Christian rock band
Although our idea of what’s all that and a bag of chips has shifted since the ’90s, young people still express the desire to be Jesus freaks through music.
Do you know the names of the band and/or the people in this photo (which we suspect is from the 1990s)? Help CMBS identify them by emailing identifying information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Members of the band got in touch to fill in the gaps in our knowledge.
The name of the band is “Life Forever”, a Kansas City area based band from the 80’s and 90’s, Byron Funk wrote via email.
Keyboard – Russ Friesen, bass guitar – Byron Funk, drums – Carson Richert, guitar – Steve Friesen. Several band members are still involved in Community Bible Church (MB) in Olathe, Kan.
This photo from the Centre for MB Studies (NP149-1-1555) is available to the public in collaboration with MAID: the Mennonite Archival Image Database. Research or purchase images from Mennonite churches and organizations at archives.mhsc.ca.
Learn more about the Mennonite Archival Image Database
Updated Jan 31, 2019
The relevance of HERstory
A word from the curator
Museums are not just for tourists and history buffs. Historical and cultural centres can be invaluable guides for navigating the socio-cultural milieu of today, bringing broader perspectives to bear on the issues we face as individuals, within the church, and in society.
The Metzger Collection, a biblical-historical museum located at Columbia Bible College, Abbotsford, B.C., vigilantly pursues this vision. Its current feature exhibit, “A Selection in HERstory: Important Women in Christian History You’ve Probably Never Heard of (But Should),” is not merely an exercise in historical interest for the historically interested. It rises out of a desire to seek justice and the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom both within the discipline of history and in our contemporary context.
As manager of the Metzger Collection and instructor of history at Columbia, I see all too well that History tends to focus on men to the exclusion and marginalization of women’s voices in the past. Part of the vision behind this exhibit is to push back against this trend in favour of greater equity.
Why does this matter?
A telling of the story of history almost exclusively with men – typically powerful white men – as both the authors and the subject matter results in a narrow and skewed view of history.
If we knowingly or unknowingly allow such history to shape our values and viewpoints today, we not only buy into a narrow outlook ourselves, but participate in and compound the marginalization of women both in the past and today.
The HERstory exhibit has particular relevance in the social climate of #MeToo and #ChurchToo. These movements all the more help us see the injustice of failing to pay attention to alternative voices.
Beyond the act of paying attention to women in history, the HERstory exhibit participates in the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom through the witness of the women’s voices themselves. Their exemplary stories display hearts aflame for God, lived out in powerful ways despite the challenges and obstacles they would have faced.
I have been inspired by the witness of women like Perpetua and Felicity, third-century North African martyrs. Master and slave (respectively), they challenged the social inequalities of the day by standing arm-in-arm as equals in Christ while awaiting their death by wild animals and gladiators.
As a Mennonite, I am strikingly challenged by the pacifist witness of 20th-century Catholic Dorothy Day. Rather than sit on her hands when confronted by the plight of the homeless and unemployed people around her, she welcomed them as Christ, opened her doors, established Houses of Hospitality, and even went to prison for her peaceful protests on behalf of others.
My hope for this exhibit is to help open our eyes to see the untold HERstories (as well as other narratives from the margins) that lie under the surface, both in history and in our midst.
Such histories expand our horizons of the ways that Christ is at work. The individual stories can inspire and empower us to similarly rise above the challenges and obstacles we face today. They call us as ambassadors of Christ to witness to and impact the world around us in peaceful but persistent ways.
is an instructor of history at Columbia Bible College, Abbotsford, B.C., a Mennonite Brethren-affiliated school, and manager of the Metzger Collection, a museum owned and operated by the college.
A persistent influence
Women throughout history with a passion for God
When I think about great theologians, philosophers, missionaries, and politicians, it is often men’s names that come to mind.
My church tradition of origin does not include women as official members of the clergy, so my experience of women in pastoral roles is limited as well.
Even the amazing women of Scripture can often be forgotten and passed over in favour of better-known stories.
This has always frustrated me.
I felt burdened by my own ambitions and desire for full involvement both within the church and in the world at large.
For a long time, I believed I would have to blaze my own trail and upend the status quo in order to achieve my goals. It was an exciting thought, yes, but also a daunting prospect.
Working on the HERstory exhibit has helped me to understand that the women of my generation do not have to claw out a place for themselves from scratch. Rather, we stand on the shoulders of martyrs and mystics, political activists, adventurers, and artists from all walks of life.
