A Peek Behind the Curtain Part 3: Excellent and Dependent

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 1: Committed to excellence and dependent on God.

The definition of excellence is “the quality of being very good”. In my opinion, the definition is unhelpful. Excellence is the value of being very good at what? Or better, what does being good actually look like? Excellence then is something that is hard to define but easy to describe. You know it when you see it.

Here is a good example. I went to fill up my coffee cup at a restaurant the other day and the coffee was out. Before I had the chance to turn around and ask someone, an assistant manager that was on break jumped up, took my cup, walked into the back to fill it up, and then returned it. He then apologized for the inconvenience and went back to taking his break. Now, admittedly things would have been better had the coffee pot stayed full in the first place! But the response of the staff team at this restaurant was incredible. My point is, excellence is hard to define but easy to see. It is hard to bottle whatever it is that makes someone stop their break, feel the burden of the problem, desire to resolve it quickly, and then apologize. But whatever that is, we want it to be a strong value for us.

Excellence is the “it” factor. It means the website stays totally current, the band doesn’t need music stands, every event stays above minimum standards in the way signage looks, having full kids ministry at every service without exception, social media staying active, the pastor staying within his allotted time to preach, and a million other examples I could point to. Excellence is sharpness. Excellence is an extreme commitment to detail. Excellence is in the inches. But does excellence grow the church?

Every value needs a counterpart. Without a counterpart, every value can be destructive. Being committed to doing things the right way is necessary and good, but without tension it can be dangerous. What happens when we are so committed to excellence that we forget who actually grows the church? A commitment to excellence is only helpful if on the other side is a dependence on God. We should work as unto the Lord. We should do all things to his glory. Excellence then should describe our ministry but it does not grow our ministry. Psalm 127:1 is a passage that our team goes back to time and again. We plan and we work hard, but it is the Lord who builds the church. The book of Acts is clear time and time again. While the apostles labored to make the gospel known, it was the Lord that added to their number. A commitment to excellence and a dependence on God really comes down to this: are we praying as hard as we are working? At Mercy Hill, we want our facilities to be clean and presentable every single weekend. But that doesn’t grow the church. We want our tech teams to nail every transition, but that doesn’t grow the church either. The church is his, and the growth is his alone. Let us be committed to excellence for his glory and dependent upon him for whatever results he brings.

-Andrew Hopper (Lead Pastor)

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

From Death to Life: Katie’s Story

Baptism is one of the ordinances that Jesus gave to the church. The good news of Jesus’ death on our behalf and his resurrection that gives us hope over death are not just things that we merely believe. They are historical facts that demand action. When Jesus calls us to repent and follow him, we are brought to the waters of baptism to identify publicly with his death and resurrection, to proclaim that we desire to be obedient to him as Lord in all things. Katie’s baptism story that follows shows that God graciously, over time, convinced her of this truth.


I was born and raised in a southern church. I grew up in both Baptist and Methodist churches. My mother raised me to not just believe in the church, but to believe in God. However, as I got older, I fell out of going to church or really having much to do with God. 

Last year, during a very difficult time in my life, my sister begged for me to start a bible study with her. She was smack in the middle of one of the worse seasons of her life; so, begrudgingly I agreed. Each week, my sister and best friend fought to get me to participate. However, I knew she needed this, and I would do anything to help my sister. Throughout the study, I kept thinking, “Where is God in my life?” I felt bitter and alone. 

After we finished our study of Ruth, my sister once again begged me to start a study on Esther. The study actually begins with the words, “This is for all the people who wonder what happens when the Red Sea doesn’t part!” I felt like the Israelites standing before the Red Sea, saying “Hello God, it’s me. Are you going to part this?” 

Throughout this time, my coworker (and work best friend) was disciplining me even while I wasn’t hearing all she had to say. It’s hard to stay positive in our career, but she would always bring it around to God. She had invited me several times throughout the years to attend Mercy Hill, but I never really felt the need to. While telling her about how much I was enjoying my Esther study, she pulled out her journal of sermon notes and said, “Look Katie! You’ll love Mercy Hill. There are notes!” (she knew how much I loved anything with note-taking). She explained that she felt better having the information with her throughout the day. She saw an opening and she took it. She had my logical side convinced that to learn more about how I felt, I needed to immerse myself more into the gospel. 

