by Heidi Regier Kreider, Conference Minister
This is the final of three articles on WDC’s mission statement: “WDC empowers Anabaptist/Mennonite congregations to Witness and invite others to faith in Jesus Christ, Dwell in just and loving relationships, and Connect to God’s mission in the world.”
Today’s article is on the theme “Connect to God’s mission in the world.”
“Identify who needs to do the work” is one of the leadership principles taught at the Kansas Leadership Center in Wichita, KS. It is important to know what we are called to do – and what we are not called to do.
This principle was the topic of discussion at a recent Leadership Lunch at WDC, where participants explored Biblical, theological and Anabaptist/Mennonite themes that connected to this principle. It was noted that with our Anabaptist emphasis on believers’ baptism and discipleship, combined with a strong Mennonite work and service ethic, we have a tendency to over-function, assuming that it is up to us as church leaders and members to do all the church’s work!
In fact, the work of the church is primarily God’s work. The church belongs to God – not to us. As followers of Jesus we are called not simply to work hard to carry out the church’s mission, but rather to participate in God’s work of shalom within and beyond the church. God began this work at creation, continued it in the calling of a covenant people, became incarnate in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and equips us to participate in this work through the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit.
As others have said: It is not that the church has a mission, but that God’s mission has a church.
To connect to God’s mission in the world requires that we look outward beyond our congregation, to ask questions about our context: Who are the people of our community? What do we know about their socio-economic status, age, ethnicity, education, employment, religious identity, and other factors? What needs and opportunities exist in the community? What is the physical and social landscape around our church? What current issues, local or world events cause us to lament or to rejoice? Where is God present in the midst of all this? How is God calling us to respond?
To connect to God’s mission in the world also requires that we look inward to discern the resources and callings within the congregation: What spiritual gifts, skills and experiences do church members have? How do we affirm those gifts, and how might God use them in ministry? What additional training or support might be necessary to put those gifts to use? How does worship, faith formation, leadership and decision-making equip our congregation for ministry? How do we invite and welcome others to join the community of faith? What experiments or changes are we willing to make in order to connect to God’s mission in the world?
As part of its mission, WDC seeks to empower each of our congregations to connect to God’s mission in the world. The result may look slightly different for each congregation: It may mean establishing a day-care for community children, or inviting neighbors to a Bible study; working with an ecumenical group to provide safe housing and mental health care in the community, or exploring the connection between faith and farming; building relationships with undocumented families seeking safety and a livelihood or mentoring local youth; participating in public demonstrations and prayer vigils, or writing legislators about current issues.
Whatever God’s calling is, I pray for wisdom, joy and a sense of purpose for each WDC congregation as we discern the work to which God calls us, by connecting to God’s mission in the world.