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Intern Story: Rachel Jones

Rachel Jones: Communications Intern


What did your life use to look like that would relate most to the non-Christian? 
I went through a rough patch spiritually, not being super close with God. I took having Him for granted in a way. I worried a lot about life, what people thought, and what the future held.

What did you rely on the most before accepting Christ? Where did your security and happiness come from?  
Love from others and other people's approval. 

When was the first time you heard the gospel and was exposed to dynamic Christianity? What were your initial reactions? 
I can't remember the first time, but I basically grew up with it. I thought it was cool, "thanks Jesus", but didn't really take it to heart.  

When did you feel the Lord reveal Himself to you and begin to turn your attitude around? 
There were two times: the first was when I went to youth camp senior year. I learned to live my life more for Him and less for myself. The other time was in college, about ¾ through the semester, I had the "taking God for granted" mindset and was doubting God. I was worried about the world and life in general, but talking about it with people, as well as going to a beach retreat with a campus ministry, and attending my church in Auburn combined rekindled that flame and truly understood more about the realness of God.  

What are some specific changes that Christ has made in your life? 
I now really just want to show His love to others. I want to build communities with other Christians and show what God is to non believers 

Is there a Bible verse that you hold near to your heart that encourages you of Christ’s impact in your life? 

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." Ecclesiastes 3:11 – I like it because it's a good reminder that God has a plan, even though we don't always know what it could be. 

In what parts of your life do you pray for the Lord to continue to work in? 
Not worrying about things, showing kindness to others, and not being bothered if someone is unkind to me. 

If you could go back and talk to your former self before accepting Christ, what would you tell yourself? 
God is so great. The devil is going to make you doubt Him and make you think the world is more important than eternity, but always remember God is greater. 

How do you go about approaching non-Christians and telling them about the Lord? 
Build a relationship with them... give it time. Show them kindness. And then start talking, invite them to church. From there, God's light will shine through.  

Who are three people connected with your testimony? Why have they been such an influence in your life connecting to your testimony? 
My mom and dad because they show God's unconditional love. They always show me forgiveness. Also, my boyfriend because he supported me throughout my doubt and worries and he was a good reminder that God is there. 

Since accepting Christ, how have you been an influence on others around you? 
I'd like to think that I'm welcoming to people and good at bringing people together. I try to show everyone respect and love because everyone is important. I also try to not let anyone say anything bad about anyone else.  

What initially called you to serve at Cottonwood Creek? 
It felt right. All the other options were closed doors and this one opened. I knew I'd be helping Jesus and still doing what I love. It's a good time investment to help the church.  

What called you to serve in the specific ministry that you're currently in? 
I'm studying marketing, so this internship pertains to my major. God was definitely directing me this way.  

What have you learned so far from this internship? What do you hope to gain out of it? 
How much thought goes into everything in a church, a lot of prayer and time that goes into everything they do. I hope to gain a stronger relationship with God and also a good community, and get to know the people that work here.  

How have you been able to express your spiritual gifts during this internship? 
I would say I've been able to express my creativity and encouragement. I enjoy doing the social media work and being around others! 


Atheist Encounter: Session One

Noted author and apologetics speaker, Sean McDowell, kicked off our recent Truth Talks Conference in which he donned a pair of “atheist glasses,” and invited questions from the audience. Now, you may be thinking: “Why is this Christian acting like an atheist?” or “What good is a pair of atheist glasses?” Those are good questions, and I will get to both of those—and others—before the end of this post.  But first, I want to address a few basics on atheism. 


What Is An Atheist And Atheism?   

The word atheist comes from the combination of two Greek words “a” (without) and “theos” (God).  So, literally speaking, an atheist is someone who is “without God.” The modern day definition is “a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any god.1 Atheism is a system of belief or “worldview” that rejects God. 


Who Is An Atheist?   

No one knows for sure, but two recent studies tell us some interesting facts worth considering.  The Pew Research Center noted in a 2014 study that there were approximately 1.7 million atheists in America,  but this figure was double the 2007 figure.2 A 2015 Barna study noted similar demographics:  atheists tend to be younger males (30’s), highly educated (43% with college degrees),  and white (although gender and racial representation is increasing).3  


What Do Atheists Believe?   