It was as if the more I drank from the gospel the thirstier I was. I learned that my life was a lot greater than the season that I was in. I slowly realized that instead of living for myself, I wanted to live for Christ. I felt myself changing in my relationships, my personal life, and my work life. As I talked to Christ more, I realized that God was there even on the days that I couldn’t see him. I realized that to live like Christ I had to know Christ and the answers of who Christ was were found in the gospel. I felt God tugging on my heart to be baptized, because for the first time in my life I was actively pursuing a relationship with Christ. I realized that it wasn’t enough to believe in God, I had to live it too. So, on Sunday January 29, 2017, two days after my 25th birthday, the woman who discipled me all along the way, Ashley Schlossberg, baptized me in front of my family and friends. I gave my life to Christ and I look forward to continuing to grow in my relationship with him!

-Katie Toomes (Mercy Hill Member)


Your Next Step

Perhaps Katie’s story resonates with you. Maybe you believe in Jesus and the salvation that he offers to you through the gospel, but have been neglecting baptism. As Pastor Andrew says, “Delayed obedience is disobedience.” We are saved by grace through faith alone, but a saving faith is a faith that animates us to submit to the Lordship of Jesus in all things. If you are ready to follow Jesus with your entire life, we are baptizing on Thursday 2/23 at our Regional campus and at both campuses on Sunday 2/26. Sign up to talk to one of our staff about your desire to get baptized at http://mercyhillgso.com/baptism/.

 

Thursday Nights

This week Mercy Hill is launching a Thursday Night worship experience! Our staff team is excited to provide this opportunity and kick off the weekend on Thursday nights. Thursday Night will be the first service of the weekend. It will have full kids programming and match the Sunday service in every way. Here are a few quick reasons why we are excited to have a worship experience on Thursdays moving forward:

1. Another service means more seats.

Over the last three weeks at Mercy Hill, many of our services have reached over 90% capacity. This is happening at both campuses. As I’ve pointed out before, when a room is that full it sends all types of unintended messages to our first-time guests. A completely full room says, “We weren’t ready for you, we weren’t expecting you, and there is just no room for you here.” That is obviously not the heartbeat of our church! We want to create an environment where people who are new and potentially far from God can comfortably come into our services and feel welcome. The gospel is already offensive so nothing else (e.g. a crazy, crowded room) should be. The fact is, more first-time guests are coming in the morning than at night. Beginning another service in the evening gives our home folks the chance to give up their “primetime” slot on Sunday morning in order that someone new may have a seat.

2. We must record the sermon before Sunday anyway.

Our model of multisite works because we have the ability to play the sermon off-site. The technology enabling playback is twofold: a hard copy and a cloud based live stream. Having two systems in play gives us options at the campus and a backup if one system were to fail. Of the two systems, the cloud based streaming is simple. The hard copy, on the other hand, is tougher because the sermon must be preached beforehand and recorded. The Thursday service then will be our “capture” service moving forward. This service will give us what we need to have hard copies off-site. This will be so much better than what we do now! Right now, we capture the sermon by having a handful of staff come to the Regional Rd. campus on their day off, and I preach the sermon to them. So, if the sermon has to be preached anyway, lets open up seats and capitalize on it for the sake of the mission.

3. Thursdays gives us the opportunity to reach a different crowd.

We just have to face the fact that we live in a society that no longer gives deference to Sundays. When the culture shifts, it is right for the church to shift methods in order to be effective at reaching people. With the shift in culture Christians have two options: we can either complain about how many things happen now on Sundays or we can be missionaries to the culture we are living in. Thursday nights gives us the chance to be mission-minded toward those whose lives are not conducive to needing every Sunday off to connect. Who am I talking about? People whose kids travel to play sports, the restaurant industry, blended families, medical professionals, law enforcement and fire fighters, and the list could go on. We will be better at reaching out to these people having a Thursday night option in the tool bag.

