Disciple making that transforms:
ABMB convention, Mar. 20–21, 2015
DALHOUSIE COMMUNITY CHURCH, CALGARY
Stories of whole-life transformation through the gospel of Jesus Christ took centre stage at the 2015 Alberta (ABMB) provincial convention at Dalhousie Community Church, Calgary, Mar. 20–21, 2015.
“God has given us a mission of transformation in Canada,” said C2C Alberta regional director Johnny Thiessen during a short, TED Talk-type sermon on Friday afternoon, “but we’ve forgotten how important – and big – that mission is.”
Thiessen urged the 128 delegates and guests to move beyond their theological differences and preferences in order to carry out the mission.
“My neighbour – who came to me crying and a few hours before had an extension cord wrapped around his neck – isn’t asking what I believe about baptism. He isn’t asking what I believe about the Millennium, or whether I’m a complementarian or egalitarian. All he knows is that he needs some good news.”
Challenges and priorities
In 2014, ABMB and CCMBC entered a new era of partnership, with all provincial ministry conducted jointly between the two entities. Paul J. Loewen came on board as conference minister last July through a collaborative hiring process between ABMB and CCMBC. Loewen spent a great deal of his time over the past eight months meeting with church leaders, provincial leaders and the ABMB ministry team to discern direction.
During his convention address, Loewen outlined several challenges facing Alberta churches: declining membership, a lack of specific disciple-making plans, church polity issues, identity, an independent spirit that leads to an inward focus, diminishing finances, “churchiness,” ethnic and immigrant realities, and drop-out of young adults.
“Functionally, Alberta has been supported by other churches across the country and by other individuals,” said Loewen. “We need to find ways to be givers of generosity rather than receivers.”
Loewen said the province would move forward by concentrating on seven priorities:
- creating and modelling disciple making;
- building team among leaders and pastors;
- focusing on healthy church systems (by ensuring, for example, that every church has adequate insurance and that all pastors are credentialed with the Mennonite Brethren conference);
- multiplying Christ-centred churches;
- growing financial health;
- developing next-generation ministry and networks;
- praying for church renewal.
Eyes on Canada
Canadian conference executive director Willy Reimer, who presented alongside Loewen, encouraged attendees to lift their eyes to see the spiritual need across Canada.
“I don’t see a broken heart for other parts of the country,” said Reimer. “We’re becoming a receiving nation for missionaries. Part of me is excited – yes, missionaries are great. But part of me is embarrassed.
“The hardest place to reach people is at home because the accountability level goes way up. It’s much easier for me to stand on a soapbox in Mexico than it is in my own backyard. We need to develop a heart for the least-reached places in this country.”
ABMB churches were asked to tithe a percentage of their receiptable income to a unified provincial-national budget, which would flow through the Canadian conference.
Leadership presented delegates with two giving options for the 2015 budget year: Option A = 6 percent, Option B = 10 percent. The former requires the province to draw down $100,000 from its contingency fund, leaving $15,000 in reserves.
Some delegates expressed concern over what the larger amount would mean for local church budgets. “Where do we cut to find the money to give to you? Children’s ministry? Camp? MB Mission?” asked Kevin Thiessen.
“We’re a family together,” replied moderator Kerry Dyck. “It takes discernment and prayer. If we all lean in together, we can make this happen. We’re not giving to a budget, we’re giving to a mission.”
In the end, delegates agreed to Option A, committing to $135,000 in church donations and expressing support for the direction in which the denomination is moving.
“Even if Option B was on the table right now,” said SunWest pastor Drew Johnson, “I would vote for that because it speaks to vision, it speaks to faith, it speaks to the community around me that doesn’t know Jesus.”
Delegates also approved an annual budget of $318,200 (with a projected loss of $12,000).
- Terry Lamb will complete his formal role as Director of Caring for Leaders at the end of April 2015.
- Johnny Thiessen gave an update on the “10:02 prayer” introduced a year ago, inviting people to pray for workers for the harvest (Luke 10:2) at 10:02 a.m. each day. In the past year, “a number of churches have found pastors, including SunWest, Coaldale, Linden and Dalhousie. We’re still praying for one more [church planter] for Pincher Creek, where we still have an empty building” said Thiessen. Vauxhall and Medicine Hat are also currently looking for pastors.
- Elroy Senneker and Brad Huebert – who both apprenticed with Urban Grace – are in the process of launching new churches in Calgary.
- Camp Evergreen reported that it welcomed 4,196 guests and 779 summer campers in 2014, including a group from a charter school with a 90 percent Muslim population that has expressed interest in returning to camp this year.
—Laura Kalmar; photos by Michelle Penner
Related story: The littlest missionary
Watch video coverage of the event:
GMMiTV: Alberta Convention – Chris Stevens – From the Parking Lot to the Pew Bench
GMMiTV: Alberta Convention – The Holistic Transformation of Jesus – Pastor Chris Stevens
GMMiTV: Alberta Convention – Willy Reimer, Ministry Model
GMMiTV:Alberta Convention – Ron Toews – Easy Button
GMMiTV: Alberta Convention – Paul Loewen – State of the Union
GMMiTV: Alberta Convention – Johnny Thiessen – Partnerships
GMMiTV: Alberta Convention – Lloyd Letkeman – AWAKE
GMMiTV: Alberta Convention – David Thiessen – MB Mission Apprenticeship
GMMiTV: Alberta Convention – Nelson Senft – Churches don’t have to be Mega
GMMiTV: Alberta Convention -Kelly Stickel – Why Next Steps Get Them Running