devos from the hill


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The Highest Use of Media in Ministry

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

Televangelism in America is a multibillion-dollar industry. Many claim that televangelism is an effective way to reach the lost. The facts do not support that claim. According to studies cited in the book, “Televangelism and American Culture”, by Quentin J. Schultze, less than .01% of the people in America who attend church do so because of the influence of mass evangelism, including radio and television. According to Schultze, and those he cites, televangelism is primarily a confirmatory medium. In other words, the audience is mostly Christian, viewing content they already agree with.

On the other hand, Schultze also cites research revealing that friends and relatives count for 75%-90% of all the conversions in America. Plain and simple, relationship is key to evangelism! Believing this to be true, I’ve had to ask myself, as the co-founder and president of a media ministry, “How does this affect my view of what I do in creating and using media?”

To answer this question, I must first acknowledge this fundamental truth. Our God is a relational God, and He is all about relationship. The Triune nature of God defines for us, the ultimate and perfect model of relationship. As members of the Body of Christ, we are joined together in such a way that we cannot understand our true identity, or truth itself, apart from our relationship with each other. Consider Paul’s words in Romans 1:11 “For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established . . .” Paul wanted to be there in person. What he wanted to give them was more than information, more than objective truth. It was something that could not be sent in a letter. Continue reading


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Your Greatest Strength May Be Your Greatest Weakness

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me . . . for when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Cor. 12:9&10

Since the early days of Mars Hill, I have used a personality profile assessment with all incoming staff. The one we use is called the DiSC. This assessment is not a test that one could pass or fail. It is more like a mirror that simply reveals who you are. I have found that our personality is much like our fingerprint or the color of our eyes. It is simply how God has wired us. It reveals how we naturally respond to the world around us.

The idea of basic personality types, or temperaments, dates back to the days of early Greco-Roman medicine. The Greek physician Hippocrates (c. 460 – c. 370 BC) incorporated four basic personality temperaments into his medical theories. These included sanguine (enthusiastic, active, social), choleric (driven, goal oriented, often Type A), melancholic (analytical, creative, introspective), and phlegmatic (relaxed, steady, often peaceful). Most people have a combination of these, with one or two being predominant. There is not a right or wrong personality type. God makes every person unique, for a different purpose. Each one is fearfully and wonderfully made” – Ps.139:14

Much like Hippocrates’s 4 temperaments, the DiSC assessment is based on the idea that there are four basic personality “styles”, and a vast number of combinations of these four. The DiSC styles are dominance (D), influence (i), steadiness (S), and conscientiousness (C). Generally, people do well in roles that rely on their strengths. For example, if you need a cheerleader on your team, you’d want to find someone with a high amount of “i”.  If you want someone to pay close attention to the details to make sure nothing is missed and everything is done right, then you’d want someone with a high amount of “C”.

I’ve learned that it is not good to expect someone to function outside of their natural bent, in a style in which they are weak, over a long period of time.  That person will not flourish and be happy, and neither will you. Continue reading


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God’s Will for You is God’s Will for Your Children

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways. 

Genesis 22:1-2 – Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt-offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”

Situation #1 – Bob recently agreed to be an elder in his Church. The elders meet monthly for a 60-90 minute meeting. But 4 times a year, they meet for half a day on Saturday. The next Saturday meeting falls on the same day as one of his daughter’s softball games. Bob is one of 3 volunteer coaches. There is no Church “crisis” to be dealt with, but the Church is facing tremendous opportunity on several fronts. Typically in these half-day Saturday meetings, as the elders prayerfully discuss the course of the Church, God moves, bringing fresh insight and discernment that impacts the life of the Church. Should Bob go to the elders meeting or the softball game?

Situation #2 – When he was a teenager, God put it in Tony’s heart that he should become a missionary doctor as a way to help reach unreached people groups in Southeast Asia. In college, he met Alicia. They fell in love and married after college. While Tony was in med school they had their first child and became pregnant with a second. After med-school, Tony was offered a fellowship in a prestigious infectious disease program.  One thing led to another, and Tony’s plans to become a missionary doctor were delayed time and time again. The children were now 7 and 9. One night at Church, Tony’s heart was again stirred by a visiting speaker; a missionary from Southeast Asia. As Tony and Alicia discussed this, the main hurdle was the children. They were both exceptionally bright and were flourishing in one of the best private schools in the city. Tony and Alicia were concerned that the children could not reach their full potential on the mission field.  What should Tony and Alicia do?

Who wouldn’t want the best for their children, right? But many Christians in America today are obsessed with positioning their children for success (as the culture around them defines it) to the point that it is actually detrimental. Their motives may be good, but these parents may actually be buffering their children from the very life experience, and perhaps the adversity, that God would use to shape their soul and character, preparing them for their calling in life.