-Andrew Hopper (Lead Pastor)

Love Creates

Happy Valentine’s Day, Mercy Hill. I’m sure some of us are floating six inches off the ground today over the greatness of our romantic relationships, while others are slumped over about six inches in disgust over everyone else’s happiness. Both of these attitudes point to problems with our views on what weight relationships should carry in our life and possibly a fundamental misunderstanding of love. That is what I want to survey in this blog. What is true love?

We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19)

True love (i.e. love as the Bible defines it) is created in us by God’s love for us. God loved us first, and when he makes us aware of his love, it produces in us love for God and love for others. This is love proper. It might seem shocking and even maddening to realize that under the Biblical view of love, any feelings of affection for others (whether romantic or plutonic) that are not direct derivatives of our love for God, are forbidden loves. As John Piper proclaimed so powerfully at Passion this year, the essence of all evil is a preference for anything over God. Paul says in Romans 8:7 that those without the Spirit are hostile to God. They aren’t lovers of God, but haters of God. Therefore, anything that stirs our affections outside of the love that is the first fruit of the Holy Spirit—“But the fruit of the Spirit is love . . .” (Galatians 5:22)—is an evil affection.

True Love is a Verb

I tend to despise clichés, but this is a good one. We easily forget that love is not just a feeling. In fact, as Timothy Keller says, feelings are often produced by the actions of love we perform. Do you realize that most of us get John 3:16, one of the most famous verses in the Bible, wrong? We learned it as “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son . . .” and that’s not a wrong translation. But, because of the modern notion of the emotional feeling of love being “true love,” we read it wrong. We almost read it that God had such a great feeling of love that it propelled him to send his Son. That may also be true, but that’s not what the verse is saying. The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates it in a way that we Americans can understand: “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son . . ..” The essence of the verse is that God loved us through the action of the death of his Son in our place. God’s love is active.

Now, God’s active love stirs our affections for him through the leading of the Holy Spirit. That is true. But it is in our affections for God that we become obedient to him in loving others through our actions, which then stirs our affections for them. Remember, this is how how Biblical love works. And yes, in a way, it is almost cyclical. Love starts from the One who is love, and then our affections fuel our behavior which then, in turn, fuels our affections. This is why author James K. A. Smith can say “You are what you love.” What we love becomes our identity because it fuels how we act. Love creates behavior. Think about what we say when we recite 1 Corinthians 13:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (vs. 4-7 NIV)

Love creates behavior and defines how we behave.

Romantic Love

We could now talk about what this means for all of our different relationships, but since it’s Valentine’s Day, let’s end with what it means for our romantic relationships. First of all, let me make clear that it is good to have affectionate feelings toward your husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, or interest. They are something to shoot for, but (despite what the world would say) not essential for a committed relationship.

Because of how the Bible defines love, we have to examine all of our affections in the light of our love for God. Here are some example questions: “Would acting on my affections (whether the gaining or losing of them) move me to being disobedient to God?” and “Are these affections stronger than my affections for God?” If the answer is yes to either of these, we need to be cautious. We need to seek God in prayer and read his Word and seek the council of others before moving forward. If we are to enthralled with our romantic love that we need it more than God, we will crush ourselves and our partner under the weight of unrealistic expectations. If we are thinking about divorce because our affections have ceased, then we are allowing the world to define what love looks like. If we are thinking about dating someone who would pull us away from God, then we are seeking forbidden love.

Also, another question that we could ask is, “Are my behaviors toward my romantic partner the fruit of my love of God?” Remember, true, biblically-defined love also defines how we behave in our relationships. Are our actions towards our relationships defined by 1 Corinthians 13 and the fruit of the Spirit?

Advice Column

Ultimately, the best Valentine’s advice any Christian could receive is that before we act on our affections (or lack of them), let us daily return to our first love. Let us return to the cross of Jesus where he died for all the wrongs we commit in our relationships. Let his sacrificial death and his miraculous resurrection be the fuel for how we love others. Let the gospel be the dictionary that we grab when looking for the definition of love.

