Someone emailed me this week thanking me for being faithful to attend the Weekender in person every month. I appreciated the sentiment. Pastors are out of the house in the evenings a fair amount during any given month. It is part of the job and our family has learned to compensate for that in a variety of ways. There are times then when I have to say no to an event that I would love to attend. There are times when we will use video to strategically give me a night back on the calendar. But to the extent that it is possible, I almost never miss a Weekender! Here is why…
In 2014, as our church was growing, I was greatly challenged by a local pastor to think deeply about the way we helped connect people into the vision and serving opportunities in our church. I was listening to his talk when he said, “What I am about to share with you has been the single greatest turning point in our church’s life.” Now, this was a great church! So, I was obviously intrigued. He began to lay out the church’s strategy for taking people from the sidelines to the frontlines. He was talking about giving every single person a clear path to understand the vision of the church and plug in according to their giftings. In fact, he said the job of every pastor was to wake up every day thinking,
“How can we move our folks into a deeper relationship with God through a deeper connection with their local church?”
Have you ever had that true aha moment while sitting in a business lecture or training of some kind? Have you ever had the thought, “How in the world have I never considered this before?” Well, that was me. Now to be fair, we did have a process of connection at Mercy Hill even in the early days. It was a class after service called Starting Point where we ate pizza, shared some vision, and gave people a sign-up sheet. But what this pastor was talking about was different. He was talking about caring about the sheep so well that you held their hand through the process of connection. He was talking about loving non-Christians and young believers so well that you slowed down and took the time they needed to make a good decision about church membership. He was talking about chasing the “one.”
I was deeply affected. I came back to the office and gathered the 3 or 4 people we had on our staff at the time and said, “We have to dive deep on connecting new people, and we need to start this month!” Through processing, planning, and prayer, the Weekender was born. Is it perfect? No. Will it ever morph and change into something else? I am sure. But for me, connecting new folks to what God is doing at Mercy Hill puts a fire in my bones. I want to make the greatest impact with my life possible. Helping people find a deeper relationship with God through a deeper relationship with their local church moves the needle. That is why I almost never miss it.
Now let me turn the tables on you. The question for this blog isn’t “Have you been to the Weekender?”, the question is, “Who have you personally pushed to be there? Who do you love enough not to leave on the sidelines?” Every single one of us has a sphere of influence that God provides. There are people in all our lives. But are they growing in their faith because they are in our lives? That obviously means a lot of things, but one thing it means for sure is helping others in their connection to a local church. If that church is Mercy Hill, the Weekender is the next step.
-Andrew Hopper (Lead Pastor)