The Front Porch Experience

Have you ever wondered where the idea of Connect Groups came from or why do we value Connect Groups at NCWC?

In Acts 2:46-47, the Bible states “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people and the Lord added to them daily.”

Have you ever pondered the above scripture? Why did the Lord add to them daily? How is God directing us in this mandate at this hour? How do you play a part in this scripture and the mission of NCWC?

Just as the example the Lord gave us in the book of Acts, at NCWC we model this powerful way of life through Connect Groups. In verse 45, we also read that they, “shared with all the other believers, as anyone had need”, meeting each other’s needs in practical ways. The glaring message that I see in this scripture is that it was not the pastor meeting the needs of the people but it was the people who were doing life together and meeting each other’s needs under the oversight of the apostles.

In our Western culture, we have a mindset that only the pastor has the ability to meet our needs. How did our culture arrive at this conclusion? As I’ve read the Bible, I have yet to come across a scripture where it says the pastor must meet all the needs of the people in their congregation. Instead, I have found as stated in Acts 2 that the people took care of each other and the Lord added to them daily. What if that scripture meant more than an increase in just numbers? What if doing life with the love of Christ flowing through our hearts with others was the key to living life wholeheartedly. God’s desire is for us to live life on the “front porch”. You see, in generations past, people would sit on their front porch, welcoming friendly conversation and building relationships with neighbors and others strolling past. People would make regular visits to one another’s homes and build connections, and make others a priority in their life.

When we came to NCWC in 2001, Jeff and I lived our lives on the “back porch”, a place of seclusion, away from relationships. We came and went as we pleased, but always retreating inside of our home, away from others, opting to be left alone. From the “back porch”, Jeff and I really had no concern to connect with others. Jeff had limited friendships with a few men in the church. His brother helped him feel more connected than he actually was. I kept to myself and struggled to begin friendships in the church. Life was uneventful and dull. My source of life was the T.V. I didn’t even realize the importance of connection with others. It was foreign to me. I even allowed for a few years to pass with no reaching out for connection. Connection was hard for me because it requires someone to be real, accepting and resilient from rejection. At that time, that was not how I was living my life. Despite the hardship for me to want to connect, my heart still desired relationships and connection.

In 2003, this began to change for me. God knew I needed a nudge in the direction of connection so He divinely set up the appointment for me to meet Michelle Preble. She was a Godsend. Through this one connection of friendship I was encouraged and stirred for more connection. Soon after beginning my friendship with Michelle, we were invited to the marriage Connect group where hospitality and vulnerability reigned. In this environment, I felt the safety of the Lord to get to know others and open up about wanting to be pregnant. They prayed for us and our desire for children. Soon after we were pregnant with our twin boys. However, we didn’t stop there. We continued to take steps forward and involve ourselves into new and blossoming groups where our connection with others deepened.

The beauty of our new-found relationships became real when hard times hit for us. My mother was diagnosed with late stage pancreatic cancer. It was four short months from the time we learned of her diagnosis until her passing. In that short time, the people in our Connect group rallied around us with prayers and encouragement. In the whirlwind of traveling and busyness, they served us in practical ways, from house cleaning to mowing our grass. Some of our friends even traveled two hours to the funeral in Ohio, which blessed my heart tremendously. They gave us a heartfelt gift that serves as a memory of mom still today. I cannot say it enough how the relationships we had in our life at that time brought a sure foundation of support and the love of God to our life. It was so much more than a pastor or a single friendship could have ever done for us. The load was too great for just one person. It took the sacrificial love and prayers of many to fulfill this need. I am eternally grateful the Lord set me up for success by nudging me in this direction back in 2003. God knew I would need relationships to handle my mother’s passing. I am so thankful I said “yes” to His nudging. The reality was I wanted to give up on church before meeting Michelle. Many times I wanted to say ‘No’, but my husband wouldn’t let me give up.

Having lived an example of the Acts 2 church, we now see the beauty and revelation of this way of life and connection. At NCWC, we continue to desire for all to have a place of belonging, growing, and living a wholehearted life. The reality of this in your life is up to you. You get to choose. Where are you saying “yes” to the Lord? Are you satisfied with living on the back porch? There is a more abundant life and it exists on the front porch. Are you ready for your front porch experience?

Michelle Hughes
Connect Group Leader

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