Sharing with each other

October 27, 2010 | Viewpoints | Number 21
Willard Metzger |

In a world rich with Christian re-sources, the Anabaptist perspective offers a prophetic voice that is both refreshing and disturbing. It can challenge and it can affirm. It can create a platform for greater dialogue, but it can also serve to limit broader discussion if it is offered in isolation.

Denominational offices across Canada face the difficult task of providing resources that reflect their distinctives to congregations whose lives are becoming increasingly unaligned to denominational identities. They are challenged with marketing something of diminishing interest to a declining audience. This challenge may be even more difficult for Mennonites, whose historical identity is closely entwined with the Radical Reformation and the prophetic voices of our past.

So how do we provide the wider church with resources relevant for today’s reality?

Anabaptist principles are incredibly relevant to a church world ready to accept a more serious embrace of discipleship, especially as it relates to such themes as poverty and social justice. Lifestyles that are attainable for everyone and sustainable in a weary world are important ingredients of spiritual worship, and they have integrity. Young people today increasingly view the connection between the two as nonnegotiable for defining a faithful church.

To concentrate on only providing resources to ourselves is to overlook an opportunity to share what we have learned with others. As an integral part of the body of Christ, the voice of Anabaptists must faithfully and joyfully join the global conversation of faith and discipleship. Our task, then, is to be a resource to the broader family of faith.

Conversely, we must accept resources from outside the Mennonite world. The church is much larger than Anabaptism. Just as Anabaptists provide an important emphasis for the wider church family, so, too, do other denominations. While it may be important to apply our Anabaptist grid to various theological perspectives and worship encounters, it is also important to allow the Spirit of God to challenge us through other prophetic voices.

If we preach only to ourselves, we miss out on the opportunity to be blessed by the gifts of others. As an integral part of the body of Christ, Anabaptists must enthusiastically receive from other parts of the body what God has prepared for us.

As a national church, it is a joyful privilege to offer our best to one another, confident in the good gifts provided to us by God for the strengthening of the church. Across Canada, we have all that we need to prosper and grow as a church that will be embraced by our children and grandchildren, our neighbours and co-workers. But in like manner, as a national church it is a joyful privilege to offer our best to the broader kingdom of God, confident in the good gifts that God has given us to share with others and in the good gifts that they have to share with us.

As of Nov. 1, Willard Metzger became Mennonite Church Canada’s new general secretary.

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