      Have you ever “re-gifted?”  You know what I mean.  Have you ever taken a gift that someone else gave to you, wrapped it back up, and then given it away to someone else?  Is that OK?  I suspect that many of us might consider it a social faux pas. I remember a story a friend shared with me several years ago about a gift his neighbor gave him.  The man and his neighbor were friendly, but not particularly close.  So my friend was touched when this older neighbor stopped by a few days before Christmas and brought him a gift.  On Christmas morning he unwrapped what was obviously a book.  Although the book looked fairly new, when he opened the cover, he found it had been inscribed by the person who had given it to his neighbor!

Remember that giving tree gifts are due back this Sunday!

Remember that giving tree gifts are due back this Sunday!

      Re-gifting can be a little risky.  But there is one situation in which it is always appropriate.  Those of us who have chosen to be Christ followers have received a gift of immeasurable value.  To, in turn, give that gift to someone else is not only acceptable, it is one of the greatest expressions of love we can offer another person. 

       Someone loved us enough to offer us the gift of Jesus.  I want to encourage us to “re-gift.”  Christmas is just over a week away.  This is the perfect time to offer someone the life-changing gift of Jesus.  One great way to do that is to simply invite them to join you for Christmas Eve worship.  Because Christmas eve falls on a Sunday this year, we will have our full morning schedule at all locations.  Then we will offer candlelight services at 4:00 PM in Sandown, Plaistow and Amesbury as well as 6:00 PM in Plaistow.   Please don’t miss this opportunity to share the precious gift that you have received with someone else. 

A few of the guys enjoying time together at the "Men's Christmas Feast!"

A few of the guys enjoying time together at the "Men's Christmas Feast!"

      This Sunday we will continue to “unwrap” the true meaning of Christmas.  This has been a great series and I am particularly excited about this week’s message.  I look forward to us all being together this Sunday as we continue our journey toward the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

   God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Dear Friends,

     It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  I keep hearing that song lyric running through my head.  And I think it is true.  There is something special about the Christmas season.  For us as a church, it is a wonderful time because it is our opportunity to celebrate the coming of our savior Jesus Christ.  This Sunday we will begin a new series where we will explore and unwrap the true meaning of Christmas. This is also a great season to invite a friend to join us for worship.  

Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday this year.  We will have our full morning schedule and 4 evening services. 4 p.m. in Sandown, Plaistow and Amesbury and 6 p.m. in Plaistow.

Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday this year.  We will have our full morning schedule and 4 evening services. 4 p.m. in Sandown, Plaistow and Amesbury and 6 p.m. in Plaistow.

     I want to take a quick moment to remind you of some important upcoming opportunities.  Tomorrow (Saturday) will be the Christmas Parade in Amesbury.  Our church will feature a men’s choir sharing the true meaning of Christmas on a float in the Christmas parade.  The parade begins at 3:30 p.m.  I invite you to join in the fun.

   This week we have several opportunities coming up. Sunday evening at 6:00 p.m. will be our Church and Community Christmas Carol sing.  This is a great fun evening held at our Sandown campus.  Bring a dessert to share and join us.  On Monday will be our last first Monday of the year.  Tuesday and Wednesday we will have Mark 209 in concert at Plaistow (Tuesday) and Sandown (Wednesday).  

      I look forward to having us all together this Sunday as we officially begin the Advent season.  We are launching a great new series that I know you will not want to miss.

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving at the Murray Home!

Thanksgiving at the Murray Home!

I love Thanksgiving.  I love the food.  I love the spirit of gratitude that is evident all around us.  And I love the time spend with family and friends.  This year I was doubly blessed.  Later in the day we got to spend time together as a family; Nicole and I, our boys, my mom, my brother Bill and his family.  That was awesome!  My nieces are growing up so quickly that it is always a blessing to see them.

But this Thanksgiving was made even more special because I had the opportunity to spend the early part of the day with our church family at our first ever community Thanksgiving dinner.  What a great event!  The spirit of joy at the dinner was amazing.  The outpouring of volunteer help was incredible and many lives were touched.

We had such a great team of volunteers that I was free to just visit from table to table, meet guests and hear their stories.  One of the first people I met was a man named George.  He heard about the dinner on line.  He lives alone.  His only family is a daughter in Florida, so he doesn’t prepare a Thanksgiving dinner.  But this Thanksgiving he was not alone.  He got to enjoy a great meal and made some new friends.

