Are we asking the right questions?

February 15, 2012 | Viewpoints | Number 4
Renata Klassen |

Last fall, the leadership in Mennonite Church Saskatchewan organized regional  consultations with congregational leaders. We were very pleased at the thoughtful participation from almost all the churches. We heard that the membership in many congregations is getting older. Some congregations are getting smaller. Commitment to church is changing as other things compete for time and loyalty. We also heard that God is at work in our communities. Congregations are engaged and committed to nurture and spreading the gospel.

In all parts of Mennonite Church Canada, we are worried about declines in membership and contributions to budgets. Where will we be in ten years? Can we survive? At our consultation, some small congregations said, “Ten years ago, if you had asked us, we would have said that we would be gone in ten years. We are still here. God has a plan. We need to be faithful every day, and not worry too much about the future.” We also heard concern about ways to get more people into our churches. Members challenged leadership to think about planting churches to replace those which have closed or left in the past.

Are we asking the right questions? Is our goal to get more people into our churches, or are we focused on being the church? Jack Suderman tells about a meeting that he had with Fidel Castro. Castro grew up nurtured by the church in Cuba and told Jack that if the church had done what it should have been doing, the revolution would not have been necessary!

What are the marks of the church? Worship of God, love and care for those with whom we worship, and care and compassion for God’s world and all who inhabit it. Those three things need to form a coherent whole. If we are faithful in doing what God is calling us to be and do, we are the church.  

We assume that God is active in the world; we need to recognize God’s action and partner with God. Two years ago, Alan Kreider, writer, theologian and retired AMBS professor, spoke to our Area Church delegates about how to be the church. He reminded us of three things. First we must talk to God, daily, weekly, individually and corporately. Secondly, we must talk to each other in our churches (locally to nationally) and tell one another the stories of where God is acting in our lives and in our world. And thirdly, we must open our individual and corporate eyes to what God is doing around us, and learn to engage with God in those activities.

In order to do that effectively in our confusing, ever-changing world, we will require an active imagination, the ability to ask new open-ended questions, and a trust that God has not changed and is with us on our journey. Ubi Caritas! (Where charity and love are found, God is there.)

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