“Christ calls us to mission, and out of that the church forms,” says Ewald Unruh, director of ministries for the Canadian Conference of MB Churches (CCMBC). That was the overarching message of Renov8, the bi-annual Church Planting Congress in Calgary, Nov. 17–20, attended by more than 700 people.
Seventy-four Mennonite Brethren church planters and conference leadership representing some 60 churches attended the congress, which featured Michael Frost from Australia; Stuart Murray and Julie Galpin, Anabaptist speakers from England; Glenn Smith of Christian Direction in Montreal; and Wagdi Iskander, a Sudanese Muslim-background believer now pastoring in Calgary.
The congress marked a shift in the conversation and strategies for church planters. “It was already there two years ago,” says Unruh, but this year there was a clear “emphasis on being a missional people.” Participation of Anabaptist speakers and significant representation from major Canadian Mennonite denominations lent the congress “strong Anabaptist influence,” says Unruh.
MBs from Nova Scotia to B.C. ate supper together, along with several guests working closely with MBs in ministry. “It was a great time to network,” says Jeannette Thiessen, church ministries administrative team leader. She was excited to see many younger people in the group.
Gord Fleming, director of the burgeoning Church Planting BC, and part-time resource person for CCMBC, called up provincial extension directors as a gesture of support for church planters, and prayed for the church planters.
Post-congress, provincial extension directors drafted an article laying out five points of agreement among MB church planters who range widely in their church models and theological perspectives.
This was more than just another conference, Unruh asserts. From the number of MBs represented, to the unity and camaraderie they displayed, to the speakers and workshops hammering home the missional vision to which Christ calls every believer, the congress encouraged MBs in their mission of becoming healthy growing churches reaching their worlds.