At another table was a single woman whose only son is away at college.  Last Thanksgiving she was home alone and truthfully, a little bit sad.  But this years she had a great Thanksgiving surrounded by new friends in an atmosphere of joy and love.  These are just a couple of stories I experienced.  It is hard to express the depth of joy I felt at the dinner.  I was so blessed to see the many, many volunteers who gave up a part of their thanksgiving to make this event possible.  I was grateful for Laurie Duff and her leadership of our care ministry.  And I was overwhelmed by the spirit of Christ-like love that I felt throughout the whole experience.  This is what it means to be “For Our Community.”  This is what it is to love others as Christ has loved us.  I am proud of Rock Church and the heart of sacrifice and generosity that is so evident. 

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Speaking of proud, before I sign off, there is one more that I want to share with you.  A few months ago, Pastor James (our campus pastor in Plaistow) completed the requirements to become a pastor in the United Methodist Church.  However, there was one final step, his District Committee on Ministry interview and evaluation.  James did great at his interview and was unanimously approved!  Part of what makes the Rock such a great church is our amazing team of pastors and leaders.  I am grateful for them all.

I look forward to having us all together in worship this weekend for the final message in our “Deeper” series.  This has been an awesome series and I know you will not want to miss this Sunday.

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

 

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A Paradoxical Thing.

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A Paradoxical Thing.

As we draw near to Thanksgiving, I cannot help but be aware of all that I have.  I have a family I love, a warm home, food on my table and a wonderful church community.  And above all else, I have the gift of Jesus Christ in my life.  I am truly grateful for every gift that God has poured into my life, but most of all for the gift of Jesus.

When I consider the hope, strength, joy, forgiveness and purpose that Jesus has brought into my life, I can’t help but want to share it.   As Christ followers, we have received the most precious of gifts.  The most wonderful thing about the gift of Christ is that we can share it with others over and over again and our supply is never diminished.  No matter how much we give Jesus away, we still have him in full measure in our own lives. 

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In fact, my experience has been that the more we share Jesus, the more we experience the hope, joy and love of God in our own lives.   What a paradoxical thing.  The more we give our faith away, the more we have.  The more we share the love of Jesus, the more deeply we experience his love in our own lives. 

In light of that truth, it we would seem clear that the best thing we can do with this gift is to give it away. We are coming into the Christmas season very soon.  This is a time of year when people who do not yet have a church home, or who do not yet have a relationship with Jesus, are most likely to be open to an invitation.  I would ask you to begin thinking and praying about who you can invite to join us this Christmas season. Every time we extend an invitation, we are offering the gift of Jesus. 

We are now accepting registrations for our Texas Mission Trip in February

We are now accepting registrations for our Texas Mission Trip in February

Speaking of invitations, I want to invite you all to join us tomorrow evening at our Sandown campus for the Texas Mission fund raising dinner.  It promises to be a great time of food and fellowship and a wonderful opportunity to support this important mission work.  Dinner is Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m.

I also want to remind you that we are doing our first ever Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Thanksgiving day between 11:30 and 1:00 p.m.  Because this is our first year doing it, we really need to seize every opportunity to invite guests to join us.  Help us share the invitation by personally inviting people you think might be blessed to attend.  I would ask you also to share it on your social media in any way you can.  We are encouraging people to preregister to assist with planning.  Please sign up for the dinner at www.thanksgiving-dinner.org.  If you would like to help, please go to www.signupgenius.com and search on care@stmattumc.org

I look forward to having us all together in worship this weekend as we continue our “Deeper” series.  This has been an awesome series and I know you will not want to miss this Sunday.

 

God Bless,

 

Pastor Steve

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Gratitude

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Gratitude

This weekend we observe Veterans Day.  It is an opportunity to express our gratitude to those who have served our nation to protect and preserve our freedom.  Tomorrow, Saturday, there will be veterans observances in a number of communities.  I would encourage us to take an hour and participate in one of these.  If you live in Plaistow, or if your community does not have it’s own observance, I would invite you to join us at the Plaistow Town Hall at 9:30 AM.  This year, they will be honoring 4 Purple Heart recipients, including our own Dave Peabody.    