Consider Abraham, when God told him to take his son and offer him as a sacrifice to God. Can you imagine what Abraham was thinking and feeling? How could this be a good thing? Continue reading


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He’ll Take Care of the Rest

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

God Always Provides Exactly What We Need… to Do Exactly What He is Calling Us to Do

31“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32“For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:31-33

The normative pattern at Mars Hill is that every full-time person serves as a media missionary.  In that role, these staff members build teams of people who share in their missionary calling, through prayer and giving. It is a walk of faith. That is how I have been living for 40 years. And I can say honestly that God has never failed to provide exactly what I needed in order to do what He was calling me to do.

Many times, there has been a very direct relationship between my need, and what was clearly His provision. I remember well, a time in the early days of Mars Hill, when my wife and I did not know how we were going to make ends meet, and God would lead people to do things, like anonymously leave a bag of food and diapers on our porch or provide a scholarship for our kids to do something, not in our budget. There were many times like that, and today they are treasured memories that taught me priceless lessons about God’s faithfulness.

In light of Matthew 6:33, and my personal experience of trusting in His provision for 40 years, there are three things I’d like to share.

1) He knows exactly what we need and it is His role as our Father to provide it.

In 1986, two things in my world were on a collision course. It looked like I was in for the perfect storm. First, my staff was growing. Second, this growth was happening as Houston was heading into what was arguably the worst economic environment it had seen since the Great Depression. At that time, we had not yet determined that all full-time staff would build ministry teams. I was feeling the weight of it.

One night, in a Bible study I led, we were sharing prayer requests. I shared that when I started Mars Hill, I was single, and I could have been content living out of my car if need be. The only person I had to trust God for was me. Then I got married. And then my staff grew, and they began to marry. Then I started a family, and my staff started families. In the beginning, I only had to trust God for one person, “now I feel as though I’m trusting Him for 40 people.” I suppose I was asking the group to help me deal with the weight of it all. That’s when one of the wives in the group said, “Well Fred, you know, Jesus trusted the Father for the whole world.” I don’t think she knew how profoundly her words would impact me to this very day.

It’s true. Our Father knows exactly what we need, to do what He is calling us to do, and it is His role as our Father to provide it. If Jesus trusted the Father for the whole world, certainly I could trust Him for 40 people. Which leads me to my second point.

2) Our role is simply to be faithful to what He is calling us to do.

Jesus came, not to do His will, but the will of His Father.  Jesus is our model.  Our part is to be faithful to what God is calling us to do. And as the old Keith Green song says, “He’ll take care of the rest.” The problem comes when we start doing things He is not calling us to do, or we are not doing the things that He is calling us to do.

I believe that “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (v.33) plays out differently in the life of every believer. Certainly, we are all called to “. . . love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deu. 6:5).  But as we live that out, we discover our unique, personal calling . . . our mission in life.

In his 2nd letter to Timothy (chapter 2, verse 4), Paul compares a faithful disciple of Christ to a soldier. A soldier is not to get entangled with the things that a regular citizen is concerned with. The soldier keeps his focus on the mission, and the army takes care of the soldier’s basic needs. The same principle applies to a faithful disciple. Stay true to the mission He has given you, and He will provide what you need to follow through.

And I would humbly submit, it is one thing for me to state this principle. It is another to state after having experienced it over and over for 40 years in the trenches of a faith-based ministry.

3) We have unlimited resource in Him.

I have a friend who is very involved and successful in both business and ministry.  He once shared with me that the difference between the two is this. In business, you have a limited amount of capital, and your challenge is to figure out how to use it as effectively as possible.

In ministry, your challenge is to figure out what God is calling you to do and how to do it as effectively as possible, knowing that His resource (including capital) is unlimited.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of scaling back your mission in order to operate within your own limited resource. But God is never resource constrained. His resource is infinite! “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness”; boldly pursue your mission, and “He’ll take care of the rest!”


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Does Wisdom Really Come from Many Counselors?

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

A Verse That is Often Misunderstood by Fred Carpenter

You’ve probably heard it said, “There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors”. You won’t find that exact quote in the Bible, though there are a number of verses that speak to the value of stepping outside your own frame of reference to seek counsel from others.

“Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors, they succeed.” – Proverbs 15:22

But is it true, does wisdom come from a multitude of counselors?

In 1986 we released our 8th film, One In A Million. Like the films before, it was a short dramatic discussion-starter that raised a life issue for teens and leaders to grapple with in pursuit of biblical answers. In 9 years of ministry through media, we had developed a solid reputation and user-base. But now, I had no clear direction for what the next film project should be so we decided to send out a survey to some 20,000 youth workers to see what topics they wanted us to address.

