05 Conclusion



Coaching Christians Along The Mercy Journey

On the surface, practicing Christians and especially pastors tend to assume their lives and their churches are models of mercy. But this study points to some disparities in how mercy is truly known, felt and extended. After all, practicing Christians are no more likely than the general population to express compassion for others.

In closing, consider these recommendations and questions as you lead your congregations into a deeper and demonstrated understanding of the gospel—in their hearts, homes, churches and communities.



It’s clear in the data that both pastors and churchgoers feel mercy is covered well from the pulpit—but what is the extent of those teachings? Do sermons represent mercy not only as a gift from God to us, but also a gift that we give to others? How is mercy framed within the broader context of individual salvation, the daily Christian life, missions and acts of justice? What scriptural examples of mercy do you rely on? Do you provide real-world examples of how mercy is lived out in our current (and often divided) society? Are other lessons and programs of your ministry consistent with these messages of mercy?



There are cultural, contextual and generational influences on how mercy is perceived. This study shows that age, relationship status, political ideology and socioeconomic status are just some of the factors that could play into how practicing Christians define and experience mercy. Consider the many backgrounds and viewpoints represented in your congregation alone. Sermons, counseling, classes or affinity groups could focus on generating discussion across differences and striving for a “same-page” understanding of concepts like forgiveness, compassion, reconciliation and justice.



This study suggests that cultivating empathy could be a powerful component of teaching mercy. Personal experiences of or proximity to hardship informs our expressions of compassion toward others. Mercy is about more than how God saves us; it extends to how we connect to others. Look for opportunities in your services, programs, partnerships and outreach events to move people out of their bubbles, build meaningful relationships and offer hands-on help to others.



The Christian faith is sparked and sustained by a life-changing encounter with a merciful God. We offer and accept forgiveness— even when it is hard—because he forgave us. We take compassion on those in need because he took compassion on us. We strive for restored relationships and a more just world because that is the fulfillment of the work he began in us. As you invest mercy through your ministry, and through your daily life as well, continuously and publicly connect those efforts to the broader story of the gospel and to the source of mercy itself.


  • Matthew 5:23-24
  • Matthew 18:21-35
  • Mark 11:25
  • Luke 10:30-37
  • Luke 15:11-32
  • John 8:1-11
  • Romans 12:18


In Word & Deed


If you read the Bible all the way through, it has four parts: creation, fall, redemption, restoration. We’re created good. We’re fallen, and become psychologically, socially, physically alienated. We’re subject to disease, death, oppression, war, crime, poverty and so on. Then Jesus Christ comes back to redeem us—and the purpose of that redemption is not just to save our souls, but to restore creation.

Some American evangelicals’ understanding of the gospel is limited to just the fall and redemption. The trouble is that this gives the impression that the purpose of the gospel is really just to save souls, period. This implies that the body is not important, even though the resurrection shows that God is redeeming both body and soul. And it leads to the perception that anyone who is not redeemed is “evil,” even though they, too, were created good and are fallen.

The purpose of the gospel is restoring creation, taking the things that are falling apart and bringing them back together. Meeting psychological, social and physical needs. You’re not saved by doing that, but you are saved to do that. Without the business of restoration, you’re just waiting for heaven, and that’s a very reductionistic understanding of the Christian life.

Understanding the fullness of the gospel helps us see why mercy ministered in deed is important, as well as mercy ministered in word. And it gives us the ability to reach out to, work with and love our neighbors because they are made in the image of God.

As pastors and church leaders, we must see truth and mercy as interdependent. Scripture tells us that Jesus was “powerful in word and deed” (Luke 24:19, NIV). He never just preached. He also fixed people’s bodies and fed people. Mercy embodies the gospel, and the gospel is that God makes the rain fall on the just and unjust (Matthew 5:45). In other words, God doesn’t look on how much people deserve. He doesn’t qualify them. He just gives them his mercy. While we were yet enemies, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

Mercy depicts truth. If people see us using mercy sacrificially—investing our time, our money, our lives in our neighbors—they will listen and find hope and healing.


This piece is condensed and adapted for publication from an interview conducted by Jack Alexander.

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Mercy in Our Communities

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Appendix A - The Mercy Journey Collection

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