Why One Service at Each Campus?

After many conversations with elders, leaders, others in our congregation, and outside advisors over the last 6 weeks, we have made the decision as 217church to go to ONE SERVICE at EACH CAMPUS beginning March 8.  Our new service times will be 10:00am in Hamilton at the AMC24 and 11:00am in Robbinsville at Sharon School.  One thing is for sure, we have had an incredible impact over the past 5 years and we are gearing up to be as healthy as we can in order to fulfill the vision God has called us to over the next 5 years. 

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. Colossians 1:28

Keep in mind the weekend services are just ONE aspect of our mission to be a restored, family sent on mission to make disciples.  We believe positioning our weekends in the new format will do some key things that will cause us to operate more healthy over these next months.  our vision isn’t changing but our implementation plan is.  This is one of the things I love about our church, your incredible commitment to whatever it takes!  Our weekends are designed to help us Pursue God Passionately and lead people to small group community to become disciple makers.  This isn’t a step back, but a step forward.  Here’s why we are making the switch.

Why One Service At Each Campus?

1. Prayer Focus – At Hamilton, because we have 2 services, and our first service started at 9:30 am, we had less time to pray and connect with each other before the services.  All the staff agrees that we envision our church before and after services to be a place where PRAYER is of utmost priority!  9:20-9:45 will be our prayer time in Hamilton and 10:15-10:40 in Robbinsville.  We need to pray for each other, pray through scripture,  and intercede for what God will do through the services!  I am truly excited for this!  We need to reset the culture to be one where prayer and spiritual response is the primary focus both before, during, and after services.  What would it be like to be a church where over 100 people gathered before we worshiped corporately to pray for God to move mightily across the 2 campuses.

Your Role:  Double down in Your commitment to PRAY together on Sunday

2. BIG WIN for our 217kids Ministry – Especially in Hamilton because we had 2 services, this meant we needed to staff twice as many kids co-workers.  We need to empower and make one High Quality experience for our kids in each campus.  I believe this will allow more 217kids coworkers to connect and our kids and tots will be ministered to more effectively.   They need support and a new platform to build from.  We love our children so much!  Our KIDS COWORKERS ARE AMAZING! We are starting a BRAND NEW KIDS CURRICULUM in a few weeks and I am very pumped about this.  Our goal is to drive the stake of the Gospel so deep in their young lives that when they are older, they will only wander so far from it.

Your Role:  Consider your role in our 217kids ministry

3.  My Strategic Presence – In a 2 service system, I get to spend more time with the Robbinsville campus and augment what is happening after the preaching.  The Sharon School facility will allow us to do lunches, trainings, and fellowships after services to build into the body onsite at the school!  I am so excited about this.  Tremendous things have happened.  I am so pleased we were willing to take a risk and start another campus when we did.   The TEAM IS DOING A GREAT JOB of welcoming people in and the Gospel is going forward and people are being added to His kingdom!

Your Role:  Step up and join a weekend team

4.  Unity and Connection – We feel as a staff we need a season of togetherness in Hamilton for one service in order to grow strong for the next season God is calling us to as a total church.  I am thinking that some of you will choose to migrate to the Robbinsville Campus because of the service time change.  Ever since we went to 2 services in Hamilton it meant we didn’t have a full room of people worshiping together and BOTH CAMPUSES NEED TO BE REALLY STRONG if we are going to continue to Plant churches and add campuses.  Our services are incredible opportunities to corporately build up, receive the word, and gain strength for our week.

Your Role:  Consider which campus you are committed to, then go all in with a small group

I have so much positive anticipation regarding these changes.  Comment below, I would love to dialogue about how you feel and hear your thoughts.


This Sunday at 217church

March 8- Joy & Our Future – Our 5 Year Anniversary Celebration!  We will Reveal some Faith Steps God is asking us to take as a church and rally around the vision.


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 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, don’t miss our weekend services. Visit www.217church.com for more information.


