Short-term Mission Trips Have Pitfalls: How We Avoid Them

When it comes to short-term missions, a driving conviction we hold to is to do short-term trips with the long-term in view.

Helping Without Hurting

The rise of short-term “mission” trips—whereby team members pack a suitcase full of peanut butter and don matching t-shirts through the airport in route to serve people of a different culture—has not been without controversy. Some fear that such trips become little more than Christian tourism. Some argue resources would be better stewarded if given directly to indigenous people. Others fear labeling short-term trips as “missions” devalues the sacrifice career missionaries make. And without even realizing it, there are many ways short-term teams may do more harm than good in the communities they seek to help. Aware of these pitfalls, we still desire to mobilize hundreds of people for short-term missions, and keeping the long-term in view helps keep us from falling into them.

Encouraging Partners

First, short-term teams sent from Mercy Hill go to support long-term field partners. We do not think spending 7 days with people we’ve never met will make them mature in Christ. We believe discipleship is “Word taught and life caught.” That implies time to build relationships. But short-term trips can be catalytic when utilized under a long-term strategy. Our teams go to serve the needs and vision of our long-term partners because those partners are instrumental in reaching the unreached.

We also understand being a long-term missionary is challenging. They’ve had heart-wrenching goodbyes with deep friends and close family in order to invest among a people who will perhaps always see them as foreigners and keep them at arms-length for years. Missionary life can be lonely and invasive at the same time. So, we want to send teams who will encourage our field partners and strengthen them to continue in their work.

Increasing Involvement

Second, short-term team members sent from Mercy Hill are expected to continue their involvement in God’s global mission. We believe every Christ-follower has a role to play in the mission of making disciples among all peoples. Short-term trips are a great introduction to cross-cultural ministry and are used to develop the individuals who go. Team members come back more passionate to send workers and sometimes to go as long-term workers themselves.

So, whether by developing individuals who go or encouraging field partners who remain, short-term missions can and should have a lasting impact for God’s glory.

To learn more about upcoming short-term opportunities visit mercyhillgso.com/trips

-Bryan Miller (Connections & Missions Pastor)

 

Reminding God in Prayer: Recounting His Works and Promises

Remember the days when you were a hopeful kid, and you took every promise made by an adult as unbreakable law? Their promise was your assurance and every time a promise was broken your hope turned to both disappointment and cries of “But you said! You said!” We were heartbroken and every promise after was trusted a little less. You know what is a little scary? Jesus himself asks us to trust him like that: “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15). For those of us who have ever been let down by an earthly parent or guardian, this is a hard commandment.

The Promises of God

We heard in the sermon this week that we need to be recounting the deeds of God. We need to worship through the telling of God’s glorious actions in history. But there are other times in scripture in which God’s deeds are recounted by his people—in petitionary prayer. What I mean by that is that the heroes of the faith in scripture constantly appealed to God by both recounting to him the works that he had accomplished and the promises he had made to his people.

1. The Example of Moses

After the exodus from Egypt, Moses was up on a mountain with God receiving the Ten Commandments. He was up there for an uncomfortable amount of time (as it seemed to the Israelites), and so they fashioned a golden calf idol. This angered the Lord greatly, and he told Moses that he was going to wipe out the Israelites. Moses, in an impassioned prayer, pleads with him by reminding him of his works and his promises:

Lord, why does your anger burn against your people you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and a strong hand? . . . Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel — you swore to them by yourself and declared, “I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and will give your offspring all this land that I have promised, and they will inherit it forever.” (Ex. 32:11,13)

The Lord did relent at the request of Moses, but we must be careful here. Did Moses really remind God of what he had done and the promises he had declared? As if God slapped his own forehead and said, “Wow! I completely forgot about that thing I said to Abraham. How long was that ago? You guys were in Egypt how long again?” Not likely. But by waiting for Moses to ask, God brought his works and promises to the mind of Moses; this account was also written for us that we might know that God is wonderfully humble in that he allows our prayers to move his hand.

2. The Example of Daniel

700-1000 years after Moses’ petition, the Israelites find themselves as exiles in Babylon by the will of God for their detestable sins. The Lord had declared how long the exile would be, and Daniel realized from reading the prophecies that the end was soon (Dan. 9:2). Daniel, therefore, began fasting and praying, recounting the words and promises of God, admitting the sin that Israel had committed, and begging God to fulfill his word.