The exhibit highlights just a few of the incredible women who pursued the calling of God in their lives with an integrity and passion that demanded recognition even in periods much less empowering toward women than our own. One of them, Hildegard von Bingen, has been a personal inspiration to me.
This 12th-century abbess wrote books, plays, and hundreds of musical compositions, leading her community in creative worship of God. She experienced visions all her life, but it wasn’t until she was in her 40s that she shared her visions. She heard an audible call to write, then spent months of internal debate before recording her visions in Scivias. Her works, preaching, and correspondence with political and religious leaders gave her significant lasting influence.
Hildegard’s courageous lifestyle of faith and holistic view of spirituality and worship inspire and challenge me to seek out a more personal, tangible relationship with the God who interacted with her and continues to move among his people today.
Though their lives are unfortunately unknown to many, women like Hildegard have left a persistent influence on their own traditions of faith, the church as a whole, and society at large.
Each of the women featured in the HERstory exhibit brings unique perspectives that are influenced by the socio-spiritual reality of their femininity as they reflect the nature of God.
I believe that it is incredibly significant for the church to understand the beautiful legacy of women throughout the ages, adopt their passion for the heart of God, and inspire future generations of men and women to empower one another toward better serving our Lord, the church, and the world around us.
is a student at Columbia Bible College who has both volunteered and worked in the Metzger Collection. She was particularly involved in helping to prepare the HERstory exhibit.
A prayer journey
The funny thing about prayer is that it usually takes unceasing intercession to see God work out answers. Often the response (or the solution we want) isn’t forthcoming, so we give up.
I learned how to pray around the family breakfast table as my parents read Our Daily Bread and the prayer requests from the Sunday morning church bulletin. Those prayers always included family, friends, neighbours, and the work of the church locally and abroad.
Prayer that listens
But during my first ministry assignment as associate pastor at Cariboo Bethel Church in Williams Lake, B.C., I learned the difference between praying through a list of requests and interceding for God’s Kingdom to be known on earth as it is in heaven.
My friend Dave discipled me to listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, then intercede in that direction.
I had to let God grow the vision in me before he could use me to grow it in others.
It changed the way I ministered to people.
I began to call upon God to accomplish what he needed in each of us so God’s Kingdom could continue to advance in our church, our neighbourhood, our city, country, and beyond.
Prayer that walks
Each Sunday morning, I would arrive at church early, so I could pray through the sanctuary without disruption. Walking back and forth through the rows of pews, I prayed for those who regularly sat in those spaces and those who would come in as visitors.
I prayed that the voice of the Holy Spirit would be heard through the music and message, through the prayers and the reading of Scripture.
I prayed that people would care for each other, sensing the needs of the person beside them and turning to minister in that moment.
I prayed that the time spent together in worship would flow out into how people lived out their lives the rest of the week.
Over the years, God changed the way the church ministered, lived, and reached out. And the church grew.
Prayer that inspires
Three years later, God called me to Kitchener (Ont.) MB Church (KMB) as a youth pastor.
There, I continued to arrive early every Sunday morning to pray through the rows of pews for the people who came and the work God desired to accomplish.
I had the privilege of mentoring many youth and young adults to live as followers of Jesus in daily life. Like Dave taught me, I showed them how to listen for the Spirit and intercede.
In my 11 years there, I saw numerous answers to intercessions while other prayers remained unaddressed and, at times, God seemed silent.
From KMB Church, I eventually found myself at her daughter church – WMB Church in Waterloo, Ont. – first as interim worship pastor and then as seniors ministry pastor.
What a joy to again walk the rows each Sunday morning, prayerfully interceding for those who come to worship, listen, and discover the joy of knowing a God who loves them and calls them into his Kingdom.
In response to the praying church, people are committing their lives to Jesus, being baptized, and becoming disciples of Christ and disciplers of others. God moves on the knees of intercession.
Prayer that renews
This past winter and spring, a conversation started between KMB and WMB – from mother to daughter church – exploring ways that God’s Kingdom might continue to grow in the twin cities and in the two church families.
The former have aged and are in decline, but still desire to be a vibrant light in their neighbourhood. KMB decided in late spring to work toward a merger of the two churches into one church in two locations.
Because of my history with KMB, I was asked to serve there Sundays during the summer months.
It was a sort of coming full circle as I showed up early at the same church, to pray through the same pews, for the same people at a different stage of life 29 years later.
