Committed to putting the bell on the cat

MISSION & MINISTRY: Hard work of church planting will involve clusters of churches

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As part of the strategy for planting new churches across the United States, Church Planting Mobilizer Brian Harris has been working hard at initiating the development of clusters of USMB churches—regional networks—for the purpose of planting more churches. It also means “shoulder tapping” potential new leaders in USMB churches and perhaps partnering with churches in need of renewal for revitalization.

“It’s exciting to see what God is bringing before us as these networks develop,” says USMB national director Don Morris.

In early November, Harris and Morris met with pastors and leaders from the LAMB (Latin American Mennonite Brethren) District Conference in south Texas as they gathered for refreshment, refueling and relaxation on a Friday and Saturday. The group met again Sunday afternoon for a strategy meeting at the new Mission MB Church facility. The meeting was filled with camaraderie and anticipation, looking to the future for church planting—something that has been difficult in recent years for this district.

“The high point of my time with our LAMB brothers and sisters came when we were talking about reaching outside of our church and planting more churches,” says Harris. “Everyone agreed that planting churches is hard work and requires sacrifice. Then Pastor Torres shared a parable about a cat that was ‘disrupting’ the lives of some mice. One mouse had a brilliant idea. ‘What if we put a bell around the cat’s neck? Then we can hear the cat whenever he approaches us.’ The mice all thought it was a great idea! But then one mouse asked the most important question: ‘Who will put the bell on the cat?’

Harris says, “At that moment this pastor said, ‘I will put the bell on the cat!’ Then the other pastors and leaders chimed in and said they too would put the bell on the cat. It was a holy moment. My LAMB brothers encouraged my heart as they committed themselves to reaching more people through church planting by stepping toward the hard work that will be required.”

The USMB vision for church planting across the U.S. is that we all work at this together. Along with creating regional networks of churches banding together for kingdom work, USMB will work to serve the districts as they strive toward planting new churches. The new Church Planting Council (CPC) realizes that much work is to be done, but that it’s going to be done as U.S. Mennonite Brethren collectively come together to make it happen.

“Church planting and church renewal won’t happen if we’re all waiting for someone else to do it,” says Morris. “Let’s ‘crew up’ and make this happen!”

Harris, who chairs the CPC, says, “If we’re going to reach more people and plant more churches, we’re going to do that together. The task is too big to try and do it alone. This is the idea behind creating networks of churches working together. Currently we have several networks already started and several more in the works.

“I am praying for 10 networks by the end of 2023. Imagine 10 networks focused on working together to start more churches,” Harris says. “May God allow us, the Mennonite Brethren, to be a family that leads out and sees more churches started and reverse the trend of losing more churches than we’re gaining in the American church.”

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