Commissioning Weekend – the cost of ‘yes.’

November 24, 2015 Leave a comment

was cleaning up the blog and came across this from earlier this year. Incredible how far God has brought us before the calendar year even finishes. Now as we look into the future of Mercy Church, we still accept the cost of ‘yes’ with joy!

I have been a part of the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC since 2002. I’ve been on staff for 10 years. My major adult life events (marriage, childbirth, ordination) have all been overseen by this church. So forgive me if I slip into a sappy/sentimental moment at some point this post. This weekend the Summit Church is commissioning my family and the rest of the Mercy Church launch team. We are posting about it on instagram and Facebook if you want to follow along.

For years we here at the Summit have talked about how God calls us to keep our yes on the table for where he might be calling us to go. Not in a way that keeps your life always in the air, but in a way that keeps you from having too tight of a grip on the things of this world. After sending out 6 staff members and hundreds of small group members and leaders, it seemed last year God was calling us on our “yes.” What else could we do?

As we box up our house over the next 30 days I can’t help but feel a little like we are taking a play from our spiritual forefathers who were talked about in the book of Acts. They rarely left their churches because they were disenfranchised or needed a career advancement. Instead, they left because the mission field drew them out. Like us, I believe they loved their church, but held a collective “yes” before God for their call to the nations. And so, when he called, they went. Some of them went to the slaughter, some to the desert, some to prison, all to people who needed the gospel. They went.

I know we are going to Charlotte, not to the remote corners of the earth. But we are going where it seems God has called us. We can do no more and no less. And in a way, it is costing our family everything. Everything that matters at least. Friendships, church family, familiar community, job security. The cost of ‘yes’ is high, but the joy of following God into his mission is even higher.

What “yes” is God calling you to? what is the cost? I promise it is worth it.


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Video Recap of Launch Day

October 1, 2015 Leave a comment

One of our sending churches, Mercy Hill Church, sent a videographer down to capture Launch Day. He did an incredible job telling the story and I’m so glad he interviewed some of our team members who came from Mercy Hill to plant Mercy Church. Check it out

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Ephesians: The Mystery of Christ

September 30, 2015 Leave a comment

MercEphesians- Mystery of Christ logoy Church is up and running! Our opening sermon series is taking a look at Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. A letter written to a young church trying to figure out church life in a city largely hostile to it’s very presence. While the temperature hasn’t reached ‘open hostility’ yet in Charlotte, it certainly is a city where an increasing number are keeping a skeptical eye on the local church. This letter is slam packed with theology and its implications for so many areas of life. So, we thought we’d start here. Normally we’d post our sermon transcripts to our website but our website is undergoing renovation right now. So, for the short term, I’m going to link those here to this post. Because we have one service, many in the mercy family miss the service every other week in order to serve our members and guests. So, we are posting these here for them. Of course, we hope they are a blessing as a resource to you as well.

  • Original photo cred to Ross Roberts, a brother of one of our members. Series design & Study Guide design cred to Mercy Member Josie Degler. She’s got skills, check her out.


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Planting Mercy Church: Launch Day Recap

September 14, 2015 Leave a comment

Ok so I know I’ve been a little slack over the past 3-4 weeks here on the planting mercy church series. Consider that my lesson to you about church planting. You get busy and need to budget your time better than you ever have before. But now on to the last installment in this series. The Launch Day.

Yesterday, September 13 2015, Mercy Church was launched! What an incredible day. I’m going to try and recap the awesomeness, with the help of a few pics, below:Mercy Banner

The Mercy Church Family pulled together and gave themselves for others in so many ways. They walked 1/4 mile so our guests could have close parking. Some arrived as early as 2.5 hours before service to ensure everything was set up as best as possible. This group prayed and invited people like crazy. A theme I know you are picking up on in this series is “plant with a team.” Today was the crown jewel of examples on why you plant as a team. They will encourage you so much!
Sarah Swanson Baptism

