In our midweek Christian family night, we just completed a two-week study of parenting in the Book of Proverbs. Two proverbs often come up in discussions of parenting. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (ESV), is one. “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him,” (from which we get the English proverb, “Spare the rod and spoil the child”) is another. Both are found in Proverbs 22, verses 6 and 15, respectively. Together these two proverbs form a tightly bound parenting model, but we need some context to use them profitably.
We are excited to bring you the first of many Stories of Mercy. Sean Gilles story includes his recovery of cancer and a testimony of the church coming around him to support and love him in one of the most trying times of his life.
I would ask Mercy Hill as a whole to continue to pray that God continues his work in the Rock County location. It has been a privilege to see Jesus grow His church in these ways and others. Please pray that God would continue to provide the finances that we need to expand our children’s ministry area and materials for outreach. Pray that God would continue to grow His church through a healthy mix of unbelievers, Christians, the hurting, the healthy, and leaders. And pray that he grants us wisdom in ministering to the city, and new ways to authentically engage our city, proclaiming the Gospel in relationship and actions.
"And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles." Acts 2:42-43 ESV
From the birth of the Church in Acts, we see what the new gathered Body of Christ focused on: God’s Word (apostles’ teaching), community (fellowship and breaking of bread), and prayer (communing with God). Thus, from the very beginning of Mercy Hill, these verses have been close to our hearts and has helped define and shape our mission of being the Church. Keeping our focus on the simplicity of the Gospel, as taught in Scripture, and proclaiming that Good News both from the pulpit and through personal relationship, is a big part of what I think makes Mercy Hill Church the amazing community that it is. And it seems that God is stirring the hearts of others all over southeastern Wisconsin who desire to see churches planted that are committed to the beauty and simplicity of the Gospel. God has been building His Church with people ready to be His Church, and because of this, we are excited for what God is doing through the church planting efforts here at Mercy Hill.
Today, let’s focus our prayers on the area of church planting:
- Pray that God would continue to build His Church here and abroad
- Pray for our current church planting efforts/connections:
- Mercy Hill Rock County, Janesville (Josh and Angie Dostal)
- Imago Dei, West Milwaukee (Pete and Kristy Ziolkowski)
- Nuovo Vita, Salerno (Justin and Abbey Valiquette)
- Pray that God would provide to expand His Church:
- Leadership, resources and finances
- Pray that we would continue to train and equip leaders for church planting
- Pray that God would continue to make His mission clear to our churches
- Pray that God would clearly direct our Elders in future church planting efforts
"Hopefully throughout your time at Mercy Hill, you’ve sensed and heard that why we give matters more than what we give. We emphasize this every Sunday during worship. And through the example in Luke 21, the Bible gives us many reasons to be generous. Today I’d like to highlight one of those reasons; to care for others..."
"Throughout Holy Scripture, it is clear to us that we have been commissioned by Christ to go forth into the world as his ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20). As we do this, we are to proclaim the Gospel wherever we go, endeavoring to raise up disciples as we ourselves follow after Christ who is with us “to the end of the age” (Matt 28:19,20)."
"...So it seems that God will most definitely accomplish this in the culmination of all things. So why do we need to be involved then? This reminds me of the story of William Carey. He was a lay Baptist pastor in 18th century England who went on to become known as the “Father of Modern Missions”. It was believed by most in the Church at that time that the Great Commission was only a command to the apostles and that those in other “heathen” nations were of no concern to them."
"The term community has become a buzzword in our culture. Millennials are said to desire it, employers seek to build it, sociologists bemoan its demise, and churches have rediscovered its value. But as with most buzzwords: when you hear it often enough it gets lost in the noise..."
God chose us and then the message we received from God was Jesus. In Jesus the Messiah we received from God our Father heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. He accepted us through Jesus and forgave us for all the wrong we have done and will ever still do. Through Jesus we have forgiveness and peace with God our Father and are put together with others in Christ’s body, the Church. And what are we the Church doing? Singing, singing, singing songs that teach and warn leaving us very grateful to God our Father through Jesus our Messiah.
