Whether you grew up in the Mennonite Brethren church (Phil) or are newer to the family (Christian), there is something that we have come to realize about our national and local church families: there is value in authentic, two-way relationships. Unfortunately, too many times when a church planter comes to town, the “partnership” ends up being an agreement in which you give us money and we give you prayer requests and pictures. This leaves you with the assumption that we are getting the work done and us with the assumption that we will have a place to live and food to eat because you send support money. However, the body of Christ has more to offer. Our communities can benefit so much more from each other.
We desire for the view of the church planting relationship to change for you (the established church) and us (the planters). There is more you have to offer us and more we can offer you. Being connected to these stories and planters can radically change how your church and how our denomination sees the kingdom of God. We don’t want you to just read our stories, we want to be a part of each other’s stories!
Our thoughts on this came about almost by accident as we were attempting to raise financial support while using this term “partner.” When I (Phil) was on a call with Pastor Tim Thiessen from Birch Bay Bible Community Church back in September, he asked me point blank: “What does a partnership look like? Is there more than just a money exchange?” This led us to think and talk about this concept of “partnership” in new ways with pastors from established USMB churches.
A partnership involves being co-workers in God’s service, sharing in giving and receiving, sharing our resources with others and even sharing in each other’s joys and sufferings. To loosely quote William Carey, a British missionary to India, “We will go into the pit, but we need you to hold the rope.”
Practically, we need you to support us through prayer, short-term trips with volunteers, cross-church redemptive friendships among our church members, discipleship ideas and resources, interns, new church planters and yes, carrying the financial weight of our unbelievers and baby Christians as they grow into givers.
But what does the established church get from a church plant? Our hope would be that some of the ways we do ministry to reach the unreached would become part of your evangelistic DNA, while at the same time giving some potential leaders in your community an opportunity to have hands-on ministry experience right here at home. There are likely people in established churches who have never gone on a mission trip because going to another country and speaking another language isn’t a fit for them. But just maybe something more local is.
We are grateful to have engaged with other pastors across the U.S. and the different districts as we have processed our thoughts on “partnership.” As the local body is made up of many different parts with different functions, coming together with one purpose, so, too, is the USMB national body of churches. You have played a pivotal part in our church communities. As church planters, it is our hope that we can have an impact on yours.
Christian Kohs, and his wife, Erica, are planting Redemption Church, a USMB church plant in Owatonna, Minnesota. Phil Wiebe, and his wife, Melissa, are planting Lakeview Church, a USMB church plant in Stansbury Park, Utah.
The Kohs and Wiebes, together with Jon and Michelle Fiester, church planters with Renewal MB Church in Rapid City, South Dakota, and Mario and Stephanie Trujillo, church planters with City Church in Pueblo, Colorado., have developed strong friendships and a healthy support for each other through prayer, conversations and sharing resources. These relationships have caused them to desire a more active relationship within the larger USMB family.