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On Sunday, at all locations, we will take time in our services to honor our veterans.  This is a GREAT opportunity for outreach.  If you know someone who has served in the military, please extend an invitation to them to join us Sunday morning at any of our locations.  This is also a great opportunity to invite families who have a husband or wife away on active duty.  But don’t just invite them, invite them to attend WITH you.  Maybe plan to have breakfast or lunch together.  Everyone needs Jesus, and there is no more effective first step than a personal invitation.

I want to let you know about a couple of other great opportunities coming up in the next couple of weeks.  Next Saturday, Nov. 18 we will be having a special fund raising dinner for our Texas Mission Trip.  As you probably know, the Houston Texas area experienced record flooding at the end of August.  Thousands of homes were destroyed.  We will be sending a mission team to that area in February to assist in the rebuilding effort.  This dinner will help with material costs for the reconstruction.  I hope you will be able to join us at our Sandown campus between 5-7 p.m.

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Another new outreach that I am very excited about is our Thanksgiving Dinner.  For the first time ever, as an extension of our Care Ministry and the "For Our Community" initiative we will offer a free full Thanksgiving Dinner on Thanksgiving day from 11:30 to 1:00 p.m.  Who might attend a community Thanksgiving Dinner?  

·         Those who are struggling financially.

·         Those who have no family near by.

·         The homeless.

·         Singles or couples who don’t want to fix a full meal for one or two people.

·         The Elderly.

·         People who just love being in community with their friends and neighbors.

If you would like to attend the dinner, it would be great if you could register at www.thanksgiving-dinner.org to give us a rough idea of the amount of food we need to prepare.  If you would like to help with the meal in any way, you can sign up at this link.

From Veterans Day to Thanksgiving, this is a great time of year to express gratitude to God and to others for all that we have been blessed to receive.  I look forward to having you join us this Sunday as we express gratitude to our veterans and as we continue this great series “Deeper.”

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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Deep and Wide

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Deep and Wide

I am a little later than usual in putting out my blog because for the past few days I have been away at a pastor’s conference.  The title of the event was “Deep and Wide.”  I thought the timing of the event was interesting in light of the teaching series we have just begun entitled “Deeper.”  The underlying premise of the conference dovetailed quite well with the overarching theme of this series.  As believers we are called to be both deep and wide.  We are wide in the sense that we want to share the love of Jesus broadly, reaching as many people as we can with the good news of his love.  And we are deep in that we are called to grow continuously deeper in faith and in the likeness of Jesus.

Some of the hundreds of children that came through Sandown's Trunk or Treat

Some of the hundreds of children that came through Sandown's Trunk or Treat

In order to truly live out the Christian life, we have to keep these two values in constant balance.  If we only focus on going deeper, we may feel as though we have a stronger individual faith but we have done nothing to advance the mission of Christ, the salvation of the world.  On the other hand, if we only go wide, sharing the good news of Jesus with many, but never maturing, we will remain spiritual infants all of our lives.  If we do not grow and mature in our faith, our lives will resemble the parable of the house built upon the sand.  When the storms of life come, our foundation is easily washed away and our faith collapses. 

Being deep AND wide is important for us as individuals and as a church.  Right now we are in the midst of a great teaching series that is helping (and challenging) us to grow deeper in our faith.  But at the same time, we have opportunities all around us to go wide.  Over the past week or so we organized three Trunk or Treat.  These were great opportunities for broad outreach as hundreds of children and families visited our various locations.  A week from Sunday we will observe our Veterans service.  This is another great opportunity to go wide as we invite veterans that we may know to join us for that special service.

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I’m very excited about this teaching series that we are in.  Each week we are increasing our understanding of the many pathways by which we grow deeper in our faith.  I’m equally excited about the outreach and invitational opportunities that are coming up.  My prayer is that we will seize every opportunity to grow both deep and wide.  I look forward to having you join us this Sunday as we experience and celebrate the love, hope and joy of Jesus! 

