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A Church Of Community Groups: Why You Should Come to College Connect

 

Welcome back students! Every year, thousands of college students converge in the Triad to attend the many colleges and universities in the area. We, as a church, love college students and see you as a valuable part of our church.

If you are just coming around Mercy Hill for the first time, I encourage you to jump in with us. This Sunday we will be hosting College Connect–an event all about connecting college students to Mercy Hill Church through Community Groups. At Mercy Hill, we are not a church that does groups, but a church of groups— groups are a big deal! So, when we say we want you connected to Mercy Hill, we mean we want you connected to a group.

The reason why groups are a big deal is because discipleship is a big deal. Discipleship, simply defined, is word taught and life caught. If you are newer to Christianity, discipleship is about a life that conforms to the teachings and commands of Jesus. However, Jesus didn’t just give us an example to follow or a set of rules to keep. Jesus came and lived the very life that we should have lived and died the death that we deserve, so that we might be reconciled back to God. Jesus did all these things in our place for our sin (rebellion against God). This is what we call the gospel (it means good news), and it shapes every single aspect of our lives. Discipleship is about conforming to the teachings and commands of Jesus, but the power and motivation to live into those things comes from what Jesus did in our place, the gospel. Discipleship is centered around the gospel.

We don’t simply need to be taught more information–although there are many things to learn–but we need to be immersed, like when you are trying to learn a foreign language. Students, if you want to learn more about what it means to be a Christian or you want to grow in your faith, then you need to jump into community because discipleship happens in community.

This is why College Connect is all about connecting you to a Community Group. We have groups all over the Triad and, without a doubt, there is a group near you! So please check out our College Connect page and sign-up for a group today!

–Jon Sheets (College Ministry Director)

 

You’re Invited: MH Students Fall Kickoff

There is something unique about the start of a new year that often brings a great deal of excitement. I remember as a student, from elementary well into my teens, I would lay restlessly in my bed awaiting the morning of the first day of school. With my new outfit laid out (this was before the fad of school uniforms), my new school shoes, my new bookbag, and my new school supplies, it seemed like morning would never come. The excitement of the new year also brought a time of personal reflection and goal setting. As a student this usually meant new friends and good grades. This was also true for me as a teacher. Each new year brought with it a fresh excitement and anticipation of what was to come.

The Mercy Hill student ministry team and I share a similar feeling regarding the MH Students Kickoff that is closely approaching. With a new name, new logo, new night of the week, and new location, the team eagerly awaits the first night of student ministry for the 2017-2018 school year. The beginning of this new year has allowed us to reflect on what God has done and set big goals for what we want to see God do within the students of Mercy Hill.  

So if you are a student reading this blog, here are a few thoughts for you…

Great Time to Jump on Board

If you have been involved in the past, we are excited to reconnect with you. In addition, we are excited to lock arms with you as we unfold our vision for the 2017-2018 school year. For those of you that will be brand new to MH Students, this is the best time to jump in. This night will be dedicated to telling you what MH Students is all about, and we will have a great time as we do it.

Bring a Friend

This is going to be a special night. There will be activities, games, a rock-climbing wall, giveaways, and conversations that you’re not going to want to miss. With that in mind, we are encouraging returning students and new students alike to bring a friend with them so that they too might hear what God could do in their lives this semester.

See You Then

The student ministry team wants to invite all students in grades 7 through 12 to come to our annual kickoff event in which we will connect, have fun, cast vision, and get excited about what God has in store for students in the 2017-2018 school year.

 — Ronald Redmond (Student Ministry Director)

The event is Sunday, August 27th at the Regional Campus from 6:30-8:00pm

Can Short-term Teams Really Maximize Long-term Ministry?

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

“Can short-term teams really maximize long-term ministry?” was a question recently raised by Carlos and Meredith Block, our long-term field partners who live in Peru. This year, Mercy Hill has sent two short-term teams, one short-term intern, and will send another team in September to work with them. Read how the Block’s answer their own question in their most recent newsletter:


Our answer is YES, but ministry effectiveness is directly related to several factors:

Pre-trip preparation: Communication with team on site, praying together, getting to know one another, preparing to teach, and planning outreach events sets teams up for effective ministry. 

Attitude: An attitude of service and flexibility focused on long term relationships and goals is the “being” behind the “doing.”

Ministry: Trusting the Lord and giving Him the glory in all things (even scary and uncomfortable situations) can yield fruit that will last. 

Three teams have joined us since we wrote two months ago, and two more are on the way! These friends demonstrated the above qualities, and as the Lord worked, great things happened.

