Christmas Is Never as Good as We Remember

What do you think of when you think of Christmas? Is there a specific moment in time that comes to mind when you reminisce on the perfect Christmas? For me, I have a distinct memory of riding in the back of my parents’ car and arriving on the snow-lined streets of my grandparents’ house in a tiny, rural town in upstate New York. I remember seeing the snow covered evergreen tree that was in the yard and the soft falling flakes, dulling the street light just enough to give it a soft glow, exchanging the harsh white light for a moment of mellow warmth. I may have only been out there for a few seconds—surely my parents didn’t want me to freeze—but for me, that moment lasted hours.

Just like the snow that danced around the street light, Christmas puts a blanket of warmth on everything. Well, for a kid at least. I remember the comfort of my grandparents’ house, the holiday assortment of confections, and the smell of the Christmas feast that descends throughout each room bringing the feel of Christmas everywhere it goes. I remember the embraces of family and friends and the congenial attitude of everyone towards each other. And the gifts—oh the gifts.

But then I grew up.

We begin to realize that Christmas isn’t ever like that for everyone and that even our own Christmases never live up to the nostalgia. No matter how much we try to bring that “magic” back, we are often struck with the realization that the world is broken, and that brokenness is creeping right outside our doors. It is waiting for an opportunity to barge into our homes and ruin everything. Brokenness takes no thought or care to our internal decisions to play nice and enjoy the holidays.

God’s Christmas

But what does God think of when he thinks of Christmas (well, if he chose to humble himself to ponder such things)? I think it’s obvious that his mind would go to a stable in Bethlehem. One in which lay his only begotten son, Jesus. He might think of the smell of the stable and the warmth of the swaddling clothes. He would remember the shepherds who he called to bow before his Messiah. He certainly would recall the praise of the multitude of angels in those fields saying: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!” (Luke 2:14).

The Incarnation as Promise

With all our longings to return to our perfect Christmas that perhaps never was, God, on the first Christmas that ever was, gave the world the greatest gift there ever was. This child, this Savior, is the Promise that all the Christmas joy and comfort that we long for will be given lavishly to those who believe in him and his sacrifice.

The angel said to the shepherds: “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11-12). What better way can we express that feeling of the perfect Christmas than “great joy”? This Savior will be the one through whom all the brokenness of the world will be mended.

The Fulfillment of Immanuel

It is good for Christians to look back, but perhaps we should look ahead just as much during the Christmas season. The Book of Revelation shows us that the ultimate fulfillment of the good news of Christmas—Immanuel, God with us—will soon be brought to completion: “Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God” (21:3). The great joy, the warmth, the family, the feast, the peace, and the congeniality will all be there, deriving their source directly from the presence of God.

The perfect Christmas will last for eternity.

-Alex Nolette (Community Groups/Equip Coordinator)

Please click here for further information about Mercy Hill’s upcoming Christmas services and to RSVP.

A Church Of Community Groups: Why You Should Come to College Connect


Welcome back students! Every year, thousands of college students converge in the Triad to attend the many colleges and universities in the area. We, as a church, love college students and see you as a valuable part of our church.

If you are just coming around Mercy Hill for the first time, I encourage you to jump in with us. This Sunday we will be hosting College Connect–an event all about connecting college students to Mercy Hill Church through Community Groups. At Mercy Hill, we are not a church that does groups, but a church of groups— groups are a big deal! So, when we say we want you connected to Mercy Hill, we mean we want you connected to a group.

The reason why groups are a big deal is because discipleship is a big deal. Discipleship, simply defined, is word taught and life caught. If you are newer to Christianity, discipleship is about a life that conforms to the teachings and commands of Jesus. However, Jesus didn’t just give us an example to follow or a set of rules to keep. Jesus came and lived the very life that we should have lived and died the death that we deserve, so that we might be reconciled back to God. Jesus did all these things in our place for our sin (rebellion against God). This is what we call the gospel (it means good news), and it shapes every single aspect of our lives. Discipleship is about conforming to the teachings and commands of Jesus, but the power and motivation to live into those things comes from what Jesus did in our place, the gospel. Discipleship is centered around the gospel.

We don’t simply need to be taught more information–although there are many things to learn–but we need to be immersed, like when you are trying to learn a foreign language. Students, if you want to learn more about what it means to be a Christian or you want to grow in your faith, then you need to jump into community because discipleship happens in community.

This is why College Connect is all about connecting you to a Community Group. We have groups all over the Triad and, without a doubt, there is a group near you! So please check out our College Connect page and sign-up for a group today!

