Bruxy Cavey’s message to mission and service leaders in Anabaptist organizations was plain. “We have lost a younger generation of leaders because the church has been so divided,” he said. “To fight for unity will be one of the most powerful things this next generation of leaders, young and old, can do together.”
Cavey was addressing the Council of International Anabaptist Ministries at its annual conference, held from Jan. 14 to 16 at The Meeting House in Oakville. The gathering provides Mennonite World Conference-related agencies with “resources and a forum for dialogue on global witness and service.”
Cavey is the senior pastor at The Meeting House, a multi-site Anabaptist congregation described as “a church for people who aren’t into church,” that is part of the Be in Christ Church of Canada (formerly Brethren in Christ). The Meeting House has 20 sites across Ontario, at which thousands of people connect with God and each other through a widespread house church network, Sunday services and online interactions.
Cavey, who was nurtured in several denominations, said Anabaptism “felt like home” for him, when he discovered it, adding that there is “something peculiar” about the tradition that is worth speaking up about.
In his address, entitled “Engaging new missional leaders,” he named obstacles that keep young people from church, but emphasized that an Anabaptist “Jesus-centred message” inspires people of all ages.
Using texts from First and Second Timothy, where the Apostle Paul mentors the young leader, Cavey said that Paul was “setting the bar high for new missional leaders.” Their calling is to “set an example for the believers. . . . Don’t dumb it down. Don’t make it easy.”
Most important for all mission and service, he said, “the goal is love.” To affirm that God is love “reorients our understanding of the universe in which we live,” and creates a vision for us,” he said, insisting that God is relational. Love, he said, is the “DNA of the divine,” and, “Jesus is the evidence that God is love.”
Discipleship is also relational, according to Cavey. He described it as an “apprenticeship in the way of the teacher” who is Jesus. He encouraged mission and service workers to keep Jesus in the centre of what they do, adding that the younger generation connects better with Jesus. There is “no teacher like him . . . once you fall in love with Jesus, you start to trust him,” he said, urging his listeners to realize that Jesus is more than a teacher, and through him people believe in God.
He acknowledged that many young people “want to hang out with Jesus, but not the church.” But he reminded them that, as disciples of Jesus, they are the church. “You are loved, forgiven, embraced and reconciled. Go and offer that to others,” Cavey said, adding, “The Word of God is to be embodied.”
When young people criticize the hypocrisy and legalism of the church, he said, they “sound like Jesus,” who also “challenged the legalism of his day.” He affirmed how Paul, in his letters, “leads out of his brokenness” and vulnerability, sharing how he was changed by Jesus, despite seeming so unworthy. In this way, Paul’s story of transformation reinforces his message, Cavey said.
Cavey also addressed the relationship between Jesus and the Bible. “We believe in the inerrant, infallible, authoritative Word of God, and his name is Jesus,” he said, calling the Bible “the gateway to Jesus,” and adding that Christians learn from Jesus how to read Scripture.
But he warned that “Scripture weaponized can do a lot of damage” by calling people to war, judgment and arrogance. He said the Bible can be “one of the most dangerous books on the planet unless we keep Jesus at the centre.”
Cavey said that he can find only four justifications in the Bible for churches to divide:
- Preaching a different Jesus.
- Preaching a different gospel.
- Abuse of grace.
- A persistent divisive disposition.
All the rest, he said, can be debated but are not grounds for dividing.
During the Q&A session after his presentation, people wanted to learn more about The Meeting House model of church. Cavey emphasized the importance of the 200 house churches that meet weekly for Bible study, discussion, confession and prayer.
“Real church happens when you turn the chairs to face each other, and ask each other, ‘What are you going to do differently in light of what you are learning?’ ”
This article appears in the Feb. 3, 2020 print issue with the headline, "'Fight for unity.'"
Do you have a story idea about Mennonites in Eastern Canada? Send it to Janet Bauman at email@example.com.
Bruxy Cavey addresses the Council of International Anabaptist Ministries at its annual conference, held from Jan. 14 to 16 at The Meeting House in Oakville, Ont., where he is the senior pastor. Cavey called for Jesus-centred, relational discipleship as the way to engage new missional church leaders. (Photo by Janet Bauman)