Mercy Hill Church

Mercy Hill (NC) team visited an indigenous school. Casey, John, Caroline and Jack came well prepared to teach in K-12 for four days. Students heard the Genesis-Jesus story, as well as learning their colors in English. The week ended with a pinning ceremony for class officers, a special school supplies gift for each student, and a trip to the river.

Northeast Bible Church

Part of the Northeast Bible team (TX) built the second floor on the first training center building, while others shared in schools, with local women’s groups, and kids’ clubs. They had a special opportunity to visit a community affected by recent flooding. The team was overwhelmed by their hospitality and encouraged them in their rebuilding process.

Mercy Hill – City Project

Mercy Hill’s City Project College Team served for ten days in three high schools, sharing about Biblical Sexuality and using English to build bridges. They had the unique opportunity to be a part of Achievement Day as indigenous students shared what they’d learned this semester. This was yet another opportunity to plant more seeds and pray for future fruit.

How have teams helped us?

In Numbers: There are only two of us at the moment! Teams bring new faces, energy, and opportunities to introduce our indigenous friends to believers both from the US and other parts of Peru giving a broader picture of the body of Christ.

Reaching Children: Teams who work with youth show their love by spending time with them, having fun and sharing truth.

Encouragement: The indigenous often feel isolated and invisible, but when visitors come, they feel encouraged and affirmed, and their hospitality shines.

Reaching High schoolers: “You attract what you are.” Younger testimonies of salvation and life with Christ have a unique impact in school settings. Women connect with women, as do the men on the construction site.

Mobilizing Prayer: As the Brooke Fraser song says, “now that I have seen, I am responsible.”

Strengthening the Indigenous Church: All of this outreach is planting seeds to mobilize the indigenous church to extend His Kingdom. 


Are you next? 

Mercy Hill is committed to sending teams and individuals to partner with the Blocks to make disciples among the indigenous people of Peru. It’s not too late for women of Mercy Hill to go with us as we train and encourage the indigenous natives this September. 

Bryan Miller (Connections/Missions Director)

Lessons From The Field: India

To close out our summer doing City Project–an 8-week long internship and training series designed to teach college students how to share the gospel and make disciples–we headed out on our international trips and my team was headed for India!

After over a full day of travel, we finally arrived and began embracing the culture we were going to be a part of for two weeks. Lots of things were new and different: the food was spicier (so spicy one of our team members got 4 nosebleeds while we were there), the cows roamed free all through the street, and there seemed to be no rules when it came to driving. Even though we were thousands of miles away from home, two things were the same, and always will be the same no matter where we go: God’s desire to seek and save the lost and His power to do so.

I had never been a part of any kind of international missions trip before and when I think about my perspective before going to India, I see now that I didn’t fully understand God’s global mission. Until we went to India I unconsciously viewed God as the “God of the United States,” not as the God of the universe. But the truth is there is no difference in God’s power when it comes to saving me or saving an Indian woman. We are both just as dead in our sins and in equally desperate need of a savior.

We explored the city on our first full day, which brought us to the largest Muslim mosque in Asia. We joined a group of about 15 Hindu girls and our leader, Greta, quickly moved the conversation in a spiritual direction. Before I knew it, she said, “Madison, do you want to share with them what we believe?” I was totally thrown off guard but this is what the entire summer had prepared me for, so I shared the gospel with them. Being our first day and first encounter, it really gave me the confidence I needed to share with any woman I came into contact with over the next two weeks. We would later visit museums, temples, malls, and parks–seeking out people to talk to and share with.

Each morning we took turns leading devotions for our team and when it was my turn, I shared Psalm 40, which is probably my favorite passage in the Bible. I really harped on verse 10 which says “I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.” I said that when we get on the plane to go home, when our two weeks there were finished, I wanted us to be able to look back and confidently declare this verse over our time in India–that we held nothing back and shared the gospel every chance we got. This verse became our marching orders and spurred us on to do just that. By the grace of God, our team shared with over 100 people, most of whom had never heard the gospel before. Praise God!

Before this trip, my view of God wasn’t big enough. After hearing of the miracles He is doing in India, I know now that my prayers weren’t big enough either. We claim to believe in a God who is all-powerful, but if we don’t pray or act as if He is, we aren’t viewing Him rightly and we’re robbing Him of glory He deserves. Not only is God moving in mighty ways in India, but He was also moving through the other City Project teams in Peru, Greece, Thailand, and Spain.

God desires to make disciples of all nations, and we’re called in Matthew 28 to go and join Him on this mission. I can do that on my college campus and I can do that in another country. The stories we have from our time abroad are endless, but the common theme between them all is simply this: God is the faithful, loving, all powerful Creator of the universe and He is moving. 