–Jon Sheets (College Ministry Director)


You’re Invited: MH Students Fall Kickoff

There is something unique about the start of a new year that often brings a great deal of excitement. I remember as a student, from elementary well into my teens, I would lay restlessly in my bed awaiting the morning of the first day of school. With my new outfit laid out (this was before the fad of school uniforms), my new school shoes, my new bookbag, and my new school supplies, it seemed like morning would never come. The excitement of the new year also brought a time of personal reflection and goal setting. As a student this usually meant new friends and good grades. This was also true for me as a teacher. Each new year brought with it a fresh excitement and anticipation of what was to come.

The Mercy Hill student ministry team and I share a similar feeling regarding the MH Students Kickoff that is closely approaching. With a new name, new logo, new night of the week, and new location, the team eagerly awaits the first night of student ministry for the 2017-2018 school year. The beginning of this new year has allowed us to reflect on what God has done and set big goals for what we want to see God do within the students of Mercy Hill.  

So if you are a student reading this blog, here are a few thoughts for you…

Great Time to Jump on Board

If you have been involved in the past, we are excited to reconnect with you. In addition, we are excited to lock arms with you as we unfold our vision for the 2017-2018 school year. For those of you that will be brand new to MH Students, this is the best time to jump in. This night will be dedicated to telling you what MH Students is all about, and we will have a great time as we do it.

Bring a Friend

This is going to be a special night. There will be activities, games, a rock-climbing wall, giveaways, and conversations that you’re not going to want to miss. With that in mind, we are encouraging returning students and new students alike to bring a friend with them so that they too might hear what God could do in their lives this semester.

See You Then

The student ministry team wants to invite all students in grades 7 through 12 to come to our annual kickoff event in which we will connect, have fun, cast vision, and get excited about what God has in store for students in the 2017-2018 school year.

 — Ronald Redmond (Student Ministry Director)

The event is Sunday, August 27th at the Regional Campus from 6:30-8:00pm

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)

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!


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)

3 Reasons to Do Something Big on Serve Saturday

Do you want to be a part of something big? That question naturally peaks our interest, and we lean in. On July 29th, we have the opportunity as a church to join together to serve local organizations and schools, in love, as a response to the love that the Lord shows us. Serve Saturday is an annual event in which we hope to see hundreds of people from Mercy Hill mobilized to make tangible impressions of the gospel in our community. If that isn’t enough to get you moving, below are three reasons why you should clear the calendar and join Serve Saturday.

  1. Supplying the Front Lines

We hear the statistics often of the impact that poverty, unplanned pregnancy, and addiction are having on people in the Triad, and as Christians our hearts should break as we mourn the pain and struggle that accompany those in these situations. Ultimately, we recognize that there is hope, and we have the joy of seeing lives being changed through the work of organizations that we get to champion. Serve Saturday gives us the opportunity to “supply” four specific organizations that are on the front lines. It is our prayer that the projects that we will complete bolster their efforts, strengthen their staff and volunteers, and equip them for the tasks in front of them. While painting, cleaning, and landscaping projects may seem simple, they aid our front line friends in bigger ways than we know.

  1. Building Bridges

When your doorbell rings and you are not expecting a visitor, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? If you are like me, you will probably peak out the window, trying not to be noticed to see who is on the porch. From that vantage point, a decision is made as to what will happen next. Numerous responses ranging from turning off the lights and pretending not to be home (I’ve never done that and I’m sure you haven’t either) to opening the door and greeting friends with a hug. So, what causes the different reactions? The answer: Trust.

With the four organizations we get to serve on July 29th, we are essentially standing on the front porch and ringing the doorbell. They have chosen to open the door, and we are being given an awesome opportunity to love them well. They have shared some needs, and it is our goal to meet those needs to the best of our ability. We want to be a blessing and not a burden on them. Ultimately, our involvement in one day will help to continue building a bridge of trust between our church and them. Your participation can make a huge impact.

  1. Serve Saturday Is for Everyone

Since all other community ministry events throughout the year are done within Community Groups, Serve Saturday offers a unique opportunity for anyone and everyone to get involved. We have specifically tried to think of ways for kids, teens, college students, and adults of all ages to get involved at each location. Parents, we want you to bring your kids; we want to have situations where older adults are working alongside young adults; we want new relationships to be formed as you serve together. There is no prior experience required to get involved. To see the four serve locations, read a brief description of their ministry, and sign up to serve, please visit

– Jonathan Spangler (Community Groups Coordinator)

Kids Week Recap

We can’t believe Kids Week is over! Our kids had an amazing time studying the life of Joseph and learning just how much the Savior of the world loves them. We had almost 500 kids join us last week and over 100 volunteers who committed to spreading the gospel to this next generation. 

