Category Archives: Features

Dwight Plett: Change, Wrong Reasons, Right Reasons, and Two Considerations

by Pastor Dwight Plett

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Inspirational sessions speaker Gord Penner. Credit: Andrew Walker

The theme of this weekend is Inviting Healthy Change. Today we’re going to be talking about some potential changes in our leadership structure and it looks like we’re going to be talking about whether or not there should be a change in the leadership roles open to women in the EMC.

Of course, being Mennonites, we thrive on change and we find it totally invigorating so that should be no problem. All joking aside, this is a big deal.

I do have some general thoughts that apply to every decision we face. I’ve got four possible responses to the question at hand and two very important considerations.

I want to say thank you to the people who have been working on this behind the scenes. They’ve been at it for quite a while already and I commend them for their patience and their determination to get this right.

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A team leads in singing. Credit: Andrew Walker

1. We Can Say No for the Wrong Reasons

We can say no because it’s the easiest thing for people who hate change to do. “What’s so bad about the way things are? Change is hard and it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of people are going to have to make some huge adjustments and we’ll have to do our homework. We’ll have to examine scripture and try to figure out what it really means. We’ll have to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to lead us in a direction that’s unfamiliar. It’s just so much more convenient to leave well enough alone.”

Even worse, we could say no because we think women aren’t qualified, maybe even that they’re inferior. We could say no because we men don’t want to let go of power because we don’t really believe in servant leadership; we couldn’t possibly submit to women or surrender the authority to women.

Or maybe we want to say no because our theological heroes in more conservative churches and in previous generations said no to the same question. We could definitely say no for the wrong reasons.

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Jessica Wichers speaks, delegates listen. Credit: Andrew Walker

2. We Can Say No for the Right Reasons

If we say no because we honestly believe that the Bible forbids for all time, women from being in leadership over men. If that’s what we believe then we are obliged to say no and that would be a good reason for saying no.

We could say no because our concern is to be obedient to God regardless of what the world thinks, regardless of what other more “progressive” churches think.

We could say no because after praying and fasting and seeking after God we’ve come to the conclusion that that is the answer God wants us to give.

There are good reasons for saying no. If we would decide to say no because of our conviction that the Bible and the Holy Spirit forbid us from saying yes in spite of pressure from every other direction, then I don’t think God would be displeased with us.

3. We Could Say Yes for the Wrong Reasons

We can say yes because we’re tired of bucking the trend. We don’t like the kinds of labels we get for the stand we’ve been taking and we want to fit in. We don’t like it that the world thinks we’re backward. We don’t like being left behind. We don’t care what the Bible says; we just want to get with the program and fit in for a change.

If we’re more concerned about what other people think about us than we are about being obedient, then saying yes from that place would be wrong.

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Delegates came from five provinces to listen and to decide together. Credit: Andrew Walker

4. We Could Say Yes for the Right Reasons

I can’t help but think of the early church in Acts 15 when they had to decide whether or not Gentiles could belong to the church without being circumcised. There was no precedent; they really were moving into uncharted territory.

But the Holy Spirit led them and demonstrated among them that they were moving in the right direction so they changed a thousand years’ worth of tradition in that one meeting because they were being sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading.

That must have been a scary thing to do. But they did it because they were fully convinced that the Holy Spirit was leading them; and that, in spite of the fact that on the surface scripture seemed to be teaching the opposite, this is what God wanted them to do.

And when the Holy Spirit opened their eyes they discovered that scripture supported them in this. Paul argues eloquently in Romans 4 that Abraham is father to the circumcised and the uncircumcised and that circumcision is a matter of the heart.

If the decision before us is in any way similar to the one faced by the church in Acts 15, and if we decide to say yes in the 21st century to women in leadership for the same reasons that they said yes to the Gentiles in the first century, then I believe we would be saying yes for the right reasons.

I guess what I’m saying is that our reasons for saying yes or no are actually more important than the decision we end up making.

Two Considerations

And now I want to conclude with two words that are more important than anything else I’ve said.

1. My First Word is Obedience

We want to listen to God and obey his leading even if it’s not what we expected. More than trusting in common sense, we want to trust God regardless of how uncomfortable it might make us.

Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.”

There’s no way you could have predicted that one day Paul the Pharisee and Peter and James and the other devout Jewish early church leaders would one day make the decision to allow uncircumcised Gentiles to worship freely alongside ceremonially undefiled Jews. But they were trusting the Lord with all their hearts and not leaning on their own understanding. They acknowledged him and he directed their paths and they came to a very unexpected decision.

Do we have the patience and the resolve to wait on God for his leading? Remember Jehoshaphat’s prayer (2nd Chron. 20:12): “Lord, we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

2. My Second Word is Unity

We need to work together. We are on the same team; we have an enemy but the other people in this room are not the enemy. The people on the other side of the argument are not the enemy. We know that Satan wants to cause division. Let’s not cooperate with his plan. We want to be unified even if we don’t agree. Love must prevail.

Before you say anything to someone else about this issue you need to say this to yourself, “I love these people and we’re all on the same team, serving the same God, wanting his will. I want God’s way, not my way.”

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1 Cor. 13:1-3).

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Dwight Plett Credit: Andrew Walker

I think whichever way we go on this issue God can accomplish beautiful things in the EMC if we let him. If we patiently work our way through this process we can, by God’s grace, grow through it and learn to love each other even more than we already do.

Dwight Plett (left) is the lead minister of the Mennville EMC. He is married to Lorna. This message, shortened for publication, was presented to the EMC conference council on June 10, 2017, hosted at Mennville.

Abundant Springs 2017: Carrying a Bit More of Jesus With Us

by Jaime Loewen

You may not realize that the weekend doesn’t actually begin with the arrival at the destination. It begins the moment the group comes together at 8 a.m. all sleepy-eyed with their pillows under arms ready to load into a squished bus. This journey began on Friday, May 19, 2017, in the parking lot of the Kleefeld EMC (my home church) with 20 youth and an eight hour drive ahead.

One pit stop and plenty of kilometers later, 28 churches from across Canada arrived at Briercrest College in Caronport, Sask., all eager for our weekend of fun and learning.

First Main Session

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Sid Koop Credit: Jaime Loewen

After settling in the dorms and eating supper, it was time for the first main session. At each session we begin with praise and worship. The band called “The Color” has performed for the past three Abundant Springs. They do an amazing job creating an atmosphere free to worship Jesus; and many youth, when asked their favourite part of the weekend, responded with “the worship.”