— Madison Yates (City Project Student)

There is No Shame in Celebrating

In our church stream, there is a sentiment that exists that we should praise God for every success we see and consider ourselves to be worthless specimens who are of no use. This is true, but it is also not the full biblical picture.

Paul Only Boasts in the Cross; but also . . .

There was no Christian (outside of Jesus) who balanced the joy of the work of his own hands with a true understanding that it is God who empowered it all like Paul. What is his key to striking the proper balance? Grace. It is true that Paul said things like this: “But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14a). This tends to be our default position, and although we know it shouldn’t, it can stifle the celebration of accomplishments that churches like Mercy Hill have seen. “Am I celebrating with the right heart and intentions?” “I won’t celebrate too hard just in case I might be celebrating my part in it.” There is some truth and commendation to thinking like that but, the true picture can set us free to celebrate.

Paul said this about the church in Thessalonica who was extremely receptive to the truth of the gospel that he preached: “For who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting in the presence of our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? Indeed you are our glory and joy!” (1 Thess. 2:19-20). Wait. I thought he said that he wouldn’t boast about anything except the cross of Christ? But if we look carefully, we will see the distinction. He says that the Thessalonian Christians are his crown of boasting. A crown is something that is received from Jesus. He can boast in his work among the faithful Thessalonian church because God, through his grace, gave to Paul, as a gift, the fruitfulness of his ministry. “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of [the other apostles], yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). Woah, Paul. It sounds like he’s boasting about himself against the other apostles, but Paul is saying this, “Every measure of grace the Lord gave me, I’ve been faithful with (by his grace).” Every bit of the success of his ministry was chalked up to God’s grace, but he considered it a gift from God that he could take joy in and celebrate his work, even in the presence of Christ . . . because God.

Celebrating like Paul

As we come to our 5-year anniversary and consider the success Mercy Hill has had in ministry, know that God has given us the gift of being able to celebrate what his grace has brought through our hands. The early Christians were not afraid of celebrating numbers: “So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added to them” (Acts 2:41). It was God who added the three thousand to their number, but he did it through Peter’s preaching.

Consider the things we’ve seen. I remember coming to the very first Mercy Hill meeting in Greensboro held in Pastor Andrew’s backyard. There were about 50 people there. Now, we see well over 2,000 people attend our services every week. We met our goal of seeing 500 people baptized before the 5-year mark, and we are very close to seeing our goals of 100 Community Groups launched and 1500 people come through the Weekender. These numbers represent stories. The 500 baptisms represent 500 people whose saving faith in Jesus and his gospel led them to choose following him over the world. The 100 Community Groups launched will represent 100 small groups in which a large portion of our weekly attendance are learning how to be disciples and training others to be disciples. The 1500 people coming through the Weekender represent people who are understanding the importance of the local church and God’s plan for it.

Think about everything we’ve seen happen in missions. We’ve developed strategic partnerships with ministries in the Triad (Hannah’s Haven, Backpack Beginnings, Hope Academy, Greensboro Pregnancy Care Center, Jackson Middle School). These ministries have their finger on the pulse of the needs of our community and know best how to serve them. Our partnership with them aid these ministries tremendously in providing a consistent presence of service in our community.

Think about the churches we’ve helped plant in Orlando (Grace Alive), Charlotte (Mercy Church), LA (Reach Fellowship), The Bridge (Wilmington), and Jesus Our Redeemer (Baltimore); and also, the churches and missionaries we’ve partnered with internationally. These countries include South Asia and Peru. Because of the grace given to us by God, we can celebrate that these cities and countries now have more of a consistent gospel presence, and some that have a gospel presence for the first time. God is saving people through these partnerships.

I could go on and on talking about our short-term trips to the DR and the excellent work our middle school, high school, and college ministries have done in getting teens and young adults into the mission fields and leveraging this important time in their lives for Jesus. The list goes on.

Mercy Hill, the point is these things happen because God, through his grace, has gifted us with people who want to serve, want to live their lives on mission, and who want to be radically generous. We can take joy in and celebrate what God is doing through our hands. It is all him, but he gives us the ability to celebrate our work. We’re not ashamed to celebrate our 5-year anniversary; rather, like Pastor Andrew says, “We praise God and ask for more.”

