Fulfilling Dreams – Day 19

You don’t go as far as your DREAM, but as far as your TEAM

Today’s reading – Acts 6:1-7

I am writing tonight from the Dominican Republic.  We as a church and family have the privilege of supporting an incredible mission organization called Mission 25/35.  They are working tirelessly to do four things in the Santiago area of the D.R. to promote sustainable communities.  Clean water, food, healthcare and job training.  These four pillars are the foundation of the dream of this mission outpost.  I am here with the leadership dreaming and visioning a way forward for the incredible work they are doing.  And let me tell you, the dream is big and the team is capable and incredible.

“Don’t just tell me what you are going to do, show me, invite me, and let’s do it together.”

“And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of disciples multiplied greatly Jerusalem.”  Acts 6:7


Have you ever had a BIG dream that never came to pass?  Most of us have experienced the disappointment of something we felt called to but never saw come to fruition.  Maybe the most important question you will ask is, “who is with me?” The disciples had the courage to recognize they couldn’t do it all, and that allowed them to lead the early church forward.  They needed to stay in their strength zone.  They were to be devoted to the prayer and the ministry of the word. (Acts 4:4)


Unfortunately, sometimes we try to go it alone and we really don’t know how to empower others so we do it all ourselves.  But it isn’t like that here.  This dream here is happening.  As we sat around Rick and Tammie’s table tonight, visioning, talking, praying and sharing a meal together, something became evident to me.  This team with all its connections, strengths, humility and teamwork could actually pull this off!  The reason is because the strength of the team.  If you have a BIG dream you are going to need the help of others who will walk alongside you.


Some Thought on Accomplishing a Dream With a Team…


1. Assemble The Right Team – “A team that knows its strengths will always outperform.”  Sometimes we have to do things we aren’t that great at, but a great team will put people in places where they fit seamlessly and are able to run fast.  It’s evident here this team knows their strengths and weaknesses.  We all have blind spots, but we aren’t going to lead well out of them.  We lead well in what we see clearly.


2. A Culture of Empowerment – “Pride and insecurity lead to control and deceit.” People want to help, or they probably wouldn’t be in the room.  Letting others lead and make decisions is a sign of a true leader and collaboration helps us to defer to the opinions of others.  The problem is, most of the time we think we are right.  This doesn’t mean when we establish a leader in a role we abandon them in their post, or let them make colossal mistakes, but we trust and coach them up to be the best player they can be for the team.


3. Engage in Healthy Conflict – “A team that is unified knows how to disagree.” If everyone agrees all the time you may have a dysfunctional team.  Providing a safe place for healthy discussion and disagreement actually FOSTERS UNITY.  Allowing input from everyone with respect and inclusion shows honor for the role they play and how God has gifted them.  Remember unity does not mean uniformity.

4. If You Play together You’ll Stay Together – “If you always are serious, people will stop taking you seriously.” I wonder how many times Jesus just goofed off with the disciples.  We can tell by the writing of the New Testament that Jesus was a pretty witty and free spirited man.  I imagined he told some jokes and had some great full on laughter and celebration with his disciples.  If it’s all business all the time the time will come when the team will loathe the business.


What about you?  Who do you need to invite to become a part of the team to accomplish the dream he has for your life.  I promise you, His plan is NOT for you to accomplish it alone.


The 40 Day Fasting Explanation

A season of fasting and prayer – Over the next 40 days leading up to our 9th anniversary, our church family will be in a season of fasting and prayer.  I invite you to come along with us and ask God for a transformation by the renewal of our minds.

A 40 Day Prayer and Fasting Guide for 217church

1. An Everyday Habit in the Word – Each day I will be sending out a short devotional based on some selected readings.  This begins through a simple prayer of asking God to renew us.

2. Continual Fasting  – A 40 Day Prayer and Fasting Guide for 217church

God has blessed us through incredibly unique circumstances over the last nine years as 217church.  We have baptized over 275 people and been given the unique calling to have a church planting and multiplication vision.  The past 18 months of ministry have led the pastors and elders to call us as a congregation to a season of prayer and fasting.  We want to use this time to understand the depth of God’s heart for us and the next steps he is calling us to.  I trust your heart will be open and God will bring us to a deeper understanding of what it means to “rebuild lives one person at a time.”

