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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)

What Flying Crocs Taught Me About the Gospel

Whish.

I felt the breeze coming off of a size 3 shoe as it flew by my head. Again.

This was the third time that Ryan[1] had become overpowered by the urge to launch a Croc grenade across the classroom to land in his brother’s lap. And after two attempts at correcting and redirecting this behavior, it was time for us to have a chat about it. We moved over to the side of the classroom and sat down across from one another. His head went down right away, but I wasn’t there to scold him. We talked for a little while about why it wasn’t safe to send our shoes sailing into a sea of our friend’s heads, but then I asked him why he was having such a hard time obeying his teachers when we asked him to stop. Exasperated, he looked up with teary eyes and said, “I don’t know why I can’t listen, it’s just so hard to keep the rules.”

The Similar Beat of Human Hearts

As he said it, I could feel my heart nodding in agreement. I realized that this conversation Ryan and I were having about his sin is the same one I have with God about my own sin all the time. And as Ryan sat there frustrated at how hard it is to keep his shoes on his feet, I could see the battle that wages in my own heart happening in his. It’s hard to choose to honor God when our rebellious hearts want to run the other direction.

In a sweet moment, Ryan and I got to pray together that God would help him say no to his sin and obey his teachers. We got to thank Jesus for living the perfect life so that when we mess up, God forgives us and doesn’t stay mad at us. Visibly relieved and with tears dried, Ryan scurried back over to join the class. We listened to the remainder of our lesson and, by God’s grace, all footwear stayed in its rightful place.

Depending on God Like a Child

Even hours after the service concluded, I continued to think back on our conversation and prayer time. Bad theology tries to teach us that God is only interested in our perfect discipline. We either become self-righteous in our ability to follow the rules externally, or devastated and despondent when we see our failure over-and-over again. It has taken me years to realize that in moments of weakness, my first move should be to ask for God’s help. I am created for a relationship with God that requires me to lean hard on his Spirit working inside me rather than white-knuckled attempts to clean up my own heart. God knows that we aren’t going to live perfectly, that’s why he wants our dependence. In the moments that I come to him as a child, vulnerable and helpless, he is always faithful to listen, forgive, restore, and lead me forward. It’s an exchange that doesn’t make sense in this world—my sin for the righteousness of Jesus—but Ryan and I are both learning that obedience grows from a heart that’s captured by this mystery of grace.

Our hope in Mercy Hill Kids is to help children learn dependence on God from the start. As we help them create these healthy rhythms in their walk with Jesus, it provides a consistent reminder of how I should approach the Lord in hard moments. Being a part of Kids Ministry teaches each of us so much about discipline, discipleship, and dependence. Each week it is a privilege to speak the gospel into the lives of these kids while the Lord uses them to speak into mine as well.

Kids Staff Member

[1] Name changed for safety of the child and sake of the parents.

Equip Seminars Kick Off

Well, Monday was another successful night in Equip history. We had around 150 people sign up and many are loving their classes already. While these seminars may have already started, you can go ahead and mark your calendars for the next Equip dates: October 9, 16, 23, and 30. The seminar topics are still being determined, but you may want to prepare to have your schedule open for these great events. Our hope is that these classes are equipping our church to live out their daily Christian lives with a strong biblical worldview that defends them against the false claims of the world.
 
To hear about the classes that have already kicked off for the summer, check out this video:
 

Alex Nolette (Equip Coordinator)

For more info on the Equip Seminars, click here

When WE Is YOU: What Is Covenant Membership?

C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity narrates Christ’s call to commitment like this:

Give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work. I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desire you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you myself; my own will shall become yours.[1]

That commitment to Christ for Mercy Hill is carried out through Covenant Membership. Historian “Charles Deweese has defined a church covenant as ‘a series of written pledges based on the Bible which members voluntarily make to God and to one another regarding their basic moral and spiritual commitments and the practice of their faith.’”[2] In looking at our Covenant Membership, I was reflecting on the eight things “We are Committed to…:”

-We are committed to essential and orthodox Christian doctrines as defined by Mercy Hill Church’s Articles of Faith.

-We are committed to the Bible as God’s Holy Word (2 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Tim. 3:16). 

-We are committed to salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (1 Cor. 15; Jude 3; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6).

-We are committed to a unified body (Phil 2:1-11; Rom. 12:3-8; Heb. 10:24-25).

-We are committed to gathering ourselves together on a regular basis (Acts 2:42-47; Hebrews 10:25).

-We are committed to biblically ordered church (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Mathew 18:15-18; 1 Peter 5).

-We are committed to giving generously to the mission, and living sacrificially for its progress (2 Cor. 8:9).

-We are committed to every member as a missionary (2 Cor. 5:20; 2 Tim. 2:2).

These eight commitments make a powerful statement about Mercy Hill Church.

Then I thought, who do people think the “we” refers to? It is easy to think, “Oh, that is the elders,” or “That is other people.” The truth of the matter is WE is YOU. When you raise your hand and say, “I want in as part of this family,” the WE is YOU. The transfer from WE to YOU is moving from connected to the crowd to committed to the family. Covenant Membership is giving up the idea of I and joining in on WE. I love how one pastor describes Covenant Membership:

. . . [W]e believe the body of Christ is most effectively realized in the context of the local church. The local church is a part of God’s design; we are a community on mission to make Him known . . . around the world. Covenant Membership is a way of gratefully belonging to this community of believers and is a very healthy next step for many in their faith journey. It’s not something you do in order to get something out of it, receive special rights or recognition. On the contrary, it’s something you do when you’re ready, when God has brought you from a place of ‘come and see’ to ‘come and live’ to ‘come and die.’ Covenant membership is just an outward expression of an inward work of grace in your life. Ultimately, it’s a commitment to this faith . . .[3]

Covenant Membership is all of us coming alongside one another and holding each other accountable, not only to the eight things “we are committed to” but to all of scripture and the mission. As an elder, I am held accountable to the other elders and the congregation, and I hold them accountable as well. Mercy Hill is committed to seeing the gospel spread in the Triad and throughout the world. If you follow Christ as Lord, you are to be on mission making disciples around the world. The church is God’s plan A for the world and there is no plan B. Covenant Membership is your way to say as a follower of Christ, “I will give up I and be WE to the Triad and beyond.”

The best way to check out Covenant Membership is through the Weekender here

If you have already attended a weekender than please fill out a Covenant Member Profile here

Paul Howington (Assimilation Associate Director)

[1] Lewis

[2] Dever, Mark. “The Church” in A Theology for the Church. first ed.

[3] Britt.