Alex Nolette (Equip Associate)

Work Different: Confessions of a Former Barista

I worked for a world-renowned coffee shop for ten years. My first two weeks on the job were very difficult. Being an introvert, I found engaging in conversation with complete strangers to be very difficult. The social aspects combined with the vast memorization required for working proficiently made me want to quit after two weeks. But I was a starving artist at the time and needed the income, so I kept at it.

Fast forward. I looked back and loved my first year there, everything was new and exciting. Every season brought new challenges and experiences. I grew a ton in my ability to converse with just about anyone. I mastered my job and was promoted. After receiving a promotion and a transfer to a different store, the honeymoon period was over. The new position was harder and more frustrating. The “fun” elements seemed to be disappearing. My vocational ambitions were elsewhere, and I wanted to move on. Unfortunately, this transition was taking place in 2008. For those who are financially minded, that’s when the economy tanked. Therefore, I was going nowhere.

Is Work Really a Gift?

I was not able to transition out of the world of coffee. I was blessed to just have a job. Yet, I was not happy; I was frustrated and confused about what to do. The joy I once had at work was no longer there and everyday was utter drudgery. I didn’t want to be there anymore. Knowing that God is Sovereign, I was angry that he had not let me leave. I saw my work as trivial, pointless, and burdensome. I resented not being paid more and felt owed by the company, which affected my desire to work hard. My attitude was less than Christ honoring at work, childish even.

I wanted work to give me an identity, an importance and satisfaction that it could not. I remember hearing a sermon during those days that pushed me towards a reality that I did not want to admit. The speaker said that it wouldn’t matter if I made $40,000 or $400,000 a year, I would still be me. More money does not equate to working harder, the same work ethic would remain. I realized the problem was me.

The Gospel Changes Work

I would go on to learn that much of what I was experiencing was due to missing how the gospel changes our work. You see, I felt owed. I felt like if I could just make more money or have the job I always dreamed of, then I would be okay. The reality is I could have obtained both of those things and still ended up in the same miserable spot. My job could not give me what I wanted; it was never meant to. The identity, significance, and satisfaction I was looking for could only be found in the love and acceptance of God, in and through Jesus Christ.

As I repented of these things, I began to see how the gospel shapes my work. I stopped working for me and for my employer. I started working for an audience of one, God himself. My labors were directed towards the God I love. Every time I made a latté, I made it as if it were for God. In other words, I made it with excellence in order to honor and show my love for God. I took out the trash and cleaned bathrooms as a means to worship God. I stopped thinking that I was owed something and realized that I owed everything to the one who lived the life I should have lived and died the death that I deserved. I owe everything to Jesus, but instead of trying to work to pay him back, I work out of gratitude and humility. I serve others because I have been served immensely.

There is a growing movement of God in the workplace as Christians around the globe begin to re-imagine how the gospel changes their work. City Life plays a small part in inviting college students into that movement. I want to personally invite you to join the movement this summer by participating in City Life and learn to work different.

Apply todaywww.mercyhillgso.com/citylife or
Come to the Missions Expo – February 13th, 7:00 – 8:00pm, Regional Campus

– Jon Sheets College Ministry Director

A Thursday Service, Really?

Yes, really. There are many good reasons for it. When you think about it, there are many jobs, especially in the health and services industries, that require an occasional Sunday shift. Nursing, law-enforcement, restaurants, fire departments, retail, etc. People that have these types of jobs either can’t come every Sunday or can’t come on Sunday at all. A Thursday service provides them another opportunity to get involved in the worship gathering of Mercy Hill.

Also, think about those who are interested in checking out a church. For those not used to attending church at all, having to give any time from their weekend may seem unreasonable. Therefore, sometime during the week is a great time for people to check out Mercy Hill for the first time!

