This Sunday will be our final gathering at the Holiday Inn Eastgate. Starting on Sunday, November 8, we will gather at the Withamsville-Tobasco Elementary School. (You can catch up on this exciting move here.) We will use the month of November as our “soft launch.” In other words, we’ll spend the month learning how to do church in our new location. Then when December rolls around, we’ll be ready for our official launch.
As we approach our final Sunday at the hotel, I find myself reflecting on everything that has happened there. Since we have so many people who are newer to Connect, I thought this post might help you understand just how huge this move was for us.
Before moving to the hotel, our church was meeting in a building that we owned, debt-free. As you can imagine, walking away from that building to become a portable church that met in a hotel seemed crazy to a lot of people. But there were some God-ordained reasons why this move was the right move. But one really stands out in my mind above all others.
The culture in our church needed to change.
When I accepted the pastor position in our church almost 10 years ago (wow, that’s hard to believe!), I walked into a situation where almost everything needed to change. The church was unhealthy and dysfunctional on a lot of levels. So we embarked on a time of transition that took years to complete. In fact, it wasn’t completed until we left our building and started meeting in the hotel.
It was an incredibly difficult move. Lots of people didn’t go with us. In fact, well into our first year at the hotel, we were seeing the lowest attendance numbers we had seen in my whole time as the pastor. The church wasn’t growing. It was declining. That made for some tense times for me! On more than one occasion, I wondered, “What have we done?!?!?”
But that decline was necessary and quite healthy. It was a pruning process. While the numbers didn’t look great, what we were left with was a group of people who were absolutely sold out to the vision and mission of Connect.
We were no longer an unhealthy, dysfunctional church. We were experiencing a spirit of unity that we had never seen before. We knew who we were and what we were called to do. The change was so broad and sweeping that it was really hard not to view it as a new church altogether. In fact, that’s exactly how our leaders came to see it. And eventually, God began to reward our faithfulness.
We started seeing people walk into the hotel who would have NEVER walked into our old building. We were reaching people that we would have NEVER reached in the past. Moving to the hotel seemed crazy, even radical, to many. But it really reminded me of something that I heard Craig Groeschel say. “To reach people no one else is reaching, we must do things no one else is doing.” That encapsulated everything about this move.
Which brings us to today. After 2 ½ years at the hotel, we are poised for another move. The move to the school will provide us with a much-needed consistent schedule. We won’t be sharing the space with anyone else, which has been a problem at times at the hotel. But most importantly, it will further define who we are.
We will be meeting in a prime location and we will have a connection with the largest school system in Clermont County. We don’t believe that it is an accident that the doors to the school have opened up to us. We see it as the opening of a mission field. We want to love and serve the families of West Clermont in ways they’ve never seen before. And we are working on some pretty audacious ways to do it.
I am so grateful for what God has done and what He is doing in and through Connect. And I’m also incredibly thankful for our partners. This ride has been crazy, to be sure. People thought we had lost our minds when we started meeting in a hotel. And people might think some of the vision that we’ll be rolling out in the next weeks and months is equally crazy. But I don’t care. Let ‘em think it! All I know is that I’m surrounded by the boldest, craziest bunch of Christ-followers that I’ve ever met. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything!
Together, let’s open the next chapter in Connect’s crazy story!
Mike Edmisten is Senior Pastor at Connect Christian Church.
Connect Christian Church meets (for this final time this Sunday, Nov. 1) at the Holiday Inn Eastgate hotel in Eastgate Ohio in Clermont County — a church near Amelia Ohio, Batavia Ohio, Anderson Ohio, Milford Ohio, and Cincinnati Ohio.