This year we had the privilege of having Sid Koop as our main speaker. Sid, who is passionate about awakening the lives of students through the truth of Jesus Christ, has spent over 15 years in full-time youth ministry in the local church. Sid taught us what it meant to be alive in Christ by focusing the weekend’s sessions on Eph. 2:4-5.

Sid explained to us what it means to be alive in Christ and how God makes us alive in Him. He started the session with the story of the Pharisees, in Luke 15:1-7, who were expecting God to be firm and harsh in his judgment, to cast those that stumble or stray away from his presence. But Jesus used the parable of the lost sheep to illustrate how God is eager to be with us.

The shepherd did for the sheep what the sheep cannot do on its own: find its way home. Likewise, God does for us what we cannot do: make us alive in him through the sacrifice of his one and only Son. Sometimes we need the reminder that it wasn’t us that pursued first; even while we were full of sin, God continued to pursue us.

Small Groups

After each main session each of the youth groups break off into small groups to reflect on the message, share thoughts and stories from throughout the day, and to pray for any requests. These strengthen the youth groups and build deep relationships.

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Dr. Patrick Friesen leads a workshop. Credit: Jaime Loewen

Workshops

Youth continue learning in smaller workshops both Saturday and Sunday morning. There are many workshops running, so youth choose. Some of the topics were Human Trafficking: Bringing Hope in the Face of Tragedy by Flo Friesen, Freedom From Addictions by Teen Challenge, and Making the Bible Come Alive by Dr. Patrick Friesen.

Activities

Saturday afternoon met us with a ton of activities, including sports tournaments: street hockey, basketball, volleyball, and soccer. For those inclined to the finer arts, there were indoor activities and crafts such as bracelet making, painting, drawing, board games, and a wild game of life-sized Dutch Blitz.

Second Session

Sid talked about condemnation and hypocrisy and how we tend to look to things to give us life (materialistic objects, relationships, success and popularity); and how these things actually give us the exact opposite and lead us farther away from living in the truth.

When we focus on these earthly things we become hypocritical and condemning of others. We listen to the voice telling us that we can do things better than others or be better than others. But Jesus came to recreate us and we no longer have to listen to these voices. Instead of our experiencing condemnation, Jesus gives us life through dying on the cross and offers us continual grace and a better way to live.

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Credit: Jaime Loewen

The Showdown

After this evening session the entertainment committee hosted what is now called The Showdown. Youth leaders prepared game show activities for volunteers. One was The Whisper Challenge where one person whispered a phrase and the other person, while wearing headphones with loud music playing, tried to figure out what is said. Another was The Bottle Flip: three youths competed to flip a bottle so it landed upright.

Wide Game

Following Sunday’s workshops and lunch was the Wide Game, where all the youth participated in a huge outside game. This year’s game was called “The Search for a Cure.” You were to imagine that you woke up one morning to find out that you have all been infected by a sickness that would remove your ability to feel, think, and create. As small groups you have to retrieve the cure.

Around the campus were multiple stations led by youth leaders where teams had to pass a challenge for the mind, the flesh, or the spirit. Some of the challenges were eating hot sauce, getting your team to stand on a pillow case and flip the pillow case over without anyone stepping off, placing a speedometer on your head and nodding fast enough to reach a predetermined speed, and solving riddles and puzzles.

The first group to complete a certain amount of challenges and make it back to the home base won the game. Seeing everybody’s excitement and participation during the game blew me away. I could see team building relationships and tons of good memories being made.

Third Session

Sid taught us from 2 Cor. 3:17 about living in freedom and how as a result God will become the core of who you are. True freedom isn’t doing whatever the flesh desires; it’s when what we ought to do becomes what we want to do.

Sid challenged us to reflect on if we are experiencing freedom or slavery. What you behold is what you become, so how are you spending your time? Are you creating time to behold Christ? Following Jesus is more than just becoming a better Christian; it’s about becoming a new creation in Jesus.

Praise and Prayer

With Sunday being our last night, we all gathered into the chapel for a time of praise and prayer. This is a chance to reflect on what God has been doing in the past couple days, to thank him, and just to pray about what we’ve learned. We started it out by praise and worship led by The Color. It was followed by Garth Koop leading us into a time of prayer and repentance within small groups.

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Credit: Jaime Loewen

Fourth Session

On Monday morning we had our fourth and final session with Sid. He taught us about allowing the Word to search our hearts and to lead us to a living faith. Sid used James 2 to show us that a living faith means a loving faith. An example Sid used of a husband who bought flowers for his wife when he didn’t really want to. The deed was empty of feeling.

Sid connected this to how we sometimes serve God just because it’s something that we are told to do. We could really see how living faith loves God and when we love God our actions and our desires will only want to please Him.

Each of the sessions throughout the weekend were eye-opening, they were filled with amazing truth, and were highlights for all.

A Bit More of Jesus With Us

Jaime-Loewen
Jaime Loewen

After packing up and saying goodbye to new friends, we began the reverse of our Friday drive. The weekend had been soul searching, full of growth, so much excitement. This writer was thankful for the time of quiet on the bus ride home to reflect before entering back into the daily grind of life. Hopefully, for me as well as the others, we will be carrying a bit more of Jesus with us from here on out.

Jaime Loewen is a youth leader at Kleefeld EMC.  

Dr. Terry Hiebert: Conversion Stories of Martin Luther and Menno Simons

The Protestant (Radical) Reformation Through 2017

by Dr. Terry Hiebert

October 31, 1517, was Reformation Day, an event that produced the second great division in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church of the West. By some counts, the Protestant movement has since produced 45,000 more divisions we call denominations.

Centuries earlier, the apostle Paul urged the early Christians in Ephesus to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, 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 and in all” (Eph. 4:3-6).

We might conclude from Paul’s statement that divisions should cease, denominations should dissolve, and the Christian Church should reunite as one big family. Notice, the word happy was omitted intentionally. For example, Lutherans and Mennonites have dialogued since 2002 about our differences and have expressed forgiveness and pledged cooperation with one another.

Each admit that the other belongs to the extended Christian family even if we do not attend all the same family gatherings. The differences have to do with beliefs, practices, ethics, organization, and traditions now 500 years in the making. Differences between even two Christian groups are complex.

