5 Keys to Strategic Thinking

My five year old daughter is learning to master the art of strategic thinking.  The other day she asked me to go to Toys ‘R’ Us to get a toy.  When I told her we couldn’t today, every day after that for one week, she was relentless about asking.  She continually prodded me until, one day, she figured something out.  I am a sucker for a little girl who does the dishes.  She put all the dishes away and off we went to get a brand new $10 Hello Kitty make-up set.  (I’ll post the video later of our makeover session).

But strategic thinking isn’t just about getting what you want, it’s about aligning yourself with the ultimate strategic thinker.  His name is Jesus. Over and over again Jesus took strategic, wise steps on His way to the cross.  What He answered, how He answered, it was all a part of a larger plan to die, spend three days in the tomb, then raise from the dead and redeem us from our sin.  God’s plan is always well thought out and thorough.  Our thinking, unfortunately, is easily corrupted with wrong motivations, incorrect perspectives, and a lack of insight.  What was Jesus’ advantage?  He was able to align Himself with the Father.

Thinking 10-6

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13

Strategic thinking is all about preparing your mind, but that isn’t easy.  Got a Problem? Here are 5 keys to help you become a more strategic thinker:

5 Keys To Strategic Thinking

1. Find A Place – Do you have a place to talk to God?

Many times, people don’t think strategically because they simply fail to plan the time to think things out!  They wing it, shoot from the hip and end up making all kinds of errors in execution.  If you are going to think something out, you need to get away!  I often schedule time to think about the issues I am facing.  I go away on a long walk down a trail, carry a voice recorder and a small notebook with a pencil and put my phone on silent!  Then I listen to God.  When was the last time you did this?

2. Gather Your Information Do you have all the information necessary?

Do you have the CORRECT information?  Do you have a plan for your financial health? Your spiritual health?  What about your marriage or even your physical health?  In order to make good decisions you have to have all the information necessary to go forward.  There is nothing worse then having a distorted view of current reality when you are trying to make progress.  This is especially true if you are having a conflict with someone.  Unreliable information just leads to more hurt!

3.  Shut off the Distractions – Are there times when you are unreachable?

The more responsibility you have, the more you have to prioritize being unreachable.  If you aren’t unreachable at times, you will become unbearable.  Sooner or later all the stress from always being ‘on’ and never having time to process, will wear on you and the people around you.  If you think you can burn both ends of the candle, the wick will catch up to you.  GET AWAY FROM DISTRACTIONS!  This means, the phone, the TV, The Internet, annoying people, ANYTHING that leads you to an unclear focus.

4. Begin With The End What is the big picture?

Are you clear about what the end needs to be?  If not, you have a vision problem.  Start by asking God to make the vision clear, then ask for a strategy.  A person with a clear vision and a proven strategy is a dangerous man!  Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

5. Get the Input of Others Are you relying on just one perspective?

Say this slowly out loud, “I – NEED – HELP!” Good!  Now that we have that settled, realize the input of others will almost always lead you to a better decision and a clearer pathway.  This is because people see things differently than you.  If you are in an organization, get someone with outside perspective to help you see what you don’t see.

You got this!  Now get thinking!



217church is a multisite church in Mercer County NJ with small groups for families in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that meets in the Hamilton AMC24 Theater.  Our new East Windsor Campus will meet at Grace Rogers School beginning October 13.  If you are looking for a church in Mercer County NJ, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA, don’t miss our weekend services in Hamilton at 9:30 or 11 am! Visit www.217church.com.

4 Courageous Steps You Must Take

This Sunday is our fall launch! Join us for breakfast at either 9:00am or 10:30am and celebrate what is sure to be one of our largest weekends ever!  As we enter into a new season and start a new series on Courage, I am reminded of how we were started and all the people that courageously stepped forward to help us plant 217church four years ago.

Whether you sacrificed financially, helped with our preview services, or were a part of the original launch team, I want to personally thank you for your belief in the 217church vision.  We CELEBRATE BIG this fall because we our taking our most courageous step ever as a church.  We are starting a new church location in East Windsor, New Jersey on October 13.


“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous”  Joshua 1:9

What is it that causes us to be courageous?  Is it personality, circumstances, or maybe past performance?  Courageous steps must come from absolute dependance on God.  We must learn this if we are to live the Restored life and fully follow Jesus.  What is the most courageous step you have ever taken?

4 Courageous Steps You Must Take

1. Forgive – Who do you need to forgive?

It’s that simple.  Forgiveness is sometimes the most difficult thing to do, but if you fail to take the courageous step of forgiveness, you limit your own growth.  EVEN when you have done NOTHING wrong! “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”  (Mark 11:25)  Then after we have forgiven, Jesus tells us to KEEP FORGIVING.

