Kleefeld: Parent-Child Dedications, Deacon Commissioning

by Dennis and Louella Friesen

KLEEFELD, Man. — Family and friends filled the sanctuary at the Kleefeld EMC on Oct. 30, 2016, to witness and support the four couples who were dedicating themselves to raise their children in the desire that they grow up to honour and glorify Christ. As a congregation we continue to support and encourage these young families and remember them in prayer.

A special deacon commissioning service took place at KEMC on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. Elected to this role were Vik and Martha Sawatzky. Thanks, Vik and Martha, for accepting this responsibility, and we wish you the Lord’s blessings as your serve the church in this capacity.

Once a month the seniors at KEMC look forward to sharing a Sunday meal of soup, buns, and dessert. For the past several years this has been organized and prepared by Norm and Rosella Bartel, Leonora Koop, and Elma Fast. We express our appreciation to them for the excellent food and fellowship opportunity. This past year Darrin and Alvira Warkentin stepped in to take their place; and, on behalf of the seniors, we thank them for continuing this service. God bless!

Layton Friesen appointed as Conference Pastor

by Peter Doerksen, BLO Chairperson

The Board of Leadership and Outreach is pleased to announce the appointment of a new Conference Pastor. Layton Friesen was interviewed by the board at their meeting on March 17, 2017. After the interview, Layton was offered the position and he has accepted.

Layton is well known to the EMC. He has served as an associate pastor in Crestview Fellowship and as a senior pastor at Fort Garry EMC. He has also previously served as the chair of the EMC’s Board of Leadership and Outreach.

Layton brings a rich educational background to his work: BRS (SBC), MCS and ThM degrees (Regent), and is completing a dissertation towards a PhD (University of St. Michaels). He is married to Glenda, and they have two children.

We are delighted that Layton has agreed to serve as Conference Pastor and believe that he will be an encouragement to EMC churches. He is prepared to begin serving full time sometime in the fall. Through an agreement with Providence Theological Seminary, Layton will also provide direction to and teach in the Anabaptist Studies Track of the Master of Divinity program. Ralph Unger will continue to serve as interim Conference Pastor until Layton is ready to begin.

 

Luis Pitta: Airdrie, Glory and Praise to Christ!

by Pastor Antonio Luis Pitta

In Airdrie a new congregation has been born!

AIRDRIE, Alta.—In 2013, when Emanuel was a three-year-old baby church, I asked a church leader who lived in Airdrie how long it took to drive to Emanuel Church in Calgary. He answered close to 40 minutes if there is no traffic.

I asked him if there was Spanish-speaking church in Airdrie. The answer was no. I told him that one day there was going to be if God would open doors for us.

In 2014 Emanuel’s leadership discussed a plan to grow as a church even if through the birth of another congregation—not a division, but a church plant. Everyone agreed and we started to pray for God to show us how and where.

We spent the next two years praying for God to bring people to our congregation or use us to grow his kingdom in other ways. Our church grew a bit. However, God gave us a love for Spanish-speaking people in Airdrie.

I shared it in our Region Two meeting, and at the convention 2016 we shared it with church planting coordinator Charles Koop. He has always been present to pray, advise, mentor, and encourage us.

During 2015 we started to build relationships with the Spanish-speaking community in Airdrie. Besides the family that was already residing in Airdrie from our Church, another two families moved into the area during 2016. Our leadership at Emanuel approved this motion in Fall 2016: “Iglesia Emmanuel fully supports in prayer, with moral support and actions, as much as is able to plant a church in Airdrie.”

God opened doors and a sister English-speaking church in the City of Airdrie allowed us to rent their building for our services. Our church plant launch service was on Jan. 28, 2017. It was so encouraging; it confirmed us what God had put in our hearts. Many Emanuel members came to support and serve, and about as many people came from Airdrie. 

Maria Antonieta, who resides in Airdrie, spoke of how she and her family had been praying for three or four years that God would open a Spanish-speaking church. “God answers the prayer of his children,” she said. “Glory be to God!”

That is a bit of of our birthing process. We are in pain because three of our families are engaged in Airdrie and still attend and serve at Emanuel. It means economic hardship for a congregation like ours. As a pastor I will be sharing my time between two congregations. Pray that we will be wise to delegate work, to care for my own family and self-care.

Pray that God will call leaders from within Emanuel, the EMC, or abroad to serve God on a part- or full-time basis. In spite of the challenges, we are at peace, knowing that, as far as God is praised and known by others, we are fulfilling our purpose as Christians and a congregation.

