Rock Solid Decision Making – The Courage To Change

If you or your organization is facing a MAJOR decision, it presents an incredible opportunity to depend on God solely.  But too often we shrink from the possibility of the better future because we look for the “safe option.” Or worse yet, we let one opinion or option or person dominate decision making because of too much influence and power.  Occasionally we get an opportunity to make a major change and think differently about a situation, and that circumstance usually has a short window of availability.  The safe option doesn’t necessarily lead to success.  As a matter of fact safe options can often lead to stagnation.

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”  Philippians 1:12

The answer is solely depending on the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.  The opportunity you have in front of you is there to advance the Gospel, period.  You MUST trust the process.  So many times I see people and organizations short circuit the process because they want too much too fast.  They want their way.  I love helping people maximize those moments of opportunity and I love it when I see people, businesses, and churches making courageous, careful, calculated, wise decisions. Let’s look at two different examples, David’s appointment as king from the old testament, and Paul’s perseverance in prison in the new testament.  Here is how to approach the change process…

Rock Solid Decision Making – Three Words

New Testament (Paul in prison)- “And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Philippians 1:14

  • Boldness – 

Overcome Fear – “Use your fear as fuel.” I am not saying be careless, but if there is an opportunity that balances carefulness and courage, it’s most likely a wise option.  A wise mentor once told me this, “just enough risk and just enough known results.”  Remember when Samuel was looking for a successor for Saul?  Take David for example, yes he was the youngest of eight before he was chosen by Samuel, but he measured up to the older brothers.  Remember HE KILLED THE LION AND THE BEAR.  David had the ‘it factor’.  He was both a risk and a known loyal family member.

Measure Choices –  “Consider ALL options.” If you have been convinced there is only one option, you have more than likely been deceived and you are trapped and need to break free from this deception.  There is great insight and wisdom in asking someone from the ‘outside’ their opinion on your situation. Only considering one option to change is utter FOOLISHNESS and NEVER the wise choice.  David was anointed as king, but even David was compared to his older brothers and found to be the Lord’s anointed. But in case you have still have fear in the decision making process, here is a question: ‘What are you really afraid of?’  Boldness without a higher purpose is meaningless.  But courage that will lead you closer to the end goal is clearly the best option.

Old Testament (David anointed) – “Then Jesse called Abinidab and Shammah and made them pass before Samuel, And he said neither has the Lord chosen this one…And then he sent and brought David in…’Arise and anoint him for this is he.'”  1 Samuel 16:8-12

Question:  Are you really trusting the Lord and weighing all your options?


New Testament (Paul sacrifices for the Gospel) “Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith.” Philippians 1:25

  • Progress –

Take Hostile Ground – “Safe choices lead to stagnation.” Do you want to personally grow?  Then look for the greatest opportunity payback, but realize there WILL BE opportunity cost.  Paul chose to stay on earth for the MAXIMUM gain of the kingdom, but it cost him greatly!  If something is broken and isn’t producing, you need a change.  Progress demands it.  So many times we keep with a direction even when it is going bad or worse yet, average.  Even though it was excruciating, Paul continued on his trajectory.  Denial won’t help, excuses won’t help, “just believing,”  won’t help either.  One more thing, beware of manipulation, ultimatums from people in the decision making process are usually manipulations.

Take Your Time – “Quick choices lead to much regret.” SLOW DOWN!  If possible test the outcome before making a decision.  Even David had to kill Goliath before he was accepted as king.  Rushing into the decision is rarely a good option.  Unfortunately we are prone to sacrifice long term gains for the short term feeling.  Is there a long term process to make the change?  If not, stop dead in your tracks and invent the process BEFORE you start making decisions.  MOST SINS we commit are a result of a lack of patience and shortcutting the process.  If only Adam and Eve would have walked away from Satan in the garden.  SLOW DOWN, measure the progress in terms of the LONGEST TERM GAIN.  The cheapest, quickest, easiest choice will probably lead you to a faithless, barren result.   Most of us want instant results and instant gratification, or just want the decision behind us.

Old Testament (David defeats Goliath) – “So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone…” 1 Samuel 17:50

Question:  What is the ‘upside’ and ‘downside’ of your various options?