2. Begin – What has Jesus told you to do?

Sometimes we know Jesus has told us to do something, but we make excuses and let guilt, pain, insecurity and pride derail us from God’s best for us.  When Joshua set out to cross the Jordan river at flood stage, all he had was God’s word.  This was his only guarantee “‘When you come to the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’” (Joshua 3:8)  Joshua actually DID what God said! Try it! It works.

3. Risk – What are you afraid of?

This is very difficult but what do you have to lose?  Life is too short to live with regret of NOT obeying God and you must confront your fear.  You have to be more afraid of missing a God given opportunity than failing!  Take out a sheet of paper, write all the pros and cons of the risk.  Now that you have that done, TEAR IT UP and stop being afraid of what you can’t control. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)  You may always be a little fearful, but Courage inspired by love will guide you.

4. Trust- What do you trust in?

We have a huge problem in our culture.  Our money says “in God we trust” but most of us don’t trust God with HIS money.  That’s right it’s HIS.  You can usually tell how much someone trusts God with money by how much they give.  It’s all God’s property and he has given us specific commands and instruction to live a life of generosity and continual financial giving.  This is just one area to trust God with.  Try praying this prayer:  “give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say,“Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8-9)  Fear being poor or wanting to get rich are two reasons we won’t give.

It’s time to build our COURAGE muscle as a church!  What step is God asking you to take?

Do it!


217church is a multisite church in Mercer County NJ with small groups for families in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that meets in the Hamilton AMC24 Theater.  Our new East Windsor Campus will meet at Grace Rogers School beginning October 13.  If you are looking for a church in Mercer County, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA, don’t miss our weekend services at 9:30 or 11 am! Visit www.217church.com.

The Power of 1,000 Small Groups

I long to be a part of a church that is far more than a gathering of people for an hour a week.  I want us as 217church to be a Gospel Centered Community, rebuilding lives one person at a time.  This is my passion and is what I will give the rest of my life working for.  When I felt the calling to be a missionary for Jesus (This simply means to go anywhere he calls me to go and tell of his GOSPEL) I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself.  I discovered in a very short time, the church grows when relationships flourish.

Here is our simple vision: Reach 10,000 people, START 1,000 SMALL GROUPS, plant 100 churches, in the next 10 years, 1 person at a time.  Jesus modeled life in a small group.  He ministered to the masses and equipped the disciples as a small group and one to one.  So who is in your 12?


“And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority”  Matthew 10:1

 I believe essentially our church is called to MULTIPLY three core things.  Multiplication is implied in the Gospel If we can MULTIPLY these three things, we will be unstoppable!  These are the three environments we are committed to as a church and how we are structured in our culture to grow.  Unfortunately, many of us miss out on one or two of the below aspects of the church.

  • One On One Discipleship  (1-1)-  This relationship sharpens and admonishes us to “…present each other perfect in Christ” (Colossians 1:28-29)
  • Small Group Gospel Centered Community (8-14)-  The small group invites anyone to give feet to vision of the Gospel in every day life.  This is where we discover the nuts and bolts of how to implement Christ following.  217church has over 20 groups in 10 different townships. (For a list of groups, CLICK HERE)
  • BIG Celebrations.  (50-500+) – The weekend celebration gives us a taste of heaven as we hear the Word preached and worship collectively.  We are multiplying and starting a 2nd new worship campus in East Windsor on October 13.

6 Reasons You Need Gospel Centered Community (A Small Group)

1. Authority –

This is simple.  When Jesus sent out the disciples he sent them out two by two, but they weren’t supposed to stay as just two.  They were supposed to grow and make disciples.  This is a great strategy for starting a small group.  NEVER try and start a small group alone. Ask God for someone to help you remember the authority by which you were sent and do it together.  It isn’t by your authority but the authority of JESUS!  Here is how you are to be sent together:  “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.”  (Luke 10:19)  BAM! REMEMBER THAT ONE!

2. Belonging –

The enemies biggest deceptive strategy is to isolate you.  When he isolates you, you become weak.  You start to doubt, get discouraged and deny His identity and promises over your life.  I have found when I am alone with my own thoughts and have no one, I become weaker.  We need each other to Serve, Learn, Invite, Care for, Eat, and share the Gospel centered life.  Every time we meet together is a reminder of our new life in Jesus.   We share each others hurts, pain, and celebrations!  There are over 50, yes FIFTY, “one another’s” in scripture.  Here is just one: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