God Bless,

 Pastor Steve

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Big Things

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Big Things

It’s been almost a week since the Rock Run Raiser and I’m still blown away by what a great event it was.  If you weren’t able to attend, let me tell you about it.  It was a picture perfect day.  We had just under 170 participants register (which is amazing for a first year event like this).  The whole event was extremely well organized.  And having been one of the runners, I will tell you that it was both challenging and fun!  It was a “win” for Rock Church at many levels:

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1)      There was a great mix of church and unchurched people.  Those who participate from outside the church (which was the majority) couldn’t say enough good things about the quality of the event and the great people who were working it. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to connect with not-yet-churched people in a very positive way.

2)      We had volunteers from all 4 campuses!   This was truly a total ministry event.  We had over 50 volunteers working the event that day, and many more who were a part of the preparation and organization in advance of the race.  Something that was really amazing was to watch the breakdown.  The team had the entire course, welcome area, dining tent and outdoor kitchen broken down and cleaned up by early afternoon.  It was incredible how people pitched in.

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3)      We raised thousands of dollars to support mission within, and beyond, our church.  Generally, the first year of an event like this, you would be lucky to break even because of all the start up costs.  However, we had so many generous people donate items, materials, food and more that we were able to come out ahead on the very first year.

This really was an amazing outreach opportunity and I want to take a moment to thank Heidi Mongeau, who was the visionary behind it all and the incredible team of people who came along side her to make this very large and complicated event possible. In fact, they made it more than possible, they made it excellent!

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Now here is what I can’t stop thinking about.  Last year, when the idea began to emerge, I never would have dreamed that our church could pull of such a massive undertaking with such a level of quality, excellence and effectiveness.  It is truly amazing to me what God can accomplish in, and through, Rock Church when we all work together with a shared vision and a common purpose!   When we pool the gifts that God has given, operating in the power of the Holy Spirit, I’m convinced there is nothing we can’t do for the kingdom of God!

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I look forward to having us all together in worship this weekend as we continue our new series “Deeper.”  This is an incredibly important and timely series for our church.  You won’t want to miss a single week. 

Don’t forget that tomorrow (Saturday Oct 28th) is Trunk or Treat at our Plaistow campus, and then again on Tuesday Oct 31st in Sandown.  Invite your friends and neighbors.  Like the Run Raiser, these are also great opportunities for us to connect to the community.

God Bless,

 

Pastor Steve

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Deeper

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Deeper

This weekend we begin a series entitled “Deeper.”   When it comes to the work of our church, there is an important balance that we continuously strive to maintain.  It is captured in the heart of our mission statement “To Reach and Disciple People for Christ.”  On the one hand, we are fully committed to evangelism, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with those who do not yet know Him.  But there is also the important work of discipleship, helping those who have come to know Jesus to grow deeper in faith. 

Thank you to all who helped with set up for the Field of Flags!

Thank you to all who helped with set up for the Field of Flags!

Sometimes in the church it feels as if those two are in competition.  Are we going to be a church that is all about reaching the lost or a church that is all about deep discipleship.  Yes!  We need to be both.  In fact, like two sides of the same coin, faith sharing and spiritual growth are inseparable. I would go so far as to say that they are really all one.  When a person invites Jesus to be the leader of their life and the forgiver of their sins, what they have really done is taken the first step in a lifelong journey of discipleship.

I believe God is calling our church to be a place where people are coming into a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ every week.  My heart breaks for those who do not know the hope of Jesus and do not have the blessing of Christian community.  So Rock Church will always have a strong emphasis on reaching those who are far from Jesus.  But it is also essential that we be a place where people are growing deeper in faith.

The question we sometimes wrestle with is “what does that look like?”  What does it really mean to be growing deeper in faith?  How is that reflected in our lives?  How do we do that?   The funny thing is, almost everyone has an answer to that question, but the answers are very different.  In this new series, we are going to take a significant look at what it means to grow “deeper” in faith as disciples of Jesus.

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Ricky helping out with the build out for "Grounded" our new youth drop in space in Plaistow.

The great thing about a series like this is that it applies to everyone.  Deeper is a relative term.  No matter where you are in your faith journey, you can go deeper.  If you have just made the decision to be a Christ follower, clearly there are steps you can take to grow deeper.  But even if you have been a believer for decades, spiritual growth is a lifelong journey.  No matter how long you’ve been a follower, no matter how deep you have gone, there is still room to grow deeper.

