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The heartbeat of the gospel



Transformation survey, Part 1

The most powerful communication contains three elements: information, inspiration and invitation. All three are necessary to deeply engage the hearts and minds of those with whom we are building relationships. With that in mind, our Canadian Conference of MB Churches has newly available results from the Transformation survey (information) that our churches and leaders can use (invitation) to reach Canada with the good news of Jesus Christ (inspiration)!

A transformed life is a powerful witness to the reality of Jesus, so the first set of questions in the national survey explores gospel and life transformation.

How do we, as churches, present the gospel to others (and in what contexts)? 

How do equip our church participants to experience and grow in their own gospel-based life transformation?

These are “heartbeat” questions. If the hearts of our churches are not passionately beating in sync with the power of the gospel, then the rest of what we do doesn’t really matter, does it?

The centrality of the gospel

Within the weekend services of any given month, more than 80 percent of Canadian MB churches declare the gospel and invite people to respond. Given the wide range of churches throughout the country and the various contexts that we serve in, that statistic is impressive. Of course, there are many ways to invite people to respond to the gospel, and not every way requires people to physically participate at the time (e.g., altar call), so in reality, the number is likely even higher.

Imagine, though, if every church declared the gospel and invited people to respond at least once a month?

This past Easter, Westwood Church took the risk of inviting people to “repent and be baptized” in response to the teaching of Acts 2:38. People responded that Sunday – and the next.

The proclamation of the gospel is powerful! Keep up the great mission work, MB churches of Canada!

Equipping believers

Hidden within the comment section of the survey are a number of gems about how our churches equip believers to “give an answer to everyone who asks” (1 Peter 3:15). Apologetics training, evangelism training, Sunday teaching, small groups, books and even the hiring of specific staff were each mentioned. But, many of our churches simply have an “informal” plan for equipping. And informal often means ineffective. I wonder if we can do better. 

Many churches are intentionally growing in this area by having C2C Network national missiologist Bill Hogg present the Becoming Good News People seminar. Perhaps now is the time for your church to connect with MB Mission, the C2C Network, our L2L ministries or your conference minister to ask how you can receive specific advice and resources to equip your church to share the gospel in every context of life.

Discipleship process

How do you create a process for something that is not linear? Churches have struggled with the creation and implementation of a discipleship process for years. Not surprisingly, the survey confirms this. Half of our churches have an intentional discipleship process in place and believe it is working, and the other half either have no discipleship process defined or they have just started to work on one.

It will be interesting to watch this metric develop in future surveys, but one great way to help move the trajectory in a positive direction is to contact MB Biblical Seminary Canada and ask how to participate in one or more of the MinistryLift conferences they offer each year. You can participate (as a church or as individuals) in person or via live streaming to learn about small groups, leadership, Chinese ministry and more.

Discipleship initiatives

So, how do our churches actually do discipleship? In many different ways, apparently! More than 90 percent of our churches have small groups, more than 75 percent have prayer groups/training and more than 50 percent do coaching and mentoring, minister to the poor, engage with the suffering, offer membership classes and have Bible reading programs. In other words, MB churches love doing life together.

This diversity has an often-overlooked benefit; there is a wealth of expertise in the church across the street, across the province and across the country. Whether you use L2L’s network of ministry leaders, attend a C2C Multiply conference or simply pick up the phone (or send an email), I invite you to reach out to other churches and learn from what they are doing.

Doing life and ministry together isn’t just for individual people; it is also for churches. Let’s work together for the cause of Christ in our communities, our country and around the world!

Well, that was a lot of information, wasn’t it? In terms of our heartbeat of the gospel and life transformation, what is your next step? Did you catch all of the references to ministry resources in our churches and national conference? Where do you need to reach out and connect with our national ministries or other churches so that you can increasingly live on mission and grow in discipleship?

God is doing amazing things across our country in these days; let’s do everything we can to work together to reach Canada with the good news of Jesus Christ!

—Mark Wessner is lead pastor at Westwood Church, Prince George, B.C., and a member of the CCMBC executive board.

Download the 2015 Church Transformation Survey report and results at mennonitebrethren.ca/news/mb-church-transformation-survey.

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Marie March 17, 2016 - 15:47

My family came from one of those MB churches that probably had many positive answers on the survey. One possible weakness of the survey, though, is its ability to measure ministry opportunities the church opts out of, how leaders make those decisions, and whether those decisions are biblically based. I was dismayed when our senior pastor ignored my repeated pleas to help us encourage my Dad during his dark journey through a terminal illness. And yet, this senior pastor is praised for his missions trips overseas. My Dad gave the majority of his adult life to ministry within the MB conference, both in overseas missions and in churches and other ministries across Canada. For him to be ignored by his fellow servant during the most painful and lonely time of his life was absolutely stunning and eye-opening to our family. I was also astounded when our associate pastor justified our church’s lack of involvement in Dad’s life, saying that people were ‘uncomfortable’ being with him due to his symptoms. To my understanding, the gospel and Christian life are not about personal comfort. And yet, this same associate pastor has been praised for ‘good deeds’ like raising funds for refugees.

Getting back to this survey, when churches ‘engage with the suffering,’ it may look encouraging on paper, but what we don’t see are the calculated ways in which God’s love is also withheld from the suffering. This survey measures MB churches’ activities, but it isn’t an accurate reflection of their spiritual health. That’s a survey I would love to see, and I think it would show just how much more growth and accountability are needed in the MB family. When my family finally realized that our walk with our lifelong church family was over, I began calling other churches around town for support. Some responded incredibly with a show of Christ’s love that our family needed so desperately at that time. And when they asked whether my family already had a church, it broke me to have to share our story with them. Our former church may have been a bright light in your survey, but they accomplished the opposite through their handling of my family’s painful experience. I hope our story inspires leaders within the MB conference to raise the standard and make sure that what happened to my family doesn’t happen to anyone else.

Mark Wessner March 31, 2016 - 15:35

Thanks for your honest and insightful comments, Marie, and I am very sorry to hear of your experience. Breakdowns in community (whether family, neighbourhood, or church) are very painful. Thank you for having the courage to share, and hopefully, your words will catch the attention of those of us who need to hear them.

I agree that the health (and in some cases, “unhealth”) of a church is difficult to capture through a survey. Nothing replaces real life conversations, relationships, and discernment! :) We need both surveys *and* stories, and we need to be comfortable enough to share both successes and struggles.

Thanks, Marie.

Marie March 31, 2016 - 15:56

Thank you for your comments, Mark. I can appreciate how limiting a survey can be. I composed s survey for my masters thesis, which was completed by 200+ church leaders across Canada. I asked them about their experiences and theology of serving church members in need, and while I collected a large amout of valuable information, I knew I still didn’t have a full snapshot of the issue. A survey targeting lay members would be a worthwhile project… Does the MB denomination ever send surveys to church members to learn about their experiences or beliefs on a given topic?

Mark Wessner March 31, 2016 - 16:00

I’m not sure what has happened historically, but just last year (in spring, if I remember), a number of MB churches were asked to have their congregations complete a survey regarding the Herald (our church was one of them). Other than that, though, I don’t know of any other survey. That is a good idea, though! :)


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