3. Realty Check –

This is the freebie that simply comes from years of experience.  Every once in a while, you need someone who knows you well to come alongside you and set you straight!  You get an idea, get tempted to make a DUMB decision, and let’s face it, we all blow it!  You need a small group to tell you like it is!  Many people run from Gospel centered community because they are selfish, prideful and don’t want to be told they are doing something wrong.  They don’t want to be held accountable.  Life is FULL of conflicts and mistakes.  You need someone to point out your blind spots.  How can we do this?  Start here:  “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)

4. Encouragement –

There is nothing quite like seeing and encouraging those on you are walking through life with.  Death, birth, sickness, pain, joy, a new job, given enough time, something is about to change.  Jesus has given us each other to deal with all these aspects of life.  I have grown very close to a few individuals who I would do literally ANYTHING for!  They help me realize and remember my needs are small and it’s NOT about ME!  What we do with the needs and feelings of others reveals our character.  Our role is to BE THERE!  BE PRESENT!  ENCOURAGE!  “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

5. Maturity –

If you actually think you will grow faster on your own than in biblical community, you will have a harder road ahead.  Part of spiritual maturity is learning how to yield to each other, how to give and sacrifice when someone is in need and how to put others needs before your own! Jesus modeled this as he “came not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

6. Multiplication –

This is where we are SENT each as missionaries to share the good news of Jesus with those in our lives.  Our church is only 4 years old and we have already multiplied several small groups.  To fully experience the Gospel, we want you to experience a multiplication of groups of groups! What is God’s plan for your friend or neighbor to see the Gospel centered life in action?  YOU!  That is right, you as a small group.  Imagine how your neighborhood would change if the people in your neighborhood saw you meeting and serving together?  Your friends can be transformed. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

You have to trust me on this one, being a part of a small group of people committed to live a Gospel Centered life is not a weird thing!  It is what we are called to do.  This weekend you will have an opportunity to join a small group, we call them 217groups.  Our leaders can’t wait to meet you and accept you as family.  Click HERE to find out more of what 217groups are about. Or, just contact Justin@217church.com.

This weekend you will hear from some small group leaders, and prepare for our fall launch and our new Joshua – Courage Unleashed Series!  Let’s all get ready for some serious progress!



217church is a church in Mercer County NJ with small groups for families in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that meets in the Hamilton AMC24 Theater and a soon-to-be announced church in East Windsor, NJ.  Our new East Windsor Campus will meet at Grace Rogers School beginning October 13.  If you are looking for a church in Mercer County, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA, don’t miss our weekend services at 9:30 or 11 am! Visit www.217church.com.

Four Practices Of A Healthy Family

Have you ever looked at your family and asked, are we normal? Ever since getting married and becoming a parent, Summer (my wife) and I have been trying to figure out how to do this thing called FAMILY.  What we have found is it’s constant adjustment, work, negotiation and sometimes struggle.  But there is no greater joy for me than loving one woman, parenting my three (soon to be four, yes, we are adopting) children, and watching them grow up into young men and women of God.  So, I am in the trenches with you figuring it out!  Lilly is 12, Titus is 10, and Lydia is 5 going on 12.


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“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it…”  Proverbs 22:6

So that leads me to a question, what should we as parents be doing to lead our families and how do we know we are doing it right?  Understand there is pain in the process!

4 Practices of a Healthy Family

#1 Practice the Gospel:  The most important thing you can teach your children is to love Jesus and to love others.  You have to teach them the story of God!  Practicing the Gospel means we serve together and it teaches why.  We are trying hard to develop a culture of serving, sacrifice and putting others needs before our own.  This is my primary job in the home as the father.  Here is a key: My kids and wife are watching me to see if I model this. If I do, they eventually follow.  Here are some practical ways to live the Gospel in your home.

  • Read the Word Together – It isn’t the church’s job to teach my kids the Bible, it’s my number 1 job!  Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart.” The only way you trust is if you know what HE SAYS!
  • A Culture of Serving – There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t ask my kids to do something.  They have to see the home exists for them to learn the skill of serving one another.  My greatest moment as a parent is when one child says something like, “Lydia, do you want me to make you dinner?”  (Usually Lilly) LOVE THIS!
  • Live as the Church – Don’t expect your children to grow up spiritually mature, valuing the body of Christ if you only make it once a month when it’s convenient for you to go to Sunday services or an occasional small group meeting.  The family of God is essential to your encouragement and your kids NEED other adults and kids to help them do life.  Especially when they are teens, you better be praying God gives them other adults to guide them when they won’t listen to you. Worship is a rhythm, get in one.
  • Pray Together – If you give your children the simple skill of how to talk to God, you will set your family up for success.  When you go through a rough time, pray.  When mom loses her job, pray. When you are disappointed, pray.  Don’t shelter them from EVERYTHING.  Remember your job is to show them the faithfulness of God over a long period of time.  You have 18 years!

