“Today you’re released from having a perfect family, marriage, and walk with God,” GospelCoach.com founder Scott Thomas told the Alberta MB convention, calling them to become shepherds who initiate care, lead eagerly, and provide a reproducible model (1 Peter 5:1–5): “We need to be examples of how ‘my life is messed up and, through the gospel, he transforms it.’”
One hundred Alberta Mennonite Brethren and ministry partners gathered Mar. 16–17 at College Drive Community Church, Lethbridge, with worship led by Bethany College’s Fixed on Faith and a concert of prayer by moderator Kerry Dyck. Some 67 also attended Thomas’ leaders’ day sessions on Friday.
Challenging the church’s performance-driven tendencies, Thomas joked that the reason the Good Shepherd left the 99 sheep to look for one was to get his numbers over the magic three-digit mark. Thomas’ message to struggling congregations was “turn church right-side up: focus on worship, not on the community of believers. If we’re resting in him, we are going to serve, lead, and be on mission.”
Turning dollars into kingdom impact
Treasurer Gary Burke outlined the trend: church contributions to ABMB have fallen every year, from $174,000 in 2008 to $124,000 in 2011. After a net loss of $43,000 before transfers last year, Burke called the 2012 budget of $165,000 “realistic.” If churches gave the suggested support of $79 for each of ABMB’s 2,376 members, the conference would have $187,704.
Burke thanked churches who continued to give financially “despite significant challenges” this year.
“I do wonder: what could we do if we committed to $100 per member?” said Burke, whose church, Linden MB, increased its deacon budget by $10,000 because they caught a vision for what God was doing.
“Is it reasonable to ask churches to look at what they can give each year?” asked Kevin Thiessen, citing the example of his church, Dalhousie Community, which chose to raise their contribution by 10 percent. “If we’re going to plant churches, we have to give money to the conference. How do we change the trend?”
“So many organizations send us letters; their needs are in our faces,”
commented Elfrieda Dick of Highland MB. “I wonder if we could get a higher profile for the conference?”
Burke responded that the conference must do a better job of communicating, and churches need to improve their system for getting that information to permeate the congregation.
Pastor Willy Reimer said he planned to invite Daniel Beutler to speak to Sun West Christian Fellowship’s board, and recommended others do the same, because “as churches get an understanding of the dream, that will turn into dollars,” to which Burke added, “not only dollars; it turns into kingdom impact.”
What we can do together
“I enjoy being asked to meet with church leadership teams to see how we can resource them,” agreed Beutler, reminding the convention of all “we can do together” as churches and conference: maintaining doctrinal integrity, developing leadership, caring for leaders, improving congregational health, and encouraging church reproduction.
“We recognize we were lagging behind in our efforts in church planting. We want to lean into the resource of C2C,” said Dyck. C2C director Gord Fleming introduced and led in prayer for Alberta’s new regional C2C director Johnny Thiessen and his wife Tammy.
“Partnerships are more important than jurisdictional boundaries,” said Burke, as he expressed gratitude to the Canadian conference for permanently offering their administrative support since the dissolution of ABMB’s administration and finance team.
On Alberta’s executive board, Randy Dueck’s term ended, and Lawrence Hiebert, English pastor at Mountainview Grace, Calgary, was affirmed.
“When I look at what God is doing at a national level, I see we need to be about pursuing God’s desire for us,” said Beutler. “If we slip into survival mode to try to maintain an organization, we’re done. Keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, and be willing to lay down anything he demands of us.”