Emulate first-century excitement
Re “Don’t idealize first-century Christianity” (Letters, March). While I agree with Marc Paré that we shouldn’t idealize the first-century church, I think creators of the “Regenerate 21-01” vision probably had another word in mind: emulate. To idealize something is to describe it as perfect, and we only have to read some of the epistles (as Paré observed) to know the early church was far from ideal.
However, they did have something we could emulate: a desire to live out the gospel in such a way that it would attract people and grow (see Acts 4). A lot of history has happened since the first century, and in any century since then, you won’t find the church in an ideal state. What the early church did have was a sense of excitement and destiny we could rediscover.
Regenerate 21-01 … really?
Re “Regenerate 21-01.” Imagining “what it would be like to live like the first-century church in the 21st century,” there would be no need for church buildings because we would be meeting in homes. There would be no sermons. Instead of the performance posture of a few “professionals” speaking/leading from the stage, each one would have a chance to contribute (1 Corinthians 14:26). Rather than focusing on a worship service or singing, we’d come together primarily to encourage and build each other up. There would be no assigned greeters because everyone would be reaching out to others. Our tithes would flow through the church to those in need, instead of to budgets supporting facilities and programs of the “club.” There would be no need for paid pastors because chosen elders would provide adequate guidance. There would be less talk of church health and leadership development because it’s all about being servants.
It seemed to work for the early church. Are we really serious about living like the first-century church in the 21st century?
Efficiency not the answer
Re “Governance structure hurting us” (Letters, March). I’m writing in support of Harold Jantz’s letter. I’m a past supporter of our present governance structure because of personal experience. I’ve been the chair of our national conference nominating committee and found it a thankless task – I was probably the wrong person for the job. Nevertheless, regardless of the difficulties of the task, we do need the broader input that Jantz advocates. Efficiency doesn’t solve our problems if it means sacrificing participation and collective wisdom, which in turn help hold us together. We may have to return to the way we used to do things if we want to retain our cohesion.
A critical analysis of the Olympics
Re “Drawing the line on competition” (February). February’s articles were a thoughtful reminder of the importance of thinking “Christianly” about a pervasive cultural reality and its values.
I wonder if we ought to carry this through to a couple themes related to the Vancouver Winter Olympics. First, is the “Own the Podium” campaign really the best use of 66 million taxpayer dollars? I was as happy as any other proud Canadian when one of “ours” got the gold medal in skeleton, for example, but how does having a solid Canadian skeleton program compare to addressing, say, endemic childhood obesity? How often do we reflect on whether what we’re supporting, directly or indirectly, reflects “higher” biblical principles?
Also, much has been made of the untypical showing of Canadian pride during these Olympics, as seen in the spontaneous singing of “O Canada” at events and on public transit. Fair enough. I cheered Canadian athletes’ successes and lamented their disappointments. So, they’re “our” athletes, win or lose, right? But does this translate into a “my country, right or wrong” mentality? And, really, does a boozy rendering of “O Canada” on the SkyTrain lead one to work for and value the higher principles on which Canada was founded? We’ll see. In the meantime, I enjoyed watching and participating in this God-given gift of play.
Clarifying MBMSI history
Re “The top 10 Mennonite Brethren stories of the decade” (Viewpoint, February). I was encouraged to see that Dora Dueck listed “A revitalized MBMS International” as one of her top 10 stories. I just wanted to clarify that, although Randy Friesen has indeed led MBMSI with vision and strong leadership, the change to relationship-based funding was done under Harold Ens’ leadership. Randy and I were part of the lead team that had a hand in the change, but it was Harold who led the charge before Randy became director. The visionary leadership to enter Thailand, with the sending of Team 2000, was also under Ens’ direction.
Apples and oranges
In “The wisdom of crowds” (Intersection, February), James Toews raises a crucial question: should our conference be leader-driven or crowd-driven? Unfortunately, his comparison is drawn from the TV game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” He compares apples with oranges. The answers in the show simply reflect accumulated knowledge (trivia), which of course will increase with the number of persons asked. More knowledge banks are being accessed.
I hope our church and conference leaders don’t qualify for their roles on the basis of their recall of facts and dates, but rather on their wisdom and understanding. These are qualities that do not increase in proportion to the size of crowd. They are rare.
Rubber-stamping not enough
Re “The wisdom of crowds” (Intersection, February). I want to thank James Toews for an excellent analysis of the dying flame in our MB conference. I don’t like conventions anymore because they’re basically events to make us feel good about the many programs that are running, and to rubber-stamp all the decisions that were made beforehand.
Financial reports have become so complicated that many delegates don’t have a clue of what’s being voted on. Why can’t we have a short summary with a few figures that might interest the average delegate? Let’s have a few good speakers from our conference that can motivate and encourage us. We also need more fellowship at our gatherings – a convention where everything is planned to 10-minute slots isn’t very conducive to connecting with sisters and brothers from other areas. Let’s come out of our comfort zones and make a deliberate effort to connect with people from other churches – to listen to each other and to Jesus.
St. Catharines, Ont.
Transparency, input required
Re: “The wisdom of crowds” (Intersection, February). James Toews is absolutely correct in his observations that decision-making in the church has moved away from the congregation. The leadership board makes a decision, brings it to the membership, and is almost always ratified. We have no knowledge of how the board reached its decision. To me, the “how” of a decision is as important as the decision itself. Church business needs to be transparent, accessible, and understood.
Also, the agenda at our membership meetings gives very little opportunity for congregational input on topics not on the agenda. The agenda is closed and controlled.
We shouldn’t turn our decision-making into a rubber stamp process that the business world uses. It should be modelled after the interactions of Christ – characterized by love, compassion, inclusion, kindness, acceptance, patience, and listening to the wisdom of the crowd.