#2 Practice Peace:   Can’t we all just get along!  I come from a family of “expressive” people.  I am an extrovert by nature.  However over expression does NOT lead to a peaceful environment.  This doesn’t mean parents are pushovers who just give in to the children, absolutely not.  Stand firm, explain why, and experience the tension in peace.  A home that has healthy and safe expressions of conflict will lead to a house of peace.  Proverbs 11:29 says, “whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind.”  No thank you!  Some peace practices:

  • Always Listen and Seek to Understand – Number one complaint of my kids, “you aren’t listening to me.”
  • Calm is Safe – What I have found is nothing good ever comes from yelling.  I usually yell not because it is what is good for them, but it is what I want to do.  “A gentle answer turns away wrath…”  take that Proverb to the bank.
  • Ask Good Questions – Knowing and teaching your family why they feel a certain way is just as important as the feeling itself.
  • Keep Short Accounts – Please don’t bring up last month or last year. Nothing good will come of this because you are proving you are keeping score and when we keep score there are winners and losers.  You are making your family a competition not a cooperation.  Confess your sins, ask forgiveness of each other, then give each other permission to change.

#3 Practice Love:  I’ll give you one word here: ENCOURAGEMENT! (I wrote a whole blog on this topic last week) How I love Summer dictates the temperature of love in the family.  My kids know when love is abounding and when its been too long since the last encouragement.  Let me just ask you a series of questions… Husband, when was the last time you brought your wife flowers?  Wife, when was the last time you did something for your husband that he appreciates?  Dad, when was the last time you dated your children?  Teens, when was the last time you encouraged and thanked your parents for sacrificing for you?

#4 Practice TrainingEverything you do should be training Kids to be independent, cooperative, and Christlike adults in the future.  Single mom, are you discouraged?  Realize you are making a deposit in your children’s future that is priceless and they will never forget that. Here are some things your kids need to be trained in.

  • Finances – Many high school students graduate and don’t even know how to balance a checkbook or do a budget. Parents, WAKE UP!
  • Hard Work – Teach your kids the value of hard work.  Get ’em a job!  No job, no money!  Your house is not a welfare system.
  • Relationships – Have the hard talks about boys, girls, relationships, sex etc.  Train them how to stand up for themselves to say no.  Dads, let your daughter practice smacking you in the face for when she has to say NO to her boyfriend for trying to go too far!  Whatever it takes! In the end, more is caught by the way you practice your own marriage.

Family is the backbone of our culture and our country will rise and fall on the health of the family!  I can’t wait for this Sunday to be with you!


Don’t miss our services this week as we will have a Q & A time during the service about the topic of family & parenting!   Join us this Sunday at 9:30 or 11 am at the AMC 24 Theater in Hamilton, NJ!  We are a unique contemporary church in Central Jersey dedicated to restoring lives and rebuilding and renewing the community around us.  If you live in the Mercer County, Burlington County, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA area, learn more about 217church by clicking HERE


How To Wait For The Vision

God placed the vision in my heart over eight years ago to plant 217church and this weekend we celebrate all the PROGRESS towards that vision!  The first 4 years of those 8 years, the vision wasn’t shared, not one person was baptized, and no money was given towards it.  Essentially NOTHING happened.  But just because we were delayed in the vision, it didn’t mean we were denied.  We didn’t know where, we didn’t know how, but slowly God began to reveal the place, the people and the how and what we were going to do.  In the waiting, I needed to learn some things.  I didn’t like going through it, but now I am thankful for it.


The vision is happening right in front of us…

“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”

Habakkuk 2:3 ESV

Those first four years of seeing no fruit was painful.  There was a time when I began to ask the question, “God, did I hear you right?”  Have you ever been there? Waiting is perhaps the most difficult thing to do, especially if you are a “let’s go” person like me!  I remember days and nights of frustration and confusion, feeling like I was at the end of my rope.  Patience may be a virtue, but not one that I am good at.  So let me ask you, “What are you waiting for?

How To Wait For The Vision…

#1 Pray ContinuallyPrayer cultivates dependance on God.  Great, just what you wanted to hear.  Since God’s timing usually isn’t my timing, I’m supposed to pray?  What for?  I mean, can’t God just be on our timeline for once?  Praying through the vision helped me to see “why not now.”  There were circumstances that needed to change, skills I needed to sharpen and experience that needed to gain for God to make me ready.  Whenever you get impatient, discipline yourself to pray.  Then pray some more…and some more.  Wait for it…