I am excited beyond words about this next series.  There is something important here for everyone, and I know you are going to find it a blessing to your faith journey.  I look forward to seeing every one of you in worship this Sunday at one of our Rock Church campuses.  And bring a guest.  Even those who are just beginning to explore the faith will find a next step for them. 

Before I sign off, just a quick reminder that tomorrow (Saturday Oct 21) will be the long awaited Rock Run Raiser.  It’s not too late to sign up to help or to participate.  Go to rockrunraiser.com or email Heidi Mongeau.  Also coming up over the next week and a half we have three separate Trunk or Treat events.  This is one of the great outreach events that we do to connect to the unchurched families around us. If you would like to do a trunk, or help in any other way, please email Sherri Nourse in Sandown, Cara Fatout in Plaistow or Jess Pontes in Amesbury.

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Fifty-Five

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Fifty-Five

Today I turn 55.  It’s a little hard for me to imagine because most days I still feel like I’m 30.  I can still play football at the men’s retreat.  I still take stairs 2 at a time.  And I’m looking forward to participating in the Run Raiser next Saturday.  But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m another year older.  There is something about birthdays that causes us to pause and reflect.  While 55 is not a round number, it does feel like somewhat of a mile marker.  For some people, 55 marks the beginning of a countdown to retirement.  But for me, the thought that I might be in my last decade (give or take a few years) of full time pastoral ministry brings about a very different reaction.

The truth is, I am more excited and passionate about ministry than I have ever been.  And with the realization of another passing year, I feel a greater urgency than ever to the work of leading our church.  As I spent time in prayer this morning, I could not help but reflect on that urgency.  As I thought and prayed, three things struck me:

1)      I am more convinced than ever that we must reach those who do not know Jesus.  When we say “Everyone needs Jesus,” that is not platitude.  It is a Biblical truth.  Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the father except through him.  We must do everything we can, with the time we have, to share the hope of Christ with those who do not yet know Him.

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2)      I am more invested than ever in raising up the next generation in Christ.  In whatever remaining years God chooses to have me serve as your pastor, I will be unapologetic about investing in our young people.  This is not to imply that I do not love and care about people from every generation.  I do.  But if our church is going to continue the vital and life changing work of Christ for decades to come, we must always be investing time, energy and resources in helping to raise up the next generation in Christ.

3)      I want to be more intentional than ever in giving my all, my best effort, to the work that Christ has called me to.  One day, every one of us will stand before Jesus.  I want to live my life with such passion and determination that I can stand before Jesus and say that I gave my all.  I want to know that I used the gifts, resources and years that He gave me to the best of my ability to advance His kingdom.

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As followers of Jesus, you and I are a part of the most important enterprise in the world.  We are the bearers of the gospel.  We are the hands and feet of God to do good in this world.  We are the Church.  I don’t mean that in an institutional way.  I mean that we are the gathering of God’s people to do His work in this world.  There is no more important work in this world.  There is no higher calling than to serve the King of Kings.

Before I sign off, I want to remind you that tomorrow (Saturday Oct 14) we will set up the field of flags.  If you would like to help, please join us at our Plaistow campus.  We are going to jump right in at 9:00 a.m. and I don’t expect it to take us much more than an hour.

Next Saturday, Oct. 21, is the Rock Run raiser.  If you would like to participate, you can still sign up at www.rockrunraiser.com.  We can also still use some helpers in a variety of areas.  One area in particular we can still use help is with parking attendants.  If you would like to help, please email Heidi Mongeau.

I look forward to seeing you all this Sunday as we share the final, and perhaps most important message of all in our series “Real Hope.”  You will not want to miss it.

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Where Hope is Found

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Where Hope is Found

      Our world needs the hope that is found in Christ alone!  We have, in recent weeks, heard the reports of senseless, horrific mass killings, devastating hurricanes, earth quakes and more.  It would be easy to feel overwhelmed and many in our world are asking “where is hope found?”   I am more convinced than ever that hope, real hope, is found in Jesus Christ.  

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     I don’t really believe in coincidences.  I believe that many of the things that we write off as coincidence are really the working of the Holy Spirit.  And so, I don’t think it is any coincidence that our church would be in the middle of a teaching series entitled “Real Hope” even as we are being barraged by wave after wave of heartbreaking news.  I think this series could not be more timely or more important. 

