Sunday, January 26, 2014

Next Level this a try.....

Portland’s Next Level Church reaches out with cheap gas, helicopter egg drop

Posted March 30, 2013, at 10:55 a.m.
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Lead Pastor Joshua Gagnon (right) and Location Pastor Allen Robbins of the Next Level Church stand in the high tech pulpit at their Portland location. The church also has two branches in New Hampshire and one in Massachusetts.
Lead Pastor Joshua Gagnon (right) and Location Pastor Allen Robbins of the Next Level Church stand in the high tech pulpit at their Portland location. The church also has two branches in New Hampshire and one in Massachusetts. Buy Photo
PORTLAND, Maine — With a futuristic bright green and black motif, the Next Level Church on Forest Avenue in Portland looks more like a technology startup than a house of worship.
The church uses a different lexicon and plays different styles of music — think Coldplay — than almost any other in the area.
But the church is getting attention in Maine’s largest city for more than just it’s iPhone-like iconography and rejection of stained-glass windows. On Easter Sunday, Next Level Church conducted its annual helicopter egg drop, which garnered national headlines during its inaugural run in New Hampshire in 2010, an event that drew 12,000 eager egg hunters and forced organizers to start putting limits on attendance.
Then on April 20, Next Level Church will pay to lower the price of at least 3,000 gallons of gas to $2.99 per gallon at the 865 Brighton Ave. Citgo station.
The catch? Lead Pastor Joshua Gagnon said it’s no secret: He wants people to see Next Level Church and give one of its Sunday morning “experiences” — they don’t call them “services” — a try.
To attend the helicopter egg drop, which is exactly what it sounds like, participants first had to attend the church Easter morning. The requirement was as much to prevent the unruly 12,000-person mob of 2010 as anything else, Gagnon said, but he added, “I’m not going to cry myself to sleep at night [feeling guilty] because some new people attended my church.”
Since the first Next Level Church began meeting at a high school in Dover, N.H., in 2008, the church network has expanded to four locations — one in Massachusetts and two in New Hampshire in addition to the Portland site. The church community has grown from three families to about 2,000 people, about 200 of whom attend in Portland, during that same time, Gagnon said.
The organization is constructing a $2.2 million facility in Somersworth, N.H., from which Gagnon plans to begin simulcasting live Sunday video “teachings” to the other sites. And the founder and lead pastor said he hopes to expand Next Level Church to 20 locations by the year 2020, all in New England.
Next Level, a nondenominational, evangelical church, is affiliated with the Association of Related Churches, based in Birmingham, Ala. That organization was founded in 2000 with the goal of organizing 2,000 new churches around the country. Next Level was launched in Maine with services in the Cinemagic movie theater in South Portland, then moved to a dedicated Portland spot about a year ago.
Gagnon said that although he occasionally hears criticisms from individuals who prefer more traditional church settings, the apparent explosion of Next Level Church popularity is largely not coming at the expense of existing churches in its recruitment areas.
“Well more than half of the people who come to Next Level weren’t going to church anywhere before they started coming here,” Gagnon said. “We always say we’re not better than other churches in the community. We’re just different.”
That difference fills an important niche in a region of the country where churches could use a popularity boost, he said. Gagnon noted that New England is the least religious region in America.
“I think if Jesus were to come back today, New England would be very attractive to him,” he said. “So many people aren’t attending church here. There are so many more people he could reach.”
That statement is backed up by a slew of recent studies, including a 2012 Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies census that found Maine had the country’s lowest percentage of residents identifying a religious affiliation.
“We started Next Level Church as an effort to communicate the timeless truth of God in a way that’s relevant today,” Gagnon said. “It’s not that people don’t want relationships with God, it’s that many of them don’t feel like their churches provide them with that connection in a way that’s relevant to their lives.”
That relevance comes in tangible — DVDs explaining baptisms and salvation in laymen’s terms, as well as portable credit card devices for Sunday donations — and less tangible ways.
“People want to know, ‘My marriage [is terrible], can I get a divorce and still be OK?’” Gagnon said. “We’re in 2013. You don’t want to step into the 1930s when you go to church.”