“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Philippians 1:27

  • Focus –

Clarify Your Purpose – “Wisdom blindness comes from personal agenda.” People and teams have to fight ‘wisdom blindness’ continually.  Usually the culprit is pride and hidden agenda.  Either way it’s sin.  Paul was intensely focused on letting his life point to one outcome…the Gospel.  What is your higher calling?  What is your team’s goal?  What is your family’s clear vision?  What is your committee’s ultimatum? What is your church’s ultimate responsibility? Are you carrying out the mission with the utmost carefulness and with the best intentions, or have you let your own desire get in the way of God showing up and doing the miraculous?  And by the way, “if there is no disagreement, you might be deceived.”

Clarify Your Prayer Strategy – “Without fasting and prayer, you won’t prevail.” If you are needing to make a major decision and haven’t fasted and prayed.  STOP!  Not just prayed, but have you let the Holy Spirit fill the lack in your stomach with a dependence of sustaining presence…and answers?  Don’t even pass go or collect $200 if you haven’t fasted.  Get clear, silence the noise, put aside the internal agenda, get rid of the pride and see beyond your own preferences.

Old Testament (David focused on Goliath) – “His sling was in his hand and he approached the Philistine…” 1 Samuel 17:40

Question:  Have you been distracted or deceived in your decision making process?


Trusting God for His wisdom and courage to change…

…May you be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”  Colossians 1:9



Josh Conn is a 20 year ministry veteran, father of six, founding executive coach at activate coaching and the founding pastor of 217church, a contemporary church in Mercer County NJ.  217church meets Sundays at 9:30am & 11:00am at Sharon Elementary school in Robbinsville, NJ.  Visit for more information, or watch a weekend message here.

Why 217church Is A Multisite Church

We are happy to announce the 2nd campus of 217church has landed in a semi-permanant location at Sharon Elementary School in Robbinsville, NJ.  Our Robbinsville / East Windsor Campus is doing great work and we are excited about the possibilities that exist in this community.  217church became a multisite church and launched in East Windsor with over 100 people on January 12, 2014!  We have been in six different locations and we finally feel like we have landed!  WE NEED YOU TO PRAY!

An incredible team of people are continuing to reach out to the Robbinsville/East Windsor area, as we take more steps in our vision to reach 10,000 people, start 1,000 small groups, plant 100 churches, in the next 10 years, 1 person at a time.  I want you to be a part of either our Hamilton or Robbinsville/East Windsor campus team.  In order for a multisite church to work EVERYONE needs to be on a TEAM!  

erica baptism

Erica was our very 1st baptism from our new Robbinsville/East Windsor Campus, now she serves and is in a 217group!

“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”  Romans 12:10-11

Most of us have NEVER been a part of a multi-site church.  A multi-site church works when we all DO SOMETHING.  This means each one of us has a role to play, this includes implementing weekend services, and serving the community as a part of a small group.

If you have been at 217church for more than one week, we INVITE you to be a part of serving on a weekend team and catch the vision.  You don’t have to be baptized, you don’t even have to be good looking.  You just have to want to create an incredibly safe environment where people are loved, built up, inspired and encouraged to LET JESUS HEAL THEM!  So I wanted to take this time and communicate some answers to some questions people are asking and provide some clarity about what a multisite 217church will look like.

8 Common Multisite Church Questions

1. Why Are We Becoming a Multisite Church? – A Restored Family Sent on Mission

217CHURCH IS ABOUT THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW JESUS YET!  We will ALWAYS be the “church for people who aren’t here yet.”  You have heard me say this over and over again.  Our vision from the beginning has been “to create environments where people can meet and follow Jesus.”  This means our our goal is not just to bring people in, but to build them up and SEND them out.  If our church stops sending, we aren’t fulfilling the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19.  “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”  This is an incredible opportunity to send people to SERVE the community for Jesus.  We anticipate our growth curve to increase.  This means, more baptisms, more small groups, more people reached and sent!  We are a restored family sent on mission.

