A Peek Behind the Curtain Part 6: Focused and Approachable

As a noun, “focus” refers to the central point of attention. As a verb, “to focus” means to converge on a central point. Focus, then, is the ability to zero in on what is most important and to see it with crystal clarity. At Mercy Hill, we want folks on our team who have an immense sense of focus.

There are two important factors in the concept of focus. First, we can only focus on a limited number of things. When some things come into focus, other things are pushed out of focus. That is just how it works. No one can (with hyper-clarity) focus on an unlimited number of things. My father used to tell me that all people were limited by two things: your energy and time are both finite. I think that was his way of telling me that humans are very limited in what they can focus on. With limited energy and limited time, we simply cannot focus on everything. If we try to focus on everything, we end up focusing on nothing. Secondly, we must be wise in choosing what we focus on. Understanding that we can’t focus on everything isn’t helpful if we cannot determine what is worthy of our focus. The ability to limit the number of things we focus on and choose them wisely is necessary for any team member at Mercy Hill. We must be able to see through the haze, tune out the white noise, and converge on what is most important.

                  Of course, the problem with having this type of focus is that it becomes difficult to be approachable. When we know what is most important and chase it daily, getting interrupted becomes a nuisance. In fact, it is possible to become so focused that we cannot be interrupted. Is that okay? I don’t think so. Jesus had a mission and saw things with crystal clarity. His mission was to save the world, and he was focused on it. Yet, at every turn throughout the Gospels, it seems like he is being interrupted and sidetracked. One popular example is Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the issue of blood in Mark 5. One day, Jesus was approached by a man begging Jesus to come heal his little girl who was at the point of death. On the way to see the child, Jesus was interrupted. He was side tracked. There was a woman who had a devastating medical issue. Being so embarrassed about her condition, she reached out and touched Jesus’ robe in faith and was healed! But Jesus knew what she had done, and he stopped. Instead of hurrying on about his important business, he stopped and taught the woman (and the people around her) about the nature of faith and the compassion of God.

                  In the end, focus isn’t just a good trait; it is a necessary one. Without focus, we are doomed to mediocrity at best. But if focus is unrestrained, we can easily fall into something much worse –  a lack of compassion.

Being approachable is a sure way to know that focus hasn’t gone too far, and that people (not tasks) are still the mission.

– Andrew Hopper (Lead Pastor)

Read the previous “Peek Behind the Curtain” blogs here:

4 Things We Still Need from You for Kids Week

We can’t believe Kids Week is less than a week away! The pool noodles, Goldfish, and name tags are all getting put in place as we are expecting hundreds of kids to join us for a great week learning about the Magnificent One. You definitely don’t want to miss the kids’ trip to Tumbleweed Town during Kids Week 2017! If you haven’t gotten involved yet, here are the next steps for you:

1. Register your Child

There’s still room for your kids at Kids Week! Registering kids, team members, and checking out our donations list can all be done at http://mercyhillgso.com/kidsweek

2. Sign up to Serve

With so many kids, our team can always add more members! From parking cars to leading a group, every day is an opportunity to share the gospel with families. Even if you can’t be there all four days, we would love to have you join our team for Kids Week! Register to serve at http://mercyhillgso.com/kidsweek

3. Sign up to Donate

Hundreds of kids means thousands of Goldfish! The donations we make help Kids Week to be so successful! The biggest items we could use are Goldfish and water balloons. A full list of needed items can be found at mercyhillgso.com/kidsweek. For any and all donations, simply drop them off in the Kids Space at our worship services.

4. PRAY!

If God doesn’t move, then Kids Week is really just a fun event. But, we desire for it to be so much more as we know it can be a catalyst for a child coming to faith and being baptized. We know specific families who are now growing at Mercy Hill because they first joined us at Kids Week. We ask that you would pray that God would move in the hearts of kids, families, and team members, and that we would see life change that can be traced back to Kids Week 2017!

-Brant Gordon (Kids Ministry Director)

 

Kids Week 2017 from Mercy Hill Church on Vimeo.

Defining the Church: What or Who?

As we have begun a sermon series Healthy Church, I thought it might be good to define what a church is, especially because the New Testament definition of church has been obscured in modern times by differing notions.

