Let Summer Begin!

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Let Summer Begin!

Dear Friends,

This week we celebrate the official first day of summer.   I know that in some traditions, the church virtually shuts down during the summer.  Not so for Rock Church.  Summer is one of the busiest, most active, most exciting times of the year for us.  While there are some ministry areas that take a brief sabbath, we have a ton of awesome special events during the summer.

I don’t want you to miss out on any of these great opportunities, so I would like to take a moment to highlight some summer event you will want to know about.

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·This Saturday, June 23rd, is Plaistow’s Old Home Day.  We will be participating in the festivities with an outreach booth and as part of the parade.  If you would like to help at the booth, please drop us an email at this link.

·Amesbury Days begin June 28th with the block party.  We will also sponsor the Pancake Breakfast and have a booth at the fire works (both on July 4th.)  If you would like to help with this, email at this link.

·For Our Community Day.  I’m sure by now you have heard about this.  We already have over 200 people participating in the day in a wide variety of ways.  For more information or to sign up to help at one of the projects, please click on this link.

·New Summer schedule for our Plaistow Campus.  Beginning July 1 we will be going to a 9:00 am and 10:30 am service schedule at Rock Plaistow.  This will allow people to get an earlier start and still have the opportunity to enjoy great summer outings and events.

·Summer Day Camp.  We will again be offering great summer day camp programs in both Sandown and Plaistow in August.  For all the details, go to rockdaycamp.org.  Registration is now open and it is only $29 for a week long full day program.  Invite your friends and neighbors.

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·Soulfest.  We will be taking a large group of youth and family campers to Soulfest again this year.  Soulfest takes place the first week of August.  To register or for more information, click on this link.

·Grounded.  Our monthly youth drop in program is open this Friday night, June 22.  Additional summer dates for Grounded include July 27 and August 24.  Doors open at 6:30 pm.  Fun. Games. Food. Music. Join us and bring a friend. For youth in grades 6-12. 

Believe it or not, there is more.  Men’s and Women’s BBQs, a great new “At the Movies” summer series, men’s retreat.  The list goes on.  Check out all these great summer events HERE.  This is going to be a hot summer at Rock Church.  You won’t want to miss a moment. 

Have a great rest of the week.  We’ll see you Sunday!

    God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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Why FOC?

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Why FOC?

Dear Friends,

            By now you have probably heard me speak of the For Our Community day coming up on Saturday June 30th.  I’ve talked a lot about the what and the how.  What is it?  How will it work?  How do I sign up?  You can get all those answers at www.forourcommunity.org.  But today I would like to talk about the why.  Why are we doing this event?  Why am I so excited about it?  Why does it matter?

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     There are at least 3 big reason why I am excited about this event.  First, it is an opportunity to express the love of Jesus in our communities in a very tangible way.  We are going to help, repair, beautify, improve and enhances schools, libraries, recreation areas, a fire department, a youth camp for under privileged kids, a ministry to the poor and homeless and more.  In one day, through hundreds of volunteer service hours, we are going to make a genuine positive impact in our communities.  That’s awesome!

      The second reason I think this day is so important is because we will do it side by side with others.  That will mean two things.  It will be an opportunity for us to build relationships with other Rock Church members that we may not have previously known.  It will also be an opportunity to work side by side with our unchurched neighbors.  Building relationships with people who do not yet know Jesus is the first step in sharing our faith.  Working side by side to “do good” in our community is a great way to break down the barriers that sometimes separate believers from those who have not yet come to know Jesus.

     A third reason I think this For Our Community day matters is because it begins to change the narrative. Sadly, people outside the church often have a “less than positive” impression of who Christians are.  In the media and in other ways, Christ followers are often portrayed as judgmental, self righteous and hypocritical.  But the Christians I know are loving, kind, generous, caring people.  When we love, serve and bless our community, I believe it helps people to see the church in a different light. 

 Join us Sunday as we continue our series Neighboring!

Join us Sunday as we continue our series Neighboring!

      So those are some of reasons I believe you are going to want to be a part of this day.  But let me give you one more “why.”   It is going to be a blast!   Sure, it will be work.  But we will get work side by side with some great people.  We will get to make some new friends.  And after the work is done we are going to have a great party!  You can pick your project and sign up right now at www.forourcommunity.org.

    God Bless,

Pastor Steve

Speaking of For Our Community, on Saturday June 23 we will be participating in the Plaistow Old Home Day.  we are looking for a few volunteers to take a shift in the booth greeting guests, giving away water, etc.  If you can help, please email Pastor Jon.

 

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Let the countdown begin

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Let the countdown begin

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     Let the countdown begin.   The “For Our Community” day of serving is less than 4 weeks away.  I believe this is going to be one of the best outreach events we have ever organized at Rock Church.  But we need everyone’s help.  So here is my Top Ten countdown of how you could help make this event an amazing success.

10) Donate baked goods or water to be available at the worksites.

9) Help us put out lawn signs.  We need 10 people to put out 10 signs each in different communities.

8) Invite a group you are a part of.  Are you in a scout troop, LIONS club, martial arts studio, community group, club or other organization?  Invite them to participate (We’ll get you some invite cards to share.)

  Help us get out lawn signs on everyone community!

Help us get out lawn signs on everyone community!

7) Choose your project and sign up your family, your friends and yourself this week.  We need to plan for food and T-shirts, so the sooner you sign up the better prepared we can be.

6) Put out posters and invite cards.  We’d like to distribute these any place the public will see them. 

