The daily bombardment of advertising from radio, billboards, newspapers, the Internet, fliers and TV leaves me discouraged and fatigued. Relentless messages urge me to cling to an insidious mantra, to believe that I will be a better person for using a particular product or service, to believe that advertisers are honest and want the best for me.
Consumerism is delivered with such a significant plea that people don’t know what to believe any more, even about the church.
I find it important—and reassuring—to return to some basic truths, some steadfast advice drawn from the solid foundation of Scripture and the cloud of witnesses who have lived faithfully in ages before me. From this base, I remind myself what I believe:
- I believe that God is forming a people in every corner of this world that is God’s love incarnate. I believe that this people—the church—is God’s key strategy to transform and restore creation to God’s original design. I believe that the most critical task for God’s people is to dedicate their individual and corporate lives to God by constantly testing their doing and being with God’s redeeming purposes for the world.
- I believe in a church that is a safe place to be real, to be vulnerable, to ask hard questions. I believe in a church that is so joyously grateful and grace-filled that it overflows with generous gifts of time, talent and money, always asking how they can best be used to strengthen the body of Christ in the world. I believe in a church that nurtures its members to lead worshipful lives; that calls forth the gifts of each member and holds each one accountable for wise stewardship of them; that walks with one another interdependently in mutual accountability across generations and cultures.
- I believe in a church that delights and immerses itself in the study and discernment of Scripture, and humbly submits itself to the corporately discerned wisdom emerging from it. I believe in a church that does not fear different perspectives or diversity; a people that is not afraid to be bold, to change or to stand in contrast to secular society. I believe in a church that, like Christ, is not afraid to take risks of radical hospitality by generously extending abundant welcome to strangers and to strange ideas. I believe in a church that is not afraid to celebrate, not afraid to let the Spirit mess up our plans, and not afraid to engage society’s most difficult situations or take chances with difficult people.
- I believe in a church that understands God is calling us to abandon the common wisdom and rules that have colonized our minds, and instead, to radically imagine, believe, model, live, share, inspire and teach an alternative imagination of how to bring justice and peace among all peoples.
- I believe in this church. I believe this is what Mennonite Church Canada is, and is becoming.
What do you believe?
Janet Plenert is executive secretary of MC Canada Witness.