I once again had the privilege of encouraging the people – now seniors – whom I’d gotten to know as the parents of the members of my youth and young adult groups.
I continue to pray for the many people God desires to bring to himself. I look forward to seeing God’s Kingdom come and his will be done in response to the intercession of both church units.
Through KMB’s selfless act of releasing their church into the hands of their daughter church, God is again using this aging church to breathe the new life of the Spirit.
Shortly after the merger agreement was ratified, the WMB staff prayed through KMB Church together. As we held hands and walked worshipfully through the rows of pews, I caught a glimpse of God’s glory and pleasure in seeing his people pursuing him on their knees in intercession.
May our prayers never cease even though we don’t always see the fruit!
GARETH J GOOSSEN
is seniors ministry pastor at WMB Church in Waterloo, Ont.
Read more about KMB and WMB
The gospel and education for the oppressed Batwa in DR Congo
The people of whom we speak live deep in the equatorial forest, far from passable roads, between the great rivers, below the villages and the great trees. They are still subject to apartheid – marginalization, oppression – and they are deprived of land rights, forgotten even by Christians. They have been called Pygmies, but their real name is Batwa.
Worse than a slave
For the Bantu (majority people group in DRC), ancestral tradition teaches that a Pygmy (or Motwa, in Batwa parlance) is not a person but a thing, a good, a slave, even though he or she appears like a human being.
This is why their Bantu neighbours make the Batwa work for no payment and forbid them from going to school or hospital among the general populace. The Batwa may not eat or drink with the Bantus, nor walk side by side with them.
In certain churches within the region, the Batwa are not admitted to membership. The Batwa may not sit on the same bench as the Bantu worshippers, nor greet them with a handshake; their place is at the back of the church.
They are not admitted to the priesthood – not allowed to preach, perform baptisms or marriages for the Bantu.
The image of God
But since I have begun visiting them in the course of my evangelism work of church planting in the Kiri, Bikoro
and Mbandaka regions (Matthew 28:16–20), I’ve discovered that the Batwa are a beautiful people. They are very
different from my own people, but they are wonderful, created in the image of God and gifted with many underappreciated
Despite the challenges of access posed by their rustic living conditions, remote location, and geographical inaccessibility, the Batwa need the holistic salvation of Jesus Christ. We have no argument – theological, racial, cultural, social, or geographical – before God to not teach them to become disciples of Christ.
And so, the Conférence des Eglises des Frères Mennonites en RD Congo (CEFMC – Congolese MB church) began an evangelism work among the Batwa in 1998, the fruits of which are encouraging despite numerous social challenges: they have a different approach to nudity, are mostly illiterate, they lack title to their land, and experience severe discrimination and objectification by the majority peoples of DRC.
By the grace of God, despite our financial and material challenges, this missionary work counts 34 local churches today among the Batwa, with 2,475 baptized members, six primary schools supported by offerings in the CEFMC to give free schooling to Batwa children, and four pastors trained at Bible school. The denomination has also purchased land for the new converts to farm and settle on.
To build a new generation of people – both Batwa and Bantu – saved by the gospel of Jesus Christ, living together
and growing in Christian unity, our current vision in CEFMC is to provide scholarships for Batwa and Bantu students to attend our school. We will continue to build schools for Batwa children, and to establish a medical clinic for the children and for the women who are often raped and forced to give birth without assistance. We want to foster true, holistic reconciliation between Bantu, Batwa, and God.
This requires tireless efforts from every Christian. The people of CEFMC offer prayers, school uniforms and supplies, and finances ($4USD per month). Education is a good channel to show true love to these people who have suffered so much. We want to share the gospel and the love that comes from God.
MVWALA C . KATSHINGA
is a missiologist, a linguist, and a Bible translation consultant in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Associate pastor of a local congregation in Kinshasa, he directs the mission department of CEFMC (the MB conference in DR Congo). He is also a lecturer at the National Teachers’ Training University and at the University Centre of Missiology in Kinshasa, DRC.
Translated from French by Karla Braun.
Candace House opened in November 2018, less than a block from the Law Courts building in Winnipeg. A long-cherished dream of the Derksens’, this homey space is an escape for the families of victims who are going through trial.
“The courthouse is not a warm place,” says executive director Cecilly Hildebrand. “A trial is emotionally and physically
The first of its kind, Candace House provides a private place – including kitchen, bathroom, living area – to process some of
that in a space that feels like home.