      Our world is in desperate need of the hope, the real hope, that comes from a life changing relationship with Jesus.  You and I have been blessed with a great gift.  Somewhere along the way, someone loved us enough to share the Good News of Jesus with us.  And particularly in these difficult times, that gift makes all the difference.

In last week’s blog, I began to talk about what makes Rock Church special.  In that post, I celebrated that we are a church that recognizes that it’s not about us.  Another thing that I believe is central to Rock Church is our passionate belief that everyone needs Jesus.  Perhaps now more than ever, we realize how desperately our world needs the hope that comes from knowing Jesus.  In difficult seasons like this, I also find that there is more of an openness to talk about Jesus.  When surrounded by chaos and tragedy, people are looking for a firm foundation upon which to stand.  Jesus is that rock amid shifting sand.   

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      I would encourage us in these difficult times to do three things.  First, shore up our own foundation.  Be particularly intentional in keeping your spiritual foundation strong through daily prayer, weekly worship, lifegroups and the likes.   Secondly, be all the more intentional in the sharing of Christ.  People are seeking.  It is very possible that someone who may not have been open to an invitation to worship in the past is more receptive today.  Thirdly, PRAY.  I raised up the idea a couple of weeks ago about coming out a bit earlier on Sunday mornings and spending some time to prayer together in our respective sanctuaries.  This Sunday morning I will be praying in the sanctuary in Plaistow around 7:30, then in Sandown around 8:00, and again in Plaistow before the 11:00 service.  I invite you to join me.

     Before I sign off, I want to remind you that the Rock Run Raiser is just over 2 weeks away.  If you haven’t registered yet, I hope you will.   I will be running in it, and volunteering.  The proceeds from this race will support a number of important causes.  So I encourage you to “get dirty for good!”  You can get more information or register at www.rockrunraiser.com

 

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Not about ourselves

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Not about ourselves

I was in a conversation recently where someone said “I’ve been in a few churches over the years, but there is something different here.”  Fortunately, I think they meant that in a good way.  I asked them to say a little more to be sure I was understanding.  “It’s hard to put it into words" he said "but there is something unique, something special about Rock Church.”  I thanked him for sharing the encouraging words.  And it got me thinking.  What is it that makes us who we are as a church?  What makes Rock Church, Sandown, Plaistow, Amesbury and now Newburyport special?

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As I thought about it, a number of things jumped out at me.  But one of the first things that came to mind is that we are not about ourselves.   We have come to understand as a church that to really follow Jesus means it is just not about us.   Sadly, I have sometimes encountered churches that are only about themselves.  They exist to meet their own needs.  They focus on what is best for them, what they like, which pew is “their pew.”  But I have seen at every campus of our ministry an outward focus that is reflected in a number of ways. 

The first is a heart for the lost.  I see it in the way we welcome first time guests.  I see it in the way we serve at outreach events like free breakfasts, day camp, Old Home Days and Amesbury Days, Trunk or Treat and much more.  I see it in the way we truly embrace the conviction that “Everyone Needs Jesus.”

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The second way I see that it is not about us is in the many ways we seek to be “For Our Community.”  I don’t know that I have ever seen a new initiative embraced more eagerly.  It seems like I see “For Our Community" wristbands, bumper stickers and lawn signs everywhere.  But it is not just about the outward signs.  It is an attitude.  It is the heart’s desire I see in so many of us to serve our neighbors in the love of Christ.  Add to that the many expressions of mission work we do nationally and internationally and we see an even fuller expression of our desire to put others ahead of ourselves.

Yet another way I’ve observed that we are not about ourselves is our willingness to sacrifice for the mission and vision of the church.  I love that our congregation has a “whatever it takes” attitude when it comes to fulfilling our vision.  I have often been humbled by the way people from our Rock Church family will sacrifice time, effort, talents and resources to advance the mission of Christ for the sake of others.  I have to agree with my friend.  There is something special about Rock Church, and it begins with our heart for others.

Before I sign off, I want to share a word about our 11:00 a.m. service in Plaistow.  I’m convinced that one of the strengths of our church is our ability to offer a broad cross section of worship opportunities that not only offer choices in time, but also style.  Beginning this Sunday, we will be introducing some changes at the 11:00 a.m. service that will allow that service to have it own unique style and energy.  Curious?  Come check it out.

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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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