Nothing beats celebrating God’s work in people’s lives. You can’t manufacture the joy and excitement God’s moving brings to a church. We had the joy to baptize 3 people. The pic of Sarah here being baptized was taken from the “crowd side.” So if you could look behind the camera you’d see a crowd of folks celebrating with those behind me. What better way to introduce Mercy Church to Charlotte than by celebrating the work of Jesus in people’s lives!Courtney & KidYes the woman on the left is the lovely and talented Courtney Shelton. She is running point for Mercy Kids right now. Which went from 14 to 29 kiddos yesterday. Just as you see right here, this woman exemplifies hospitality. She and the rest of the Mercy Kids team sacrificed so much yesterday. Instead of worshipping in song with us, they were worshipping through serving all of our families. The biggest obstacles to families coming to a church, especially a new one, is trusting those responsible for their kids. Not only do I trust this team, I’m so excited my kids get to grow up in a church with such Jesus loving men & women. We doubled in our kids area and they were totally prepared for it!

Considering the steady growth summer we had, we weren’t expecting a big one day surge. Plus, we’ve only done word of mouth publicity because it’s important to us we grow through relationships as a church. All that to say I underestimated, again, what God had in store for Mercy Church. I’ve been doing it since day 1. I told our team last night at our launch party that I am committing to them to try not to understimate what God wants to do through us from here on. To the right is a shot of us worshipping together. God surpassed all our expectations in what was an awesome, awesome launch day. And yes, our projector screen is a black wall right now. Cause we are a church plant. We use what we’ve got!

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“There are answers”: To Christians in a college setting

August 29, 2015 Leave a comment

College is a critical season in the development of the worldview you are going to hold the rest of your life. As a church, Mercy Church wants to help Christians and those seeking answers to navigate the intellectual side of their faith, not just the moral and ethical. That’s what I love about the video below. I had the same experience at the same university with the same professor as Michael Kruger had. He gives you a great couple of starting thoughts to guide you.

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Planting Mercy Church Week 8: Trustraising

Week 8? yes, there is a series of posts. If you are stuck on the subway, or in a waiting area, or perhaps the lovely airport terminal, you can read the rest of them here. If you are just up late breaking between netflix episodes, get off your phone/tablet and go to sleep. Tomorrow you is going to be pissed at tonight you for zapping all his/her energy with your late night online meandering.

In this post I want to pull a series of learnings together on Fund Raising that I’ve collected over the past year. Just 11 months ago I began the Summit Network Church Planter’s Residency (which is another post coming but dude if you are thinking about planting plug yourself into a strong sending culture or be frustrated.)

I would thread these all together like an article but you really just want the bullets. That’s what blogs are for. So here are ____ (I’ll try and remember at the end of the article to put the # in) lessons in fund raising for church planters (btw, I honestly enjoyed fundraising. And I dreaded it going in. I didn’t like the travel, but I loved my time with the people God put me in front of):