#2 Plan Diligently –  Planning refines the strategy God gives you.  I am eternally thankful for the “lag” time in my life between getting the vision and implementing the vision.  217church was prepared meticulously way before we ever held a public worship service or held our first 217group.  It allowed me valuable time to hone the gifts, strategy, philosophy and timing of what we needed as we started the church.  It wasn’t just about me, but I wasn’t ready.  In that time, God wanted to give us a gift named Lydia!  Planting a church with a pregnant wife would have been, well, CRAZY!  God also wanted me to wait so I could have the right team to plant with me, to reach the people we were supposed to meet.  By the time we launched, our plan was so well prepared, we just needed God to show UP!  Wait for it…

#3 Prepare Your Heart God wants you develop your character deeper than you think you can go.  This is a HUGE blind spot for most of us.  We think we are ready and we have the message and so we go.  Show me someone who has learned the art of being content in waiting for God, and I will show you a person with character.  God cares more about you than what you can do for Him.  As a matter of fact, God doesn’t need you to fulfill his vision.  He chooses if you will be used and it’s not up to you, but HIM.  Wait for it…

#4 Persevere Through DisappointmentYour disappointments may be God appointments.  At the beginning I thought I had it figured out and ready to go and there were some disappointments.  Not only did we want to plant sooner, but some people we thought were going to come with us to start the church said no to us.  There were some tough days of uncertainty and confusion, but God allowed us to get to where we are now.  Wait for it…

We are JUST GETTING STARTED!  This Sunday we will celebrate baptisms #151 and counting.  We will celebrate lives transformed and 20 small groups meeting to rebuild lives in their neighborhoods.  We will celebrate families reunited, the gift of each other and countless stories of people who used to feel neglected but now feel accepted. We will celebrate an additional location starting in October in East Windsor and anticipate many more people coming to meet Jesus!  I know it’s tough but Wait for it… God has greater things in store!



217church is a contemporary church in Mercer County, NJ serving singles and families in the following townships in Mercer County and Bucks County areas (Hamilton, Lawrenceville, Allentown, Trenton, East Windsor, West Windsor, Princeton, Hightstown, Chesterton, Bordentown, Monroe, Robbinsville, Mercerville, Yardville, Yardley, Newtown, Langhorne and more!).


Why We Need The Next Generation

Maybe you think this is an obvious observation, but I don’t think we can focus enough ensuring the success of the Next Generation!  Their success is determined by our ability to pour into them and pass on our best learning.  No matter whether it is education, healthcare or fighting poverty, things should be getting better for them.  Why?  Because if we do it right, we are passing on our experience so they don’t have to go through the pain that we experienced.  Without them, we have no purpose!  The link to the next generation is vitally important to the success of any endeavor.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”

Matthew 28:19 ESV

Jesus understood the importance of raising up the next generation of leaders in his time.  By today’s standards, Jesus was a young man who transformed the world through raising up 12 other younger men to do His work after he was gone.  This is a vision worth living for and an example of how we should live our lives.

As I was coaching my son’s baseball game last night, I saw 18 kids on the field.  ALL of them belong to someone here on earth, but more importantly, they belong to God and His plan for them.  I’m working hard with these kids to help them make the connection between hitting, fielding and teamwork.  WE ARE ALL ON THE SAME TEAM!

Why We Need The Next Generation

#1 They Complete Our FamilyCriticizing your own children is a revelation of your own failure and insecurities.  I constantly hear people in our culture BLAMING our young people for current circumstances instead of helping them.  Children are the lifeblood of our future, literally!  If you don’t care about kids and youth, you have a serious character issue and you have forgotten where you came from.  This is not only true in a nuclear family, but a church family as well.  Seeing all those young faces interact with the older faces brings me great joy on a Sunday.  Youth and kids don’t exist to serve us!  We exist to serve them!  This isn’t so they will have a sense of entitlement, but an example to follow.

#2 Without Them You Don’t Matter –  It isn’t what you learn, but what you pass on from your learning.  The question is, “did we leave things better off than when it was handed to us?” Our church will take a HUGE step in maturation when we plant a church that plants a church!  We see this vision embodied in 2 Timothy 2:2, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”  From Paul, to Timothy, to reliable people teaching others!  That is 4 generations of impact for the Gospel!  That is the target on the wall.  If the vision would have died with Paul, it didn’t mean much.

#3 They Teach Us To Dream They don’t know what they don’t know.  Most anyone who invented something or made a huge discovery had to dream it was possible.  Not knowing you aren’t “supposed” to do something is a gift from God.  So many times, the older we get the more cynical we can become.  Maybe this is why Jesus picked YOUNG men to be His disciples.  For some of us it has been years since we have had a compelling vision and dream for our life.  Get around some young people with passion and it will renew your sense of purpose.

