A "Thank You" w/ Extra Cheese

Just last week, I had the opportunity to express our gratitude to the theater staff for the outstanding service they provide each and every week.  I'd been wanting to do this for quite some time, but oftentimes would learn that Doug, the General Manager, wasn't going to be in that day (and I definitely wanted him to be there), or perhaps my schedule wouldn't allow me to on a day he would've otherwise been available.  We've met for coffee before to talk shop, as well as to get to know one another a bit more (it doesn't hurt that he's an avid baseball fan), but nothing beyond that.

Last week, it all fell into place, and I was able to treat the staff to a pizza lunch on behalf of GFC Newport.  I'm sure I interact with them more than most of you do, particularly throughout the week.  You should know that no matter what time I show up, and what I ask of them, they're always smiling, happy to see me, asking how it's going for us, and unbelievably friendly and kind.  Service requests are usually fulfilled before the following Sunday rolls around. They help me think through things in order to better meet our needs, and are always willing to consider a new idea that helps meet our needs, even if it is rather unconventional (like storing some of our stuff underneath the movie screen so as to save time setting up and tearing down.  You know we do that, don't you?)  {;-)

I boought them food from my favorite Newport pizza joint, Strong's Brick Oven Pizzeria (just south of the Levee on Monmouth St.).  They were SO excited!  One staff member in particular pulled me aside and thanked me so much for bringing in the good stuff, saying "Wow, man.  I can't afford pizza like this.  Thank you so, SO much!"

Some of our folks at GFC Newport have really gone out of their way to befriend the staff.  One in particular regularly shares prayer requests with us, and that came as the result of one of our Welcome Team members reaching out to him and asking if there was anything he could be praying for.  If you have the opportunity, express your gratitude to the theater staff when you see them, and let them know they're doing a great job.  Also, consider asking them if they have a prayer request.  Maybe you'll get to pray with them on the spot, or could commit to praying for them throughout the week.  Either way, the next time you see them, you'll have a conversation starter right in your hip pocket as you perhaps ask them for an update.

Speaking of ministering to others with Prayer, I broke in the Prayer Stand last week at Fountain Square!  It was a great, great time.  I'll tell you more about it in my next post.  Stay tuned!

God bless,

Pastor Peter

From Pastor Peter 7/26/2013

Dear Grace Family,

It's been quite a busy week at GFC Newport!  I'm looking forward to telling you more about it future posts, so please stay tuned for more updates coming soon.

This Sunday

This week, Pastor Brad will show us a couple more radical changes that you can see in Romans 5:1-11...
  1. You'll experience the love of God like never before.
  2. You'll experience assurance and security like never before.
To prepare for Sunday, you guessed it!  Read through Romans 5:1-11 yet again!  Read it slowly, out loud, and consider picking a verse or two to memorize.

Since we're in the middle of our sermon series in Romans, Pastor Brad thought you may want to consider purchasing a commentary or devotional book that you could use in your own Bible study along with the sermon series.  Here are a few suggestions:
A Passion for God: Prayers and Meditations on the Book of Romans by Ray Ortlund       (warm devotional)
The Message of Romans by John Stott (paperback commentary – excellent)
The NIV Application Commentary – Romans by Douglas J. Moo (hardback commentary – excellent details)

Come to "Faith Day" at the Reds game on Sun, 11-Aug!

Perhaps you remember me mentioning last week that we bought a section of seats at an upcoming Reds Game on Sun, 11-Aug.  We started taking ticket orders earlier this week (well then we stopped, fixed the bugs that were caught in the interwebs, and restarted).  {;-)  All tickets are $10.  I hope you'll consider joining us!  Tickets can be purchased HERE, and we'll have them waiting for you after church on game day.  Oh yeah...your ticket is also good for the MercyMe concert that will take place in the stadium immediately after the game should you want to stick around.

I'll miss being with you this week and next while preaching at GFC Florence, but I'll be praying for all of us as we worship the Lord together on Sunday, although we're apart.  Please pray for me as I preach.  I appreciate it!