The South is often described as having a church on every corner. Drive any length of time around the Triad, and you will probably see that this is the case. Yet, this description of the church is foreign to how the New Testament defines church. Where we are often quick to have some kind of structural building pop into our minds when someone is talking about a church, the Bible has in mind an assembly of people. In fact, the Greek word found in the New Testament that we translate as church, ekklēsia, is defined as “congregation; assembly, gathering.”[1] Understanding this will get us started in defining the church.

Mark Dever, pastor of Capital Hill Baptist Church and president of 9Marks, has a PhD from Cambridge in Church History. Understandably, he is considered to be a modern-day doctor of the church. His definition of church is as follows: “The church is the body of people called by God’s grace through faith in Christ to glorify him together by serving him in the world.”[2] This is a great definition and worth going through in chunks.

The Body of People Called by God’s Grace through Faith in Christ

First of all, the church is not a building but a people; not just any people but a specific people. Paul tells the elders of the church in Ephesus that the church of God was purchased by Jesus’ blood (Acts 20:28; cf. Rev. 5:9). The church is purchased out of the slavery of sin and the punishment of death. The true church is made up of those who have taken hold of this salvation through faith: “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). If you believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God sent to be an atoning sacrifice for your sins and was raised again on the third day, that faith is a gift from God’s grace, and you are a part of God’s church.

This brings up something that needs to be clarified. You may have heard people refer to the “universal church.” Theologians call this the “invisible church.” It is made up of all those who have been saved, are saved, or will be saved (of which only God knows), and this expression of the church is often discussed in scripture. But there is also the local or visible church. It consists of the saved-by-faith Christians that meet in a certain place together. A local church is a particular segment of the universal church. This is what is meant when Paul refers to “the church in Cenchreae” (Rom. 16:1) or John’s reference to “the seven churches in Asia” (Rev. 1:4).

Even further, a local church is not necessarily made up of everyone that shows up on a Sunday morning, but is made up of the truly saved believers that are a portion of those people. In the modern day, these people are usually marked off by membership. To become a member of a local church is to say that you have been saved by Christ and are committed to being a part of that local expression of the universal church.

To Glorify Him Together

Peter says that the people for God’s own possession (the church) were purchased “so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). In this manner, the church’s mission is the Great Commission: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20a). These two things—“proclaim the praises” and “make disciples”—are integrally linked as faith comes by hearing the proclamation of the gospel message (Rom. 10:17). When people confess Jesus Christ as Lord, God is glorified (Phil. 2:9-11).

The church is a group of people that long for God to be glorified in their neighborhoods and in their city and in the world. And the way to do this is to proclaim the good news of Jesus both with our words and with our lives.

By Serving Him in the World

The church does not hide out until Jesus’ return. Like we have seen, the church’s entire existence is for the glorification of God through the praises of the peoples of the world. Jesus prayed to the Father: “I am not praying that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:15-18).

Yet serving Jesus in the world does not just mean proclamation, it also means living according to the gospel proclaimed (Phil 1:27). It means loving the brothers and sisters in the church (John 13:35), which is impossible to do well without committing to a local church. It means serving in the community (Gal. 6:10). It means being the body of Christ in the world (1 Cor. 12:12-27).

We say at Mercy Hill that the Church is God’s plan A for the world, and that it is. To know the definition of the church is to know the importance of the church. Keep this in mind as we continue on in our Healthy Church series.

-Alex Nolette (Equip Associate)

[1] The Greek New Testament UBS 5

[2] A Theology for the Church 1 ed. p. 768

All Hands on Deck! 4 Ways to Get Involved with Kids Week

Deuteronomy 6 is such a bedrock text in our church and family. We believe that raising children in the faith is about a culture of the home; a culture that hopefully will be defined by talking to God and about God all the time. Once a year at Mercy Hill we have an event that helps to catalyze that culture. Kids Week for us is an all-in/all hands on deck event in the life of our church. During this week we pour the love of Jesus into the kids of church and community at warp speed. For Mercy Hill, discipleship is all about family. We say that discipleship begins and ends in the home. So for us discipleship is not an event; however, events can be a major part of discipleship. During this week our kids will learn so much and hopefully have their desires for the church fanned into a flame. This in turn will give parents so much to build on, ask about, and work through at home.