Within days of opening, a family from out of town who were involved in a trial stopped by and spent several hours. Candace House is now part of our family, they said as they left.
“We’ve done it,” says Hildebrand as she relates the story. She hopes the “healing haven” will help something beautiful come
out of the pain that enters.
CCMBC payroll service is a gift for administrators
“The benefit of using CCMBC’s payroll service is having a friendly person to talk to who understands ministry and knows MB churches,” says Marilyn Ens, finance director and human resources administrator at North Langley (B.C.) Community Church, which currently has 29 staff, including their internship program.
The church of about 1,400 attenders on two campuses has taken advantage of CCMBC’s payroll service for more than a decade. “I appreciate that we’re supporting our own conference,” says Ens.
Rather than feeling alone, when changes such as a retirement, maternity leave, or short-term disability come up for the first time, Ens is grateful she can talk through them with Wanda Thiessen, with the confidence of knowing everything she shares is confidential.
It’s also cost-effective.
“Especially for smaller churches it would be a ‘no brainer’ to use the conference,” says Ens, “but even for us, at only $5/person/payroll, I couldn’t find anything else that affordable.”
“It’s worth every penny,” says Broadway Church administrator Joanne Dekkers.
For the congregation of about 200 in Chilliwack, B.C., with a small staff, moderator Barrie McMaster says, “It’s been a gift.”
“Many churches have a new volunteer treasurer every year or two, which can lead to inconsistency,” says Char
Hildebrand, CCMBC payroll and benefits manager.
“The conference has four payroll staff who are up-to-date on Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) regulations and ready to serve.”
Hildebrand lists the items the conference can take off church staff and volunteers’ plates:
- deposit employees’ pay directly into their bank accounts;
- process withdrawals for payroll costs including pension and benefits directly from the church’s bank account;
- send monthly remittances for taxes, employment insurance, and Canada Pension Plan to CRA;
- issue T4s and Records of Employment.
“It frees me up to do everything else!” says Dekkers. “I love the online service” where churches can report part-time hours and print off payroll documents.
Recently, their congregation had an employee become ill. “I don’t know what we would have done without the expertise at the conference,” says McMaster.
“They had wise counsel and bent over backwards to make the medical leave possible.”
“I can’t imagine doing as well for our employee as we did, without the incredible help of this CCMBC ministry.” The staff member is back in full capacity, which McMaster credits to the knowledgeable support of CCMBC.
“As a Christian organization, we want to treat our staff right,” says McMaster. “And Char was there with helpful advice.”
“I wish other churches knew how easy it is, how freeing it is,” says Dekkers. “I can’t say enough about it. Not having to do payroll makes me want to sing.”
“It’s expertise we don’t have to have under our roof because we have it under the larger roof of the conference,” says McMaster.
“This is one of the things we can do for each other as a family of churches.”
To sign up for payroll services or to learn more, contact the payroll team.
From a boat on the Sea of Galilee, a fisherman demonstrates the ancient art of casting a circular net. Weights along the outer edge sink rapidly, pulling the web around any living thing below. Waters next to Jesus’ ministry base at Capernaum teemed with tilapia, carp, and sardines when his first disciples plied their trade.
Fishing was a significant part of the regional economy in the first century, evidenced by names of nearby towns: Bethsaida (“house of fishing”) was hometown to Peter, Andrew, and Philip; Taricheae (“pickled fish town,” called Magdala in Hebrew) probably was home to Mary Magdalene.
Disciples of Jesus appear in the Gospels variously mending nets, fishing all night, counting fish, extracting a
coin from the mouth of a fish, and eating seafood breakfast on the beach with the risen Christ.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind,” Jesus told his
followers. “When it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire” (Matthew 13:47–50 NRSV).
At a time when some Christian denominations excommunicate or divide over contested matters, Jesus’ fishing parable is instructive.
Galilean fishermen typically used nets, not hooks, to harvest their catch. Evangelism and church discipline, according to this imagery, are broad and inclusive. Nobody gets hooked individually by ruse or violence. Rather, the wide embrace of a net draws in a motley and diverse catch. At the end of the age, these get sorted –
not by you and me, but by angels.
How tempted I am to start sorting now!
Toss out fish whose politics irritate me.
Discard those not to my taste.
Get rid of any whose views don’t seem biblical according to how I interpret the Bible.
