Conference speaker Thomas Yoder Neufeld’s beautifully articulated challenge to open the windows of understanding in worship of Christ was augmented by two concurrent plenary options and four workshops.
The breakout plenaries Friday afternoon examined confession of Jesus in the contexts of preaching and mission. Both session leaders, Willy Reimer, pastor at SunWest Community Church (Calgary), and Ray Harms Wiebe of the MBMSI lead team for global programs, wove together stories and personal experiences with Scripture to show how to interact in postmodern Canadian culture.
In Christ and Mission, Harms Wiebe said confession and revelation are linked, with revelation – something genuinely experienced – a necessary antecedent to having something to say about Christ. That “something,” in turn, can be revelation for others. “When it is the word of God made alive by the Holy Spirit, it makes sense to the hearer,” said Harms Wiebe.
Reimer referred to Acts 3 in his session, Christ and the Christian Community, drawing out the importance of spending time “with Jesus,” and of the working of the Holy Spirit. The transformational power of God is what makes a Christ follower’s confession more effective than the latest pop psychology self-improvement scheme, he said. Reimer also challenged participants not to be daunted by increasing pluralism in the Canadian context; the culture in Jesus’ day was even more hostile to a message of only one way of salvation, he said.
Both speakers emphasized that Christ followers are most effective when they share out of what they personally know and have experienced, and that one can’t share what one doesn’t know. “We each need to rub shoulders with Jesus, then be obedient when he speaks,” said Reimer.
Four workshops gave conference-goers further options to explore a facet of confessing Jesus.
• At Christ our Peace, Columbia Bible College emeritus president Walter Unger examined the paradoxical truth of God’s making peace through surrender to violent death (Colossians 1:20, Ephesians 2:13–18) against God’s wrath (Revelation 19:11,15). The workshop concluded that Christians should endure suffering, leaving vengeance and wrath – which we also deserve – to God, and urged sharing the good news that Christ is our peace.
• MB Herald editor Laura Kalmar led a book discussion on Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. Though not all participants were equally impressed with the book’s apologetic value, nearly all were affected by some part of Keller’s presentation. Attendees concurred that logical arguments are less likely to result in conversion in a postmodern age, but do provide an avenue for conversation about Christ. The Kindred Productions booth completely sold out of the book by the end of the conference.
• Incarnational Living in a corporate context was the subject of Forest Grove Community Church lead pastor Bruce Enns’ presentation. Enns laid out a case for this missional rather than attractional model of church, and spoke on the presence, proximity, and powerlessness a Christian can exhibit to earn a platform to proclaim Jesus as Lord. BFL responder Sherry Heidebrecht’s raw and transparent response offered a vivid example of what it looks like to actually live with the intention to make Jesus come alive – “it’s personal,” she emphasized.
• BFL member and MBCI teacher Paul Doerksen presented on Ethics as Patience: Patience as Ethics. Christian ethics is often seen in terms of conclusions, he said, but the practice of moral patience “creates time and space.” We have time “because God has time.” In the context of the conference, he called listeners to nurture patience on theological issues, rather than pushing to establish a position to codify.
• A workshop on hermeneutics led by Randy Klassen gave participants a chance to do their own work, as he led them through an exegesis of Colossians 1:15–20.