We, the people from Emanuel Church, would like to thank all the churches of the EMC that have been supporting Emanuel with prayers and economic support through our conference over our seven years of life. We praise God and give him glory that we all have participated in the birth of another church for the glory of Christ. Alabado sea Dios! (Praise God!)

Terry Smith: Felix Manz and a Sympathetic Pastor

by Terry M. Smith

Who was the first person killed for being an Anabaptist? It wasn’t Felix Manz.

Manz (ca. 1498-1527) was drowned on Jan. 5, 1527, “in the River Limmat, the first Protestant martyr at the hands of Protestants” (J. G. G. Norman). 

Hippolytus (Bolt) Eberle, an Anabaptist, had been killed much earlier on May 29, 1525, in the Catholic canton of Schywz. (An unnamed Catholic priest was killed that same day for associating with Eberle.)

Felix Manz is better known. He knew Latin, Hebrew, and Greek, and had joined Ulrich Zwingli’s Bible classes in 1522. With others, he pressed for reform. When Zwingli deferred to the pace of the city-state’s council, Manz and others began to meet separately.

When some parents refused to have their children baptized, they were fined. On Jan. 17, 1525, Manz made the case for believer baptism before city council; the council rejected this. The next day council threatened to banish people who did not present their children for baptism within eight days; Manz was to submit to the order and cease arguing. On Jan. 21, 1525, he and others were baptized as believers.

During the next two years Manz was repeatedly arrested and imprisoned; he escaped once only to be recaptured. He would emerge to strengthen his brothers and sisters in the faith, and, when allowed, make the case for believer baptism before Zurich’s city council.

He said he had never rejected government, preached in other pastorates only as any disciple would do, denounced both capital punishment and the use of the sword, and taught to share with the needy.

Once, when released from prison, Felix left Zurich for the canton of Grison. He was arrested and returned to Zurich with a letter dated July 13, 1525, that shows the magistrate’s frustration with him and, perhaps, Zurich’s city council: “But because he is an obstinate and recalcitrant person we released him from prison and because he is one of yours we have sent him to you, with the friendly request that you look after him and keep him in your territory, so that we may be rid of him and our people remain quiet, and that in case of his return we are not compelled to take severe measures against him” (H. Bender and C. Neff).

On March 7, 1526, Zurich city council made believer baptism punishable by drowning. On Dec. 3, 1526, Manz was arrested and on Jan. 5, 1527, sentenced to death. That afternoon he was taken in a boat onto the Limmat River.

There, he heard his mother call out for him to be steadfast. Manz spoke out in Latin: “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” An executioner forced Felix’s bound hands over his knees, put a stick between his arms and knees, and pushed Manz into the water. Four centuries later a memorial plaque would be placed on the riverbank.

Ironically, as Felix Manz had prepared to die, a “preacher at his side spoke sympathetically to him encouraging him to be converted.” Converted to whom? If to Christ, Felix was that already.

terry-smith
Terry M. Smith

It is a tragedy for Christians to die at the hands of non-Christians. It is an even greater tragedy, and a more curious form of martyrdom, when a Christian dies at the hands of other Christians—especially when a sympathetic pastor is present.

Sources: C. J. Dyck, ed., An Introduction to Mennonite History (Herald Press, rev. 1981); C. Neff, “Eberle, Bolt” (GAMEO, 1953); W. Klaassen, Anabaptism: Neither Catholic nor Protestant (Conrad Press, 1981); J. G. G. Norman, “Manz, Felix,” Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. J. D. Douglas (Zondervan, 1981); H. Bender and C. Neff, “Manz, Felix” (GAMEO, 1957); H. J. Hillerbrand, The Reformation (Baker, repr. 1987); Southwestern News, Fall 2012 (SBTS).

Terry Smith: Questions That Arise From Franz Jägerstätter

Franz Jägerstätter was a 36-year-old Christian beheaded on Aug. 9, 1943, for refusing to serve in the German army. His objection? Germany’s war was unjust.

Did he oppose all wars? No, but he opposed this one. He reported for duty, said he could not fight, and offered to serve as a medical orderly. He both refused support for the Nazi party and to participate in the war Germany had started; it was not, in his view, a defensive war.

He was concerned about Germany’s invasion of Russia because its fight was about more than being against communism; there was an interest in Russia’s resources—“minerals, oil well, or good farmland.”

The farmer sought spiritual counsel from his priest and bishop, who tried to persuade him to serve. His relatives and wife tried also, but later his wife stopped. “If I had not stood by him,” she said, “he would have had no one.”

“Again and again, people try to trouble my conscience over my wife and children,” Jägerstätter wrote. “Is an action any better because one is married and has children? Is it better or worse because thousands of other Catholics are doing the same?” He “could change nothing in world affairs,” but wished “to be at least a sign that not everyone let themselves be carried away with the tide.”

