10 Things You May Not Know About Pastor John Mark

Pastor John Mark has faithfully led Cottonwood Creek Church for the past 23 years, following God's leading and vision to be a light in the community. His immense impact has had profound effects on the Cottonwood Family, seeing incredible work happen from small beginnings in Fairview to here now in Allen. Anyone who knows him can see his heart for Jesus and for those around him. 

To celebrate the last 23 years, here is a list of 10 things you may or may not know about Pastor John Mark. 

  • Typically, John Mark will function on only 5 hours of sleep per day.
  • Did you know John Mark is a cat person? He is!
  • He can read something once and have it memorized.
  • He always has 20 things on a to do list each day. He only sits down when he is on the computer.
  • He is NOT a morning person! 
  • He loves to be out on the boat on the lake.
  • He is a volunteer chaplain with the Allen Police Department. 
  • He has written and completed 3 different books: Navigating Life's Journey, Marriage Meltdown, and a doctrine book to be released in 2018. 
  • He serves on the financial planning committee at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • John Mark is very proud of his family and of the church. He tells his wife Jeana every day how proud he is of her, and ends conversations with their kids with the same way. He also shares the success of Cottonwood Creek and its staff with excitement and as often as he can. 

The next time you see Pastor John Mark, be sure to tell him how thankful you are for him! 

Pastor - Thank you for your leadership, wisdom, and being a light in our community. 

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Recovery in Christ

Scott Neal's Story of Spiritual Healing Through Jesus


Spiritual healing can be a long process. The good news however is that if one believes in the salvation of Christ, they are not alone in their healing. Cottonwood Creek's Scott Neal is a thankful believer in Jesus who is still in the process of healing from the struggles of alcoholism, pornography addiction, and co-dependency. For many years, Scott has lived with these hardships. However, by the grace of God and by attending Celebrate Recovery at Cottonwood Creek, he has learned how to put God above his addictions.  


Scott grew up on a lake with a loving family. However, with lake life, came party culture. Scott's father was an alcoholic and his mother struggled with co-dependency. Scott had a boat at his disposal at all times, 60 feet away from his bedroom window. "I would boat anywhere and meet up with anyone," Scott said. "The parents would throw parties and the kids were to just be seen, not heard. We soon picked up on that behavior and by the time we were teenagers, we were doing the same thing, alcohol-wise."  


Scott began to abuse alcohol, as well as drinking and driving. By the time he was an adult, he was a very highly functioning alcoholic, just like his father.  


"The pornography piece came into play through access to elicit printed material," Scott said. "They were not hard to find in my household." During his college years was the beginning of the internet. "I discovered that and it all went from there," Scott said. "I eventually got married and thought that would fix it. After I accepted Christ, I thought I'd make improvement, but instead, the battle within me increased as the Spirit within me cared about my behavior." 


While Scott was struggling with his addictions, his wife's friend had invited her to a Bible study at Chase Oaks. The Bible study turned out to be Celebrate Recovery. "Celebrate Recovery is a safe place for us to work on our hurts, hang ups, and habits," Scott said. Scott's wife suggested that Scott give the class a try. "I started Celebrate Recovery at Chase Oaks around the same time that Ryan Koesel introduced the class at Cottonwood," Scott said. "The Chase Oaks one eventually shut down so I started coming to the one at Cottonwood." Scott made sure all of the materials from Chase Oaks were transferred over to Cottonwood Creek. 


During this time, Scott had been nominated at Cottonwood Creek to be a deacon. After joining Celebrate Recovery however, he knew he needed to get right with the Lord, put his spiritual healing first, and step down from the position. "I went to the leadership team and confessed to them," Scott said. "I told them that if they were looking for me, come to Celebrate Recovery."  


Throughout Celebrate Recovery, Scott has learned how to give his addictions to God. "It's easy to play church," Scott said. "It's easy to sit there and be in leadership and still live a compartmentalized life where you haven't given all of your behavior and your life to Christ. It's about where you place your moment by moment, thought by thought faith in. I'll be doing this the remainder of my life as the addictions brought on by the sinful nature will always be there with me." Scott places his moment by moment and thought by thought faith in Christ by utilizing the tools he's learned in Celebrate Recovery 


"Everyone has baggage, as we all have a sinful nature," Scott said. "Celebrate Recovery is a great way to come and learn how to let go of your baggage." When Scott accepted Christ, he did not expect the spiritual battle that began. "It was through Celebrate Recovery that I finally began to give my addictions over to God. I still have to daily, even more so, on a moment by moment and thought by thought basis. 


