Over the past two years, Mennonite Brethren pastors, together with provincial and national leaders, have expressed an increased sense of urgency in communicating the good news of Jesus Christ in a rapidly changing Canadian landscape. The sense that the Spirit of God is doing a “new thing” among our leaders and churches has led to a greater degree of cooperation and strategic initiative between provincial and national MB leaders, as well as with other denominations. There’s a growing sense that God has been preparing his Canadian church for a new era of intentional, God-honouring, collaborative ministry.
These are exciting days to be Christ followers. But following Jesus isn’t without its challenges in Canada. The church is being marginalized on many fronts. A telling example is NDP leader Thomas Mulcair’s February comment about “evangelical groups with vision that goes completely against not only Canadian values, but Canadian law.” We’re being told that our values aren’t Canadian values. We’re being painted with the “politically incorrect” brush and cast aside as relics of a bygone era.
In many ways, this is good news! Historically, a church with political privilege and power is a spiritually weak church. The human tendency to rely on our own resources and ingenuity has had an intoxicating pull on every generation throughout history – to the detriment of the name and cause of Christ. We also know that the church has thrived when surrounded by great difficulty, challenge, and persecution.
Missiologist Alan Hirsch, in an article entitled “Reawakening a Potent Missional Ethos in the Twenty-first Century Church,” puts it well:
We live in a significant time, a time when decisions we make now will determine the course of events in the future. Because our actions today will bear directly on the church of the future, Christians in the West must recalibrate, at the most basic level, their approaches to Christology, ecclesiology, and mission.
These recalibrations, however, do not involve the search for trendy fads or innovative techniques, but rather require the reactivation of the dormant missional potentials of the church that Jesus built: the selfsame potentials that pulsed through the Early Church as it grew from as few as 25,000 adherents in AD 100 to as many as 20,000,000 only two hundred years later. To recover apostolic effectiveness, Christians need only to return to our most primal, and potent, story.
We need to be alert to the opportunities presenting themselves at this unique time in history. This significant moment in time is an intersection of noteworthy spiritual and religious shifts taking place in Canada (inside and outside the church) and the rich heritage, distinctives, and resources with which God has gifted the MB denomination to equip us to reach Canadians with the good news of Jesus Christ.
Canadian Mennonite Brethren need to “understand the times” (1 Chronicles 12:32) and strategically deploy the resources God has given us to steward (time, money, and people) for his purposes.
We need to stay alert to what God is doing in Canada and to be praying for his direction regarding our role in God’s ongoing work around us.
Hirsch suggests several “recalibrations” that must occur for us to truly make an impact. The preeminent adjustment Hirsch highlights is the recovery of the centrality of Jesus in his own movement. First and foremost, we are Christ followers! Hirsch reminds us that Christianity minus Christ equals religion. Without Christ, Christianity degenerates into an oppressive religion that undermines the demands of discipleship and strips the Good News of its good news.
Where do we begin? As evangelical Anabaptists, we’re good at getting things done. We want action – which is a great asset when that action is led by the Holy Spirit.
So how do we discern the Spirit’s leading? As national boards, we’ve been convicted that the place to begin is prayer. Prayer is simple, but not easy. Often, we allow life to crowd out time with God. Our national team – the executive board, board of faith and life, and staff – recognize that we’re all called to prayer as the means by which God will take his timeless truth and give us timely direction personally, for our churches, and for the wider church in Canada.
Gary Haugen, president and CEO of International Justice Mission, recently commented on his staff’s commitment to pray daily at 11 a.m. His words captured my attention. Haugen said, “We need to pray, not as a discipline, but as a matter of desperation.” When we recognize our critical need for God’s presence, grace, provision, and direction, our prayers will increase in desperation rather than obligation, freeing God’s Spirit to work in and through us.
Out of this reality, on behalf of the Canadian conference’s executive board and the board of faith and life, I invite you to join us for a monthly day of prayer and fasting on the first Tuesday of each month. If you’d like to receive a guide for your prayer time, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.