Diversity Creates Incredible Unity

As I walked into 217church this weekend, I met a man born in Nigeria, his name was Castellanos.  He has been coming for over 4 years and I asked him why he comes.  He said, “I love the different kinds of people, black, white, asian, hispanic, the music, the friendly people.  I think this is what heaven will look like!”  BAM!  He hit the nail on the head!  Every week I get to meet with an amazing diverse group of people as 217church.  When we started the church over six years ago, we wanted it to look like the neighborhoods we planted in.  This meant we were going to be diverse.  And wow, did God make us diverse.  Yesterday as I looked out over the people of our church, here is what I saw.   I saw people from almost EVERY CONTINENT.  People from South Korea, Nigeria, Uganda, China, Venezuela, Great Britain, Philippines, Ecuador, India, Mexico, Columbia, Puerto Rico, Chile, Kenya, Poland, and of course the United States.  People from the rural areas and people born in urban Brooklyn, the Bronx, Newark and Trenton.  Because of our diversity of background, it helps us to appreciate and celebrate our differences.  Something that is sorely lacking in some communities and people groups.  We are striving to understand what it means to be a missionary to our culture in the way Jesus.

“God never gives up on His people.”

robbinsville worship

“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”  Colossians 3:11

Our Gospel Work…

At our church we are simply, IN CHRIST. Because of the differences already represented in our people by their cultural background, we are living a Gospel where all are accepted and where peace reigns supreme.  We have become a beautiful expression of the Gospel.  I have been experimenting and praying over this idea for some time now.  While I believe the Gospel must be brought into individual cultures to be expressed in a way people understand in their native cultural framework, the Gospel also must be experienced in a way where we lay down our preferences and celebrate the different ways God expresses Himself through a redeemed people group.  We have become and are becoming an “local international church” in the heart of New Jersey.  Whereas one hundred years ago we had to travel thousands of miles to reach the nations, now in 2016, the nations have come to us.  As opposed to “working hard” to reach people who are different than us, we are finding that the GOSPEL DOES THE HARD WORK OF ACCEPTANCE.

Our Hope…  

These last few days, seeing the exhibition of racism, intolerance and disregard for human life has made me sick.  Absolutely sick and totally disappointed.  Certain people are using these terrible circumstances for their own benefit but through it all, there IS HOPE!

Even in the midst of murder, chaos, racism, deception, betrayal, pain, and loss, the church today must preach Jesus. We must celebrate the Gospel – Today is a day of healing – Today is a day of restoration – Today belongs to God and all that is in it – Today We celebrate Jesus redefining the sabbath – Sunday is a reminder of the resurrection, pure and simple. The indescribable, unrelenting, mysterious love of God through his son Jesus, crucified, RISEN, that we may be forgiven and extend that same forgiveness to others. The love of Jesus takes my breath away. 

No matter what we look like, what happened this week, what our background or preferences. The Gospel demands and calls that we come together and proclaim peace and humility forgiving one another. Maybe the most important thing you do this next week will be to start the week in the presence of the Holy Spirit, surrounded by the body of Christ, caught up, receiving communion together. If even for just a moment, in the Glory and awe of the power, the protection and the power of Jesus is felt and recognized, THIS – IS – LIVING!

What is the Point?  

Could it be that the church, not politics, not media, not a social action group, should be the way for us exert the maximum leverage on the issue of racism and oppression in our communities?  I believe it is.  I’m not talking necessarily about just the institution of the church, but the uncontrollable, unstoppable, formation of God’s people at work in the community, praying, fasting, serving the community relentlessly, bringing the restorative narrative of the Gospel to the people one act of love at a time.


For more on this idea:  Listen to last Sunday’s message here:  God Never Gives Up On His people


This Sunday July 17 – “I Don’t Approve, God”

217church meets at 10 AM at the Hamilton AMC24 Theater  11 AM at the Robbinsville Sharon Elementary School every Sunday morning.  If it is your 1st time, we have a special gift waiting for you!

Josh Conn is the founding pastor of 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 10:00am and Sharon Elementary school in Robbinsville, NJ at 11:00.  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, we would love to have you join us.  Don’t miss our weekend services. Visit www.217church.com for more information. or watch a weekend message here

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.