2. Why Don’t We Build A Building First?

Let me start by saying buildings aren’t bad, they are to be used for good.  Having a building you own as a church can be an incredible asset to accomplish the mission.  We are actually in the process of exploring a permanent facility for our Hamilton campus.  One thing I am extremely proud of about our young church is that we have never paid a penny of interest to a bank for a mortgage.  We are light on our feet and mobile, literally.  We have many decisions to make regarding worship spaces and my prayer is that we will have a building given to us one day!  Why not?  Will you join me in prayer for this?  I know that sounds crazy, but crazier things have happened.  Young churches cannot be saddled with heavy mortgage payments.  Our church can NEVER, I mean NEVER will be about a building.  The church is NEVER defined as a building in scripture.  We are a dynamic group of people.  Will we build or purchase a building someday?  Probably as we are led by the Spirit.  We are almost five years old.  One thing I do know, as long as we focus with clarity on what our vision is, HE WILL PROVIDE OUR EVERY NEED.

3. Who Will Be Teaching And Will It Be The Same Message At Both Campuses?

My role will not change as the lead teaching pastor at 217church.  I will be doing the bulk of the weekend teaching LIVE, IN PERSON, at both campuses preaching the same message.  Our new service times will be Hamilton 9:30 am, Robbinsville/East Windsor 10:15 am, and Hamilton 11:00 am.  For now, the teaching pastor for the week will be driving back and forth and teaching at ALL 3 services.  We are however developing a teaching team as we add more services and campuses.  Imagine a weekend a few years from now when we will have 4 campuses with six services and three different teachers all teaching the same message at the same time!  Who knows!  As my dad used to say, “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

4.  What Is A Campus Pastor?

A campus pastor ensures the needs of the people are cared for.  They also empower every ministry leader to build teams to implement the ministries of a particular campus.  This includes everything from set up and tear down, to youth and kids, small groups, you name it.  If it happens at that campus, it is their responsibility.  They are also there to help ensure our 1st time guests experience the 217 VIP treatment.

5. When You Say “Weekend Team” What Do You Mean?

Every week we want to see between 70-100 people serve on a weekend.  We try to keep this simple for people to understand so people can be quickly connected to serving on a team.  We have 4 main teams that everything flows through: Worship & Media, 217kids, Hospitality and Set-Up /Tear Down.  After setting up and tearing down 217church almost 200 times over the last 4 years, we now have some proven structures that help us execute with excellence.  This makes serving on a team a great experience.  It still amazes me that at 7:45am the trailer pulls up and 2 hours later, with 50+ people helping at each campus, hundreds of adults and kids walk in the doors to two buildings transformed into a house of worship. This means that everyone has the power to Invite.   Our question for each other should be, who did you bring along with you?

6. What is A Launch Team?

This a group of people sent from our campuses to launch another campus.  The launch team responsibility is to make sure we launch a new healthy campus and every launch team member has a specific role and serves on a team.  As we add new campuses, a launch team is formed and it takes about 9-12 months to successfully launch a new campus.  We are constantly inviting new people from the weekend services from the community to be a part of the launch teams of new campuses.

7. When We Launch A Campus Will We Be Doing More Than Just A Weekend Service Once A Month?

Absolutely!  We launch small groups simultaneously so we already have a presence.  in East Windsor for example, We have delivered school supplies to a local elementary school for kids in need, did a fall family festival at Etra Lake Park and we provided food to families in need on Thanksgiving.  Between the monthly preview service we had opportunities to serve the community, invite people to small groups and invite them to the launch.  Serve Relelntlessly!

8.  I Want To Be A Part, How Do I Get Connected?

Join A Team.  Here is the beauty of this, no matter if you are currently at Hamilton or Robbinsville/East Windsor, you are an integral part.  Our teams are thriving and healthy and this Sunday will be an incredible opportunity to join a team.  To be a part of the Hamilton team contact and for Robbinsville/East Windsor it’s

“And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.” Nehemiah 2:18


Join us at 217church, a multi-site, contemporary church in Mercer County NJ.  217church is a family with small groups in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that meets Sundays in the Hamilton AMC24 Theater 9:30 & 11am and Sharon Elementary school in Robbinsville, NJ at 10:15.  Our new Robbinsville/East Windsor Campus meets every Sunday.  If you are looking for a church in East Windsor NJ, Lawrenceville NJ, Ewing NJ, Robbinsville NJ, Hightstown NJ, Hamilton NJ, Mercer County, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA, don’t miss our weekend services. Visit for more information.