Simplify the Issues

Now let’s simplify the issues. Lutherans and Mennonites can trace some of our main differences to the conversion stories of our founders, Martin Luther and Menno Simons. Like the influence of parents on their children, the experiences of Luther and Menno have imprinted their descendants for generations. The Reformers wrote of their conversions years after the fact. Luther described his conversion in 1545, recounting his experience of God’s grace in July 1519. Menno in 1554 wrote an account of experienced of God’s conviction and his conversion in 1536.

The conversion stories of Luther and Menno reveal the distinctives between the two Reformers as well as the two traditions that developed over the past 500 years. Consider the features of their stories of coming to faith in Christ. While there are similarities, the differences are also striking. I will highlight some of the more important distinctions.

 

Martin Luther Menno Simons
University lecturer above reproach Parish priest playing cards and drinking
Miserable sinner repented regularly People pleasing sinner but unrepentant
Doctrinal problem with God’s righteousness Moral problem is with his sinful heart
Raging conscience hating the God of wrath Troubled soul disturbed by his own hypocrisy
Crisis that miserable sinners are born in sin, condemned by the Law, and hear a Gospel of wrath Crisis of belief in the traditional views of the Lord’s Supper, infant baptism, and the violence of Christians
Scripture study in Romans 1 about the righteousness of God Scripture study about the Lord’s Supper and believers baptism
Discovers that God justifies by faith and feels like he is born again. Prays for grace and a clean heart and receives Christ’s forgiveness
Focuses on God’s objective work for us Focuses on God’s Spirit at work in us
Finds support for justification by faith in the tradition of Augustine Finds support for his new beliefs about the sacraments in Scripture but not in tradition
Experiences transformed love for God. Experiences a call to service and suffering in obedience to Christ

 

What can we learn from the two conversion stories? Let’s reflect on the stories of transformation, before, during and after conversion. Again we discover as many differences as similarities. Perhaps we should not be so surprised at their differences considering the conversion stories we hear in church every year at baptism.

Different Places, Mindsets

Before their conversions, Luther and Menno came from very different places, backgrounds, and mindsets. Luther was a university lecturer who encountered a biblical, theological, and philosophical problem that tormented his spiritual life as well. It seems that for Luther, the biggest problem was with a God of wrath and not so much with Luther the sinner.

Menno was a parish priest serving without ever having read the Scriptures. Menno started reading the Scriptures, but admitted that he wasted this knowledge through youthful lusts, sensual living, and looking for the favour of people. Luther started out to please a wrathful God while Menno started out to please worldly people.

At their conversions, Luther and Menno experienced a deep crisis of faith. Luther admitted he was a sinner, but was angry at a God who was not satisfied with his attempts at repentance. Luther was converted by an insight from studying the Bible that God justifies the sinner by the gift of faith. Luther had a theological conversion and repented in his beliefs about God.

Menno grew in awareness that his preaching of Scripture clashed with his sinful lifestyle. Menno was converted by the conviction that God would judge him for misleading his parishioners through hypocrisy. Menno had a moral conversion or a repentance of heart toward God and people.

Different Emotions and Callings

After their conversions, Luther and Menno followed experienced different emotions and callings. Luther felt “altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.” He returned to his study and was comforted to discover that his mentor Augustine had written similar ideas about justification by faith years earlier.

Nine months after Menno’s conversion, he felt God’s Fatherly Spirit empower him to renounce his worldly reputation. Menno yielded to “the heavy cross of Christ” and accepted the call to lead a small group of the Anabaptist faithful.

The two conversion stories are quite different. Luther’s conversion transformed his life from tormented anguish of soul in anger towards God to a place of love for God and the proclamation of God’s grace. Menno’s conversion transformed his life from sensuality, ease, and popularity with people to a place fearing for his life and the proclamation of obedience to God.

Both Luther and Menno in their conversion stories indicate that they were ministers of God before their conversion. Luther posted his 95 Theses two years before his conversion. Menno served as parish priest 12 years before his conversion. Both confessed troubled souls. Both identified a moment of enlightenment when a new understanding of God’s Word transformed their minds. Both yielded themselves to the grace of God after their conversions. Both continued to serve God resulting in a renewal of worship, beliefs, and morals for generations of followers.

Beyond Lament, a Blessing

While I hear many Christians lament the disunity in the Church today, the Reformation has become more of a blessing even considering the great difficulties experienced in the early years after 1517. Why? Because the message of unity is not the only word in the Scriptures. Paul continued his appeal to the early churches by celebrating the importance of diversity in the body of Christ as well.

In Ephesians, Paul wrote, “but to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it” (4:7). We hear echoes in praise of diversity as Paul calls the Corinthian church to unity in the Spirit’s manifestations of grace. To a divided church the apostle still maintained, “now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). The phrase common good is better translated as “to be an advantage to someone.”

One legacy of the Reformation is found in the conversion stories of the Reformers and their followers. Like faith stories today, no two Reformers were identical. The conversion stories of Luther and Menno are quite different. The Reformation advantage is that over 75 million Christians identify more fully with the body of Christ because Luther and Menno taught us to see God’s grace in different ways.

Still, 500 years later we are Christian first, and only then Lutherans or Mennonites, because there is one Lord Jesus Christ, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. In the case of Luther and Menno, how about three out of four?

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Dr. Terry Hiebert

Dr. Terry Hiebert serves at Steinbach Bible College as Academic Dean and enjoys when students get excited about theology. He is married to Luann, a college English instructor. They have three adult children and four energetic grandchildren. Terry and Luann enjoy their dog, a tiny house project, and long distance travel. They attend Gospel Fellowship Church (EMMC) in Steinbach, Man.

Resources:

Martin Luther’s Conversion Account see link

Menno Simons Conversion Account see link

Jeff Plett: Restoring a Sorrowful Disciple

by Pastor Jeff Plett

Every once in a while the disciple Peter must have felt intense pangs of guilt. He was still living under a cloud; the denial of Jesus still echoed in his mind. “No, I’m not one of His disciples,” he had said (John 18:25). “No, that wasn’t me you saw in the garden with Him.” “No, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t even know Him” (John 18:26-27).

Immediately the rooster crowed. He had denied the very Son of God not only once, but three times! It was good to see Jesus again, but His appearance must have caused pain and shame to resurface.

