Our goal — to see lives transformed by Jesus — is gaining energy
The notes are dated October 6, 1982. While I don’t remember the reason I wrote them, now is a good time to test their validity. The questions posed were: What concerns do you have for churches in our conference? What gives you reason for optimism for the future?
Five concerns were on my mind at the time:
1. A tendency away from healthy cross-denominational partnerships to Mennonite Brethren exclusivism.
2. The negative impact of multi-layered “norms” asked of the local church.
3. The emphasis on most anything except the salvation of pre-Christians we know.
4. The degree of emphasis on “foreign mission” at the expense of “home mission.”
5. Limited growth among USMB for decades.
Reasons for optimism were a longer list based on local churches that would:
1. Demonstrate visible unconditional love for one another.
2. Show willingness to trust and follow authentic, transparent God-anointed and appointed leadership.
3. Deemphasize ethnicity and tradition and affirm first generation Mennonite Brethren as first-class members.
4. Place denominationalism behind loyalty to Christ and his church.
5. Birth healthy churches and support them on their way.
6. Affirm budget lines for local evangelism that rival those of global mission.
7. Understand that peacemakers may have variations in how they practice following and obeying the Prince of Peace.
8. Resist the sometimes-evident spiritual pride about the conviction that we Mennonite Brethren are the faithful few who have theology right.
9. Commit to prayer as a primary agenda.
10. Accept the fact that it is OK not to know everyone at church.
11. Not be satisfied until there are new believers being added regularly to the church.
Because I do not pass muster as a prophet by biblical standards, these dated observations can and should be tested. After 40 years of serving in the USMB tribe, my inclination is to check for both validity and momentum. Some of them are “motherhood and apple pie.” Others are more incisive, or even confrontational. What’s your take?
From a national perspective, we have much to be grateful for, and we have some momentum. In this last season we have rallied around our USMB goal to “Partner as one family, serving one Lord, on one mission, for the transformation of individuals, families and communities.” We haven’t always gotten it right, but sometimes we have.
In the last 18 years we have partnered with local churches and districts and across denominational lines to plant 27 new churches with a survival rate of 80 percent, well ahead of the national average. We have consistently invested in local church renewal and in leadership development. We have added brothers and sisters from multiple ethnicities to our family, and we are richer for it.
We are learning to drop our regional and institutional boundaries and partner in effective ways for both leadership development and mission. We are grateful to have done so with MB Mission and are committed to expanding our collaboration. We have reviewed Jesus’ call to be peacemakers and are anticipating renewed commitment to pursue peace and reconciliation.
Thanks to our missional focus and local church serving emphasis—and in part to a change from the “norms” system of financial partnership to a percentage based model—we have in recent years added 22 local churches to the list of those which support the USMB National Ministries Fund. Additionally, we have developed a cadre of individual donors who are supportive of our ministries.
Ultimately, our mission is about transformed lives. The Spirit is at work convicting and convincing people of sin, righteousness and judgment, and many among us, corporately as church families and also as individuals, are partnering with him to invite and welcome people to a family of faith. May that tribe increase! Wouldn’t it be amazing to experience Acts 2 again: “praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people” while the Lord was adding to our number daily those who were being saved?
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