Even as a young girl, Mercy Lineberry was drawn to the Word of God.
“I’ve always been interested in the Bible and scripture and studying,” says Lineberry. “Very early on, around 14 or 15 years old, I was studying a text in my dad’s concordance, and I got really excited about it. I thought, ‘I feel like I need to share this. I feel like I have some insight.’ My parents and I had a great discussion about what the text was saying and how God was speaking through it, and I thought, ‘I think this could be something.’”
For Lineberry, “ministry” had always just been a way of living—not a job. At that time, it didn’t occur to her that “something” could be full-time ministry.
An interview with Mercy about her call story and ministry
“We’re all ministers,” she says. “I truly believe we’re all called to ministry, to serve God wherever we are.”
Because of a formative experience in college, Lineberry began to realize that being a minister could mean more than just living a faithful life. Lineberry spearheaded an effort to establish a new chapter of Impact, a sister ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. As she worked as liaison between Impact and the school’s religious life committee, the concept of ministry began to take on a new form.
“It was the first time that I saw ministry full time,” says Lineberry. “I was like, ‘Oh, wow, you can do that? Like full-time? Commit your life, 9 to 5, day in and day out?’ I was very intrigued by that notion.”
Despite her intrigue, Lineberry had other, long-held aspirations. After some internal debate about whether to attend seminary, grad school, or law school, she decided to pursue her dream of becoming an attorney.
Even before she was enrolled at Ohio Northern University College of Law, Lineberry had found a church home at nearby Ada First United Methodist. As she fell in love with her new church family, she says she also began to fall in love with the teachings of John Wesley.
“I loved the heart Wesley had for God and the heart he had for ministry,” says Lineberry. “It was his uncertainty about his calling that I connected with. Being in that space—especially being in law school with feelings about whether I should be in full time ministry—he just really spoke to me.”
She decided to join the United Methodist Church.
Lineberry graduated law school, moved to Georgia, and became a prosecutor. She joined St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Augusta, and through the urging of her pastor, found herself a part of a Ministry Exploration Conference at Epworth By the Sea two and a half years later. Lineberry says she fully intended to go through the weekend and then get back to life as usual on Monday, but God had other plans.
“One of the women in my small group was my age, and she was also an attorney,” says Lineberry. “I had a moment of, ‘We’re both lawyers. Why are we here at a ministerial exploration conference?’ It made me realize a call to ministry wasn’t so far removed from my life. At that point in the conference, I decided to really listen and see what was going on.”
Bishop James Swanson delivered the closing message to the conference attendees on Sunday, and Lineberry says he spoke directly to her heart.
“I thought, ‘OK, God. This is where I’m supposed to be. I get it,” says Lineberry.
In just a few short months after the conference, Lineberry had given notice at her job and was on the path to seminary at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology.
Lineberry’s call wasn’t a matter of following a straight line from point A to point B, but she always felt there was a guiding hand leading her to where she is today. And she says the journey is far from over.
“I’m still in the discernment process,” says Lineberry. “Discernment never stops! But I believe I am finally pursuing the path God intended for me: To serve the church as an ordained minister. It doesn’t matter where you are in life, if you sense a call to ministry it is worth exploring.”
July 2016 update:
Mercy graduated from seminary and is a local pastor serving Tenth Street Underwood Memorial UMC. Join her for services on Sunday morning at 11 am.
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