When “One of You” Becomes Me

In 2018, Kinci Smith will be sent from Mercy Hill Church and move her life to Philadelphia, PA to help plant Redemption Heights Church. Here is her story of why she is going.

Church planting was never something that had crossed my mind as a possibility for me. It seemed like a distant idea that was not for the average, normal person. That was until I was participating in City Project this past summer, and I witnessed one of our own, Morgan Long, sent off to Orlando, Florida to plant Grace Alive Church. I saw how hard it was for her brothers and sisters in the room and was thinking that that would never be me. This was when Jon Sheets said, “This could be one of you this time next year,” and this was the first time my stomach went into knots. I hadn’t even heard where the next plant was yet.

City Project, meanwhile, was setting us all up to take part in an opportunity like this. We had gotten experience with sharing the gospel domestically and seeing people put their faith in Jesus. I felt a kind of excitement that I had never felt before as I saw our team rejoice over a conversation with a man that resulted in him putting his trust in the Lord and becoming a Christian. It was in a big city that I had visited multiple times that it really hit me, this is what I was made for. I realized that sharing the gospel is the most fulfilling thing that I could ever do.

The Gospel Saves, Gathers, Grows, and Sends

The gospel has completely changed me, continues to transform me, and blows my mind. This is why I am compelled and pressed onward to sharing it. We are called to be on mission no matter where we are located. Philadelphia is a strategic location that has been chosen so we can do just that with our lives. We are going to Philly because people desperately need the gospel, and we are equipped to take that good news to them.

A passage of scripture that has been an encouragement to me while thinking about living life both here and in another place is the Great Commission found in Matthew:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

I am not someone who typically enjoys change, and I haven’t really had to experience much of that in terms of where I live in my life. I have lived in the same small town since I was born, never changed schools, and am in college half an hour away from home. All of my family lives relatively close, and I have developed a strong community here. The thing I’ve realized about this, though, is this is what makes me feel comfortable and comfort is something I like having control over. Moving to Philly removes all things inside of my comfort zone, all familiarity and is going to strip all of these things from me. Following Jesus means taking risks and going to Philly to plant a church means taking risks. This kind of risk, though, isn’t an uncalculated, half-witted risk to take. I take confidence in knowing what we are doing is laboring for the kingdom and taking part in the Great Commission with the Creator of this earth on our side. I don’t have all the answers about what life in Philly will look like, but I do know the one who does.

-Kinci Smith (MH College Student)

Just Open the Door

The title phrase seems so easy, yet for many of us it isn’t that easy. I am the type of person who loves having people in our home. I enjoy hosting people for dinners, playdates, and community group. However, when asked about hosting a SENT Initiative student 2 years ago, I was hesitant. I remember thinking things like: Isn’t that a long time to have someone in your home? Where are they going to sleep? What will they think of our craziness? Is this going to interrupt the rhythm of our family? But eventually, I got over myself and realized God commands us to be hospitable, and this was a great way for us to do that. I am so glad that we said yes! Looking back, it was a joy for us to host a student in our home.

1. Why We Think It’s Scary

Many people have hesitations about having people in their home because it isn’t decorated “up-to-date,” their cooking isn’t the greatest, they are “introverts,”etc. I understand that, but nowhere in scripture does it say that your home must look like Chip and Joanna Gaines has come to town, that your cooking has to be Whole30 and Rachel Ray approved, or that you have to have an “extrovert” personality to practice hospitality. We are obedient when we “just open the door,” when we welcome people into our craziness. At Mercy Hill we say discipleship is “word taught and life caught.” Life is being caught when you invite someone in and when you are intentional to do life beside them.  

But what is the problem? We are selfish! It is our natural human tendency to neglect hospitality and having people to come in. Therefore, it is something that we must practice. There are many examples in scripture of how the home was used to further the gospel in early Christianity. Here are some examples in scripture where we are commanded to practice hospitality:

Romans 12:13—“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

3 John 7-8—“For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.”

1 Peter 4:9-10—“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…”

2. Why It’s a Joy

Practicing hospitality can be scary at times, but it is such a joy. John Piper says it so well, “[W]hen we practice hospitality, we experience the thrill of feeling God’s power conquer our fears and our stinginess and all the psychological gravity of our self-centeredness. And there are few joys, if any, greater than the joy of experiencing the liberating power of God’s hospitality making us a new and radically different kind of people, who love to reflect the glory of his grace as we extend it to others in all kinds of hospitality.”[1]