Love in Christ,

Pastor Peter

Blessed by Serving: Children's Ministry

Looking around at our campus, there are a variety of ways to do outreach…even within the walls of our theater on Sunday morning.  Serving in Children’s ministry may not be glamorous, but it sure is beneficial to both the children, and to those serving.  We’ll let a couple that has served faithfully in the Children’s ministry tell you how beneficial it has been.

Eli and I have served in children’s ministry for several years now, and boy, do we have stories - some good, some bad, and some funny!

To be perfectly honest, some Sunday mornings we feel too tired to deal with 15 three and four year olds, we don’t feel prepared with the best and coolest crafts and activities. 

Despite these very real struggles, I can’t think of a single week where we didn’t walk away feeling blessed in some way.  

Sometimes it can be the smallest thing, such as a shy child who finally says something to you in their quiet voice after months of absolutely no talking, or a funny comment about how they are hoping to see “muh-maids” on their beach vacation. 

Most times, it’s not only the kids who we are blessed by, but also the other adults helping to serve.  

I have personally been encouraged by watching other workers show up week after week with a smile on their face, even if they have just delivered a baby two weeks before, or their kids are sick at home, or they have had an exceptionally rough morning.  

Sometimes, I look at someone and think, “How are they here?  I could never do that,” but it is such a huge testimony to the fact that despite our circumstances, God is faithful, and we are blessed when we humble ourselves and serve Him.  It is an incredible encouragement watching others serve alongside you, and you would be surprised with how easy it is to bond with someone over animal crackers and coloring pages. 

Even though serving in children’s ministry at Newport means you have to miss the service that week, it doesn’t mean you walk away without God teaching you in some way.  Just this past Sunday, the lesson was about God’s provision for the Israelites after they had fled Egypt.  Since we’re with the three and four year olds, we have to break it down into very simple concepts that they can understand and hopefully remember.  That means emphasizing important points over and over and asking the same question in multiple ways.  We told them how God fed the Israelites manna every day.  We asked them if that was hard or easy for God to do.  We asked them if God provides for us. We stressed the fact that God was unhappy with the Israelites complaining.  We asked them if God likes it when we complain.  We told them how God loves us and wants us to trust him. 

That night, I found myself complaining to God about certain aspects of my life - something I believe I’ve been doing quite frequently.  All of a sudden I heard my own very happy and animated voice asking, “Does God like it when we complain!?”  And I heard the chorus of small voices, “Nooooo!” Needless to say, I was convicted.  Here I had thought I was teaching the kids, when quite frankly, God was teaching me too. 

I wish I could tell you that serving in children’s ministry is a complete breeze - free from all pee accidents and disobedient children.  While both of those things do happen, they are certainly not the norm.  There are far more good and funny things that happen, and I can tell you with certainty, that you will be blessed! 

Say hello and thanks to Eli and Eliza Liske when you see them!  

From Pastor Peter 7/19/2013

Dear Grace Family,

Thanks for coming to the GFC Newport Forum!

It was great to see so many of you at our very first GFC Newport Forum!  If you missed it, we posted a recap HERE, so check it out if you haven't already.  Look for more blog posts about those topics in the coming days & weeks to keep us all on the same page and to reiterate what we discussed together on Wednesday.  I enjoyed the dialogue we had together, and the chance I got to tell you about the past and cast some vision for our future as a church.  Thank you for being such an enthusiastic church body.  Being your Pastor is a delight, and I look forward to walking with you, growing with you, and seeing what the Lord has in store for us as we press on together.

This Sunday 

There’s no way you can be justified and made right with the God of the universe without significant changes rolling into your life.  In fact, in Romans 5:1-11 Paul unpacks 6 Radical Changes that take place in your life when you've been justified by faith in Christ.  Last week we camped out in v. 1-2 and looked at three of the radical changes that take place in your life when God saves you.  This Sunday we’ll look at just one more radical change that you can see in v. 3-5 – that as a Christian now, your suffering and trials take on a whole new purpose.

