PORTSMOUTH — One year after opening a new facility in Somersworth, rapidly expanding Next Level Church will begin conducting services at its fourth location, this Sunday.
Next Level's Portsmouth home will be the new Cinemagic Theaters in Southgate Plaza on Route 1, with two non-denominational "experiences," each Sunday at 8:30 and 10 a.m., according to location pastor Ben White.
"We call it experiences rather than services or Masses," White said, describing a mix of live acoustic rock music, fog machines and light shows in conjunction with teachings from the Bible.
"We always want to keep up with the times — stay students of culture," White, 32, said. At the same time, he added, Next Level's priority remains "keeping Jesus as a focus at all times."
Next Level works to remain current in other ways, as well. While the church encourages face-to-face encounters, White said, it also records and broadcasts services/experiences while its website offers daily and weekly discussions, as well as blog interactions.
White said that while the cultural aspects of the church help connect with younger audiences, older people often are attracted by the passion invoked at Next Level.
"We believe that the next generation always needs to be the priority, because they are harder to reach and harder to keep in the church," he said. "We're looking for later generations that want to pray for, empower and mentor younger ones."
He said the church's objective is to create a congregation "that is non-judgmental and accepting of everyone, encouraging and uplifting to everyone who comes and while sharing the timeless truth of the Bible."
Expanding into Portsmouth is part of that process.
"We do have a vision to be 'one church, multiple locations' at Next Level, so Portsmouth's location is going to have the same feel and DNA as all of our other locations," White said. "Our hope is to bring the love of Jesus to the Seacoast and all of New England."
Next Level has about 1,300 regular participants at its other locations, White said, and he expects about 200 participants in Portsmouth.
He described newcomers to Next Level as "mostly with people who are meeting Jesus for the first time."
Launched in the auditorium of Dover High School on Easter Sunday 2008, Next Level Church expanded to Portland, Maine, in 2010 and Danvers, Mass., in 2012, and has since opened facilities in Epping and Somersworth. Further expansion is under way in Northern Massachusetts, as well.
By 2020, White said, the church hopes quadruple its membership and have 20 locations throughout New England.
For more information, visit http://nlc.tv.