Many of the students who go through City Project and City Life haven’t seen Christian family lived out, and so for them to see this modeled is huge, even when it is messy and crazy. Them seeing a family practice forgiveness and live out the gospel day in and day out leaves such a mark on their lives. For our family, hosting a student meant more conversations around table, conversations about life and the future over doing laundry and dishes. It was awesome watching our kids light up when our student would arrive home and their seeing the gospel go forth to the nations as our student went on mission trips throughout the summer. It was a joy over the summer to hear and see firsthand all that the Lord was doing in her life. She has become another Hopper! She still comes over frequently, and I am so thankful to have said yes.

So, may our hospitality—our “just opening the door”—be an extension, an overflow of God’s hospitality to us. May we be good stewards of God’s grace. As another one of Mercy Hill’s plumblines says, “Generosity fuels the mission.” Don’t ever underestimate the power of your living room as a launching pad for new life and hope and ministry and mission!

Click here or more information or to register to be a host home.

– Anna Hopper (Mercy Hill Covenant Member)

[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/strategic-hospitality

Test Drive Your New Community Group Today!

I don’t know many people that enjoy the process associated with buying a car. Sure, there are a few out there who love a tense, back and forth negotiation, but for most of us, the thought of even stepping onto a car lot can cause quite a bit of anxiety. No one knows this more than car dealerships, and over the past few years, it has been very easy to see them take steps to make car buying as hassle free as possible. Accompanying their efforts is the rise in popularity of numerous magazines, websites, and apps specifically designed to take the guess work and anxiety out of the experience. One of those resources, Car and Driver magazine, lists four things that every potential car buyer should do as they prepare to make a purchase.

  • Do Your Homework
  • Get Acquainted
  • Go for a Spin
  • Reflect on Your Drive

While I know that you are not coming to the Mercy Hill blog to get car-buying advice, these four steps coincide with what we are asking you to do as you select a new Community Group. On Wednesday nights in March, at all three campuses, we will be hosting a hassle-free, no-obligation-to-buy event we call Starter Groups. At each of these four meetings, we will give you the chance to:

Do Your Homework

Learn what a Community Group at Mercy Hill is like. Each meeting is led by either your campus pastor or one of the church elders. We will explain why Community Groups are such a big deal at Mercy Hill; simulate what a Community Group looks like by participating in fellowship (light refreshments provided), Bible study, and prayer; and answer any questions that you may have about joining a Community Group.

Get Acquainted

You will get the opportunity to meet others at your campus who are also wanting to learn about joining a Community Group. Many times, we see people who attend the four Starter Group meetings together end up becoming good friends and joining the same Community Group. You will also get to meet church leaders who are there to cheer you on in the journey.

Go for a Spin

Starter Groups is set up to give you the experience of a Community Group. After attending, you will have a better idea of what we mean when we say, “Discipleship happens in community.”

Reflect on Your Drive

Because our next Community Group launch event (Grouplink) does not happen until May 4th, Starter Groups will give you a chance to experience a Community Group atmosphere and then prepare to make the jump into a group one month later. Once you attend Starter Groups, you will have all the information you need to make the best Community Group selection to fit your needs.

So, what are you waiting for? Sign up today to test drive your new Community Group at Starter Groups. To make sure that you don’t miss out on this opportunity, click here to register. While starting something new can make you just as nervous as buying a new car, we promise that we are not nearly as intimidating as a car salesman.

Disclaimer: No offense is intended to any car salesmen that attend Mercy Hill Church. I am sure that you are an exception to the stereotype of your profession that I used in this post. If you will forgive me, I’ll throw in a free registration to Starter Groups.

-Jonathan Spangler (Community Groups Director)

MH College V-Day Advice Column: Single and Ready to Mingle?

