75 years of church

May 9, 2012 | Viewpoints | Number 10
Garry Janzen |

So what does it mean to be the church in one place for 75 years? Actually we’re the church in many places, yet we are all under one umbrella. Sometimes we call Mennonite Church British Columbia a conference, sometimes an area church, sometimes even a denomination, but how about a network?

We learned from Stuart Murray, author of The Naked Anabaptist, that the Anabaptists in Great Britain hang together as a network. At our Leaders, Elders and Deacons (LEAD) conference and 75th anniversary gatherings on March 2 and 3, Murray helped us see how the bare essentials of being Anabaptist are making sense to a lot of people these days. He suggested that Anabaptism is a movement whose time has come.

Wow! So, this is like after 500 years. Anabaptist networks are arising around the world. Intentional communities are arising that embrace Anabaptism. New categories are arising that describe these folks, such as: kingdom radicals and Anabaptist conspirators. In this post-Christendom time most of the world is moving away from imperial Christianity, and the symbols of our faith are no longer familiar to this generation. This is a context in which Anabaptism is making sense to many.

With an exciting interest in Anabaptist principles from people beyond us Mennonites, yet with limited financial resources and busy people, how do we proceed with participating in the mission of God in our neighbourhoods?

We have a fund available for new missional activity. Since the Mennonite church has been committed to the missional church paradigm for more than a decade, MC B.C. is committed to making missional coaching available to all of our congregations. We are also committed to the churches-planting-churches strategy. What this gives us is a variety of approaches to multiplying based on each congregation’s sense of God’s leading.

We recently had one of our congregations multiply to a second location based on the campus model. We have a congregation that is looking for ideas because it is bursting at the seams due to being able to reach a new demographic of people in growing numbers. There is some energy for starting house churches in new geographic areas where there are concentrations of people who are currently drive-in folks to some of our congregations.

Bi-vocational ministry allows for some flexibility to grow low-cost new gatherings. Just recently we have heard of someone seeking another university degree in order to provide employment so as to be able to do affordable church ministry. We may actually have opportunity to move back from the professional model of ministry to more of a lay-minister approach in new smaller gatherings such as house churches.

The pause to reflect on 75 years of being church has been an expectant opportunity to look at how Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, yet his church is called to respond to what God is doing in each changing generation. The future seems brilliantly interesting and full of potential as we seek to align with God’s imagination and initiatives.

Garry Janzen is executive minister of Mennonite Church B.C.

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