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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)

The Power of Persistent Presence

The summer is almost over. This sad reality may evoke a sigh from deep within you. At the time of this writing it is 75 degrees outside, the sky is blue, and there is a light breeze blowing. Days like these are an absolute gift. But, I fully recognize that with the imminent changing of the seasons there will also be a change in the ebb and flow of everyday life. The kids will be back in school, the pace will pick up a bit at work, Community Groups are about to kick off again, and things will generally move more quickly all around. With these things approaching, it is good to decide where to get the most return on the investment of your time. My aim in writing this is to convince you that Community Group should be one of your top priorities going into this Fall. You see, I believe that there is power in persistent presence at Community Group.

Things that Prevent Presence

There are many things that can prevent us from being present. I think sheer exhaustion is one of the major culprits. I cannot tell you how many people have told me that there are weeks when they feel too exhausted or too busy for Community Group, but they go anyway. They admit that it ends up being the best thing for them. I have felt the same way many times.

We host a group at our house so it’s hard to duck out when we are tired. But it seems that our persistence in attending group has done nothing but bring us closer to God and closer to our brothers and sisters in Christ. For that very reason, we fight to be at Community Group every week. It means saying “no” to a ton of things, but there is power in persistent presence at Community Group.

Mental busyness is another thing that can keep you from being “present” at Community Group. You may be physically there, but mentally you are 100 different places at once. Preventing this mental busyness is increasingly difficult in our modern world but is not at all impossible. I would urge you to fight to be mentally present at Community Group as well. 

The Payoff of Presence

God’s Word is powerful. Believers cannot encounter it and engage with it and still remain unphased. At Community Group, you encounter the Word of God, you discuss the Word of God, you pray in light of the Word of God. That is a life-giving pattern that helps grow us as believers. The payoff of presence is a payoff of growth in our Christian lives.  

So, as you begin to plan for this season, make a plan for growth. God works in his people through his Word taught and life caught. Community Group is the perfect place to hear the word taught and see life caught. If you are already in a group…dig in deeply. If you are not in a group, join one right away. We have Grouplink this Friday and you can jump into a group right away here.

Randy Titus (Clifton Campus Director/Community Groups Director)

Change What You Love, Change Who You Are

On Sunday, Pastor Andrew began our series Prophets and Kings about the life of Samuel and discussed that who or what we worship determines how we will react to certain circumstances. I want to look at this from a different angle and explore more of this terrain. This topic is central to discipleship and sanctification.

I’ve recently been struck by the love that parents have for their newborn children. It’s an odd thing if you think about it. Here’s a little person that wasn’t around at all in the daily dynamics of the home previously, and yet you hear almost all parents, after their newborn has entered the picture, say that they never realized that they could love anyone so much. But what has this child done? They can barely see objects, they can’t talk; their talents are vastly enumerated as 1) screaming, 2) drinking milk, 3) soiling a diaper, and 4) sleeping.

But parental love is genuine and usually, unconditional. Even before their child has much of a personality and even when the only thing the child can do is take away sleep and require constant attention, the parent is smitten. Parents will change much of their behavior to accommodate their baby. They often devote a room in the house even before the child is born, a business woman who was once a workaholic will take a few months of maternity leave, a large portion of a parent’s finances goes toward their child, etc. I think this is a fantastic picture of the title of James K. A. Smith’s book You Are What You Love.

What we love drives us. It causes us to reorient our lives in ways that are specifically pointed to running toward what we love, it causes us to generously (and often unwisely) spend our money, it causes us to obey. But the funny thing about love is, it causes us to do all of this with joy.

The rest of this post is about how love changes us. Let’s use it as a resource to reflect on our lives and discover what it is we truly love. Do we truly love what we say and think we love?

Love Seeks to Know

Parents pride themselves on being able to tell the difference between a pity cry, a full diaper cry, a hurt cry, and a hungry cry. This is because their love drives them to know everything there is to know about their child. New romantic love is often the same way, hours of time are often spent discussing favorite foods and movies. We often care about what our family is doing even if it’s dreadfully boring because we love them.

When we love God, we seek to know him. We have a hunger and a thirst for reading the Bible, not because it’s our duty, but it is our joy to learn about him. The Bible is where he has spoken to us about himself. Also, we ever desire to pray to him because we know that he wants to hear from us. And just like every relationship, sometimes it’s going to seem routine. Pastor Tim Keller says that that is no reason to stop, because just like our earthly relationships, “We need to spend quantity time, in order to get quality time.”

