What does it mean to honour God?
As fall blows into the calendar, the Canadian economy is officially in recession. ISIS continues to traumatize hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East, rape is used as revenge in India, Myanmar experienced the worst flooding in decades this summer. These are only a few of the human crises around the world.
So what’s my point? Any given month, we can list off human tragedies that fill our screens with the realities of a fallen world. It is all too easy to withdraw and feel hopeless. But we serve a hopeful God who is sovereign and is working out his plan for humanity.
This month, Canadian Mennonite Brethren delegates will gather in Winnipeg to discuss several significant ministry issues. Given the struggles, discouragement, fear and confusion in the world, what is the reason for our meeting? If it’s simply tending to administrative details, having in-house conversations, or pursuing personal or regional agendas, there is little point in gathering.
But, if we are meeting to celebrate God’s grace, truth and sovereign rule; if we are gathering to seek his face and follow his will; if we are gathering to align our ministry with his mission and calling on the church, then we should not only meet but also do so with passion, full engagement and a sense of urgency about the needs we see in our world.
Breakouts in Winnipeg
Our time together will serve multiple purposes as we engage in conversations on mission, communication, finance and the theology of human sexuality. Though the topics are diverse, a common thread runs through all: what does it mean to honour God and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit? How can we bring glory to God?
How will each conversation enhance the mission of God to reconcile all people to himself? How will each conversation help our churches become increasingly Christ-centred? How will we strengthen our capacity and passion to communicate the counter-cultural narrative of Jesus Christ?
Financial conversations will provide information on the CCMBC Legacy Fund. (See here.) There will be a budget report on how well we have stewarded resources. For me, the important question is whether we as a family of churches are focusing our national budgets on the mission God has called us to.
Our mission partnership conversation addresses the growing global reality that mission is “from everywhere to everywhere.” Canadian Mennonite Brethren need to consider how we engage in mission locally, nationally and globally. (See here.) How do we best position ourselves to share our MB church planting ministry (the C2C Network) and partnerships with MB Mission that God has entrusted to us?
The Spirit continues to open doors across Canada and around the world. While I was attending the Mennonite World Conference Assembly and ICOMB meetings this summer, three MB conferences and three national MWC members approached me for help with church planting.
As modes of sharing information and building relationships change rapidly, our conversation regarding the MB Herald and communication is critical. We will report survey data collected this fall. Given that current communication moves from “many to many” (see Beyond the next iPhone), we need a strategy and vehicles that maximize the flow of communication to draw us together in mission as a faith family.
Finally, the issue that draws us to this study conference – the theology of human sexuality – is growing in significance daily. The controversial sex education curriculum the Ontario government is implementing seeks to shape children’s sexual identity. Quebec has also rolled out a pilot sex education curriculum that has many concerned.
“Culture is a map and a mirror,” writes Walt Mueller of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. “As a map, it guides us through life… telling us what to believe and how to live in the world. As a mirror, it reflects back to us things that we might pass over, ignore or otherwise miss.... Youth culture in its most basic sense maps out life for our kids. For those of us who are adults, it helps us see the maps our kids are following so that we can offer biblical affirmation or correctives where needed.”
Theological and pastoral conversations regarding human sexuality are critical to ministry in the 21st century. It is imperative that the church, led by God’s Spirit, studies God’s Word so that we may minister in ways that communicate God’s created intent for us and point people to him.
How can you prepare for these critical days?
1. Whether or not you are attending the study conference: pray! Pray for leaders, presenters, delegates. Pray for the Spirit to pour out on the gathering. Pray for God to be honoured through our interaction. Pray that we will apply Scripture faithfully and courageously. Pray for hope and healing for attendees’ personal stories.
2. If you cannot attend, watch the plenary sessions on the live webcast. (See gmmitv.com)
3. Read the materials in the suggested reading list. (See studyconference.mennonitebrethren.ca/prep-materials/)
4. Commit to speaking with and listening respectfully to those we may not agree with.
—Willy Reimer is executive director of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. He lives in Calgary.