"...it is essential that we face the call in Christ to train ourselves for godliness and recommit ourselves to the spiritual disciplines that help to produce in us this godliness that is of value in every way. There is a long list of spiritual disciplines that many find valuable for the production of godliness in their lives but there are 3 specifically that as pastor at Mercy Hill church I would like to see us commit ourselves to in 2017..."
If I were to believe social media or popular culture, 2016 is a year to wipe from our collective memory.
Celebrity deaths. Politics. Terrorism. Civil wars. Cyberattacks. And so much more. It has spawned all sorts of viral memes and metaphors from the silly to the dead serious. But in the echo chamber that has become popular culture, I have noticed one thing that is distinctly missing.
If you were at service this last Sunday you were made aware of the tragic deaths in a house fire of our dear friends Steve and Patti Gray, the pastors of International Christian Fellowship in Padova, Italy. Many of you know of our special relationship with this church and these co-laborers in Christ as a result of our annual missions trips to minister to the church but many of you do not know the profound role this church and these ministers played in the formation of Mercy Hill Church.
I love the stretch of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I love everything about the holidays: the time with family and friends, the football, the gift-giving and, of course, the food. This last week I was reflecting on all of the things for which I'm thankful, and I found my mind drifting to the church.
I've been part of Mercy Hill Lake Country since the summer of 2009. From the time we first arrived my wife and I fell in love with the people, mission, and philosophy that we discovered. We found a church home that faithfully proclaimed the Gospel and sought to dwell in deep community with one another. In 2011, I was asked to come on staff. In 2012, I was called to the teaching pastor role in Delafield.
Since my time as teaching pastor began I've seen God do amazing things. I've seen people from all walks of life called to salvation in Christ. I've seen more than 50 people from Lake Country be baptized. I've seen marriages restored and lives changed.
And all of it is due to the work of Christ in the lives of His people.
In addition, I've witnessed as our church grew from a 10 person core group to the 250 people who now call Mercy Hill "home". 18 months ago we added a second service. Now both services are filled, and our current location is at its limit. Even though the philosophy and mission have stayed the same, we find ourselves needing to go through changes.
Beginning on December 11th we will be holding Sunday service at Lake Country Lutheran High School in Hartland. In some sense this can feel like a difficult step: we will have to setup and tear down each week, leave a location that we truly love, and re-establish in a new (though very close) community. But the benefits far outweigh the costs.
With one service, our hospitality and children's areas will be able to more easily staff their needs. For the first time in 18 months we'll all be together in one service again. We'll have enough space so that visitors and congregants don't have to struggle to find a place to sit. Perhaps most helpfully, we'll be able to spend time at the new building before and after services. My hope is that this will help people more easily engage in relationships and find entryways to deep, meaningful community.
I give thanks for the opportunities the Lord has provided for us and I'm excited to see how He will use the next stage of our church life for His glory and for the joy of His people.
For all members of our church family, across all three locations, I ask that you please join us in praying for God to continue to move during this time of transition. For those of you who call Mercy Hill Lake Country your church home, we look forward to seeing you on the 11th!
In 2010, my husband Brian and I felt called to become foster parents. A year later we were blessed with the adoption of our son. A few years later we believed we were called again to become the adoptive resource for a little girl, but in the end it didn't work out. Since then, we now have grown to feel we would not be able to foster or adopt again, although we are open to whatever God has planned.
This is the story of how God revealed Himself to me through the children at Living Hope International.
And let us consider how to stir up one another in love and good works not neglecting to meet together. That is quite an encouragement for the church. It is easy to see church as something you go to but here the author of Hebrews points us to a path that is not simply about attending a service but about engaging in a way that is intimate. Encourage one another, stir up in love with good works, these are not admonitions that are fulfilled at a distance or by simply attending a service.
