Pastors Mike Funk and Garry Koop are thoughtful people with a genuine concern. Put another way: when it comes to Christian Education in our churches, is the EMC at risk of getting lost on Google?
Mike Funk, when a youth pastor at Ridgewood EMC, wanted to see the EMC develop a Sunday School curriculum that would be standard across our churches. Garry Koop, senior pastor at Steinbach EMC, recently sought to develop a Sunday School curriculum based on our EMC Statement of Faith to serve a range of ages. Both have sound desires as pastors: to assist our churches in Sunday School.
The Internet allows EMC pastors to search out all sorts of materials. Our leaders will evaluate and use them as they see fit. The EMC can no more compete with all that’s available there than our few offerings for sale can compete with what’s on Amazon. Yet something is missing if a person listens to an online sermon instead of sitting in a congregation; something else is missed if materials specifically designed for our churches are overlooked.
We can’t produce a lot of materials, but this makes the ones developed more significant. The reality is that from idea to completion, a Sunday School quarterly could take two to three years to complete; and this does not begin to cover a range of ages (nor provide a new quarterly for a few months down the road or next year). The EMC is too small to cover all of its bases—in people power, time, and finances.
Recognising this, we assist churches in three ways: we develop occasional materials, suggest where Anabaptist materials might be found, and recommend that pastors and teachers adjust the materials they use to reflect Evangelical Anabaptist concerns.
As for quarterly materials, working with the CMC and EMMC, the EMC recently produced Holy Wanderings: A Guide to Deeper Discipleship (2019) and a new baptismal/membership guide Living in God’s Kingdom (2016). By the way, The Christian Life: A Practical Study Guide remains available, and has been updated in 2019, for leaders and churches who prefer it. Earlier, in 2006, the EMC produced Follow Me: Exploring More of Our Calling as Christians; the material remains relevant and free copies are available. How much of this material has your church used?
For wider sources of Anabaptist materials, pastors and Sunday School superintendents might check out materials produced by MennoMedia, Christian Light Publications, and The Meeting House (the BICC mega-church in Ontario). Fort Garry EMC has produced materials on our ancient-modern faith.
As for recommending that pastors and teachers adjust the materials they use to reflect Evangelical Anabaptist concerns, in the end the decision is made by the leaders. Individual churches and the conference as a whole place a great deal of trust in our leaders’ abilities to discern and sift. We do this within a framework of a shared Statement of Faith and a commitment to work together as a conference. May the Lord guide us well.
What a joyful message filled with excitement and hope. Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born!
I can still remember, as if it were yesterday, singing that song as a little boy during one of our Sunday School Christmas programs in church. Mrs. Dyck made sure that when we got to that “Go Tell It” we were all nearly shouting at the top of our lungs. We had no fear. We sang with all our hearts and voices and didn’t care if we were out of tune. Our excitement was all that mattered.
What Happened To The Excitement?
Somehow we got to a place in our lives where we don’t get as excited about Christmas as we once did. We don’t get as excited about Jesus’ birth as we once did, and Christmas has become a time when we focus on our families and church families. It has become a rather private time of celebration.
Perhaps this is at least in part because of the move in society away from the religious aspects of Christmas and even the avoidance in society to speak the phrase “Merry Christmas” replacing it, instead, with “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” or the infamous “Merry X-mas.”
Why is it Offensive?
The attack on Christ is not an attack on Christmas. Society doesn’t care whether we celebrate Christmas or not. Society doesn’t care whether we believe in Jesus or not. People say that using the word “Christ” is somehow offensive, and I have never understood why. What is so offensive? Is it offensive to believe that Jesus was a real person who lived roughly 2,000 years ago? To believe that Jesus taught that we should love one another?
Is it offensive to believe that Jesus lived a life without sin? To believe that Jesus modeled a way of life that is worthy to be imitated? To believe that Jesus was crucified and that God raised Him from the dead? To identify one’s self as a person who believes these things? To offer expressions of good will to others in the name of Jesus? There is nothing offensive in the words “Merry Christmas.”
They Don’t Know What It Means!
I think I have figured it out. We refer to “Jesus Christ” as if those were His first and last names, but Christ is not an actual name. No wonder society finds the phrase “Merry Christmas” offensive. People don’t understand what it means.