There is Something I Need to Say

THANK YOU.  Ten years ago, I never could have imagined the trials and joys my family would face over the next decade.  But as I look back, God has been right there with us every step of the way.  Particularly over the past month, during my father-in-law’s last days of life, so many of you have reached out to my family and have done the little things that have showed you are truly of God.  No, I’m not talking about random facebook posts, I’m talking about tangible things you have done for my family.  As we have watched a man go and touch the face of eternity, my family has been marked by the endless pouring out of affection and care from those around us.  But tomorrow before we celebrate his life I wanted to thank those who are too many to name, but let try and capture a few here:

Don’t EVER forget to say thank you…


Gary with the Love of His life, Marlys on one of their countless Cascade Mountain treks.

1 – Family – Family is well, family.  no matter what, you forgive, step forward, choose to love, take care of, and sacrifice for.  We aren’t perfect, but we are family.  Dad, you accepted me. Even though I wasn’t perfect, you gave your daughter to me and then you loved me.  I NEVER doubted your love.  Mom, you are persistent, patient, serving and unconditionally caring. Extended family, you define unconditional love and care.  I have watched you all come together and you have endured and Gary’s reward has been received a bit ahead of you.  Grandma Ivalene, you and Grandpa Jack raised an exceptional family. Your legacy in uncommon.  #THANKYOU

2. Caregivers and Cancer Community –  You are INCREDIBLE.  My wife told me stories of the hospice nurses who treated Gary with outrageous love and compassion.  You are amazing.  You do the unthinkable and you choose to stand beside those in the last days of their lives.  You truly have modeled what it means to live with purpose and quiet humility, I have learned much.  For those who walked the mountain trails with Gary, may you have peace and strength in your struggle. #defeatcancer.  #THANKYOU

3. Our Bend, Oregon Church Family –  I can’t say enough about your devotion to Jesus.  You brought meals, fixed tires, called, edited video for his celebration of life, and walked alongside Dad & Mom.  There really isn’t anything we could ask that you wouldn’t do.  16 years ago, you adopted Summer and I as family, then you met Gary and Marlys and they became family.  You are an example of the Gospel of Jesus in action.  #THANKYOU

4. Our New Jersey Church Family –  The last month has been chaos at my house.  This is entirely because I was the boss while Summer was in Oregon :).  But you brought meals, visited, prayed and stood beside me in support.  I will never forget just hours before Gary passed away, a family visited my house and prayed on my door step.  You will never know how much that moment meant to us.  You stepped up when I wasn’t there and led well in the church.  Pastors, small group leaders, all of you.  You even are taking care of our puppies as I write this.  You are Incredible. #THANKYOU

ONE FINAL THANK YOU…Maybe you will be privileged enough to find a wife who is peaceable, patient, and passionate.  Summer, you have been strong through Jesus, there really is no other source of your strength. I love you and I know we will miss Dad, but as he said just hours before he met Jesus, “He has it easy, we have the hard part now.”


Gary’s Celebration of Life will be at 11AM November 29th at New Hope Church in Bend, Oregon.  20080 Pinebrook Blvd, 97702.  All are welcome: 

You can Follow Marlys Johnson’s Cancer Adventure blog for more encouragement


Josh is the lead pastor 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 Starplex Cinemas in East Windsor, NJ at 10:15.  Our new 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 www.217church.com for more information.



Easter 2014 – My 10 Favorite Moments

Easter 2014 is behind us 217church and I had a blast!  But there were some incredible moments that made it all worth it to me.  650 people worshiped with us and combined with the 800 people we served yesterday, we came in contact with over 1400 people in a 24 hour period!  That is AWESOME!  I talked to so many people who were personally invited and as a result, they heard the resurrection story of Jesus in a fresh way, some for the first time from the bible!

We are a restored family sent on mission.  We experienced this vision Easter 2014.


