by Terry M. Smith
LONDON, Ont.—The EMC’s ministerial on July 6, 2018, heard a devotional by Jacob Enns, learned of Layton Friesen’s first year as conference pastor, and considered The Mission of the Church.
Richard Klassen, Board of Leadership and Outreach chair, welcomed ministerial members, noting that he had previously spent nine years in the region. Pastor Jacob Enns (Leamington) provided the devotional, telling delegates that they must go beyond interpreting Anabaptist history as when the Church got it right and that Jesus is lucky to have us. Rather, despite obstacles the Church has succeeded miraculously well because the message of the cross was central. The story continues. Let’s continue as disciples, the ones who are fortunate.
Layton Friesen, conference pastor, began serving about a year ago with “ignorant bliss,” has encountered major challenges among churches, and looks forward to the future. He has learned of the “heroic ministry” that occurs across the EMC.
He had several observations. First, the EMC lives by friendships, not a bureaucracy. Second, there is a need to walk with churches that suffer and ex-pastors need care. Third, pastoring in the EMC is the art of achieving a “glorious, widespread mediocracy”—the ability to do many things adequately without being a genius in any. Fourth, he needs to better deal with stress. Fifth, there is a need to remain faithful to Scripture amid society—including “the Benedict Option” and to be more intentional about spiritual formation.
Relatedly, the EMC needs to re-examine how we make pastors, and the November meeting will explore a move from a “challenge the exam” model to a six- to eight-month program for ordinands, he said.
Missions and Church Planting
Much of the day was spent on The Mission of the Church—actually limited to foreign missions and Canadian church planting. Fred Buhler, Board of Missions chair, said its guiding principles include that we are more effective working together; he’s concerned by a lack of vision when a local church says it only has enough funds for local needs. Staff members want to be invited by local churches to assist people to be involved, and he assumes that BOM materials are distributed and used.
The BOM is evaluating the work in Guadalajara, dealing with changes in giving patterns, and is involved in missionary member care. Its role is to plant churches in other cultures and help them form local associations.
A Missionary’s Role
A cross-cultural worker, whose identity is hidden for security reasons, addressed the home church and the missionary. Local churches need more than to be directed or passive about missions. They need to teach missions, be aware of movements in the Global South and East, consider appointing a missions pastor, and seek how to identify people to serve despite our individualistic western culture. In the tensions between people and process, he warned against going it alone or affirming “lone ranger” outfits who “swoop in” for people and money.
The missionary needs to be involved in the local church, to esteem others, to guard against a sense of entitlement and being critical, to welcome accountability, communicate clearly, and report creatively. Donors are to be seen as partners, and the missions committee is to care for its members.
A Pastor’s Role
Ward Parkinson (Rosenort EMC) serves in a church involved in missions for generations. There is blessing in the involvement; the dangers are that the church will rest on its laurels, forget young people who grapple with a sense of call, and see missions as only far away.
A pastor’s role in supporting missions involves five opportunities and three tensions. Two opportunities are to regularly mention missions in preaching and to pray (bulletin notes, EMC Day of Prayer, prayer teams). Third, when inviting missionaries to your church, give them lots of time. Fourth, invest in young people and discipleship related to missions. Fifth, connect regularly with missionary (even by a video chat).
There are three tensions. First, how EMC Missions is to be promoted. Short-term trips are useful for a young person, but help them to understand how they might fit into EMC missions. Don’t assume; help them to make connections. Second, let people go, especially if they are “the best.” Rosenort has freed Scott and Debbie Dick to go to Ste. Agathe. This isn’t subtracting; it’s multiplying. Third, your support as a pastor is important. Make it personal.
Ken Zacharias, director of global missions, said that fully administered fields and associate missions are both arms of EMC Missions. He spoke on member care and the need to debrief missionaries. He referred to 16 questions from Dr. Laurie Gardner, Wycliffe member care, with two key questions being, “How are you doing?” and “What is hard right now?” It might be children, culture, immediate family, finances, languages, or physical health. National staff members are willing to assist local churches in debriefing, he said.