Jesus knows Peter’s heart and wants to restore Peter’s confidence and joy in the Lord. After they finished eating breakfast, Jesus takes Peter aside and asks him a question, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” (John 21:15). The sense of the question probably is, “Peter, do you love me more than these disciples love me?”(Leon Morris).

After all, Peter had stressed in the most vehement terms that he was prepared to die for Jesus. He had boldly proclaimed, “Even though they all fall away, I will not. If I must die with you, I will not deny you” (Mark 14:29,31). Of course, Peter had badly overestimated his courage and oneness with Christ. His confidence had quickly wilted in the face of pressure.

Also, Peter’s strong objection to Jesus being crucified showed that Peter had not wanted a crucified Lord. He preferred a powerful ruler who would crush any who would challenge Him. But Jesus had in fact been crucified. How did Peter’s devotion now stand in the light of this? Was he ready to love Christ as He was, and not how Peter wished him to be? That was an important question, and Peter must answer it (Leon Morris).

Peter Appeals to Jesus’ Knowledge

Jesus’ question probes Peter to the depth of his being. “Peter, do you truly love me more than these?” Peter doesn’t answer the question in terms of comparing his love with that of the other disciples. What does he do? He appeals to the Lord’s intimate knowledge of him: “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you” (John 21:15).

Now that answer could be contested. Peter’s actions of late had been the opposite of love. His three-fold denial stood in blatant contradiction to his confession of love! How do you put the two together?

Yet he is appealing to Jesus’ full understanding of the situation. He is asking Jesus to look beyond his actions and into his heart. “Yes, you know I was wrong. I was weak. I denied you. But you know that deep in my heart I still love you!”

Haven’t we uttered that same plea of repentance? “Oh, Lord. You know I have failed you, disappointed you, sinned against you. But you know that deep inside I still love you.”

Jesus accepts Peter’s statement and then commissions him, “Feed my lambs” (John 21:15).

The question comes a second time, again using Peter’s formal name: “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” Peter replies exactly as he did the first time, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you” (John 21:16). Jesus responds, “Take care of my sheep.”

Jesus asks the same question a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (John 21:17). Peter is hurt that Jesus asks him three times whether he loves him. But Jesus is not about to quickly gloss over this fundamental question. Just as Peter disowned Jesus three times, so Jesus requires this simple yet profound confession three times.

There is not an ounce of self-righteousness in Peter’s response. He can only appeal to the fact that Jesus knows everything and therefore knows his heart: “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you” (John 21:17) (D. A. Carson).

Lest there be any doubt that Peter is fully restored to future service, Jesus again commands, “Feed my sheep.” We notice that the sheep are Christ’s sheep, not Peter’s. He will be tending to and feeding Christ’s sheep (people), which means in the end Peter will be accountable to Christ as to how well he has carried out that work. In the same way, you and I are accountable to Jesus for the ministry that we do or don’t do.

Reflections

On reflecting on these events, I’d like to highlight a few things. First, Jesus knew about the uncertainty and doubts that Peter and the disciples had towards Him. He is compassionate and caring and desires to strengthen their faith in Him.

I believe Jesus is concerned about our uncertainties and doubts as well. In various ways He works in our lives so that our faith in Him is strengthened. Sometimes He does it by enabling us to do a task that we could never have done without His help.

He helps us by answering our prayer requests. At times we are afraid and alone, and He quietly assures us of His presence. His desire is for us to put our trust in Him and to be at peace knowing He has our best in view.

Second, we see that many times the disciples should have been disqualified from the Lord’s service. At times they were selfish, wanting high positions of power and authority. When they encountered opposition, they suggested Jesus should call down fire from heaven to destroy the people. The disciples abandoned Jesus when He was facing trial and finally denied they ever knew Him. Jesus would have had every reason to kick them out of His band of followers.

We, too, have disappointed our Lord Jesus many times. We too, have been selfish, wanting the biggest and best for ourselves. At times we’ve been lax in our prayer life. We’ve said and done things that hurt other people. We’ve even denied that we know Jesus, by keeping quiet when we should have spoken out.

Peter was forgiven, reinstated as a disciple, and told to feed Jesus’ lambs. I’m glad that Jesus gives second chances even when we’ve failed him. Like He did Peter, He forgives us and reinstates us into service for Him.

Third, the one thing which Jesus questions Peter about is his love for Him. “Peter, do you truly love me?” It’s a probing question that Jesus asks of each one of us. Truly loving Jesus is the bottom line when it comes to being a Christian. And, it is the basic qualification for Christian service. Other qualities are desirable; having a true love for Jesus Christ is indispensable, absolutely necessary.

Thus, it is important that we humbly ask Jesus to fill us with His deep love that far surpasses our own. Then, having been reinstated into His service, filled with His love, we are ready to serve Him.

Jeff Plett, BRS, MDiv, is pastor of Hillside Christian Fellowship, Buffalo Head Prairie, near La Crete, Alta. He and his wife Laural Ann previously served for many years as the pastoral couple at the Evangelical Fellowship Church (Fort Frances, Ont.) and earlier served as part of a church planting team in Germany.

 

Dr. David Murray: Eight Ways Preachers Can Harm the Depressed

 

by Dr. David Murray

In a church of 100 people, 20 people will likely experience an episode of depression at some stage in their life. If you are in a church of that size, there are probably five to 10 people struggling with anxiety or depression right now. But instead of finding comfort and consolation in the preaching of God’s Word, these suffering souls often find themselves battered and bruised by insensitive preaching.

What kind of sermons harm depressed and anxious Christians?

  1. Sermons that over-stress the moral evils of the day. They are anxious enough through hearing the daily news without every church service ramping up the “we’re doomed” rhetoric. A steady diet of gloomy sermons is not going to lift up the head or heart of the cast down.
  2. Sermons that include graphic descriptions of violence. They are deeply traumatized by preachers reciting the gory details of shooting massacres, abortion procedures, persecution of Christians, and child murders.
  3. Sermons that extol constant happiness as the only valid and virtuous Christian experience. The deep pain of depression is multiplied when a depressed person is repeatedly told that sadness is a sin.
  4. Sermons that question the faith of anyone who doubts. A lack of assurance is not necessarily a lack of faith. Believers who hang on to God despite feeling no assurance sometimes have the greatest faith.
  5. Sermons that demand, demand, and demand. The depressed person already feels like an inadequate failure. To be regularly berated for not doing this ministry, or failing to engage in that Christian service, only crushes what’s left of their spirit.
  6. Sermons that are too loud for too long. When a preacher pours out high-decibel words with hardly a breath between them for 45 minutes, it’s not just the nerves of the depressed that are frayed.
  7. Sermons that condemn anyone for using meds to treat depression or anxiety. These are often preached by pastors whose medicine cabinets are overflowing with pills and potions for every other condition under the sun!
  8. Sermons that overdo the subjective side of Christian experience. Depressed people need to focus most on the objective facts of Christianity, the historic doctrines of the faith. Facts first and feelings follow. There’s a place for careful self-examination, but remember Robert Murray McCheyne’s rule: “For every look inside, take ten looks to Christ.”

