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Gifts to share in the body of Christ

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Gerald Hildebrand meets villagers after church outside Kisumu, Kenya | realphotoKenya/MWC

I recall sitting on the grass in the middle of the Winnipeg football stadium with my young family and friends close by. The open-air venue was needed to accommodate the crowd who gathered to celebrate their faith in Christ alongside our global community at the Mennonite World Conference Assembly in Winnipeg in 1990. This experience left a deep impression on our family, as we resolved to raise our children to be global citizens and followers of Jesus.

Mennonite World Conference is called to be a communion (Koinonia) of Anabaptist-related churches linked to one another in a worldwide community of faith for fellowship, worship, service, and witness. The Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches is one of 107 national churches that comprise MWC, which has a global membership of 1.5 million.

You may be aware that only 17 percent of MWC members find their home in Canada and the U.S. Meserete Kristos Church of Ethiopia was founded in 1959 and is now the largest national church in MWC, with more than 310,000 members and 600,000 worshippers (compared to the approximately 36,000 members of CCMBC).

Does our relationship with the global church matter? What can we learn from our sisters and brothers in our global communion?

From stadium to the throne

As I have met and become friends with international Anabaptists from other traditions and locations, I’ve been inspired by their maturity and energy, and reminded of the scope of God’s kingdom. The global church is a foretaste of John’s vision: “…a vast crowd, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the lamb…shouting, ‘Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb’” (Revelation 7:9–10 NLT).

Together we are a mosaic of a growing church.

How often have you heard that we all have gifts to share in the body of Christ? This is also true in the global family of faith.

Every church has gifts to share, and every church has gifts they need, whether biblical perspectives, faith experiences, prophetic witness, musical expression, prayers of intercession, practical skills, or financial contributions. MWC provides a structure for a post-colonial global community of faith where Western and Southern churches are brothers and sisters as we share our lives and gifts with one another (Hebrews 10:24–25).

“You will pray, yes?”

On a trip with MWC leaders in Kenya, I sat with a local man on an eight-hour bus ride. In the course of conversation, he shared about his family and the challenges he was experiencing in his business.

At the end of our visit, he said, “You will pray for me, yes?”

Since that “chance” meeting, I have prayed for Moses and his family.

The MWC Prayer Network (www.mwc-cmm.org/prayernetwork) shares stories/news from Anabaptists around the world and helps us remember that our challenges and successes are not unique. MWC members who are struggling with issues of faith and life or ministering to congregations experiencing persecution give us a larger picture of the kingdom of God. Through prayer, we share each other’s burdens and encourage each other (Colossians 1:9–11).

I recently participated in a research project in which we interviewed people experiencing homelessness. I learned from them – about poverty and homelessness, but also about faith and resilience. We all come to faith in Christ with limited understanding and perspective. I believe we need to hear the experiences and guidance of our global sisters and brothers – the entire body of Christ – to understand what it means to be devoted followers of Jesus.

There is a deep mutuality in following Jesus (1 Corinthians 12:20–23).

Gerald Hildebrand
is the North America regional representative for Mennonite World Conference. He previously served as pastor in MB churches.

MWC provides opportunities to worship collectively in person or in spirit: worship and pray together with the global family of faith for Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday (mwc-cmm.org/awfs); witness to the way of Christ on Peace Sunday (mwc-cmm.org/peacesunday); and join us in a life-transforming experience of fellowship, worship, service and learning at the next Global Assembly in Semarang, Indonesia in July 2021 (mwc-cmm.org/article/indonesia-2021)
(1 Chronicles 16:23–25).

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