Transformation survey, Part III
photo provided by MB Mission
Attention to global mission in Canada’s MB churches
It seems that hardly a week goes by without someone offering to interrupt me to do a survey. They want to learn about my experience or uncover my opinions. I may give them the time they request, but without access to the outcomes, I seldom learn anything.
With these reflection articles on the survey pastors filled out in fall, we in the Canadian conference want to turn that around: we want every Mennonite Brethren church to pause and take stock. This final article continues the issues raised by Mark Wessner and Ron Toews in “The heartbeat of the gospel” (December) and “Glass half-full?” (January/February): what are our priorities and values in ministry? What is healthy (to celebrate) and what is not working (to soberly evaluate)?
This final segment turns to the topic of our life on mission with the Great Commission in view. The gospel is always good news, but especially to the lost. The lost reside across the street but also as “unreached peoples” in far-away, politically-closed corners of the world that we call Restricted Access Nations. The final section of the transformation survey asked five questions about the degree of a church’s engagement with cross-cultural ministry. I’d like to offer three reflections.
First, broad-based general support for the cause of global mission is encouraging. This is reflected in budgets (85 percent designated funds for mission; 79 percent named MB Mission specifically) and promotion (the majority regularly publicize information from MB Mission or other agencies).
However, the results revealed that direct participation of churches is less robust. In the past five years, about half the churches have sent their lead pastor for an onsite trip and a mere 25 percent plan to send either their lead pastor or a senior leader overseas within the next five years.
Though many churches participate in short-term mission (STM) trips, half indicate that these are not an intentional part of the congregation’s strategy and very few (16 percent) use STMs to proactively establish partnerships abroad. Less than half (44 percent) affirm that they have a standing committee or team to champion global missions.
There is tremendous opportunity here to establish new and strategic practices that include meaningful and mutually encouraging relationships with overseas ministry. (See “Partnership postures” by Lloyd Letkeman for one model of how this could be possible.)
Attentiveness to cross-cultural mission
Second, there is evidence of significant attentiveness in cross-cultural missional ministry toward unevangelized people at home and abroad. The churches that responded to this question have felt led by the Spirit to engage with Canada’s indigenous people (40 percent), Muslims (39 percent), Sikhs (23 percent), Francophones (11 percent) and “other” totalling a whopping 70 percent. This is very good news as we view the changing demographic face of Canada, identify that Quebec has the least number of evangelical Christians in the Americas and take seriously the call to bring the gospel to people groups who literally have no church.
Having underscored all this good news, the survey does then give us pause: only half of the respondents answered this question. Could it be true that about half of our churches have our sleeves rolled up while the other half remain inwardly focused?
My final reflection arises as I ponder what all of this data indicates about the condition of our hearts toward people who have not heard the gospel. The regular provision of funds and the publishing of missionary updates are mission-critical to accomplish the work. Global workers everywhere thank you. MB Mission thanks you.
But the evidence of the selective or non-strategic involvement in mission (local and abroad) raises questions about our underlying motivation. There are urgent opportunities at hand to bring the gospel to all corners of the world, but first we need to be people who live with mission clarity.
We need prayer support that is aligned toward Kingdom advance; we need humble but bold believers to serve sacrificially here and overseas. This will be costly and inconvenient. But our willingness to follow the Lamb wherever he goes (Revelation 14:4) is entirely connected to the condition of our hearts. Will you ask the Lord to break your heart with the things that break his?
This survey took your time but yields lessons and reflections that pay dividends of insight. Are we paying attention? Are we willing to humble ourselves and ask God to change our hearts and priorities?
—Greg Laing serves as Western Canada mission mobilizer with MB Mission.