Michelle Knowles is a natural connector. Tapped into her God-given gift of vision for the global church, Michelle found her way through many expressions of faith over her life, eventually landing in the MB Church. Pastoring at WMB with her husband, Adam, she now finds herself representing her home province of Ontario on the Executive Board.
“Jesus has been part of my life for as long as I can remember,” Michelle says, “I look at my life story and as I’ve grown up there’s been different challenges over the years. I’ve struggled with my mental health and questions of self-esteem and self-image,” she remembers, “Through all those challenges Jesus was always with me and always speaking truth and bringing healing and freedom.”
At twelve years old Michelle had an encounter with Jesus while on a family vacation.
“I had this powerful moment where Jesus spoke to me. He told me he loved me, and he wanted me to live. I told myself that if Jesus loves me when I’m not sure if I love or like myself then I’m going to live and I’m going to give my life to Jesus. That was a life changing moment of surrender. It was so significant. It set the course for my life.”
For the next few decades that experience would shape how Michelle lived out her faith.
Aligning with her values
After high school Michelle attended Wilfred Laurier University to pursue a degree in Kinesiology and Physical Education. During that time, she felt God’s call into vocational ministry. She found that the MB church fit her convictions and values and attended WMB Church in Waterloo, ON, a common church for university students to attend in the area. She was baptized there in 2005 and went on to participate in missions through Youth Mission International. She went to Mexico for a month while in university and on that trip she had another formative faith experience.
“That was really life changing for me being there with our Mexican brothers and sisters, worshiping together and praying together. Being part of their church really stirred something in me and God gave me a passion to be part of the global church,” she recalls. “It shifted how I saw God, saw his kingdom and how I read Scripture,” she describes. Her faith was invigorated, and she developed a desire to connect with other Christians both far and wide.
“I recognized how much we need one another and how much we have to offer one another. My faith isn’t complete on my own,” she says.
Throughout adolescence, college, and into adulthood, Michelle continued to have struggles with her mental health, relying on various support systems but especially on Jesus.
“Jesus set me on a course and brought peers around me, youth leaders, and scripture,” she says. Now, years later, Michelle talks about her journey with mental health and healing from the pulpit!
“I’ve seen how God has called me into spaces to be open and transparent with my journey,” she says. “We all have wounds and brokenness. It’s not something that’s talked about as much as it needs to be. I think God is bringing renewal to the church in this season.”
Michelle and her husband Adam are focusing on inner healing work that they believe God wants to do in their church.
“Receiving His Spirit and allowing him to be our Lord and Savior, he gives us access to his healing work in our lives. It’s rarely, though sometimes, a one and done. It’s allowing Jesus to shine a light on the dark areas of our lives,” she explains.
Building a bridge
In 2010 Michelle joined the staff at WMB and has worked several different roles while there. With Michelle’s formative faith experiences in her younger years, it was natural to be a pastor at an MB church. With her she brought the desire to connect both nationally and globally. She identifies herself as a bridge builder and connector of people!
In 2012 Michelle was asked to join the Board in the Ontario Conference. She has completed two rounds on the Ontario board.
“I learned a lot and loved the gift of investing into the broader conference and connecting with other churches.”
In 2022 Michelle became the chair of the Ontario Board which led her to representing Ontario on the Executive Board.
“As a younger leader I can sit there because of those who have gone before me and made a way. Being on the Executive Board has been an amazing experience. I’m there and I can’t believe I’m there! It’s a privilege and gift to be sitting around the table with these people who have been in ministry for decades. I get to learn from them and be welcomed among them. It’s a little mind blowing sometimes!” Michelle says of her time on the Executive Board.
Michelle’s hope is to continue to build upcoming generations in the church and bring new leaders into the fold to carry the work forward.
“It’s the mission that drives us,” she says, “We’re one piece of the broader family of Christ. What’s the piece that God has for us, and how do we be faithful to that?
Being a woman in ministry
As the perspectives have shifted in the MB church on women in leadership, Michelle believes she arrived in the church at a good time for women.
“I’m thankful to say that it’s been nearly all positive and healthy,” she says. Being a woman was never a deterrent for Michelle’s ministry.
“With my background in global leadership, there are cultures that don’t allow women in leadership,” she explains, “When I go, I go to serve in the way God has for me. I don’t go to bring change. I go to be open to what God has for me and to learn from others and encourage others. I want to take the same posture with my brothers and sisters in Canada,” she says.
Michelle has been particularly grateful for the women who have modeled leadership for her. Growing up she was surrounded by female leadership and never experienced being a woman as a barrier to ministry.
Her view on her role is that it is a placement from God for ministry because of who she is.
“I think I have the role that God has for me, and on some level that’s the same for all of us [executives] around the table. We each have our own perspective and how Jesus has been part of that, and we bring it back to the table. And I bring how Jesus is at work in me today.”
When Michelle isn’t pastoring, sitting on boards, or hanging out with her family, she loves to tap into her athletic side and play recreational sports. She enjoys being curled up on her couch every day with a cup of coffee, her dog, Mocha, and reading her Bible. Even connectors need a moment to themselves too!