“This is a sacred moment in the history of this denomination – and in our country.” This came from Calgary consultant Terry Mochar, who spent the last eight months studying the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (CCMBC). He gave a preview of his findings to B.C. MB leaders at their annual convention at Broadway Church, Chilliwack, May 4–5.
“There are significant spiritual shifts taking place, both inside and outside the church, that create a sense of urgency for us as churches to join together in unity and common mission to reach Canada for Christ,” he said. He pointed delegates to Daniel 2:20–23 and said, “God is changing the times and seasons for you.”
Mochar was asked by the CCMBC executive board and executive director Willy Reimer to conduct a review of the national office and programs. Mochar’s study took him to all levels of Canadian MB work, interviewing pastors and leaders across the country from Sept. to Jan.
He said he had never seen such consistency of messaging. He found a “Holy Spirit discontent” from coast to coast, people wanting “something more; we are called to something greater to reach Canada for Christ.” There are unique fires burning across the country, he said; a passion to reach the lost.
But he also found a competitive spirit, disunity, and in some cases a commitment to institutionalism. Many of the challenges the national level faces are similar to those at the provincial level.
Mochar believes God has given Canada’s Mennonite Brethren “a caution and a warning and a promise. God is changing the times and seasons.” There will be “accountability for this time. Your children and grandchildren will ask, ‘Where were you at this moment?’”
“God is calling you to a new reality.”
Opportunity to ignite
Evangelical Christianity in Canada is expected to grow at 95 percent over the next decade, while Islam will grow by 204, and Sikhism by 140. “There’s a new dynamic in Canada. We must understand how to reach a very diverse country,” Mochar said. Canada has 50,000 international students; the world is coming to our cities. Meanwhile, the largest single religious group in B.C. – 40 percent of the population – “has no faith at all.”
While these demographic changes occur, MBs have a number of “burning platforms that stand in our way from coming together in ministry and mission, responding to what God has called and gifted us to do,” Mochar said. “Transformed lives is what it is all about…not buildings.”
“God wants to ignite something in you as a denomination in Canada. He wants to raise you up as a lighthouse that displays the authenticity of the body of Christ through joy and love and effective ministry.” He said, “It’s a great promise, but will take a lot of leaders’ willingness to turn aside from what they have clung to from history.”
Mochar said he sensed a sweet spirit among delegates at the B.C. convention. “I feel full of hope and I feel excited,” he said. “But don’t shy away from God calling you to account, and calling you to mission.” When, like Joshua, you respond to God’s leading, God “will ignite a flame at which others will light their torches.”
The CCMBC executive board will give a full report of the national review to this summer’s Gathering 2012 assembly in Winnipeg.
Executive director Willy Reimer was glad Mochar could come to the B.C. meeting, adding, “I wanted you to hear his heart.”
National leadership met with provincial moderators in April. Five key points of agreement came out of the meeting “of the sort that seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us,” Reimer said. (See “Provinces collaborate toward unified vision,” page 5.)
Most importantly, said Reimer, “We want to see a national prayer movement at work…across this country. It’s a responsibility, and we had better not shy away from it.”
In the same spirit of unity, B.C. delegates approved Church Planting BC’s name change recommendation to adopt the “C2C” designation already approved by all other provincial conferences.
Ensuing debate reflected Terry Mochar’s challenge to the church to hear what God was saying to Canadian Mennonite Brethren.
James Toews of Neighbourhood Church, Nanaimo, urged that there be a time of consideration before the delegates vote on the C2C vision, saying there are pivotal moments in the life of a church, but to “hear it, sign off on it, and move to affirm it all in one day seems premature.”
James Nikkel of Bakerview, Abbotsford, argued, “We have a situation here, now, that is clear. We need to seize the day. I believe this is of the Lord.” Ted Klassen of Culloden, Vancouver, agreed: “If we postpone a decision, we miss it. We lose the passion to do it.”
Gord Fleming, national director of C2C, affirmed there is a sense across the country not to wait. However, he recognized there are some general concerns, one being a perception of “us” and “them.”
Another is several church plants’ use of the Gospel Coalition faith statement on their websites. “Are we planting MB churches or not?” Toews questioned. “We’re Anabaptist. The Gospel Coalition is Reformed. There are differences. We don’t open a McDonald’s and then post Tim Hortons policies, even if they’re good ones.”
Fleming invited delegates, “If you think we’re doing anything wrong, have a coffee with me.”
To summarize the mood of the convention, newly named B.C. conference minister Rob Thiessen (see Transitions) said, “Almost every time I hear Terry I have tears…. The sense of urgency is surprising. It’s a kairos moment – it’s time to go.”