Hamilton Township Mayor Sentenced to 38 Months…And How To Avoid ‘Stupid Moments’ As a Leader

Today was a sad day for me.  As a Pastor in the township of Hamilton, NJ I am deeply grieved by what just occurred in the Fisher Federal Courthouse in Trenton.  After the former Mayor John Bencivengo solicited $12,400 in bribes from a school district insurance broker, he was convicted of corruption and was sentenced today to 38 months in a federal prison.  Essentially, the leader of our community threw everything away.  I had the privilege to sit next to the former Mayor at several Hamilton Township events and I remember meeting him when we started 217church in 2010.  Mr. Bencivengo was cordial and I gave him the respect his office deserved. I don’t know Mr. Bencivengo personally and I’m not sure what went wrong, or when exactly he made a decision to steal money, but I do know this: Today was probably one of the saddest days of his 90 year old mother’s life, Rose Mary Bencivengo.

Former Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?  “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind,to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:9-10

 Let’s all be honest, we have all made mistakes, maybe we haven’t extorted $12,400, but we all have all done things we are not proud of.  These choices have consequences and everyone has been tempted to do something extremely irresponsible and morally questionable.  No one is above the temptation.  Whether it was last week, last month, or last year, we all fall short of perfection.  But when a leader falls off the “leadership bus” and has a “stupid moment,” it should make us all pause and take inventory of our offices, influence, our calling and our deep connection to others in the community we live in.  Hopefully we can avoid having these major “stupid moments” like the mayor, but here are 4 things to consider before having a “stupid moment.”

Definition of a Stupid Moment:  A moment in time when you think you can get away with something that you know in your heart is not only wrong, but compromises your reputation, family and your legacy.

4 Things To Do Before Having The “Stupid Moment

1. Set Up Safeguards – The best way to not have a stupid moment is to NOT put yourself in compromising situations.  There are three primary areas you need to safeguard yourself in,  what I like to call the three P’s of integrity.  These have the power to end your career, public service or ministry and damage your integrity: PRIDE, POSSESSIONS, and PLEASURE.  Our desire for more power, more stuff and our inability to stay morally pure will destroy us.  YOU MUST set up safeguards to protect yourself against even the appearance of impropriety.  For every person and leader the safeguards are different, but my practical safeguards include avoiding morally questionable situations with the opposite sex.  This may seem extreme, but I won’t go out for coffee with any woman alone in ANY circumstance.  It just isn’t worth the risk to me.  In addition, as a pastor, I don’t handle ANY money from the church.  I am not a signer on any bank accounts and if you hand me money, I will hand it back to you.  I also serve alongside a board and staff that has the ability to question decisions of mine all the time.  You have to empower people to disagree with you in order to be a good leader.

Question:  What safeguards do you need to set up, RIGHT NOW?

2.  Consider Your Own Vision – If you don’t have a compelling life vision, you are more likely to wing it in your character.  One of the things that has kept me from taking moral shortcuts is keeping my goals and calling in front of me.  Whenever there is an opportunity to cheat, (and there will be opportunities), I ask myself this question.  Will I be able to sleep tonight with a clear conscience if I do this?  If the answer is no, well, I need to move on quickly.  Trust is developed over a lifetime and then disappears in a day.  The longer you entertain the thoughts of compromise, the more likely you are to have a “stupid moment.”  If you know who you are, what you are about and what you are trying to accomplish in life, you are less likely to fall on your face in your character.  Your vision has to be so compelling that others never question what you are about.

Question:  How does your vision need to be refined to be made compelling?

3.  Be Very Afraid, Fear and Honor Your ‘Office’ Above Yourself – There is nothing wrong with a fear and reverence for a position.  As a matter of fact, many leaders in our country have lost their sense of honor for the offices they hold.  How can you tell if you don’t honor the role? One word, ENTITLEMENT.  As we develop leaders for roles and positions in our church to benefit the community, I sniff out the evil of entitlement and squash it as fast as I can.  If you work with me and you become entitled, you may find yourself out of a job.  If you are entitled you will be lazy and lazy people make terrible public servants, entrepreneurs, police officers etc.