As Sean noted in his talk, atheists tend to believe along a spectrum ranging from those who reject “all gods and anything supernatural” to those who only reject the “Christian God of the Bible or some aspect of Christianity.  Indeed, the Pew study found that 8% of atheists say they believe in “god” or a “universal spirit.”  Sixty-five percent of atheists say they never discuss their “religious views” with “religious people.” This range of belief is why Barna has essentially grouped atheists in with “skeptics.”  Skeptics are those who either reject God entirely (atheist) or are not sure about God’s existence, the Bible, etc., yet they are open to discussion and possibilities (agnostic).  Six out of ten skeptics own a Bible!  Both Barna and Pew find that skeptics make up roughly 25% of the population, and they are the fastest growing of the “unchurched” or religiously “unaffiliated.”   


A few other characteristics of skeptics is useful to know: (1) they reject the Bible as being supernatural in any way; (2) they do not trust the local church; (3) they are widely exposed to cultural reinforcement of a secular humanism worldview; and (4) they tend to look to “science” to answer questions of right and wrong.  


So What?   

Let me answer that by summarizing a story Sean told onstage.  He was at a large Christian conference conducting a similar address and role playing as an atheist.  The predominantly Christian crowd amusingly took him to task, jeered him, and declared debate victory. After the conference, a young lady came to him and thanked him for doing his best to “defend atheism.” Sean was puzzled until he found out that this young lady was also an atheist, and she struggled with her beliefs.   


She had grown up in a Christian home, read her Bible, went to church, and was now a youth leader at her church.  But, she had never gotten satisfactory answers to her questions, so she stopped asking them, and essentially became an atheist  


She did not want to endure the treatment Sean received by self-identifying as an atheist. Now, it’s probable that this young lady was not a hardened atheist, rather, she just needed someone to provide thoughtful answers and engaging dialogue regarding her questions. The point of this story is that the chances of you running into a skeptic (atheist or agnostic) in either your community or your church are likely, and how you respond can have far reaching and long lasting effects.   


Now What?  

At the start of this post, I asked: “Why was a good Christian like Sean acting like an atheist?”  and “What good is a pair of atheist glasses?” Sean had a two-fold point to make.  

First, he wanted to familiarize the audience with how an atheist might respond to Christian questions. True to form, Sean (role playing as an atheist) responded to audience questions with educated answers, big words, changes of subject, sentence parsing, scholarly references, and academic and scientific language.  First point:  Could Christians effectively engage an atheist? That depends.  Is your goal to win an argument or present Christlikeness and the Gospel?   

Secondly, the “glasses” were not only used to represent the atheist’s worldview, they were also for Christians to see the world from the atheist’s perspective. You might call them “mirrored atheist glasses.”  On one hand, the audience sensed the frustration in trying to communicate and handle objections in order to make a coherent point during debate.  Additionally, we sensed the emotion welling up as discussions progressed with someone who—although we vehemently disagreed with themwas educated, reasonably informed, well-spoken and confident.  When Sean stepped out of role-playing and asked how we would “assess” our reception to our atheist “guest,” audience responses were telling: “hostile,” “antagonistic,” “ineffective,” “snarky,” “defensive,” and “trying to trap.” Second point:  How are you communicating?  That depends.  Are you genuinely concerned with the spiritual well-being and eternal destination of the skeptic?   


The Apostle Paul was no stranger to opposition, and he spent some serious discipleship time with young Timothy teaching him how to engage.  In 2 Timothy 2:24-26, Paul provides some timely instruction that is as true today as it was then: 


The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. 


Paul’s words are the essence of apologetics, and he practiced what he preached. Just as Paul did at Mars Hill (Acts 17), modern believers are called to do the same. Our goal is not to win arguments.  Our goal is to provide answers for our hope that point to Jesus Christ and to pray that God would draw unbelievers to Himself.  Our most heartfelt prayer for you as you engage these Truth Talks is the same as the one Sean gave to close this session: “May you grow in your own faith, understand others, and guide them to answers.”  

Visit here for the audio from Session One.











In the Midst of the Storm

Shannon Murphy's Story About Trusting God Throughout Life's Trials


Most testimonies are a full story. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end. A storm arises in a person's life, that person has to decide whether or not to stand firm through the storm, then finally the storm clears and life goes on, leaving the person changed and having their eyes opened to something new. But what about the people whose stories are not finished yet? The ones who are still standing in the middle of the storm? Cottonwood Creek's very own teacher of the New Hope Life Group, Shannon Murphy, has been all too familiar with what it is like to go through trials in life. However, seeing how strong his faith is in God is proof that no matter what the outcome of his storm is, he will still make it out stronger than ever before.   