Mercy Hill, the opportunity we have for kingdom growth during Kids Week is great. We do really need all hands on deck. There are so many ways to be involved with Kids Week through things like  prayer, set design, donating supplies, and volunteering. I hope you will see this opportunity for what it is: a chance to see the love of Jesus grow in the hearts of our little ones. Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 19:14 that his desire is for the children to come to Him. Our prayer is that you would be moved to be involved.

Here are four ways you can be a part of Kids Week:

1. Bring your kids, your neighbor’s kids, and your neighbor’s friend’s kids

If you haven’t already signed up for Kids Week, do it right now by clicking here! Next, invite families you’re connected with (and even those that you’re not) to join us. Encourage your kids to invite their friends and classmates so that they might come and learn about Jesus with them.

2. Join a Kids Week team

There are opportunities for anyone and everyone to be a part of Kids Week. Be a leader in our snack station, work on the Design and Prep team, join the ranks of our security team, or lead a small group of kids throughout the week—every pair of hands helps us to accomplish our goal of sharing the gospel with excellence!

3. Donate supplies

In Kids Ministry, Dixie Cups and Goldfish make the world go ‘round. Donate a box of some needed supplies to help keep Kids Week a free opportunity for our families! The full donation list can be found here, and all items can be dropped off in the Kids Lobby during a service time.

4. Pray like crazy

Pray that God would use our teams to share Christ clearly and effectively with the kids who join us. Pray that the Holy Spirit would move in the games we play and the lessons we dive into, providing gospel conversations and decisions to follow Jesus. Finally, pray that our team leaders would have the energy and patience to care for their teams well and be bold in sharing their faith with these children.

-Andrew Hopper (Lead Pastor)

Don’t Waste Your Gifts: Three Reasons to Audition for the Worship Team

According to CEB, a professional services firm, almost a billion dollars in gift cards went unredeemed in 2015 alone.[1] Talk about wasted gifts! So much potential gone down the drain just because these gifts went unused. As Christians, God has blessed each of us with talents and gifts that should be used. I believe that if we are not intentional about using our gifts, they will end up just like those unredeemed gift cards, all the potential in the world but no impact. It is my prayer that if you have been given a musical gift that you will not let it go to waste. For that reason, I want to highlight three reasons you should audition for the worship team.

1. Your Gifts Are for God

Sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. (Psalm 96:1-2)

In Psalm 139:13 it says that our Creator God formed your inner-most parts and has knit you together in your mother’s womb. He created each and every part of you—your mind, your passions, your gifts—all for his purposes. As the Creator, he deserves every bit of glory for the gifts that he has given you. If you have been gifted musically, God has given you that gift so you will use it for the sake of his Name. I challenge you to let the church and the world see the gifts that God has given to you for the praise of his glory. 

2. Your Gifts Are for the Body

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. (1 Peter 4:10)

One of the primary ways that God receives glory through your gifts is their use in the local church. When God called you to follow him, he also called you into relationship with his body, the Church. As musicians, we have the privilege of having a stage from which to proclaim the excellencies of God. We have a platform from which to remind the church that they have been called out of darkness into marvelous light. We have the opportunity, every single week, to lead the church in a response that gives God the glory he is due for all that he has done. The body of Christ needs your gifts, and if you are letting a gift that God has given you sit idly, you are depriving the church of something that he wants to give through you.

3. Your Gifts Are for the Mission

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)

As followers of Jesus, we are disciples who make disciples who make disciples. That is the model of multiplication that we are committed to following at Mercy Hill Church. To effectively multiply, we have to always be sending people out of Mercy Hill, whether that’s to launch a new campus, to plant a new church, or to go overseas. To be able to send people out, we have to be multiplying each and every serve team at Mercy Hill, including the worship team. That means that every position you see on stage needs to be duplicated for every campus we launch or every church we plant. The church needs your gifts!

The gifts that God has given you are to be used for the body of Christ to the glory of God. I challenge you to take the first step in using your musical gifts by registering to audition this Saturday, June 10th at www.mercyhillgso.com/auditions.

