We have had an incredible year of transition at Connect, so we spent Feb. 9 celebrating with updates from our ministries as part of our regular service. For more details, download our 2013-14 Annual Meeting reports packet.
Update from Mike and Brian
Kids and Youth Update
We are the church. Say it with me on three. 1,2,3…We are the Church!
Connect Christian Church is a church that is on mission to show a hurting and broken world the hope and the love of Jesus one person at a time.
My name is Brian Morrissey and I am the Worship & Teaching Pastor here at Connect Christian Church. This gentleman to my right is Mike Edmisten and he is the Senior Pastor here at Connect. If this is your first time with us this morning, or your hundredth and first, we want you to know that you are welcome and we’re honored to worship Jesus with you today.
This morning we’re celebrating everything that God has done this past year at Connect and we’re anxiously looking forward to the next steps that God is calling us to. We’re celebrating and we’re anticipating.
When I was a child, we played a game called Marco Polo. This game, although normally played in a swimming pool, can be played just about anywhere. The object of the game is simple – don’t get caught.
One player is chosen as “It”. This player closes his/her eyes and tries to find and tag the other players without the use of vision. The player who is “It” shouts “Marco” and the other players must respond by shouting “Polo”, which “It” uses to try to acoustically locate them. If a player is tagged, then that player becomes “It”
The problem with Marco Polo is that I’ve never yet played one single game where Marco didn’t open his or her eyes to try and find Polo! How many of you (by a show of hands) will admit to playing this game and opening your eyes. C’mon. Get ‘em up.
That’s what I thought. We tend to open our eyes when we feel like we can’t hear where everyone else is. And a lot of the time, we do the same thing with Jesus.
Here’s the catch though, Jesus wants us not to just listen to Him, but to go through life playing Marco Polo with our eyes wide open and focused on where He’s leading us. And that’s exactly what your leaders have been doing here at Connect.
We’re going to go on a journey this morning. We’re going to take a tour through Connect this past year and celebrate everything that God has done in and amongst us and then, we’re going to shift into overdrive as we prepare to anticipate everything that God has in store for us.
Celebrate God’s faithfulness
– I’ve been in the church for most of my life, and one of the things I’ve learned about the church is that a lot of times we’re not very good at celebrating. But did you realize that various forms of the word “celebrate” occur over 80 times in the Bible? And words like “rejoice” appear almost 180 times in the Bible.
It’s pretty clear that God always intended His people to be filled with joy. He has always wanted them to celebrate. But the church, by and large, isn’t very good at it.
One of the things that I’m dead serious about here at Connect is celebration. I don’t ever want us to be guilty of under-celebrating the amazing things that God is doing in us and through us. And that’s why we set aside days like today…to celebrate all that God has done and all that He is doing in us and through us. And we have a ton of stuff to celebrate over this past year.
This past year is possibly the most audacious year in our church’s history. We made the move from a building that we owned to a portable situation. And for those of us who are involved in Connect week in and week out…I don’t think we realize just how big of a move this was. I don’t think we realize just how rare this kind of bold faith really is.
My friend, Kenny White, reminded us of that when he preached here a few weeks ago. He reminded us that this kind of bold faith is rare in the church today. And God has honored us for it.
From time to time, there are still people who ask why we would leave a building that we own to go portable. And that question gets answered every single week. There are people that are coming to Connect now that would have never set foot in our old building. They are hearing the gospel. They are responding to Jesus. They are being rescued. Set free. Saved for eternity. And that makes it all worth it. Every struggle, every hardship, every battle that we had to fight to make this move…it’s all worth it every time another person says, “Yes” to Jesus!
The vision of our church is connecting, growing, and serving. And throughout this past year, we’ve seen how God has blessed us because we have been fiercely committed to that vision.
The first step of our vision directly ties into the name of our church and I love that it does that. That’s because this step of our vision is crucial to everything that comes after it.
If you’ve visited our church’s website at connect.cc, you will find this explanation for the first step of our vision – Our primary way to connect with others and connect with Jesus is through our Sunday morning worship services.