We must remember though, that we can only know God because he has sought to know us. Indeed, anyone who has a love for God, is known by God (1 Cor. 8:3). He has known us fully by sending his Son to experience life as we see it, even death. God not only knows us in his omnipotence, he knows us in feeling, experience, and emotion because of the human/divine nature of his Son.

Love Seeks to Sacrifice

How often do parents spend way too much money on their children during Christmas, or men on their dates, or a hunter on guns and camo, or a driven lawyer on suits? What does our bank statement say about what we love? How much time have we sacrificially spent on others we care about? Altruistic generosity is born out of love. Intentional sacrifice without love does not exist (even if that love be honor, self, etc.)

What does our generosity say about our love for God? His kingdom mission continues all over the world and honestly, it takes money to send and support missionaries. How much of our pride and fears are we conquering by sharing the gospel with those who are lost? We know that God’s heart is for the lost and if we love him, we share his heart. How much time are we willing to spend serving God’s church, meeting with hurting brothers and sisters in Christ, or in the word and prayer? What does where we spend our resources tell us about what or who we love?

But we know that God loves us because he has sacrificed for us. Jesus says that sacrifice of oneself is the highest form of love. “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Yes, “This is how we have come to know love: He laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16).

Love Seeks to Obey

This is perhaps the overarching principle of this whole post. What are parents and romantics really doing when they respond to every whim that their loves express? They are obeying their love’s desires, and they are doing it with joy. We obey our loves, and over time, we embody the desires of what we love. We truly are what we love.

What are you obeying? What does your obedience to God say about your love for him? Jesus put it plainly: “The one who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me” (John 14:23). Jesus himself loved the Father and he loved his people so much that he was obedient to God even to the point of crucifixion (Phil. 2:8). Jesus died for those who hate God so that we might love him and obey him.

Pastor Andrew ended last week’s sermon by asking us to identify and repent of the idols in our lives. Another way to say that is that we should acknowledge what we love, repent of wrongly ordered loves, and seek to love God over all, so much so that we seek to know him, sacrifice for him, and obey him. And since God is the source of love (1 John 4:19), let us pray desperately that he will grow our affections for him, and let us read the word expectant that he will do so.

Alex Nolette (Community Groups/Equip Coordinator)

Resources for Getting to Know Orphans and Refugees

The following are resources to help us get to know the circumstances surrounding adoption, orphans, and refugees. Hopefully it will plant seeds in our minds as to how we as Christians can help and help well. As always, the resources recommended are great for thinking through, 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 resources can surely take us out of our comfort zone) can be a tremendous source of growth.

Orphan Care

  1. Adopted for Life – Russell Moore

This book is built around the theology that we, as believers, are adopted into the family of Christ, and this should fuel our passion for adoption here on earth. The author, Russell Moore, draws from personal experiences and shares things he would have liked to have known before beginning the adoption journey. The Moore family has two adopted children of their own, and he gives invaluable insight into the questions he had when going through this process. This resource is helpful for those considering adoption but also for someone who is interested in its processes. Even more, this book shows how adoption goes further than just families that want to adopt, and proves that the idea of adoption displays the gospel in fullness.

  1. Orphanology – Tony Merida

In this book Merida helps readers know how to biblically care for orphans and “functionally parentless” children. It is a compilation of stories, experiences, and illustrations relating to gospel-centered orphan care. It empowers not only the church but individual believers and gives practical ways that we can respond in caring for the growing number of orphans and functionally parentless children.

Refugees

  1. Refugee Services Toolkit (RST)

The RST is an online resource that trains churches, non-profits, and individuals that serve refugee families (specifically focusing on refugee children) to help them to be able to understand what they go through during the resettlement process. By going through this toolkit, groups/individuals learn how they can best assist the family during this potentially traumatic time. Although a login is required to access the resources, the toolkit is free and helps to ensure that refugees are getting the intervention and support that will most help them.

  1. World Relief Blog

World Relief is a nonprofit organization that works within 17 U.S. cities and 14 countries around the world. Mercy Hill has had the privilege of partnering with their High Point and Winston-Salem offices as they focus on refugee and immigration services. World Relief’s role in assisting refugees can be most easily seen in the process of helping them to resettle and rebuild their lives within a new country and environment. Their website contains a blog that gives valuable insight into the lives of the refugees that they work with, basic information about refugees and their experiences, and the steps that someone could take to help.

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)