-Joe Richardson (Worship Associate)

[1] http://www.barrons.com/articles/unused-gift-cards-lost-but-not-forgotten-1451704473

City Project Story: Patrick Anderson

Mercy Hill, this story is a story of how City Project has affected the life and ministry of just one individual, but there are a lot of stories just like this that have come out of people’s time in City Project. Your generosity is a tool in the hands of God to transform lives and call on mission.


It was during my freshman year of college that I started to encounter the gospel. Up until that point, I had always thought Christianity was a religion of rules to be followed, rather than a relationship with the God that created me in his image. It was in the months leading up to, and during City Project, that it started to click in my head that my sin had been fully paid for by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I had heard it many times growing up, but God finally opened my heart to it during that season.

City Project is an eight-week program where college students leverage their summer for the glory of God. The first week is spent evangelizing to people in different neighborhoods of New York City. After that, students return to Greensboro. They spend four weeks interning at Mercy Hill or in a community ministry, having theological training in the morning, and experiencing ministry behind the scenes. Lastly, the students go to an international location where they work with missionaries stationed at the locations. Students help serve the missionaries, as well as evangelize and work in the communities.

It was during City Project, the summer after my freshman year, that the implications of the Gospel for my life started to really be unpacked. I started to get a full grasp of who God was, what the mission was, and what my role in the mission of God looked like. The first week of City Project, in New York, was very hard and was the first experience I had encountering people who had never heard of Jesus. Being someone who had heard the gospel probably thousands of times growing up, it was hard to fathom that someone could go fifty years of their life without hearing it. This only multiplied during my time internationally. I went to London, which, even though it is a very developed country, has many people from different nations who have never heard the gospel. The experience of seeing the mission and its urgency had never been so clear. Alongside that, during the middle four weeks of City Project in Greensboro, I got to see what it looked like to be a part of a church plant (at the time, Mercy Hill was less than two years old) and do ministry here locally.

It was during those two months that God really started to orient my heart towards him, and I started to feel God calling me to go into full-time ministry. Coming into college I wanted to go into sports broadcasting, which is a great career and field. However, after that summer, something changed for me. While I could have continued into broadcasting and glorified God through that career, God changed my desire for a career to ministry. The first opportunity I had to be in a leadership position in ministry was being a City Project intern the following summer. I often tell students considering City Project, “It was so great that I did it twice.” During that time, I learned so much about what it means to lead (and what it’s not).

While being a City Project intern, I began thinking about becoming a College Resident. As I just started doing the Residency last month, I can’t imagine myself being where I am and doing what I am doing, if it were not for City Project. That first summer was not only eye opening in understanding more about God and his mission, but was also where I started the equipping process for doing something like the College Residency.

-Patrick Anderson (College Resident)

A Peek Behind the Curtain Part 5: Self-starting and Team Oriented

The values of an organization are the traits and beliefs that make it what it is. At Mercy Hill the values for our staff team are communicated in tensions because any value in isolation can be destructive. For example, independence is a good thing unless you are so independent that you can’t work on a team. Every value then needs a counterpart and every staff member needs to hold the tension.

Tension 3: Self-starting and Team Oriented

Working at Mercy Hill requires being a self-starter. We define a self-starter as someone who has an internal drive to do an excellent job. The driving factor is something internal not external. In other words, a self-starter rarely if ever must be pushed to work more or try harder. Rather, self-starters are routinely reined in by those around them. Self-starters desire to do things the right way whether anyone knows it or not. Self-starters want to make good things great even if no one notices. Self-starters always do more than the minimum. I thought our Executive Pastor summed this up well when he said, “Self-starters never get on Facebook before their day’s work is finished!” No one really tells them not to do that, they just don’t.

The problem, however, is that self-starters can easily have a hard time in a team environment. In an organization like Mercy Hill, not being able to function in a team is totally prohibitive to production. While I am sure this is true in any organization, growth makes it evident. When our church was young, an “army of one” mentality was ok and, at times, even beneficial. But growing makes the “army of one” concept totally undoable because there is too much work and too much complexity. We recognized this early on which is one of the reasons everything at Mercy Hill is done in a team. Ministry is done in teams. Major decisions for the church’s direction are made in teams. Even the sermon goes through a team planning phase before it is ever delivered. So being a self-starter must be balanced with the ability to function in a team. Remember: any singular trait can be constructive or destructive. Which way it goes depends on the other traits it is set against. For self-starters, being a team player is the counterbalance.

