Mercy

Grace Church seeks to be a transforming community, a helping neighbor and a loving witness. Mercy ministry fits primarily, though not exclusively, in the value of being a helping neighbor.  Mercy is the expression of compassion and care for those with physical, emotional or spiritual needs, such as difficult life circumstances, family emergencies, hunger, homelessness, health problems, counseling needs, addictions, and the need for justice. Mercy can come in the form of money, food, clothing, and other material goods as well as time, labor, counseling, and other acts of service. Just as God’s mercy towards us addresses the needs of the whole man, Grace Church seeks to care for both the spiritual and physical needs of those we serve.
 

Why We Do Mercy Ministry

As the Bible is our only source of faith and practice, this section will lay out the biblical command to the church to do mercy.

From the earliest stages of redemptive history, God has called His people to the ministry of mercy. There are numerous Old Testament references, a few of which are listed below.

“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.” Deuteronomy 15:7-8

 “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:3-4

We also see numerous references in the OT to our call to help the “aliens” and “poor” in our land (Deut. 10:19, 14:28-29; Deut. 15:11; Leviticus 19:10, 23:22, Proverbs 22:9).

In the New Testament, the life of Jesus was marked by acts of mercy through healing (Matthew 8:1-4, Mark 2:1-12) and miraculous feedings of the hungry (Matthew 14:13-21) ; in fact, Jesus’ ultimate mission was to not to be served but to serve, which he ultimately fulfilled through his sacrificial death (Matthew 20:28).

Scripture states that the church’s primary mission is to serve the spiritual needs of the community (ministry of the word); however, the church cannot overlook the importance of serving physical needs (mercy, or ministry of deed).

“Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.  Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.  But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” –Acts 6:1-4

 While this text sets up the office of deacons, who play a large role in the church’s mercy ministry, Scripture makes it clear that mercy ministry is not only the responsibility of the deacons but of all true believers. Those who have been served by Christ and have been shown great mercy are to serve and show great mercy to other believers and to the world (Philippians 2:1-4, Matthew 25:34-36, James 2:14-18, 1 John 3:16-18).

Who We Serve and Priorities for Mercy Minsitry

Members of Grace Church

As in Galatians 6:10, the people of God are repeatedly told to care for other Christians in their midst “so then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (See also Deut. 15:7-8, Matt 25:35, 1 John 3:17, James 2:15-17). Our first priority is to care for members of Grace Church who are in need.

Fellow Christians who are not members of Grace Church

Beyond our specific church, our next priority is to serve the broader household of faith, non-members who are fellow Christians – particularly those connected to members of our church.

Non-Christians

While our primary responsibility is the needs within the body of Christ, the Bible forbids us to neglect the poor outside the church (Luke 10:25-37, Leviticus 19:18, Mark 12:29-31). Therefore, our third priority in mercy ministry is to serve non-Christians, especially those in our city (Jeremiah 29:7). When we are serving nonbelievers, we try care not only for physical needs but for spiritual needs as well.

 

Who is to be Involved in Mercy Ministry at Grace Church

 

Session: Direction and Guidance

The Session oversees the mercy ministry, as it does all ministries in the church. The Session works with the deacons to set the vision for ministry within the church and to provide regular approval of financial support to institutions and individuals. The Session will also help educate the congregation that mercy ministry should be part of every believer’s life (especially when it comes up in preaching, and occasionally in teaching).

Deacons: Direct Oversight and Administration/Facilitation

The Greek word for deacon, “diakonos,” literally means servant. One of the main roles of deacons in the NT church is to oversee and facilitate/administer mercy ministry (Acts 6). As the Book of Church Order states, the diaconal office is one of “sympathy and service” (BCO 9-1), and “It is the duty of the deacons to minister to those who are in need, to the sick, to the friendless, and to any who may be in distress.”