We just want to give a huge shout out to everyone who gave up their time last week to pour into our kids lives. With in-house programming and two locations, we were able to reach more kids with gospel-centered truth than ever before. We are now praying for baptisms and life change to come from this event. Kids Week is for God’s glory, and we praise him for the incredible time we had. 

To check out all the photos from this week, click here

I Sponsored a Child! Now What? Part 4 of 4: 24 Things Every Sponsor Should Know

For the final blog of this series, we simply want to share a helpful resource from the Compassion staff and long-time sponsors. Here are 24 things to know about sponsoring a child:

-Bryan Miller (Connections & Missions Pastor)

Experience Poverty at Mercy Hill

When I was a teenager, a middle-aged man who had followed Christ for decades told me there would be three things that influence who I become and what I believe: the things I read, the people I meet, and the places I go. So far in my life’s journey, I’d say he was right. All three have allowed me to see the world from a different vantage point.

Cross-cultural experiences are especially invaluable in giving me a new lens to see life. They challenge my assumptions and increase my awareness. Often I’ve sought to learn about another people, but the result is I learn from them.

This April, through the Compassion Experience, you have the opportunity to step into another culture without even stepping onto a plane. Mercy Hill has the privilege of hosting the Compassion Experience at our Regional Campus April 7-10.

What exactly is the Compassion Experience? The Compassion Experience is a landmark presentation visiting churches, schools, and other venues across the country. It allows guests to be immersed in the reality of daily life in poverty that millions of children face around the world. It brings visitors to cultures completely outside of their own. Most importantly, it presents the blessing of hope as these children are sponsored through Compassion’s world-class child development program.

You can register now by clicking here.

-Bryan Miller (Connections and Missions Pastor)

One Act 2013 from Compassion International on Vimeo.

Work Different: Confessions of a Former Barista

I worked for a world-renowned coffee shop for ten years. My first two weeks on the job were very difficult. Being an introvert, I found engaging in conversation with complete strangers to be very difficult. The social aspects combined with the vast memorization required for working proficiently made me want to quit after two weeks. But I was a starving artist at the time and needed the income, so I kept at it.

Fast forward. I looked back and loved my first year there, everything was new and exciting. Every season brought new challenges and experiences. I grew a ton in my ability to converse with just about anyone. I mastered my job and was promoted. After receiving a promotion and a transfer to a different store, the honeymoon period was over. The new position was harder and more frustrating. The “fun” elements seemed to be disappearing. My vocational ambitions were elsewhere, and I wanted to move on. Unfortunately, this transition was taking place in 2008. For those who are financially minded, that’s when the economy tanked. Therefore, I was going nowhere.

Is Work Really a Gift?

I was not able to transition out of the world of coffee. I was blessed to just have a job. Yet, I was not happy; I was frustrated and confused about what to do. The joy I once had at work was no longer there and everyday was utter drudgery. I didn’t want to be there anymore. Knowing that God is Sovereign, I was angry that he had not let me leave. I saw my work as trivial, pointless, and burdensome. I resented not being paid more and felt owed by the company, which affected my desire to work hard. My attitude was less than Christ honoring at work, childish even.

I wanted work to give me an identity, an importance and satisfaction that it could not. I remember hearing a sermon during those days that pushed me towards a reality that I did not want to admit. The speaker said that it wouldn’t matter if I made $40,000 or $400,000 a year, I would still be me. More money does not equate to working harder, the same work ethic would remain. I realized the problem was me.

The Gospel Changes Work

I would go on to learn that much of what I was experiencing was due to missing how the gospel changes our work. You see, I felt owed. I felt like if I could just make more money or have the job I always dreamed of, then I would be okay. The reality is I could have obtained both of those things and still ended up in the same miserable spot. My job could not give me what I wanted; it was never meant to. The identity, significance, and satisfaction I was looking for could only be found in the love and acceptance of God, in and through Jesus Christ.

As I repented of these things, I began to see how the gospel shapes my work. I stopped working for me and for my employer. I started working for an audience of one, God himself. My labors were directed towards the God I love. Every time I made a latté, I made it as if it were for God. In other words, I made it with excellence in order to honor and show my love for God. I took out the trash and cleaned bathrooms as a means to worship God. I stopped thinking that I was owed something and realized that I owed everything to the one who lived the life I should have lived and died the death that I deserved. I owe everything to Jesus, but instead of trying to work to pay him back, I work out of gratitude and humility. I serve others because I have been served immensely.

There is a growing movement of God in the workplace as Christians around the globe begin to re-imagine how the gospel changes their work. City Life plays a small part in inviting college students into that movement. I want to personally invite you to join the movement this summer by participating in City Life and learn to work different.

Apply or
Come to the Missions Expo – February 13th, 7:00 – 8:00pm, Regional Campus

– Jon Sheets College Ministry Director