Ask Pastor Jon (Sheets)

College Men,

Do you remember when we were kids and we had dreams? We wanted to be astronauts, policemen, firefighters, or Power Rangers. (That last one might have just been me.) Where did that ambition go? Many times, we as men are tempted to take the path of least resistance—“Which opportunity do I take? Well, which one is easier?” We used to have dreams, and we pursued them with passion. Now, we are content with just letting things “fall in our laps.” Men, we were not created to live that way! God made us in his image. He made us to be cultivators. Our primary mandate as humans is to be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the Earth (Genesis 1:28). Not to mention the Great Commission from Jesus. God intends us to take initiative and to have ambitions aligned with his will for the world. It’s time to step into that vision.

Maybe you’ve had your eye on a lady that you are interested in, but just never made a move. Good news, Step-up Wednesday (aka Valentine’s Day) is upon us. It’s time to take a risk, so step out and ask her to dinner! I know you’re scared or nervous, and I get that, but awkward isn’t an excuse because comfort is not the goal. Many times, that phrase is applied to evangelism, but in general, guys, if you are not willing to do it in pursuit of the girl you are interested in, then you are not going to do it in evangelism either.

Consider Step-up Wednesday as an opportunity to do hard things and grow in taking risks. Just think, if you can ask the girl of your dreams out, then you can share Jesus with your classmate. That might sound oversimplified, but really you are overcoming the same god-replacement that you keep bowing down to: comfort. There are countless college women in your friend group that love Jesus and are not in relationships, let the reason you don’t go out be on them, not your passivity.

Step-Up Wednesday is a practical next step in saying no to what is comfortable. It’s a way to declare, “I will not live in the path of least resistance but will step out into those things that are difficult and, at times, scary.” This is the place where mission, love, and adventure happen. This is the life Jesus has called us to live through the power of the Holy Spirit.

-Jon Sheets (College Ministry Director)

Trust Her, She’s (Almost) A Doctor

College women,

You were created for relationships. Yet, too often, we get caught up in the idea that the relationship we were created for culminates in a cute, Jesus-loving man. This is not true! Outside of our relationship with God himself, there are many types of relationships God has given us— friendships, community, and familial relationships. Therefore, we should never let our current relationship status define our life.

The gift of the gospel was given to the single, married, widowed, and every stage in between. This gift is the greatest gift we could ever receive; therefore, every season to share the gospel is a gift to be used. Often singleness is seen as the life stage where you are surviving instead of thriving in order to get to the next stage. It is not wrong to desire a relationship; a gospel-centered marriage is a beautiful gift. However, romantic relationships are not ultimate. Singleness is not a period of time to wait around for a man to marry so you can get serious about the mission of God. Do not spend today moping in your lack of relationship. Instead, see it as an opportunity to enter into the most exciting opportunity we have been given: to make disciples and proclaim God’s love among all the earth (Psalm 67). But also, if one of your college guy friends actually steps up and asks you to dinner, you can say yes.

Lastly, God does not owe you a relationship. He did not have to give his Son as the price for our sin; yet, he did. No matter how you choose to celebrate February 14th, Jesus is supreme. He always has been and always will be. You have already been given the greatest gift you could ever receive, a love so great that he died for you. A God who has pursued your heart since the day you were born (Psalm 139). A Father who loved you enough to send his Son to the cross for your sin and shame. This love that is free through acknowledging the blood of Jesus. A love that calls us holy, faultless, and blameless before him (Colossians 1:22). Never forget the greatest love story that happened before Valentine’s Day was even a holiday on the calendar. A love no man will ever come close to. If you are not satisfied in his love now, you won’t magically be when you have a relationship.

-Kristen Schleich (College Ministry Associate Director)

A Champion Truer Than the Eagles

Well, most of the world got their wish on Sunday night as the Eagles beat the Patriots in Super Bowl 52. That being said, there probably wasn’t anyone in Greensboro happier than Mercy Hill pastor and Philly native, Jeremy Dager. However, as another football season has come to an end, I can’t help but think about all of the energy and emotion that fans pour into their teams each and every year. Whether you’re an Eagles fan, or unfortunately pull for the winless Cleveland Browns, each year football teams get our full support. However, as Christians, we need to think a little deeper about our fandom.

The Longing in Our Fandom

There is something in the way people are fans of sports teams that is nothing less than idolatrous. Often I don’t want to accept that, but it’s hard to deny. Football fans have weekly rituals: they wear their team’s gear, they yell and cheer during games, and they listen to podcasts and keep up with news throughout the week. Pastor Andrew has even compared Green Bay Packers fans being shirtless in freezing temperatures at games to Christians who care enough about Jesus to do crazy things for him. There is even a sense of camaraderie and unity between fans of the same team, similar to how Christians are unified through the gospel.