We believe God wants us to fast over a period of 40 days.  As a reminder, what you choose to fast is between you and Jesus. But you may want to include some natural encouragement and accountability over this 40 day period.  This may mean you are doing one of the following as an example:

  • Skipping a meal or a whole day of meals.
  • Eliminating something like sugar, coffee, or meat to remind you of your total dependence on God.
  • Encouraging one another in the church family as you pray together and sacrifice your physical sustenance for spiritual direction and focus.

What will God do? I am looking forward to see his direction.

Renewal is on the way – Join me along this process


Josh Conn is the founding pastor of217church, a contemporary church in Mercer County NJ.  217church meets Sundays at 9:30am & 11:00am at Sharon Elementary school in Robbinsville, NJ.  Visit www.217church.com for more information, or watch a weekend message here.

It’s The Little Things That Count

So many times we have something BIG we are working on: A wedding, a job application, getting out of debt, a project at work. But if you want the BIG STUFF to happen, you have to focus on the little things.


This week we are finishing building a church on our Dominican trip. I am loving watching it all come together.

4 Little Details that Matter

#1 Teamwork – Do your part to make everyone else better.

#2 Humility – It’s not about you today, submit to the authority God has over you.

#3 Diligence – Always, Always work hard.

#4 Unity – The opportunity to do something bigger than yourself requires it.

This verse sums it up for me:

“Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them…he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been WELL BUILT. (‭Luke‬ ‭6‬:‭47-48‬ ESV)

It’s Time to Work – Pray First

After being in Santiago, Dominican Republic now for almost 48 hours – it’s time to get to work. We have been introduced to the incredible leaders of the team here, Rick and Tammie Romano. They have been here 3 years and God has used them as encouragers.

18 youth and adults are here from 217church and ready to build, smile, learn, love, teach, and encourage. Today we will be finishing up painting a church building in the morning and ministering to kids in the afternoon.

Yesterday we were led through John 13 and asked to listen to what God would say to us. My simple phrase was “no servant is greater than his master” it’s time for us to serve Jesus and set the example of loving people.

But first we Pray –


Three Ways To Pray For Us

#1 Humility – Jesus comes first
#2 Flexibility – Jesus would shape us
#3 Favor – in travel, relationships, and safety

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!



217global Day 5!

Can you guess what we did today? Teaching English to the community through conversations at the Connection Cafe? Painting the sanctuary of a new church plant in Bella Vista? Kids outreach with crafts, recreation, dancing and a Bible story in El Guano? Youth event in La Vega? Sí. The Connection Cafe is off to a great start. The church plant has a fresh coat of paint. The little church in El Guano is no bigger than most bedrooms in America but the hearts of the people and the enthusiasm of the children are huge.

After dinner we experienced a severe thunderstorm that put the new roof to the test! The roof passed, the storm passed and we were off to the evening youth event. We saw a lot of damage along the way and arrived to find that the church had lost power. So picture a generation of young people worshipping at the top of their lungs to the light of a motorcycle headlight shinning through the door of the sanctuary. They know what they sing is true. “If our God is for us, then who can stand against us.” With the help of some handy guys and a generator the lights came on for the second half of the event.

The church in the Dominican is reaching their communities for Christ with the help of teams who come through Envision. We share the same passion for New Jersey that these pastors have for the Dominican. We each seek God’s direction and vision for His church in our community and expand that reach into new communities. We each believe that global partnerships will help advance the Kingdom. We pursue God passionately, serve relentlessly, care for one another deeply.

See you Sunday!

217global Day 4!

This morning during prayer time we prayed for God’s blessing on the Cafe and for the vision that God has provided. We prayed for the people who would come and that conversations would begin to bridge the spiritual gap and restore lives in this community. We prayed that long-awaited roofing supplies would arrive so that the patio,  where the Envision interns live, would be protected from the intense sun. We prayed for this evening’s youth outreach in Villa Tapia and for open doors to extend the invitation to the kids in that neighborhood.