Want to prepare yourself in the Word?  You guessed it...read through Rom. 5:1-11 a few times before coming to church to familiarize yourself with the text we'll be focused on together this Sunday.  We'll also be celebrating Communion together this Sunday, which is always a special time that I look forward to having together.

Have a great weekend!

In Christ,

Pastor Peter

Newport Forum Recap

Thanks to everyone that came out to join us last night!  We had 60 adults and 9 kiddies.

Here's a peek at what went down, for those of you unable to join.

Little cheesecake thingys, as promised here.  What can I say, I don't like to lie.

Look at that eye...busted for picture taking.

Now for the details.

Business Meeting Review.  Giving is consistently more than spending, for which we're very grateful to God.  If you have questions, or want to dig in deeper on this stuff, I'm not the expert in it, but Bob Smith is.  Feel free to reach out to him at bobsmith[at]graceky[dot]org.

Newport By the Numbers.  Numbers don't tell us the whole picture.  We're after changed hearts that are growing in relationship with Jesus.  There are some things that we talked about that help us know if people are changing and growing, but that's hard to measure.  Here are some of the numbers we talked:

  • Our average attendance increased from our "hard launch" date by 17 people.  We have an average attendance of 169 and at "hard launch" we started with 152.
  • About 100 people have come out to visit since our launch.
  • 40 of those people have stuck with us to some degree, 15 of which have chosen to join a Small Group, give or join a serve team (or do more than one of those things).
  • 25% of our visitors come from Cincinnati.
Small Group Birth.  The LaRuffa group is birthing!  We're sending Dave and Andrea Wernz to lead a group at Andew Caudill's home in Eastgate.  This will help accommodate many of the Cincinnati folks coming to join us.

Location.  We celebrated many things about our current theater location: it has comfy seats, it's easy to find and tell others about, ample parking, we don't have to set up chairs.  We also talked about some of the downsides to being in a theater: sometimes it feels like there are less people than there really are, we can't hear each other sing in worship well, needing to setup and tear down.

Our mission/vision isn't to be a theater church.  We likely won't be in a theater forever.  But, wow, does the theater beat some of the places Grace Fellowship Church has met in the past!  God has blessed our socks off with this location.  

From this place of thankfulness, we can pray for something that might better fit our needs.  

Please pray for a space for us to rent or buy (strip mall, abandoned car dealership, office park, etc.).

If you see something you think would be a good fit for us, give me a shout.

Outreach.  There are outreach opportunities for you at three different levels: individual, small group and campus-wide.  Here are a few:
  • Kicks for Kids - we have a relationship with Doug Pelfrey, founder of Kicks for Kids, which seeks to "level the playing field for children at risk."  We're in the beginning stages of conversations about how we might be able to partner with them.
  • Salvation Army - there's an existing need for volunteers for food outreaches in September and October that seem like a great fit for our small groups to fill.  If a handful of small groups each take one of the Wednesday night food outreaches, we'd completely fill the need that Salvation Army has.  Our goal would be to serve food, to start conversations, to meet needs, and show the love of Christ to those in the Newport & Covington communities.  I'll be in touch with small group leaders about this.
  • Prayer Stand - I assembled this beauty in 5 minutes.  It can be brought to anywhere with foot traffic.  People like to be prayed for.  Anyone can be prayed for.  We have some Biblical Counseling handouts that can go with it, too.  I'm excited to see how you use this.  Give me a shout if you want to borrow it.
Don't wait for me to announce the small group and campus opportunities.  Where can you be inviting the people you know, and talking to the people around you about the gospel?

Take Aways.  Here's what some of you said your "take aways" were:

I'm encouraged that we have a serious heart for outreach.  I was 
concerned we were going to grow and gather but not go.

Remember our history and how long it took to be where we are 
as Grace Fellowship Church today.

I'm encouraged that we're growing, and that more 
people are coming than when we started.

Thanks for your enthusiastic participation in our very first Forum last night!

God bless,

Pastor Peter

10 Reasons You Should Come to the GFC Newport Forum Tonight

Psst...forum details are here.

Here we go...