Who Is On Your Fantasy Team?

It’s that time of the year.  Fantasy football drafts are happening everyday!  For those of you who are into fantasy football, the anticipation of the fantasy draft is a lot of fun.  How it works is that you draft players who play for your team on game day and earn points for your team based on how they actually perform on the field.  When they succeed, YOU SUCCEED.  It is good fun but let me ask you a serious question?  If you were to draft a team to help you accomplish your dream for your life, who would you draft?

football dude 8-19


“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed…”  Proverbs 15:22

Who do you need on your team in order for your dream to happen?  YOU NEED PEOPLE BETTER THAN YOU!  You need a diverse team full of people with varying skills and experiences, different ages and personalities, but regardless, you need the best!  In many ways these people will help protect you from yourself.

How To Draft an Elite Fantasy Team

#1 Know Exactly What You Need-  Part of the challenge in getting to where you want to go is knowing how to identify the needs.  You will need to shore up different weaknesses.  Knowing what you are trying to accomplish dictates the WHO!  Too many self reliant, prideful people try to accomplish a big vision on their own.  If you want to accomplish a BIG DOG dream you better have BIG DOGS on your team. I want the BEST team possible!  Who is on my team?  Below you will see 5 different goals I have and then WHO is on my fantasy team.  You will quickly see, the WHO IS CRITICAL.

  • Build a Family Together / Summer – Listen, I made a decision a long time ago that I didn’t want to do life alone.  So I found someone to love and take with me together on this ride.  She is my 1st round draft pick EVERYTIME.  I will always choose Summer and my kids over every other goal, dream and possibility.  The church can get another pastor, but I am the only one who can fulfill the role of Dad to my children.  Most important draft pick…spouse.
  • Adopt Children / Bethany Christian Services – We drafted them two years ago to help us fulfill the dream of opening our home to orphans who need love, health and education.  They are an incredible christian organization focused on putting a dent in fatherlessness.  I want their whole team on my team! Sometimes it is a person you need, other times it’s a whole organization.
  • Coach me Personally and Professionally / Greg – I knew I needed someone from the outside to help me build a high quality plan for my life personally and professionally.  A trusted advisor who I could ask ANYTHING who would give me honest objective answers.  You don’t see what you don’t see.  Greg helps me see what I wouldn’t have otherwise.  Greg runs a coaching organization and has coached hundreds of pastors to live with conviction and intentionality.
  • Successfully Plant & Grow 217churchDan & Bonnie & Staff.  Dan is the Executive Pastor of 217church and Bonnie, well, she is like a swiss army knife wife to Dan.  Have a question? A problem? She will help you through it.  I drafted them 4 years ago when we planted the church.  Then there is our INCREDIBLE staff team.  Kevin, Justin, Arlynet, Tim, Kelly, Sandy.  I love you guys. You make it happen.  Let me add one more name, Matt.  Matt was there from the conception and now pastors Element church.  You need people who are doing what you are doing to learn from and bounce ideas off of.
  • Advise Financially and Pay Taxes / Donna – She is the best accountant/ tax professional I know.  She is honest, clear, focused, no nonsense, gold!  Paying your taxes and financial integrity are HUGE issues and you will need help to navigate this.

#2 Stop Making Excuses:   Maybe you feel like, “all the good players are gone.”  This is simply not true. One thing I like to do as a fantasy football player is to find the “diamond in the rough.”  This means finding someone no one else thought had much value and picking them in the later rounds.  Sometimes you choose someone no one else thought had value.  This will take an incredible investment of time and energy, but is worth it.  Sounds like what Jesus did for us!

#3 Cast a Compelling Vision:  If someone were to sign up to be on your team, would they be motivated by the big target on the wall?  Or would your vision be lackluster?  You know you have a God-given vision when God has to show up in order for it to happen!  If you can do it without God and faith, your vision probably won’t be compelling and people will not be inspired.

#4 Get Courage To Ask:  This is where risk comes in.  At some time I had to ask all the people above to be on my team.  For some of them it took longer than others.  Make no mistake about it, when someone comes on your team, you must be committed to serving them.  It’s not about you but the vision.  People want to be a part of something world changing and your job is to give them that opportunity.  Sure you might get rejected, but keep in mind, you don’t want people on your team that won’t be 100% committed to the vision, so let them go.

