Unpacking the mission we all share
Easter 1980, I had the joy of declaring my faith in and allegiance to the One who saved me, redeemed me and commissioned me – Jesus Christ. The transformation was observable and life altering.
But I still had to learn how to live out my identity in Christ. I needed to ask deeper questions. As we develop our life in Christ, we begin to ask questions such as: What guides my decision-making processes? How do I prioritize my use of time, investments and giving? Is my life aligned with God’s call on me, my family and my church?
Every Christ follower and ministry must answer these questions. The executive board asked these questions when we gathered at Stillwood Camp and Conference Centre, June 2013, to seek the leading of the Holy Spirit as we developed a document to outline the mission, preferred culture, guiding principles and central ministry focus of the Mennonite Brethren churches in Canada.
Over the ensuing months, the mission statement was poked, prodded, dissected, scrutinized, edited and reviewed from Vancouver to Montreal and points in between. We debated its theological significance with the Board of Faith and Life, pastors and conference leaders. We discussed the strategic and financial implications with staff and leaders.
Our mission statement will guide the ministry of national leaders as we seek to fulfill God’s call on us as a family of churches, and inform local churches what they can expect from the national team. Overall, the work of our denomination is to encourage and resource local churches to fulfill their biblical mandate.
Our mission statement is this:
CCMBC exists to multiply Christ-centred churches to see Canada transformed by the good news of Jesus Christ.
Why these particular words and focus?
The Mennonite Brethren church in Canada was birthed in mission.
In 1883, U.S. MBs held their annual conference in Hamilton County, Neb. As the meetings progressed, delegates expressed concern about the spiritual condition of the Mennonites who had immigrated to southern Manitoba. A motion was put forward to send Heinrich Voth of Minnesota and David Dyck of Kansas to Manitoba to investigate the possibility of beginning a missionary work there. Moved, seconded, carried. The rest is history.
In 1888, the first Canadian MB church was established in Winkler, Man. Since then, we’ve continued to express our missional impulse through the work of the local church, as we apply the Great Commandment and Great Commission in local, national and international contexts.
It’s natural, then, to talk about ourselves as a multiplying movement. As we partner with God in proclaiming the good news of Jesus to millions of Canadians who don’t know Christ, we focus on the task of multiplication.
And what do we multiply? We multiply churches. We know that local congregations of believers multiply disciples. But, as a national church family, we work together to encourage and support the multiplication of churches.
You’ll notice we added a qualifier here – “Christ-centred.” Why did we include this? There are many different kinds of churches in Canada. Some are focused on Christ and some aren’t. We believe it’s important for Mennonite Brethren churches to focus on Jesus. He is the centre of our gospel and foundational to our evangelical, Anabaptist, charismatic understanding and interpretation of the Bible.
The penultimate phrase in our mission statement – “to see Canada transformed” – has generated the most discussion. We believe this phrase highlights several aspects of our mission and theology.
First, our call is to Canada. CCMBC is a mission agency and Canada is our mission field. We partner with MB Mission for global mission, and with ICOMB for global ministry partnership, but our primary responsibility is to ensure that Canadians hear and experience the gospel.
And what about “transformation”? Our understanding of the kingdom of God teaches that the kingdom was initiated by Jesus and will be present in all its fullness at Christ’s return.
Until that day, we live in the “already but not yet” of the kingdom of God. We believe that wherever God’s people are present and submitting to God’s rule and reign, everything changes. When the kingdom of God is made manifest through his bride, people increasingly experience the presence and power of God, which changes lives, relationships, marriages, justice issues, violence issues, societal systems and structures.
Transformation is observable. When people embrace faith in Jesus, we can see the change in their lives. Testimony, baptism, ministry and personal priorities give evidence of new life in Christ.
As Doug Heidebrecht notes, “God’s purpose is to transform people, and when his people are transformed, changes take place within social systems and structures. However, we must be careful not to assume that changes to systems or structures will then actually transform people.” (See “Be transformed!” p. 12.) It is the Holy Spirit who actually transforms people.
The full impact of the kingdom will not be experienced until Jesus returns. In the meantime, we’re called to pray and live out what Jesus taught in the Lord’s Prayer: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
Finally, we wanted to clearly communicate that the agent of transformation is the Holy Spirit and the means of transformation is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good; he came to make dead people alive! The heart of our message is that new life in Christ is made possible through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
As our Confession of Faith states, “Throughout history, God has acted mightily to deliver people from bondage and draw them into a covenant relationship. Through the prophets, God prepared the way of salvation until finally God reconciled the world to himself by the atoning blood of Jesus. As people place their trust in Christ, they are saved by grace through faith, not of their own doing, but as a gift of God. God forgives them, delivers them from sin’s bondage, makes them new creatures in Christ, empowers them by the Holy Spirit and seals them for eternal life. When sin and death are finally abolished and the redeemed are gathered in the new heaven and the new earth, God will have completed the plan of salvation.”
An individual and corporate call
My prayer is that this mission statement will inspire you to consider God’s call on your life personally. I pray it will inspire our churches to consider their role as Christ-centred churches in working together for the sake of Canadians who do not yet know Jesus.
I’m convinced we’re living during a unique time in history when God is moving his people to greater passion for Christ and a greater desire for authentic discipleship.
Nominal Christians are stepping back from church. Young Christians are demonstrating a willingness to follow Jesus in ways that challenge the rest of the church to step up and fully live as God’s people. Denominations and congregations are working together with greater joy and effectiveness than we’ve known in recent years. More and more, I hear people say they refuse to compartmentalize their faith, and are seeking to live in the truth and power of the Holy Spirit.
I invite you to join in what God is doing across Canada, as our church family does our part to faithfully fulfill the ministry to which God has called us.
Follow executive director Willy Reimer on Twitter @willreimer