And that really brings me to the best way to preach to the depressed, and that’s to preach Christ. Preach His suffering and sympathizing humanity. Preach His gentle and tender dealings with trembling and timid sinners. Preach His gracious and merciful words.

Preach His beautiful meekness. Preach His miracles to demonstrate His power to heal. Preach His finished work on Calvary. Preach His offer of rest to the weary. Preach the power of His resurrection-life. Preach His precious promises: ”A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench” (Matt. 12:20).

David-Murray
Dr. David Murray

Preach Christ! Preach Him winningly and winsomely. Preach Him near and ready to help. Preach Him from the heart to the heart. Preach Him again, and again, and again. Until the day dawn and the shadows flee away.

Dr. David Murray is professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Seminary and pastor of Grand Rapids Free Reformed Church. With his wife Shona and their five children, Murray enjoys life in the Lake Michigan area. This article is reprinted with his permission.

 

 

 

Ken Zacharias: God Gets the Glory for 50 Years of Church Growth in Nicaragua!

by Ken Zacharias, BOM Foreign Secretary

A half-century of ministry in Nicaragua was celebrated on April 6-10, 2017, as our sister conference, the FIEMN, and representatives from EMC Missions joined together at Camp Maranatha, 40 minutes from Managua, the capital city.

For the celebrations, a one-day conference event was held with 900 people in attendance. In addition, there were four regional gatherings. Lester and Darlene Olfert, former workers in the country, assisted the FIEMN’s national leadership in planning these special events.

EMC missionaries initiated the work in 1966 and were present in Nicaragua for 25 years. Since 1992 the FIEMN has ministered without an active EMC missionary presence.

In attendance was one half of the EMC’s first missionary couple to Nicaragua, Doris Friesen (1966-1974), and her four adult children, spouses and two grandchildren. Others missionaries who returned were Lester and Darlene Olfert (1970-1989), Ron Olfert (1971), John and Connie Reimer ((1975-1982), and Ernie and Diane Koop (1983-1992). Several former missionaries were not able to be present.

Doris Friesen

50th-2
Doris Friesen speaks at a regional gathering in Managua. She and her husband Fred were the EMC’s first church planters in Nicaragua.

Doris Friesen testified of how she and her husband Fred, who has passed away, left Canada to travel to a country they had not visited before and where they didn’t personally know anyone. God led them one step at a time. They found a place to live and identified a new housing development to begin house visitation in Managua.

A couple, Juan and Argentina Reyes, opened their home to Bible studies and soon there was a group studying and turning their lives over to Jesus. They were the first baptized believers. The Reyes’ daughters, Marisol and Carolina, and their children are all active in the same church today. Josefa Argueda and other founding members were also present at the gatherings. The church continues today. To God be the glory!

Now 42 years after leaving Nicaragua, Doris said she was overwhelmed with the growth of the FIEMN, hearing how many churches and outreaches there are.

John and Connie Reimer

John and Connie Reimer reflected that, “For us as former EMC missionaries and the present church in Nicaragua there was and is a cost in sowing the precious seed of the gospel. For us as missionaries there were tears of farewell, the tears of distance, the tears of loss of health and life, the tears of not being understood, the tears associated with fears of earthquakes and wars.

“For the present church, there are the same realities, tears of poverty, tears of shortage, tears of rejection by family. But together we celebrated with shouts of joy, as we saw the fruit of 50 years of ministry and the exponential growth in all of the original church plants. There was a strong sense of “exceedingly more than we could have asked for or imagined” (Psalm 126:5-6).

Although the celebrations emphasized and focused on the first 25 years of ministry and missionary involvement, it is noted that the FIEMN has a clear vision today. John and Connie wrote, “We participated in the FIEMN Pastoral Retreat a few days before the celebrations began and saw and we heard the cry for souls, the tears for the further coming of Christ’s Kingdom. To see the seasoned pastors together with the younger ones casting a vision for the next season was encouraging.”

In addition to former missionaries being present, Sid Reimer, Janice Kroeker, Brad Brandt, and Ken Zacharias (Board of Missions representatives) were also in attendance to witness and celebrate.

50th-3
A parade of missionaries was led by FIEMN president Gerardo Chavarria.

Janice Kroeker

Janice Kroeker is the widow of Dennis Kroeker who passed away while serving on a short-term missions team in 2007. She wrote, “After the first regional gathering held in the First Mennonite church in Managua, I felt like my heart was already filled to overflowing. How could I take in more? But the blessings kept on coming!

“Thanks to our capable interpreters, I enjoyed every service immensely. The authenticity, the joy, the love, and the energy of the people! The song, Hay Una Senda (There is a Way), still keeps ringing through my mind, together with the memory of the smiles and warm hugs during this song from all these people who did not know me at all!

“One thing that was really impressed on my mind is the way God took the obedience of the very first missionaries, Fred and Doris Friesen, and multiplied it to the 22 churches and 14 church outreaches we have in Nicaragua today. Of course, that includes every missionary and local pastor since then that also obeyed God’s calling.

“What I took home from this is the importance of obeying whatever it is God is asking of me. It may seem insignificant to me, like befriending my neighbour, baking cookies for kids club, giving to charity or praying, God can multiply that and accomplish more than I could ever imagine! Not everyone is called to begin a work in a new country.”

Sid Reimer

Sid Reimer, a former BOM board member who was visiting Nicaragua for the second time, observed, “A personal observation was touching for me: there were tears and repeated abrazos (hugs) as the former missionaries and nationals renewed acquaintances. They were reconnecting, sharing heartaches and victories of the past, along with successes of the present. Many a Gloria a Dios (Glory to God) was uttered!