Growing up as the son of a pastor, Shannon was surrounded by a Christian family and community. However, he lived by going through the motions of a true believer. He had the mindset that since he grew up in a Christian family, had a pastor for a father, and went to church, he was saved. It wasn't until he was seven years old at a tent revival that he truly made his faith his own and began a genuine and personal relationship with God.   


Since then, that genuine faith in the Lord has guided Shannon in overcoming trials in life. “It’s easy to become sure of things," Shannon said. "When you have the mindset that everything is permanent in this world, you stand on shaky ground.” After twenty-four years of marriage, Shannon experienced a very painful divorce. “My divorce shook me," Shannon said. "Not only with the thought of how could this happen but also the perception that I was the only one going through it. My parents, my grandparents, their marriages had lasted. It was an embarrassment, but also an eye opener for me." His divorce showed him that he had not been the spiritual leader of the household that his family had been needing. During his marriage, his focus was not on his relationship with God, but after the divorce, all his focus was on his relationship with God. 


After the initial shock of his impending divorce, Shannon called the Minister of Care, Robert Bennett, who referred him to Pastor John Mark's men's Bible study. The night before the Bible study, Shannon's best friend growing up got in touch with him and asked how he was. Shannon replied with letting him know that many things were on the line, including his marriage. The following morning at the men's Bible study, Pastor John Mark called him out, which led Shannon to pouring everything out to the other men about struggling with his divorce. That same morning, at the exact same time in College Station, his friend and the rest of his very own Bible study class prayed over Shannon's text message towards Shannon.   


After visiting the men's Bible study, Shannon began attending Divorce Care at Cottonwood. It was there where he was blessed with new, supportive friendships. From there, it was how the idea of the New Hope Life Group was created.  


Shannon and many other people in Divorce Care felt like they needed to create their own Life Group at Cottonwood, one that wasn't labeled as either a singles or couples class. They decided to go forward and create a Life Group that was open to anyone and everyone who needed encouragement and hope in times of trials and struggles. During this time, Pastor Justin Frazier approached Shannon and asked him if he would like to teach the New Hope Life Group. Shannon said he did not feel like the right person for the job. Pastor Frazier's reply? "You were made for such a time as this." Who better to lead a Life Group full of people who were struggling than someone who had his fair share of it as well? It was at that moment that Shannon decided to let God lead him through this new chapter of being the New Hope Life Group teacher.  


Throughout teaching the New Hope Life Group, Shannon made many close friendships, most prominently with a woman named Amy Thomas. They became close friends and eventually started dating. However, things changed drastically for both of them when Amy was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer in early 2017. This revelation caused Shannon to have many serious moments of doubt. How could God take something that gave him so much joy away from him after all that he had been through with healing from his divorce? It was in one of those moments of doubt that his friend came to him and said, "Maybe she's not supposed to be here for you. Maybe you're supposed to be here for her." Throughout this season, Shannon said, "I think God is teaching me to lean on Him and to not have any total faith or hope in anything of this world other than Him."   


Without the Lordit would be extremely difficult for one to keep moving forward throughout these trials in lifeButShannon knows that the only way to keep moving forward is with the Lord alongside Himfollowing Himand putting his trust in Him. "I will eventually see God’s goodness," Shannon said. "Circumstances don’t determine how big of a God we haveWhether it’s on this side or the other sideHe will bring you out of itI know this will make me strongerIt’s easy to coast in your spiritual life and marriage… but always strive to keep growing.” Shannon holds onto the fact that in the painthere is still promised joy. He said so many people have the mindset of “I serve God as long as 'fill in the blank.'” Whether that be getting a much needed jobletting a marriage work outetcButShannon believes God wants us to turn the things we love the most over to Him. “When everything is stripped away and all you have is you and Godit’s like a child calling out to his daddy,” Shannon said. God's Word has also spoken to Shannon's heart in times of doubtOne specific passage he always turns to is Matthew 16:13-15:  


When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippihe asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still othersJeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  