Let me close with two thoughts. First, we can recognize team oriented self-starters by checking on different spheres they are currently operating in. We often ask, “Can this person play well in the sandbox with others?” Sometimes the best way to figure that out is by looking at the sandboxes they are currently playing in. In their current work environment, they may be extremely driven, but are they required to work in a team? Do they have a pattern of only working in jobs where teamwork isn’t necessary? Another quick tell is a person’s commitment to the teamwork aspect of any leadership role in the church. We often make a mistake by looking to the good results of being a self-starter while neglecting signs of an inability to work in teams. For example, someone can be a great community group leader, but do they disregard coaching meetings? Someone can be a great team leader in a first impressions ministry, but do they communicate well with other team leaders over different areas? Often recognizing a self-starter is easy because their group is full or their team is filled. But that only looks at success from the top of the leadership pipeline down. It is equally important to look both sideways and up. Secondly, over the last ten years I have come to a conclusion regarding this tension: People can’t really be coached on being a self-starter, but they can sometimes be coached on being team oriented. Now, that isn’t truth in the way Bible is truth! As I said, this is just taken from my experience. Everyone will fall somewhere on the scale of being more self-starting or more team oriented. For us, I would rather have a self-starter who is open to being coached on teamwork than the other way around.

-Andrew Hopper (Lead Pastor)

Read the previous “Peek Behind the Curtain” blogs here:

Never Fear; We Have To Get Those Kids Here

Wow—Kids Week! Such an exciting time! I feel like folks think of vacation bible school (VBS) as another summer camp to keep their kids happy and entertained during the long summer days. And that is true in many ways. It’s a break, and we feel good that they are hearing about Jesus and getting snacks and playing games and running around getting their wiggles out so they’ll be quieter when they get home. But, there are so many more amazing and important things involved in Kids Week! I think it’s really important for us to remember, as we approach summer and Kids Week in particular, that it’s not about us and wearing our kids out and getting a break; it’s an opportunity to share Jesus and the incredible gift that was given to us through Him. It’s also a really great opportunity to encourage our kids to share that gift. I think there is no better way to get a kid to Kids Week, who knows nothing about church or Jesus or Christianity, than to hear about how amazing it is from another kid! They hear about the awesome snacks, fun games, and silly songs, and they’re hooked. (It’s even better if they have a card to give to their parent).  

Your Kids Have Gospel Potential

Our kids can be gospel givers, encouragers in Jesus, and sharers of his love! That’s a huge deal. We need to encourage and empower our children to understand that they are capable of changing a person’s entire life through Jesus. We can do that through praying for chances to talk to folks, praying for very specific people, and being willing to step out in faith. He gives us the power and boldness to share with our friends. Kids Week is that perfect opportunity.  

Generally, our kids are much bolder than us anyway. I sometimes cringe at the idea of asking someone about whether they go to church or have a relationship with Jesus. Our kids, though, will ask just about anything—really anything. And while that can be utterly embarrassing from time to time, I love that we can embolden them to ask their friends about Jesus, ask about church, and invite their friends to Kids Week who have never heard about any of it. I promise you that even though we live in the Bible Belt, there are loads of kids out there whose parents grew up in church and say they “believe in God,” and their children have no idea what God is about. Those parents don’t realize how much their children are missing. We can make the difference for them.

Don’t Fear Using Kids Week for Mission

Let’s pray with our kids that we, as parents, and they, as kids, will both have an incredible opportunity to invite folks to Kids Week. We parents can offer other parents that break that we initially think of, by taking their kids off their hands for a few hours in the morning for that week. We can offer to drive their kid to and from Kids Week—I mean, who can pass that up? We can make lunch dates with those kids and their parent after the activities of the day are done. We can get to know them better and allow the child to share what they’ve learned and the parent to see and experience the beauty of community within our church. Those things go a long way. They bring people in, both parents and kids! They see how we live differently and why.  

I love to see children encouraging children; being concerned about each other’s eternity. When a child starts to understand that this world is not about them, and they start taking action, it is truly incredible and glorifying to the Lord. Let’s help our children be life changers through Jesus. Come to Kids Week and bring all your friends!

Kari Wehe (A Mercy Hill Mom)

Book Resources for Getting to Know and Helping the Afflicted

The following are resources to help us become acquainted with the afflicted and hopefully plant seeds in our mind as to how we as Christians can help. And as always, the books recommended are great for thinking, but they are not scripture. We always recommend reading with a mind that is open to reason, but also ready to reject what is against scripture. Yet, wrestling with hard things (some of these books can surely take us out of our comfort zone) can be a tremendous source of growth. Next week we will post more resources covering the topics of adoption and refugees.

Poverty

  1. Every Good Thing: An Introduction to the Material World and the Common Good for Christians – David W. Jones

Before we begin to think about poverty, we need to understand what the Bible says about the goodness (or evilness) of work and wealth. Is an inordinate amount of individual wealth an inherently bad thing? Is poverty the judgment of God? Is voluntary poverty a most holy quest? Does the curse on work mean that it is no longer worthwhile? Dr. Jones covers all this and more in this tiny, quick read.

  1. When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself – Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

Some of you may have seen the documentary Poverty Inc which has been on Netflix. If you haven’t, that could be a good starting place to get your mind around what alleviating poverty wisely looks like and some of the institutional issues involved. When Helping Hurts discusses very similar topics, but puts them all within a solid theological framework. The authors show that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to poverty, and we have to ask ourselves whether someone in need requires relief, rehabilitation, or development. Answering this question can make all the difference between helping and hurting. This is a must read for any Christian interested in getting involved in the effort to alleviate poverty.

  1. The Tragedy of American Compassion – Marvin Olasky

Some of us are already sold out on helping the poor, and we have a good foundational grasp on what is required to help the poor well. Yet, we still need more help getting our creative imagination flowing as to what particularly we want to do. The Tragedy of American Compassion explores how people in America, and the American government itself, have tried to help the poor. It highlights the successes and failures of the past few centuries and is a great resource that plants seeds of thought on how best to get involved today. We must remember that what worked in the past might not work in our current sociological climate, but this book is an excellent starting point.

  1. To Live in Peace: Biblical Faith and the Changing Inner City – Mark R. Gornik

To Live in Peace is a great resource because it is founded on a true story. Gornick planted a church in Sandtown, one of the most dangerous and impoverished neighborhoods in Baltimore, MD. The presence of this church, and the trial and error of using different methods of help, eventually assisted the neighborhood in climbing out of its dismal state and did so without pushing the people who live there out.

Race

  1. Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian – John Piper

Once again, it’s important that we ground our thinking on a biblical foundation before we seek to derive practical responses. John Piper does this so well in Bloodlines. His argument that the cross of Christ both demands that we pursue racial reconciliation, but also that it itself is the answer to racism is masterful. There has been some recent criticism of this work on how it neglects some of the finer points of racism, but there are other books for that which I am recommending. But, it is to our detriment if we forget the centrality of the gospel in seeking racial harmony.

  1. Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America – Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith

Divided by Faith is a good companion and supplement to Bloodlines. It covers well the neglect of Christians in seeing systemic and institutionalized racism. This book would be a great resource for anyone looking to use some of their time and resources towards the fight for racial equality in the institutions of the world.

  1. The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race – Willie James Jennings and The Souls of Black Folk – W.E.B. Du Bois

Maybe the biggest problem of modern racism is that we neglect to think about where it came from, how mankind could really do such a thing, and ultimately, to see how we are culpable. But when one really considers the roots of it, it’s both obvious and tragic. In order to gain power over someone, we need to think of them as lesser. Our consciences will not allow us to colonize a people or enslave a person that we consider to be an equal. This is why any minority that is clamoring for equality frustrates those in the majority, because it exposes their greed for power. These two books are great resources for Christian Americans, as the first resource surveys how Christians in days past constructed and defended their racism theologically, and the second, shows how Americans have done it most obviously to the black community.

-Alex Nolette (Equip Associate)

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)