‘That was a great time’

The Portland church, in a space previously occupied by a martial arts dojo, has a bistro area in the lobby and three rooms for youths of different age groups in addition to its main hall. One picture hanging in the entryway depicts a Sunday “experience,” with an alternative rock band playing against a backdrop of multicolored lights and machined fog faintly rolling over a darkened crowd of outstretched hands.
A basket of earplugs sits on a table outside the door of the main hall.
“Every single person who comes to Next Level, whether they ever come to another service or not, walks out of here saying, ‘That was a great time,’” Gagnon said.
On a grid of “Core Values,” designed to look like square-logo iPhone apps, is one reading, “Consumerism is not an option.” By that, Gagnon said he wants attendees to be active in the church, whether by getting involved in the Sunday morning energy or by volunteering in the community, or both.
“It’s always more fun to cheer the winner of ‘American Idol’ if you’ve voted a few times,” he said.
Local Pastor Allen Robbins is the face of Next Level Church on the streets of Portland.
“One of the reasons we go with the videos on Sunday is that it frees me up to spend more time focusing on people,” he said. “While [Gagnon is] developing his sermons for the week, I’m out in the community.”
The church hosts everything from financial classes to workout groups to book studies on-site, and Robbins said church members actively volunteer during litter pickup days, at food pantries and soup kitchens, and anywhere else in the city where they perceive a need.
Before Christmas two years ago, Robbins said, the church filled a box truck for the nearby Wayside Food Programs to generate what was believed at the time to be the the largest single food drive donation ever in Portland.
“Jesus is the reason for everything we do,” Gagnon said. “As hip and as flashy as everything is here, the reality is, we believe in Jesus.”

"Sticks & Stones" An Article I found....

Sticks & Stones
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Most of us remember this childhood saying as a rebuke against name-calling bullies. It seemed to work at that time, but in reality, the saying is wrong. Words can and do inflict more pain than the biggest stick or the heaviest stone could ever cause. Cursing, mocking, blaming, insulting…we all know that this simple method of just saying a few well chosen words can manipulate and hurt people in ways we can't even imagine.

Words do hurt us...always.

What we say, how we say it, what we mean by it, does affect us and other people. Words have energy and power. Words can heal or maim; comfort or kill.
As Americans, we enjoy free speech. We say whatever we want and criticize whomever we like. It is our way of life, but we do it at the expense of other people, unaware and uncaring about any pain our words may cause. We have great power in the words that so casually fall off our lips. With just a few words you can start and end a friendship. Fights, divorces, arguments, riots, wars… all start because of words, (and some just because of how the words were said.) Some of us have carried pain throughout our life, because of a few words that we have never forgotten.
But it's not just the words we say, but the words we don't say. Things we could say to heal a relationship or encourage a person, somehow, never get said. There are countless opportunities for us to bless someone with support, friendship or understanding, but most of us opt to say nothing. And concerning injustice and prejudice, sometimes saying nothing is the worst thing we can do.
Words are like fire. They can bring warmth and comfort, or burn, sear and destroy. We need to use our words to better the world, not make it more miserable. Even a simple “Good Morning” or “Thank You” can make someone feel like they are worth something. Everyone loves to complain and criticize, and sometimes it seems as if no one has anything positive to say these days. Kind words have fallen to the wayside. Intimidation, tough talk, accusations, intellectual babble, sarcasm and rhetoric are now the law of the land.
Many Christians believe that the only extent of watching their mouth is NOT using the "F" word, thinking God only dislikes foul language and sex talk. That is so far from the truth. Anyone can still insult, curse and belittle...with nice vocabulary. Just because you don’t say curse words doesn’t mean you can’t curse someone.
It's not the four-letter words that's the problem, but what is said with the regular words. Avoiding cusswords is an easy way to pat yourself on the back. How much more difficult is it to stop our self-righteous put-downs, to say "I'm sorry, I was wrong", or even to say hello to a new employee.
Most of us just don’t choose our words carefully, because we just say what we want to say, but most of our words come from a place of self-centeredness. We are always ready to criticize people whom we don’t like and save our beautiful words for our favorite friends.
Jesus says we are responsible for everything that comes out of our mouths.

