Mennonite Brethren and the Holy Spirit
On Saturday morning at Manitoba’s Assembly 2015, Jon Isaak, director of the Centre for MB Studies in Winnipeg, presented a brief history of Mennonite Brethren engagement with Spirit-led, charismatic movements.
Isaak said Canadian MBs are like a “three-legged stool,” carefully balancing a theology shaped by the influences of three distinct traditions: Mennonite, German Baptists and charismatic-oriented Lutheran Pietists.
“It means we don’t try to name one theology that speaks for everyone,” he said. “That’s why people from so many faith traditions have found a home with the Mennonite Brethren.”
Isaak sees the charismatic “leg” coming to more prominence right now, with several denominational leaders displaying apostolic and prophetic giftings (as per Ephesians 4:11), such as CCMBC executive director Willy Reimer, MBCM executive director Elton DaSilva and MB Mission director Randy Friesen.
This new charismatic emphasis signals a priority on personal discernment of the Spirit’s leading, entrepreneurial determination, and nimble, decisive leadership.
“For so long, the MBs were led by the pastors and teachers. We need to bless the prophets and apostles to lead in this next phase,” said Isaak. “The church needs to find some new ways of being the church in Canada – we need different drivers.”
Isaak also named three challenges that may come along with a Spirit-led emphasis, including the risk of arbitrariness (How do we ensure discernment and accountability?), rigidity (Is there only one right way of doing things and hearing from the Holy Spirit?) and anxiety (Does our rhetoric sound shrill and anxious? Do we feel the need to defend God in an era where we’re witnessing the end of Christendom?)
In the end, said Isaak, “God is not worried! The reign of God is not in decline and continues to thrive,” even if change is happening all around us.