Here at Connect, our worship is directed towards one end – the worship and adoration of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We’re not here to play a concert. We’re not here to entertain. We’re here to worship Jesus and I know that may sound weird at first, but I can tell you that this is the number one focus of every single volunteer on our worship team.
We want to glorify Jesus so that other people can see our worship and imitate it. That’s why you see so much passion from this stage week in and week out. That’s why you see such intense focus on stage. We’re not focused on words or notes, we’re focused on the Giver of Life. We’re worshiping our Creator.
At Connect this year, our volunteers have taken worship to an entirely new level. I see so much passion week in and week out from these volunteers and I am blessed that I get to lead worship with them week in and week out. Connect, you are blessed tremendously with the talent that we have here and I would like for us to take a second and honor these volunteers for using the talent that God has given them to lead us in worship.
The second step in our vision is Growing and the best way we do that at Connect is through our Connect Groups.
Here at Connect, we run a different style of groups than you may have seen at other churches because we believe that as a church grows larger, it must grow smaller at the same time.
Proverbs 27:17 sums up our goal for Connect Groups – As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17, NIV)
There is a mental sharpness that develops when people get together and discuss life issues. When you talk out what’s going on in your life with others, they can help you see your life with a fresh clarity and then they help you to refine things and shape them. This is how we grow.
Some of you have never participated in a Connect Group and we want to let you know that you’re missing out on a crucial step in our Church’s vision and your walk with Jesus.
Today marks the sign-ups for the 10th semester of Connect Groups we’ve offered since we started them and it’s an incredible time to get involved in Growing your faith. We’re offering three groups this semester:
The first group is FinancialPeaceUniversity. If you are struggling financially or you feel like you just don’t know how to budget and stick to it, or maybe you just need some accountability in your personal finances, then this is the group for you.
Secondly, you can sign up for our 3:16 Numbers of Hope group. In this group, you will have a chance to dig into John 3:16 and understand of God’s heart and desire for your life. If you’re struggling with hope and you feel like life is closing in around you, this is the group for you.
Lastly, how many ladies do we have in the house? Awesome. Ladies, we are offering a special treat for you because this semester, we are offering a “ladies only” group called “Unglued”. This study is going to be focused on dealing with emotions.
And what we want you to see through this is that there is a group for anyone in any life situation. You can grow through any of these groups because you’ll be developing new relationships with others as you deepen your relationship with God.
Sign-ups begin today and will run through the end of this month. You can sign up here in person after service today, or online at connect.cc, just click on the Growing link.
Something else that has been HUGE over the past year is the number of people at Connect who have stepped off the bleachers and got into the game. The vision of our church is Connecting, Growing, and Serving. And we’re just as serious about the last step as we are the first two.
Do you realize that it takes 50 volunteers each week to make church happen here at Connect? None of the stuff that you see in this room, none of the stuff that helps to create the environments for our kids, none of it appears by magic. It’s all made possible by the incredible volunteers on our setup team.
None of the stuff that your kids experience each week happens by accident. I have two boys. They’re 6 and 9 years old. And they love coming to church. They absolutely love it. I’ll be honest…I told you I’ve been in the church most of my life, but I didn’t always love going to church when I was a kid. There were times when it was just flat boring.
But we don’t do boring here at Connect. In fact, we believe it’s a sin to bore a kid with the gospel. And we’ve got an amazing team of volunteers in Connect Kids that make it happen every week. In fact, some of them are in the rooms behind me making it happen right now.
And you can be in here worshipping and celebrating with us, knowing your kids are safe because of the volunteers that serve on our security team. Every week, they keep watch over everything that happens in this room, plus everything that’s going on with our kids. And as a church that meets in a public environment like a hotel, that is essential. And they make it happen every single week.
And not only is our environment at Connect safe, but it’s also warm and welcoming because of the volunteers on our Connect Team. Those are the folks in the green shirts that welcome you every week. They’re here to serve you and help you in any way they can. And they really are the very first impression that people have of Connect when they roll onto the parking lot. Our Connect Team are the ones making them feel welcome and at home every single week.