As you add all of these things up, the takeaway is that everyone worships. And as funny as it may sound, many of us worship football teams. There is a longing in our fandom that desires a true champion. However, as the entire city of Boston—plus most of the Northeast—has just learned, football teams can’t be where we put all of our hope (yes, even if that team is the Patriots).

Contrary to a shirt I had growing up, football isn’t life. However, for Christians, we have a true champion who has won our salvation on our behalf. Jesus defeated sin and death through his death and resurrection and has shown himself to be the true champion we all long for. This is good news for Eagles and Patriots fans alike.

“There has to be more than this…” – Tom Brady

In a 2005 60 Minutes interview, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was asked about his success in the NFL. Even though it was about thirteen years ago, Brady had already reached the pinnacle of success as a football player. He had won three Super Bowl rings and had everything he could want. However, in the interview, Brady said something that surprised many.  

Brady: “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings, and still think there’s something greater out there for me? Maybe a lot of people would say, ‘Hey man, this is what it is. I reached my goal, my dream, my life.’ Me, I think, it’s gotta be more than this.”  

Interviewer: “What’s the answer?”  

Brady: “I wish I knew.” 

Despite the loss on Sunday, since this interview Brady and the Patriots have only experienced more and more success, as they now have five Super Bowl rings. However, this statement from 2005 is something that should be troubling to the world. How can you reach the pinnacle of success in your career and life and yet still feel like there is something greater out there for you? The answer is that we were created for something greater. How much more unified should we feel around the gospel than around a sports team? Why can we cheer and yell for a sports team, but our worship is stagnant? As joyful as we may feel when our team just won the Super Bowl, in 10,000 years it won’t matter. What will matter in 10,000 years is what was done 2,000 years ago: Jesus coming in our place. That’s not to say that Christians shouldn’t be football fans, I love it. However, we should never let the love for sports and teams surpass the love we have for our true champion, Jesus.

– Patrick Anderson (College Resident)

4 Things Concerning Communion

The following post is an abridged blog from one of Mercy Hill’s launch team members, Barry Evans. For the full blog, check out the original posting here.

At this week’s worship services of Mercy Hill Church, we will be observing one of the most unique and important practices of the church—communion (or the Lord’s Supper). Most of us know Jesus started it and commanded us to do it. We probably have some idea that it connects to his dying on the cross and thus, to the gospel. But what exactly is the purpose of this practice, and why did Jesus tell us to do it?

There’s a major passage of Scripture that deals with the Lord’s Supper that I want to explore. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 that the Corinthian church is not doing a good job in its observance of the Lord’s Supper. In doing so, he gives probably the clearest single explanation in Scripture of the meanings and purposes of communion.

Paul explains:

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Cor. 11:23-26)

Using this passage as a base, we can start to pull out a few points on what communion is and why it is so important.

1. Communion Is a Memorial

Twice, Jesus is quoted as saying, “Do this in remembrance of me,” (vv. 24-25). Each of the elements is to be taken specifically as an act of remembering Jesus’ sacrificing himself for us. The bread is meant to bring to mind the damage to his body, and the cup is meant to remind us of his blood being shed. In Scripture, blood is a sign of life, and even today, we use the term “spilling blood” to refer to killing. The blood of sacrifices would be used in the making of covenants. Now the “new covenant” (v. 25) of salvation in Christ has been instituted by the death of Jesus.

In the eating of the bread (body) and the drinking of the cup (blood), we are remembering that Jesus has given His all to save us, suffering and dying to buy our way to eternal life. But it is not enough for us to remember what Jesus has done for us. We are called to share it. That brings us to our second truth.

2. Communion Is a Proclamation

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (v. 26).

When we come together for communion, as we remember Jesus’ death, we proclaim the truth of the gospel to one another in the taking of the bread and the juice. But more than that, we proclaim it to those who have not yet trusted Christ and observe the act of us taking the Lord’s Supper. Communion is meant to preach (“proclaim”) the gospel to them as well, to draw them to place their trust in the death of the risen Savior. This is one reason we restrict the taking of the Lord’s Supper only to believers, lest anyone think it is merely the act of eating that saves. In fact, eating and drinking the communion elements without faith is a dangerous thing indeed, as our next point demonstrates.