Why go on a short term mission trip? Can a week of ministry in a foreign land really do that much good? Wouldn’t it easier, better, and far more efficient to simply send the money invested in all the travel to the people being ministered to? Who really benefits?
Those are good questions, questions that I once asked.
I’ve been on six short term mission trips – three to Rwanda and three to Italy – and through experience I have found the following answers.
So often, when we think of worship, mistakenly our mind goes to the moments of musical worship on Sunday morning where we, His Church, sing together before we hear from God’s Word. However, worship is so much bigger. It is the response, the offering, given to God by those who have “tasted and seen” that He is good.
Christ used many farmer analogies and parables in his teachings. Let's face it; farming was a very common and popular occupation in his time. However, as I dig deeper into His parables of the harvest, I couldn’t help imagining being the real farmer in this reading. Just thinking of a field full and plentiful of wheat ready to be picked and not having enough workers to pick the crop. What would I do? Would I panic as I seek for laborers to help me pick the harvest? Would I be disappointed? Is that what Jesus did?
Recently, I was curious to hear how other churches handled their benevolence funds and how they provided financial support to those who are in need in the church. I turned to a group of authors who are on the leading edge of how to best help people, and I thought they’d be a good start. So when the book arrived, I eagerly dove in.
But it only took me a few pages to realize something. The book was less about how to help other people, and felt more as plan for how to protect the church from being taken advantage of. This feeling raised a question: What is the heart behind benevolence at Mercy Hill?
Thankfully, the answer is not a heart that is guarding and fearful of being taken advantage of.
As the person handling finances at Mercy Hill, I’ve had a front row seat as to how benevolence requests are handled here at Mercy Hill. And the heart behind benevolence is simple:
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:16-18 NIV)
Benevolence at Mercy Hill starts with the proper perspective that we were once given grace and mercy ourselves, without earning or deserving it. This is incredibly important because it is very easy to slip into a patronizing tone and perspective when helping those in need. Going back to the book I was reading, it suggested requiring pages and pages of paperwork for someone in need to complete. What may be intended to help can inadvertently turn into a series of litmus tests.
Building on this proper perspective, you get to the heart of benevolence at Mercy Hill which is a sacrificial love to those we call brothers and sisters. While our human sense of justice may kick in and say, “why do I have to give up what I earned to help someone who hasn’t earned it?” the Gospel steps in and calls us to say, “I am bound to you as a brother and sisters in Christ, and we will walk through this together.”
Practically speaking, yes, this means that Mercy Hill’s benevolence fund is primarily available to and for individuals who call Mercy Hill Church their church home.
But more importantly, it paints the picture that benevolence is the act of the body of Christ being engaged in each others lives and generously giving time, support, prayer, resources, and much more. Not only supporting through action, but also bringing truth in love to see restoration and redemption in our church family. When we ignore this call and simply resign the church’s benevolence activities to a form to fill out and a check to cut, then frankly, we’re doing it wrong.
Does this mean that at some point, maybe we will be taken advantage of? It may. Will this more personal touch make it messier? Sure. But when we were broken and lost, God came down and walked with us, took our burdens, and stepped into our messes. If that is what God has done for us, how can we do anything less for our brothers and sisters?
That is the call from John the apostle, and that is the heart behind benevolence at Mercy Hill Church.
The benevolence fund at Mercy Hill Church is supported through the generous donations made directly to the fund by individuals and families. To make a donation to the fund, visit www.mercyhill.org/give and on the payment page select “Benevolence Fund” from the reference drop down menu.
As we have been going through the series Death of Me, exploring the call of dying to self as it relates to the me-centric culture in which our churches are being formed, it’s appropriate that we will pause on August 28th to celebrate with members of our church as they follow Christ in baptism. I say it’s appropriate because baptism has always been meant to be a declaration to all that I am embracing the death of me. That we are saying not simply that we are following Christ by that we are dying to self. That we are no longer serving selfish wants and desires but being given over completely to Jesus.