10.  You'll hear about a great, GREAT meeting I had w/ Dennis Knight of the Newport Salvation Army yesterday, and how we might be able to partner with them this Fall.

9.  You'll take in a breathtaking view of the Ohio River that may or may not look like this.

8.  You'll find out what's inside this mysterious black bag.

7.  You'll get free Starbucks Coffee.

6. You'll hear "Newport By The Numbers" and find out where God has been drawing people from since we've started.

5.  You'll get little cheesecake thingys.

4.  I'll give you a brief 2013 YTD financial report.

3.  You'll get to see the huge room God blessed us with as a Small Group meeting place this past year.  Thank you Daymar College!

2.  You'll get to talk pros & cons about our meeting place, and talk a bit about what we think our long-term plan is regarding our meeting space.

And the #1 reason to come out to the Forum tonight...

1.  We'll leave thankful for what the Lord has done among us and excited for what He has in store for us next.

Looking forward to seeing you soon!

God bless,

Pastor Peter 

(all pictures licensed through creative commons)

Forum Topic: Will GFC Newport always be a "Theater Church"?

"Theater Church."

Yup...that's actually a term nowadays.  We may be one of the only churches in our area meeting in a movie theater, but the idea certainly isn't original to us.

Did you know there are some churches out there that choose to meet in movie theaters long-term?  It's true!  Back in November, I took our Core Team out to Washington, DC where we interacted with leaders from National Community Church (real nice folks who hosted a conference for people like us who were just getting started).  They've been meeting in movie theaters for 17 years, and have found it to work out quite well for them.  In fact, they have no immediate plans to leave the movie theaters they're currently meeting in.

God brought us to theaters 2, 3 & 10 at the Levee, friends.  Never forget that.

After we fasted and prayed for God to show us where (and even if) He'd have us start holding worship services in Newport, God was faithful in opening up the doors of the AMC Movie Theater that we now call home.  I've said it before, but it bears repeating...

They. Called. Me.

AMC Movie Theater called me after we had been calling and showing up at so many places.  They called.

Like everything in life, there are positive and negative aspects to our current meeting place.  While we're not quite ready to write a book about it after only 7ish months, we are more aware of the pros & cons now after having done it for awhile than we were before.

So what's the plan?  What's the vision?  What do we hope to do?  Do we want to be a theater church forever, or are we hoping for something different for the long-haul?

This is one of the things I'm excited to talk about at the GFC Newport Forum tomorrow night.

Do me a favor.  Think about the pros and cons.  Pray about it.  Come ready to talk about it, and I'll do my very best to let you know what's on my heart these days as I come and go from the movie theater each and every week.

See you there,

Pastor Peter

GFC Newport Forum Location...Revealed! (Gasp!)

In church yesterday, I joked about the fact that I'd told you everything about the upcoming GFC Newport Forum (date, time, topics, why I'm excited, yes I'll be serving light refreshments that include Starbucks Coffee that is being DONATED to us...woo-hoo!) except for one important detail...the location.  Where will it be held?

Of course, one of the challenges in being a church that rents space is finding meeting space for anything other than our weekly worship services.  This time was no different.  After many phone calls, exploring options, comparing prices and trying to figure out the best possible solution, we finally nailed down a place:

Why there?  I'm glad you asked.

Daymar College has been a friend to GFC Newport for quite some time now.  I first stumbled upon them when looking for a space in which we could worship.  They had a great space, but simply could not accommodate us on Sundays.  They were very kind and helpful, so much so that they came to mind months later when we were in need of a meeting place for one of our Small Groups.  I went back upstairs, reintroduced myself, and asked if they might be able to give us a free classroom of some sort for a Small Group to use once each week.  They were more than happy to help, and gave us a great room that they call "the Great Room," simply because...right.  It's a great room.  Very spacious, great views of the river & Cincinnati skyline, it was infinitely more than we ever asked for.  PLUS...free on-site, indoor parking (great for poor weather).

Soooooooooo...that's where we'll be.  I do hope you'll consider joining us for some coffee, cheesecake, and what I hope to be a great time of looking at what God has done among us in the short time we've been meeting in theater 10 since January.