3. Communion Is a Reflection

Paul continues:

“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world” (1 Cor. 11:27-32).

In taking communion, we are to examine our standing with Christ and whether or not we are worthy to take it, lest we be found “guilty.” That means, before taking the elements, one must be certain he or she is in right relationship with Christ, trusting in him for salvation and living a life of obedience to him. Believers should reflect on whether they have any sins that need confessing, so that they will not be subject to discipline by God. It’s such a serious matter, that Paul says some people have even died because they did not examine their own hearts in taking communion!

4. Communion Is Unity

Paul’s major complaint about the way the Corinthians take the Lord’s Supper is that there are “divisions among” them (v. 18). They are not united in one fellowship as the church, but each is only thinking of him or herself. It’s so bad that, “One goes hungry, another gets drunk” (v.21). People are eating and drinking it all for themselves without regard for others. But the Lord’s Supper is meant to identify us as those who are trusting Christ’s sacrificial death, and in so doing, unify us as believers in him. It is for this reason that we call it “communion.” We are taking part in community with Christ and with each other. So, the act of taking communion is done together in the worship service, not privately, and it is done with the mindset of serving one another rather than merely our own needs and desires.

And beyond these four points, of course, communion is something Jesus commanded us to take part in, so we do it.

-Barry Evans (Grace Alive Launch Team Member)

Your Kids Need You to Go

Two years ago I hopped on an airplane with a dozen 5th and 6th graders and their parents and headed to Russel Island, Bahamas to minister to the Haitian refugees there. This was not my first mission trip, but this was the first time I had left my whole family behind—my husband and my four kiddos, ranging from seven-years-old all the way down to almost one. Though it seemed difficult at the time, I now know that the truth is my kids needed me to go. You see, going and sending are part of the normal Christian life, and by my family sending me, I was able to show them and sow into them some pretty valuable things.

There are two questions to think about if you are a parent and considering going on a mission trip.

1. What Is Going Showing?

At Mercy Hill, one of the things we say is discipleship begins in the home. This means that, as parents, we are the primary disciple-makers of our children. Our Mercy Hill Kids volunteers do an amazing job every week pointing our little ones to Jesus, but it is ultimately our responsibility to disciple them. Deuteronomy 6:5-7 reminds us of this: You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

Discipleship is Word-taught and life-caught. So, discipleship is not only immersing our children in the Scriptures and reminding them daily of the grace of the gospel, but it’s also showing them that the best life they could live is a life lived for Jesus. And what better way to show them this than by being obedient to the Great Commission to “Go . . . and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19)? In your going, you not only show them what obedience to God looks like, but you also show them what the joy that comes from obedience looks like.

2. What Is Going Sowing?

When you go, it will probably be hard for them. It will probably be hard for you. But you can take this opportunity to sow into them so many things. You get to sow into them a dependence upon God as you leave them: “Mommy may not be here right now, but God is always with you and he cares for you. Talk to him.”

The reason you are going is to share the gospel with another people group. Take this opportunity to sow into them how to share the gospel with someone else. There are so many great resources to teach our kids how to share their faith, and this is a great time to do that. You also have the opportunity to sow into them a love for the nations. Take this opportunity to get out a map and some books about the country where you will be ministering; be praying as a family for the people to whom you will be ministering. And when you get back, you will have so many stories to tell. While on Russel Island, I was able to share the gospel with a girl named Sarah, and she understood it in a way she never had before. Upon my return, I was able to tell my kids about her, and we prayed for her.

I think it’s important to remember that living a SENT life doesn’t mean you have to hop on a plane and go to another country, but what a great opportunity to show your kids what obedience to the Great Commission looks like and to sow into them a dependence upon God, a love for the nations, and a confidence in sharing their faith. The Great Commission says to go into all the world and make disciples, and all the world includes your own home. We want to be making disciples who make disciples, and your taking the step of obedience to the call to “GO” just might encourage your child to do the same.

-Stephanie Titus (Mercy Hill Member & Kids Team Volunteer)

If this post encourages you to go, join us at our Missions Expo on February 12th. The Missions Expo will feature a worship gathering from 7:00 – 8:00 PM, and you can explore opportunities to go with us in 2018 by meeting ministry leaders before and after the service. Click here for more details!

