From July 11–14, we will gather in Winnipeg under the banner of “One Lord – One Church – One Mission.” Together we will reaffirm the supremacy of Christ in our lives, churches, and mission. We will also celebrate how God has led us in the past, and be inspired to step into the future God is calling us to through the leading of the Holy Spirit. We will worship together, pray together, repent together, and discuss God’s calling on us a denomination.
The writer to the Hebrews reminds us we have a responsibility to each other as Christ-followers, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24, NLT). I know this was written to a specific community, but I also believe we have a responsibility to each other as a group of Canadian Mennonite Brethren churches.
Hebrews continues with another challenge to the faith community. “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25, NLT). I realize this passage is focused on the local church but, just as we cannot truly follow Jesus on our own apart from the faith community, I also believe we cannot truly be the people of God in Canada as individual congregations.
The founders of the Mennonite Brethren believed they were following the leading of the Spirit in establishing a new faith community in 1860. The Spirit is blowing once again in unique ways, calling us to work together for the sake of Canadians who don’t know Jesus, as well as the growth of Christ-followers.
Gathering 2012 will be a time for us to discuss and discern together God’s call on Canadian Mennonite Brethren in the 21st century. Over time, we’ve developed into a loosely connected federation of independent churches within a denominational structure that appears to have evolved through mistrust, theological confusion, and competing programmatic activity.
What has kept us together as churches and provincial conferences is our shared history and the belief that we can have a greater impact for Christ in Canada by working together rather than separately. Those ties are diminishing as we lose our historical memory. We need to develop a unifying missional bind that celebrates our past, but is firmly focused on the future toward which God is leading us.
This is a significant moment in our history as a family of churches. As I interact with leaders and churches across the country, I sense a Holy Spirit-inspired discontent among leaders at multiple levels. I’ve heard repeatedly that maintaining the status quo is not an option. There’s a growing desire for change and self-sacrifice to move beyond institutionalism, and a longing for us to become a movement of healthy churches unified by a mission to reach those who don’t know Jesus.
We all know this can only be achieved by working together rather than independently. This change calls for fresh mission, clarity, courage, and the willingness for all leaders to make difficult choices for the greater cause of Christ.
Gathering 2012 plenary sessions, workshops, and Experience Winnipeg will all help us gain greater clarity about the people we’re called to reach, what stands in the way of us reaching our worlds, and how we can move forward in our God-given mission of being witnesses of our resurrected Lord – locally, nationally, and internationally.
Prayer will have a central role at Gathering 2012, with times of prayer before, during, and after our sessions. We want to be expectant and dependent on God to do extraordinary things. We need to be open to God’s Spirit if we want to become a unified missional movement in Canada that reaches the lost by serving leaders and churches, helping them become healthy and reproducing.
If following the leading of God doesn’t drive us to our knees, we’re simply trying to implement things that can be accomplished with human resources. Instead, we want to follow Jesus in such a way that it’s clear to all that he’s the only one who could bring about the new reality we’re praying for.
We’re praying that Gathering 2012 will be a pivotal meeting in the life of Canadian Mennonite Brethren, and will set our course for years to come. Thank you for taking the time to come and represent your church family, and to celebrate with MBs from coast to coast: One Lord – One Church – One Mission. See you in Winnipeg!