Question:  What do you think your job ‘owes’ you?

4. Think of Your Mom – And wife, and children, and co-workers, and constituents and the list just goes on and on.  I said at the beginning of this post, the day of sentencing was probably most difficult for Bencivengo’s mother. How do I know this?  Consider Jesus at the cross:  We know from what the bible says that His mother was at the foot of the cross weeping while they crucified Jesus.  Your actions don’t just have consequences for you, but all of your family, friends and every person you serve.  You will either redeem or reduce people’s opinion of your role and the organization you  serve by how you serve faithfully.

Question:  Is there any behavior you are participating in that is moral grey area?

I hope we can all show grace to former Mayor Bencivengo and his family.  Our job is to now heal and move on.  Hopefully the integrity and belief in our municipal, civic and corporate leaders in our township will be restored quickly.  I am saddened in my heart for what we have endured as a community, but I forgive and move on. Will you choose to forgive?  Our community will be better off if we don’t hold grudges.  If you are honest with the questions above, I am confident our township will once again be restored to honor and we will once again trust our public officials.


Pastor Josh Conn is the Pastor of 217church in Hamilton Township, NJ.  217church holds services at the AMC24 theaters in Hamilton every Sunday at 9:30 and 11:00am and is a church dedicated to serving the needs of Hamilton and surrounding mercer county communities.

3 Years of 217church – Every Story Counts

This Sunday is a HUGE day for our church.  We celebrate three years of being a church “creating environments where people can meet and follow Jesus!”  This has been our vision statement from Day 1.  Where have these three years gone?  I could tell you story after story of lives transformed because of Jesus and His tangible acts of love shown by our 217church family.  I could tell you about a single mom who was baptized at our first baptism in the Washington Crossing River and sensed new hope in Jesus.  I could tell you about a young woman who has recovered from an abusive past, discovered the grace of Jesus and is now pouring her life into young teenagers so they don’t have to endure the same struggles she endured.  I could tell you about children who have found a relationship with Jesus.  I could tell you about our Children’s and youth ministry that is ministering in places in Trenton that need to hear of Jesus.  I could tell you of business owners and entrepreneurs who are now using their influence to bring people to Jesus because of 217church.  We are a church where Every Story Counts!

“Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall.”  Nehemiah 2:17

 Here Are Some of The Ways God Has Used You

#1 141 Restored Lives – We like to say, we are the church for people who aren’t here yet.  Here is the list of 141 names of people who we have baptized into a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Starting a church is a covenant building experience.  Revealing a sign of hope and love from a savior, who never leaves and always extends the hand of grace, is what we are about.  When you read their names, it’s just print on paper, but truly they are lives and families transformed.  I can’t wait for the next 141!