Two Years, One City

In its simplest, God’s mission entails being called and calling othersWhen I reflect on the two summers spent in New York with City Project, these weeks represent 1) God calling me into his mission and 2) him sending me out to call others.

“And the Lord said to him, ‘Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria’” (1 Kings 19:15).

In reading this verse, I’m reminded of God’s sovereign plan that is unfolding across 1 and 2 Kings. It is within these verses that I’m reminded of the faithful God I serve, acting according to his sovereignty. This God not only allows but desires Elijah to be in the midst of the work he is doing throughout Judea. And the insane truth is this still remains true today! God asks us to play a vital role in his plan for the world. But, the question at stake is, will we be a part of it? God’s desire that every knee will bow and every tongue confess will come to fruition, but will we find ourselves in the midst of his redemptive work?

1. Being Called

Personally, this question surrounded me throughout my time in New York as a City Project student. Through our partnership with Global Gates Ministries, I was introduced to the dire need of a gospel movement within the streets of New York. NYC is a diverse city where the nations reside. We spent a week praying fervently for and pleading continuously for God to show favor to those in need. Paul reminds us in Romans 10, that we, the church, carry the message of salvation, and it is our duty to be sent out and carry this message to those who have never heard it, for “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 

The Lord grew me immensely throughout my time in New York as a student. He showed me the power of obedience. Our time evangelizing was filled with unopened doors and not nearly the amount of successful conversations I had anticipated. Yet, I fought for a Habakkuk 3:18 response: “[Y]et I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” The Lord is good regardless of the number of people we spoke to or the number of doors that opened. He calls us to take part in his mission and choose to obediently pursue the hardened hearts of those who do not know him. 

2. Calling Others

Serving as a City Project intern the next year in New York was significantly different than my time as a student. This week was in no way about me, but solely about calling the City Project students deeper into God’s mission. The harvest in New York is plentiful, but the laborers are few, and by God’s grace, I had the opportunity to challenge the students to step out in faith and labor for the sake of God’s name. 

Throughout my second time in New York, I was continually reminded of the joy I felt as a City Project student. Seeing the students surrender their fears and apprehensions before an almighty and gracious God was awe-inspiring. Instead of hiding, they stepped out in boldness, trusting the Holy Spirit to move and work on their behalf. I was able to watch students’ hearts be changed as they experienced the power of the Holy Spirit and embraced their calling as ambassadors of Christ.

Participating in City Project will not only grow your knowledge of who God is, but it will grow your desire to serve him and embrace the Great Commission to its fullest. Sign up here!

-Rilee Blackwell (City Project Student)


“When Should I Get Baptized?”

During the services that we held on December 14th and 17th, Pastor Andrew mentioned that there is a lot of debate on when baptism should be done in the life of the believer, but the testimony of the New Testament is that believers were baptized as soon as they came to belief. Let’s look at a few  passages in Acts.

“So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added to them.” (Acts 2:41)

But when they believed Philip, as he proclaimed the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.” (Acts 8:12)

“At once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. And after taking some food, he regained his strength.” (Acts 9:18-19)

This one is particularly interesting. Paul was suffering temporary blindness from seeing the light of Christ’s glory on the road to Damascus. He was praying and fasting about all that God had revealed to him. When God sent Ananias to restore his sight, Paul was baptized BEFORE eating again. Having come to a knowledge of the truth (and with someone to baptize him) Paul thought baptism more important than eating or the strength that comes from eating.

An Example for All of Us

Perhaps the most applicable to Mercy Hill is the story of the Philippian jailer. He was guarding Paul and Silas in prison when God shook the foundations of the jail and essentially broke them out. The jailer was not a believer, but upon seeing the very power of God, understood he was a sinner who needed saving.

“The jailer called for lights, rushed in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. He escorted them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved — you and your household.’ And they spoke the word of the Lord to him along with everyone in his house. He took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds. Right away he and all his family were baptized. He brought them into his house, set a meal before them, and rejoiced because he had come to believe in God with his entire household.” (Acts 16:29-34).

Paul and Silas preached the gospel to the jailer and his whole household (who all believed their message) and were baptized “right away.”