  1. It’s not fund-raising, its trust raising. That is a quote from an entrepreneur friend who was kind enough to give me an hour of his time last September. “Money will follow trust. Trust is what you have to build with any potential supporter.” SO. TRUE. Trust, in this arena, is the result of someone being convinced of your character, your competency, and your vision. When they buy in on those 3 things, they will be more than just donors, they will be advocates! This was exhilarating for me. I stopped worrying about $ and focused on relationship building. The result were several good new friendships, some hilarious interactions, and an ever deepening conviction in my soul about the vision of Mercy Church.
  2. You’ve Got 3 Minutes. Ok, probably my favorite meeting was with a pastor of a church 4 hours away from raleigh. Basically, I spent a whole day driving for one meeting. And I think it was my favorite fundraising meeting with a church. The lead pastor has a long track record of being a generous, strong leader who has helped many churches get up and running. I walked in the room and after a brief intro said “ok talk to me.” So, I shot him straight & clear about what we were doing. No BS, no fluff. For 3 whole Minutes. Then he peppered me with questions. Like some kind of American Ninja Warrior Challenge for Pastors. I guess I passed. He looked at me and said “Ok, we will be in and here’s what that will look like…” I was out of there in under 20 minutes. Listen, if you are talking to the right people, they will see right through any BS. Leave it at the door. Breathe your vision, know your research & budget, and be flexible with your strategy. Glossy brochures are nice, but you should not look at it once. You will get tips and you need to remember you don’t know everything rookie. If you can’t give a compelling vision in 3 minutes, you aren’t doing it right. Work on it. Share it with honest friends ad nauseam. Because you only have 3 minutes!
  3. “10% of the way to my goal!” is. not. inspiring. You know those kickstarter campaigns where the person says “I’m only $995 away from my goal of $1k!” You and I are both thinking…”You only put in $5? is that how much you believe in your own vision? and nobody else is on board?” This goes back to point 1. If you are only 10% of the way to your goal when you sit down to talk with me, I’m wondering why.  Your potential investor is thinking either your vision isn’t compelling, or you don’t have the skill set needed to carry it out. So they are unlikely to trust you. And that’s smart on their part. My entrepreneur friend Chris gets all the credit for showing me this one too. Break your goal down into parts with timelines. I began with a 3 year lump sum need. And he helped me break that down into what I needed in the next 3 months. all the sudden 10% became 50%, and abstract long-term goals became concrete present ministry needs. I’m not saying to do gymnastics with your numbers, I’m saying like any BIG goal, find some milestones you need to hit and invite your supporters in on them.
  4. Learn from the best. I’m a fan of the christian support raising training programs that are built into most para-church organizations like Campus Outreach & Cru, etc. BUT, the most talented fund-raisers are the men and women who’ve made a living doing it in the for-profit arena. Find someone who has started a business, or who works in the start-up space, or man even just watch the show SHARK TANK if nothing else. 2 things will happen: they will unveil a totally different thought process that has lots of good cross-over to your goals. AND your big bad goal will not seem at all intimidating to them. Who do you know in the private sector? Ask them if you could run your vision by and get help crafting it in a way they would craft it for an exec level board meeting. I promise it will be worth it.

Ok I’m stopping. You need to get some rest. I need to write a sermon or do something else church planters do.

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Planting Mercy Church Week 7: Why are we shouting!?!

Setting: middle of the street. 2 cars pulled up beside eachother. Me in my car, wife in hers. kids in backseat of both.

Situation: Courtney & kids stayed with great friends in Raleigh, now driving back to charlotte to get ready for weekend w/ mercy church. Current temp in home: 98 degrees.

*Author’s Note: This took place on DAY 10 of no A/C and counting. (I am just going to NOT get into the debacle that is our A/C situation.)


Annnd Action:

Spence waves courtney down and says hes going to move some stuff around between the two cars to make room for a portable A/C unit he’s picking up in greensboro (apparently charlotte is all out) on the trek back. Courtney says no, because they already talked about that. Keep cars as is and lets go. Spence objects as the most LOGICAL action is to move the stuff around. He objects too loudly. Courtney counters in a raised voice. Spence gets out of car goes to van window, continues loud objecting. Courtney returns serve. Things get loud. kids start noticing. Angry adults regain perspective and quiet down like a silent volcano that started to erupt and got a lid put on it. Not good. return to cars with problem in spence’s stubborn mind unsolved. Drive on.

Ok so we had the loudest disagreement we’ve maybe ever had…over packing logistics!? Why? we were mad. Not at each other. just so frustrated at our nomadic situation and apparently both needed to vent. We were (and still are) tired of displacement, tired of mixed messages on the A/C solution, tired of being helpless. So we took it out on each other. And two perfectly sane grown adults were shouting in the street like crazy people.


  • You really, truly, cannot control everything in life. There is no good reason we are on day 12 now of no A/C in our house.  I could have driven to the manufacturer (regardless of what state it is in) picked up the part, driven back, and hired out the repair in 6 days tops. But, to do that will cost me thousands in money I will not get back on a rental I wont be in this time next year. Though I continue to encourage the process along, it just isn’t up to me. And that kills me. I NEED CONTROL. And as a consumer, I’m right about my situation. But Oh how careful I must be that I don’t let my consumerism seep into the way I view God. Will I get mad when he doesn’t answer me on my time-table? Will I try to find other solutions since I am determined to keep control? yeah I just might, and how destructive would that be. While I may be able to improve an A/C repair process, I cannot improve the sovereignty of God. And my patience with this A/C thing isn’t magically going to grow when something bigger happens. Think God does not know about my A/C probs? I promise he does. Been telling him for days. Can I trust God in the small stuff like this? Cause bigger things will come.
  • The Church is Awesome: can’t tell you how many people have put roofs over our head, loaned out A/C units, and just given us a hand with stuff. I preached what I thought was a mediocre sermon on Acts 2 this weekend about community and shared with Mercy Church how humbled I’ve been to be on the receiving end of such a generous church. without the church, I just dont know how we get through the past 11 days.
  • Heat will make you crazy: I’m just saying. If you are a pampered 1st worlder like me, Don’t ever make any big decisions with your spouse in a 90+ degrees environment. Instead, love your wife, get her into a cool space. Drink something ice cold. wait 2 hours. Then talk.
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Planting Mercy Church Week 6: Sunday is Coming