Shannon feels the Lord ask him time and time again who He isIs He the Healer? Protector? Provider? Shannon knows that God asks him this question to remind him that He is all powerful and loving through all circumstancesShannon also feels blessed with the people that God has put in his life to support himAmy ThomasPastor Justin FrazierMinister of Care Robert Bennetthis fatherand those in the New Hope Life Group. “If you find that you don’t fit inyou fit right in with the New Hope class," Shannon said. "We are not the class of tragedyThere is lots of laughterlots of hopeOur class is growing and we will always grow. This class is the triage on the frontlines of the battleThis Life Group is what cleans and bandages people upthen sends them onto the 'hospitali.e. the church. The church is a hospital for sinners.”   


Shannon knows that this story will eventually end, even though he does not know the specific outcome. All he can do is trust that God will provide and carry him through it. He knows there are so many other people in the middle of their own storm. He encourages them to hold onto God's promises. “We have a loving and caring Father," Shannon said. "The joy we seek can be found anywhere with Him. So many of us are in a ‘fix it ourselves’ mindset, yet what we need to do is rest and wait on God.”  


For more information on the New Hope Life Group, visit here.


Ellen's Testimony

It is a wonderful blessing to know that the work that the Lord does at Cottonwood Creek Church touches so many lives. Some of those lives are on the other side of the world. Meet Ellen, a dedicated follower of Christ and one of our many viewers online.

Ellen has been living in Germany for the past forty years, although she has family residing in Allen, Texas. She has been a believer in Jesus since she was fourteen years old. Although she loves and follows God, living in a fallen world had caused her to walk a “crooked path”. However in the past few months, God had been speaking to her in many different ways, most prominently through Cottonwood Creek Church.

Ellen says she felt “desperate to find good preaching… and was very hungry for God’s Word.” That lead her to searching online where she found Cottonwood Creek Church’s website. She was excited to see that there were already a plethora of sermons prerecorded and she began downloading and listening to them. She then realized that Cottonwood offered online services which led her to “faithfully watching” them every weekend. 
“Pastor John Mark is a wonderful pastor. He explains everything so very well in simple terms. It makes me hungry for more… I can’t explain how blessed I feel having found Cottonwood and how blessed I feel having the Lord.”

The main quality that Ellen says Cottonwood Creek Church exemplifies is true, genuine love. Whether it be the topics of the sermons or the activities that the church puts together, she thinks the Cottonwood family has been true sowers of the seed. Ellen is completely grateful to be a part of the Cottonwood Creek family, even by just watching it online. She says, “I can’t stop watching. I can’t stop getting enough of God’s Word because of your church.”

Ellen has been extremely touched by different testimonies from Cottonwood Creek. One particular testimony struck her heart, however: Gail Williams. “Her testimony, I watched over and over again because it touched my heart. It talked to me directly in having the same kind of hardships… if she can get past her struggles with the Lord Jesus Christ’s help, so can I.”

Ellen says that loving and following the Lord has been the simplest thing to do. “What greater love do you need to see? Jesus loves you and your life can be so easy having faith in someone who loves you so very much. Life is so much easier and you’re blessed. Even though you have struggles… you’re going to have peace.” Because of this revelation, Ellen praises the Lord fervently and calls Him her Beloved Prince of Peace.

During this time, Ellen truly felt the call to show her obedience and faithfulness to the Lord through baptism. She was blessed with that opportunity just a few months later in December 2016 at Cottonwood Creek Church.

Ellen knows that even though she is only one person all the way in Germany who watches online, she still feels drawn to Cottonwood Creek. She says she would love to listen to the live music and live sermons and be a part of the congregation in person. “I want everyone to know how truly blessed you guys are to be able to physically come to a church like this and be able to hear good messages of God’s Word and music and praise to the Lord Jesus. I don’t know how to express enough how blessed I think you guys really are and I hope you guys know that.”

Ignite Week

IGNITE Week 2017 was a huge success!  Over 500 Cottonwood Creek volunteers cared for our community by serving with 22 local organizations and ministries.  We ministered to the homeless, fatherless, impoverished, disabled, immigrants, and children.


We have so many opportunities to serve our community going forward!  We want to IGNITE you to continue showing the love of Christ in your community by getting plugged into a local ministry.


Follow this link to find your own OnMission opportunity:

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