But instead of putting you and me into the sorting business, Jesus implies that we are to cast a wide net.
“Follow me, and I will make you [net] fish for people,” he said (Matthew 4:19).
Other biblical images likewise suggest that Jesus advocated an inclusive people-gathering. The kingdom
of heaven is like a farmer’s field with both wheat and weeds, he taught. These grow side by side until harvest,
then reapers (angels?) sort them and destroy the worthless plants (Matthew 13:24–30).
In John’s Apocalypse, it is Christ who can remove lampstands (congregations), not the churches themselves
Our Lord did not suggest that belief and behaviour are irrelevant to salvation. There are consequences for those who do not measure up. When God brings harvest at the end of the age, weeds will go up in smoke and bad fish end up in the furnace, “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” We do well to learn, practise and teach what God requires for holy living.
But thank God, we can focus on net-casting and let God do the sorting.
J. NELSON KRAYBILL is the president of Mennonite World Conference. He lives in Indiana. This article was adapted from “Holy Land Peace Pilgrim” (May 5, 2018, peace-pilgrim.com). MWC is a community of Anabaptist-related churches; the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches is a member.
One day I was in the tourist information office just inside Jerusalem’s Old City, at Jaffa Gate, when a young tourist asked, “How do I walk to Bethlehem?”
I took notice. Nice idea, I thought.
But I was shocked by the answer: “Oh, you can’t do that. You can’t walk to Bethlehem.”
The tourist walked out of the office shaking his head. I was right behind him.
I took him aside and pointed across the Hinnom Valley. “That road will take you straight to Bethlehem. It’s only eight kilometers.”
The magi in Matthew’s Gospel, like this young tourist, arrive in Jerusalem, thinking that someone in the city should know the whereabouts of this newborn king.
What a magnificent sight these astrophysicists, scholars of the stars, must have been with their entourage. Those magi, stargazers, singing, field and fountain, moor and mountain….
But Matthew’s story of Jesus’ birth tells us nothing about singing magi or angel choirs. He tells us instead about political intrigue. Secret negotiations. Refugees fleeing for their lives. The killing of children. The story is downright chilling.
Except we know there’s a twist because of the question the magi ask: “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.”
Fear on the throne
Let’s imagine ourselves in Jerusalem’s marketplace on the day the magi walk into town. What do we hear? What’s Herod going to do next? Where will he build his next fortress? Whom will he eliminate? Will Herod finally seek professional help for his paranoia?
And then, this one – the one that makes all heads turn, that sends informants scurrying to the royal palace: “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?”
“When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him.”
In no time, the coffee shops would be buzzing.
You’re sitting in a back corner of Judah’s Falafel Shop playing backgammon. All around you are murmurs: “Who’s frightened? Why?”
You know why. Herod was crazy, having murdered his own two sons and his wife Mariamne.
“King of the Jews?” Sounds like insurrection. A usurper to the throne.
So Herod acts quickly. “Calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.”
This is no theological discussion. It’s political and motivated by fear. Herod dominates all political and religious institutions. (It is rumoured that he even disguised himself and mingled with the people in order to find out for himself what they thought about him.)
If Herod is afraid, everyone is afraid.
This is not an optional invitation. Memo: “For those interested, please come to my office to discuss possible birthplace of the Messiah.”
And so, leaders play it safe. They quote Old Testament texts. They blend together Micah 5:2 and, oddly, 2 Samuel 5:2. “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.”
They give the standard answer, or so one might think. Herod would never catch the allusion in the last line of their biblical quotation, “who is to shepherd my people Israel.”
But some would have heard echoes of Ezekiel 34: “Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves. Should not shepherds feed the sheep?… You have not strengthened the weak…. You have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them.”
We get the hint. Talking about a “King of the Jews” means trouble. So Herod secretly calls the magi to a meeting.
Worship on the ground
After asking a few questions, he smiles politely and suggests, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”
This sounds like what happens in one of those old fairy tales. The wicked king pretends to go along with the plan, but we know he’s plotting something sinister.
But the magi suspect nothing. “When they had heard the king, they set out;… When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they fell down and worshipped him.”
The first emotion in the story was Herod’s fear. Now, by contrast, the magi are overwhelmed with joy. They fall to the ground and worship. The NRSV of Matthew 2:11 reads, “They knelt down and paid him homage.”
It sounds like quite a dignified scene. But elsewhere in Matthew these words are freighted with meaning.