Scott believes that it is never too late to find serenity from hardships and addictions. "Take every thought and make it obedient to Christ," Scott said. "If I let even one thought dwindle, then suddenly I'm dwelling on that. When an image comes, I bounce my eyes off of it." Scott also recites scripture when he is faced with temptation. One verse that always encourages him is 2 Corinthians 10:4-5: 


"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 


Scott knows that he is able to defeat his addictions by using the spiritual gifts that God has given him through his faith in Jesus Christ. By the grace of God and the support he receives at Celebrate Recovery, Scott is undoubtedly on the path to spiritual healing from his addictions 


Celebrate Recovery, Mondays at 7p

Worship/Lesson or Testimony: 7p
Men and Women Open Share Groups: 7:30p
Solid Rock Cafe: 8:30p

For more information, please contact Ron Schrock



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Top 10 Reasons for Not Serving AT VBS

1. Who will watch my little ones? 
We will! Our preschool fills up quickly because it’s so awesome. But we provide childcare and priority VBS space for children of those serving. There’s no wait listing for your child if you serve!
2. I’m too old. 
We doubt that. We have lots of seniors who serve. Our eldest is 83!
3. I don’t know the Bible very well. 
You’re in the right place to learn. We fully prepare the lesson plan for you. If you read and add love, you will help fulfill the great commission! Plus, we also need lots of people to help the teachers.
4. I can’t teach kids for 3 hours a day by myself. 
Good! Because you only get 30 minutes. The rest of the time is moving to other activities with other leaders. And every classroom has multiple leaders.
5. I don’t have time to prepare. 
We know that. We prepared everything. All crafts, activities, supplies and lessons are prepared for you. We even send instructional videos for each lesson. 
6. I don’t have time to decorate my VBS room. 
Let us know and we’ll do it for you.
7. I can’t be there every day. 
That’s OK.  We need you on days someone else can’t be there.
8. I am not very organized. 
No problem. We are! Our VBS staff is known for superior organization.
9. I’ll get hungry and thirsty. 
We understand. That’s why we provide snacks and drinks.
10. I don’t know what to wear. 
We have that covered. You can purchase a shirt at the VBS booth but it’s not required. Dress comfortably to be on the move with kids.

Vacation Bible School is June 11-14 from 9:00a - 12:00p.

Don't hesitate! Register now: VOLUNTEER REGISTRATION 

Share the Gospel and Carry a Big Stick

Kevin Kitch's Story of Growing as a Leader Through Iron Men of God 


Spiritual leadership is an important part of being a godly man. In today's society, strong, godly leaders are necessary to help grow others in Christ and with each other. Iron Men of God is a Men's ministry that is shoulder to shoulder discipleship transforming men by increasing spiritual habits and disciplines. From there, they are taught to lead in all aspects of life with a focus on the Lord. Kevin Kitch is one of the men involved in Cottonwood Creek's Iron Men of God ministry and through his experience, he has grown in both discipleship and leadership.  


Kevin was saved at the age of 17 when he was invited to church by a friend from school. Kevin started attending church, worship, and youth. "I had tons of questions," Kevin said. "I didn't grow up in a home of believers so it wasn't the lifestyle I grew up in." Kevin had all the typical questions, such as, 'Why are we here?' "After I attended church with my friend, I had answers that meant something beyond the typical 'It is what it is'," Kevin said. "Through that year of going through youth and having people be patient with me and go through the Word of God, I accepted Christ at 17 and was baptized the same year." 


Kevin got involved at Cottonwood Creek after he and his wife, Kelly, got married. They had both grown up in the Tarrant County area, but after getting married, commuting to work was becoming an inconvenience. "We began looking at houses in the Collin County area and once we got settled, started looking at different churches," Kevin said. "We went to one other church and then Cottonwood and it was the right fit. We've been here since 2006." 


Kevin's journey into Iron Men of God was a natural progression. "We started in Worship services, then Life Groups," Kevin said. "A couple of guys in our Life Group had been through Iron Men of God." Kevin was curious about the ministry, but with having to travel for his job, he had a comfortable excuse to not do it.  


It wasn't until the third year of men prodding and encouraging him, that Kevin finally got involved in Iron Men of God. "That year, God grabbed a hold of my heart," Kevin said. "I was comfortable in my walk with God. I would come to church, go to Life Group, occasionally a Bible study."


