Bible bookends

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Reflecting on summer celebration events

The biblical anchor for our global Mennonite Brethren 150th anniversary celebration was Acts 17:24-28a: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’”

We celebrated that God assigns every nation of people their times and places, and that it is his heart that all mankind will seek and find him. From every corner of the world, we welcomed one another to the birthday party, and the host nation of Canada welcomed us all.

At the closing rally, David Wiebe, executive director of the Canadian MB Conference, invited all the international guests to the front of the auditorium.That moment became a visual symbol of the long-term impact of a people on a mission.Those global guests were the spiritual progeny of the foreign missionary work of our forbearers.

It was my privilege to bookend the Celebration 2010 launching text with Revelation 5, where John celebrates the worthiness of the Lamb “to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Worthy is the Lamb indeed!

My musings
The relatively strong registration for Renewing Identify and Mission (RIM) was noteworthy.So it seems we have a considerable interest in talking about our history and our theology.While that sounds like a good thing, it was also my casual observation that most of the RIM participants were of the more chronologically gifted sort. Further, while it may have been at least in part a function of geography, the Canadians were significantly better represented than were we Americans.

Nonetheless, it was helpful to review the development of our evangelical-Anabaptist moorings, especially in our biblicism and ecclesiology. It was also encouraging to hear expressed an ongoing commitment to be people on a mission, committed to inviting lost people into a trust-follow relationship with Jesus.

The not so strong registration for Celebration 2010 and Conection 2010 was disappointing. While it seems that some reasons may connect to distance and cost, history says that those factors have not normally been insurmountable barriers.Perhaps the current economic strain did play a larger role. It is already now my prayer that our next national convention (Conection 2012) scheduled for July 25-28 in Omaha, Neb., will right the ship on USMB attendance.That event will once again include a pastors’ and spouses’ event immediately preceding the convention.

Conection 2010
Our theme, “Transformed Lives,” was an appropriate and effective platform for stories of people being changed from lost to found and experiencing the presence and strength of the spirit of Jesus and their local church families in the challenges of their lives. Those stories emerged from all the districts of our national conference of churches and from the reports of our national and binational ministries and missions. Presidents Jules Glanzer (Tabor College) and Merril Ewert (Fresno Pacific University) both shared vignettes about lives being transformed in the context of their campus communities.

It was encouraging to hear about ramped-up impact and effectiveness from pastors who are leading renewal at their local churches. The reports of church planting pastors about their missionary zeal and life change in their communities were stirring. May God grant us an ever-growing movement of church multiplication and renewal.

One more thing. Kudos to our USMB staff for faithful and effective service and leadership. Our team works on lean resources and regularly reaches beyond the call of duty. I commend Donna, Connie, Myra, Lori and Don to you for support and prayers.

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