Jay and Steve praying 25 minute before the 1st service in Hamilton

I always take time on Monday and reflect on the weekend.  Here were some of my favorite moments I wanted to share with you…

My 10 Favorite Moments This Easter –

#10 My Time in the Car with Jesus Early in the Morning – Before a message was preached, anyone was greeted or a guitar hit a chord, I loved my time with Jesus at sunrise.  It was a 2 hour period of peacefulness, worship and Jesus filled me with his Joy (Nehemiah 8:10) Yes I screamed my lungs out!

#9 Praying with the team for the impact of Easter – Every Sunday 30-40 minutes before services, we pray at each campus for the day.  I can never get enough of watching people pray for Jesus to heal and transform lives.

#8 Meeting a family from one of our egg hunts who came to services – I love interacting with our 1st time guests and people who are new to the church.  They heard of the egg hunt through the internet, then were invited to come at the event.  Well, they came!  Invitations work!  (And by the way they have really NEVER been a part of any church, just looking for something for their kids)

#7 Sprinting from my car to the theater for the final service – Man, the Sunday Easter slow drivers were out in force today!  I made it back to the theater with about 30 seconds to spare, I literally sprinted from the car as the Easter video was ending :).  It was exhilarating!

#6 Feeling the electricity in the rooms during worship – Getting a lot of people together to worship is a unique and empowering experience.  I loved seeing our largest crowd ever sing and proclaim our RISEN, VICTORIOUS, JESUS!

#5 Asking someone who was new to the church to serve – Yep, that happened.  He happened to be early, ran into me, I said hi and then just asked if he wanted to help us welcome people.  He said yes, and I said “welcome to the team.”

#4 Seeing people receive communion together – I love watching people encounter God.  I saw families together, people spontaneously praying for each other and the presence of God was felt.

#3 Watching my family walk into the theater to worship together – There is nothing quite like seeing my beautiful wife and 3 kids walking together.  my 5 year old didn’t want to let go of me!

#2 Gathering around the table and watching my kids open gifts from grandparents – Since our parents live so far away, they send gifts for Easter.  I love that my kids know that the grandparents love them and are thinking about them.

#1 Watching my kids play outside with the neighborhood kids – For whatever reason, God has placed us in a neighborhood with a ton of kids.  I love that my kids are building friendships and learning to love their friends.  My family is my greatest Joy!

Thanks for being an incredible church family.  What about you?  I would love to know your favorite moments…



Join us at 217church Next Sunday as we continue our Live Differently Series…

April 27 – Spiritual Health

May 4 – Financial Health

May 11- Family Health

May 18 – Physical Health

This Easter Sunday April 20th 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 Grace Rogers School in East Windsor, NJ at 10:15.  Our new 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 www.217church.com for more information.




3 Sources of Hope For 2014

2013 was an impacting year full of ups and downs for my family and for 217church.  We saw over 50 baptisms, watched our youth and kids ministries flourish and embarked on our biggest faith step as a church in our 4 year history.  We are launching a 217church campus in East Windsor, NJ beginning January 12, 2014!  Invite your friends to the launch services here. God is faithful and no matter what goals you reached or didn’t reach in 2013, one thing is for sure, 2014 has God’s best written all over it!


Click Here to Watch the Video

“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future”  Jeremiah 29:11

Now that the year is winding down, It is time to look back on God’s blessings and look forward for hope.  Take some time over this next week and recharge, reflect and rejoice in what God has done, NO MATTER WHAT your circumstance.

3 Sources Hope in 2014…

1. God Has The Plan –  Calm Down, relax!  No matter what you are facing, God has your best interest in mind.  It doesn’t mean this year will be easy, but it does mean that He will hold everyday in His hand.  Your family, your job, your health, everything is in God’s hand and His perfect will.  Maybe you are facing debt or a sickness, Jesus identifies with how you feel and what you are going through.

Action Plan:  Take a 4 hour period of time and ask God for a plan for 2014.

