The Power of Connection

The past five years at Webb City Church of the Nazarene have been the confluence of the work of God and the willingness of a congregation of believers. Pastors before me laid the ground work, and when I arrived, people were ready for God to do something great. 

“Connections” has been the theme of our church. Through prayer and fasting, we began to connect with our community by focusing our attention outside the church walls. Our first outreach event took us door to door as we met our community and invited them to the church for the event. Mary, an 82-year-old from our congregation, knocked on the door of a woman named Kathleen. She came to the event, gave her life to Christ, and is still connected to the church today! This event became the springboard for the story of Webb City Church of the Nazarene.

Less than a year later, we hosted our first “Backpack Giveaway” event. We presented the gospel with opened altars and 10 people came to Christ. People coming to the altar ignites the fire of the Holy Spirit again in a church! Believers gave sacrificially because they saw changed lives. Community groups partnered with us because they saw the difference God brought to our community.

Through this time of connecting with people outside the church walls more deliberately, God called us to plant a church. At that time, we were a church of 65 members living week-to-week financially.

Many people could not see the possibility of a church plant, but we learned that with God, all things are possible!

We developed a core team, and God provided a partner church to help us with finances and team members. The church plant, Joplin Hope Community, opened a year after our first “Backpack Giveaway.” Pastoring both churches was both a joy and a challenge. It involved two boards, two unique groups of people, but only one mission: To make Christlike disciples in the nations. We hosted events together as we reached out to our respective communities for Jesus.

We have moved forward with each outreach event. During Thanksgiving season, we gave away turkeys and presented the gospel to people at a special event. In 2017, the turkey event was fast approaching, yet we were still $1,270 below our financial need. We prayed, and God led us to a specific community member. He called back a few days later with a commitment of $500 from the bank and $750 from his own funds. It reminded me that God will always provide when we follow Him.

At the same event a year later, someone who had been blessed by our church came to me and said, “My company wants to give $1,000 and bring eight unchurched people to help at the event.” God reminded me of a phrase that my mentor often quotes: “The resources are in the harvest.”

As our church body continued to look for more ways to connect with our community, God placed many opportunities before us. These included adopting the local middle school, doing science shows in three of our elementary schools, handing out Christmas cards on the street corners and in local businesses, conducting spring break day camps where we babysit children during the week of spring break for free, and collecting clothes and household items and offering these items to others in need. God has continuously shown His creativity in the many ways He has called us to serve.

Each of these events has allowed us to connect with our community because our congregation believes in connecting.

We have always had at least 40% of our people involved in some way at each event. As people have seen lives changed, they want to join in the ministry.

God called us to hold weekly services at our local rehabilitation center as another way to connect to our community. This is where we met John. Years ago, John was an alcoholic and seemed to have no hope. He lost everything when an F5 tornado hit Joplin in 2011. After a service at the rehab center in October 2016, a nurse asked me to pray with John, who was days away from cancer claiming his life. I entered his room and asked him about his relationship with Jesus.

He brushed me off that day, but when I returned the next week, he gave his life to Christ. I visited him each day for two weeks and watched as God answered our prayers for healing. He joined the church in January, and I was with him at the doctor’s office in February when he was pronounced cancer free. Our God is a God who transforms lives!

During these past five years, God has reminded me to operate with “Kingdom-mindedness.” It is our job to reach people with Christ’s love for the Kingdom. Through our events at Webb City Church of the Nazarene, we have connected with around 9,000 individuals. Our congregation understands the importance of building the Kingdom of God in creative ways. 

We have truly been transformed from an inward to an outward focused church, and God has blessed our ministry. We have more than doubled in attendance over the past five years. God has done miraculous things in hearts and minds, continually showing us the power of connection and what it means to be the church.

Nathan Haeck is senior pastor of Webb City Church of the Nazarene in Webb City, Missouri, USA.

Holiness Today, Mar/Apr 2019

Please note: This article was originally published in 2019. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.