WESTERN DISTRICT CONFERENCE
June 17, 2014
A weekly communication for:
WDC Churches and Pastors
WDC Executive Board, Commission, Committee and Task Force members
Any content may be used in bulletins and newsletters and
forwarded to congregational leaders and members.
WDC Sprouts is also available at: www.mennowdc.org (Publications)
IN THIS ISSUE:
*Focus on Church Rather Than Mission?
Focus on Church Rather Than Mission?
by Gilberto Flores, WDC Associate Conference Minister
Three years ago I attended the Exponential event in Orlando Florida. In several workshops, speakers and attendees affirmed that one of the reasons to plant new churches is because the church needs it. And then planting churches is the Priority.
In other settings, pastors and congregational leaders state that the church needs to pay attention to emerging issues that affect the internal life of local congregations. There are other things demanding and deserving attention. Apparently this perspective has a strong anchor in the soul of the church. The church as an institution and local congregations as well, are investing time trying really hard to respond to those emerging issues. Investing time, emotional and spiritual energy, and human resources looking for solutions are at the center of church priorities. Resolving problems approach is the Priority.
Another way to see the role of the church is to maintain people – keep them satisfied and well served. This kind of congregation perceives people as the center and the meaning of the church. I remember a congregational survey about worship; almost 90% of the questions addressed the personal taste or personal satisfaction about the sermon, songs, facilities, music, etc. It was people at the center of worship, not the Lord. Religious consumers approach is the dominant component for strategies, church organization and services to be provided. There is too much attention on what people want and too little attention on what people need. A self-centered church always tries to keep people satisfied and well served.
In all these three scenarios the focus of the church is the church rather than mission.
Church planting as a panacea for survival is inadequate from a mission perspective. Resolving problems approach is not the best priority for the church. People’s satisfaction makes no sense from a discipleship perspective. The priority of the church is mission, God’s mission.
Of course, it is important to have congregations and church institutions with a healthy internal life, caring about everything which is essential to living peacefully and joyfully. At the same time it is important to have a sense of call to being a witness in the community where the church serves. Having an appropriate perspective of human value and responsible holistic attention to things that help to build congregations with a strong sense of community is good.
What can we do to move from a church-centered perspective?
What can we do to connect our church’s life with mission?
First of all, I recognize how difficult it is to move a church from an inward way of life. Changes are difficult to manage. People enjoy the comfort zone of “no-challenges please.” Respecting the extension of this article I want to mention just one thing.
Begin with an intentional systematic connection with the context. This generates awareness about the real life of a community and helps develop social, emotional, and spiritual connections with other people beyond our religious’ trench. It helps to see the world as a place where the church lives out its faith and witness to Jesus by word and deed. Allow members of the church to perceive that there is something that God is doing and is worthy of the congregation to contribute. This is something that has to be done outside and beyond our church buildings. As missional people said, go and connect in the community’s turf not in the church’s turf.
This approach would help the congregation discover the cultural composition of the community. It also allows the church to perceive how people think about their spiritual needs and how they face moral challenges. A good connection with outsiders helps open doors to express God’s grace and allow the church to discover where God is in that community, and what he is doing too.
Connecting to the community will be helpful in discerning what the local church can do to be a blessing for that very same community. This connection could help to discern if there is a specific group that needs attention. It also increases the capacity for a missional imagination and finds new ways to proclaim the good news.
At the core center of church identity is the fact that the only reason for the church to exist is the world. The world needs the church and the church has a role to play for the sake of this place that God gave to us as his mission field.
Church planting has to be shaped by our understanding of God’s love for the broken world, not for any need that we consider important. Church planting is a consequence of the connection of a local congregation with the social context. Church planting has to be defined by Jesus words: “…and you will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8b).
1. Today would be an excellent time to register for the WDC Annual Assembly, July 4-6 at the Lakeview Camp in Waxahachie, TX. Seminars will include the Our Faith and Our Story with the Chin Emmanuel Church; SHINE curriculum introduction, and Q & A with Terry Shue, Director of Leadership Development of Mennonite Church USA. Registration deadline is this Friday, June 20, after which lodging & meals are no longer available. Chartered bus seats from Newton to Waxahachie are still available for $90.
2. Lighten Up! It’s no secret that the Scriptures are filled with images and metaphors of light. Shine! the new children’s faith formation curriculum has three key Bible texts on light. Can you guess which ones? June 22 Shine Launch, 3 pm, Lorraine Ave. Mennonite church, Wichita. Come and See! Register by June 18: 316-283-6300
3. Scripture Doodle Book now available! It’s here for your doodling pleasure! A collection of 20 black and white patterns created for coloring, meditation, memorization. Wonderful gift for almost anyone, great companion for retreats, trips. Cardstock cover, spiral bound. Copyright 2014 by Joanna Pinkerton. $10 plus $2 for shipping. Order by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. 10% discount if ordering 10 or more copies.
4. The Camp Mennoscah Annual Camp Sing will be August 10 at 6 pm at Shalom Mennonite Church in Newton, KS. We hope many of you will come sing your favorite camp songs one more time before school starts; enjoy another generic pop and some popcorn and connect with friends and staff! Donations will be accepted for the new bathhouses. Save the date – we’ll see you then!
5. Camp Mennoscah Family Camp–Join us for an all-ages, all kinds of family camp on July 26-27! Ruth Harder and Jesse Graber will lead us in all sorts of shenanigans and camp fun. Contact Camp Mennoscah for more information at 620-297-3290.
MC USA Announcements
1. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AN ANABAPTIST? The fall course at AMBS-Kansas Center will be “Anabaptist History and Theology” with Lois Barrett meeting on four weekends (Friday evenings and Saturdays) Sept. 5-6, Oct. 10-11, Nov. 7-8, Dec. 5-6. Credit or audit. Early registration deadline is July 28–$100 discount. Now is the time to plan ahead, send a Sunday School teacher, or develop a congregational scholarship for this class. Register at www.ambs.edu or contact Brenna Harker (1-800-964-2627).
2. Radical Hospitality Resource Guide – Coming soon: a six-week video curriculum focusing on immigration, the Bible and Christian hospitality. Watch our Mennonite Church USA Facebook page for information about when this FREE resource will be available for Fall 2014 Sunday School curriculum.
3. The Spring 2014 issue of the Church Relations Update for Bethel College is now available on the Bethel web site at the following address: https://www.bethelks.edu/_userfiles/1/files/BCChurchRelationsUpdateSummer.pdf: It’s also attached to this email. This issue begins with an essay “One Job–Eight Careers,” which is my attempt to make a case for liberal arts education in a Mennonite context. It’s my final missive in this role as I am retiring on 30 June. The Update concludes with a press release introducing my replacement, Peter Goerzen. Peter is currently serving as pastor of Grace Hill Mennonite Church, rural Whitewater, Kansas. He will be fabulous! I would greatly appreciate your printing off a copy of the Update and posting it on a bulletin board in your church. –Dale Schrag, Director of Church Relations and Campus Pastor, Bethel College
4. Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, IN – Events and Resources:
Where culture blurs theology: What is an Anabaptist Christian?
January 26-29, 2015
- Greg Boyd, PhD
- Drew Hart, MDiv, PhD student
- Janet Plenert, MDiv
- Elizabeth Soto Albrecht, DMin
Anabaptist Short Course
Exploring Anabaptist History and Theology
Jamie Pitts, PhD
October 22-December 3
Early registration deadline: October 1
Western District Conference
2517 North Main, PO Box 306
North Newton KS 67117
316-283-6300; FAX: 316-283-0620