2. It’s By God’s Provision  –  The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  God owns it ALL!  He is our provider and this next year may provide challenges to your finances and your family.  At the beginning of the year make a faith financial gift to advance His kingdom and start the year by putting God first in your finances. Everything you have is by His hand of grace and provision.   If you are in debt, believe God for a plan and the discipline to get out.  No matter your situation be thankful.

Action Plan:  You’ve almost made it through 2013!  make a list of the different ways God has provided, then pray and thank God for each one.

3. Depend on God’s Protection  –  God looks out for us even when we don’t even realize He is there.  Commit to let God fight every one of your battles in 2014.  Maybe it’s a work conflict, maybe it is a family issue.  Our responsibility is to be a person of peace and depend on God.  God has your back so let Him prove Himself faithful to you in the new year.

Action Plan:  Gather your family for 15 minutes, Discuss the above and pray over your family Psalm 91 for protection in 2014.

Above all else, remember Psalm 89:1 and may it be your blessing in 2014:  “I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.”

See you in the new year!



217church is a multi-site church in Mercer County NJ with small groups for families in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that meets in the Hamilton AMC24 Theater.  Our new East Windsor Campus Launches Sunday January 12th, 2014  10:15 am at Ethel McKnight School.  If you are looking for a church in East Windsor NJ, Hamilton NJ, Mercer County, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA, don’t miss our weekend services in Hamilton at 9:30 or 11 am! Visit www.217church.com.  If you want to be in on the ground floor of a new exciting church planting environment, contact our East Windsor Campus Pastor Dan Gay at Dan@217church.com.




My Prayer For You This Week

This morning, as I was thinking and praying through the first three weeks of our Song of Solomon Series my heart exploded for our 217church family. I know we are each experiencing this series on love, sex, and marriage from a different perspective and I know it isn’t easy.  As a matter of fact, for some of us, it is taking great courage to come and hear about these topics.  I know it hurts.  As much as I know it’s needed, I know it hurts.  I am humbled you are letting me walk through this series with you.  As I was praying this morning, I wanted to share some things I feel God is speaking to different groups of you and let you know how I am praying for all of you today.



How I Am Praying For You

#1 If You Are Divorced – My prayer is that you would sense the deep love and acceptance from Jesus, who in his last moments on the cross, chose a thief to be with him in eternity.  You are never beyond God’s grace and he forgives you.  You have asked forgiveness before in sincerity, and it is finished.  The guilt you feel is not from God.  May you rebuke the enemy as he accuses you and realize the power and confidence you have through Jesus.  “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.” Proverbs 14:26.   Although your spouse is not there, Jesus heals.  He heals!  If you are raising children, may you parent them with grace and understanding as you answer their difficult questions and have the joy of raising a Godly child parenting them well.

#2 If You Are Single – My prayer is you would know that Jesus is with you.  He knows what it is like to be lonely and ostracized.  He understands your pain of wanting something and having to wait.  May you never sell out and settle for second best.  Hebrews 13:5 says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Jesus understands your feelings and your body belongs to God.  May you raise the standard in your expectations of a future spouse who will love you like you deserve to be loved.  If you are living together with someone who is not your spouse, may you be awakened in your error and may you receive grace from God and move out because you are a person of principle and a child of God.

#3 If You Are Married – My prayer is where there is healing needed you would understand and receive it.  For you who have struggled in your physical intimacy, may you be restored in your marriage.  May your covenant be renewed and may you return to and embrace the wife or the husband of your youth.  Where there has been cheating, may there be restoration, where there has been resentment and bitterness, may you receive peace, forgiveness and oneness with your spouse.  God believes in your marriage. It’s worth it, NEVER GIVE UP! “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:6 

#4 If You Have Been Sexually Abused – The person who abused you stole from you and had no right to, but I pray you will forgive them.  There is healing and there is a pathway forward. Understand no one can ever steal the grace Jesus gives to you and He has the power to restore your mind and the way you think about your body. Know your body belongs to God, He values you and he loves you.

