1.21. 2019 Posted By: Mennonite Church USA
This article is the third part of a three-part blog series in which Glen Guyton is exploring MC USA structure while challenging members of the denomination to Journey Forward together.
MC USA, as a body of believers, has a lot of hard work to do over the next few years. It is going to be challenging on this Journey Forward, but that does not mean God is not with us.
If you decide to stay with MC USA, I would ask that you commit to the following things:
Be gracious to those that don’t live a life of spiritual perfection. We all must live our own lives. Christ paid the price for our sins and the sins of our neighbors.
“But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’ Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:13-14).
Have a mind to work. The walls of the city have been burned to the ground and need rebuilding. The traditional understanding of what MC USA is needs to be rebuilt. What was built in 2001 has an honorable foundation, but the current structure is not the vehicle that will carry us forward. Conferences have left, our colleges are struggling with changing demographics, and even our agencies are challenged to determine how to relate to partners that want to keep MC USA at arm’s length. We are a small but powerful denomination with a wonderful history. And we need to get back to the work that God has called us to. Just like Nehemiah did for the children of Israel, I am here to remind you what is possible when the people of God have a mind to work. Nehemiah 4:6 (NLT) says, “At last the wall was completed to half its height around the entire city, for the people had worked with enthusiasm.”
Journey forward together. Let’s leave behind our passive-aggressive culture. Let’s dismantle our institutional silos and work more collaboratively. Romans 15:1-4 says,
“We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. As the Scriptures say, ‘The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me.’ Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.”
Togetherness is hard work. We have to let go of our painful past in order to move forward. A denominational leader recently told me I was foolish to believe this [MC USA organizations working together] could happen. His history of hurt, disappointment and incompetence within our structure was too fresh. It was too raw for him. As a Christian, faith is often seen as foolishness. I have to trust that if God has a call for MC USA, God will work on our behalf and transform this institution to fit into that plan.
“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6).
Understand that you are MC USA. This church does not belong to one person, one board, one church or one conference. We are MC USA, and yes, we are just as flawed and diverse as the individuals who fill the pews in our churches each week. This church isn’t perfect because you aren’t perfect and I’m not perfect. Just like a family: sometimes you just can’t pick them, but they are still family. So you choose to focus on the ties that bind.
Plant good seed. Plant good seed and let God do the sorting. Too many of us are so busy looking for fault and sin that we have neglected the work God has called us to, and we wonder why our ministries are not thriving. If you are familiar with the parable of the wheat and the tares, a farmer plants good seed, but the enemy comes and sows seeds of discord. Immediately the farmer’s workers become fixated on the weeds and are willing to attack them, to the detriment of the good seed he has sown. Matthew 13:28 says,
‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed. ‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. ‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’
Too many in our church have developed a habit of looking for the bad. We are trying to pull up every root and negative weed we can find. Ultimately we find exactly what we are looking for, but we destroy all the good work in the process. We have let social media and church media sources become hotbeds of angst and discord. God doesn’t need us to be the judge, jury and executioners of one another. Let us step out of the seat of judgment and condemnation. Our job is to plant good seed, to tell the good news, to bring about reconciliation, and to share healing and hope.
Support the ministry work of the local congregation, area conference and denomination. Like the old saying goes, “Salvation is free. Everything else costs.”
In the end, I pray that as we gather as people of the Christ, in all our various contexts, we will be co-laborers in the ministry God has planned for us together as MC USA. And unlike the story of The Little Red Hen, we who have chosen to be part of the story of The Little Green Dove will all be able to partake in the fruits of our combined work.
Glen Guyton is executive director of Mennonite Church USA.