Twice in this text we find the verb “pay homage.” But in verse 11, the words are exactly the same as those used by the devil in the temptation story in chapter 4: “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.
The point Matthew makes here, and in the temptation story, is that this act of “kneeling and paying homage,” or “falling down and worshipping,” is about recognizing what claims our allegiance.
We could linger here, but the story goes on. “Opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.” Matthew knows that after Jesus is born, it’s no longer politics as usual.
Isn’t it ironic that those in power, who know the Scriptures, don’t follow through to the discovery because they are too caught up in self-interest? And so they miss the point.
The overwhelming joy of the magi could be theirs. But for Herod and the religious establishment, too much is at stake.
Fear leads to holding on, to grasping. Joy leads to giving away, to letting go.
The first to let go
Isn’t it strange that these astrologers respond so readily to the signs God gives them? Maybe they are the first, of whom Jesus speaks later in the Gospel, who will come from the east and the west to eat at Abraham’s table (8:11).
Maybe the magi are the first who demonstrate what it means to seek first the kingdom of heaven (Mathew 6:33). To give away resources for the sake of the kingdom. To recognize that letting go of abundance is the first and necessary response to the joy of discovering the shepherd of Israel.
Jesus, in the end, doesn’t escape the fate of the children killed by Herod. Pilate, the Roman governor, also asks about the “King of the Jews.”
T.S. Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi” describes the visitors from the east who see “three trees on the low sky” and “six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver.” Matthew, it seems, wants the end foreshadowed at the beginning (ICC, 254).
Herod and Pilate, along with the religious establishment, have it all wrong. This king comes, as Matthew puts it, “humble and riding on a donkey.” This king does not assume politics as usual.
“It’s easy to get to Bethlehem,” I said to the young tourist in Jerusalem. (This was before the separation wall.)
I should have added: “But look out for Herod in all his disguises. He wants to keep things as they are.
“And when you get to Bethlehem, be prepared to be surprised by joy. What you discover…no – whom you discover – will reorder your loyalties forever. It happened to the magi; it can happen to you.”
[Gordon Matties is professor emeritus of biblical and theological studies at Canadian Mennonite University. He attends River East Church, Winnipeg.
The National Ministry Team is a strategic group of senior staff who work collaboratively to accomplish national vision within the Mennonite Brethren family in Canada. It is comprised of provincial conference leaders, the seminary president, church planting and global mission directors from Multiply, the national faith and life director, and the national director of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. The NMT casts vision for Canadian MB churches, and prepares a budget and strategic plan for presentation at provincial assemblies.
PHILIP A. GUNTHER
Director of ministry, Saskatchewan Conference of MB Churches
On the local church: My greatest joy in serving the churches of SKMB is meeting fellow
The most significant challenge is being at peace with offering encouragement and entrusting
Recommended resource: Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman. A tremendous source of
National faith and life director, Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches
On the local church: At Glencairn MB Church, Kitchener, Ont., I continue to be involved in global mission ministry, teach Bible classes, lead a life group, serve as a sounding board for church ministry leaders, and preach occasionally.
Recommended resource: Tim Mackie from The Bible Project website and Exploring My Strange Bible podcast. I appreciate Tim’s passion for Jesus and the Old Testament narrative. He leans on biblical rather than systematic theology and he is a huge Hebrew and Greek geek, so I identify.
Conference minister, B.C. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches
On the local church: I support my wife Janet who serves as executive pastor at my home church. I am engaged in discipleship with young men through Freedom Session. I love praying for and encouraging my pastor Matthew Price.
Recommended listening: The Jordan B Peterson Podcast, Menlo.Church – sermon audio (John Ortberg)
My prayer for the conference this year: May we continue to build unity and develop thenew collaborative model to multiply our national impact.
President, MB Seminary
On the local church: Jennifer and I are co-leaders of a community group at Central Heights Church, Abbotsford, B.C.
Recommended reading: Water from a Deep Well: Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries by Gerald L. Sittser
Best pastoral advice: “Left to themselves, Christians will always take care of themselves; it is the responsibility of the pastor to lead them outward.” The longer that I’ve been involved in ministry, the more that I’ve seen this to be true. Great things happen when we live and lead outward and away from our self-interests!
The National Ministry Team exists to inspire, equip, and encourage the church for effective ministry and mission in Canada and beyond.