#5 If You Are In An Unhealthy Relationship – My prayer is you find your identity in Christ and not in another person.  May you stop trying to fill the gap in your life with other people and may you turn to Jesus.  May you be a person of courage and break up with that man, woman, boy or girl who is not God’s best for you.  May you be built up by those around you who would encourage you and pour into you more than they take from you.

#6 If You Are a High Schooler or Middle Schooler – Maybe you feel you have blown it and have already made a bad choice.  My prayer is you would know that no boy or girl defines your worth.  Jesus already defined your worth when he died on the cross and claimed everything about you as HIS!  This includes your body.  It belongs to God.  May everything you choose to do with it be a worship to God.  May you live Romans 12:1 “I appeal to you therefore brothers, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

#7 You’ve Remained Pure Sexually – You have been given a gift.  May you remain steadfast in your commitment to your future spouse.  May you find the wife or husband that God has for you in his due time.  May you prepare for your wedding day by drawing close to God and learning to serve, sacrifice and live the Gospel everyday.  May you be blessed with a lifelong covenant help mate that you will serve and draw close to who will show you what it means to be like Jesus.

I love you all and want to remind you about our March 24th Vow Renewal Weekend.  We will be celebrating the marriage covenant and how God will remain faithful to us in our marriages.

I wanted to QUIT today

There I said it, I am normal.  If you are anything like me, the feeling comes and goes periodically.  It was around mile 4 of my 10 mile run and my body just didn’t feel right.  Every step was a struggle, a labor, and my legs felt so heavy.  I was out of breath and began to ask myself, “do I really need to do this run today?” I wasn’t even half way done and my body was telling me, QUIT, GIVE UP, STOP!  I just wanted to be done with this work out.  EVERYONE has wanted to QUIT something at one time or another, and it was time to see how serious I was about training for this marathon.

Wanting to quit is normal and even healthy.

Have you wanted to quit lately?  Maybe you have wanted to quit your job, your marriage, your workout plan, your day, your week.  Wanting to quit can actually be a sign of great self-awareness and can be a powerful revelation of deep purpose and progress in your life.  It may get tougher before it gets easier, but know that perseverance is where the power is…

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”            James 1:12

How To Cope With Wanting to QUIT

1. Remember The Vision –  When I want to quit I visualize myself crossing the finish line.  I cannot tell you how many times in ministry, exercise, marriage, parenting or other big project, I have used this tactic.  The finish line is a POWERFUL motivator in my life.  It lets me know that pain is temporary, but pride is forever.  I am talking about good pride, not self-indulgent arrogant pride.  The self-satisfaction in knowing that I crossed the finish line and I did the best I could on that day propels me forward.

If you don’t have a vision, you better get one. How?

  • Evaluate – This is where you compare where you are to where you want to be.  You can’t get to where you want to go until you are honest where you are.  I read scripture to understand what God wants from me.
  • Motivate – What will propel you forward?  For me there is always scripture behind everything I do.  A HUGE motivator in my own life is 1 Timothy 4:12, “but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”  I make OTHERS a key part of my motivation.
  • Activate – You must be clear about the major action steps you need to accomplish in order to reach the vision.  A good vision should be action oriented.  By the way, if you can get there on your own, you may have what you think is a good vision, but it probably is not a GOD-VISION.

2. Retreat from Everything – When I want to quit, I get away and reevaluate.  Let’s be honest, you need a break and probably more than you know.  Many of us run a breakneck speeds and wear out ourselves and all the people around us.  It becomes even worse when we have unrealistic expectations of the people around us.  I DEMAND that my staff takes all their vacation time during the year.  If they don’t, they don’t get to wear it as a badge of honor and hard work.  I see it as a sign of life mismanagement and immaturity.  If you feel like quitting, you better take a break in a hurry.  How do you take a meaningful break?  

