April 3, 2012 by C.J. Mahaney
Categories: Conferences | Interviews
Today I want to introduce you to another Next speaker, Ian McConnell. Ian is a pastor at Grace Bible Church in northeast Philadelphia, and really the best way for you to get to know him is to hear him tell his story in his own words. So below is a video of Ian sharing the story of replanting Grace Bible Church, followed by his answers to some questions related to his conference message topic. From all of that, I’m confident you’ll be able to see why I’m excited to have him teaching this year.
By the way, we’re extending the discount on registration for Next until April 22. So if you want to register at the lowest rate possible, there’s still time. I hope you’ll come!
When did the local church become important to you and why?
I didn’t grow up on “planet Christian” hanging out with followers of Jesus and going to church my whole life, so the very first time I went to a gospel-believing local church was when it became important to me even though I couldn’t have told you why back then. I was an obnoxious teenager who wasn’t very lovable—seriously—I made loving your neighbor really hard. But even though I wasn’t very lovable I immediately experienced unconditional love within the walls of that church. I met followers of Jesus, young and old, who loved as they had been loved. It really was amazing! I think I first started to get God’s love for me through the giving of his Son by the love those people showed me. The local church is where I met Jesus and saw how the Savior’s love radically changes people. I’ve been crazy about the local church ever since.
Share a Scripture passage that has impacted your understanding of the church.
Ephesians 2:22: “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” I am amazed that when we gather as a local church it’s not just us getting together with people—it’s us gathering together in the very presence of God. God comes to church with us—I love that about the local church!
Why should someone skip a Sunday at their church to come to this conference?
I think attending a conference like NEXT for 1 Sunday out of the year will provide some significant equipping to help you go home and love and serve your local church for the other 51 Sundays out of the year and then some!
What do you hope people walk away with from your message?
I hope people walk away in jaw-dropping wonder that because of the gospel, someday Sundays will be forever! If you want to know what I mean by that then you’ll just have to come to NEXT!
What would you say to the person who thinks they can worship God just as well at home or outdoors as they can with the church on Sunday?
I would say that they can’t. Personal access to God’s presence to worship the One who made me and saved me is an undeniable privilege! It’s a soul-satisfying life-transforming experience to go after God privately. However, it’s only part of what we have been made and saved for. The sweeping message of the Bible is that God is calling out a people to make His name great through Jesus. In the garden, God commands Adam to be fruitful and multiply a people. Outside the garden, God graciously promises Abraham that He will make him the father of many people. All of this points us to God’s ultimate plan to call out a people by the gospel for his glory from every people, tribe, tongue and nation who will worship him forever and ever. Even the picture God gives us of what forever is going to be like in the book of Revelation makes it clear that for all eternity we will worship God together in his presence because of Jesus. Gathering in God’s presence with God’s people in our local churches is not only one of our greatest privileges as individual followers of Jesus, it’s also part of submitting to God’s plan for the ages.
What would you say to the person who thinks "You haven't been to my Sunday meeting?"
There are no perfect Sunday meetings! In fact there is only one place you can go to experience the perfect church gathering—it’s called heaven! Be thankful for God’s sovereign plan in having you right where you are, pray for your church, serve with your gifts, and take Charles Spurgeon’s advice,
If I had never joined a church till I had found one that was perfect, I should never have joined one at all; and the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us.
What relationship do Sunday meetings have to heaven?
Many of the promises of the gospel are held out to us in what really smart people call an “already not yet” tension. Meaning that there are privileges that have been secured for us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that we get some of now (already) and the rest of it later when we meet God face to face in heaven (not yet).
Because of Jesus, right now we have the amazing privilege as local churches to gather together in the presence of God to talk to God in prayer; to sing to God with praise and gratitude; to give to God our offerings; to serve our God by building up His people; to reach out to God’s world with the gospel; and to listen to God speak through his Word. These privileges are ours right now. However, the best is yet to come! One day because of Jesus we will be together, not just with our individual local churches, but with the whole CHURCH—all of God’s people from all time! We will talk to God face to face and we will hear from God face to face. We will sing God’s praise so loud and glorious that it will sound like the waves crashing on the beach. And here is what I think will be the best thing of all…wait a minute, I think I am giving away too much of my sermon. I think you get the point. Gathering with God and God’s people on earth, as wonderful as it is, is but a foretaste of how incredible it will be to gather with God and God’s people in heaven! That’s the relationship—the Sunday gathering is a foretaste of the heavenly gathering.