Trisha Reimer, a BOM member, spoke of Missionary Advocacy Teams. There is a need to be more effective as people prepare to enter missions service, are on the field, and after. Missionaries look for team support. Within the local church’s support team, specialists are needed in encouragement, logistics, finances, prayer, communication, and re-entry support. There is a need for team building and training.
A discussion time centred on a proposed change to missionary funding for fully-administered fields (Paraguay, Mexico, Bolivia) where, in future, missionaries might raise 40 percent of their support. Some people responded negatively to the proposal.
Fred Buhler replied that people give to a cause or a person they know, not a pool of funds. Phil Hamm, a BOM member, said that reduced giving is driving this agenda; the EMC can’t borrow money, doesn’t want to recall workers, and wants to send more workers.
People wondered if the amount to be raised could be reduced or if a root cause analysis of giving patterns had been done. Tim Dyck said the EMC is generous in its support, but needs to learn from what other denominations are experiencing.
Ken Zacharias said that workers are sent by all of the churches, yet a few workers aren’t getting support because the EMC can’t afford it. One pastor said that missionaries aren’t getting into our churches, and another said the EMC is grieving over changes.
Called to Church Planting
Charles Koop, director of church planting, said starting new congregations is stepping out, not knowing about resources. Several church planters then shared their stories.
Jacob Enns (formerly New Life) described church planting as “glorious and messy.” He didn’t anticipate the opposition and attacks he would face. The highs were hope amid anticipating new life. The lows were when people came with wrong motives, seeking to run the church through the pastoral couple; or when people came with great promise and potential, but did not stay.
What would he do differently? He would try to display greater patience, be a better judge of people’s motives, work on being a team leader, better discern people’s abilities, and not be alarmed when people walk away.
Antonio Pitta (Iglesia Emanuel) said one challenge is cultural because Latinos are passionate, quickly angered, and make it personal; they escalate beyond what is right and wrong. An episcopal system works in the southern hemisphere, and he wondered if the EMC should encourage some churches to be episcopal to fit within the culture.
Another challenge is economics. Immigrants often accept low-paying jobs because their credentials are not recognized, or they are to put family first rather than study. People find it hard to accept that a pastor has a salary or a sabbatical. Few families tithe and preaching on giving helps little, so it’s difficult for a church to be self-supporting.
People who work two or three jobs don’t have much time for church activities, so he is concerned how to make good use of the time. The second generation has education and money; the church does not want to lose them spiritually.
His joy is in the Church of Christ, being with other mature believers. What would he do differently? There is a need to plant a church as a team with other mature Christians, so work is more joyful.
Randy Fehr (Grace Community Church) said the past while has felt like “sucking slough water.” He was helped by seeing children serve communion, through community, and by remembering Hagar with her “wild child” who knew God as “the one who sees me.”
Challenges come through “dissidents” from other churches, and attitudes toward immigrants and people with mental illnesses. When the church outgrew its rental facility, it shifted its location and service time. Most people left, and the church returned to its former location with lower numbers.
What would he do differently? Some people might have stayed if a building program was started, but GCC values renting. He drew upon 1 Kings 13 for a “crazy story” of a prophet who searched for an easier message when he should have stayed the course.
Troy Selley (Oak Bluff), chair of the Church Planting Task Force, said the most important activity to spur revival in a church is to plant a new church. Speak to an established church to send out good people and resources. Most churches have a solo pastor, an administrative assistant, a tight budget, a board, the need to balance local growth and international mission, and volunteers—yet revival stems from new churches.
Leaders need to create a personal passion for church planting. Invest time in studying church planting, train church planters in your church, create real-life opportunities, and start with “Wow!” (Andy Stanley), not how. Don’t be a dream killer.
Prayer was said for a church planter.
There is a need for flexible funding models. [There is flexibility.]
C2C Network is a good organization. God is at work in a broader context.
When a community becomes multi-cultural, use retired missionaries.
There is a need for teams in church planting.
“Domestic missions” is a good phrase.