Phil Robertson, Christine Johnson, Crystal Morgan, Lynda Ferguson, Laurie Robertson, Sandy Rivera, Amanda Kline, Stephen Constantinou, Andrew Constantinou, Michelle Watson, Danny Baumann, Butch Hamilton, Josh Rivas, Jill Larsen, Melissa MacCollum, Caitlin Condit, Lisa Flores, Lily Mahaney, Liza Vargas, Jamie Vargas, Arlynet Tovar, Steven Gotthelf, Kyle Graf, Diana Garcia, Sharon Geiger, Natalya Rivera, Juan Rivera IV, Howard Anderson, Brandyn Lichtenstein, Laura Shapanus, Bill Shapanus, Alyse Canciello, Monica Quiroz, Cristiana Galang, Becca Solis, Krista Galang, Andrew Albert, Joe Corso, Lilly Conn, Titus Conn, Kathryn Nieves, Mimi Kabia, Chad Nelson, Kristi Costanzo, Keith Cline, Katie Johnson, Terri Svecz, Sean Gordon, Alex Svecz, Collin Spurgin, Matt Spurgin, Lonzetta Rush, James Rush, Jason Kingsley, Gary Jakubicki, Sally Hutchings, Josh Schmalbach, Leonard Simon, Denise Stremlo, Mike Kirk, Chrisha Kirk, Mark Forman, Kevin Cordas, Shelly Cordas, Steve Cosenza, Debbie Cosenza, Dione Springer, Gabrielle Cobb, Luis Valdivieso, Toni-Ann Rotondi, Cristina Cobb-Adams, Anthony Anglin, Jason Flintosh, Nicole Jemine, Jason Parker, Gina Sparacio, Flynt Tuller, Flynt Jr. Tuller, Jill Brown, Jay Rodriguez, Pete Ruffini, Allie Guerrero, Jaime Vargas, Patti Ann Ridgway, Lauren Velarde, Corrine Hunsher, Sonny Esteron, Derek Sander, Deb Stewart, Willie Rivera, Cindy Chavez, Jhoi Ortiz, Katie Hawver, David Robertiello, Nick Labella, Lindsay Clayton, Sandra Lupo, Devon Smith, Michael Ettinger, Pollorn Sayasack, Jessica Rivas, Tiffany Rivas, Nick D’Mauro, Jeanie Leung, Cathy Szymanski, John Baldino, Racheal Jones, Eve Green, Maria Cobena, Liz Perez, Cathy Szyanski, Kathleen Contreras, Christian Servellon, Christina Baranowski, Daniela Vinci, Naylon Larane, Adrien Ong, Racquel Smith, Brittney Blackburn, Alcmenia Dunbar, Natalia Hernandez, Santina Hernandez, Corina Hernandez, Courtney Arbitell, Joclyn Hernandez, Dania Hernandez, Miriam Hernandez, Tsunami Martinez, Johanna Martinez, Kimberly Hopkins, Linda Monforte, Maria Rodriguez, Yolanda Drislane, Kristen Moore, Janet Russell, Trevor Jones, Sixto Irizarry, Shanera Hampton, Jessica Suessegger, Sherenne Simon, Alfredo Marin.  Every Story Counts!

#2 People Finding Deep Relationships – In one of our 17 small groups that meet in 11 different townships, you will find people who are serving the community.  On any given week, we have over 250 people meeting together, caring for one another deeply.  We visit each other when in the hospital, we pray for each other, study the bible together and we take care of each other.  We even have one group who paid off a person’s credit card debt to give them a fresh start financially. (Now you are saying…”I want in!”)  Every Story Counts!

#3 Over 2 Million Dollars Worth of Generosity – In these three years over Two Million dollars has been given to the vision of 217church!  Through generous hearts you have given to church planting, the next generation fund, provided for practical needs of countless people hurting in our community, provided a place for us to meet on Sundays, sent kids to camps, provided for all our equipment and empowered our pastors and staff to live and do ministry in the community.  Your generosity is proving Every Story Counts!

#4 An Incredible Youth & Children’s Ministry – Each week 140 kids and youth hear about the love of Jesus through our dynamic 217kids and 217youth ministries.  Psalm 46:13 says, “tell the next Generation this is God.” We have taken this to heart and are serious about making the next generation our #1 priority.  We now have a partnership with Urban Promise in Trenton and are working hard to bring the Gospel of Jesus to students in Trenton through after school programs.  It’s just the beginning of seeing our influence soar.  They will write the story after we are off the scene and we are empowering them NOW!  Their Story Counts!

#5 Over 430 People Every Weekend in Worship – Every week we celebrate big and our celebrations just keep getting bigger and BIGGER!  We started planning this church in a living room with 20 people and now every week over 400 gather!  We preach the word, worship passionately, pray boldly and we make it a HUGE celebration.  We make a big deal of the Gospel of Jesus and every week over 50 people serve to make these celebrations happen.  Our 217church co-worker team is nothing short of incredible!  Week in and week out for 150+ Sundays, so many have heard about Jesus and are following him because of these celebrations proving Every Story Counts!

One Final Note:

I am humbled and privileged to serve as your pastor.  I couldn’t have scripted it better.  You are what I am proud of.  You have made my life and the life of my family richer and full of meaning. We love you all!

Josh & Summer Lilly, Titus & Lydia


Join in The HUGE CELEBRATION This Weekend…

1) Two Huge Weekend Celebrations 9:30am & 11am at the AMC 24

2) Our 3rd anniversary party at our Youth Center at 3pm. (yes it’s 2/17 day!)

3) Finally, end the day with an evening baptism with our sister church, Element Church at Princeton Alliance Church.