The Upshot

Debates rage from whether believers must actually give some evidence of having the Holy Spirit before they are baptized, to whether people should just be baptized anytime they desire. But we see here a pattern that is common in the New Testament: 1) They are convicted of their sin, 2) they believe the gospel preached to them, and 3) they are baptized as soon as possible.

Baptism was a symbol used in the Jewish religion for repentance. It represents the washing off of an old sinful life and arising again to live in a brand new, God-ward direction. For the Christian, baptism symbolizes one’s being united with Christ in his death to this world and the power of sin, and also being united with him in his resurrection to live a transformed life in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is why, at Mercy Hill, we say that baptism is the first step of obedience, because baptism corresponds to one’s initial repentance. It’s the first step that Jesus asks you to take in service to him. Biblically speaking, it wouldn’t be wrong for someone to ask you whether you’ve ever really repented of your old life if you have not been baptized, since baptism and repentance went hand-in-hand for New Testament Christians.

There is no biblical waiting requirement for when to get baptized, but only a belief requirement. If you have believed the gospel that Pastor Andrew or any of our pastors have preached, and you are convicted of your sin and want to now live your life in complete service to Jesus, baptism is for you. Don’t delay. Delayed obedience is disobedience.

We are baptizing again at all off our services and campuses next Thursday and Sunday (Feb 8th and 11th) Sign up to talk to someone about possibly getting baptized at mercyhillgso.com/baptism

-Alex Nolette (Equip Coordinator/Community Groups Team)

“God Hand-picked This Group for Us”

GroupLink is your way to join a Community Group at Mercy Hill. We believe that discipleship happens in community, and for that reason, it is essential for every person at Mercy Hill to make joining a Community Group a priority. Below is a perfect example of how GroupLink (and life in community) has blessed the Hoke family.

Meet Some New Community Group Leaders: The Hokes

Around this time last year, my husband Gregory and I signed up for GroupLink. We had been attending Mercy Hill for a few months and were just starting to get plugged in. He and I had gone through the Weekender and were serving on Sunday mornings, but we knew that we were still looking for more. Hearing Pastor Andrew and others talk about how Mercy Hill was a church of Community Groups and that there was an established path for us to follow to get plugged in to one was just what we were looking for.

We signed up for GroupLink and the wondering began. Who would our leaders be? What would they be like? How many people would be in the group? We showed up to the event on that Friday night filled with anticipation. As soon as we met Scott and Flossie, our group leaders, I knew God had hand-picked this group for us. Still being new to the area (having moved from Florida six months before) we had not yet connected to very many people. Scott and Flossie were so warm and welcoming. As I started to share with her about our journey here to NC with our three teenage kids, she just sat and listened to me as she smiled. Come to find out that she had also home-schooled a couple of her kids with the same program that we were connected to. I knew right then and there that we were supposed to be in that group. I can’t even tell you how many times I have said that same thing over the past year whenever I have had the chance to talk to anyone about our Community Group.

Looking back over the past year, it is so encouraging to see how much our group has impacted Gregory and me. Not only has it allowed us the opportunity to get to know a great group of people—we have truly grown so close, so quickly—it has also given us a place to share life. Knowing that each week we have an opportunity to take a deeper look into God’s word and how it connects to the current series has really helped ground us and encourage us in our daily walk with God. Having a group of friends that we know will challenge us and hold us accountable is so important.

Moving on for the Mission

As much as we enjoy the group we have been in, there has also been an underlying thought in the back of our minds for a while: there are others at Mercy Hill who are in the same position that we were a year ago, new to Mercy Hill, looking for a way to connect with others and connect deeper with God. We talked about it often and agreed, although we will miss seeing our group every week, it is our time to step into leadership and launch a new group at GroupLink. We are thankful that we have been blessed with a home that can be used by God, we have confidence that the leaders at Mercy Hill will support us, and that God has equipped us to take this step.

We are excited to see who God has planned for us to share this season of our lives with, and how he will use this group not just to impact everyone who signs up, but also the church, the Triad, and the world.

-Kathy Hoke (Mercy Hill Member)

You can sign up to be a part of Gregory and Kathy Hoke’s new group or any of the thirteen groups being offered at the February 2nd GroupLink. Click here to see groups that are available and sign up.