“With the celebrations being broken down into regional events it was very gratifying to attend and visit as many churches and church plants as we did. These churches oozed with passion for outreach. So many of the churches are actively parenting a new church plant! It seems as if that’s a natural expectation. Almost as fundamental and basic as having Sunday School, it was a basic ministry of the church.

“It was common for outreach leaders to travel up to two hours each way by public transit from their home to the new location, very often including weekend stays. Foreign missions appeared to mean in the ciudad (city) or pueblo (town) down the road—and they were committed to it!”

Lester Olfert

Ken Zacharias
Ken Zacharias

Lester Olfert summarized the 50th anniversary with these words: “Growth had come by working with our Nicaraguan believers as co-workers in God’s service and that it was God that made things grow. By 1992 when the last missionaries left there were eight organized churches. Only five had been directly pastored by missionaries. Today there are 22 churches and 14 outreaches.”

Ken Zacharias is Foreign Secretary to the EMC Board of Missions.

Ralph Unger: When You Find Yourself in the Minority

I felt confident that my idea had merit. The church I was pastoring supported three missionary couples who were chronically under-funded. I thought we should increase our financial commitment to them and the best way to do it would be to increase their allotment in the budget.

The Missions Committee, on the other hand, felt that we should reduce our contribution to these cross-cultural missionaries and focus on outreach in our own community. The stage was set.

When budget time approached, the congregation voted in favor of the gradually reducing support for our adopted missionaries. I felt devastated. Was this my time to resign?

Most EMC churches ask the members of the church to vote on major issues of church life. Generally we believe that this is the way that God guides us in determining which of our initiatives line up with His values. What do you do when you feel strongly about something, but then the results of the vote are tabulated and you find yourself in the minority?

God speaks to His children through His Word, His Spirit, and His people.

The Bible

The Bible is that steady beacon that has guided us through hundreds of generations. The words in the Book remain constant, but our interpretation seems to change. Who will help us understand how the Book needs to be applied to twenty-first century believers?

Are there principles of interpretation on which God’s children can agree? What effect do popular trends have on our understanding of the Bible? How do our selfish desires affect our interpretation? Even with all those disturbing questions, the Bible is still our guide in making decisions.

The Spirit

Then there is the Holy Spirit. It’s problematic for us that He is invisible. But He is divine and without bias. The Bible says He empowers His children to prophesy and to see visions (Acts 2:18). He directs His followers to specific witnessing opportunities (Acts 8:29) and to set aside missionaries (Acts 13:1-4).

He guides the church in appointing overseers (Acts 20:28), in setting policies (Acts 15:28), in helping the poor (Acts 6:3), in warning believers about imminent danger (Act 21:4), and in pointing out troublemakers in the church (Acts 13:9-10). Though we cannot see Him, the Holy Spirit is active in guiding us. It would seem that those who are obedient are the most likely to receive direction from Him.

His Children

But what about the guidance that God gives us through the voice of His children? How can that be reliable? After all, often our opinions are based on our selfish needs. And yet it seems that God uses the collective thought process of the church to lead us to His will (Acts 15:28). In fact, the half-brother of Jesus promises that if we ask the Heavenly Father, He will generously give us wisdom (James 1:5). That wisdom usually rests in the insight of many, rather than of one.

It is true that today God uses mega-churches with small leadership teams to nurture the thousands, but in the EMC there are still many entrepreneurial people who want to have a voice in how the church makes the bigger decisions. We are blessed with wise volunteers who are willing to give many hours each month to help not only in making those decisions, but in seeing those decisions through to completion.

That is why, for the most part, we still have a membership list that tells us who is committed to our beliefs and values. And, yes, at times those members will vote for something that the pastor himself does not support.

But then we believe in the priesthood of all believers (1 Pet. 2:9). All believers can read the Word. All of God’s children are guided by the Holy Spirit. The interpretation of Scripture by community is a safeguard in which we believe.

Ralph-Unger
Ralph Unger

So when you find yourself in the minority, don’t panic. You may not be wrong. It could be that further study, discussion, and prayer will bring about consensus. When we as God’s children humbly submit to one another, God gives the church wisdom and balance.

Ralph Unger is our interim Conference Pastor. He has a lengthy history in the EMC as a pastor and has served as our conference moderator.

Dr. Hanspeter Jecker: Transformed by the Word

The Protestant (Radical) Reformation Through 2017

by Dr. Hanspeter Jecker

Renewal 2027 is a 10-year series of events launched by Mennonite World Conference (MWC) to mark the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Anabaptist movement.

“Transformed by the Word: Reading Scripture in Anabaptist Perspectives” (the inaugural event in Augsburg, Germany, Feb. 12, 2017) fit well within the mandate of the MWC Faith and Life Commission to help member churches “understand and describe Anabaptist-Mennonite faith and practice.”

In the midst of the many Reformation commemoration celebrations, especially in Europe, it’s important to remember that the Anabaptists also emerged within the context of the Reformation and were decisively shaped by its rediscovery of the Bible as an authority for Christian faith and life.

Shortly before the first adult baptisms in January 1525, a member of the Bible study group that formed the core of the emerging Anabaptist movement illustrated this clearly:

“However, after we too had taken up the Bible and studied all the possible points, we have been better informed.”

The letter went on to describe how they came to a deeper understanding of Scripture. Five central themes—visible in the quote above—distinguished their shift from walking alongside the Reformers to a posture of opposition:

  • Scripture is the key point of departure for the renewal brought about by the Reformation.
  • It is crucial to learn not only second-hand, but to read Scripture for yourself.
  • The Bible study group read with an expectant attitude. They “studied all the possible points,” posed questions about the text, and received answers.
  • They reoriented themselves around these new insights.

In this way, they were “better informed” in regard to the teachings of the Catholic Church, but also in regards to Zwingli and the other Reformers.

To be “better informed.” At first glance, that statement sounds very positive. But it also carries some pain. It suggests that one has indeed been mistaken; it includes a readiness to let go of older, cherished understandings. This is often not easy.

The key question at stake here is: do we allow the biblical word (and the God who desires to speak to us) to scrutinize our convictions so that we allow ourselves “to be better informed”? Or does the admonition to “test all things and hold on to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21) only apply to other people?

Up to this point, all the themes could be regarded as Protestant principles. But the fifth point is the most distinct Anabaptist principle:

  • The “we” in the quote is crucial: not only does Bible study happen in community; but new understandings of Scripture are also reached collectively.