We got back a sizable response. The most commonly requested topics read like the “top ten” list of youth issues from a youth worker 101 training curriculum; dating, parents, drugs & alcohol, self-image, etc. Only 2 or 3 made any mention of helping kids come to know Christ or helping them share their faith with their friends. I certainly considered all of this valuable feedback, but more importantly, I committed all of this input to prayer….what did God want?

I became concerned that my “multitude of counselors” had become so relevant in their profession, that they had almost become irrelevant. They were having difficulty seeing the forest for the trees. God gave me the conviction to listen to the few counselors that wanted a film to lead their kids to Christ and to move them to share their faith with others. So, we set out to create the hardest hitting evangelistic film possible. Continue reading


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Blossom Where You are Planted

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

“Commit your works to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” – Proverbs 16:3 NASB

When we are young adults, looking at the endless possibilities before us, it seems logical to pick a goal and map out a plan for how to get there. But, when you are a follower of Christ, you become aware that you are not alone in these decisions. In fact, you learn that He already has plans, big plans; so it becomes a matter of discovering what those plans are and what your role in them will be.

I have shared in the previous two devotionals that upon graduating from film school God had given me a deep conviction that I would someday make films that would introduce people to Jesus Christ. However, I had no direction or idea about how that would come to pass.

At that time, I was living in Houston, doing odd media jobs, waiting tables, and strategizing what my next move should be. I attended a church but had not joined a church or become involved in church life because I didn’t know if I would be staying in Houston. Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York seemed the more logical places to pursue a film career.

While searching for something encouraging in God’s word one day, I read Proverbs 16:3, “Commit your works to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” The Holy Spirit spoke to me through this verse. I thought I would find something about my plans coming to pass, but what I saw was not what I was expecting. I realized I had been reading that verse backward. I was trying to make a plan and commit it to the Lord, expecting Him to then show me the work. Continue reading


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The God Idea: Part 2, Creative Process

The Model for the Creative Process
By Fred Carpenter

Mars Hill was founded in 1977 by Fred Carpenter and Larry Kreider. Together they shared a vision for the potential of ministry through media. In this year, marking the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions, president, Fred Carpenter is taking the time to recount the important lessons God has taught us; lessons that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

So, you have heard from the Lord and you believe that you have a “God Idea” that He wants you to implement. Now What?

Having been involved in the producing, writing and directing of film and video for more than 40 years, I have given much thought to the nature of the creative process.  Several years ago, I was blessed to come across what I believe to be the best model for the creative process that one could ever find. It continues to shape our approach as a ministry today.

From Dorothy Sayers’ book, The Mind of the Maker, pp. 35-36…

“For every work [or act] of creation is threefold, an earthly trinity to match the heavenly.

First, [not in time, but merely in order of enumeration] there is the Creative Idea, passionless, timeless, beholding the whole work complete at once, the end in the beginning: and this is the image of the Father.

Second, there is the Creative Energy [or Activity] begotten of the Idea, working in time from the beginning to the end, with sweat and passion, being incarnate in the bonds of matter: and this is the image of the Word.

Third, there is the Creative Power, the meaning of the work and its response in the lively soul: and this is the image of the indwelling Spirit.

And these three are one, each equally in itself the whole work, whereof none can exist without the other: and this is the image of the Trinity.”

Let’s take a few moments to look at these three “steps” in the creative process more closely.

The Creative Idea – The very first verse in the Bible reads “1In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” – Genesis 1:1. Before we know God as Father, Savior or Comforter, we know Him as Creator. The creative process begins with God. He is indeed, the “genesis” of everything.

It is significant that the word for God in Genesis 1:1, is the Hebrew word, “Elohim.” This is a plural name for God, which tell us the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were all involved as God in the creation of the heavens and the earth. Applying Dorothy Sayers’ model, this process of creation began with the “Creative Idea”; the first Person of the Trinity, the Father.

From scripture, we know that no human has seen, or can see the Father (John 6:46). So it is with the “Creative Idea.”   When the “Creative Idea” is born in a receptive soul, it is not seen by anyone.  It may not even be clearly seen by the one in whom it is born. It is nonetheless very real.

For me, the process of creating a new media project starts with a “God Idea”, or in Sayers’ terminology, the “Creative Idea.”  When the idea comes, it is often hard to articulate to others because it does not yet have form and shape, nevertheless, it is very real. I can almost identify with various elements and characteristics of the project as if they already exist, even though the project does not actually exist in time and space. I can almost envision the effect it will have on a viewer, even though no one has yet seen it. Continue reading