What does Mennonite Brethren theology have in common with that of other Christian denominations? And what are the distinctive emphases of Mennonite Brethren theology? Informed by Scripture, our Confession of Faith names the perspectives through which we read God’s Word in order to live as Christ’s followers. This series by the Board of Faith and Life explores the 18 articles of this formative document.
Christianity and Other Faiths
A reflection on Christianity and Other Faiths in the Mennonite Brethren Confession of Faith rightly begins with an emphasis on the God whom Christians worship.
Such an emphasis highlights who God is and what God has done in and for this created world.
Called to bear witness
God’s provision of sovereign grace in Jesus Christ, the divine work of reconciliation, the gift of witness given to all the world, the offering of the kind of love and judgment that are expressions of God’s ‘being,’ along with an eternal commitment to communicating all of these perfections (and more, of course) – it is this to which Christians are called to bear witness to a waiting world.
This call might also be understood as an invitation to participate in the work of the triune God who is already at work in the world, breaking down the walls of hostility (Ephesians 2), healing broken relationships, and bearing witness to what Jesus Christ has accomplished by his incarnation, life, teachings, death, resurrection, ascension, and his eternal presence in his body, the church.
Everything Jesus has done for the world in the power of the Holy Spirit is available to all, asserts Article 17, and therefore the Christian is called to make known this good news, trusting that God will continue to communicate that news “in ways that are beyond human comprehension.” It is important to acknowledge that latter kind of communication is for Christians too: we need those messages from God as much as, or more than, anyone else.
A marginalized faith
The society in which we participate in God’s work today does not readily find the Christian message plausible.
In past times, Western society functioned as a Christian society, by which I do not mean that everyone believed the gospel; rather, as Robert Jenson puts it, “the gospel was what one believed if he or she believed anything at all.”
However, living in a pluralistic society as a marginalized faith is nothing new for Christians – at least the first couple hundred years of our existence was like that. The implications for us then are that we ought to work hard to resist postures of triumphalism, superiority, distorted exclusiveness, or the flattening of all faiths into one amorphous category that leaves them all as generic versions of all the others.
Rather, our faith in God, our dependence on the work of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, motivates us in a multi-faith context to pursue the mission of our calling with humility, trust, and joy.
The model of Jesus
We rely on the model of Jesus to shape our incarnational mission of loving God, being friends with our neighbours (recognizing that our conventional understanding of who is our neighbour is itself shaped by Jesus’s teaching; see Luke 10:25–37, for example), loving our enemies, pursuing inter-faith dialogue – as Christians, because we are Christians – working in solidarity with other faiths for the common good, as we seek the peace of the city in which we find ourselves (see Jeremiah 29).
Article 17 – the three subtitles of which confess that Jesus is the only way, that God expresses a universal witness, and that God is sovereign – is not a call for Christians to sort out and draw conclusions about the eternal destinies of specific individuals or groups of people.
To affirm that Jesus is the only way is inextricably linked to the belief that God has not left anyone without God’s own witness and all of this is in God’s hands.
Joyous Christian freedom
To confess these truths is to open up a joyous Christian freedom – freedom that begins its expression in worship, carries forward its mission in declaring God’s love for the world, and lives in that world. We live in joyous Christian freedom as a witness to the love, peace, and reconciliation always being offered to us as God’s gracious gift, for which we give thanks.
The Liturgical Readings for Article 17, which accompany the MB Confession of Faith, includes the following lines, which serve as a prayer for our conference of churches:
Open our ears, that we might listen and learn
from all the human family.
In the same way, open our mouths,
that we also might humbly share
what we have seen and heard and touched.
[Paul Doerksen is associate professor of theology and Anabaptist studies at Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg.
Resources used: Confession of Faith; Liturgical Resources; Pastoral Application; Robert Jenson, Theology in Outline: Can These Bones Live?; and material from CMU colleague Harry Huebner’s ongoing work with Mennonite/Muslim Dialogues
Other articles in the Confession of Faith series
Une réflexion sur le christianisme et les autres religions dans la Confession de foi des frères mennonites commence, de préférence, par la considération du Dieu que les chrétiens adorent.
Un tel point de départ fait ressortir la personne de Dieu et ce qu’il a accompli en et pour ce monde créé.
Appelés à être témoins
La grâce souveraine de Dieu dispensée en Jésus-Christ, l’œuvre divine de la réconciliation, le témoignage offert comme un don au monde, l’amour et le jugement en tant qu’expressions de la nature de Dieu ainsi que l’engagement éternel de Dieu à communiquer toutes ces perfections (et bien plus encore) – c’est de ceci que les chrétiens sont appelés à témoigner à un monde en attente.