5) Help with the prep.  There is a lot of behind the scenes work to be done.  We can still use additional volunteers to be on the set up team, clean up team, and project planning team. 

4) Participate in the golf tournament. As you can probably imagine, there will be some cost to putting on the For Our Community day.  A portion of the proceeds from the golf tournament will help fund this event.  To sign up to play or be a hole sponsor, go to this link.

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3) Did I mention sign up early?   That is so important and helpful.  Here is the direct link to the sign up page.

2) Help us talk it up.  We want to invite the whole community to be a part of this great event.  One great way to do this is to talk it up on social media.  We’ve set up an event on Facebook that you can share with your friends at this link. Let people know you are participating and invite them to do the same.  Additionally, if you have connections with a newspaper, radio station, television station or other media outlet that might help us share the invitation broadly, please let me know.

1) PRAY.  I am looking for prayer partners who are willing to pray every day leading up to June 30th that God would use this outreach to bless our communities and help us connect to our unchurched neighbors.  If you are willing to commit to daily prayer for this, please let me know.

     Email me to help in any of these “Top Ten” ways or follow the link provided.  I know in my heart that God is going to do great things through this event.  You will not want to miss it!

    God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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What a weekend!

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What a weekend!

Dear Friends,

 Thank you to all who helped with the Blessing of the Bikes on Saturday!

Thank you to all who helped with the Blessing of the Bikes on Saturday!

     First I just want to say “Praise God!” for what we experienced this past Sunday as we celebrated Pentecost together.  We had great, joyful, powerful experiences at all locations.  And at our Plaistow campus we got to do something very special.  On Easter we had a number of folks baptized by immersion at our Amesbury Campus.  This Pentecost Sunday we had 10 people baptized by immersion in worship in Plaistow.  What an exciting and inspiring worship that was! 

     Speaking of exciting, I want to share some excited news with you regarding this Summer.  First, we are going to be offering an all new “At the Movies” series that you are not only going to love, but will want to invite all your friends to.  We did a similar series a few years ago and it was our best attended Summer series ever!  You will hear more about that in a few week.

 New Series begins this Sunday!

New Series begins this Sunday!

      Also, beginning July 1 we will be introducing a new Summer schedule in Plaistow.  For some time I have felt that there was a better option for us than 9:45 and 11:11.  So, we are going to make a transition this Summer to a 9:00 am and 10:30 am worship schedule in Plaistow.  I think this is going to be excellent for our ministry for several reasons:

  1. It’s easier to remember.  Let’s be honest, 9:45 and 11:11 are not the most natural times to offer service.  This summer as we invite guests it will be much easier for them to remember 9 & 10:30.
  2. It offers an earlier option.  Particularly during the Summer, there will be weeks when people have travel plans or summer activities.  This 9:00 am service will give an earlier option that allows people to attend worship and still participate in other plans.
  3. It offers an earlier end time.  The 10:30 service allows the option of a somewhat later service, but still gets people out for other great family activities prior to noon (even with time for coffee after worship).
  4. It gives us more time between services.  While not a huge difference, it does give us a few extra minutes between services for better transitioning.
 Landscaping in Sandown

Landscaping in Sandown

     So spread the word.  Beginning July 1 we will have a new summer worship schedule in Plaistow and it’s going to be awesome!  Before I wrap up I want to take a moment to thank all those who came out on Saturday to help with landscaping and flowers at our Rock Sandown Campus.  Great job everyone!   It looks awesome.

    God Bless,

Pastor Steve

 

 

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Pentecost!

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Pentecost!

Dear Friends,

     I’ve always loved Pentecost.   To me it is one of the most exciting days of the year for Rock Church.  The story of Pentecost is found in the book of Acts chapter 2.  It tells of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples, placing within them the power of God to preach, teach, heal and serve.  It marks the birth of the Christian church and the beginning of the Great Commission! 

 Blessing of the Bikes is this Saturday, May 19, weather permitting.  Watch FB and email for any possible date change.

Blessing of the Bikes is this Saturday, May 19, weather permitting.  Watch FB and email for any possible date change.

     The great thing about this story is that it was not a one-time occurrence.  God’s Holy Spirit is as much with us today as it was with the first disciples.  Through the presence of the Holy Spirit, you and I have access to the power of God to do his work in this generation.  That’s awesome!  Because let’s be honest, the work of sharing Jesus and serving others in His name takes strength and courage.  Sometimes we may not feel like we have what it takes.  And that may be true.  On our own, we don’t have what it takes to live out all that God has called us to do and be.  But because we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, God’s presence, power and strength within us, we can do all things!

     I look forward to us being together this Sunday for the celebration of Pentecost.  We will be welcoming new members at several services.  At our Plaistow Campus we will celebrate baptism (by immersion, in the sanctuary!)  At all locations it is going to be a great time of joyful worship.  You will not want to miss it.

 We will be having a "Planting Party" this Saturday at our Sandown campus at 9:00 am.   Helpers welcome!

We will be having a "Planting Party" this Saturday at our Sandown campus at 9:00 am.   Helpers welcome!

     I also want to remind you to mark your calendar for June 30th.  On that day, we will hold our first “For Our Community” day of serving.  We are up to about a dozen projects so far spread over 9 communities.   This is going to be an amazing opportunity to bless our region in the name of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Just like that first Pentecost story, we get to be a part of a huge and visible movement of God by sharing his love throughout our communities!  We need you and all your friends to join us in this great effort.  And don’t forget that after we work through the morning, we will all come together at our Plaistow location for an amazing “after party.”  Food, music, games, activities, inflatables and train rides for the kids and more. 