All Israel has broken your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. The promised curse written in the law of Moses, the servant of God, has been poured out on us because we have sinned against him. . . . Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a strong hand and made your name renowned as it is this day, we have sinned, we have acted wickedly. Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, may your anger and wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become an object of ridicule to all those around us. (Daniel 9:11,15-16)

3. The Example of the Early Disciples

When Peter and John were brought before the Jewish leaders and were sent away after being told not to speak about Jesus anymore, they went and told the disciples all that had happened. The disciples remembered that this was all the work of the Lord, and so they recounted his works and his promises communally and asked for boldness in the midst of all that was coming:

Master, you are the one who made the heaven, the earth, and the sea, and everything in them. You said through the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David your servant: “Why do the Gentiles rage and the peoples plot futile things? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers assemble together against the Lord and against his Messiah.” For, in fact, in this city both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your will had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that your servants may speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand for healing, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus. (Acts 4:24-31)

This is what it looks like to pray according to God’s will. It is knowing scripture enough to know what God desires to do, what he has promised to do, and what he will do.

Practicing This

To practice this method of recounting God’s deeds and promises to him in petitionary prayer requires knowing scripture. We need to know what God has done, and we need to know the promises that he has made to us. When we are desperate for God to act in our life, we need to know that every one of God’s promises are “Yes” in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 1:20a). We need to remember that when our sanctification is slow and we long to see greater fruit, that God has established a covenant with us through Christ’s blood (Matt. 26:28) in which he forgives us of our sins and remembers them no more, and he will, by his Spirit, write his law on our hearts (Jer. 31:33-34) and cause us to carefully observe his commandments (Ezek.36:26-27).

There are many things that God has promised us that he will do, and he has always done what he has said. And in one way or another Christ is the fulfillment of everything he has promised. So, when we go to him in prayer, we should boldly recount his works and his promises to him. As Pastor Andrew says, in whatever we ask for on earth, we do not know if he will fulfill our requests, but we beg him to, because we know that he can and we know that it is something that it seems like he would want to do.

But we must know God like we knew our parents or guardians when we were kids. We must know how to say, “You said! You said!” God has revealed himself through Scripture and trains us through his Holy Spirit. He has made a covenant with us that he will not break. He has done marvelous things throughout all of history, and he will do many more. And like Daniel, we should use the knowledge of what God has promised to drive us to prayer and ask for these things. He could very well just be waiting for us to ask.

-Alex Nolette (Equip Associate)

Struggling with Praying Boring Prayers? A Sermon Series Resource

“…God gave the Psalms to us so that we would give the Psalms back to God.  No other book of the Bible was inspired for that expressed purpose.”[1] – Don S. Whitney

Praise God! We are back in the Psalms at Mercy Hill. In the upcoming weeks, we will experience a “Selection of Psalms” to show us that the God in the book of Psalms is God, even in times of trouble. The Book of Psalms literally means the Book of Praises. The book itself truly can be referred to as that “Ole Hebrew Hymnal.” Since it is inspired by God, it also instructs the people of God of His intentions for our praise. It is our hope that as we go through this brief series of sermons together as a church family, our devotion to know the God of the Psalms will increase to the point of God’s praise. 

At the same time, we would be remiss if we fail to acknowledge that the Psalms have also been given to us for the purpose of fueling our personal devotion to God. When we as believers devote ourselves to the Psalms, we take advantage of our opportunity to become better acquainted with a variety of circumstances that prompt every emotion known to mankind. In addition to that, we have the opportunity to learn how God intends for us to respond in light of our current circumstances through witnessing how he inspired his people of old to respond. And all of this while we further understand that the Psalms foretold of Jesus Christ, the One who would come to be our stronghold, avenger, and refuge. The One who would be our guard, safety, and king by becoming the only man worthy of all praise.

Since the Book of Psalms is inspired for the purpose of instructing our devotion, conversation with God, and praise, we wanted to offer a resource that equips each of us to dig deeply into the Psalms. Praying the Bible by Don S. Whitney aims to practically equip believers with a method to become better acquainted with God through praying the Bible and especially the Psalms. This resource will be available for purchase in the lobby throughout the sermons series. 

If you have ever felt like your prayer life was struggling because it just seems boring to go to God and say the same old things about the same old things, then this resource is especially for you. If you have ever felt like you were a second-rate Christian because your prayers seem so uncreatively repetitive, this resource is especially for you. Have you ever desired to pray with the apparent intimacy with God in the same way that the Psalmists prayed? Whitney would say that this desire is not only common to every believer but also that it can be satisfied since “the Holy Spirit causes all children of God to believe that God is their Father and fills them with an undying desire to talk to him.”[1]  What if your desire for a passionate prayer life could be addressed by learning to pray through a passage of Scripture, particularly a Psalm? Would you be willing to consider it? 