Cet appel peut aussi être pris dans le sens d’une invitation à participer à l’activité d’un Dieu trinitaire qui ne cesse d’œuvrer dans le monde, à renverser les murs d’inimité (Éphésiens 2), à guérir les relations brisées, et à témoigner de ce que Jésus-Christ a accompli par son incarnation, sa vie, ses enseignements, sa mort et sa résurrection, son ascension, et sa présence perpétuelle dans son corps, l’Église.
L’article 17 affirme que tout ce que Jésus a accompli pour le monde par la puissance du Saint-Esprit est accessible à tous et, de ce fait, le chrétien est appelé à faire connaître la bonne nouvelle, confiant que Dieu continuera à communiquer cette nouvelle « par des moyens qui dépassent notre compréhension humaine. » Il est essentiel d’admettre que les chrétiens ont également besoin de cette dernière forme de communication : nous avons besoin de ces messages de Dieu autant, sinon plus que quiconque.
Une foi marginalisée
La société dans laquelle nous participons aujourd’hui trouve le message chrétien peu convaincant.
Par le passé, la société occidentale fonctionnait comme une société chrétienne, même si je n’entends pas par cela que tous croyaient en l’Évangile ; plutôt, comme disait Robert Jenson : « l’Évangile était ce qu’une personne croyait si elle croyait en quelque chose. »
Toutefois, vivre une foi marginalisée dans une société pluraliste n’a rien de nouveau pour les chrétiens – c’était le cas pendant au moins les deux cents premières années de notre existence. Par conséquent, cela sous-entend que nous devrions travailler dur pour résister aux attitudes de triomphalisme, de supériorité, d’exclusivité déformée et éviter d’aplanir toutes les religions pour en faire une catégorie informe qui réduit chacune à une version générique de toutes les autres.
Notre foi en Dieu, notre dépendance sur l’œuvre de Jésus-Christ et sur la puissance du Saint-Esprit devrait plutôt nous motiver à poursuivre notre mission avec humilité, confiance et joie dans un contexte multi religieux.
Le modèle de Jésus
Nous nous fions au modèle de Jésus pour façonner notre mission d’incarner un Dieu d’amour, de nous lier d’amitié avec nos prochains (tout en reconnaissant que notre compréhension du sens du mot « prochain » se base sur l’enseignement de Jésus, voir par exemple Luc10.25-37), d’aimer nos ennemis, de poursuivre un dialogue inter religieux – en tant que chrétiens, parce que nous sommes chrétiens – de travailler en solidarité avec d’autres religions pour le bien commun, alors que nous recherchons la paix de la ville dans laquelle nous résidons (voir Jérémie 29).
L’article 17 – les trois sous-titres qui confessent que Jésus est le seul chemin, le témoin universel de Dieu et la souveraineté de Dieu n’appellent pas le chrétien à examiner des cas de personnes ou de groupes ni à statuer sur leurs destinées éternelles.
Proclamer que Jésus est le seul chemin est inextricablement lié à la croyance que Dieu n’a laissé personne sans un témoignage de Lui et que tout cela repose entre les mains de Dieu.
La joyeuse liberté du chrétien
Confesser ces vérités ouvre la voie à une joyeuse liberté chrétienne – une liberté qui commence son expression dans la louange, qui poursuit sa mission en déclarant l’amour de Dieu pour le monde et qui incarne cet amour dans ce monde. Cette joyeuse liberté chrétienne témoigne de l’amour, de la paix et de la réconciliation que Dieu nous offre en permanence comme un don et pour lequel nous rendons grâce.
Le texte suivant est tiré des lectures liturgiques de l’article 17 qui se trouvent dans la version anglaise de la Confession de foi des frères mennonites et sert de prière pour notre Conférence des Églises :
Ouvre nos oreilles, que nous puissions écouter et apprendre
de toute la famille humaine.
De même, ouvre nos bouches,
que nous puissions partager en toute humilité
ce que nous avons contemplé, entendu et touché.
is associate professor of theology and Anabaptist studies.
Resources: Confession of Faith; Liturgical Resources; Pastoral Application
Jenson, Robert. Theology in Outline: Can These Bones Live?
CMU professor Harry Huebner’s ongoing work with Mennonite/Muslim dialogue