Mercy Hill is a multi-site church in Greensboro that was planted less than six years ago by The Summit Church in Durham. On Jan. 28 Mercy Hill launched its third campus in a facility that another church gave them.
“Our prayer through the process was that we would see at least 500 people be part of Edgefield,” said David McNees, above right, Mercy Hill Church’s Edgefield Road Campus Director. “Our first week we had 474 adults and 123 children attending. That opened more seats for people at our other campuses, so more ministry can happen there.”
In 2014, the leadership of nearby Edgefield Baptist Church approached Mercy Hill’s leaders about the possibility of merging. “It was a pretty healthy church averaging about 120 in weekly services,” said Bryan Miller, missions director at Mercy Hill.
Edgefield’s pastor at the time, Tim Tangen, felt called to military chaplaincy. Miller said Tangen “considered how his departure might affect the church and weighed the church’s options for future outreach in northwest Greensboro. At that point he reached out to Mercy Hill to talk about merger options and gifting the church’s assets to Mercy Hill.”
After several months of discussions, the two churches agreed to move ahead. Edgefield’s property was deeded to Mercy Hill and members were invited to take steps to join Mercy Hill.
“It wasn’t like a mass migration,” Miller explained. “Each person from Edgefield was asked to go through Mercy Hill’s membership process just like everyone else who joins the church.”
About 90 of Edgefield’s regular attenders completed the membership process and “have been very faithful,” said Miller. “Some of the Edgefield people were good church members who attended and gave, but were not serving in the church’s ministry. Now they are.”
Looking back at Edgefield’s decision, Tangen believes the congregation did the right thing.
“Merging with Mercy Hill took a tremendous amount of self-sacrifice and faith,” he said. “We could have chosen the status quo, but our church prayed and in wisdom we found God’s blessing. Merging gave us the opportunity to be part of a movement of God and do something that will outlive our lives.”
For several years, the Edgefield facilities were used as church offices, some special events and a few classes, but not for Sunday services. Early in 2017 Mercy Hill’s leaders began talking about the launch of a third location at Edgefield. Renovations were completed at the site in preparation for an early 2018 launch.
David McNees was assigned as campus pastor. Previously he was a Southern Baptist missionary in West Africa through the International Mission Board and served three churches in Virginia and South Carolina.
“Returning to North Carolina a few years ago, we landed in Asheboro,” McNees said. “I knew pastor Andrew [Hopper] and we had some other connections at Mercy Hill, so it made sense for us to go there – we wanted to be in a solid, gospel-centered church.
“I served as a consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, working with UPGs [unreached people groups] in Greensboro in a pocket of lostness and worked part time with Mercy Hill at the same time. Then I was asked to be full time with Mercy Hill.”
The Edgefield site was the third campus for Mercy Hill. Following the same model they used to launch a second campus, three interest meetings were set so lead pastor Andrew Hopper and McNees could share the vision and strategy. Each of the 150 adults on the final launch team was assigned a place of service and several “practice services” were held to insure the system worked.
“Our prayer through the process was that we would see at least 500 people be part of Edgefield,” McNees added. “Our first week we had 474 adults and 123 children attending. That opened more seats for people at our other campuses, so more ministry can happen there.
“We believe God is going to use us in that part of northwest Guilford County to impact people who are either de-churched, who never heard the gospel at all or who need a fresh encounter with the Lord.”
Seventeen were baptized at the Edgefield site in the first two months.
As Mercy Hill’s missions director, Miller said he focuses on “church planting, national partnerships and mobilizing our people to the nations.” He is also one of several shepherding elders and coordinates eight community groups that meet primarily in homes throughout the week for Bible study.
“I know a lot of churches are struggling with the next life cycle of their church and thinking about merging,” said Miller. “It was such a witness to see how the people of Edgefield were so very open handed and so Kingdom-minded – to see the level of maturity they had, and how that raised the level of spiritual maturity in our young church at Mercy Hill. But now, they have also grown.”
There were two agreements in the merger plan, Miller noted. Randy Titus, Edgefield’s associate pastor, was to be retained for one year. “He stayed on and became one of our executive pastors, overseeing the campuses. Randy has been very valuable to us,” said Miller.
Edgefield was an independent Baptist church, and supported its own missionaries. Miller said, “The second agreement we had was to retain support for Edgefield’s missionaries until they returned to the United States on stateside furlough. Some of them have proved to be our best partnerships.”
“Mercy Hill is on a relentless pursuit of the lost in our community; people are the mission,” said Andrew Hopper. “Planting the Edgefield campus in the northwest community helps us to equip our folks for ‘come and see’ evangelism by placing the gathering place in their backyard.
“Our campusing model is primarily to follow our people. We have hundreds of people coming from that area so we want to give them a place to invite those people with whom they live, work and play. The original church at Edgefield had a desire to reach [its] community, and we desire to honor that legacy through the Edgefield campus.”