Would you refuse to serve in a war you consider to be unjust? In all wars?

Jägerstätter asked, “If the Church stays silent in the face of what is happening, what difference does it make if no church ever opened again?”

terry-smith
Terry M. Smith

Franz Jägerstätter was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in 2007. His widow, Franziska Jägerstätter, died on March 16, 2013, two weeks after her 100th birthday. John Dear, a priest who had a chance meeting with her, said, “She stands, to my mind, as much of a saint as her martyred husband.”

Sources: Erna Putz, Against the Stream: Franz Jägerstätter—the man who refused to fight for Hitler. Translation by Michael Duggan. Reprinted from The Messenger (Nov. 5, 2006); Tom Roberts, “Franz Jägerstätter’s widow, ‘a warm, gentle soul,’ dies at 100,” National Catholic Reporter, April 8, 2013, online.

Questions:

1. Why did Jägerstätter object to serving in the German army?

2. In what way does Jägerstätter’s position fit that of a typical Conscientious Objector? In what does it not? (Being a Selective Conscious Objector is a position not currently protected in Canadian law.)

3. Church leaders, relatives, and (at first) his wife tried to convince him to serve. What role, if any, should others play in convincing believers to act a certain way in a time of war? What is appropriate? What isn’t?

4. A key pressure placed on Jägerstätter was the well-being of his family. His widow, Franziska, lived for almost 70 years after he was killed. There is no mention of how she managed to provide for herself and her children. Franz Jägerstätter was concerned about his wife and children and felt the weight of his obligations, yet ultimately stood by his convictions as a Christian. What do you think about his decision?

5. He “could change nothing in world affairs,” but wished “to be at least a sign that not everyone let themselves be carried away with the tide.” Was this naïve or necessary?

Leamington: Baptisms, Church Building Well Used

by Helen Boschman-Dyck

LEAMINGTON, ONT.–“Rejoice in all of the good things the Lord your God has given you and your household” (Deut. 26:11). We as the Leamington EMC household have truly been blessed and have much to rejoice about.

On Feb. 28, 2016, our church had a baptism and membership reception. Theresa Dyck, Stephanie Penner, and Justin Klassen were baptized upon their confession of faith. Franz and Helena Guenther were accepted as members as well.

Another baptism was held on Nov. 27, 2016. Aaron Froese, Ryan Fehr, Shannon Fehr, Amy Wolfe, Emily Penner, Courtney Klassen, Jenny Neufeld received baptism. Tommy Enns was also welcomed as a member.

Our church building has been a blessing as well; it seems as though there is always something happening. We have special events like our Annual Couples Date Night Challenge, an evening where couples from our church and local community are able to enjoy great food, games and fellowship.

We have regular Sunday School and Sunday morning services in English; and on Sunday afternoon, as well as Tuesday evenings, a Spanish church meets in our sanctuary.

The week is filled with men’s volleyball on Monday nights, along with men’s and women’s Bible studies on Wednesdays and Thursdays. We have a growing youth program in our church; Junior Youth meets Wednesday nights and Senior Youth on Friday nights. We also have two homeschool groups regularly utilizing our building.

We have been able to reach out farther to our community through hosting many other events such as Sunday potlucks, Men’s and Women’s ministry events, Youth and Young Adult Group events, meetings and weddings. We also host Berean Schools annually; this year it was in March.

We are called to be a light to those around us and we feel blessed to be able to do so as we serve our community.

“The church is the church only when it exists for others, not dominating, but helping and serving” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

Michael Zwaagstra: Christians Need to be More Shrewd

by Michael Zwaagstra

News reports across Canada and the U.S. too frequently tell of Christians being involved in or exploited by illegal pyramid schemes that bilk investors out of thousands of dollars. Apparently, strongly Christian communities can often be prime recruiting areas.

The Problem With Pyramid Schemes

Pyramid schemes are relatively easy to identify. Simply put, a business is a pyramid scheme when it focuses more on recruiting new members than on selling an actual product. For instance, a company might sell travel packages that have almost no actual value. Investors make money by convincing friends and family members to buy packages of their own. The higher up you were on this chain, the money you made.

The problem with pyramid schemes is that people at the bottom are guaranteed to lose money. This is because it doesn’t take long to run out of new recruits. If each investor is responsible for recruiting at least two additional investors down the chain, it takes only 22 levels before you reach 33 million people—close to the entire population of Canada. Obviously, the scheme collapses long before then, but not before the people at the top make a fortune off the backs of those at the bottom.