On Sunday nights, we have a passionate team of volunteers that hang out with our teens in Connect Students. For most people, the major faith decisions come during these years of their lives. And we’ve got a team of people standing with them, loving them, serving them, and always being there for them.
Brian talked about the volunteers that play in our band every single week. Our band could play on any stage, anywhere…yet they choose to lead us to God’s throne in worship here at church every week.
And then there are the media techs that are in the back of the room making this service happen behind the scenes. And there are the people that printed your bulletin. And the ones who manage our website, our Facebook page, and our Twitter account. And the ones who manage our finances.
The list goes on and on and on. The volunteer culture here at Connect is among the best I’ve ever seen. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If our staff was gone tomorrow, Connect would be fine. But if our volunteers quit tomorrow, our church ceases to exist.
And there’s room for you to be part of this amazing move of God here at Connect. If you’re not volunteering yet, that can change today. It doesn’t matter what your gifts are, there is a place for you to volunteer here at Connect. Church is not a spectator sport. And over time, people who just choose to come and watch church every week are left feeling empty and unfulfilled. They may even change churches trying to fill the void. But changing churches doesn’t solve anything. Getting involved in serving does. That’s how Jesus really works in us. That’s where real fulfillment and joy is found.
Something else that has been huge this past year has been our giving. I know a lot of churches shy away from talking about money, but I don’t get that at all. Jesus talked about money A LOT. He talked about money more than He talked about heaven and hell combined.
Money is a big deal because it reveals our heart. And if our heart is truly committed to the mission of the Lord’s church, that will show up in our giving.
I’ll be honest…there was a point last year where things were not looking good. In fact, it was starting to get downright scary. We were operating in the red for several months straight, and it was starting to get nerve-wracking.
But then, God showed His faithfulness and His people showed their generosity. You responded in a huge way to our 90-day tithing challenge. We challenged everyone at Connect to tithe for 90 days. And the response was amazing! And it has continued to this day. Our church is able to do so much more ministry because of your generosity. It has made more of a difference than you’ll probably ever realize.
You have made an investment in God’s Kingdom, and the return on that investment has been huge!
One of the biggest events Connect is committed to year in and year out is our annual Sports Camp program. This past year we had 240 Kindergarten-5th graders out to the BataviaTownshipPark where around 100 volunteers spent an entire week loving on them, playing sports with them and teaching them all about Jesus. How many of you volunteered this past year? That’s awesome!
What’s even more amazing is that this event has grown so large and well known in our community, that it books out very quickly each and every year. This year will mark the 6th time we’ve launched Sports Camp and we’re asking each and every one of you to mark down June 22-27 on your calendars so that you can come on out and help us impact the lives of others by serving at Sports Camp.
Is it exhausting? Yes. Is it time-consuming? Absolutely and those two investments of your energy and your time can help pay huge dividends in the lives of children and by extension, their families through your service at Sports Camp.
We have tons of ways you can help serve as well, so see Julie Bach who is our amazing Sports Camp director and ask her where you can best plug in to helping serve at this event in June. It will be a week that you will not soon forget, I promise you.
Ultimately, the biggest victory we’ve seen at Connect over the last year is found in the lives that have been changed. People who have given their lives to Jesus. People who have been baptized in Christ. Families that have been redirected. Marriages that have been rescued. People who are suffering that have been comforted. People without hope who have found hope in Jesus.
It happens every week. Every single week. And it happens because of God’s favor and blessing that He has given us. And that’s why we celebrate. We celebrate because God has been so good to us.
And celebration leads to anticipation. Remembering what God has done is the key to anticipating what He will do.
God’s past performance is the best indicator of His future faithfulness. That’s another reason that we celebrate all the victories that God has given us. When we celebrate the past, we anticipate the future. God’s past performance is the best indicator of His future faithfulness.
If you’re in a season of doubt or fear or uncertainty in your life, stop and reflect on how faithful God has been to you up to this point. He hasn’t brought you this far just to give up on you now. Remember His faithfulness, because that’s where you’ll find hope for the future.