The King of Kings
Christmas celebrates the birth of the King of Kings. The Bible says that some day God will establish His Kingdom on earth. His Kingdom will be a perfect Kingdom. Nations will no longer fight against nations. Peace will exist throughout the whole earth. There will be no more disease, violence, corruption, injustice, suffering. The lion will lay down with the lamb and the whole earth will be like paradise. This coming Kingdom will be ruled by “the Christ.”
And as Christians, we believe that Jesus is that “Christ.” He is the coming ruler of the Kingdom of God. And although He was born, lived His life, died and was raised from the dead those so many years ago, we as Christians believe that He will one day return to set up the Kingdom of God as the King of kings and Lord of lords.
If you look at the teachings of Jesus, the one thing He said more than anything else was “the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Mark 1.15 calls this “Kingdom of God is at hand” message, “the gospel.” And, in general, society has not heard this “gospel.” Society has not heard that God will someday turn the earth into a paradise.
He is Also Our Saviour
When God created Adam, the first man, God was making a promise. You see, the word “Adam” is spelled in Hebrew with three letters alef, dalet, and mem. The prefix letter alef means “I will” and dalet and mem together mean “bleed.”
Was it by accident that when God created Adam, the first man, the letters used could be interpreted as “I will bleed”? Is there a hint here of a promise that some day Jesus would shed his blood for us in order to pay the penalty for our sins? I think so.
Not only is Jesus the King of Kings, He is also our Saviour. Christmas celebrates the birth of Immanuel, God Incarnate—the God who bled on our behalf in order to save us from our sins.
What an Amazing God!
The only true, all-powerful God, the Ruler of the Universe, the God of all compassion and mercy, left Heaven and was born in humblest of circumstances. He lived with us as one of us and showed us by being the way, the truth and the life. And we have come to know Him, and He has come to live within our hearts. What a reason to celebrate!
Good News of Great Joy for all People!
These are the words the angels spoke to the shepherds in Luke 2.10 and the angel went on to say: “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.”
The birth of Jesus: our Saviour, the Christ, the One Lord God Himself in the flesh. The most important birth in eternity—and that’s a very long time. There will never be a more important birth. What a reason to celebrate!
To loosely paraphrase Isaiah 9.2, there are people who are living in darkness and they are desperate for light. The darkness has spread over the whole earth and people everywhere are longing for relief from their suffering, distress, and hopeless despair. And we have the message they are waiting to hear.
We have the message of light and hope for the world. And how will they hear if we don’t tell them? Romans 10:13-14 says, “‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ But how can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone telling to them?”
God has placed us where we are right now, at least in part, because there are people around us who are waiting for us to tell them the Gospel. So have no fear. Shout and sing with all our hearts and voices. This joyful message is filled with excitement and hope. Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.
James Regehr has served as a pastor, including at Treesbank Community Church, and as the host of a Christian radio program. He lives in Yorkton, Sask., with his wife BettyAnn, and is shown here with his service dog.
LANDMARK, Man.—Time travel at Prairie Rose? It sounds unbelievable, but ask any kid who attended Prairie Rose DVBS this summer and you will hear all about their adventurous journey to first-century Rome to visit the apostle Paul, meet new friends in a Roman marketplace, discover the Early Church, and learn about God’s love and the spread of the Gospel in the face of persecution.
About 90 to 100 children from in and around the community arrived each day; and thanks to our hardworking planning committee and volunteers, every morning was full of games, snacks, crafts, and music. Some highlights included the weeklong skit, cooling off in the summer heat with water games, and learning creative new songs that related to each morning’s theme.
Even the thunderstorm that rolled in one morning could not dampen the excitement and energy. As an added bonus this year, DVBS fun lasted all summer long with special skits and theme songs presented every Sunday during the worship service, reminding kids of lessons learned during the DVBS week.
As summer turned to fall, programs also shifted at Prairie Rose. Sept. 10 was our “kick-off” Sunday, marking the start of another Sunday School year. This was also our annual Cradle Roll service, where six toddlers “graduated” from the church nursery into the Sunday School program.
Each one displayed their own precious personality as they walked up to the stage with the help of a parent to receive their hat, diploma, and a candy. Other programs started this fall include junior and senior youth, mom’s morning out, and boys’ and girls’ clubs.
by Stanley W. Green and Rafael Zaracho,
MWC Mission Commission chair and secretary
Book with 10 key convictions to be shared in English, Spanish and French
In recent years, Anabaptists have been identified by such distinctives as peacemaking, voluntary choice, simple living, community and discipleship. We believe, however, that a key defining characteristic of the early Anabaptist movement was its fervent embrace of mission.