Pyramid scheme organizers love to target communities where significant numbers of people are likely to fall for their scam. Unfortunately, fertile ground can often be found in areas with a relatively high percentage of Christians. Some of the perpetrators are Christians, as are many of the victims. Sadly, their Christian faith did not prevent victims from being swindled out of thousands of dollars by a pyramid scheme.

Gullible Christians

One could hope that pyramid schemes are an isolated example of Christian gullibility. They are not. In far too many cases, Christians fall for everything from faulty apologetics to Internet hoaxes.

One example is the decades-old urban legend that prominent atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair is launching a campaign to ban all religious programming from the airwaves. Recipients of this doomsday message are encouraged to sign a petition in order to preserve religious freedom.

The problem is that this story is completely false. Madalyn Murray O’Hair does not have any such campaign going on and has actually been dead since 1995. A quick Google search is all it takes to discover that there is nothing constructive to be gained from spreading this false rumour. As Christians, we look rather foolish when we allow ourselves to get suckered in so easily.

It is equally silly when we use bogus arguments to defend our faith. For example, it is not true that Noah’s Ark has been discovered on Mount Ararat or that human and dinosaur footprints have been found together at the Paluxy River in Texas. Nor is there such a thing as a “day missing in time” discovered by NASA scientists that proves that the sun stood still in Joshua 10:12-14.

By the way, there is also no evidence that Charles Darwin recanted the theory of evolution on his deathbed. And yet, these and many other bogus arguments are still used by well-meaning Christians when defending the faith.

The Value of Shrewdness

In Luke 16:1-9, Jesus tells his disciples a parable about a dishonest manager who cleverly ingratiates himself with his master’s debtors by quickly reducing their debts before being fired from his job. Without defending this manager’s dishonesty, Jesus notes that the master commended his manager for acting shrewdly (Luke 16:8). The Greek word translated as “shrewdly” is phronimos, which means prudent, practically wise, or sensible.

According to Jesus, his disciples can learn something from this dishonest manager. “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8b ESV).

In other words, Jesus is telling his disciples that non-Christians often act more prudently and sensibly than Christians do in many circumstances. Suffice it to say that there is nothing particularly shrewd about falling for a pyramid scheme, spreading false Internet rumours, or using bogus arguments to defend our faith.

In a different context, Jesus gives his disciples some advice as to how they should handle themselves before he sends them out. “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt.10:16). Jesus knew that his followers would face serious challenges in the world so he reminded them that they needed to behave shrewdly without falling into the trap of emulating the world’s sinful ways.

How to Become More Shrewd

In Preaching the Parables (2004), New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg says that in far too many cases, Christians do the exact opposite and are “as wicked as servants and as dumb as doves.” Blomberg points out that Christians are often too complacent when it comes to planning Sunday School lessons, sharing our faith strategically, or running church committee meetings. Churches should be known as some of the best-run organizations in the country and yet we know that far too many congregations accept poor governance as a fact of church life.

Running a church effectively requires a lot of work and more than a little shrewdness. There is a reason why the Apostle Paul wrote letters in which he provided a detailed description of the qualifications for the roles of elders and deacons (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9).

Paul even took the time to explain how churches should determine which widows to enroll in their support systems (1 Tim. 5:3-16). Details matter and Christians should not fall into trap of assuming that we need to do nothing more than trust in God. God gave us brains for a reason and he expects us to use them.

When it comes to evangelism, Paul acted shrewdly on more than few occasions. He made good use of his Roman citizenship to stand up for his legal rights (Acts 22:25-29) and chose just the right moment to identify himself as a Pharisee when standing before the Sanhedrin (Acts 23:6-10).

When speaking to the people of Athens, Paul quoted from one of their own poets and made sure to tailor his message in such a way that it was intelligible to his audience (Acts 17:22-34). In each of these circumstances, Paul exemplified what it means to act shrewdly.

Fortunately, we can enhance our shrewdness. Reading God’s Word regularly is one of the best ways to protect ourselves from foolishness. “Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation” (Psalm 119:98-99).

We should also put in the necessary intellectual work before making a decision. Do some research before you forward a petition. There is nothing virtuous about ignorance, especially when many of the answers are easily found.

zwaagstra
Michael Zwaagstra

Finally, we need to make better use of our God-given intelligence. If non-Christians can tell the difference between a legitimate business and a pyramid scheme, the same should hold true for Christians. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. In all our dealings, let’s seek to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.

Michael Zwaagstra, BEd, PBCE, MEd, MA (Theological Studies), is a public high school teacher, a city councillor, and an adult Sunday School teacher (EFC Steinbach).