A Quick Look Back From Our 3-year Anniversary
I can remember it just like it was yesterday. Standing, pacing really, on the front porch of a cabin in Garfield, GA. It wasn’t until later that I learned the name of the cabin was God’s House but the name came as no surprise because of the encounter I had with Him there. It was on that porch that God began to place in my heart His vision of Connection Church. To be honest, at the time I didn’t even know if I wanted to be in ministry much less start a church but often times we have to get to the end of our dreams so that God can birth His dream within us.
As I prayed and pondered if God was speaking to me or if I had drank too much Mountain Dew my telephone rang. It was Chip Smith. When I answered I got the usual, “Hey, what are you doing?” He didn’t get the usual, “Not much. What are you doing?” Instead I said, “I know you are going to think this is crazy but I believe God is telling me to start a church in Statesboro.” Chip replied, “I’ve been waiting on you!” So, on the front porch of “God’s House” God placed a dream in my heart of a simple church that would connect unbelievers to God and believers to each other. He confirmed it with scripture (1 Samuel 9:27-10) and a phone call from a friend who had sensed it before I had. After a little over a month of prayer my wife, Susan, and I decided to take the step of faith and start the church. Tomorrow, November 17th, 2011 will be the 3rd anniversary since the first 12 people gathered in my home to discuss the vision of what later became Connection Church.
In many ways it seems like I blinked and the 3-years disappeared and, honestly, in other ways it seems like it has been decades since that first meeting. There have been incredible days and seasons. The obvious highlights are the dozens of salvations and recommitments that we have been able to witness as God has worked in people’s hearts.
There was also the day that we tore down the dividing wall between the small sanctuary area we started Sunday mornings in and the area where the pool and hot tub were located (Our first building was in an old fitness center). We filled in the pool and hot tub with dirt, poured concrete over them, and built a stage on top of them. I still think we could’ve left the hot tub for baptisms or something!
I remember the week that Georgia Southern started back to school in the fall of 2010. We had sensed the need to start two services but we had never really filled up the first one! Our jaws dropped as the room continued to fill up and we had no idea why any of them were there! We were definitely surprised when many of them came back!
I will never forget the first day we were in the SHS auditorium. It was such an intense season of ministry with the move and other things going on but when we were able to worship with over 600 adults together praising Jesus I knew it was worth it! I was so nervous before that service that I literally kept telling myself two things over and over again. The first was, “ This is what you were created to do.” It was more trying to convince myself of a truth rather than claiming one! The second was, “It is the same Bible you’ve always preached from and the same Jesus you’ve always preached about. Now quit being a sissy and do what you came to do!” What an amazing experience!
I think the day that stands out in my mind the most, perhaps because it is still so fresh, is October 9th, 2011. It was the day, that by God’s mighty hand and grace, we were able to baptize 54 people in a baptismal in the Statesboro High School parking lot! I think I may have been more nervous at the moment of asking for that response than any other time in my life. I knew that there were 4 or 5 people that were planning to be baptized but beyond that I truly didn’t know if we had made a big deal out of nothing! But Ephesians is true and God truly does more than we can think or even imagine. He did that day!
Honestly, I could fill up page after page of things that we have seen our living God do in and through people surrendered to His call and vision. I want to say and stress the fact that ALL of this is by GOD’S GRACE and nothing we could do on our own. In fact, we broke about every church planting guideline that was ever written. For example, we never had a core group to start the church. I went to Snooky’s Restaurant on November 17th, 2008 and announced to a handful of people that we were starting a church. I told them that we would be meeting at my house that night and would have chili for everyone who wanted to hear what God had put on our hearts. People actually showed up! Another example is that we didn’t do a demographic study of our area until at least 6 months after we started the church! I always wondered why God told us to start a church in a county that already had nearly 120 of them. When I found out that over 70% of Bulloch County was unchurched I thought, “Wow! I guess you really do know what you are doing God!” God is truly amazing and His grace is overwhelming! I only pray that the 70+ % (The actual number of unsaved is much higher than the unchurched. Being churched doesn’t me you are saved! Trusting in Jesus for salvation is the only thing that saves you!) would experience Him and the riches He offers us in Jesus!
I wouldn’t be painting the whole picture if I said that everything has been wonderful. There have been difficult days. Days I’ve been betrayed. Many days I’ve felt unappreciated. Multiple times I’ve apologized to Susan for dragging her into this! Several days I wanted to quit and do anything put pastor people. Again, I could cry me a river…but that would be fruitless! Nothing worth doing for God is easy. BUT He never calls us to do something that He doesn’t equip to do. I can tell you that I don’t have the emotional or physical energy to go back through the start up phase (for us about the first 2 ½ years). HOWEVER, I CAN TELL YOU WITH 100% CERTAINTY THAT I WOULD RUN THE RACE OF THE FIRST 3 YEARS AGAIN IF THAT’S WHAT IT TOOK TO SEE THE GLORY OF GOD MANIFEST IN HIS KINGDOM AGAIN!
This blog is truly a small snapshot of so many wonderful things. My fear is that many people who have come to the church recently could easily take for granted what our beginnings were like. The Monday nights in the Hodges-Yawn Pond House worshiping to a play list off of a Mac Book computer and singing songs from a borrowed projector and screen. Or worship services when our stage was so small that our electric guitar player stood behind the projection screen and all you could see were his legs moving around! When I think about all of these things and many more that weren’t mentioned I literally look up to the Heavens and say, “Only You God!! Only You!!”
I truly believe this is the beginning! God didn’t bring us this far so that we could cash in and go home. No, He has a grander purpose and a higher calling of which we have yet to achieve! While the journey may become arduous and the vision may at times grow dim, we turn our face toward the goal that Christ has given us and endure ‘til the end under God’s mighty hand!
It’s going to be challenging but it’s going to be exhilarating! I truly CANNOT WAIT to see what God has in store for those who love Him and are faithful to His calling!
I Truly Love You Connection Church (Even when you add an “s” to the end of Connection! ) I love your heart, I love your spirit, I love being your pastor!
Let’s truly Invest and Invite, Serve and Encourage others so that God is glorified and we are continually in awe of the One who is worthy of that glory!