Alex Nolette (Community Groups/Equip Coordinator)

Putting “Y’all” Back in the Bible

We live in a very individualistic culture. This puts us at somewhat of a disadvantage when reading the Bible because the Bible was written to a collectivist culture. A society defined as collectivistic is a society who thinks in terms of the whole. Where in America we often think about what we can do to further our own prosperity or that of our closest family, a collectivist culture is more inclined to think about how their actions will affect the whole community. “We” is more often the default mindset than “I.”

We aren’t making things very easy on ourselves when English speakers translate the Bible. You see, Hebrew and Greek have a plural form of the word “you.” In Greek, for example, the singular form of you is σύ (su) and the plural is ὑμεῖς (humeis). You don’t need to be a Greek scholar to see that these are completely different words. Do you know what the two are in English? You. We have the same word for both singular and plural. Therefore, particularly in America, different regions have developed different slang terms for the plural you. Where I’m from up north, it’s “you guys.” In the Pittsburgh area, it’s “yinz.” And we all know what it is here in the South: “Y’all.”

Making a Mess of the Situation

So, what happens when an American, who was brought up in America’s individualistic culture, reads the Bible in English? They tend to read the plural you in a singular way, and this is why many in the West think they don’t need to be a part of a local church. They think they can have their own private Christianity; a personal “agreement” with God. This is absolutely foreign to the New Testament. Most of Paul’s letters were written to specific local churches (e.g. 1 Corinthians is written to the church in Corinth and Philippians is written to the church in Philippi) or a group of local churches in a certain region (e.g. Galatians is written to the churches in Galatia). But even when a letter is written to a person like Philemon, Timothy, or Titus, participation in the local church is assumed: “To Philemon our dear friend and coworker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church that meets in your home . . . I have great joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother” (Philemon 1:1,7). We need to get back to reading our “you” as “y’all”. We need to remember that the local church is designed by God to be how the body of Christ (i.e. all Christians) grows.

The Local Church as God’s Means of Christian Growth

Paul in Ephesians says, “And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness” (vs. 11-13). If you are not in a continual relationship with your brothers and sisters in the local church and submitting to the pastors and teachers, then you are cutting yourself off from God’s number one tool for increased faith and holiness of life. Not to mention that God gives gifts by the Holy Spirit specifically for the common good of the local church (1 Cor. 12:7). A gift given that’s used outside the church is a distorted and polluted gift. And finally, with all the “one another” statements in Scripture (e.g. love one another, pray for one another, admonish one another, serve one another, build one another up), to not be involved in the local church means disobedience. The author of Hebrews puts it plainly: “And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Become a part of “Y’all” at Mercy Hill

We make learning how to get meaningfully involved in Mercy Hill very easy. We invite you to come to the Weekender, where you’ll learn about the church (our story, values, goals, theology) and you’ll learn the opportunities we have for you to participate in the body of Christ at Mercy Hill. You’ll even get the opportunity to shadow a serve team that weekend and get your feet wet. The Weekender is where those who are connected to the crowd get committed to the family. If you have never been to the Weekender, then it is for you! Learn more and sign-up for our August 18-20 Weekender today at mercyhillgso.com/weekender

— Alex Nolette (Community Groups/Equip Coordinator)

Relationships Make the Church Smaller

The official definition of a megachurch is a church with an average weekly attendance of 2000 people or more. For most of you, it is no secret that, by God’s grace, Mercy Hill exceeds this number every week. And it is also no secret that megachurches get a bad rap because it feels impossible to build close relationships and to feel loved and cared for at them. Sadly, many go to a church looking for a family and yet find thousands of strangers. This is a real tragedy as it is directly contrary to how God has designed the church.

But It Doesn’t Have to be This Way

At Mercy Hill, we value our community groups. A community group is a small group of people that meets together weekly in different parts of the Triad, where we dive deep into a passage of scripture, discuss relevant questions, and pray. It’s also where we share our struggles and needs with each other and we build close, family-type bonds. Your community group will be your people, the people that you share life with and learn how to become a better disciple of Jesus with. Indeed, discipleship happens in community.

If there are those who have felt that they have not really gotten connected to the church and built relationships with those at Mercy Hill, there is a way to change that! If there are those of you that come only to a worship gathering to sing and hear the sermon but aren’t plugged into a community group, then you are missing about half of what God has designed the church for; there is way to change that!

Grouplink

On Friday August 4th at 6:30pm, Grouplink will be held at our Regional Rd. Kids Worship Space. Grouplink is the best way to get involved in a Community Group. You’ll register for a specific group here and then you will have dinner with your new group that night. Nothing brings people together like food.

Don’t miss out on the life-changing relationships that are built at Community Groups. Sign up today!

Alex Nolette (Community Groups/Equip Coordinator)