     Registration officially opens on June 1.  However, we are already signing up help for the teams that are doing planning, preparation, set up, breakdown, etc.  If you would like to help with the work of bringing this great day to fruition, please visit www.forourcommunity.org to sign up.

    God Bless,

Pastor Steve

 

 

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The Power of Stories

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The Power of Stories

Dear Friends,

 Don't forget we will be celebrating baptisms on Pentecost, May 20th, at our Plaistow location.

Don't forget we will be celebrating baptisms on Pentecost, May 20th, at our Plaistow location.

      I was reflecting on Sunday’s worship, and how moving it was to have Rick and Melissa share their story.  There is something powerful about stories, isn’t there?  Amazingly, there was much more to what they recorded than we even had time to share in worship.  I hope to show move from this amazing interview in which Rick shares powerfully about the difference that Monday Night Men’s Lifegroup has made in his life, and Melissa tell us how her daughters have been blessed by our Nextgen ministry.  It was awesome! 

     I think we need to share more stories.  Every day people’s lives are being impacted in profound ways by their faith in Christ.  I hear stories of healing.  I hear stories of reconciliation and restoration of marriages, families and friendships.  I’ve had people tell me about the chains of bondage that have been broken in their lives by the power of Jesus Christ.  Every story is personal, unique and powerful.  We need to share more stories.

      Do you have a faith story to share?  Has Jesus impacted your life in a powerful way?  Has being a part of our church family been transformational in some way for you?  We would love to hear your story.  Stories bring encouragement.  Stories give people hope.  I would be willing to bet that many of you have a story to share of how God has blessed your life.

 Our new Newburyport sign!

Our new Newburyport sign!

      Not only would I love to see us be more open with sharing our stories within the church family, but beyond the church.  Your story is a testimony to Jesus.  When you share the impact that God has had in your life in some specific way, it is a witness.  I would encourage us to be more open and free in sharing our stories with those in our neighborhoods, our work places, our families and more.  And if you have a story of how Jesus has worked in your life that you would be willing to share, let me know.  I would personally love to hear it.

      Don’t forget that this Sunday at all campuses we will, as part of our Mother’s Day service, be taking free family portraits.  I look forward to us all being together for worship this special Sunday.  Also, remember that the following Sunday is Pentecost (wear RED).  We will be welcoming new members at all campuses and celebrating immersion baptism at our Plaistow location.  If you are interested in membership, we will have an orientation this Saturday at 1:00 pm at Rock Plaistow.  If you are interest in Baptism, please email Lynette.

    God Bless,

Pastor Steve

 

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Our Biggest Outreach Ever!

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Our Biggest Outreach Ever!

 

Dear Friends,

       I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about this first ever “For Our Community” day.  If you didn’t hear about it yet, let me tell you what this is all about.  On Saturday June 30th we'll deploy hundreds of volunteers to more than a dozen simultaneous service projects in and around the communities of Amesbury, Newburyport, Haverhill, Plaistow, Newton and Sandown.  All volunteers will receive for free a "For Our Community" t-shirt.  Following the work there will be an “After Party” that will include a BBQ, activities, live concert, inflatables for the kids and much more!  

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      This is not only for those of us already in the Rock Church family.  We are inviting everyone  from the surrounding communities to serve side by side with us.  This will be a great opportunity to connect with some of our unchurched friends and neighbors as we bless our communities together.  My hope is that everyone in our church will take advantage of this opportunity to participate in this exciting event.  With the full participation of our church, along with invited community guests, I believe that the outcome will be amazing!  I am certain that we can renew how our community and the world sees the church and our values.  Not as inwardly focused, but as a loving people who desire to serve Christ by serving others.      

     We are currently in the process of developing the teams to do the advance planning, preparation and support work to pull this large event together.  We are looking for team members in all of the following areas: Project participation, planning and coordination, the after party set up, community partner coordination, event promotion, and post party clean-up.  If you would like to be a part of any of these support teams, please click on this link to sign up.  It is going to take a great team of people to pull off such an epic event.  On June 1 our project list will be finalized and participant registration will open.  Mark your calendar right now!  You will not want to miss this event.

      There are a couple of other quick things I want to lift up.  You won’t want to miss our Cinco de Mayo missions event this Saturday.   You can see all the detail in the newsletter at this link.  I also want to let you know that we are planning a special service for Mother’s Day.  As a part of that, we are setting up an area at each campus to do free family photos with mom!  Also, this Sunday is our next Membership orientation.  If you are not currently a member of Rock Church but would like to know more, please join us Sunday at 2:00 pm at our Plaistow campus.

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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Grateful for you.

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Grateful for you.

Dear Friends,

Got joy?  I’m convinced that it is God’s intention that we live lives of joy.  Jesus said “I have come that you may have life and life abundant.”  That doesn’t mean life is always going to be easy or fun.  But one of the great things about living a life in relationship with Jesus is that we can experience joy, even in those times that are not easy. 

On Sunday, we talked about how living a life of gratitude helps us to experience that life of joy that God desires for us.  One of the important keys to living a life of gratitude is to express it openly.  That means praising God for the blessings he places in our lives.  It also means intentionally thanking other people for the ways they have blessed us.  I challenged folks on Sunday to intentionally thank at least one person every day this week.  So, here is mine for today.