This is part 6 in an ongoing set of reflections on planting Mercy Church. Btw: I’m thinking these will go weekly up to our launch day on September 13.

Last Week:

  • Sunday: Guest Preacher!!! Chuck Reed was awesome. did so much good for our church and gave me a chance to spend the prior week reading the book of Acts like crazy.
  • Monday: Pretty chill. Morning off then a smooth afternoon of logistics. Gonna be a good week…
  • Tuesday: Theology Crisis. This is for another post but when you really dig into a passage, then evaluate what theologians then & now say about it, you might find yourself in a conundrum. Like: What do I believe about the baptism of the Holy Spirit!?! I thought I knew. But now I need my greek tools (where is my dear friend Pritesh when I need him). Tuesday ended in a greektastrophe.
  • Wednesday: Crisis continues. Did you know Piper & Lloyd-Jones apparently disagree with F.F. Bruce, Darrell Bock, and William Larkin on something? WHAT! Why are the preachers and scholars on diff pages? What is a new preacher to do (the answer is pray & develop your own convictions btw)! Operations & Shepherding in the afternoon. Reminder: Either Sunday or Jesus is coming. And according to your passage (Acts 1.1-11) you aren’t supposed to worry about when Jesus comes.
  • Thursday: Ok, Crisis subsiding. Theology developing. OH CRAP. I GOTTA WRITE A SERMON!! Remember that time your preaching mentor said spend 20hrs developing your sermon until you don’t need to anymore? And its thursday at 11am? And you have meetings this afternoon. Ruh Roh scooby.
  • Friday: WEDDING REHEARSAL…OUT OF TOWN!?! Oh yeah, and you promised your kids you’d go see the minion movie. Since your conviction is Dad beats Preacher, you go bro. Friday 10pm: back into the sermon. Point 1 makes sense….right?
  • Saturday: preform morning wedding out of town. wife gets text from friend staying at our place: “Hey I think your Air is busted. its 79 & climbing in here.” second text: “I think ellie is running a fever.” Mental Text: “hey spence, this is your sermon manuscript. Sunday is coming.”
  • Saturday night: arrive home to 84 degrees downstairs. 89 up. deploy hurricane evac plan. Leave goldfish behind (“good luck dwight!”). Awesome friends let you stay at their house. 3yr old fever still up. Wife is a pillar of calm in it all (note to self: take her out. + flowers.). 10pm: Open computer: Lets change the intro. again. even though points 2 & 3 look like an abandoned half-finished construction site.
  • Sunday EARLY: Well sunday is here. Should probably send our very very patient a/v guy the manuscript. But I need to change some stuff. I know I abandoned caffeine but this seems like a good time to tap back in. And do jumping jacks. That gets blood flowing. Had domino’s last night. Their turnaround might work for an intro to the series. Lets change the intro. again.
  • Sunday 10:30am: Well everyone is here. Record group for our little gathering. Look in back. There is our prayer team (one person this week) reminding me this whole week was never about me and my prep. Yes, Sunday is coming. And while I need to prepare like it is up to me, I need to remember life change is entirely up to Jesus. So I take those last few minutes. That could be spent cramming, rethinking wording…and instead threw up my hands, my heart, and my sermon to Jesus. Finally, with 2 minutes left in the last song b4 I’m up, I get what Jesus was showing me Tuesday morning.