And finally, the truth is, we are once again filling up a couple of our Sunday morning services and so the Thursday service provides an opportunity for regular attenders and members to serve the church by coming Thursday to open space for new attendees of our Sunday morning services.

I hope that you’ll come worship with us on Thursdays at 6:30pm at our Regional Rd campus. Everything will be exactly the same as it is on Sunday with live worship, live preaching, and MH Kids. We officially launch our Thursday services on February 16th. Here’s a video that will give you more information:

 

Missions Expo 2017

The task of making disciples of all nations is not reserved for an elite few but is the task of the entire church. Every believer has a role to play in the mission of God. As we see in Acts 13, it is the role of the church to call out and send faithful messengers of the gospel:

1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. Acts 13:1–3 (ESV)

This is why Mercy Hill aims to be a sending church—willing to send our best and measure success by sending capacity rather than seating capacity.

On Sunday, February 12th we will highlight the areas where we have committed to send our people. Then on Monday, February 13th don’t miss our Missions Expo. The Missions Expo showcases the opportunities you have to go with us on mission in 2017 and is your next step if you desire to go for a week, a month, or longer.

Here’s a list of mission opportunities that will be showcased at this year’s Mission Expo:

Apartment Life
Café 1040
Compassion International
Disaster Relief
International Mission Board
Lifesong for Orphans
Sent Initiative for College Students
Short-term trips to the Dominican Republic, Peru, South Asia, and Southeast Asia

What: Mercy Hill Missions Expo
Date: Monday, February 13
Time: 7-8pm (Exhibition hall will be open at 6:30pm and closes at 8:30pm)
Location: Regional Campus, 7616 Business Park Drive, Greensboro, NC

-Bryan Miller (Connections and Missions Pastor)

Exiles: Five Early Christian Distinctives for Today

Last week, we started our new sermon series in 1 Peter, Exiles. And what the title of the sermon series is pointing to is Peter’s emphasis throughout the book on the idea that Christians are not at home in the world, but distinct from it. In Paul’s language, we are citizens of Heaven who reside, for a while, on earth.

Living as exiles of course means living a life rooted in the Bible, but being that general doesn’t always help. It can be daunting to think about making a practical list of all the things to practice in order to live exilic lives. So, perhaps looking at how the early church was known in their ancient Roman culture as being distinct could be a good way of thinking through how we can witness to the culture around us about the character of the God we serve.

Pastor Timothy Keller (using the research of historian Larry Hurtado) defines five areas in which the early Christians were distinct from their culture, and widely known for it. The relevance of these distinctives to our own culture is fascinating:

  1. They forgave the people that were killing them.

The Roman world of the early Christians was fraught with violence. There were many coups against the government and personal vendettas that ended in cold-blooded murder. Pile on top of this the Christian persecution. But Christians, looking to the example of Jesus Christ, practiced non-retaliation against their enemies and offered forgiveness to them. This was unthinkable to the society around them.

  1. They held to no sex outside of marriage.

The culture of the ancients held loose sexual mores. Married men were expected to sleep around on their wives (with women, men, boys) and people had no problem with sex before marriage. This was normal conduct. The only taboo was sleeping with someone within your own social class. The Christians came along and spread a message that said heterosexual, monogamous marriages were the only boundaries in which sex was allowed. This vastly cut against the culture and made the early Christians look strange.

  1. They were extravagantly generous with their money.

This extravagance was directed towards the poor; not just the Christian poor, but everyone’s poor. This came to be noticed by even the Roman Emperor. Emperor Julian said (in a letter telling those in his pagan religion to step up their moral game) “For it is disgraceful when no Jew is a beggar and the impious Galileans [the name given by Julian to Christians] support our poor in addition to their own.”

  1. They were completely against abortion and infant exposure.

In those days, it was extremely dangerous to have an abortion (but it still happened). Usually, women would carry their children to term and then leave them out in the trash heap. They would either die there or someone would come along and sell them into slavery. The Christians adopted the forsaken children they found and became a loud voice witnessing against both the practices of abortion and exposure.