I want to thank YOU!  It would be difficult for me to fully express the gratitude that I feel for each and every one of you.  I consider it one of the greatest blessings of my life to be a part of such an amazing church.  Let me tell you why I love and am grateful for our Rock Church family.

  • First and foremost, there is a love that permeates this church family that is awesome.  It is a love for Christ and a love for one another.
  • There is a heart for the lost.  I believe one of the things that makes Rock Church great is our passion to reach those who do not yet know Jesus. 
  • People are genuinely sacrificial in their service to Christ.  I have been inspired over and over again at the way so many of you are generous with your time, your talents and your resources to help others and to advance the kingdom of God.
  • I’m also encouraged and inspired by the passion I see in so many of you to grow deeper in Christ through lifegroups and other discipleship opportunities. 

Some churches are great with outreach to the lost, but never seem to grow deeper in faith.  Other churches are very serious about growing deep in the Word, but don’t seem burdened for those all around them who are living without Christ.  I am so grateful to be a part of a church that has a heart for both.

Can I tell you one other thing I’m grateful for.  I’m grateful for our amazing leadership team.  I’m not sure we even realize what an incredible team of pastors and ministry leaders we have at Rock Church.  God has blessed us with an abundance of talented, bright, passionate, committed, sacrificial servant leaders.  I thank God for each and every one of them!

Who are you grateful for today?   Take the opportunity to tell them. 

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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Don't miss this . . .

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Don't miss this . . .

Dear Friends,

     I have something I am so excited about that I can’t possibly wait until Friday to share it with you.  You may have seen in my last blog a small “save the date” about a For Our Community Day.  I want to tell you a little more about it.  The event will take place on Saturday June 30th.  On that day we are preparing to do a number of different service projects spread out over the various communities that Rock Church serves.  My hope is to have our entire congregation join together in a single ministry wide day of serving our communities.  Additionally, we want to open it up beyond the church for any groups or individuals within the community that may want to join us.

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     I envision hundreds of people coming together to bless our communities.  We are just in the formative stage of this, so we don’t know what our projects will be yet.  But I envision us working with our towns, schools, non-profits and other civic groups.  The work will take place in the early part of the day.  Then we will all come back together for an after-party.  We will have a massive BBQ, our music ministry is going to do a concert, we will set up inflatables for the kids, make your own ice cream sundaes and more.  Not only will this be a great way to bless the community, but it is going to be a blast. 

     I would urge you right now to mark your calendar to hold this date.  There will be opportunities to serve appropriate for all ages, so I believe this is an event we can all participate in.  Also, this Saturday morning (April 21) at 10:00 am we will hold an initial planning meeting.  If you would be interested in finding out more about this For Our Community Day or might consider helping with the planning and organization of the event, I would invite you to join us for this meeting.  It will be held at our Rock Plaistow location.  If you are interested in being a part of the planning team but are not able to make the meeting this Saturday, please email me and let me know.

     God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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Friend of Sinners

3 Comments

Friend of Sinners

Dear Friends,

 We've only been in our new space a few week, but things are already picking up at our Newburyport Campus.

We've only been in our new space a few week, but things are already picking up at our Newburyport Campus.

      When you stop and think about it, Jesus is described, or named, in many different ways in the Bible; King of Kings, Prince of Peace, Son of Man, Good Shepherd, the Word.  If we wanted to take the time, we could name dozens more.  In my devotions this week, I have been reading through Matthew.  In Matthew chapter 11 Jesus is described in yet another way; friend of sinners.  It would be hard to say one name by which Jesus is known is better than another.  They all depict something important about him.  But I think this might be my new favorite.  Jesus, FRIEND OF SINNERS. 

      I like that name for several reasons.  Selfishly, I suppose I like the name because that’s me.  I’m a sinner.  It’s hard to imagine that Jesus, son of God, could love me, that he would want to be my friend.  I’m not going to lie.  That’s kind of awesome.  But I also like this name because it reminds us of what Jesus was all about.  Jesus became known for saying things like:

"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" and “I have come to seek and to save the lost.” 

Jesus came for sinners.  He came for the lost and the broken.

     But I think the name not only reminds us of who Jesus is.  I believe as Christ followers, it is a reminder of who we are meant to be.  We are to be a friend of sinners.  We are to seek the lost and point them to Jesus, that they may be saved.  One of the things I fear in my own life is that I will become so immersed in church culture that I am no longer a friend of sinners.  I have seen this happen to long time Christ followers, often for one of two reasons.  Either it happens because we become increasingly uncomfortable with “sinners” whose language, behavior or values are not very Christ-like.  Or we simply get to a place where everyone we know is already a Christ follower.  We just have no “sinner” friends.

 Mark your calendar now for June 30th.  We we hold our first every ministry wide "For Our Community Day." 

Mark your calendar now for June 30th.  We we hold our first every ministry wide "For Our Community Day." 

      There are few things in life that weigh more heavily upon me than the knowledge that the overwhelming majority of the people in our community have no relationship with Jesus Christ.  Estimates for our region say that 80% or more of adults have no active relationship with Christ.  The numbers for our young people are even more heart breaking.  Research tells us that 97% of high school students have no faith relationship with Jesus.  Many of these people are our friends, our neighbors or even family members.  My hearts desire is that we would do whatever we can, whatever it takes, to reach the lost with the hope of the gospel.  That may not be easy at times.  But it matters.  For these people, eternity weighs in the balance. 