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
- Matthew 12: 35-37

Some Christians think these verses mean that, besides cussing, God frowns on anything that is silly or trivial, so only serious, grave words make up their vocabulary, forgetting that God desires our words to have the joy of the Spirit rather than the spirit of sourness.
Or some think it means we shouldn't talk about anything that is not Christian related, that any other talk is unnecessary and therefore is idle and worldly, thus a sin.

When He says that our words acquit or condemn us, He means that our words reveal our true selves and if our words have kindness and compassion, we will be granted kindness and compassion. If our words judge and condemn, we will be judged and condemned.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. - Matthew 7:1, 2
Jesus also says: 

“But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” Matthew 15: 18-19

This confirms that Jesus is not talking about idle chatter, but about those words that we say to people. Those 'careless' words that we use to hurt, condemn, manipulate and tear down....people. And these words are 'careless' because well...we could care less what happens after we say them.
We have to understand that anything we say is like a mirror to our soul. A person who is negative will say cold, critical, hopeless, fault finding words. A person who is positive will say warm, open, optimistic, forgiving words.
What comes out of our mouths originates from our hearts.
Some people are consistently nice, some consistently nasty,
but most of us are like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
We can all say nice things from time to time, but given the right situation, all manner of ugliness can pour out of us.
How many of us say pleasant words one day, but spew flames after 20 minutes in a traffic jam? Or how many of us are funny and good-natured with our co-workers, but become nagging, degrading monsters to our family members in the privacy of our own homes. And how many of us talk differently to people at work or school than to those whom we see at church? Will the real person please stand up!
And if nastiness is coming out of our mouths, then we need to dig deeper to find out why we can so easily tear someone to shreds in a second.
Do we have pain? Do we hold resentment? Do we feel frustrated and cheated in life? Perhaps this is where our problems lie. Painful words are symptoms of a pained heart. If that is the case, we need healing from God. Our bad words are speaking volumes about our soul. Unfortunately, most of us think we're not so bad.
Some say we should be honest, but are we just giving ourselves an excuse to say whatever we want no matter how rude and obnoxious we are. Even in bygone eras, people understood the etiquette of politeness. Now people just curse at each other under their breath. In this current volatile time, our freedom of speech has made us all divided, fearful and suspicious of each other and Christians are not exempt from spitting poison, as we have all seen.
So, tell me what comes out of your mouth?
Are you quick to make a sleazy remark?
Do your words fluctuate with your moods?
Do you defend what you like and attack things you don’t?
Are your words made up of gossip, negativity, and complaint? 

Do you use words like loser, stupid, and idiot? 

Do your sentences end with a sneer and rolled eyes?
Examine your soul and look into your heart. Choose your words carefully. People always look at the speaker first and judge them before they examine what they are saying. We have the power to bless people instead of punching them, to make friends or make ourselves friendless.
Christians can and do say all manner of evil things in the name of God. Here is where Satan has deceived many Christians...that it's OK to spew venom to those who don't agree with us.
Listen up my friends; words of hate, condemnation and judgment against others are NOT of God.
It all starts with the heart.
Only the Holy Spirit cleanses our hearts so beautiful words can come out of our mouths: words of peace and justice, of compassion, of wisdom, of hope and of love. We cannot pretend to be pure in heart by just saying pure words. It starts from the inside and goes out from there. Our heart has to be with God. We can’t do it without Him. Perhaps we talk down to people because we feel weak. Or perhaps we shame others with our words because we are ashamed. We need to give ourselves over to the Holy Spirit for healing to shed light on where our words are coming from.
Seek God for healing and forgiveness, and your heart will blossom with the love of Jesus Christ. Only when we truly walk in the Spirit of God, will our words reflect what is in God’s heart.

“We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. 
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”  
- James 3: 2-13

Let's all be balanced w/our words......