#4 They Inspire us To Higher StandardsThe next generation is watching us to see if we really believe what we say we believe. I believe everyone is influencing someone, even when they don’t know it.  The reason you should live your life, “worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1), is because that calling extends far beyond you and what you can understand.  We all know we will in someway fail the next generation, but we must see things from their perspective and realize they are watching.

This week at 217church we will get an update of all God has been up to with our Next Generation ministries.  Our kids and youth ministries are making a difference locally and around the world through 217global!



Help, I Need More Courage!

One of the most difficult things in life to obtain is more courage.  I’ll never forget one of the most courageous things I did in my life, the moment I asked my wife to marry me.  It was a warm summer day and I was more nervous than I had ever felt in my life.  We went for a drive on a hill in the center of Eugene, Oregon, and with the ring in my hand I pulled the car over and I couldn’t wait any longer.  This would be the moment that changed us for the rest of our lives.  I got down on one knee in front of my car and asked Summer to marry me.  I knew she loved me, but I was still scared of that moment!  Three children and eighteen years later, it was one of the best courageous decisions I have made in my life.

One small decision can turn you from a spiritual slacker to a superhero!

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9 ESV

But what I have always been fascinated by are the different circumstances that cause us to make courageous or cowardly decisions.  In the bible Joshua had to choose how he was going to lead the people.  Either he was going to lead with boldness or he was going to shrink from the task of leadership.

You may even be facing a decision RIGHT NOW that you feel will make or break you.  Shrink from the moment and you will surely not receive all that is possible in your life, but seize the moment and you will begin to really live and understand the character of God.  Remember, God is a courageous God and the thing he wants to protect you from is complacency.  But there is a fine line between courage and carelessness. I’m not telling you to be foolish, but it’s time to TAKE A RISK and make a courageous choice in your life.  Here’s why…

4 Reasons to Make A Courageous Decision

#1 Courage Deepens Your Connection With GodCourage actually creates dependency.  When all you have is God, it’s amazing how close you become.  When you first came into a relationship with God, you didn’t have all the answers, so what makes you think you will have the answers now?  Life is often full of questions more than answers, and the unanswered questions, even in the circumstances of uncertainty, can draw us closer into dependance on God.  Don’t think that by taking risks you are immediately going to get answers either.  But if you decide intentionally to seek out the answer, in due time, Jesus will show you.

#2 Courage Gives You Hope –  Courageous people are hopeful people.  The courage it takes to cut a credit card to start getting out of debt.  The courage it takes to say I’m sorry when you are obviously wrong.  The courage to let go of the past and forgive others.  The courage it takes to give of your finances, even when you don’t see where the rest of the money is coming from.  Making courageous decisions is the gateway to hope and will make you a leader!

#3 Courage Changes Your Perspective Courage gives you God’s vision.  Making courageous decisions will cause you to see things in ways you have never seen before.  I don’t want to live my life asking, “what if?”  I would much rather make a few mistakes and sense the power and presence of God at work in my life.  I want to be refined  failure and learn to hear God’s voice.  If you want a different take on life, start acting courageously.

#4 Courage Is ContagiousYour courage inspires courage! One of my desires for 217church is to create a culture of courage.  Courage should always be about the greater good of the people around us.  Courage is not about us!  It’s about others catching the vision to start trusting God and making bold steps in their lives. This means when we see one person making bold choices, it causes us to want to make bold choices.  If nothing else, seeing one courageous act can cause us to reflect on our own need for courage.

I’m not sure what you are facing today, but whatever courageous step you need to take, it’s time to Take A Risk and make it happen!



What is one way to increase your courage?  Make a commitment to a 217group and start seeing God work in others lives over long periods of time.  You will grow more in a group than you will on your own. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)  You can learn more about our 217groups in New Jersey and Southeastern PA and get involved with one here!

3 Reasons To Pray Bold Prayers

When it came to prayer, I have to admit, I never used to think I was very good at it.  It always seemed difficult for me and I always struggled with thinking prayer was for those really spiritual people who were obviously more in tune with God than I was.  I locked the idea of prayer up in a group study or a public worship service.  Especially during extended times of prayer, the distraction and seeming competition of, “who can pray the most holy prayer” really began to annoy me.  But then I discovered something; God didn’t care how holy I sounded or how many really cool theological terms I used while I prayed.  He just wanted me to OPEN MY MOUTH! Preferably in PRIVATE

“If you believe you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”  Matthew 21:22
Getting desperate enough to pray is right where God wants us.  He wants to teach us to open our mouths.  In the car, walking the dog, sitting alone in a coffee shop, in a park, in a chair on my deck.  It doesn’t matter where I am, prayer could happen at a moment’s notice.  As a church this is an incredibly important week for us because we are going to rediscover as a church that prayer is a primary work of the people of God and He wants us to talk to Him.