    My hope for us as a church is that we can be a place that invites and lovingly welcomes those who are far from Jesus.  Together, we can do this.  We can bring healing to the broken, hope to the hopeless and light to the darkness.  We can be a friend of sinners.

      I look forward to seeing you this Sunday as we continue our series “Got Joy?”

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

BTW, Casting Crowns does a great song by the title Jesus Friend of Sinners.  Check it out here.

3 Comments

One Church

7 Comments

One Church

Dear Friends,

One of our leaders shared a story with me recently.  They were at a gathering where they got into a conversation with a family from East Derry.  In the course of the conversation, the topic of Rock Church came up.  The family was unchurched, but the husband shared that they had heard great things about the Rock.  When asked if they had ever visited, they said they had considered it, but just felt the distance was a little too far to go every week.  “Well, you know we have a campus in Sandown, right?”   The family had no idea.  They never made the connection between St. Matthews and the Rock.   Needless to say, they were invited to our Sandown campus. 

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In my mind, this story begs the larger question of whether it is still the best thing for our mission to be known by different names.  Like many people, I am a creature of habit and things that are familiar feel comfortable to me.  But after significant thought and prayer, I’m convinced that it would benefit our ministry to be one in both mission and name.  Now is the time to make the transition from St. Matthews to Rock Church Sandown and from Rockingham Church to Rock Church Plaistow. 

Here is why I feel that is the right thing to do. 

  • It’s unifying.  Words are powerful, and there is a unifying power that come from all of our campuses sharing a common name.
  • We can share the ‘good will.’  The name of Rock Church has come to be known in a very positive way in our area.  We are able to better reach our communities when we capitalize on that shared good will surrounding the Rock Church name.
  • There is synergy.  It has been commonplace in recent years for us to print one version of any marketing piece we do for St. Matthews and another one for the other “Rock” campuses.  The common name would save time, financial resources and eliminate duplicated effort.
  • It is less confusing.  I know most of us within the church understand it.  But for the people outside the church that we desire to reach with the good news of Jesus, it is less clear that we are all one.

When people ask me about the Rock, I explain that we are one church in many locations.  Sharing a common name reinforces that message of unity.  As we move forward with this change, I think it would also be helpful to know that this is not the first time.  I know most people assume we have been St. Matthews for 180 years.  But that is not actually the case.  The name was changed to St. Matthews in the 1970s when the Sandown and West Hampstead churches merged.  At that time we took a new name to reflect our new structure and to unify the people under one new name. 

A few years ago, Zion Bible College in Haverhill changed its name to Northpoint for strategic missional reasons.  For a number of months, people who had long known the school as Zion struggled with the new name.  But today, everyone simply knows it as Northpoint.   It’s time we take this step.  I’m sure it will be challenging for a little while. But I am convinced it is what is best for our mission to reach and disciple people for Christ.

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These are exciting times for all of us at Rock Church.  We are seeing many lives changed through Christ as each campus continues to grow and new locations are being added.  God is moving powerfully throughout our ministry.  We are blessed to have such a large, diverse and truly gifted group of fellow believers that we can call family. As we move forward, we will work out the logistics.  But for the moment, I would ask us to just begin thinking in these terms: we are Rock Church~one church in many locations.

         

   God Bless,

Pastor Steve

 

 

 

7 Comments

Celebrate and Share

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Celebrate and Share

Dear Friends,

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     This weekend we celebrate the most important and impactful event in the history of the world.  I know that’s a big statement.  After all, there have many other significant events in the history of the world; the discovery of fire, the printing press, the internet.  All of these changed the course of human history.  But when Jesus offered his own life as a sacrifice for ours and when he claimed victory over death through the power of the resurrection, he not only changed our world, but he changed our eternity.  Nothing else, no one else, in all of history has impacted human kind in the way Jesus did.

      So yes, this weekend we are going to CELEBRATE!  For those of us who have come to know Jesus Christ as the leader of our lives and the forgiver of our sins, Easter is the greatest celebration of all.  Because the grave is empty, because Jesus is alive, we too have life.  We have life abundant in this world.  And we have life eternal in the next.  When we gather for Easter, we will sing and shout, we will praise God, we will celebrate the amazing gift of life we have received through him.

Easter Amesbury 2.jpg

      This weekend we are also going to SHARE.  Through Jesus we have received the greatest gift of all.  That gift is meant to be shared.  If you or I had a friend, neighbor, or loved one who was starving to death and we had discovered a limitless supply of food, wouldn’t we share?   Or if another was dying of thirst and we had discovered a bottomless well, would we keep it to ourselves? There is no bottom to the well of God’s grace.  We can draw on that well day after day.  We can give that grace away over and over again, and our supply of grace is never diminished. 

      So my prayer for you for this weekend is two-fold.  I pray everyone of us will be in worship this weekend (there will be a Saturday Easter service at 5:00 pm in Plaistow as well as our full Sunday Morning schedule) to celebrate the victory that Jesus won for us on the cross.  And I pray that each one of us will share the good news of Jesus with someone who needs to know.  The easiest way to do that is to simply invite. 

     Don’t forget there is a Good Friday service tonight in Amesbury at 7:00 pm.  Also, don’t forget to bring a school supply item if you want to be a part of blessing our schools through our Easter “For Our Community” initiative.  Follow this link for all the details.

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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Mi casa es tu casa

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Mi casa es tu casa

Dear Friends,

 Ladies, don't forget GROW this Monday Night.

Ladies, don't forget GROW this Monday Night.