The Mercy Team: Assist the deacons

While the diaconate is to administer the church’s mercy ministry and to lead by example, they should not be content to do it all themselves. BCO 9-7 states, “It is often expedient that the Session of a church should select and appoint godly men and women of the congregation to assist the deacons in caring for the sick, the widows, the orphans, the prisoners, and others who may be in any distress or need.” Thus, the BCO 9-7 encourages the establishment of a mercy team, set up under the deacons’ direction to encourage, equip, and help mobilize Grace Church members and families to show mercy. As with other teams assisting the deacons, the chair of the mercy team must be a member of Grace Church and must be approved by the diaconate and the Session.

The Congregation/Every Believer: Involvement and volunteering

Mercy ministry is to be a part of the lives of all believers and therefore the whole congregation should participate (Matt. 20:26-28; Gal 6:10, Heb. 13:13-16). The Session, deacons and mercy team will educate, encourage and equip the congregation to serve in mercy ministry and to integrate the ministry into their lives. 

 

How We Do Mercy Ministry at Grace Church

As a Church: To our members

Our church stands ready to assist the members of our congregation in need or in crisis in a variety of ways:

  • By meeting basic needs (meals ministry for those during times of births, illness, loss, etc.)
  • By helping financially (through financial planning, counsel, financial support, paying bills, etc).

The deacons directly oversee the ministry of mercy to members and assign a specific deacon to work with each case. In each case, the deacon should contact the elder assigned to shepherd the member with a mercy need to make sure both physical and spiritual needs are being addressed.

 As a Church: Through institutions

The church is uniquely called to teach and equip Christians to do mercy in a way that shows the love of Christ and facilitates sharing the Gospel; we do not believe that para-church or other organizations can take the place of the church. However, we do support local mercy organizations that address needs beyond the skills and gifts of our members or staff (such as homelessness, addiction, pro-life initiatives or counseling). Grace will focus on institutions or ministries that reflect the values that the Session and deacons have designated in the matrix for evaluating mercy institutions. We view the para-church ministries that we support as vehicles to assist the church in mercy. Therefore, we should be eager to partner not only financially but also in prayer and service with the mercy institutions we support. While we intend to support a variety of mercy organizations, we will also identify a few groups to give more funds and volunteers to in order to guide church members in ways to engage in mercy ministry.

As a Church: Through events

As a part of educating, equipping and encouraging the congregation to serve in mercy ministry, the deacons and mercy team will offer mercy events, inviting the congregation to serve one of the institutions supported by Grace Church. These events could also be offered through other church ministries such as small groups or the children’s ministry or youth ministry.

As a Church: Helping non-member individuals

When seeking to help individuals who are not members of Grace Church, we want to offer a “hand up” rather than simply a “handout.” Ultimately, we want to address people’s spiritual health as well as their physical needs by bringing them into our church rather than simply meeting immediate needs.

For those unwilling to engage the church, we will still care for them but will also direct them to other mercy institutions with the city. 

As a Church: through Short Term Missions Trips

Although most of the mercy money we give is local, we support many missionaries and agencies around the world who are engaged in mercy. On occasion, short-term mission trips should engage in mercy ministries connected to missionaries or agencies we currently support (James 1:27). Mercy ministries we serve on short-term trips should agree with our philosophy of mercy.

As Individuals: Living out a culture of mercy

Although the church does much of the mercy ministry, we do not believe mercy is exclusively the job of the church. Rather, we hope to instill a culture of mercy that would be lived out by individuals every day. Church members should not wait on the church to engage in mercy, but should take initiative to spot and meet needs in a variety of ways:

  • by serving other church members, co-workers and neighbors
  • by participating in service projects with reputable ministries
  • by engaging worldwide needs through reputable organizations such as Compassion International, Samaritan’s purse or World vision.

Although a decentralized mercy ministry is much harder to manage and measure, seeing mercy ministry become woven into the lives of members of Grace church will be evidence that the philosophy of Mercy of Grace Church is successfully being engaged.