“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” John 14:13

Here are some simple benefits of Praying Bold Prayers…

  • CharacterGod wants to restore us to him through building our character.  Continual prayer builds character.  So many times we only pray when we need something.  Isn’t it annoying when the only time you hear from someone is if they need something from you?  That is called manipulation and usury. The more time I spend with Jesus, the more my character deepens and increases.  How you pray determines your character.  How you pray defines your relationship with God.  If you only approach God when you “need” Him, God is not your God, he is the last resort to bail you out.  He is your “genie in a bottle”  OPEN YOUR MOUTH OFTEN,  He will never grow tired of hearing your voice.  Your character depends on it.
  • Confidence – Can we just keep prayer simple for a change?  Here it is:  Tell God what you think, how much you love Him and ask Him what to do. The next time you are tempted to do a “performance prayer” slap yourself and remind yourself God wants you to come to Him as you are.  You can approach Jesus with confidence boldly!  It’s not about your vocabulary but your VOICE!  OPEN YOUR MOUTH.   “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
  • Clarity– Without the voice of God you will operate on the “best guess” system.  You will be lost, always living in the FOG of the next decision . You will look to others first, yield to popular opinion and then most often take the path of least resistance.  Jesus gives clarity and always is true to the Bible as the source of clarity.  In Jesus’ own words, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ Matthew 4:4  OPEN YOUR MOUTH AFTER you have closed it long enough to LISTEN to Him!

So what does this mean for our community?  This Sunday will be unlike any other gathering we have ever experienced at 217church.  We will have the opportunity to boldly approach Him through the power of Jesus as a community in unity and ask for some pretty deep stuff. Physical and emotional healing will happen this Sunday.

Our church is heading into a season of praying some desperate prayers!  We have so many decisions to make and God’s vision is getting clearer and clearer for us every day.  Jesus loves this community more than we can possibly understand and we are on a mission to show people Jesus.  Something BIG is about to happen and it starts inside your heart.  God wants to do something deep in you so he can do something HUGE through you.

Don’t miss this Sunday…

Don’t be shy, OPEN YOUR MOUTH!


217church is a contemporary church in Mercer County, NJ serving singles and families in the following townships in Mercer County and Bucks County areas (Hamilton, Lawrenceville, Allentown, Trenton, East Windsor, West Windsor, Princeton, Hightstown, Chesterton, Bordentown, Monroe, Robbinsville, Mercerville, Yardville, Yardley, Newtown, Langhorne and more!).

How to Be Consistent – Fear The Turtle

Wow!  We just had our Easter services and for the first time in 3 years we had over 600 people, 626 to be exact.  By no means have we “arrived,” but we are growing consistently.  Some people would say would are a rapidly growing church, but to me we are slowly, consistently sharing the Gospel with more people.  We have more people worshiping on Sunday, more small groups, more baptisms, more children (over 125 last week), more youth and we gave away more money, food, and resources than we ever have in a single 12 month period!  How?  One word CONSISTENCY.  Do what God says and do it over a very long period of time, even when it hurts, and you will see fruit.

“…for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness,” James 1:3

Anyone can get off to a fast start, but you need to FEAR THE TURTLE!  I believe that every challenge our church has had over these past three years has made us stronger and taught us to be more CONSISTENT!  We have been discouraged, confused at times, tired and all those tests have made us stronger.  God doesn’t give us challenges to disappoint us, but to discipline us to grow in our commitment to what HE HAS TOLD US TO DO!  Obedience over the long haul makes us more useful to God.

4 Ways to Improve Your Consistency (Fear the Turtle)

  • Seek To Know Yourself  – Being self aware is the key to the next growth step in your life.  If you aren’t honest with where you are, you will NEVER get to where you want to be.  This is a difficult reality to cope with because you must address the brutal facts.  How consistent are you? When you fail, are you humble?  Do you immediately go to God and others about your weaknesses? If you think you don’t need any improvement in this area, stop reading NOW!  Do something else with these next 3-5 minutes.
  • Establish Daily Disciplines  – What are your non-negotiables?  What in your life do you say, “THIS IS HAPPENING TODAY NO MATTER WHAT!  Ok, I know that the “d” word for most of you is like a curse word.  It comes with baggage and pressure.  However, daily discipline is the KEY to growth.  What are your daily disciplines?  12 times the word discipline shows up in the book of Proverbs alone.  Here is one, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.”  Proverbs 12:1
  • Improve Best Practices – If you don’t have a set of ‘best practices’, you need this bad!  What works?  What doesn’t work?  Achieving a goal over the long haul will require you to be a learner and constantly be determining what you need to start doing, keep doing, and STOP doing!  At 217church we are constantly learning in every capacity and asking, “how can we serve and love people better.”  How do we do this?
  1. Celebrate EVERY victory -Never, ever let a win pass by without some type of celebration.  If something works, celebrate and repeat.
  2. Get an Encouraging Team – Accountability to your best practices is important.  Someone better be walking around lifting people up!
  3. Be a Learner – If you think your ways are always right, you will fail!  Failure to learn = failure
  4. Write it Down – If you write a practice down, you can pass it on to whoever comes after you.  Live with the next generation of leaders in mind.
  • Keep Your Eye On The PrizeIf you take your eye off the prize, discouragement, distraction and disengagement may happen.  You need to keep the big goal in front of you in order to achieve consistent growth.  Our BIG Goal at 217church is to make 10,000 disciples, start 1,000 small groups, plant 100 worship sites, in 10 years 1 person at a time.  Are we close?  Nope?  But that’s the target!  We have only baptized 150 people.  We don’t know when the next move of God is coming, but we want to be ready!  This helps us to be CONSISTENT.