  1. They suffered well.

Stoicism had penetrated Roman culture and it carried with it the belief that suffering should be handled by simply just putting it away and moving on. No lament or grieving. But Christians lamented and grieved suffering, yet persevered through it. In fact, many praised God for being able to suffer for the Name of Christ. There are many testimonials in this time of people that respected the way Christians were brave in the midst of suffering and facing their deaths.

In Conclusion

We in America certainly live under a different context, yet, I think we can all easily see the similarities. What if we were to follow the early Christians’ example as they followed the example of Christ? What if we were non-retaliatory and forgiving toward those hostile to Christianity? What if we once again began to value heterosexual, lifelong, monogamous marriage and truly lived by this value? What if we began to be not only generous towards the poor passively, but actively sought to know the poor and help them regain their footing? What if we begged pregnant women who were contemplating abortion to allow us to adopt their children, and were united against the practice in general? What if we stood before suffering boldly and were willing to gladly risk our lives for the sake of Jesus?

Yes, we’d be considered weird and old-fashioned. But the world would be hard pressed to speak against the God that we serve and profess to know. They may even grow curious about the hope that we have that would cause us to live that way. But this living witness is only effective if this is actually the way we live.

Are you living an exilic life that is culturally subversive? Does the conduct of your life witness truly to the gospel of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:27)?

Does your life, although it is offensively different from the culture, manifest the peculiar glory of the God that lives inside of you?

Carry these questions with you as we continue along in our Exiles sermon series.

-Alex Nolette (Equip Associate)

Five Points About Leaving a Legacy

Sometimes you can’t help but just laugh. The other day, on my way to take my daughter to school, we stopped at a red light next to a gentleman who had clearly just missed his turn. He was a bit frantic and trying desperately to figure out how to correct his mistake. He immediately put the car in reverse and attempted to back up to reposition his car. There was one thing, however, he failed to do: look back. As my daughter and I sat in the car yelling in vain, this fine man backed straight into the car behind him. No one was hurt and to be honest both cars didn’t really seem to be damaged at all, but it did give the two of us a little chuckle to start the day.

As we drove off I thought, how hard would it have been to simply look behind you? Why did he not just look back? Looking back is a big deal, obviously when you’re driving, but it matters too for life in general. This is what a legacy is all about. When we look back at our life what will we see? Two weeks ago, we explored the legacy of a biblical character named Gideon in the book of Judges. We saw glimpses of hope followed by mountains of disappointment. It sparked in me the thought of my own legacy: What wake am I leaving in the water for my children to see? What affect will my life now have on my grandchildren then? How will my intentionality in life today affect the people that I work with and that God has entrusted under my care tomorrow?

Here are a few, hopefully, practical ways to think about the legacy that we want to leave. Write them down, pray over them, and talk them over with a spouse or a friend.

1. Your legacy includes successes and failures.

I love the brutal honesty and genuineness of the Apostle Paul who said that he himself was the worst of all sinners (1 Tim 1:15). Paul’s life was filled with many commendable things that were worth following (1 Cor 11:1). And yet he was OK allowing his failures to be on display as well. It is a good thing to allow our successes, which point to God’s grace in our lives, to be on display. And yet our failures too can provide an invaluable lesson and add to our legacy.

2. Your legacy is never too late to start.

If you still have life left in you, you still have a legacy left to leave. The Bible says that God’s love never fails and his mercies are new every morning (Lam 3:22-23). Whether your children are older or you now have grandchildren, God’s love and mercy is at work in you as a follower of Jesus. Seize the opportunities you have to ask for forgiveness or seek reconciliation. May your legacy be that God’s grace is never done working.

3. Your legacy is never too early to start.

On the flip-side there are those too busy with all of life’s pleasures and pursuits to even give thought to our legacy. Unfortunately, our legacy begins far before we ever give thought about a legacy. Paul commends his disciple Timothy not to let others look down on him because of his youth (1 Tim 4:12). Paul understands that even at an early age we have much to give because God has given us much. If you’re in high school or college, you are already building your legacy. If you have yet to get married or have kids you are right now building the foundation of your legacy.