Hope to see you there!

God bless,

Pastor Peter

Outreach Part 1: Ministering to "the least of these"

My wife was shopping at our Kroger (not in Newport) when she came upon a lady who looked like she could use a little help.  Sarah engaged the lady, introduced herself and our kids, and began to talk about her situation.  I'll spare you the details but suffice it to say, it seemed that she and her husband had come upon very difficult circumstances, in a very short period of time, and were living rather day-to-day, or perhaps hour-by-hour.

The lady said she could use some bus fare to get to Newport.  Sarah gave her bus fare, but also invited her to church and said she'd hope to see her and her husband there if they could make it.  She thanked Sarah for the invite and said she'd so her best to be there.

That was on Tuesday.

Guess who showed up on Sunday morning?  She did!  I was told there was a guest asking to speak to me just before 9 AM.  I went downstairs, introduced  myself, and after a brief dialogue finally put the pieces together and realized this was the lady Sarah had run into earlier in the week.  I welcomed her and told her how glad I was that she could be with us.  Sarah wasn't there just yet, but I introduced her to some others in our church family, who took her to nearby Mammoth Cafe to get her something to eat, and then to a local Dollar Store for some supplies she was in need of.  Meanwhile, I grabbed another brother and we set out to find her husband (I was told he was outside, too embarrassed to come in).  By God's grace, we were able to extend an invitation to him to join us in church, which he eventually accepted, and the two of them were with our church family last Sunday.  They said they could use some bus fare, so I got them a TANK card with a few rides on it which they gladly accepted.  I invited them back to join us next week, and they said they'd certainly consider it as they truly enjoyed themselves and felt welcomed among us.

There haven't been TONS of occurrences like this one, but this is certainly not the only one.  The location God has our church meeting in gives us access to people we may otherwise never cross paths with. As God affords us these opportunities to reach out to the poor, the marginalized, those whom Jesus referred to as "the least of these" (Matt. 25), may we be found faithful to show others the love of Christ by meeting needs as we have opportunity, for His glory alone.  Let's talk about it a bit more at the Forum on Wednesday.  Hope to see you there!

More to come,


From Pastor Peter 7/12/13

Dear Grace Family,

This Sunday!
This may seem like what Yogi Berra called “Déjà vu all over again,” because I actually wrote about this text last week inadvertently.  Nonetheless, here’s what we can look forward to hearing about as we open the Word together this Sunday at church:
This week we return to our sermon series in Romans by moving into one of the richest chapters in the entire book – chapter 5.  We’ll stay here for a while because over the next 3 weeks from these first 11 verses of ch. 5, Pastor Brad will show us Six Changes that take place in your life when you become a Christian.  These are six changes that you can only experience when you have been justified – made right with the God of the universe – by faith in His Son Jesus Christ.  This Sunday we’ll look at just the first three changes that you can see in just the first two verses.
Want to prepare yourself in the Word?  Read Romans 5:1-11 over and over.  You won’t be sorry.  Read it slowly and prayerfully.  Then on Sunday, we’ll dig down into the first two verses to see what God says about the difference being justified by faith makes in your life.  It does make a difference, and sometimes it’s good to stop and think about it again.
First-EVER GFC Newport Forum is THIS WEDNESDAY (July 17th) at 7 PM!
Hope you’ll plan on joining us for our first-ever GFC Newport Forum!  I’m looking forward to this opportunity to speak with you about GFC Newport.  I’ll look to use the time in three ways, specifically:
1.    General GFC Update (I’ll give you a brief update on what’s going on in our church as a whole including, but not limited to, a YTD financial report).
2.    GFC Newport Update (I’d love to tell you about the different things going on in GFC Newport, including Small Groups, outreach opportunities, and some other specific updates regarding ministries at GFC Newport)
3.    Q&A – I enjoy preaching, but not at Forums. J  These are supposed to be a dialogue, so I look forward to answering questions and facilitating discussions based on what the Lord brings to our agenda through you.  Let’s talk!
The Forum will begin at 7 PM (location to be determined).  Light refreshments will be served.
Looking forward to seeing you on Sunday and at the Forum!
Love in Christ,
Pastor Peter

CDT Conference Early-bird Registration Discount: 2 Days Left!

