A call to hear the Spirit’s voice
The Holy Spirit took centre stage at the Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba’s (MBCM) Assembly 2015, aptly themed “The Church Responds to the Spirit.”
The annual provincial convention, which drew some 150 delegates and guests, representing 36 of 41 Manitoba churches, to Winkler MB Church, Mar. 6–7, 2015, opened Friday night with a keynote address by Delbert Enns, pastor of Eastview Community Church, Winnipeg.
“One of the predominant themes in the Bible is waiting,” said Enns, speaking from Acts 1:1–4. “When we wait for something, we usually resort to man-made resources,” so we must be sure to wait for someone, just as Simeon and Anna did.
Enns encouraged the congregation to wait expectantly for the Spirit of God. In the waiting, said Enns, several things are accomplished: we clarify our longings and repent of sin, gain a fresh sense of God’s presence, get ready to become active participants in God’s mission, and prepare to take a bold stand for Jesus.
During the communion service, attendees were invited to give voice to what they were hearing from the Spirit. Several shared how they sensed the time of waiting is over – that the Lord wants to pour out his Spirit right now, bringing revival to Manitoba and Canada.
“Could this be a new beginning for us, and could it start here in Winkler, birthplace of the Mennonite Brethren in Canada?” said C2C Network director Gord Fleming. “We don’t want to come and talk about the Holy Spirit, we want to come and experience the Holy Spirit.”
A call to urgency
During Saturday’s sessions, ministry leaders spoke of the church’s mission – to reach lost people with the good news of Jesus – with a sense of urgency.
Some delegates questioned whether that urgency could be sustained over the long haul.
“When we think of urgency, we often think of words like frantic, anxious and tired,” one delegate responded. “But how urgent is it that we breathe? Completely necessary for life! It’s the same with our mission.”
“Spiritual exhaustion depends on where you get your supplies,” said another, quoting from Oswald Chambers. “We must take our nourishment from God.”
“The language of urgency is very much what’s on my heart,” said Canadian conference executive director Willy Reimer. “I believe God is opening a window of opportunity here in Canada. It’s not about busy-ness, but a sense of imminence.”
- C2C Network associate director Mark Burch presented the Manitoba provincial report, saying they’ve been hearing “a bubbling up of concern for rural communities.” These communities are generally on the decline in terms of population and church attendance.With that in mind, C2C appointed Phillip Vallelly, pastor of Winkler MB Church, as its rural consultant. The church has freed up some of Vallelly’s time to research and find ways to best serve and resource churches outside Canada’s urban centres.“There are about 334,000 people in rural Manitoba, but still so many who don’t know Jesus,” says Vallelly.
- MBCM executive director Elton DaSilva presented a diagram of the province’s new core service areas. The leadership team developed the model over the past year in order to clearly identify its four deliverables: Developing Leaders, Building Community, Multiplying Churches and Resourcing Churches.“We want to direct our resources toward a goal – to win our communities for Christ – and to take a proactive approach, instead of just reacting after bad things happen,” said DaSilva.
- Communications and church resource coordinator Carson Samson walked delegates through a new church cluster model (including hub churches in each of the 4 clusters), which will help the province better coordinate and deliver events. The cluster model will also provide the infrastructure necessary to live stream events.“We anticipate the church cluster model will eventually save churches money in travel and other administrative expenses,” says Samson. L2L director Ron Toews noted that resources found on www.l2lnet.org could be used to “augment” these clusters, including opportunities to host virtual meetings between people in different regions via the GoToMeeting portal.
- Manitoba continues to work closely with the national conference, as well as other partners such as MB Mission and MB Biblical Seminary. Seminary president Bruce Guenther used Matthew 28 to highlight the importance of teaching in discipleship training.Guenther said the school is working hard to provide increased accessibility to theological training via live streaming and online courses, as well as increased scholarship and bursary money. Also, in September 2014, MBBS and the C2C Network will launch a context-based degree program for training church planters.
- “What’s the place of the Christian university in the larger society?” asked CMU president Cheryl Pauls. She described a forum recently hosted by CMU on the possibility of urban reserves in Winnipeg. City leaders knew it would be a tense event, but “CMU helped de-escalate the anger,” said Pauls. “That’s how I saw the Spirit moving. It’s people bearing witness and standing up for Christ.”
- Gerald Dyck (Westside Community Church, Morden) was affirmed for another 2-year term as provincial moderator. The leadership board still has two vacancies for members-at-large.
- Delegates approved a budget of $668,500 for 2015. The province is hoping for a total of $513,000 in support from churches, a slight increase from the 2014 actual ($498,000).
Ready to respond to the Spirit? A magical mystery tour to Roland, Manitoba – Phillip Vallelly
Mennonite Brethren and the Holy Spirit – Jon Isaak
Photos by Tony Schellenberg
Watch video coverage of the event:
Updated Mar. 10, 2015: report added.