4. Your legacy is not about you.

Often where we get tripped up is making our legacy about us. Movies are made, books are written, documentaries are created to commemorate the legacy of people. But the legacy of a Christian is really not about that Christian at all, it’s about the God who has worked to sustain that person for the entirety of his/her life. Like C.S. Lewis said, we are the rays and God is the sun. Our legacy should merely point others in the right direction, heavenward.

5. Your legacy has eternal consequences.

The story of Gideon really ends in tragedy. The Bible says in Judges 8:34 that after Gideon died, “[The Israelites] forgot the Lord their God, who had rescued them from all their enemies surrounding them.” We tend to be a bit nearsighted in life, forgetting that we live on the blip of the line of eternity. Our legacy will have eternal consequences. We will either be pointing others towards eternity with God or eternity without him. Make it count.

Parents, one immediate application is to join us on February 10th for our family worship night. There will be snacks, games, lots of music, and of course we’ll laugh a lot. You can also visit our family resource center every week for updated resources to lead your family in a devotional time.

-Jeremy Dager (Age-based Ministries Pastor)

Three Things That Stuck with Me from Our Panel on Race Relations

On Wednesday, October 26th, Mercy Hill held its “Living Room Conversations: A Gospel-centered Conversation on Race” between a panel of pastors, staff, and church members of varied backgrounds. This post is a part of our Continuing the Conversation blog series that seeks to keep Mercy Hill thinking and talking about issues of race.

It has been a few months now since the panel on racial reconciliation. It was an amazing night filled with truth, prayer, and a unified spirit. There were many things that stuck with me from the evening, but I wanted to take a moment and outline three.

The attendance and enthusiasm of the event reveal’s a longing for unity.

To begin, the Clifton road campus was full at this event. Now, I know when a pastor starts talking about numbers people assume there is about a 20% mark up! But trust me, the room was packed. And it was packed with both younger and older people. It was packed with both black and white people. One of the reasons this struck me was because the event was almost totally promoted through the grassroots effort of college students at our church. All of this led me to a conclusion that I already know: the gospel really does change everything. The gospel gives us a heart for our neighbor and a heart for the outsider. The Gospel unifies us as brothers and sisters in Christ in a way that nothing else can. We cannot then say we know the gospel and still harbor hatred in our hearts for people of different races. Actually, we should go a step further. We cannot say we know the gospel and harbor apathy in our hearts for people of different races. We know that one day (Revelation 5) we will belong to a multitude of people from every tribe and tongue who worship God. What we believe about then shapes the way we behave now. So many people came to this event, though it was unannounced, because the gospel creates a longing for unity.

The panel started us down a track of learning and communication.

I have personally talked to people who came to the forum and as a result have decided to study race relations and racism. The panel was informative but obviously not comprehensive. We did, however, introduce a range of topics for further study. I myself am continuing to read and learn. In the last two months, for example, I read Losing Ground, Just Mercy, and The New Jim Crow. I was also able to complete the documentary Many Rivers to Cross. Did I learn something from each of these resources? Yes. Did I agree with everything in them regarding social policy? No. But the point is, the panel sparked in me and others a desire to dig deeper in understanding the plight of the marginalized in our society. Obviously, there are eyes through which I haven’t seen and can’t see. I am a middle class white American man. That is who I am. I can’t be anything else. But what I can do is push to gain knowledge and understanding about race, injustice, and poverty.

There were clear next steps given to put action to the conversation.

What a shame it would have been to talk through these issues with openness and candor but then not be given the opportunity to practice what was preached. The action steps were simple; be in community and serve in community. At Mercy Hill both happen in community groups. Groups are the organized system we have designed to create the opportunity for organic relationships. In group you share life and in group you serve. What better picture can we as believers give to the world than when people of different races walk together in life and serve the kingdom in partnership? When we do that, Jesus said, “the world will know that it is God who sent me” (John 17:23).

-Andrew Hopper (Lead Pastor)

Read the previous Continuing the Conversation blog series posts here: