“Wasn’t it beautiful that we didn’t just talk about prayer? We actually took time to pray,” said MB Church of Manitoba (MBCM) executive director Elton DaSilva. “Wasn’t it awesome to hear all those voices lifted up before the presence of God?”
DaSilva was referring to Assembly 2012, held at North Kildonan MB Church, Mar. 2–3. The weekend’s theme, “The church at prayer,” played out in every aspect of the assembly, from worship sessions, to short interviews, to workshops, to intentional times of corporate and individual prayer.
Workshops provided an array of resources – checklists to help congregations evaluate their prayer life, ways to become more attentive to God’s voice in daily life and ministry, ideas for hosting “potlucks and prayer,” and tips on using Lectio Divina as a refreshing way to read Scripture.
There was no shortage of inspiration, as several leaders shared their stories of prayer. Steve Block, youth pastor at La Salle Community Fellowship, talked about “target prayer.” Ministry leaders load youth into a van, drive past a “target” neighbourhood house, solicit a volunteer to pray, ask several teens to run up and knock on the door, and then leave a sign saying, “You’ve been the victim of drive-by prayer.”
“Prayer is the life of the church,” said pastor Habtemicael Beraki of Philadelphia Eritrean Church. Beraki told delegates how members of his congregation – many of whom are shift workers – attend weekly prayer meetings from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. to “intercede, worship, and have spiritual warfare.”
Challenge to delegates
Keynote speaker John Smed, director of Vancouver-based Prayer Current ministry, opened the assembly on Friday night by encouraging 202 delegates and guests to view prayer as synonymous with waiting.
“In waiting, there’s not emptiness but fullness,” he said. “Waiting means obeying, preparing for the promise of Spirit power, and uncovering the greater plan of God – prayer ties it all together. To learn to wait is to learn the genius of being a disciple.”
On Saturday morning, Smed challenged delegates to develop urgency in their prayers. “The North American church is not making progress,” he said. “We’re declining and facing opposition. But if you look at an average church service, you’d think all was well – walking in 15 minutes late with a mocha latte isn’t going to produce revival! Ours is a barren, weak Christianity. Let’s confess and ask for bold faith in prayer.”
During a brief business session at the end of the assembly, executive director DaSilva unveiled the conference’s five-year plan, with a goal to equip, resource, and inspire the church to accomplish its God-given mission.
The conference intends to take a more proactive approach to services, said DaSilva, resourcing churches before urgent needs arise. “This will require greater consultation with the constituency, and a reliance on the leading of the Spirit.”
Specifically, this means future assemblies will take more time to resource the church, rather than conduct business. “I know what you’re asking,” said DaSilva. “What about all the decisions we used to make together? A more productive way to make decisions is to participate in special interest groups – to pick areas for which God has given you a gift, heart, and dream – and engage there.”
New church planting partnerships
Church Planting Manitoba (the new name for Missions and Church Extension) is now working in partnership with C2C Network. “We can do a lot together,” said director Russ Toews. “C2C has a lot of momentum, especially in B.C. But most of all, we want to connect with C2C because of their values.”
Toews highlighted several prayer requests, including the need for inner-city buildings. “Cities are increasingly reluctant to zone buildings for worship, and many church buildings are being turned into apartments,” he said. “But our church plants need a place to meet.”
He also asked for prayer for First Nations people.
DaSilva agreed. “I’ve been broken and weeping for Manitoba’s First Nations people,” he said. “God told me: I want you to pray daily for this because I want to do something. So, I ask for restoration, rebuilding, and an inundation of God’s grace among the First Nations.”
“Networking appeals to me,” responded delegate Dan Block of River East MB Church, Winnipeg. “One of our appropriate tasks would be to do an inventory of what’s already happening – to come shoulder-to-shoulder with those already at work among First Nations groups.”
• Delegates approved a budget of $626,206 for 2012. The leadership board expects a small surplus to be available by the end of the year, as long as churches continue to contribute 8% of their receiptable revenue toward the Conference Support Fund (CSF). In 2011, the conference received 96% of budgeted CSF revenues. “Our churches have supported us through thick and thin,” raved treasurer Glyn Allen.
• With the addition of an executive director position last year, the office of the administrator became redundant. Therefore, the conference created a new ministry called congregational services. The ministry will be directed by Roger Friesen, whose primary task will be to develop an in-depth library of resources in the areas of church management, human resources, and government compliance.