     I don’t know about you, but I love having guests to my home for dinner.  It is great to get to know someone at a deeper level, share a few stories, laugh together, just do life together.  When we do have folks over, we prepare.  We pick up the clutter, clean the house, set the table and try to prepare a nice meal.  And when guests are in our home, we try to be great hosts.  We do all we can to help them feel comfortable and welcome.

     Over the next couple of weeks we are going to have many guests in our home.  I don’t mean Nicole and me.  I mean our church.  Between now and Easter we are all working hard to invite family and friends to join us for worship.  So I have no doubt that we will have many guests in our home.  Whether it is in our home or in our church, when guests are with us, we want to do all we can to help them feel comfortable and welcomed.  We call this hospitality. 

     You may have heard the Spanish expression “mi casa es tu casa.”  My house is your house.  This saying is at the very heart of what we mean when we speak of showing hospitality.   Our hope is that guests would feel so “at home” that they would be drawn to make the Rock their spiritual home. 

     Here at Rock Church we have a hospitality ministry.  We have people who give their time to be a part of the intentional welcome as an usher, greeter, lobby host, parking attendant, coffee maker, etc.  But I want to remind us today that we are actually all a part of the Hospitality Team.  Every one of us helps to create a welcoming environment for our guests.  So this week in particular, I want to ask all of us to be intentional about our welcome. 

     Here are some important and easy ways we can do that. 

·         One of the first and most effective things we can do is to take the first 5 minutes when we arrive at church and the first 5 minutes after the service ends to seek out one or two people we don’t know to help them feel welcomed.

·         Look for individuals or families that seem to be alone.  If you are observant, you will sometimes notice in the lobby a person or family who seem to be by themselves.  When you see this, graciously break away from your current conversation to greet them.   This is a great practice whether that person is a first time guest or not.

·         When you do greet a guest, don’t ask “are you new here?”  They may just attend a different service.  Instead, try “I’m not sure we’ve met.  I’m Steve” as you extend a hand.

·         After you have visited for a moment, introduce them to someone else.  It would be great if they could connect to several people during their time with us.

·         When you sit down before worship begins, if there is anyone within 10 feet of you who you do not yet know, take a moment before or right after worship to introduce yourself.

     So over the next couple of weeks in particular, let’s all be part of the hospitality team.  If every one of us will seize the opportunity to make others feel welcomed and cared about, we will create a loving environment where guests can not only connect to the church, but find Christ.  Remember, everyone needs Jesus.

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

BTW, can can still use a few team members to assist with parking at our Plaistow location.  If you would like to help with that, please email Vic.

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Easter Outreach

 Dear Friends,

   I hope all of you are safe and warm. Despite what it looks like out my window, Easter is only a few weeks away. As you may have heard, this year we are organizing our biggest Easter Outreach ever. I think we all know that Easter is one of our best opportunities of the year for invitation, so we want to make the most of it.

     For this initiative to be truly effective, we need your help in several areas:

  • Additional Hospitality Team Members.   We want to be sure every guest receives the best possible welcome. To help with this, we would like to add some additional help to our hospitalities teams (ushers, greeters, coffee prep, parking help, lobby hosts, etc.)   There will be a special lunch and training session this Sunday for all campuses at our Plaistow location immediately after the 11:11 service. Even if you would just like to know more about the hospitality ministry, we invite you to attend. Please email Pastor Jon and let him know if you are interested in attending so we can plan for lunch.
  • Social Media Team. Do you have Facebook account? Twitter? Instagram? Snapchat? You can help us to expand our social media reach by being a part of the social media team. Here is how it will work. When you sign up, every time we post something on the church’s FB page, we will send out a quick email to let you know. We would ask you to go out immediately to like and share the post. You can also copy it to your other social media platforms. That simple act, done by dozens of people, will dramatically increase our social media outreach. To be added to this team, please email Lynette and let her you are willing to serve in this way.
  • Prayer Team. Every couple of days between now and Easter I will be sending out a brief note to all those who have signed up to be on the prayer team. In the notes I will share a prayer focus for the next day or two. If you are willing to be a prayer warrior for our Easter Outreach, please let Lynette know and she will add you to the distribution list and you will start hearing from me every couple of days.
  • Personal Invitation. I hope you will all be on the personal invitation team. Stop and think what an incredible impact it would have if every one of us brought just one unchurched friend or neighbor to one of our Easter Celebrations! I believe God is desiring to see many people come to Christ this Easter through our ministry at Rock Church. Far and away the most effective way to reach people is by personal invitation. I’m praying that every one of us will bring at least one guest.

I believe God is preparing to use the combined gifts that each one of us brings to do something great at Rock Church this Easter!   I can’t wait!

 God bless,

Pastor Steve

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If you had the cure . . .

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If you had the cure . . .

Dear Friends,

Shortly after the passing of Billy Graham, Kathie Lee Gifford was being interviewed on the Today Show.  In the interview Kathie had the opportunity to reflect on her own Christian faith.  “People ask me why I am so bold about my faith.  If you had the cure for cancer, would you keep it quiet?  Would you hold it, keep it a secret?”   You and I have been the recipients of the greatest gift anyone has ever received.  Someone shared Jesus with us, and it changed our lives.  

 Have you dug out your Joyful Easter sign and put it back where it can be seen? 

Have you dug out your Joyful Easter sign and put it back where it can be seen? 