Building a team is fun, rewarding, but takes a lot of work.  Take time right now and determine what are your biggest needs.  Here are some more ideas for building a fantasy team that will serve you well:

  • Spiritual advisors
  • Confidential friends
  • Legal advisors
  • Physical trainer
  • Nutritionist
  • Health Doctor
  • Contemporaries
  • Tax professionals


Josh is the lead Pastor @217church.  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


Training Matters

Every day after high school, I would jog down to the track and get the days training schedule from my track coach, Mr. Graves.  He always knew what I needed and helped me to be a better, more disciplined runner.  As a freshman starting high school track, there was so much excitement and vigor around doing the exact workout he wanted us to do.  But about two weeks into the season, as the miles began to pile up along with the sore muscles, I wasn’t as enthusiastic.  I was a 14-year-old undersized boy dragging myself to the track every day.  It was painful, and to be honest there were some days I not only didn’t want to train, I wanted to quit.  I began to wonder if this whole “track” thing was for me.   This Sunday at 217church we will discover some key truths about what TRAINING has to do with us being a church on mission.

Proud of my kids as they finished their first ever race!

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.”  1 Corinthians 9:25

Training is tough work.  It isn’t glamorous putting in all those miles when no one is looking and your race is sometimes months away.  But one thing we forget: God is preparing us for what is next, even when we don’t feel like it matters.  Trust me, It all matters!  In every difficult situation and every phase that seems harder and harder, God is constantly teaching and training us.  Here are some hints to train smarter in every area of your life:

4 Hints on Training

1. Be Realistic – Most of us think we can do more than we actually can.  In our spiritual lives, reaching the goals Jesus wants us to achieve has to do with us being realistic about our training.  As we enter into the new year, be realistic about what you can achieve and what you can handle.  God will not give you more than you can handle and remember not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to.

2.  Have a Long Term View – In a world of instant gratification, it’s those who see the future race while they train that excel the most. I have seen so many people, marriages, athletes, small group leaders, pastors, friends, and co-workers burn out and flame out because of a lack of long term perspective.  The more I can connect today’s activity to the vision of the big picture, the more meaningful the training becomes.  This means that you have to pace yourself. Perspective will lead to better training.

 3. Get A Good Plan – Once you have a long term perspective, you need a training plan.  Sure some of the things you will learn will be on “accident”, but intentionality matters when it comes to personal growth.  Identify key areas of your life where you want to grow, then ask what is one action that will lead me to the end vision.  A good plan keeps you on track, encourages you along the way and provides confidence and enthusiasm.  This also allows you to trust God’s voice.  If God gives you the plan to execute and you see results, it helps you to trust him more.  By the way, if He changes the plan mid stream, it doesn’t mean you were “wrong,” it means that now you are at a different place in your training and He wants you to go further!  Once my track coach saw I had mastered certain runs, he changed it up and this allowed me to run faster!

4. Execute with Accountability – Training alone is NEVER as good as training with a coach.  Once you have a plan, YOU MUST SHARE IT!  If you think you are better alone, you have a pride problem.  If you think your ideas are the best, you have a trust problem.  Still not a believer?  Here is why accountability makes you better:

  • You’ll Feel A Sense of Urgency – If you have the habit of training with someone, you are less likely to sleep in on your workout partner.  The easiest way for me to go on a run is to take someone with me.
  • You’ll Want Others To Succeed– When I actively train with someone, I find myself wanting them to finish strong as well!  It’s not about me beating them, but helping them.  It is harder to feel tired and sorry for yourself when you are helping someone else succeed in their plan.
  • You’ll Finish Stronger – When you are at the end of your training, others can push you when you don’t think you have energy left.  Trust me!  There is usually more left than you think there is.

Now let me leave you with this thought:  I was far from the best athlete on my track team, but I will say this.  There weren’t very many people who out-trained me.  My philosophy was train hard and the results will come.  Training hard may not lead to a championship but it will lead to character and respect.  As you live on mission this week, Train hard or go home!  I believe in you church!



