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To go far, go together

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Working together for national impact

We’ve all heard the African Proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I was recently on the African continent where I saw the truth of this proverb as a way of life.

In Africa, people enjoy being together and have a deep sense of belonging and responsibility to each other. I realized that, for many, their home communities are the only ones they have known or will ever know. They have their space, place, and pace within those communities, and they must work together with a deeply rooted identity, accountability, and collaboration to make their life work.

Just a short stay in Africa made for a fascinating contrast to what I know in Canadian life. We go faster, to be sure, but too often, we go alone.

So, in the spirit of the proverb: if we want to go far, could we go together?

Answering this question for the Canadian MB Churches has been the most important mandate of my 18 months of interim leadership. Leading the One Mission Partnership Task Force in discerning the proposal “Working Together for National Impact” has been a very inspiring opportunity.

The challenges that led to this proposal were put to me on my very first day in leadership. The January 2017 Executive Board meetings clearly identified the five issues and decisions CCMBC faced. The “big rocks” mandated for me were to

  1. launch Legacy,
  2. merge C2C and MB Mission,
  3. determine the future of L2L,
  4. implement budget cutbacks for financial sustainability, and
  5. appoint a new executive director.

But the biggest challenge came a few days later in a meeting with the provincial conference ministers (PCMs). “We feel entirely marginalized by all of the ministry silos in our MB family. We have made many attempts at working together.
Some of us are at that point of wanting to pull out of everything to focus only on our province.”
One provincial leader went on, “You ask us to be in the kitchen, but when we get there, you present us with a baked cake. We want to be in the kitchen mixing the ingredients together!”
As I listened, God did something in the room that day. We agreed that the Spirit was moving us to work together. We

decided to meet again. I accepted the opportune timing to facilitate a new conversation. And the idea of an MB leaders summit was born.

Renewed hope

Such a gathering had happened before but never on quite this scale. More than 50 Canadian MB leaders gathered at Cedar Springs, Wash., for two days of prayer, dialogue, and discernment. Organizational consultant John Radford skillfully facilitated our process.

In just a few hours, we identified what wasn’t working; by late afternoon, there was the unsettling sense that we had started something that we had no idea how to finish.

The evening hours were given to worship and prayer – and then all at once a small trickle of confession swelled into a tide of repentance. We named our hidden offense, our harboured bitterness, and our hedged pride. This felt like a breakthrough, yet I suspect many of us had a fitful night of sleep as we prayed in search of a clear way forward.

With the morning light, we gathered again in a renewed hope that God was giving us insight and direction. Pictures were drawn, designs were built, creative solutions were offered. It became clear that the locomotive of our mission could smoothly move ahead on the two rails of a unified structure and a coordinated, collaborative approach. CCMBC’s core services – Developing Leaders, Multiplying Churches, Building Community, and Resourcing Ministry – were the key strategies of our mission. The concluding decision was that a smaller group – the One Mission Partnership Task Force (OMPTF) – be called out to discern what would be the unified structure and the coordinated, collaborative approach for the Canadian MB family.

During these two days, I circled up with the PCMs for an enriching conversation and prayer. The trust and bond that had sprouted with Willy Reimer was growing again. We decided that it would be beneficial for this group of leaders to live into this unifying and collaborative movement of the Spirit. It was an easy decision for us to commit to meet regularly.

Thinking differently

In October 2017, the PCMs were in Calgary for a one-day gathering. We had the high-trust, high-stakes discussion

we needed to get the process moving. The proposed 2018 CCMBC budget added urgency to our task. We knew that a new collaborative model was not optional – it was essential.

In a few hours, we put together a proposal, a wobbly and awkward first try at “thinking differently.” This proposal was on the November Executive Board agenda and was affirmed as a good start in the right direction.

In the Spirit’s perfect coordination of all things, the OMPTF was also gaining clarity and confidence in stepping into their place the process. The OMPTF understanding was that we were not a decision-making body, but a listening and discerning body.

Here’s an excerpt of our prayer on Nov. 4, 2017.

We call on God for his perspective and the leading of the Spirit and to surrender any yoke that is not from the Lord (Acts 15:8–11).

We pray for the empowering and release of the church because the world is crying out for our MB family to come underneath what the Spirit is doing. We pray for the aligning of our thoughts with the heart of God that brings joy and strength to the church (Acts 15:31).

We pray for trust, not only of God, but also of our brothers and sisters. Give us more trust for one another if we are to take risks for our God. Help us to love and serve one another well so we are in partnership with you.

We declare we are brothers and sisters on equal ground, and we repent of padding our identity with power, fear, or control and ask that you would expose it and bring about in us what you long for in your church. We confess our sins on behalf of our denomination, leaders, and churches, our fear and desire for control, and our lack of faith and our self-sufficiency. Cleanse us, Lord.

Here WE are, sent US…. We are humbled you have met us again today in the Word and as we empty ourselves of ourselves. We receive your cleansing and wholeness.

Thank you for the community of faith that listens and obeys, and this is our desire. We will have discernment as we empty ourselves, so we thank you, and glorify you, and ask for your wisdom, for we don’t know what to do. We desire to be a prophetic and renewing voice to our family, so we position ourselves to receive from you.

Nearing the end of 2017, we knew that a key ingredient must be added into the mix: survey data.

  • What do people within the MB family think about the national and provincial conferences?
  • Who do our churches look to for support in their ministry?
  • What ideas about functional structures would local church leaders put forward?

In a miraculously short time frame, a national survey was conducted and completed, providing highly valuable data for us to consider.

Going together

Cedar Springs was again the gathering point for two critical January meetings.

First, the PCMs took the October 2017 proposal and re-visioned a model they could move forward with as the functional provincial/national structure. The Collaborative Model now had the inspiration and substance of a workable proposal.

A few weeks later, Cedar Springs came alive with the prayer, worship, and discernment of the OMPTF.

In these three days, Working Together for National Impact sprang to life as the Spirit breathed upon us. The OMPTF and the PCMs felt ready to present this proposal to the Executive Board and the Board of Faith and Life in February.

I have told the story of the February Executive Board meeting and the final hours of this deliberation, from the standpoint of God’s miraculous intervention into my life (“When God ‘Shows Up,’” MB Herald, Spring 2018). The Executive Board made the unanimous decision to affirm the proposal and take the presentation to the MB family for wider discussion and discernment.

So, beginning in February and finishing at the end of April, I, along with PCMs and OMPTF members, visited you at the provincial conventions with the presentation of the proposed Collaborative Model, Working Together for National Impact. Significant time was provided for Q&A, round-table discussion, and feedback for our consideration. The Executive Board was given the gift of a straw poll from each assembly – not binding for a decision, but helpful in gaining a Canada-wide perspective on your initial leaning. And every province gave the overwhelming response – people are leaning toward the proposed Working Together for National Impact.

The delegates of Gathering 2018 in Saskatoon will be given the opportunity to make the decision.

You can watch the Working Together for National Impact video presentation to be informed. You can prepare for the decision by reading the motions for the decision. I hope you will come to Gathering 2018 to participate in the breakout workshops and cast your vote in this decision for the future of MB ministry partnership.

Let’s discover here in Canada how we can live into the spirit of the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

[Steve Berg, interim executive director of the Canadian Conference of MB Churches



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