Mercer University

To the Ends of the Earth...through college students

photo from mercer.edu

photo from mercer.edu

I get really excited about this time of year. I mean REALLLLLLY excited.
Colleges are starting up their Fall semesters and its Mercer's move-in weekend!  #gobears

I love seeing the new faces on Sunday mornings - all smiles and laughs as the new year starts. I love hearing the voices of students who love Jesus loudly singing with us. I love how so many of the students who come jump into serving roles with kids, students, the band and all sorts of places. I can't wait to get our students back and meet our new students!
BUT
There is something more than just students at New City that excites me as I think about this weekend and this Fall - it is how those students will go places and reach people that most of us will have no access to, it is how they will travel to the ends of the earth as both students and graduates... and we have an opportunity through them to see eternity changed.

It is true that some students come and go and never connect. But it is equally true that many students come and stay connect deeply with New City. I remember when we were starting New City - we held an informational meeting at a small cafe downtown. A handful of people showed up to hear more. Two of them were Mercer students - Meredith and Catfish. They were dating at the time. They came to help us start New City. They connected. They served. They joined a missional community. They married. They had a son. And Catfish became a doctor. Just this summer they accepted a position close to home and 11 years later, they left us. But they leave taking a bit of us with them. They leave with a deeper love for Jesus and greater understanding of what it means to be His family. They take that to South Georgia.

Zac and Mia Rice come to mind.  They served us so well. They also were served well as Arthur coached and discipled Zac because Zac served in our student ministry. They recently moved to  California and take with them a greater gospel depth. 

Jessica Encalrd. Goodness. New City was the first protestant church Jessica had ever been to. She knew about Jesus but she didn't really know Him. Jessica became a believer. She was baptized at New City. She and Sam were our first wedding at the Cherry Street building. Jessica and Sam live in the Atlanta area. She's a doctor now. They have a beautiful family and serve in their church.

In the last month or so I received a message from Davis Lacey. Davis was a part of New City during his Mercer years. He contacted me to let me know he was gearing up to plant a church and he wanted me to know that New City had a great influence in his decision to plant.

I remember meeting, talking with and praying for a Mercer couple - Dan and Alex. Alex was a newer believer and Dan was a not yet believer. They joined an MC who loved them and prayed for them. I counseled them and married them. I watch them now, mostly from a distance - Dan supporting and loving his growing family well it seems, Alex serving in Young Life and pointing so many to Jesus.  Aiken, SC doesn't know how blessed they are to Have Dan and Alex.

I could go on and on. New City has influenced countless students through years who are now all over the country and even the world. So often they leave us changed forever by God's grace. When they do, they take that with them, wherever they go.  This morning I have shed a few tears thinking about them and how amazing God has been through these years at New City. They are all evidences of God's grace!

This weekend a whole new batch of students will likely be with us.
Where will they go?  Who will they touch?  Will they marry? Have children? Raise families? Will they plant churches? Will they travel to distant places?
YES they will. They will do all of that and more.
And we have an opportunity to send them well prepared - to send them loved - to send them saturated in the beautiful news of Jesus - to send them changed by the gospel.

New City, please don't miss this.
Please don't overlook what God is doing here.
Please don't miss our opportunity to reach the ends of the earth....through college students.

Welcome to New City Church!


One of the things that we work hard at New City is forging a family; it’s not easy. Like a biological family, it takes dedicated time and loving intentionality. One of the ways we work hard at welcoming people into the family at New City starts with a very simple step on Sunday mornings when we see most of our visitors. 

The Connect Team serves as the tip of the spear in welcoming and connecting visitors to New City Church. Every Sunday they set up for the service, provide coffee and serve as the welcome team in order to help visitors know they are welcome and to get connected. But we go a step further in encouraging the church as a whole to welcome visitors into New City like you would welcome someone into your own home.

This Sunday we have the unique opportunity to invite Mercer students back to Macon and back to New City Church. We are excited to have our college students back and we want to make sure they know they have been missed and are welcome at New City Church! Here are three things we are asking you to do this Sunday…and even beyond.

