Terry Smith: Why a Conference of Churches?

by Terry M. Smith

Why do we have a Conference of churches? Some say it’s because of missions; we work together to make disciples and plant churches. Some pastors, missionaries, and evangelists emphasize this. Yet, at best, it’s only partly right. We are a conference because of Jesus—a person, not a task.

Pastors Kevin Wiebe and Darren Plett spoke on unity at the recent EMC ministerial retreat. Kevin also recently reminded us that Christian unity exists because of Jesus (see his Reformation Reflection column online).

We exist as the EMC because of Jesus. We are one by the One who is our peace (Eph. 2:14). Our unity is in Christ: “just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all in and all” (Eph. 4:4-6). This is wonderful, enriching, foundational.

As we recognize our unity in Christ, we are to work together in many ways in the EMC and beyond.

What gets emphasized within the Great Commission? Going, making disciples of all nations, and baptizing them in the name of our Triune God. Yes, let’s send more workers and also plant more churches in Canada!

The EMC has plateaued in membership for 17 years. Numbers matter because they represent people—and people matter. Sure, some church starts will fail. But the more we plant, the more we will succeed.

Within the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), though, what is too often reduced in significance? It is “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Packed into a few words is much.

We are to teach believers to “obey everything” Jesus has commanded. What does “obey” mean and “everything” include? More than can be said here. That’s precisely the point. Jesus’ teaching by word and example reveals our calling, our mission, is many-sided (Luke 4:17-19, Matt. 23:13-25).

We are called to faith, discipleship, evangelism, community, charity, justice, and much more. Does any of this sound un-EMC? One hopes not!

Consider again what our Constitution says: “The purpose of the Conference is to glorify God by building His Kingdom. This is done by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ at home and abroad, ministering to the spiritual and physical needs of people, establishing and nurturing local congregations of believers, building and maintaining community among member churches, coordinating the concerns and resources of the member churches for the various ministries within the Kingdom of God, [and] forming affiliations with other groups within the body of Christ in order to carry out the worldwide mandate of the church” (page 20).

Terry M. Smith

This is a broad calling—as local as next door, as wide as the world, as many-sided as there are ministries in God’s Kingdom. EMC churches are to work together to the glory of God and for His Kingdom.

The EMC exists because of Jesus. We are one in Him and called to follow, to be, to work in many ways (Rom. 12:4-8). How well does your local church reflect this?

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