-Gary Rivers (Associate Campus Pastor)

[1] (Whitney, Praying The Bible, p. 13)

[1] (Whitney, Praying The Bible, p. 45)

Climbing the Insurmountable: Starting is the Hardest Part

Ever feel overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of a particular task? Whether it’s that closet full of junk in the hallway, the garage that has never had a single vehicle parked in it, going to the gym to work off that inner tube around your waist, or that mountain of paperwork on your desk. You all know what I’m talking about. These are everyday realities for many of us.

And we often convince ourselves why we shouldn’t even start. We tell ourselves, “The closet will be full again in a month, no one uses their garage for parking cars anymore, I love food/hate exercise way too much to ever really say goodbye to my inner tube (let’s be honest), and as soon as I complete this mountain of paperwork a larger one will take its place.” That’s what we tell ourselves, and we are very persuasive aren’t we?

But what if we just get started? What if we begin to chip away, little by little. I know for me that getting started is sometimes the toughest part. Once I begin, the pathway to completion becomes more clear, and the energy that I was struggling to find before in starting has now appeared out of nowhere. All of the sudden I am making progress on something that seemed insurmountable.

Here’s the deal. For some of you that “insurmountable task” may not be a household chore, instead it may be that your insurmountable task is connecting with others in authentic Christian community. You tell yourself (quite persuasively) that it’s no use. You think to yourself, “Once they get to know me they couldn’t possibly love me or even listen to me. I’ve put myself out there before, and I’ve been burned one too many times.”

Just Get Started

If that’s where you are today, I would urge you to just get started. Don’t let fear and doubt keep you from what God has created you for. If you will just get started, then the “task” that once seemed so daunting can actually turn to joy in your life.

At Mercy Hill, the best way to get started in authentic Christian community is through Starter Groups. Starter Groups are a great way to connect with others at Mercy Hill and begin to study the word of God and apply it to your life in the context of community. You can find out more info and register for the upcoming round of Starter Groups (beginning May 31st) here.

-Randy Titus (Campus Pastor & Community Groups Director)

College Students: 3 Ways to Avoid the Summer Slump

Right now you’re probably drowning in an ocean of final papers, exams, and lots of coffee. Perhaps, you have just made it out of this ocean and have finished the semester. Either way you’re probably dreaming of a much different ocean, one where you can sit on the warm beach sand and breathe in the salty air. Summer is near, and you can taste it. The much desired rest you have craved for the past semester is so close, but this rest will leave you empty unless it is found first in the Lord.

Regardless of where you find yourself this summer, your rest is in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Whether you are a new Christian going home to no community or sticking around for the summer, this can be a time where you learn to lean on the goodness of the Lord rather than enter into a spiritual slump.

Here’s how you can avoid the summer slump:

1. Dive Daily into Scripture 

If our rest is found in the Lord, then it is magnified when we deeply know who he is and what he has done. God has graciously revealed himself to us in his word. This summer, commit time every day to reading the Bible, asking God to show you more of who he is. As he does, praise him that you have the privilege of knowing him. Time is on your side. Whenever you think to pick up your phone and scroll through photos of what your friends are doing this summer, throw it across the room (just kidding) and open up your Bible. What you find in the sweet pages of Scripture will satisfy you much more than envying your friend’s trip to Hawaii.

For help on how to read your Bible check out this article: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/5-steps-to-meditating-on-your-bible

2. Be a Missionary Wherever You Are

For some of you, going home for the summer means leaving the community you have at school and living with your families who do not know Jesus. Some of you will have jobs and internships where you are surrounded by people who are not believers. In the book of Esther, we see a woman who God strategically placed that she may be a vessel for the Jews to be saved. Esther 4:14b says, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” So, college student, I ask you, “Who knows whether you have not come to wherever you are this summer for such a time as this?” Could it be that the Lord has placed you somewhere this summer that you may see salvation?

Check out this article on how to be a witness wherever you are: https://www.imb.org/2016/10/26/share-the-gospel-with-post-everything-people/

3. Seek Out Gospel-Centered Community

We were created to live in community. God himself exists in the triune Godhead of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If God lives in community, we should live in community. If you are in search of a gospel-centered community at home or wherever you are, we would love to help you find a local church that preaches the gospel. And maybe you can even join a small group for the summer. You should rest in the Lord alongside other believers who will point you to the truth of the gospel when you are prone to forget. Allow others to pray for you and point you to Scripture. If you need help finding a church, feel free to email jsheets@mercyhillgso.com.

Use this summer to rest, both physically and spiritually!