So I’m going to seek to build more desperation into my planning. I needed Jesus to deliver because you know I just didn’t feel ready. What a prideful perspective. I ALWAYS need Jesus to deliver. Acts 1.8, the verse I preached, says that you will receive power when the holy spirit comes upon you. Not “you will get power when you prepare enough.” We are believing God will change lives through Mercy Church. 50 salvations by labor day 2016. Roughly 1 a week for a year beginning launch weekend. I can’t preach that into existence. May the Spirit of God empower our people to share the gospel and may the Spirit bring a gospel awakening to Charlotte, NC.

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Planting Mercy Church Week 5: Am I getting soft?

This is week 5 in a series of reflections on planting the greatest church you’ve never heard of: Mercy Church.


During my church planting residency I was warned: Church Planting has a tendency to make unemotional guys….well…emotional. Basically the intensity of the workload, your passion for the church, and your desperation for God’s grace, are a recipe for an intense emotional shockwave you’ve never experienced before. My assessments called me a “head and hands” guy. That is, I naturally think & do. I don’t naturally incorporate how I, or others, feel about things when going about my work. Anyone who knows me will probably chuckle a little that I needed assessments to finally see this about myself. At many points my fellow resident, who by God’s grace was a “heart” guy, lovingly encouraged me to get used to emotional things like…..crying. Bleh.

Then I got here. And things got, well…emotional. I started snapping at my kids. I started hugging more people. I started needing down time on Sundays (I’ve NEVER needed regular down time. ever.). And then this past week. At some of YOUR recommendations, I took my 2 boys to see Pixar’s newest film: Inside Out. Hey “friends” of mine: THE PLOT LINE! How bout a little heads up?!?! A girl is emotionally distraught because her parents move her to a new city. THINK THAT COULD HAVE BEEN RELEVANT TO ME! So I started off the movie mad at you. which I’m usually not. Then, I swear about halfway in…I started losing it. Over a dad-gum pixar movie. Phyllis and Leslie Knope (voices behind main characters) had me not just with a tear in the eye but with this half convulsing ugly faced grimace holding back from….crying. bleh.

WHAT THE CRAP! I look at my kids who I am terrified are going to see dad emoting all over the place. Because I’m a emotional neanderthal and don’t understand that’s not always bad. They are laughing at the movie. I’m ugo-faced tearing (not calling it crying. tried to hard to hold it back to give in now) and they are laughing at the funny characters. So I cough, wipe my eyes, fake a laugh, and move on.

Here’s what I’m seeing about, well about me. This Church Planting thing is big. Each week a small part of me wonders if we are going to be here next week. And we don’t even launch until Sept 13! What is my problem? Why do I feel so intense all the time? I’m not on steroids or anything.

Truth be told, my biggest comforts are 1) I was warned about this. so it’s normal. 2) The answer is the gospel. An older pastor once said to me: pastoral ministry is like a roller coaster. Highest Ups & Lowest Downs even in the same hour. How can I say off the roller coaster? The unchanging peace you have in christ…its your only hope for sanity in this role. I knew what he said was true then…I think i’m finally feeling it now.

To all my former staff teammates: yes. It turns out I have a heart. Its fragile. Be nice.

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Planting Mercy Church Week 4: doorholders

Some time ago I heard Louie Giglio, a pastor in ATL, call himself and all of his church members “doorholders.” Its a way to say we are all servants, pastors included. I think one of the biggest adjustments from coming out of a large church where I had a bigger support structure is being responsible for the small tasks like doorholding. Literally 2 weeks ago as our team members were arriving I was standing at the front door. Holding it open. So they felt welcomed as they arrived to worship with the Mercy family. This week it was unlocking bathrooms and delivering sound equipment. Now, the really cool thing is that we have a whole host of mercy people serving as “doorholders” week-in-week-out so I am more talking about plugging a hole than I am about filling a weekly role. Because remember, I serve at the best church in the world you’ve never heard of.

I love serving with our church. To be candid, I can be a prideful guy. I probably needed to be knocked down a few pegs. This season is doing that. At the end of the day, I’m another doorholder for Mercy Church. If all I do is preach at our church instead of model jesus with our church, I’m not a shepherd. I’m a diva. And I refuse to be a diva.

No admin assistant to pass tasks off to, no 6 person full time staff team to pull half-day strategy sessions with. We are a nimble, quickly growing movement with low overhead and high energy. And as long as I’m willing to hold a door, I’m gonna love it.

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