Even while we continue to emphasize discipleship, we have muted the passionate, even sacrificial, commitment to evangelism that distinguished the early Anabaptists. For the past half-century, particularly in the north, there has been a troubling relinquishment of the missionary calling of the Church.
In this context, the Mission Commission of MWC had a vision for a book: God’s People in Mission: An Anabaptist Perspective.
The core of theological and missiological convictions, informally shared among the members of the Mission Commission, first led to an interest in developing a catalogue of those convictions that undergird and influence our foundations and approaches in mission.
On March 24, 2014, after several years of yearning for a comprehensive statement of shared mission convictions, the MC adopted “Mission Theology Statements” at Dopersduin, Schoorl, Holland. This is a compilation of 10 missional convictions that articulate what we believe together about mission in the global Anabaptist community.
We believe that further exploration of these convictions in a book-length form can help us think soberly about our essential identity as the missionary people of God. This is an urgent need.
We hope that the reflections in each chapter will stimulate needed conversations and help us to align ourselves with God’s purposes for the reconciliation of all humanity and the restoration of the created order. In addition, we yearn that through these exchanges we will be revitalized by God’s Spirit for the mission that brought Jesus to our world.
The desire of the MC is that God’s People in Mission: An Anabaptist Perspective might bring together diverse voices and experiences from within the varied contexts of our MWC global family. A number of the manuscripts were written in the different languages spoken by members of MWC. In the interest of ensuring wide accessibility, we hope eventually to have the text available in the three official languages of the MWC (English, Spanish and French).
A further goal is to make the book available in several other languages spoken by members of the MWC. We are working hard to finish this book before our next meeting in Kenya 2018.
Though the primary audience for the book is the MWC global family, we believe the book’s basic biblical-theological foundations and its contextual reflections can serve a wider audience.
We hope it can serve diverse groups as a resource for study and reference for workshops, training, Sunday School classes and seminaries by creating and promoting spaces for dialogue, reflection, and commitments.
We believe that every part of the MWC communion needs to recover the understanding that the church by its very nature is missionary. We understand from the Bible that God’s purposes find their essence and meaning in the mission of Jesus, and the work Holy Spirit is to advance this mission through the Church.
Since God’s yearning is that all people experience salvation, the Church is called to be in mission on every continent until Jesus returns. Our prayer is that every member church in the MWC will be transformed for the missionary purposes of God.
Buffalo Head Prairie, Alta.—Okay, now where do I start? I only have 500 words. Well, let’s see. I can give you a summary of the year so far. From September to the end of March we have Family Bible Study on Wednesday nights at 7:30 at the church. Everyone is welcome. We start off by praying and singing. Then we kids, ages three to 15 depending on the day (normally there are only five of us), head downstairs.
From September to December we did it with Telita Janzen; then she passed away from cancer on Jan. 30 this year. So now we kids have our lesson time with Laural Ann Plett, Pastor Jeff Plett’s wife. We have a lesson downstairs while the adults do their Bible study upstairs. When Telita was here, we kids would tie bags for MCC school kits during our lesson time.
Sunday School runs from September to June. We have five classes: a boy’s class with three boys, a girl’s youth class with about five girls, the nursery class with six kids, a mothers’ class, and an adult class.
For Christmas 2016 the Sunday School classes practised songs or skits. The girls’ and mothers’ classes joined together and sang Star of The East in two-, almost three-part harmony. The boys’ class and the girls’ class, with some help from our dads, performed a skit on “Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego and the Fiery Furnace.” The nursery class also sang.
From July 31 to Aug. 4 we had VBS. Two girls who worked with Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) came up from Edmonton and led the lesson part. The VBS started at 7 p.m. Kids ages four to 12 sang, memorized Bible verses, and got to hear stories about missionaries and the story of Jesus. After the lesson time, the kids got to play games with Pastor Jeff or go downstairs and have crafts with Mrs. Wheeler and Mrs. Doerksen. After the crafts or the games, they had a snack before they were sent home hyper. We were blessed to have around 15 kids show up to learn about God.
Year-round there is a men’s prayer breakfast every other Saturday. Some of the men from the church get together at 8 in the morning at the church. They take turns making breakfast, and then they pray and fellowship before starting their day. I don’t know much about this because I never go, but my Dad does and so it made it in here.
A publication of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference