by Heidi Regier Kreider, WDC Conference Minister
The WDC Church Planting Commission has been having conversations about what church plants and established congregations can learn from each other. CPC member Tim Amor wrote in the April 21, 2020, issue of Sprouts about the experience of “what was once called Beatrice Mennonite Church” in their journey to re-plant their congregation; and he wonders how we might use the the tools of church planting to bring creativity and newness to established congregations. (see https://mennowdc.org/wdc-sprouts-april-21-2020/) In today’s article I want to return to this theme, with some additional reflections.
Recently I preached at two WDC congregations on Jesus’ parable of the sower, the seed, and the soils (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23). What if we consider this parable in relation to congregational vitality and witness? Seen through the lens of this parable, the church is soil in which the message of God’s Kingdom must be planted and harvested, over and over again. Jesus’ parable challenges our prevailing tendency, which is to simply store up seed once it is harvested. For example, we tend to use the markers of an established church as measurements for a church plant’s success: This includes factors such as having a written constitution, a governance structure, financial protocols, a membership list, and a meeting place. Now, to be clear, I value these elements as important for congregational health because they support effective leadership, shared understanding, transparency, accountability, stability and organizational memory. I will continue to encourage church plants to establish these kinds of organizational structures to strengthen their viability. At the same time, such structures may be more like silos which we use to contain and preserve the seed of God’s Kingdom – rather than the seed itself. If we want to keep planting the seed, we also need to continue practicing the elements that are natural to church plants: Discerning a vision for the future, assessing the context in which the church exists (our local neighborhood and demographics, the opportunities and needs around us), developing an intentional plan to invite new members and disciple new believers, identifying gifts for leadership and ministry, equipping the “saints” for ministry, and nurturing relationships with the wider church as the body of Christ.
Being part of WDC provides both church plants and established congregations the resources and opportunities we need to grow in all these ways, as we share our insights, questions, needs and resources together. Every congregation – whether newly planted or deeply rooted – is called to be the soil where the seed of God’s message is scattered again and again, producing new growth, new seeds and new harvest opportunities.
As we anticipate the upcoming WDC Annual Assembly on August 1-2, I invite you to participate in this gathering to hear how God’s word is growing among us, and to encourage and challenge one another to growing faithfulness, justice and hope.