WESTERN DISTRICT CONFERENCE
August 19, 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:
*Do We Focus on Church Rather Than Mission?
Do We Focus on Church Rather Than Mission?
by Gilberto Flores, WDC Associate Conference Minister
In my last article I mentioned that a congregation has to be inspired to take the risk to move from a self-centered focus to a mission-oriented imagination. I suggested the need of a better connection with the context. I said:
Begin with intentional systematic connection with the context. This generates awareness about the real life of a community and helps to 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 of Jesus by word and deed. It allows members of the church to perceive that what God is doing is worthy of the congregation’s participation. It is something done outside and beyond church buildings. As missional people say, “Go and connect on the community’s turf, not on the church’s turf.”
The church lives in the world as a guest, the host community is the place God has given to the church as its context, the existential space where congregations demonstrate the grace of God and the blessing of the kingdom of God.
So I invite you to think about connecting with God’s mission in the neighborhood.
Nobody denies the fact that God is at work in the world. However, sometimes it is difficult to see it, because the church functions more as a passive observer, doing its theology and practicing its ecclesiology like a commodity. A friend of mine, once in the seventies, argued with me about the church, trying to convince me that the church was no longer relevant. He said: “The church can be seen like a rest area on a highway, offering something to travelers, but never moving with them.” I partially agreed with this, but coming from an outsider, it touched some of my inner fibers of Christian devotion. Churches invest a lot of time stating what they are, what their distinctiveness are, and what kind of values they have. All that work tells me that churches are aware that something has to be done to recover relevance. It doesn’t help when congregations try to find answers focused on “What is church?” instead of “How is God at work in the neighborhood? And how do we get involved?” Asking the right questions will give churches a better sense of what the Holy Spirit is moving them to embrace.
Learning to exegete the context and being aware of God’s work in that context are two essential components to find out the kind of church a congregation has to be. The moment the church gets clarity about this is the moment when other questions help move it into missional spirituality, empowering congregations with the capacity to detach from a self-centered approach toward a missional ecclesiology. These questions are: What kind of church do we need to be to participate in God’s mission in the neighborhood? Who is the Jesus the church represents? The question is not what kind of programs, plans or strategies we have to implement. The demand of spiritual awareness and the courage to turn around priorities is high but worthwhile.
At the last WDC assembly in Waxahachie, Texas, in July, three church planters shared what motivated them to plant a church. The three of them were aware of God’s work and how the Lord was touching people to connect with His purpose. These church planters are people interested in their neighbors and the community in general. They can speak about people’s need and how God is doing great things with them and through them. This is a good example of how local churches can partner together and follow God into the host community and become a blessing in the name of Jesus.
Years ago Beth-El Mennonite Church in Colorado Springs was interested in building a new sanctuary, and the new place was in another community. They decided to ask the community if it was good for the community to have a new church and a new building in their community. The community reacted with surprise because never before had a congregation asked such a question. The answer was positive and an entirely new relationship began. The impact of a congregation in a community has strong connection with what God is doing there and what kind of church the congregation wants to be. At the same time, there is need of a new way to show the face of Jesus to people in our neighborhoods.
I would be glad to hear from you. I invite readers to enrich these ideas with their own understandings about the church and God’s mission. If you do so, your participation could be a contribution to help others discover that there are more than just problems to face. God is out there doing what is worthwhile. Where are we?
1. Next year’s WDC Assembly will be held in fall of 2015. Previously, it had been planned for June 29-30, 2015, just prior to Mennonite Church USA Convention, but this has changed. A specific date will be announced when it is available.
2. August 31 is the deadline to complete the online Discernment Survey from Western District Conference. We want to hear from all of our members. Go to the survey at: https//www.surveymonkey.com/s/WDCopinion for the English and the Spanish version.
3. The WDC Directory 2014-15 is ready! This helpful resource contains names, addresses, emails, and phone numbers for WDC Staff, Churches, Pastors, Executive Board, Commissions, Committees, Task Forces, and more! You’ll find the Directory attached to this email. (We know that this kind of information constantly changes, send your corrections to: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
4. Camp Mennoscah thanks you! Thank you, generous singers, for the gifts you gave at the Camp Sing! The amazing amount of $3,557.99 was raised for the new bathhouses and for Camp Mennoscah. We are grateful to each and every person who prays for Camp Mennoscah, volunteers, and gives to us in many and various ways. You’re the bestest!
5. There’s still time to send in your registration forms! Don’t miss out on the Mental Health Spiritual Retreat for those affected by mental illness, including all family and friends. Laurie Oswald Robinson will be our inspirational speaker on the theme of Finding Your True Self. Activities include swimming, a hayrack ride, free time, and crafts. Contact us at 620-297-3290 for more information or find the brochure at www.campmennoscah.org under Retreats! It’s a fun time for all!
6. Join the Choir of Volunteers! Camp Mennoscah’s annual Work & Play Camp is September 14-17 and everyone of all ages is invited. We’ll spend a few days doing a variety of tasks from sewing to painting to sorting to singing to having coffee breaks–all in the name of fellowship and reviving the camp grounds after a long summer. There is no cost for this retreat, but please let us know that you are attending. Contact us at 620-297-3290 for more information.
MC USA Announcements
1. With events in Israel and Palestine, primarily Gaza, very much in the news in recent weeks, we are fortunate to have the first-hand observations and insights of persons who have spent substantial time in that region. Daryl Byler, former MCC representative in Palestine and Israel, Iran, Iraq and Jordan, will be speaking at several events from September 5 to 7. These will take place at Hesston College, Journey Mennonite Church-South Hutchinson, Hesston Mennonite Church, Whitestone Mennonite Church, and First Mennonite Church-Newton. See attachment for times, locations and topics.
2. AMBS Kansas Center is offering “Anabaptist History and Theology”, which explores the vision and personalities of early Anabaptism and assesses the relevance of this heritage for the church today. Taught by professor Lois Barrett, PhD, the class meets over 4 weekends: Sept. 5-6, Oct. 10-11, Nov. 7-8, Dec. 5-6. Learn more: www.ambs.edu/KansasCenter; facebook.com/followAMBS; email@example.com. (Attached is an announcement for Anabaptist History and Theology with AMBS-Kansas Center for congregations that run a slideshow before worship.)
3. “Radical Hospitality: Responding to the issue of immigration” Bible study guide available. What are the basic facts about U.S. immigration? Who is involved? What does the Bible have to say to us as Christians about immigration? What role might we fill as Anabaptists within this age-old challenge? This free Bible study unpacks these questions and more and is ideal for adult Sunday School classes, small fellowship groups, weekend adult Bible Schools., and congregational in-services. The core curriculum, which is based on 5 videos (each 15-20 minutes) and an accompanying Resource Guide, can be customized to meet your group’s needs. Download materials for free: www.mennoniteusa.org/what-we-do/immigration/radical-hospitality-discussion-guide/
Western District Conference
2517 North Main, PO Box 306
North Newton KS 67117
316-283-6300; FAX: 316-283-0620