When we remember God’s faithfulness in the past, it totally changes our outlook of the future. It creates a holy anticipation in us.
There’s a word in scripture that really captures the essence of this and it’s the word “Consecrate”. Now, at first glance, you probably see that word and check out because it sounds Old English, but hear me out because it’s a little different than you might think.
When you consecrate something, you give it completely. You don’t hold any part of it back.
Connect is a church that lives consecrated in anticipation of what God is getting ready to do next. Let me show you an example from Scripture of what I mean.
In Joshua 3, Joshua was preparing the Israelites for a mighty move of God. They were preparing to cross the Jordan river into the Promised Land that God had been leading them to for years and this is what Joshua told the people on the night before they were to cross the river.
“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” (Joshua 3:5, NIV)
The Israelites had been living for four hundred years in Egypt and most of that time, they had been oppressed into slave-labor by Pharaoh and the Egyptians, but God saw their hurt and he decided to do something about it. He sent Moses to Pharaoh with a message to let the Israelites go and after Pharaoh refused, this is what God said.
“But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them; After that he will let you go.” (Exodus 3:19-20, ESV)
God was preparing to do amazing things for his people and they began to live in anticipation for whatever wonder God would do next.
As you may know, God did ten “wonders,” or as the Egyptians called them, “plagues,” in Egypt. This led to the Israelites freedom from slavery and they followed God out into the wilderness towards the Promised Land that God was going to give to them.
But, God wasn’t done delivering promises. He was trying to get the Israelites to sell out completely to following him. To consecrate themselves in anticipation for what God would do next.
So God says this in Exodus 34 – “Behold, I am making a covenant. (that’s a promise) Then the Lord said: “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you. (Exodus 34:10, NIV)
And if you fast-forward 40+ years, that’s the promise that was still ringing true in the Israelites ears. “I will do wonders.”
This is what they’re thinking as they are anticipating crossing into the Promised Land. It’s like Christmas Eve and the kids are looking under the tree at all of the presents in anticipation for what they could be.
And Joshua tells the Israelites: “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” (Joshua 3:5, NIV)
Notice that Joshua didn’t say, “The Lord might do amazing things among you.” He didn’t say, “I hope the Lord will do amazing things among you.” He didn’t even say, “Let’s build a campfire and sing “Kumbaya” and pray for the Lord to do amazing things among you.”
Joshua spoke with absolute certainty. “Tomorrow the Lord WILL do amazing things among you.” There was an absolute certainty…almost an arrogance…in his claim.
And God didn’t say, “How dare you be so presumptuous? How dare you be so arrogant to say that I WILL do anything?” That’s not how God reacted at all. You know how God reacted? He did amazing things among the people.
Here’s what happened next in Joshua 3. “So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing.
It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho.
The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.” (Joshua 3:14-17, NIV)
Joshua was so confident in God’s power and God’s faithfulness that he promised that the Lord would do amazing things among His people. And God delivered.
And nothing has changed. As your pastor, I’m here before you today to tell you the same thing. Consecrate yourselves. Get ready. Prepare yourselves.” God is going to do amazing things among His people.
I’m not saying that He might do amazing things. I’m not saying that I hope He will do amazing things. I’m saying definitively that God WILL do amazing things among His people. And as the church, we are His people.
I am absolutely certain that God is going to do amazing things in and through Connect this year. Now, there are a lot of challenges in front of us. And there is a lot that we don’t know.
For example, we don’t know exactly what is going to happen with our Amelia building. It’s on the market, and several people have expressed interest but none of them have pulled the trigger. We don’t know when it will sell, but we trust God that it will.
And we also don’t know exactly what is going to happen with our location here at the hotel. Since our leaders believe in total transparency and honesty, here’s the deal. We are facing more outdates this year at the hotel than we are comfortable with. There are just too many instances where our space isn’t available to us at our normal time on Sunday morning.