  • Disconnect from the technology – Laptops and phones are perhaps the biggest evil in our world.  you can now take your work home with you.  Somehow, we thought that was a good idea.  being ALWAYS ON leads to being overwhlemed.
  • Decompress emotionally –  Exercise, take a walk, watch a TV show, put your feet in the sand, do a service project but  don’t be s person who thinks you can run and run and run and never stop.  You are foolish.  The first thing that Adam in the bible experienced was God taking what is called a “Sabbath.”  Learn to sabbath well!
  • Deal with unresolved issues – What is the elephant in your life that you don’t want to deal with?  Maybe you need to see a counselor?  If you are one of those “guys” who is self-reliant and prideful, maybe it is time to man up and talk to someone about your issue.  Put it off and the price to pay goes up and you will eventually pay it.

3. Refrain From The Guilt – When I want to quit, I remember Jesus Gives 2nd Chances – and third and fourth and fifth.  We tend to beat ourselves up at the first hint of failure, which tends to come from our family of origin.  Most of us who deal with major guilt issues never had a father who believed in us, much less encouraged us to go forward.  When we give in and QUIT, we give away the victory. God is not into beating you up over guilt, he is into building you up through grace

4. Rely on Your Friends – When I want to quit, I think of my friends, those who have my back.  The power of others is the untapped secret of success in your life.  If you continue to try and accomplish things on your own, you will only go so far. If you will submit yourself to a team of people who encourage you and hold you accountable, you will be unstoppable!  God gives us each other for a purpose, and you can’t do it alone!  Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

After mile seven it got even harder, but my perspective had changed.  I knew there were only a few minutes left of the run.  The last two miles I was able to run faster than I have all season in training.  I completed the workout and was exhausted, but knew I was preparing for something with much more meaning, RACE DAY.

God is preparing you and testing you now for a future with more purpose and meaning than you can possibly imagine.

God NEVER gives up on us. Don’t quit!



It’s Getting Hot In Here

Ok, I have to admit, preaching through the Song of Solomon is not going to be easy.  There are some pretty hot and steamy passages that I’m sure you have never heard preached before.  But why is the church so afraid to talk about something that is ordained by God, planned for our benefit and given as a genuine expression of love between one man and one woman for a lifetime? I think the answer is simple.  We have chosen to let the culture say more about sex than the church does.  That is simply a shame.

After 3 years of ministry at 217church, we are ready to see marriages and families strengthened like never before! Starting January 27, we begin an eight-week series on one of the most overlooked books of the bible, Song of Solomon.  It is an ancient poetic book of the bible written by Solomon as an encouragement to us that sex, love and marriage are God ordained and he has a purpose for them.  We all know “when boy meets girl”, sparks fly and things happen!  But what does God’s think healthy sex, love and marriage should look like? I hope you choose to be in a small group during this season.

Our vision is that we would understand the Gospel of Jesus through this book of passionate affection and steamy love poems. We desire for God to heal us from our broken views of sex and marriage. We will see husbands and wives become more committed to each other and we will see our families strengthened because of a deep love and respect for one another!


How Will We Approach The Book?

 #1 The Stages of A Relationship Over the 8 weeks, we will be looking at the different stages of what happens “when boy meets girl.”  This amazing love story of Solomon and his young beautiful attractive bride will teach us much about how relationships work and don’t work.  Our culture has a broken view of how sex, love and marriage were meant to be. We will travel from the first date to the first kiss, from the wedding to negotiating the marriage, from handling conflict to getting away and taking a sabbath as couples. God is going to heal our past, meet us in the present and protect our future.

 #2 Appropriately with Modesty – Most of us get red in the face when the topic of sex and physical intimacy come up and the church has been silent for much too long on this beneficial, yet explicit book.  It is time for us to take a mature approach and see what God actually says about intimacy through Solomon.  We believe that All Scripture is Godbreathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) This means we won’t ignore what the bible says and we will teach it with great care.

#3 With Eyes Wide Open WARNING!  Mature Audiences only!  There will be three weeks specifically where we will ask for only a mature audience to be in the room.  This means the weekend message will not be appropriate for your elementary age student. This means teens and certain pre-teens will need to stay and learn about what the bible says about sex.  What your thirteen-year-old boy already knows about sex may surprise you.  We will do everything possible to use the appropriate amount of discretion but you will just have to trust me on this one as my 12-year-old daughter will be in the room!

