by Clarence Rempel, WDC Conference Minister
As movie titles get shorter, book titles seem to be getting longer. Kingdom Come: Why We Must Give Up Our Obsession with Fixing the Church and What We Should Do Instead by Reggie McNeal caught my attention. McNeal suggests that from the time of the Reformation the church has been preoccupied with fixing the church. Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and Menno Simons were all in that mode. “Let’s fix the church and the world will get better.” Fixing the church has often been accompanied by a fracturing and fragmentation of the church. Fixing the church focuses on what’s wrong with us. “We’re getting old. We hardly have any children. We can’t meet our budget. It’s harder to get volunteers.” This inward fixation hardly generates a welcoming spirit.
McNeal commends a new paradigm. “Let’s fix the world and the church will get better.” The prophet Jeremiah affirms the same. “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (29:7). Jesus’ prayer encouraged this outward focus as well, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). The self-preserving, self-seeking church might consider Jesus’ warning, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35).
What does “fixing the world look like?” First Mennonite Church, Newton, just framed up a house in their parking lot for a firefighter’s family who lost their home to a raging forest fire in Black Forest, Colorado. The link to the need in Colorado came through Mennonite Disaster Service. The framing was delivered and set up in a week. It took two Sunday’s of testimonies to share all the blessings that washed back over the church.
Trinity Mennonite Church, Hillsboro, KS met with city and school leaders to discern needs in the community. After listening and ten days of discerning prayer, they committed to providing a nutritious lunch for children and youth, Monday through Friday, for the summer. They applied for a WDC “Loaves and Fishes” Grant of $500 to help with that. Word has gotten out and financial support from the community is coming in.
We are blessed by God to be a blessing. It began with God’s call to Abraham. “I will bless you….and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:1-3). The call and blessing continue through the church. “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (II Corinthians 9:8). The specific “good work” referenced in this text was famine relief, food for those without enough.
May our churches keep a vision congruent with God’s “all abundant” blessing. The vision includes movement from being a church in the community to being a church for the community to being a church with the community. That’s my word of farewell. And here is my word of blessing.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).