I used to carve out a week to travel to various parts of the country to get the training that will be provided right here, in our backyard, at the Florence Campus of Grace Fellowship Church.  To have such easy access to it, not only for me & my family, but for our entire church family, is a dream come true.

Instead of me waxing eloquent about how this training has blessed my life & ministry, I'll refer you to this video where people just like you speak about how they're blessed, year after year, by being trained to better apply the Scriptures in their everyday lives.

The one thing I will say is this; the training that's provided is truly, in every way, shape & form, for any growing Christian.  Whether the Lord saved you 40 seconds ago or 40 years ago, you'll find the teaching and training provided to be helpful to your everyday life as you walk with the Lord, and help others to do the same whether that's in a formal counseling setting, or simply as you live life with others.

All the information you need to know can be found right here, including financial scholarships that are available.

If you have any questions at all, see me at church on Sunday or shoot an email to me at peterlaruffa[at]graceky[dot]org.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Peter

From Pastor Peter: Ooops

Dear Grace Family,

In my most recent post, I included information about a sermon that we won't be sitting under...well, at least not this Sunday.

I inadvertently gave you introductory remarks regarding a sermon we'll be hearing next Sunday (14-Jul).  If you've chosen to reflect upon the Scriptures I mentioned, great.  It'll be especially great for next week, too.

Tomorrow (Sun, 07-Jul), we'll be hearing a sermon from Romans 4, during which Pastor Brad will be helping us understand 3 of the most common mistakes people make as they seek to understand how they can be right with God.  If you want to prepare for the actual sermon we'll be hearing (a phenomenal idea, if I do say so myself), consider reading through Romans 4:1-16 before coming to church this Sunday.

Sigh...we all have our moments, right?  Thanks for bearing with me during one of mine.  {;-)

In Christ,

Pastor Peter

From Pastor Peter 7/3/13

Dear Grace Family,
Last Sunday
Boy, was I sorry to have been out of town last Sunday!  Everyone I speak to about the service last Sunday says it was one of, if not THE best worship service to date at GFC Newport.  Thank you, Spencer & Josh, for doing such a great job in leading our Concert of Prayer.  I look forward to the next time we take time to worship like that again.
This Sunday!
Please see updated post HERE.

This week we return to our sermon series in Romans by moving into one of the richest chapters in the entire book – chapter 5.  We’ll stay here for a while because over the next 3 weeks from these first 11 verses of ch. 5, Pastor Brad will show us Six Changes that take place in your life when you become a Christian.  These are six changes that you can only experience when you have been justified – made right with the God of the universe – by faith in His Son Jesus Christ.  This Sunday we’ll look at just the first three changes that you can see in just the first two verses.

Want to prepare yourself in the Word?  Read Romans 5:1-11 over and over.  You won’t be sorry.  Read it slowly and prayerfully.  Then on Sunday, we’ll dig down into the first two verses to see what God says about the difference being justified by faith makes in your life.  It does make a difference, and sometimes it’s good to stop and think about it again.

· Start praying for High School Youth Camp, Aug. 4-10.  Pray that God would meet with the kids in a special way.  Camp is often where lives are changed in significant ways. 
· Don’t forget to give. Summer is a great time to get away for some much needed R&R, but the church ministries and expenses continue on.  Thank you for continuing to give through the summer months so that we can keep doing all that God has called us to do
· Save the Date! Wed, July 17th at 7 PM is our GFC Newport Forum, a time I’m looking forward to spending with you to having a dialogue with you about our new church campus – both what God has done and what I hope he’ll do in the days ahead.  I’m also interested in hearing what you see, and what you’re praying for.  Mark down the date (location TBD), and plan on coming out for a good time together, and some dessert.

See you on Sunday!
Love in Christ,

Pastor Peter
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