The Sermon Schedule:

  • January 27th – The Date
  • February 3rd – The Wedding***
  • February 10th – The Marriage***
  • February 24th – The Negotiation
  • March 3rd – The Fight
  • March 10th – The Make Up
  • March 17th – The Getaway***
  • March 24th – The Family

 (***Indicates the material covered may not be appropriate for younger audiences)


Three Environments of Reinforcement

#1 Weekend Worship – You will not want to miss a weekend, as every Sunday at 9:30am and 11:00am we will worship collectively together.  The environment will be engaging, challenging and may take your marriage to a new height.

#2 Small Group Connection – We are asking each small group to meet for eight weeks.  Each group will get an 8 lesson DVD video curriculum and each person a small group field guide that will help guide them along the way.  We have some fun times planned for your small group with some great ideas for growth.  We want EVERYONE who calls 217church home to be in a small group.

#3 Individualized Application (Just For “teens/me/us” )-  At the end of the 8 weeks, no matter if you are a teenager, single, dating, shouldn’t be dating, married or divorced, you will have individualized action steps for your life.   Relationship are tough work, but the next generation of kids is depending on us to get this right, This is going to be a game changer!


Let’s see what happens when boy meets girl!




2013 – A Fresh Start

I ABSOLUTELY LOVE FRESH STARTS!  I have a personal affinity for new things.  (This has gotten me in trouble more than a few times.)  I think this is why I love mornings.  There is nothing quite like the crispness of the morning air, enjoying a cup of coffee, watching a sunrise, or quite honestly, the feel of a fresh clean shave.  It all signals a Fresh Start.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  Lamentations 3:22-23

In a few days we will welcome in 2013, which is an incredible opportunity for us to see the faithfulness of God over 2012, and a time to anticipate his plan for us over this next year.  I always do two simple things when a new year comes.

I Look Back…

As an example:  Here are some things God did in 2012 through our 217church family!

  • 61 baptisms (141 total since we started 217church)
  • Doubled our small groups ministry
  • Doubled our youth ministry
  • Started a Partnership with Urban Promise in Trenton & gave them $25,000!
  • Increased giving by 30%
  • Produced our first ever DVD “Live Differently” curriculum for our small groups
  • Gave away $11,500 to single moms one Sunday in April

1. Retreat – You have to get away to do this!  I can’t stress this enough.  One of the only ways you will be able to be spiritually healthy with a correct perspective about what really happened to you over the last year, is to isolate yourself from the busyness of life and take an extended sabbath.  The end of the year gives me an opportunity to reflect on where God has taken me.  It also helps me to see what God enabled and what he disabled.  Just start by planning a time to get away, even for a half day!

2. Reflect – Is there something you know you need to STOP doing?  Now that you are on that well deserved retreat, it’s time to recount what God did and ask Him what needs to go.  Is it an unhealthy relationship you need to get out of?  C’mon single ladies, do you need to dump the loser?  Does he really measure up?  Are you settling for less than God’s best for you?  Is there a job you need to transition out of?  Is there a bad habit that is crippling you?  When you find your place of isolation, it’s time to recount what God did in your life and get rid of what needs to go.

3. RepositionIs there something you know you need to START doing?  The ability to dream gives us hope and anticipation of God’s faithfulness to us.  I like to divide this into two specific sections:

  • Personally how do you reposition yourself?  Did God do a deep work in you?  If there was a word to describe what happened in 2012 what would it be?  Here are five ‘f’ words to help you personally reposition yourself.  What is one way you need to reposition yourself in your:  Faith? Family? Finances? Fitness? Friendships?  Just pick one tangible action step for each area.  Even if you just pick one area, you will see the possibility of what God wants to do through you.
  • Professionally how do you reposition yourself?   Did you learn a new skill or lesson in 2012?  Maybe you are working your way through college or started a new ministry or have aspirations to start a business.  You need a compelling vision!  What is that vision for you?  Take courage and Initiate!