Our worship doesn’t stop when the singing ends, or the preacher says, “Amen.” It continues as we greet, encourage, serve, pray for, exhort, and care for one another. God chooses to use people to edify his body (1 Corinthians 14:26). You and me. Isn’t that amazing?
— Desiring God
  1. Prepare Saturday – We have been attending church with kids for 17 years. Early on, I was not a pre-planner, so it made attending church with kids a challenge. Something I have learned and now practice every week is to prepare on Saturday. Simple, practical things like laying out clothes, thinking through breakfast, and setting an alarm have made all the difference. A blog post from TGC even suggests that you play hard on Friday night, but be boring and go to bed early on Saturday night. Now that we attend church for both services, arriving an hour before service starts and being one of the last families to leave the building, I can’t imagine not pre-planning for all six of our kids. We are not special or superhuman; we just practice pre-planning.
  2. Arrive 30 minutes before service starts – Typically, visitors arrive 15 minutes before service starts because it’s a new place and they want to get comfortable with unfamiliar surroundings. If your family arrives at the exact moment that the service starts or 15 minutes after the service starts, you will not have an opportunity to meet a visitor. Arrive 30 minutes early so that you have an opportunity to welcome new visitors into New City.
  3. Wait 30 minutes after the service – If a visitor has not made a connection with anyone, they will leave directly after the service is over. Think about it. It’s like going to watch a movie alone, when it’s over, you leave. But if you watch a movie with a group of friends, usually you hang out a bit and talk about it. Waiting 30 minutes after the service gives you an opportunity to meet someone new, invite them to lunch or answer any questions they may have about New City. The Connect Table is also a great place to direct them in order to learn more about our Missional Communities. 
We believe that we will best fulfill our mission and see this vision come to be as we live as a family of missionary servants, disciples of Jesus making disciples of Jesus.

Brandon Cox, Lead Pastor at Grace Hills Church, shared the following six important principles to consider when intentionally greeting new visitors and I think there are a few things we can learn from him.

  1. You are the first loving touch every guest will meet, which sets the stage for people to be open to life change. People will be more or less receptive to the teaching depending on how they were made to feel on the way in.
  2. Most guests will decide in the first few minutes if they will return, even before the music starts. It’s easy to walk into church if you’re there every week, but do you remember what it was like walking in for the first time, when you didn’t think you’d know anyone and wondered if anyone would want to know you?
  3. Your biggest goals are to 1.) eliminate awkwardness and 2.) encourage people. We worship together in a movie theater, so we have the advantage of knowing that people already know what it’s like to walk into a theater, but they’re still asking themselves questions like: Am I following their rules? Am I dressed appropriately? Will I be able to find the bathroom without asking?
  4. You are a tour guide who takes people to their destination, not a travel agent who sends them there. Walking parents and kids all the way to the next volunteer in the kids’ worship room is far better than pointing a finger and saying, “it’s down there on the right.” Walk with people and ask them questions on the way. Be genuinely interested in their lives.
  5. You can have a ministry of encouragement and even offer to have a brief prayer with people. Obviously, some first time guests may not be comfortable with such forwardness, but sometimes it may be highly appropriate to pray with guests before they enter the auditorium, especially if you’ve sensed a spiritual need in them. Keep it brief and don’t make things awkward, but communicate that you care.
  6. Everybody ought to receive a smile, a word of welcome, a loving touch (such as a handshake), and a bulletin on their way in. A smile disarms people and boosts their confidence. A word of welcome is common courtesy. A loving touch, such as a handshake or a brief hug, might be the only loving touch that guest receives this week. And a bulletin, at least in our case, is like a map for what’s going on and allows the guest to respond to the message and request more information.

You Are Here, Be Where You Are!

New City has always attracted a transient group of people - college students, grad students, young families from other places. Many times transient people know they are transient, they have no intention of seeing Macon or Milledgeville become their home. Macon and Milledgeville are just stops on the way... on the way to a new life, a new career, a new place.

In a way, it reminds me of Israel's captivity to Babylon - not in the sense that transient people can't leave, but in the sense that Macon is simply not the final destination. The captive Hebrew people wanted to return to Jerusalem. They had no desire to be in Babylon. This caused them to withdraw from Babylon, to separate from life in Babylon and worse, to remove themselves from God's intention for them.

These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon... Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
— Jeremiah 29:1-7

Jeremiah wrote to the people in Babylon on behalf of God to call them back to God's intention and call them out of their absence and withdrawal. God, through the prophet is telling his people to invest in the city, to thrive in the city, to LIVE in Babylon. He is calling His people to "Be Where You Are!" 

I want to shout this loudly to all of our transients - BE WHERE YOU ARE - Here. God has brought you here for a season. Maybe it is a short season, maybe it is a long season, I have no idea. But while you are here, be here. Find a church home, become a member, serve in the church, serve through the church. Become a part of the community of the church - the family. Be a blessing to the church and to the city and its people. Remember that as a Christ follower, you are always on his mission - "as you go" - being His hands and feet, proclaiming His glories, serving as His ambassador and as a part of His family.

And remember... being here, I mean really being here - participating, investing, LIVING - is not only for the good of the city, it is for your good.
You are Here.  Be All In. Be Where You Are!


For more info on connecting to New City:
In Macon, connect with Patrick
In Milledgeville, connect with Andy