RockPointe opening satellite church in Liberty Hill
By WAYLON CUNNINGHAM
Regardless of the weather forecast, 40,000 pounds of snow is coming to Liberty Hill this Christmas Eve as part of RockPointe Church’s “Glow in the Dark” festival at their new satellite campus.
In addition to the snow, brought in by an outside company’s ice truck, the Leander-based church’s Christmas celebration will also feature a hayride, a large Christmas tree, a bonfire, light displays, live music, snacks, and a presentation involving audience participation with glow sticks.
“John describes Jesus as a light that shines for all mankind, so that’s where the “glow in the dark” came from,” said Shayne O’Brien, RockPointe’s pastor. “But at the same time, why can’t we have fun with glow sticks?”
RockPointe Church leaders hope the Liberty Hill festival, whose equivalent in Leander last year saw over 1,500 people attend, will draw attention to their new satellite campus, situated at the former location of Beck Funeral Home. Services there will begin Jan. 8, 2017.
RockPointe came to many residents’ attention when two billboards went up this past month with provocative messages not typical of church advertising.
One reads, “Church Sucks,” and lists a URL to a page on their website.
“We actually didn’t come up with that,” said O’Brien. “Someone once told me that, and I still hear it all the time.”
The billboard’s text comes out of a five month period in 2001, when O’Brien first moved to Leander, and went door-to-door to collect the opinions of people who didn’t go to church.
“I didn’t want to stop until I had talked to 2,000 people. If they didn’t answer, it didn’t count. If they went to church, it didn’t count. What counted was the guy that didn’t go to church. I also counted it if they slammed the door in my face. I wasn’t trying to save anybody, it was an opinion poll. I wanted to find out what people’s problems were with church.”
RockPointe Church’s unorthodox style emerged as a response to what O’Brien heard during that period, he said.
“People are right when they see a lot of hypocrisy in church. Our response here is authenticity. We’re a church for people that don’t usually go to church.”
His own pastoral style pushes against the traditional connotations of “preaching.”
“As pastors, we’re the first to tell you that we struggle with temptation,” O’Brien said, referring to himself and Mario Morales, his associate pastor who will be managing the new Liberty Hill campus. “We’re normal people. If you think we’re hypocrites, you’re probably right, and you’ll fit in with us.”
O’Brien, who served as a youth pastor for 13 years throughout West Texas before beginning RockPointe, said that he attempts to connect with people through stories of his own “screwed up life.”
“It’s amazing how we all have some of the same struggles,” he said.
Morales, who also spent over a decade as a youth pastor before assuming his current role, said their church’s aim is to reach new people.
“That continually requires new approaches,” he said. “If you stay the same, you just age out. And we see that happening everywhere.”
The Leander church draws a congregation of around 1,000 every Sunday. Out of those, O’Brien and Morales estimate about 200 come in from Liberty Hill.
“With this new location, we want to provide the convenience for people in this area who already go to our church,” said O’Brien. “And as growth hits here, we want to already be here as an established church that’s real. We want people to have a church available where you don’t have to fit a certain mold, where you can just come as you are.”
The Liberty Hill location acts as a satellite campus to the Leander church in a literal sense. Congregants at Liberty Hill will see a live music performance followed by a live streaming of O’Brien’s message at the Leander location.
“This is not a new church. It’s a 15-year-old church that’s opening up a new location,” said O’Brien.
Morales compares his role as the new campus’ pastor to the one he played in his previous career in the corporate world, where he oversaw the creation of new stores in a franchise.
“My biggest role there was making sure the new manager was building a good team around them. I want to do the same here. I want to get together with people and ask, ‘What’s going well, what’s not going well, and how can we make people say this is amazing?’”
Morales also leads services in the Leander location occasionally.
The services at Liberty Hill will start Jan. 8, 2017, and are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Leander services are at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., and 11:59 a.m., because, O’Brien explains, “no one wants to go to church at noon.”