I Look Forward…

1. Ramp UpIs there something you know you need to KEEP doing?  Build on your greatest successes and use them to your advantage in 2013.  Oh man, this is where is gets really fun! How do you motivate in order to initiate a new goal or vision?  Everyone is different, but you will need a strategy to ramp up your training to reach the vision God has for you personally and professionally.  It’s time for action!

2. Request – What people do you need to enlist to help you?  DO NOT MISS THIS ONE!  I have seen so many people fail because they failed to include others in on their plan looking forward. “…in abundance of counselors there is victory.” Proverbs 24:6  If your plan is only your plan and you haven’t shared it with anyone, you will probably fall short.  No one is that good alone.

3. Reap the Harvest! – Go and Get it!  It’s time!  What are you waiting for?  This is where all your planning is proved powerful.  A plan not executed is a collosal waste of time and energy.  Get out your tools, get ready for the hard work and get out there! One tip that helped me:  Realize your plan will never be perfect.   You have to just start.  If we would have waited until every circumstance was perfect to start 217church, we would still be planning.  This is called paralysis by analysis!


217church meets 9:30 & 11 am at AMC 24 in Hamilton, NJ

  • January 6 – Fresh Start in Your Finances
  • January 13 – Fresh Start in Your Health

Tic-Toc it’s almost 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!



Every Life Counts

It’s been 4 weeks since 217church announced our partnership with Urban Promise in Trenton.  Every day through the after school program, young lives are being impacted by Jesus.  My heart is elated about our partnership!  The success of the next generation will measure the level of our success.  We must be all about feeding, equipping and providing for the spiritual needs of the next generation.

Urban Promise Trenton is committed to providing Spiritual Development, Life Skills, Academic tutoring, and Leadership Development rooted in Christian values. They provide caring tutors and mentors who develop meaningful relationships with children and teens that help them to excel in school and their community. Children and teens who take part in our program learn how to avoid the pressures they face in their community by being a leader and making healthy choices.  They receive one on one or small group tutoring daily as well as work with Christian mentors that they can look up to.

Read this story from my friend Carl Clark, the Director of Urban Promise Trenton. Together we are providing basic needs, proving EVERY LIFE COUNTS!

“Tell the next generation that this is God”  Psalm 48:13

“Often times our children go hungry.  As we approached Thanksgiving, it occurred to me that we could help fill this need.  We can provide a healthy meal for these children that might not otherwise have one.  Recently Barry, an eight year old in our program, came in my office and said, “Mr. Carl, can I have another snack?” I replied, “You already had two snacks. You must be hungry.” Barry replied, “I am. My uncle doesn’t cook.”  I filled his backpack with snacks and immediately began researching ways we could provide not just snacks but also dinner for the children.  It made me think, “If my child was hungry and couldn’t eat, would someone help?”  Hunger is a problem that we have to proactively fight.”

Many times providing spiritual food means you must provide physical food first.  It is a privilege to walk alongside Carl and I know your generous prayer and gifts are making a difference.  EVERY LIFE COUNTS!

Give Here to the Next Generation Vision

e-mail kevin@217church.com to serve in the Urban Promise after school program


Appalling Facts about Hunger and Homelessness

A survey of 29 major American cities (including Trenton, NJ) that comprise the taskforce on hunger and homelessness, found that 86% of those cities reported a rise in emergency food demand by an average of 15%. Across the survey cities, over a quarter (27%) of the people needing emergency food assistance did not receive it. None of the cities forecast a decrease in emergency food demand and nearly all of the cities (93%) expect demand for emergency food to continue to rise. Unemployment led the list of causes of hunger, followed by poverty, low wages, and high housing costs. The study was conducted September 2010 through August 2011.

U.S. Conference of Mayors, “Hunger and Homelessness Survey-”, December 2011