Realizing that he was complacent in his walk with God, Kevin knew he needed to do something. "I was convicted and wanted to become more consistent with family devotions at home, praying with Kelly, and even in my own quiet times," Kevin said. "I would try through my own efforts, but each time failed. Because of those reasons, God convicted me to go through Iron Men of God."  


Kevin finally began his eight months of Iron Men of God. "The ministry covers everything from studying the Word and prayer, to being a leader in your home and everywhere else," Kevin said. "It teaches you how to evangelize and how to be bold and confident enough to go out there and have those conversations with people about the Lord." 


Part of joining the Iron Men of God ministry is a discipline of obedience. "You want to surrender your own comforts," Kevin said. "During your rookie year, you get the opportunity to wear a red rookie shirt and carry a stick." The stick was twofold for Kevin: it meant he was being obedient and surrendering to God in terms of his spiritual growth, and also sharing with others that he was submitting to Him. "For me, wearing the shirt and carrying the stick wasn't a big deal because I knew I needed to change my spiritual habits," Kevin said. 


Kevin had an exciting experience where he was able to share Iron Men of God with a new couple at church. "The wife stopped me and asked what the stick was about," Kevin said. "I then met the husband and they ended up joining our Life Group. That next year, the husband joined the Iron Men of God ministry." 


Since being involved in Iron Men of God, Kevin's relationship with God and with others has changed drastically. "As an individual, not growing up in the church, I've always felt confident in my relationship with God and being saved by God," Kevin said. "One of the areas that has really helped is once I got married, became a husband, and now a father, my relationship with God was still kind of my own."


One of the things Iron Men of God changed was Kevin's boldness and confidence of having more structure in how he and his family talked about God at home. "I have become more consistent in my quiet time," Kevin said. "It really has given me the confidence of what those spiritual disciplines are. I'm not perfect, but I do know how to get back on track through those disciplines. Iron Men of God has made me more confident and bold with my family and with others." 


For more information about Iron Men of God, click here 

Growing Through Grief

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Jim Johnson's Story of Growing in His Faith Through Grieving the Loss of His Son 


Grief is one of the most difficult parts of life. It has many stages and there isn't one stage that is easier than the rest. Cottonwood Creek offers Grief Share, a ministry that doesn't let people walk alone in their grief. Jim Johnson is one of the many that has been through Grief Share and now teaches the class. Through his own loss and experience with grief, he has grown in his faith and has been blessed with the chance to walk alongside many others during difficult times. 


Jim grew up in a secular family. Growing up, he always had an emptiness in his life without knowing the Lord. "I had a great family, but I was searching for a faith," Jim said. "However, it wasn't until the attacks on 9/11 occurred that a light switch went off. I became a Christian six months later at age 48." Since then, Jim hasn't been a passive Christian either. He takes advantage of every ministry opportunity. "I always want to grow in my faith," Jim said. "Back then, I wanted to walk with the Lord as quickly as possible." 


However, Jim's faith was truly put to the test years later when his son, Matt, passed away. "Matt had a wonderful skillset," Jim said. "He went off to college at the University of Colorado in Boulder to double major in international baking and Chinese. I thought he was doing well with his reporting of good grades and evidence of progress," Jim said. "Somewhere in there, however, nobody knew that Matt had lost himself and who he was. He was going through depression." 


Four years later in 2007, Jim traveled to see Matt graduate from college. Jim had talked to him five times the day of his graduation. "He was supposed to graduate with a dual major and he sounded fine on the phone," Jim said. "However, he didn't show up at graduation and his name wasn't on the program." Jim hurried to Matt's apartment to find it depressing and disheveled. "What should've been a dad's best day was the day I found Matt with a gunshot wound in his temple, dead," Jim said. He had arrived about 20 minutes too late.  


Matt's death started a very much unwanted new chapter in Jim's life. "Before becoming a Christian, I probably would've exited the 10th story window of that Colorado hotel that night," Jim said. "However, being a new man in Christ, I called a minister named Bill Peal who stayed on the phone with me all night. I had to get the images out of my mind, so Bill worked with me."  


Two men Jim worked with picked him up the following day. "My entire church came around me and I had such a support at work to see me through the first phase of that process," Jim said. "I had been so active in my church for five years and kept thinking of 2 Corinthians 1:3-5: 


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 


I knew I needed to exhibit my faith at that time," Jim continued. "I gave myself time to initially grieve, but at his memorial, I had to take that opportunity to witness to people that God will comfort us."  