No one is forced to be part of an Anabaptist congregation—faith and membership are always voluntary. No single person has all the understanding or all of the gifts, but everyone has something.

Therefore, it is crucial that we create frameworks for Bible study in which everyone can contribute to a better understanding of the biblical text: old and young, men and women, academics and labourers. Precisely for this reason the “we” in our text is so important!

But several dangers are already evident in this same quote.

To allow ourselves to be “better informed” sounds nice, but who can protect us from endless efforts to prove the superiority of one understanding or from the notorious church divisions that have occurred so frequently in Anabaptist history? How can we ensure that space remains for the recognition that all of our knowledge is partial and in need of additional insights? And how do we ensure that the “struggle for the truth” does not come at the cost of a “struggle for unity”?

Dr.-Hanspeter-Jecker
Dr. Hanspeter Jecker

If “renewal of faith and life” and “transformation through the Word” are going to happen within the context of Mennonite World Conference, then it will be essential for it to happen in the form of members from north and south, east and west, walking together alongside each other as “we.”

Dr. Hanspeter Jecker is a member of the Mennonite World Conference’s Faith & Life Commission and a professor of historical theology and ethics at Theological Seminary Bienenberg in Switzerland. He holds an MA in Theology (AMBS) and a DPhil (Basel).

Dr. Ed Neufeld: Will You Love as Paul Asked of the Philippians?

by Reilly Smith

Are you willing to give up everything for Christ as he gave up everything for you? Are you willing to love like Paul challenges the Church to love in Philippians? Are you praying for your congregation as Paul prays for the Philippians? Has the Church responded in unity to God’s sustaining graces with humble concern for one another?

These questions were some of the personal challenges that arose in the minds of those attending the annual Leadership Conference at Steinbach Bible College on March 17-18, 2017. People in five other locations joined by webinar, including from Alberta and Ontario and the countries of Belize and Mexico.

The speaker, Dr. Ed Neufeld, is a professor at Providence Theological Seminary and the pastor of Kleefeld Christian Community, both in southern Manitoba. Dr. Ed Neufeld spent four sessions dissecting separate portions within Paul’s letter to the Philippians, showing the importance of prayer, love, unity, and sacrifice. There were several primary themes from each session that stood out from this weekend.

Friday Night

In Friday night’s session Dr. Neufeld began with a study of Paul’s prayer in Phil. 1:9-11, seeing it as an apostolic prayer providing vision to the Church. The prominent point of this session was to pray for love to increase. Dr. Ed Neufeld made it quite clear that prayer is vitally important; and that praying for love to increase will cause many other areas of spiritual maturity to increase, including knowledge, discernment, sincerity, and blamelessness.

He made it clear that there is no tension between increasing your mind and increasing in love; rather, to make good kingdom choices, love is vital. Furthermore, the Greek word that is translated as pure (1:10) is a word about sincerity. Pure in this case is not about being sinless; it is about decisions resulting in right actions.

All this information was pulled out of Paul’s prayer, with the clear application being that it is important for leaders in the Church to be praying for their congregation. Dr. Neufeld pointed out that both disciplined and undisciplined people accomplish what needs to be done. It is not a question of more discipline being needed for prayer, but, rather, a realization of the utter helplessness of leadership without prayer.

Saturday Morning

Saturday morning began with a study of Phil. 1:12-27. In this session Dr. Neufeld addressed several different applications. First, in living or dying we are to do what is best for Christ. He plunged into Paul’s main questions in Phil. 1, starting in verse 18. Paul’s thought is shown to centre around three main questions: “What’s best for Christ?” “What’s best for Paul?” and “What’s best for the Church?”

Dr. Neufeld noted that God would be glorified if Paul didn’t despair or let go of his faith through the trials. Furthermore, what Paul needed in order for him to hold onto his faith was the Philippians’ praying and God’s grace. A question leveled at those in attendance was: “Lord, not my will but yours be done”—can you say it and mean it in a dark day?

Then Paul’s two loves were addressed. Dr. Neufeld showed that in Philippians Paul clarifies that the focus of his love is on Christ and on Christ’s people. Paul’s question in this passage focuses around these loves. Does Paul leave this earth to be with Christ or does he stay to aid the Church? The question to us is, who or what are we loving as opposed to whom we should be loving?

After this, Dr. Neufeld examined our call to be worthy citizens. Phil. 1:27 was shown to be a bridge between Paul’s example and what he wants us to do with it, with an encouragement to look at the examples of Paul, Timothy and those around us. Here he also noted that all around us, in our very own churches, there are people who are worthy citizens of the gospel.

One of the questions that arose during the second session’s Question and Answer time, was, in light of the above examples, can we live simple lives? The answer was that the Philippians were just ordinary people. Following Paul does not always mean living an extraordinary life.

In the third session Dr. Neufeld began by addressing how the Church is called to love each other. The New Testament has many commands to love each other as there are 96 imperatives regarding the way the Church treats each other. Love must be recognized as a central aspect of the gospel.

The discussion that arose from this conversation was extensive and the humble exploration of this matter was a great example of how pastors and other leaders in the Church should respond to controversial ideas. The emphasis on love set the stage for the following observations Dr. Neufeld would make.

Dr. Neufeld noted that in Phil. 2:1 God has given us sustaining graces to support us, and in 2:2 our response to these graces should be church unity. He continued to unravel the response, making it clear that humble concern for each other is also part of the response to God’s sustaining graces.

As noted by Dr. Neufeld, humble concern does not mean pastors should minster only to those who think they need help. Rather, he believed that pastors should serve humbly in the same way as Jesus and Paul did. They did not take their instructions from their people, but still showed an immense amount of caring.

Also in the third session Dr. Neufeld discussed how it is essential to be genuine. He showed that Paul regards Timothy as a great example of genuineness. Paul sent Timothy to the Philippians because he is the only one who genuinely cares for them.

In Phil. 2:19-24 it was noted that Christ’s interests and Timothy’s genuine care are interchangeable terms. Such truths cause us to ask ourselves: is our ministry done out of genuine concern and love for others?

Saturday Afternoon

In the fourth session Dr. Neufeld gave a strong comparison and challenge. It was noticeable in chapter two that Christ set aside everything for His people. However, in chapter three it was noted that Paul set aside everything for Christ. How much are we willing to sacrifice back to God for what was sacrificed for us? The correct answer is all.