After breakfast, while the painting team continued working on the sanctuary of the new church plant, the ESL team continued the ministry at the Connection Cafe. Among the many guests at the Cafe this morning was a young man named Yarlyn who wants to learn English so that he can get a job to help support his family. It came up in conversation that he believes in God. When asked where he goes to church, his response was, “I do not go to church. There are so many churches and I do not know which one teaches truth.” He’s seeking truth. Through a God-given vision for an ESL Cafe, he will find it. Among the words he wrote down to study at home was the word “truth” and the street address of the church that is responsible for the Cafe.

We ate lunch on the patio next to a pile of long-awaited roofing materials. Then we returned to the town of Villa Tapia to invite the local youth to the event this evening. We thought we were going door to door. But instead we went classroom to classroom in the local high school. We literally walked into a high school classroom and invited kids to church! Would this ever happen at a school in the US? The expression of God’s church is different from town to town and from nation to nation. If we are to reach the next generation we must be willing to do whatever it takes. In the US our approach is classmate to classmate. But in the Dominican God has not been limited in the schools. So his church can walk right in.

The Alliance Church in Villa Tapia is planting a new church in the next town of Salcido, and their location is not yet known. We accompanied the pastor through the town, praying for the people. He shared with us his vision and passion for reaching the children of that town and the women who are ignored by this community. We visited several potential sights and prayed for God’s blessing in the town of Salcido. God is doing a new work here.

Our evening concluded with the youth in Villa Tapia. We left it all in that sanctuary. Our praise, our testimonies, the last of our energy for the day, poured out so that God can use it for whatever he pleases. Pray for the people of the Dominican Republic, for pastors with fresh vision for their communities, for those who are serving here alongside the churches through Envision and for the short-term teams who come to bring long-term change.

3 Reasons We Should Have a Heart for the World

Guest post by Kelly Kohr, small groups and weekend administrator at 217church

The other week, as I was finishing some planning for 217church’s fast approaching trip to the Dominican Republic, Josh asked me if I’d be interested in writing a guest blog for him. I hesitated until he said the topic of having a heart for the world. Oh! Well of course! That’ll actually be fun!

In my short 22 years of life, I’ve gone on what I would consider to be a good handful of mission trips. It was on one of the first trips, when I was only 15, God broke my heart for people around the world and He showed me the desperate need for Jesus that remains the same no matter what continent or country you may be in. I can still remember sitting in a dark, one bedroom apartment in hot and humid Mexico, hearing a mother cry as she prayed to Jesus for the healing of her son, who sat wheelchair bound next to her. She was desperate for a change and for hope. Before we left her that day, she found peace in a God who loves her and she found a hope for eternity, not just the days and circumstances immediately before her. This is why we should have a heart for the world.

The woman whose life was changed, changed mine as well. Through a prayer walk with no expectations, God showed up. It was through that encounter and an incredible number of other experiences through the week that God showed me the vast passion he has for the world.  He took me out of my comfort zone and empowered me through it all. God’s heart is that all would come to know him, and one day, every knee will bow before him (Phil. 2:10). And it is our calling to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, telling people of the Father as we go and “make disciples of every nation” (Mt 28:19).

3 Reasons we should have a heart for the world:

It’s not all about you – We are culturally bombarded with the ideas that it’s our comfort, our desires and our choices that matter the most. Jesus has called us to go against the grain of culture and lay ourselves aside for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of others. “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Cor. 5:14-15). If Jesus gave his life, his breathe, his future for the sake of others, shouldn’t we at least lay aside our comforts and plans? Let Christ’s love compel you.