So isn’t it time to TAKE A RISK and consistently Do What God Says? This is the topic this Sunday at 217churchIt’s time to align your actions with your heart!  More turtles, less rabbits! Ready, set…plod.


Join us Sunday at the AMC24 theater in Hamilton. Our service times are 9:30 & 11am.  Children’s programming is available for birth through 5th grade through our 217kids ministry in theater 15.

217church is a contemporary church in Mercer County, NJ serving singles and families in the following townships in Mercer County and Bucks County areas (Hamilton, Lawrenceville, Trenton, East Windsor, West Windsor, Princeton, Robbinsville, Mercerville, Yardville, Yardley, Newtown, Langhorne and more!).

Courgeous Leadership – Episode #3 The Plant Jersey Podcast


What would your life be like if you had more Courage?  So many times we let fear overtake us and we don’t take a step forward because we don’t believe we can actually accomplish something.  Anyone who has had to make a BIG decision in the last year will resonate with this.  When it comes to being a pastor and a leader, FEAR is a constant companion and never seems to go away.  No matter how many times you overcome fear, it is relentless.  What does it mean to be a courageous leader?  In this third episode of the Plant Jersey Podcast, two church planting pastors, Josh Conn of 217church, and Matt Murphy of Element church discuss 7 attributes of a courageous leader as seen in the life of Jesus.

It’s time to activate your faith and lead courageously

7 Attributes Of A Courageous Leader

  • Humble Servant – We all have the pride disease, but the most courageous thing you can do as a leader is pass along the credit and serve others.  Matthew 23:11 says, “the greatest among you shall be your servant”
  • Moral Character – Courageous leaders stand up for what is right even when it is unpopular, actually most of the time it IS unpopuar.  Jesus cleared the Temple in Matthew 23 when the people made it a place of business. Not a popular decision
  • Dependent on Jesus – Somewhere along the way, you have to switch from wanting to accomplish all your ideas to working for God ideas.  The difference between a God idea and a good idea is this:  If you don’t need God for your vision, you aren’t depending on Him.  Approach your vision with absolute dependency on JesusMatthew 24;39 says, “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
  • Perseveres through Discouragement- Your are Going to fail, that is a fact.   but courageous leaders find the courage to begin again, even in the face of critics and major disappointments and discouragements.  Jesus was betrayed denied and accused all in the same day, but he persevered to the cross.
  • Perseveres through Fear – You are going to be afraid, I think a certain amount of fear is good for you.  Take your fears and initiate!  Jesus needed his heavenly father as he approached the cross and he begged him for a different plan. Jesus said, “take this cup from me.”
  • No Quit Attitude – Jesus didn’t quit on you and he never will!  He never leaves us or forsakes us. Hebrews 13:5 Jesus died, took our sin and God forsaked Him.  But He IS ALIVE!
  • Resurrection Lifestyle – Courage is ultimately drawn from the power of the resurrection at work in us.  We see a drastic change in Peter from before and after the resurrection.


What is holding you back from being more courageous in your life?

The plant Jersey Podcast is an initiative of Element Church and 217church  Two contemporary churches in Mercer County, NJ  and Middlesex County, NJ.  Our vision to extend the Gospel through church planting. We desire to plant 100 churches throughout the state of New Jersey.  We are starting a new location in East Windsor, NJ in October of 2013.  If you are interested in joining our movement, please e-mail Josh@217church for more information.

We serve Middlesex County, Mercer County and Bucks County areas (Hamilton, Lawrenceville, Trenton, East Windsor, West Windsor, Princeton, Robbinsville, Mercerville, Yardville, Yardley, Newtown, Langhorne, North Brunswick, South Brunswick, New Brunswick, and more!)  Join us!