-Greta Griswold (2-Year College Resident)

Grown-up Week: How Kids Week Can Be More About Adults Than You Think

Have you ever looked through a kaleidoscope? I remember as a kid looking through the tube of the kaleidoscope with it pointed at the sun and seeing how beautiful all the colors and shapes were. I also learned that if you look through the wrong end of the tube, you don’t see any of the colors or shapes. It’s the same way with a telescope. Look through the right end and see the Milky Way (not the candy); look through the wrong end and see nothing. That is a big difference!

This summer we have an event that you can look at two ways: Kids Week. Kids Week is Kids Ministry on overload! Imagine hundreds of kids, for four days, going through activities, worship, and teaching of the gospel. This week is an opportunity for children who may have never heard about Jesus to experience his truth for the first time. Just as many of us heard the message of Christ clearly for the first time at a camp or church retreat, we hope that Kids Week is a turning point in faith for any kid who will walk through our doors.

Unlike Trix, Kids Week Is Not Just for Kids

However, Kids Week is not just for kids. Each year hundreds of people volunteer their time at Kids Week to make an impact for the Kingdom in kids’ lives. The funny thing is, often the volunteers are the ones who are impacted the most! Kids are great teachers for us and a vital part of the church. From the one that breaks down because they got cut in line (be honest, we get mad about this too), to the one that sings every song as loud as they can and completely off-pitch (also us), kids teach us so much. Humility, anger, teachability, and selfishness are all seen in kids and all too difficult to see in ourselves. Being around kids reminds us of our need for the gospel as we help them see their need for Christ as well. Ultimately, Kids Week is an opportunity for discipleship and growth, for both the kids attending and those of us who get to lead them.

Back to the Kaleidoscope

We learned above that we have to look through both sides of the kaleidoscope to pick the right one. Let’s challenge ourselves to see an opportunity like Kids Week through the right lens.

Parents, you might be tempted to see Kids Week as a sweet, free babysitting deal—a chance to drop off the kiddos and jam out to Taylor Swift in your mini-van on the way to Target (even you dads, don’t think we can’t see you).

But here’s how we see it looking through the right side of the kaleidoscope: as a beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime chance to step into the lives of children walking onto one of our campuses in need of the message of Jesus. We treat Kids Week like a short-term mission trip for those who are jumping into the trenches with us—trenches filled with Elmer’s glue and lots of bubbles—because we are called on to use our gifting and talents and passions to see lost people reached for the sake of Christ. This is how children, families, communities, and entire cities can be changed and redeemed, through the body of Christ stepping up and stepping out to share Jesus.

The Deets (i.e. The Details)

Come join our team on June 20-23rd from 9am-12pm for Kids Week 2017, at both our Regional and Clifton Road locations. We cannot wait see the gospel being taught and lived out with kids for four life-changing days. More than likely, the days will be more life-changing for you than for them.

You can sign up to serve at Kids Week by clicking here. Select the campus you attend, and then scroll down to the “Volunteers Needed!” section. Simply click on the yellow button to let our kids team know you’re interested in volunteering. Thank you!

-Brant Gordon (1 Year Ministry Resident)

I Sponsored a Child! Now What? Part 4 of 4: 24 Things Every Sponsor Should Know

For the final blog of this series, we simply want to share a helpful resource from the Compassion staff and long-time sponsors. Here are 24 things to know about sponsoring a child: 

https://www.compassion.com/newsponsor/sponsoring-a-child.htm

-Bryan Miller (Connections & Missions Pastor)

Raising Barns and Changing Lives

Have you ever been invited to a Raising Bee? If not, I bet your grandparents have, and if they haven’t, it is almost guaranteed that your great grandparents have. A Raising Bee, also known as a Barn Raising, was common in colonial times, and the tradition held firm in many rural areas well into the 1900s. In summary, a Raising Bee is a one day event where everyone in a community comes together to help with a specific project (most often the construction of a barn, school, or church). Prep work is done before the event that includes construction plans, foundation work, and materials delivery.

Don’t Believe Me, Just Watch

The best way I can describe this event is to give you the opportunity to watch it. Check out this video that compiles ten hours of Amish barn-raising construction into a three minutes and thirty seconds time lapse. Scott Miller, an Ohio native, created this video from 1600 images that were taken from 7:00am until 5:00pm, and yes, most of this barn was built in a single day. 

