Forging ahead on mission
Results of the third annual Transformation Survey
It is God’s work to transform us, but ours to tend to the daily renewal of our hearts – and the church community’s task to support and spur on this change together and for the watching world.
The God who saves us “not only accepts but also equips (Philippians 2:13) and transforms (2 Corinthians 3:18) the believer and believing communities, who are then enabled to accept and serve others as God did them” (Confession of Faith, Article 5 Pastoral Commentary and Application).
This transformation is “ongoing, dynamic change taking place within believers,” writes Doug Heidebrecht in an April 2015 MB Herald article. Beginning with an invitation to the Spirit of God to change a heart, “when Christ transforms us, it’s so all-encompassing that Paul has no other way to describe it except to call it a ‘new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15),” Heidebrecht writes.
“Holy life in community is a powerful witness. When society sees the church living as a transformed community in the world, the church is being faithful to Jesus’ description of believers as salt and light (Matthew 5:14–16)” (Confession of Faith, Article 7 Pastoral Commentary and Application).
The Canadian conference desires to see this ongoing equipping and transformation occurring in our churches across Canada.
For the third year, MB churches filled out the Transformation Survey, a tool not to evaluate churches but to monitor the impact of the services CCMBC offers its members. “We want to see people within our churches living on mission, growing in discipleship and reaching out to those around them,” said Sam Reimer (then-measurement committee chair) on the original survey. The survey asks questions pertaining to transformation of life, church and world – or, to think of it in terms of ministry: evangelism, leadership development and mission.
This year, 119 out of the Canadian conference’s 250 churches participated, of whom some 38 percent participated twice and 23 percent once before.
Transformation of life
Of responding churches, 87 percent are confident that they clearly proclamation the gospel message in weekend services. Other formal ways a clear gospel message is presented in 30-60 percent of churches are through children’s ministries, youth, adult or evangelism programs. Some 40 percent says evangelism is likely to happen on a personal basis more so than through a formal program.
Our churches also present the gospel through regularly scheduled outreach ministries to particular demographics, door-to-door visitation and community recovery groups.
|How does your congregation proclaim the gospel in word and deed weekly as a community of faith?|
The study conference Nov. 1, 2017, focuses on discipleship, not merely as a concept, but on practical tools to equip people to live as apprentices to Jesus.
According to the survey, some 42 percent of churches have an intentional discipleship process in place and 16 percent are confident it is working.
Some churches use a specific program, others see small groups – whether study related or outreach/service focused – as the primary driver, others cite a more organic approach.
Others question whether “discipleship” is a helpful measure, either because of the “buzz”-factor of the term or the assumption that spiritual growth can be easily tracked with empirical methods.
What processes foster development as followers of Jesus in your congregation?
Caring community is both a sign of and a contributor to the life transformation we seek as Christ followers. Smaller churches often do this through intentional relationships or volunteer deacon and visitation teams. As people of faith tend to tangible needs in their community, they may serve evangelistic purposes, develop leaders through mentorship and modelling and witness to a larger world of beauty and brokenness.
|How does your worshipping community call members to care for those around them?|
Transformation of the church
MB churches range from those with no staff at all to those with up to 100 on payroll. Leaders need to be resilient.
Churches could access resources like Sabbath policies, L2L coaches, C2C trainings/cohorts, pastoral couple retreats and mentors from CCMBC and provincial conferences. All these are commonly employed methods to provide training and care for leaders. Some 76 percent of pastors are regularly involved in ongoing professional development and 59 percent do regular performance reviews.
Identifying and developing those with ministry gifts is important. Responding churches give the most attention (67 percent) to forming elders, next to lay leaders (53 percent), with church planters at the lowest (12). One quarter reported they had not yet developed a leadership development strategy.
Small churches report that it’s easy to discern those with gifts. One church observed that each individual’s journey of being identified and equipped is unique, but God guides each one, so prayer is key.
|How does your congregation discern, call and equip leaders in all stages of development?
Members are taking courses – 41 percent at MB Seminary or one-time seminars – or in other institutions like Bible colleges and other seminaries (61 percent). One respondent expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of traditional institutions to equip for ministry today.
|What educational pathways are encouraged in your congregation?|
Transformation of the world
More than 50 percent said, “we are active engaged in meeting the needs of our community” when asked whether the church takes a sense of spiritual responsibility for the community. A further 37 percent are in various stages of identifying and responding to opportunities. Some churches intentionally support local ministries and programs, others engage the community through member participation and relationships. Some congregation reported specific demographics – migrant workers, Chinese immigrants, refugees, people who are homeless or low income. Some report their church is known as a source of care to the community. Others confess a disconnect between the congregation and the neighbourhood of the church building.
|In what ways does your congregation take “spiritual responsibility” toward your local community?|
There are a variety of avenues to support the spread of the gospel message around the world. More than three-quarters of responding churches include global mission in their budget. Some 38 percent have a global mission committee, more than 50 percent promote MB Mission news and 43 percent host a mission weekend or host MB Mission workers once a year.
|How does your church support global mission?
In addition to contributing financial resources and mental energy, churches can also participate in mission. Some 45 of responding churches said members had participated in an MB Mission event (e.g., SOAR, ACTION, TREK, AWAKE) in the last three years. Three quarters reported the lead pastor or a senior leader had completed a trip with MB Mission or another agency in the past five years.
|How do you participate in global mission?
“God’s purpose is to transform people, and when his people are transformed, changes take place within social systems and structures,” says Heidebrecht. It is our prayer that Canadian MB churches, on mission together “to multiply Christ-centred churches to see Canada transformed by the good news of Jesus Christ” will be transforming communities of transformed people witnessing to the possibility of transformation.
|How did you answer the questions?|
|Reply in the comments feature below, discuss in your small groups, start a conversation on Facebook or send us a letter or story explaining how God’s transforming love is changing you and your community from the inside out.|