The future of USMB church planting has been a matter of prayer and discernment following the U.S. Conference’s decision last summer to release Multiply as a resource for planting churches in the United States. A task force of 17 people met in Phoenix, Ariz., in October 2019 to discuss the future of USMB church planting.
At this meeting a smaller group was created and given the task of putting together strategic pieces for moving this crucial aspect of our collective ministry forward. Members of this smaller task force chaired by Fred Leonard are Brad Klassen, Paul Robie, Christian Kohs, Josh Shaw, Phil Wiebe and Dave Thiessen.
While COVID-19 realities have delayed processing the details, the task force has developed foundational aspects of Mennonite Brethren church planting in the U.S. The overarching idea is that invested USMB churches and current experienced church planting leaders will form a resourcing “network,” providing a catalyst for USMB church planting and working in tandem with district and national leadership.
During a May 19 teleconference meeting with the USMB National Strategy Team (NST), Leonard shared the following essential elements of a “Preferred Model of Church Planting”:
• The “who” that guides USMB church planting is Jesus Christ, the head and builder of his church, his bride. Everything will be centered upon Jesus.
• The “why” is that we are called to glorify God by introducing people to Jesus Christ—so the dead come to life, the lost are found and the darkness is overcome by light.
• The “what” is to nurture new, healthy, sustainable and multiplying churches through planting new churches, rebirthing dying churches and multiplying healthy existing churches.
Leonard reported that task force members have various opinions pertaining to the specific details of how this will be accomplished. However, he noted that the Preferred Model of Church Planting must be gospel-focused, Spirit-led, outward-driven and centered on the gospel—all with the expectation of birthing self-sustaining, multiplying churches. He made it clear that new churches will follow the MB Confession of Faith.
“We are Anabaptist,” Leonard said. “We will plant MB churches.”
The involvement of local MB churches is another significant aspect of how USMB will plant churches. Local churches will be encouraged to call out gifted church planting leaders from among their congregations and to help support these planters with resources when the time comes. As has been the practice for some time, all potential church planters will undergo a rigorous assessment process which will likely be followed by some type of apprenticeship or onsite training with an experienced church planter. Although this might delay the process, it increases the success rate tremendously.
“We also find church planters through prayer, training and discipling and visiting colleges and seminaries,” Leonard said. “We prefer homegrown. We want planters between their late 20s to mid-40s. We want to be known for deeply caring for our planters and resourcing them with the things they need to be successful.”
As the NST discussed the task force update, it became obvious that there is still substantial work to be done to determine how districts, district church planting boards and the national USMB staff fit into the Preferred Model of Church Planting. A unified strategy and plan is deemed critical as the nuts and bolts are assembled.
“We need to all own this together,” one NST member said. “If this will be a partnership with districts and have a national identity, we need to all process, own it and move it forward as one.”
Local churches will be kept informed as details are clarified, says USMB national director Don Morris. “We want church leaders to weigh in and offer their input,” he says. “Church planting is vitally important for our MB family. We need to get this new strategy right.”