“Raising Barns” on Serve Week

While we don’t plan to literally raise any barns this coming Serve Week, there are some similarities between Raising Bee events and how we have designed our community ministry opportunities. One obvious takeaway, as shown in the video, is that more can be accomplished in a shorter period of time when a group of people come together for a common purpose. Just as important is the fact that the environment of growth, learning, triumph, and struggle that accompanies stepping out of your comfort zone can be greatly enhanced when you are in the trenches of service together. A big part of discipleship—which is the word taught and life caught—that we see happening in Community Groups is found in shared experiences. Serving with others in your Community Group gives individual participants more confidence, provides an opportunity to learn from each other, and builds a stronger bond between group members. This is, in essence, life being caught.

The Example of Jesus

Jesus orchestrated shared serving opportunities for the disciples during his ministry on earth. The feeding of the 5,000 that is recorded in all four gospels (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15) is a perfect example of serving in community. Within these four accounts, not only do we see the disciples serving together by distributing and collecting the food that Jesus miraculously provided, but we also get a glimpse into their fear and anxiety about meeting the hunger need, attempts to problem solve the situation (apart from Jesus), and their growth in confidence and understanding of the power of Christ.

Serve Week

As we prepare for another Serve Week, May 14-20, let us not only focus on all that can be accomplished when our groups serve together, but in addition to that, realize the opportunities that we have to be impacted in discipleship as we make an impact on the lives of those in need around us. It is my prayer that Serve Week will provide these opportunities for hundreds of people at Mercy Hill who accomplish much to impact need in our community while growing in ways that they never thought possible through shared experiences.

-Jonathan Spangler (Community Groups Associate)

One Goal Down, Two to Go

Hey Mercy Hill,

This blog is both a recap and a continued celebration of what you may already know. Certainly, after such a powerful weekend of baptisms two weekends ago, we have much to celebrate. First of all, there were 53 baptisms and just under half of those were decisions that were made that very day! Baptism is a sign to us that God is saving people at Mercy Hill. He is working through the gospel message, sending its truth from people’s minds, deep into their hearts, and cultivating a desire for obedience that springs from the joy of salvation. The first step of this obedience is baptism.

500 + 20

Church, we launched Mercy Hill over four years ago, and we have already seen 520 baptisms! That is 520 stories of salvation and life change. That’s 520 people that have experienced the truth of God and seen the cross of Christ as beautiful.

This is significant because of the goals we have set ourselves to pray for this year. Since we are approaching our five-year anniversary as a church, we are asking God to move, as only he can, to see 100 community groups launched, 500 people baptized, and 1500 people come through the Weekender. We are certainly closing in on these, and as you have probably already seen, already surpassed one. With 520 baptisms, that’s one goal down, two to go!

Praise God and Ask for More

Let’s pray for the people that were baptized, thanking and praising God for his saving grace in their lives, and his hand to be continually on all who have been baptized at Mercy Hill as they grow in their faith. Also, let’s continue to pray for the two goals that we haven’t reached. Ask God to raise up the community group leaders that we need, and to give us wisdom in being able to spot people who are ready to lead: all this so we can launch enough groups to keep up with the number of people that are interested in pursuing discipleship—word taught, life caught—in a community group. And finally, let’s pray that Mercy Hill attenders will see the importance of being meaningfully involved at a local church, and that they would come to the Weekender to go from connected to the crowd to committed to the family.

-Alex Nolette (Equip Associate)

What Could Mercy Hill Possibly Do With 600 Pool Noodles?

It’s coming. 600 pool noodles, 60 boxes of Goldfish, and 6 overly caffeinated Kids Team Staff can only mean one thing. Kids Week is almost here. This summer we are having an awesome 4-day Wild West adventure held from Tuesday, June 20th through Friday, June 23rd at BOTH campuses. Regional and Clifton will be simultaneously full with preschoolers and elementary students having the times of their lives from 9:00am to noon. Our entire event is created by the Mercy Hill Staff; so, there is nothing else quite like it in town. We do not want to give away too many secrets, but we can tell you that our kids will be interacting with the gospel with their hands, feet, and hearts through incredible games and activities. Let’s just say, pool noodles are not just for the pool, and we may or may not be exploding toothpaste.

You should definitely clear your summer schedule so your family can take part in Kids Week. It is an incredible opportunity to pour into and disciple the next generation of gospel presenters. Do not get misled by the name. Kids Week is an event for the entire family. We have 5th and 6th graders who will run the General Store, 7th through 12th graders who will lead a gold panning adventure, and college students who will rock the whole shebang. Watching different generations come together to further the gospel is a great picture of the church.

We want you to be there. Be on the lookout for registration and information about getting involved. There are many chances to go to the beach or bike riding in the mountains, but there’s only one Kids Week!

-Jeremy Dager (Age-based Ministries Pastor)