I Love My Co-Workers

The other day, I woke up to this reality: I spend more time with the people I work with at 217church than most any other people in my life.  The people I work with mean so much to me personally.  Why would I not “like” these people?  Why would I not intentionally build relationships and try to love them as best I can?  Relationships are difficult but here is what you need to know about the 217church team: They are an amazing group of people and I love working alongside them to accomplish ministry. They do their work with passion for the Lord to build up the body of Christ.  As the point leader my responsibility is to love, take care of and lead them to the best of my ability.

Our 217church team is awesome!
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”  Colossians 3:23


Here are some lessons we are learning together:

  • Nobody “Works” for Me – Each of us work for God and we are accountable to each other.  It doesn’t matter what task we are doing, we are to do it with zeal, passion, excellence and a heart of service.  Everyone is under authority and we do our work for the Lord. THERE ARE NO UNIMPORTANT TASKS!   No matter if you are preaching the sermon or updating the web site, everything is to be done with all our heart, effort and a good attitude.  Work ethic will find you out in the end.  Care more about what Jesus thinks about your quality of work than anyone else.
  • It Takes a Team – Everything we do, no matter how small the task, needs to be accomplished in teams.  This means that we don’t do things alone and it also has huge implications for the church as a whole.  We aren’t measured by how good we do, but how well the people we train do.  We are seeking to intentionally apprentice people to help them find their ideal ministry.  Take someone with you!
  • Got a Problem? Go to the Source – Let’s face it, conflict happens. But when it does happen, how do we handle it?  Do we talk about the person we have an issue with or do we talk to the person we are in conflict with?  I have zero tolerance for gossip as this can be the biggest team destroyer of all.  Keep short accounts, extend grace, don’t be defensive and seek to understand.  ABOVE ALL…HONESTY MATTERS!  There is nothing more disgusting than a dishonest expression of forgiveness, hiding, or blaming.
  • Teamwork Creates Humility – If “we” did it together then no one person can take credit for it. It is a great feeling every time WE complete a weekend service to look around as a church and see how God used 40+ people to serve the church.  It creates togetherness and increases our focus that we NEED each other.

So what about you?  How are you doing at work? Do you love the people you work with and do your work as unto the Lord?  No one said it would be easy, but you may be the only Jesus your co-workers seeWe are working hard to embody unity and love as a staff and we can’t wait to watch you to serve this weekend!

Never underestimate the power of a unified team, no matter what their age or experience!

Leadership 101 – Humility

When I think of Martin Luther King Jr. I think of humility.  He devoted his whole life to equal rights and the ending of racial oppression in our country.  He won the Nobel peace prize at the age of 35. Amazing.  People who stand for peace are usually humble people.  This should not be so difficult but we know how difficult it can be for us.  Was Martin Luther King Jr. perfect, not at all!  But we look back at his life and look at his moments of reconciliation and peace as the most humble moments of his life.  His well known I have a dream speech carries so much humility with it and it motivates me to jump on board with his vision.  Humble people are those who promote peace which makes them attractive.  It is why the message of Jesus is so powerful, so much humility.  I want to stand for humility and be a broker of peace.  This is one of my most important roles as a Christ follower.  It is spiritual leadership at its simplest form.  Spiritual leadership is dependency on Jesus.

humble leadership makes sense to people

Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.”  Proverbs 18:12

When a man displays humility it is plain to see.  I love being around people who want nothing in return, no accolades or credit, no recognition or expectation.  We are wired as people to naturally expect something in return.  No one likes to be around people who know it all or think they are better than everyone.  People who lead according to their needs and fail to look out for those they serve, are on the edge of a downfall.  There is a strict warning for when we feel our heart tending towards pride.  When this happens, words and credit may come, but truly the honor becomes lost.    Humility is a beautiful thing and yet, I don’t want the title humility.  Once I claim that title I become proud.  Spiritual leadership is dependency on Jesus.

All The Answers –

I am tired of people who have all the answers.  What blesses a ministry, a work place, a home, is humility and integrity.  I’ll gladly take a person who is humble and who has integrity over big vision any day.  Show me unconditional loyalty with no entitlement and I will naturally want to walk alongside you.  A lot of people have vision based on ego, but this is corrupt and evil.  If we depend on Jesus we get his vision and develop our trust in him.  As a leaders, before I release and call someone a leader, I want to see if they can serve someone else’s vision.  I must follow, then maybe I can lead.  Spiritual leadership is dependency on Jesus.