This is going to be AWESOME!

Generosity In Action

Today is a guest post by our Youth Pastor, Kevin Namur.

There is nothing like seeing the next generation in action! This past Sunday 217church spent the afternoon delivering thanksgiving baskets to families in the Bromley community, our partner neighborhood. As we went door to door delivering dinner to the families, we asked for the ages of all the children in their household in preparation for our Christmas toyland, and if we could pray with them for their greatest need. As I walked the streets with our students, I was encouraged to see how passionate they were about serving the community. Eventually we met a woman named Clairmita. She asked for prayer for healing from her chronic body pain. She invited all of us into her home and shared with us her greatest need. I watched as the students immediately joined hands with her and began to pray for healing.  It was truly beautiful to see. Not only the blessing she had experienced, but the look in the students eyes as they lit up with more energy and passion to pray for those in need. I realized more than ever, our next generation doesn’t want to be told and taught generosity, they want to experience and live it out in a tangible way. They want to see and be generosity in action.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:45

As I walked away from Clairmita’s house with our students, I began to ask God to remind me how we all got to a place where we felt empowered enough to enter someone’s home and pray for healing for a woman we had just met. I realized that over the last 2 years together as a youth ministry, God had walked us all through a process understanding 3 of the most powerful prayers anyone could ever pray.

3 Powerful Prayers

1. God, show me what you see

I prayed this prayer 2 years ago in my living room while praying for our HS youth ministry.  The Lord showed me a generation hungry for authenticity, ownership, and the opportunity to make a difference. We made a decision last year in our High School ministry to move to a small group centric model. Students would now meet regularly in homes and we saw them begin to open up their hearts and their bibles more than ever before. We started with the idea that we were a family. We began to pray for one another on a weekly basis and created an environment where leaders poured into our students.  Our students were hungry to see what God saw in the hearts of the youth of our community.  We began inviting more friends to be a part of our family and now our groups are multiplying. All because of a simple yet powerful prayer. “God, show me what you see.”

2. Jesus, break my heart for what breaks yours

I prayed this prayer in June and He responded with this phrase, “In order to reach those that no one is reaching, you must do things that no one is doing.”  So we reached out to Urban Promise Trenton and prayed that God would create a powerful partnership between us for His glory. Urban Promise has a heart to build leadership and strong faith in Christ in the hearts of the next generation.  God responded. The students at Urban Promise have become a part of our church family and this year we’ve been caring for one another, building relationships throughout the week, and holding each other accountable more than ever. We have encountered Jesus together in a way that has made us all realize how broken His heart is to see us and others broken.

 3. Holy Spirit, give me the boldness to do your work

This is the prayer I am challenged with today. It’s the one I began to see Him answer on Sunday as I served alongside our students. We now see what God sees when we pray together and for one another. Our hearts are now breaking for those in need. Now I believe God is bringing us through a season where we are beginning to receive the boldness to do things we have never done before. We are looking forward to serving families in Trenton for our Christmas service project this year. As a ministry we are asking God to redirect us in any way He wants to ensure we continue to see what He sees, break for what He breaks for, and have the boldness to do what He calls us to do.

This should be the cry of all of our hearts as Christ followers at 217church. Especially in this season of the year where practical needs can be met so easily, I pray you would dare to adopt these 3 prayers in your daily life. Why? Because at one point the Son of God saw what His Father saw here on earth. Not only did His heart break but His body broke to save us all from sin. God the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit gave Him the boldness to endure the cross. And He rose again victorious over sin so that we could have life forever with Him. He also left us with a clear calling: To do what He did and to be to this earth what He was. HOPE. Will you walk into His calling for your life by beginning to pray these 3 prayers? “God show me what you see.  Jesus, break my heart for what breaks yours.  Holy Spirit, give me the boldness to do your work.”

Which of these prayers is the hardest for you and why?

The Big Reveal!

This Sunday we reveal the location of our first ever additional weekend worship site of 217church.  We will soon be one church in two locations! This Sunday we will reveal the date, location and what we need to launch a new worship site.  Don’t miss THE BIG REVEAL Sunday at AMC 24 10 & 11:30 AM!