I wouldn’t be surprised if people are saying of me from time to time “Why is always talking about inviting? Why all the attention given to outreach?”  Here’s why. I know in my heart that Jesus Christ really is the way, the truth and the life.  Not only do we have the hope of eternal life through our faith in Jesus, but we have the promise that he will walk with us through all of this life.  I can’t even put words to what a precious gift that is.  And yet I realize that there are people all around us who do not know that hope, who do not have that gift.  When we have something so precious, how can we not share it?

So, without apology or hesitation, I want to encourage everyone one of us to be a part of our Easter Outreach.  Pray for those around us who do not know Jesus.  Extend a personal invitation.  Help out at an egg hunt.  Send or hand deliver a post card.  Get on the social media team so you can help us extend the invitation in that way.  Put up a lawn sign.  Help with hospitality. You can see more information about how to connect on these in my post from earlier this week at this link.

The good news of the resurrection of Jesus that we will celebrate on Easter morning is too precious to keep to ourselves.  One of the very effective ways that we can share that good news with others it to simply invite them to join us for our Easter Celebration.  Let’s make the most of this opportunity.

          

   God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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God of Miracles

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God of Miracles

Dear Friends,

            We experienced a miracle in my family last week.  I know that many of you heard me share that my son Chris would be preparing for kidney transplant surgery.  Chris has kidney disease and a little over a month ago, his kidney function dropped to 13%.  Because he had been stable at about 23% function for a number of years, they immediately retested.  The new blood work showed a slight increase, but still well below the 20% threshold at which one is placed on the transplant list.  I shared the situation in worship and invited your prayer.   

 The Texas Mission Team raises one of the big walls.

The Texas Mission Team raises one of the big walls.

     At the appointment, during which we were informed that the number had dropped to 13%, I asked if there was any way to bring that number back up (change of medication, diet, etc.) She explained (what deep down I already knew) that Kidney Disease is degenerative and irreversible.  We began the process of preparing for transplant.  While I was in Texas last week, about a month after we learned transplant would be necessary, Chris had a follow up visit with his nephrologist.  Much to her astonishment and our joy, the most recent labs (the third set in a month) showed his kidney function has been restored to 23%.  Because he is back above the 20% mark, Chris will not be having transplant surgery at this time. Praise God!

       I am reminded anew how blessed I am to have a relationship with Jesus.  I know in my heart that even if someday Chris does have to have the surgery, God will watch over him and all will be well.  I’m blessed because I know that no matter what I face, I will never face it alone.  I have the Spirit of God within me and I have my church family beside me.  What a gift.  I can’t honestly imagine trying to live this life without Jesus.  And it is heartbreaking to me every time I meet someone who does not have a relationship with Him.

 if you didn't have an opportunity to complete an Easter Outreach Help Card, it's not too late.

if you didn't have an opportunity to complete an Easter Outreach Help Card, it's not too late.

     Easter is coming soon.  It is one of our greatest outreach opportunities of the year.  This year we are putting a greater effort into our Easter outreach than we ever have before. Do you know why?  Because everyone needs Jesus!  To make this Easter outreach fully effective, we need you.  We need extra hospitality team members who desire to share Christ’s love through acts of service.  We need people to hand write invitation cards, because hand written invitation shows how highly we value those we invite.  We need people to pray, because without the power of the Holy Spirit we labor in vain.  There are lawn signs to be put out and social media to be shared.  Perhaps most of all, we need every person to invite their friends and neighbors, because there is no greater act of love than to invite a friend to know Jesus.  If you feel led to help in any of these ways, but didn’t get a chance to fill out a card on Sunday, just email Lynette and she will add you to the team.

       This weekend we will continue what has been an amazing series entitled “God’s Great Plan.”  I look forward to having you join us this Sunday.  You won’t want to miss it!

   God Bless,

Pastor Steve

PS.  Don't forget to "Spring Forward" this weekend!

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Lessons from the Life of Billy Graham

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Lessons from the Life of Billy Graham

Dear Friends,

            This week, at the age of 99, Billy Graham transitioned from this life, to life eternal.  I read recently that in his 80 years of ministry, he preached the gospel to approximately 80 million people live.  When you add to that radio and television along with the ongoing impact of the Billy Graham Evangelistic association, I find it difficult to fully fathom the impact of this man’s life for the kingdom of God. 

billy graham.jpg

     As I think about his life and his legacy, several applications come to mind.  First, we should never underestimate what Christ can do with a single life that is fully committed to him.   From the Apostle Paul to the likes of John Wesley, Martin Luther, DL Moody, Aimee Semple McPherson, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Joyce Meyers, Craig Groeschel or Andy Stanley, from generation to generation God has taken ordinary people and used them in extraordinary ways.  We should never doubt what God can do in our own lives if we will make ourselves fully available to him.

         Bill Graham had a team.  While it was Billy Graham at the front of the platform, he would be the first to acknowledge that the success of the ministry was built on that great team.  George Beverly Shea, Cliff Barrows, Art Bailey and others were as integral to the ministry as Billy Graham himself.  While we all have gifts, what makes ministry truly effective is the synergy of all those gifts working together towards the fulfillment of a unified vision and mission.  Read more about the vision I have for our church here.