Jim moved through the process of the first phase of grief: shock. "It was a traumatic loss," Jim said. "If someone has been sick terminally, you expect the illness to take their life. For Matt, his psychological issues were every bit as terminal for him." Matt's suicide came as a total shock for Jim because Matt never asked for help. "He had written me a suicide note that morning," Jim said. "It wasn't that Matt wanted to hurt me, he just wasn't well. Technically, he was mentally ill and not the mature, young man that he made himself out to be."  


For the first three to four months after Matt's passing, Jim and his wife traveled to Europe. "We hid on the road in England, Spain, Portugal, and Italy," Jim said. "It was nice to not have a big bullseye painted on our backs. The amenity of being away was comforting, but the anxiety and stresses of grief didn't go away, so we came back." 


 Jim's wife began to feel that Jim was in a fragile place, so they decided to go through Grief Share, six months after Matt's death. "Grief Share is a thirteen-week program where you meet with a group of newly bereaved people who are in really rough emotional shape," Jim said. "When I first went, there weren't any others grieving from a suicide, but grief is grief!" 


Jim and his wife, Brenda, began Grief Share at Christ Fellowship, where they attended church at the time. "While Brenda took notes on every page, I was shell shocked," Jim said. "I was there, but didn't fully participate. I knew I was on the right path and I was starting on a long journey." 


Several years before Matt's passing, Jim had been working with a division of Campus Crusade for Christ called Military Ministries. Having always been a big supporter of the military, he was one of the volunteer workers with the soldiers. "I was treated to a front row seat to some really stout Christians and began to learn about what I was going through," Jim said. "Previous to Matt's death, I hadn't worked with post-traumatic stress disorder victims." After Matt's death however, Jim had a passion to help service men and women who suffered with PTSD. "I took it upon myself to start getting trained in it, going to various programs and workshops," Jim said. "Of course, I had a case of it myself since a traumatic stress had occurred in my life. It was not a battlefield, but it was full of the smell of gunshots and blood, and it was a loved one." 


Jim then reached a sort of rocky plateau. He related it to Gideon in Judges 6:11: 


Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. 


"Sometimes we aren't equipped for what we need to be doing," Jim said. "I was treading water. I wasn't crying every day, but I wasn't getting better or moving forward. I was stuck and this had now been four years since Matt's death."  


One of the final parts of Jim's healing process from his grief was listening to Matt's iPod. "There were 5,500 songs on it," Jim said. "I listened to that iPod through and through, trying to figure out what he was thinking. I was stuck there." During that time, Jim met a woman whose son was serving in Afghanistan. "He had asked his mom to send him music," Jim said. "He liked Texas red dirt music. That's what Matt's iPod had on it, so I gave it up to the next person who needed it." Giving that iPod up was the thing that Jim needed to do and graduate to the next part of recovery, which was now helping and comforting others.  


During that time, Jim and Brenda had also changed churches and started attending Cottonwood Creek. "This church makes your faith life come alive," Jim said. "I started attending Bible studies and eventually did a 9-month long ministry called Iron Men of God and attended Pastor John Mark's Tuesday morning men's group." During that time, Jim was asked to start serving at church. Jim decided to go back to Grief Share. "I introduced myself and told them that I was still struggling with grief after four years," Jim said. "I told the Grief Share leader that I was there to serve as her assistant." Six months later, Jim inherited Grief Share and took over. 


"That was how I came to be a Grief Share group leader," Jim said. "At first, I had the feeling that I was doing it at great personal expense. Sharing about Matt was painful." However, over time, Grief Share became simpler for Jim. He began to see how God wanted to use him. "As I tell the story of Matt's passing to people, it opens a window or doorway where it can relate to others what they're going through," Jim said. "I sat in their chair at one time. When people first come to Grief Share, they're completely broken, so it's a delicate process." Some people are fast learners, while others are slow. However, Jim guides the class to be actively leaning into each other and finding comfort in God. 


Jim realized that God had comforted him over the four years of grieving for Matt. "God brought people into my orbit and it was through them helping me and me learning to help other people that I started to find meaning in my life," Jim said. "I've taught Grief Share now for four years. I've had approximately 125 people go through these programs where I'm a group leader." Jim knows the ultimate healing comes from God. He is only a facilitator. "Grief makes sense to me," Jim said. "We grieve because we loved. [Tennyson] said it best: ''Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.'" God uses Jim profoundly now, which is where Jim finds his comfort.  

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