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.
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
Mercy 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.
- Ephesians 1.1-14: Wanted, Pursued, and Fought For
- Ephesians 1.15-23: Hope has a name
- Ephesians 2.1-10: This is the gospel
- Ephesians 2.12-3.13: Let the walls come down
- Ephesians 4.1-16: Grow Up
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.
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!
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!Yes 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!
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.
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):
- 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.
- 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!
- “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.
- 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.
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.)
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.