     The power of perseverance.  I think most of us picture Billy Graham preaching to large stadiums filled to capacity with people.  But it wasn’t always like that.  In the early years of his ministry, Graham preached many a message to tiny crowds in small country churches and tent revivals.  But he stayed the course.  He persevered through the hard times.  As he was faithful in the small things, God continued to open greater and greater opportunities.  When ministry does not come easy, or we don’t seem to see the fruit that we hope for, stay the course.  There is a pastor in Nashville that I have great respect for.  In his first 25 years of ministry, his church barely reached 200.  But he stayed the course.  By the time Pastor Hardwick retired, that same church had grown to several thousand.  The power of perseverance.

graham in seoul.jpg

     Mission over method.  For several decades, Billy Graham’s ministry was built entirely on crusade evangelism.  As television became a more powerful medium,  Graham was eager to embrace that technology.  As a crusade style of evangelism became less effective, the Billy Graham association began to take a more decentralize approach, using video with small gatherings in people’s homes.  From crowds of 50,000 people listening to a live preacher to tens of thousands of home hosting gatherings of 10 to 15 people for a video message.  Methods change. The mission, reaching people for Christ, is what matters and does not change.  And so too for us.  Our methods have changed and must continue to change.  But our mission remains the same: to reach and disciple people for Christ.

      Join us this Sunday as we continue “God’s Great Plan~From Creation to the Cross.”   You don’t want to miss a single week of this great series.

   God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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Be the Light

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Be the Light

Dear Friends,

            This week the community of Parkland Florida experienced an unimaginable tragedy.  I, like all of us, am heartbroken over the pain and grief that the students, faculty, and families of this community have endured.  This morning I prayed for all those who have been impacted by this horrific act.  And I would ask that each of us continue to keep this community in prayer.

     Sometimes it feels like we live in a very dark world.  We may wonder at times what, if anything, can be done.  But I want to remind us that as followers of Christ, we are not powerless.  To the contrary, we have the power of the Holy Spirit living within us.  With the power of Christ and the hope of the Gospel, we CAN change the world.  The ultimate response to hatred is love and the way to defeat darkness is to be the light.  We are the bearers of the light of Christ, and as we share Jesus, we bring that light into a dark world.

 Pastor Paul shares communion at our Rock Church Newburyport campus

Pastor Paul shares communion at our Rock Church Newburyport campus

     As Pastor Beth reminded our Sandown Campus in her blog, this is exactly why here at Rock Church we hold as a core conviction that “Everyone Needs Jesus.”   The only way to defeat darkness in our world is to share the light of Christ with every person we possibly can.  This week marks the beginning of Lent.  Lent is a season of preparation leading us up to the celebration of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sin and his victory over death.  Easter is one of our greatest opportunities of the year for outreach.  This year I believe that God is calling us to the strongest intentional Easter outreach we have ever done. 

     In the coming weeks I will be sharing more about that.  But the place it begins is in prayer.  Between now and Easter I would ask us to be in intentional prayer for those around us who are not in relationship with Jesus.  Pray by name for some that you know are not yet connected to Christ.  And pray that God would place on your heart those He would have you invite.  There are people all around us who desperately need the hope and joy that Jesus alone can bring to their life.

 A couple of our students providing tech support.

A couple of our students providing tech support.

     More than ever, our world needs the light of Christ.  Be the light through acts of kindness and compassion.  And share the light by extending an invitation to those who do not yet know Christ.  And by the way, you don’t have to wait until Easter to invite.  We have a great series going on right now as we continue to explore God’s Great Plan~From Creation to the Cross.  Why not invite someone this Sunday.

   God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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Who Do You Pray For?

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Who Do You Pray For?

Dear Friends,

            Do you keep a prayer list?   Are there certain people you pray for on a regular basis?  We may or may not write it out on a piece of paper, but many of us have a prayer list.  Who do you pray for?  If you are a parent, I would not be surprised if you pray for your kids (regardless of how old they are.)  If you are a little older, the same may be true for your grandchildren.  There may be people on your list who are in need of healing or provision.  If you are married, I hope you pray for your spouse.

     What about those who are far from God?  Are there people on your prayer list who do not yet know Jesus?  I would encourage every one of us to have 2 or 3 specific people we are praying will come to know the transformational love of Jesus.  If that person is nearby, pray that they might connect to Jesus right here at one of our Rock Church locations.  If they live further away, pray that God would raise up a church near them that would invite, welcome and love them in a way that would lead them to Christ. Sometimes another church will be the answer to our prayer as they lovingly engage our child, our grandchild, our friend.  And sometimes we will be the answer to someone else’s prayer.

     Every time we invite, engage and lovingly welcome someone who is living apart from Christ, it is the answer to someone’s prayer.  That young person is someone’s grandson or granddaughter.  That family we help connect consists of someone’s son, daughter, brother or sister.  That recently divorced individual, that man or woman battling addiction, that successful business person (who suddenly discovered that there is more to life than wealth and possessions) has a best friend who has been praying for their salvation. 

     When we pray for someone who does not yet know Jesus, we become a part of God's plan of salvation.  But I also want to remind us that when we invite, when we welcome, when we embrace someone who has been distant from God, we have the extraordinary privilege of being the answer to someone else’s prayer.  And when that person steps over the line of faith and opens their heart to Jesus, not only do the angels in Heaven rejoice, but somewhere there is a praying parent, grandparent, sibling or friends praising God for you!

   God Bless,

Pastor Steve

An Announcement About our Texas Mission Trip!

Two spots have become available for the TEXAS Mission Trip, Feb 24- Mar 3.  If you would like to go on this mission trip, the deadline is Feb 7th (spots will be given on a first come basis). Please contact Sue Reynolds at suzannereyolds08@comcast.net.

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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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