5 Weeks of training

Over the next 5 weeks at 217church, our main topic will be training in leadership. This week we start with spiritual leadership.  What’s next for us as a church family?  Whatever it is, one thing is for sure, we better get this one right…Spiritual leadership is dependency on Jesus.

What is one simple action step you can take in order to cultivate humility in your life?

Vision and Teamwork

ONE HUNDRED FIFTEEN baptisms down, nine thousand nine hundred and eighty-five to go!  Yes, you heard it straight from me.  Our BIG MONSTER VISION is to reach 10,000 people for Jesus and to help them become fully devoted to Jesus! I believe it can happen and I believe it will happen.  This is the role of vision casters.  BELIEVE!  Last Sunday we baptized twenty-five more people, more than we ever have in one day and it’s just getting started.

217church’s 100th baptism

After the first leadership vision meeting of 217church in August of 2009, progress began to happen very quickly.  We prayed, planned and personally invited people to be on the team.  We set out on a vision to “create environments where people could meet and follow Jesus.” We set out on a mission to Restore people to Jesus by pursuing God passionately, Rebuild the church through caring for one another deeply, and Renew the community through serving relentlessly.   We realized almost instantly that everything depended on God and we needed Him to supply us with a strong team that works together.  Our team lives with the reality of this verse in mind.

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners…” (Mark 2:17 ESV)

If God is going to use us to Extend this ministry farther and faster than we could ever imagine we MUST have an incredibly strong team!  If we are going to reach those who are ‘sick’, our team needs to grow even more healthy.  What are some qualities of strong team members?

  • Chemistry – On our team, certain stuff just doesn’t fly. Let’s face it, we don’t all fit every team.  We have a very diverse team but we have to all be pulling in the same direction.  We are always looking for people to lead small groups, excel in the gifts of hospitality, attention to detail and be exceptional in their work ethic.  We already have a great team, but maybe it’s time for you to step up and maximize your gift.
  • Hunger – We are looking for people who are not content with the status quo but want something more excellent.  People who are desperate for a change will always outperform the complacent and mediocre.  You can’t replace hunger and passion and you can’t make someone want to excel.  We are looking for people who don’t make excuses because it is a “volunteer role” but know there is a higher standard.
  • Initiative – When Jesus called Matthew in Mark 2, he saw something in a passionate tax collector.  I believe some of our best future leaders have yet to come to know Jesus!  They are pursuing other things and they haven’t come to Jesus yet.  They haven’t realized their ultimate calling in the world…but they are about to!  Some incredible initiators are about to experience transformation.
  • Character – This means when no one is watching, we are the same person as when a spotlight is shining on us. We are looking for people who are devouring God’s word not out of obligation or legalism, but out of a passion to find out what Jesus says about this life and how we should live it.  When Jesus says it, we do it.  Going in to this commitment we realize that it won’t be easy and the world won’t accept us.  But it’s not about pleasing people, it’s about pleasing Jesus.

I love 217church and I love the passion you continue to exhibit!  This week is vision week and we will let it all hang out!  Let’s celebrate and believe big for the future because we need Jesus and our community desperately needs Jesus.  After all if we can accomplish the vision on our own, it isn’t a God given vision.

Expectation is in the air,


Just Follow – The Direction for 217church

I am SO PUMPED about the next season at 217church! Starting Easter Sunday we enter into a brand new series called “Live Differently.”  This series will address the heart transformations that happen when we follow Jesus, particularly in the area of spiritual, financial, physical and family health.  Our #1 energy going forward will be to architect a church where discipleship and multiplication flow at the speed of the Holy Spirit.  I believe a church plant happens in three Phases:  As a matter of fact I think every church needs to cycle through these phases every so often recognizing that churches have seasons.

#1 Establish – Getting everything up and running, getting all of our vision, systems, values cemented so we can have a strong future.  We have had an INCREDIBLE Launching pad for this church.  WE ARE ESTABLISHED.