To be clear, this isn’t what we were told when we made the move here to the hotel. We were given a number of outdates that we could accept, but that number has grown substantially in 2014. And honestly, it’s just more than we’re comfortable with.
Having said that, we are taking this negative and turning it into a huge positive. Next week, we are meeting in the evening instead of the morning. We’re meeting at 5:00 pm here at the hotel, and let me tell you…the experience that we are planning for that night is going to be unbelievable! I know that I’m always excited about what is happening here at Connect, but I can’t stress this enough. Our Night of Worship next week is going to be unbelievable. It’s so creative. It’s so powerful. And it is going to have a huge impact on a lot of lives. I have no doubt about it.
At the same time, we know that we can’t keep this weird schedule forever. We need consistency, so we are actively seeking the next step for our church. To be clear, we have no idea what that next step is. But God does. And that’s why we’re not the slightest bit nervous about it. Instead, we’re excited about it.
God’s past performance is the best indicator of His future faithfulness. When I look at how faithful God has been to our church for decades…and specifically when I look at how faithful He has been to us over just this past year…I am filled with faith. I’m filled with assurance. Honestly, I’m filled with arrogance. Not arrogance in what I can do. I am arrogant that my God can do whatever my God chooses to do.
And this is what my God said He will do.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:5-8, NIV)
The key is this: Apart from Jesus we can do nothing. But if we remain in Him, He said, “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
There is a caveat, though. God isn’t a genie in a bottle that exists to grant us any wish we could ever have. Look at what Jesus said next. “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
The point is: It’s not about you. It’s not about your comfort. it’s not about your desires. It’s about building His kingdom, not yours.
It’s all about God’s glory. Are we asking for things that bring us glory or bring God glory? Are we asking for things to build our kingdom or God’s Kingdom? If we are serious about building God’s Kingdom, then all limitations and all restrictions are off. Jesus said, “Ask it, and you’ll receive it.” No qualifiers. No exceptions. No exclusions.
A lot of people are uncomfortable with that kind of faith. They think it is presumptuous. They think it is arrogant. Here at Connect, we think it is biblical.
As believers in Jesus, we should walk with a swagger. We should look at opposition and shrug it off.
Jesus promised, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18b, ESV)
That fills me with anticipation! If the very powers of hell will not prevail against us, then nothing can stop us. How could we not live with anticipation of what God is going to do in us and through us?
In his book called Unleash!, Perry Noble wrote:
My mother was an amazing cook, so on Sundays when we got home from church, she would begin to fry chicken and okra, make macaroni and cheese with real butter…and make biscuits and gravy from scratch.
When it was time to eat, we would absolutely throw down. My goal for that time was to hurt myself without actually passing out at the table. When we’d finished devouring our food, we’d put our silverware on our empty plates and sit around the table and talk.
Then it would happen.
My mother would go around the dining room and collect everyone’s plate. But when she got to me, she’d bend down and say, “Perry, hold on to your fork!”
Every time she’d utter that sentence, I would just about lose my mind!
You see, my mother was the best dessert maker in the world…So when she said, “Hold on to your fork,” I knew she had something in the kitchen that none of us knew about yet–something even more delicious than anything we’d tasted that day…
“Hold on to your fork” became the words that brought utter delight to my Sunday afternoons. It was her way of telling me that, even though the meal had been amazing, she’d prepared something even more wonderful that was still to come.
I believe that if God had a phrase He wanted to say to us today, it would be, “Hold on to your fork!”
No matter who you are or what situation you find yourself in, God wants good things for you. That’s what He wants for all His children. He wants us to experience the life, joy, and peace found in Christ…It might not always look the way we want it to look, but because He is both holy and good, we can trust that what He wants for us is greater than what we want.
I really believe we haven’t seen our best days yet. He has something waiting for us in the kitchen that He hasn’t brought out yet.
Connect, hold on to your fork, because the best is yet to come! God has something even greater ahead of us! That’s why we won’t quit. We’ll never back down. We’ll never operate out of fear and we’ll never play defense. We are on offense! We are taking new ground! And we absolutely believe that the best is yet to come!