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Gathering plenary 3 – Mark Wessner

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All for one, and one head for all

At what level is my church playing?

MB Seminary president Mark Wessner compared church to a basketball team.

When he taught his daughter’s Grade 3 team, it was clear the players didn’t know their purpose. “I’d say ‘Awesome work!’” said Wessner, “but in reality, it was a gong show.” By university, the players demonstrate speed, complex plays, trust in one another, a sense of purpose.

PHOTO: Tony Schellenberg

How do we play like that as a church?

One head

Wessner shared about a leadership crisis in a church he pastored. He read them 1 Corinthians 1, inserting names of their pastors: “I follow pastor Mark, I follow pastor…”

His message: “If we are looking to me or to the board to save this church, we should burn it down, collect insurance, and go for lunch. We have only one leader: Jesus.”

“God rebuilt that church,” said Wessner, because they recognized Christ as the head of this body (Ephesians 4:15).

Team players

At what level am I playing? Part of the effectiveness, enjoyment, trust, effectiveness, and beauty of your church is tied up in you, said Wessner.

Paul comes across as bold, but he says, “Can you pray for me that I’d have courage?” (Ephesians 6:19).

“How much more do you and I need to pray for strength to be fearless in Canada in 2018?” asked Wessner. “Can you imagine what would happen if we pray for each other for strength?”

“As players mature, the game becomes less and less about them as individuals,” said Wessner.

Klutzes like me

After the session, a group was talking about another aspect of basketball metaphors: the fact that some of us aren’t as athletic, even after practising our dribbling since Grade 3.

Someone suggested that the miracle of the church is that it’s a place where pros and those who can’t throw worth beans all play well in the same league.

Good Defence

Wessner also asked us to consider, “When I look at the conference, do I need to stop playing alone – or against other members of my own team? Do we say, ‘We have a bigger cause here; let’s work it through’?”

In professional sports, if one player messes up, it’s powerful when another comes alongside them to stand up for them. “Let’s defend each other,” he said.

“If we want to be one in Christ,” said Wessner, “we have to be one in ministry”: to put down our own agendas, recognize Jesus as our head, pray for strength, and fight for each other.

“We’re on the cusp of beautiful things. Let’s work together for the sake of Christ our leader.”

[Angeline is the copy editor for the Canadian Conference of MB Churches and a member of Crossroads MB Church in Winnipeg.

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