#2 Empower – People flourishing and 217groups owning the responsibility to make the vision of the church happen through serving, learning, inviting, caring (praying) and eating together.  Every group cell has the power and the DNA of the church built in.  Experience a 217group and you have experienced the potency of 217church!  Every group has the relationship base to become a disciple making group.  I believe we are in the dog days of the Empowerment stage. I believe we will make a major transition from Easter 2012 to the Fall into the following stage:

#3 Extend – Multiplying Disciples, which multiply groups in different neighborhoods and then eventually send missionaries abroad. We will launch various discipling models for people in different circumstances but they will have one marked uniqueness.  They will be 1-1 transformational relationships.


Here is what this means for us:

A Philosophy I hold close is I believe discipleship best happens 1-1, life on life.  I am amazed at these two simple words of Jesus… “Follow Me” (Mark 1:13) I have had a 1-1 coaching/discipling relationship ongoing for almost 10 years now.

The vision statement for 217church is to “Create Environments where people can meet and FOLLOW Jesus.”  Meeting someone is one thing, following someone is a totally different thing. Following Jesus is hard work and I need help.  If we pattern our lives after Jesus eventually we will have to battle the heart issues of pride, possessions and purity. Paul encourages in 2 Timothy 1:13, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” 

Our guiding word will be COACHING…why coaching?  I believe it best describes what a disciple maker does! Coaching is a discipline within disciple making that we will focus on.


Here are our guiding principles:

#1 We will coach in order to learn to coach –  The second part of Mark 1:13 is often forgotten when talking about disciple making environments… “and I will make you become fishers of men.”  You are discipled in order to disciple. What God entrusts to you through relationships, he EXPECTS you to impart to othersJesus fully expected the disciples to do something with their experiences with Jesus.  They were transformed by Jesus and were responsible to lead and disciple others.

#2 We will leverage 217groups to do life on life coaching – By the fall every leadership team member and every small group leader will have a coach.  This is someone who will disciple them.  This represents about 15% of our congregation.

#3 We will Develop a coaching culture that will trump everything else – This is how we will measure growth in our church.  Everything in our church will point to coaching relationships.  This multiplication will lead us into the Extend phase:  2 Timothy 2:2 says and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”   That’s FOUR GENERATIONS of discipleship in 1 VERSE! Did you see that?

#4 We will use various tools/methods – There is no one size fits all, but we have our hands on some great proven tools and some we developed on our own that speak to the culture of Central New Jersey and our church.

This will not be easy.  This will be messy. This will be hard work.  This will be Holy Spirit driven.  This will be a movement. We will get attacked.  We will persevere.  We will be transformed. This will be very expensive…

“Salvation is free but discipleship will cost you everything.”  Your leaders are preparing…Who is in?



Helping Others Succeed

When I think back on my life, there have been so many who have helped me succeed.  My parents, brothers, coaches, drill instructors, pastors, and the list could go on and on.  All of these people selflessly poured into me.  I know when I succeed, they succeed.  What motivates me about life is watching others reach their full potential.  Likewise, the church I lead is only as successful and the people we help.  If in the end if we look back and have no one to show for our efforts, it will all be in vain.  I am so proud of the people 217church is reaching, the momentum it is sustaining and the churches we wlll help start.

We will be measured not by what we take but what we give. It isn’t as much about us as it is what we leave for those who come after us.

Keep helping others succeed

Leadership 101 #3 Focus

Principle #3  You Must Lead from the Vision

Here are two mistakes we commonly make regarding this principle:  First, we mistake motion for progress.  The reason we do this is to make ourselves feel good.  We are incredibly insecure and selfish so we pull the, “it wasn’t God’s will” card.  What if it was God’s will and you just did the wrong things?  Just because you are busy it doesn’t mean you are doing the right things.  Once I am clear about the vision, it must define my behavior.  If it doesn’t, then we don’t believe in the vision.  Belief = Behavior.  Everyone is busy doing something but the real question is, are we making progress?

Next mistake: We just want people to like us. This is where leaders fail often.  One complaining, disgruntled, manipulative person can get us off focus and it is all our fault.  We don’t want to disappoint them and we want them to like us.  Leadership is not about people liking me, it is about me working alongside them towards a common vision bigger than any one person.  Every time I have caved to someone’s special interest, I compromise the mission and my own character and integrity.

Think this is extreme?  Consider Judas.  Don’t betray the vision! Matthew 26:46-48

Whatever you are leading, know what you are about and live it.