You’ve been blessed – Whether you are considered “rich” or not, you are undeniably blessed. But, this isn’t about money. I’ve met homeless men in Malaysia who have a joy that puts me to shame because of the hope they’ve found in Jesus Christ. If we follow and believe in the God of the Bible, a Holy King who gave his son to die in our place, the Creator of the universe who has made a future for us beyond this life, we have been blessed. And we have something to share. “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 (2 Cor. 1:3-4). No matter what we’ve been through or are going through, God has given us a choice to take the blessings he’s given us and bless others with that. Be a witness of what Jesus has done. “…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

We are one family – Just as Jesus has called us all to share the blessings of our lives across the street and around the world, we are a part of a family of believers who are here to encourage and build each other up as we do so. Paul is one of the most famous missionaries, traveling from church to church, imparting the wisdom and gospel of Christ. As he went, his heart was to edify and build up his brothers in Christ. Even in his letters, Paul shared of his hope for time spent with the local churches, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Rom. 1:11-12). As 217church begins a new partnership with the local churches in the Dominican Republic, it is my prayer that we can encourage one another, building our faith in the One who is worth it all.

Do you have a heart for the world? Let God show you His heart for the world and the ways He is calling you to share the blessings and gifts He’s given you.

Photo courtesy of dillonwithwife.blogspot.com


217global Day 2!

Learning from yesterday’s experience in the Connection Cafe, changes were made today to allow even more conversations. The written placement test was replaced with an oral Q&A session. By asking simple questions about our guests, we got to know not only how much English each person understood but we were also able to get to know a little about their story. Why did they want to learn English? Where do they live and work? Do they have family nearby? How often would they like to come to practice English? Relationships are being developed and even today we saw some of the same faces that came yesterday.

After lunch we returned to the town of Moca for day two of the VBS program. Just as the children finished school we began music time and they danced and sang, smiled and laughed. More games and snacks and age-appropriate teaching by three of the team members. In craft time the kids decorated little boxes stuffed with God’s promises. Little reminders of how much God loves them. Little faces we’ll never forget.

Again this evening we were blessed to hear the testimonies of two of our own team members. We are getting to know each other well – even as their stories are translated from one language to another. There is nothing more powerful than seeing Christ alive in the hearts of the next generation. This evening’s youth service was a powerful reminder of that fact. Christ is moving in the hearts of the youth in the Dominican.

The evening concluded with a special Dominican dish before leaving town. Mofongo!

217global Day 1!

Wow! What a day!

Thanks for all the prayers that you’ve been sending up! It’s been an awesome trip so far!

Here in Santiago, DR, we are working with Rick and Tammie Romano who have been missionaries here for the past year and a half.  We’ve been asked to be a part of three ministries, Connections Cafe, VBS for kids, and a youth outreach program.

This morning, the Connections Cafe opened its doors for the first time! Connections Cafe is a new ministry of the National Church in Santiago, DR to help their community learn English.  People from the neighborhood are invited to enjoy coffee and pastries while practicing their English with native speakers.  Through the cafe, the church wants to build relationships within the neighborhoods.  And Envision partners along with the National Church in their endeavor. 

Among the people who came out for the first day was a 70 year-old retired pharmacist.  He used to know a lot of English, and is adept at reading and writing this second language. However, due to recent open heart surgery, a loss or hearing, and not having anyone to practice English with, his verbal skill has started to decline. He’s now excited to speak English again.


Vacation Bible School (VBS) is an opportunity for us to minister to kids in two different locations in four days.  At our first location today in Moca we had a great turnout!  70 kids came out and heard the story about David and Saul.  They learned the difference between David and Saul’s heart, that David became God’s friend through prayer, and how he became a man after God’s own heart. The kids enjoyed games, snacks, sang fun songs and made a bracelet that depicts God’s story of salvation.



But wait, there’s more. This evening after dinner we assisted with a worship service to the youth of Moca. Two of our team members shared their stories with the crowd and Marco Garcia brought a message from God’s word in his native language. We are blessed to have several Spanish speaking teammates who can converse with the community on their own and provide translation for the rest of our connections. A highlight of the evening was worshipping in two languages at once. It paints a small picture of how the global church will worship one day in heaven.


Check in throughout the week for daily updates from the Dominican Republic.