Our hand written notes to 21 1st time guests families from launch Sunday

As I walked in the theater last Sunday and felt the anticipation of one of our largest gatherings ever, I was awestruck by the energy in the room!  This was happening.  We were launching and the word MULTIPLY was on our lips.  Three years ago when we started this journey we had no idea really what was going to happen, but God is clearly moving through you. What an incredible weekend!  I feel bad if you missed as it was by far one of my favorite weekends together with our 217church family.

These facts are simply a snap shot of what is going on through you and the ministry of 217church!

Some Quick Facts From Sunday:

-2 people chose to follow Jesus for the 1st time this weekend
-21 First time guest families / (New Record)
-456 people gathered (Largest Regular Weekend Ever)
-130+ people served in some capacity and we had a full breakfast together at 9 am! (New Record)
-50+ more people joined a small group
-73 total Kids! (Largest 217kids Gathering Ever)
-100 people joined for lunch following 2nd service at the youth center

What’s Next?

The staff and leadership team is here to serve you and equip you for your ministry.  Let’s make the most of this fall season. Here is a quick run down of the schedule and what you can expect every weekend.

September 30  – We reveal the location of the next worship site for 217church
Plus:  Meet 217church 1:00 pm at youth center

October 7 – We reveal our first overseas mission partner location and officially launch 217global!
Plus: 217 Blueprint class 1:00 pm at youth center

October 14 – Baptism Weekend!  This is what it’s all about! Sign up to be baptized and e-mail Kevin here: kevin@217church.com

There is no doubt about it, God’s plan for the church is to grow in every capacity.  God has been blessing every area of 217church with growth and improved health over these past two years.  But even though we are growing, this should never stop us asking the question…What if?  Our willingness to ask this question fights off complacency and becoming comfortable.  Let’s believe God for HUGE things this season and HOLD NOTHING BACK!





Feel Someone’s Pain

It’s been almost 20 years since I completed Marine Corps boot camp and I will never forget a powerful lesson I learned.  “You can only move as fast as the slowest person.”  In a powerful moment on a long hike, I saw one of my friends falling down from exhaustion and a friend and I stopped to help him. We literally pushed him and all his gear up the hill.  We wanted him to make it more than he did I think. He just needed someone to help him get to the top and once he did he was a new man.  It helped me realize what it meant to FEEL SOMEONE’S PAIN. So who needs some help getting to the top of their hill?

Sometimes feel like I can never do enough.  When I think of all the problems and issues facing our community, I feel rather helpless.  What can one person do in order to bring meaningful change to a life?  Sometimes it means you don’t have to do much more than simply listen, but one of the deepest truths to realize about life is you are not alone in your pain.  As a matter of fact, God wants us to feel our own pain and the pain of others in order to fully understand His love.  One of the most difficult things to do is to engage pain and not run from it.  It is perfectly natural to want to rid yourself of pain as soon as possible.  But the deeper the pain and hurt it seems the deeper the learning.  Why do we want to run from pain?  Here are a couple things to do when you FEEL THE PAIN.  It is okay to FEEL THE PAIN and we must do something with it. 

When one person hurts we all hurt.

  • Pray – Ok, I know what you are thinking…Wow that’s it?  You wanted me to read this post for you to say, “pray”  What I have found is that many people have locked up prayer in a religious ceremony or weekend gathering.  Prayer was meant to be a living and breathing active relationship between God and his people.  At your deepest moment of crisis, you will most likely pray.  Why not start now and start investing in your relationship with Jesus before you FEEL THE PAIN?  Most people if you ask if you can pray for them will simply say, “sure.”
  • Partner – YOU MUST NOT ISOLATE YOURSELF!  I have seen so many people dealing with pain and doing it alone.  Not only is this not helpful, but it isn’t biblical. Galatians 6:1 says, “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” If you are alone in your pain find someone else to walk with you. In addition, if the only persons junk you have is your own, your not really following JesusFEEL SOMEONE’S PAIN! I didn’t say everyone’s pain, but find just one and carry their weight with them.

The Lamentations series @217church is in full swing.  There was something about receiving communion last week together and confessing the sins of the city together that changed us.  This Sunday, let’s remember we are not alone.