Dr. Neufeld also clarified that for many people, in many countries, this question is not a hypothetical one. In some places, if a person gives their life to Christ, they really are giving up family, friends and a home merely as a result of that decision.

In a similar way, he noted that Paul lost all the prestige he once had in his circles among the Pharisees when he became a Christian. This loss wasn’t hypothetical for Paul either.

As can be seen, the Leadership Conference proved to be a great time of learning and of personal challenges in our service to Christ. Much fellowship and discussion occurred throughout the weekend with many people wrestling with the text.

Reilly-Smith
Reilly Smith

Most of all Philippians was shown to be a book of love. If there is one challenge to be made for the Church today from Philippians, it is to love each other. This is not a secondary calling of the Church, but one of the primary callings, a command heard throughout the Gospel.

Reilly Smith (Cornerstone, Crystal City, Man.) is a second-year student at SBC in the BA (pastoral minor) program. The article was produced for the Tri-Con Editors’ Group as part of his course work for Dr. Patrick Friesen. 

Dr. Harvey Plett Children and the Church (Part Two): Safe in the Kingdom of God

by Dr. Harvey Plett

We need to accept children as children and that they are safe in the Kingdom of God, and not demand that they make little adult choices when it comes to spiritual decisions.

In no area of life do we accept a child’s decision as binding. There is no good rationale to change that in the spiritual realm. By accepting that they are in the Kingdom gave me as a parent a real sense of peace.

Developing a Child’s Spiritual Life

We need to continue our programs for nurturing our children in the faith. We need to teach our children that Jesus loves them, that they are in the Kingdom, and that they need to affirm their love for Jesus. We need to continue to teach the children about right and wrong as well as stressing the need for confessing their sins to Jesus and asking His forgiveness.

The parent-child love relationship is a good model to illustrate the love that exists between Jesus and the child. This means we need to be careful we don’t teach the frightening realities of being spiritually lost until they are old enough to understand. Any child can be scared into making a decision without knowing what is involved by scaring it with hell. Care and discretion needs to be used.

Similarly we need to use discretion in terms of which Bible stories we use to teach the Bible to children. We need to be aware of what our children are taught in Sunday School, at camps, VBS, and other clubs.

Accept a Child’s Decision as a Child’s Decision

We need to expect that children below the age of accountability will make decisions for Jesus because they live in an adult world and see and hear how adults are asked to make decisions.

In addition children do make decisions as they grow. Children will also confess the wrongs they do and ask Jesus for forgiveness as they have been taught. When this happens we rejoice in the child’s response, affirm and encourage the child but deal with the child on the child level and not a miniature adult level.

We also need to accept the decision as the decision of a child and not that of an adult. We can expect that our children will make many decisions as they grow in their understanding. We need to affirm them each time. Should it not be possible for a child from a Christian home to never know a time that it was lost because it made decisions for the right as the opportunity came along?

Balance Our Conversion Stories

In our churches we need to ask those who have dramatic conversions to share their testimony, but each time we have one of the dramatic conversions we should invite someone who does not have a dramatic conversion experience to share his or her testimony. This will help the child understand that there is no one model of conversion that must be experienced in order for a conversion to be genuine.

The child will share her or his decisions they made as a child and possibly date their conversion from that time. That is good but it will probably be rather non-dramatic. In my class at Steinbach Bible College I asked the question, “Who can give me the date of when they became a Christian?” Surprisingly many times one third to one half of the class didn’t have a date. This was due to their upbringing. I said, “Fine. What is important is that you know you are a Christian today.”

Believer’s Baptism

We need to be clear that baptism is believer’s baptism and not infant or child baptism (Matt. 28:18-20). And so we baptize an individual when he or she is mature enough to own the faith. Baptism is not a sacrament that conveys the grace of God. It is a ceremony that illustrates what the grace of God has done and incorporates the individual into the visible local body of Christ. Therefore infant baptism is not baptism for the church that believes in believer’s baptism.

We do not thereby condemn those who baptize infants, but neither do we accept that baptism. We are dealing with truth here and not feelings about how good that person is. We need to graciously take a stand on the truth.

Using More Accurate Language

We need to clean up our language when it comes to the idea of child dedication. We cannot dedicate another individual. A person is responsible for himself or herself. We can influence them, but we cannot dedicate them to something. In reporting such services, churches should identify them as Parent Dedications.

By calling them Child Dedication services we are communicating something we, first of all, don’t believe in, and sort of assume that people will understand that we are not conveying sacramental grace with the ceremony.

Though many consider something has happened to the child in the Dedication ceremony, in actuality it hasn’t. The dedication is of the parents committing themselves to raise their child in a Christian environment.

I believe the dedication of parents is an important idea and practice, but it does not mean that parents who don’t do this in a public service are any less Christian or less concerned or dedicated to raise their children for the Lord. To assume that children who have gone through the ceremony have something more than those who haven’t is reading more into the ceremony than what it is.

Implications for Communion

This view of the child, church, and baptism, also has implications for participation in the communion service. Like baptism, communion is for those who have made an accountable decision to follow Christ and have been baptized on that faith commitment (Acts 2:38; Matt. 28:18-20). A child does not understand the meaning of the communion service. A child cannot do the self-examination nor discern the body as Paul teaches (1 Cor. 11:27-29). Therefore it is not ready to participate in the ordinance.

I suggest that we let the child be a child and not require of it what we require of a person who is accountable. The communion service is not a sacramental service that conveys grace. It is a commemoration of what Christ has done for those who understand what that is.

Time to Re-Examine!

On this issue of the child and the Kingdom of God, I believe we as a Conference have experienced what Arnold L. Cook would call “historical drift.” Our drift seems to be towards sacramentalism on the one hand; and, on the other, demanding of a child something it is incapable of doing. It is time to re-examine some of our practices to see whether they are in line with Scripture and what our early Anabaptist forebears lived out.

A child is in the Kingdom of God; and as we teach the child, it responds to the truth at its level of understanding and thereby remains in the Kingdom unless, when accountable, it makes contrary decisions.

Dr. Harvey Plett
Dr. Harvey Plett

Dr. Harvey Plett (Prairie Rose) is a long-time EMC minister, educator, and conference worker. He has served as president of SBC and as EMC moderator. He continues to do some teaching, preaching, counselling, and writing. He and his wife Pearl live in Mitchell, Man., and celebrated 58 years of blessed marriage on Aug. 22, 2016.