What is central to our relationship with God in Christ through the Holy Spirit? Do we experience vitality in this relationship? What happens when we encounter people who can’t, or won’t, agree with what we hold as central to our understanding of faith? How do we challenge the discomfort, doubt or uncertainty many feel when asked to seriously consider our role in mission or evangelism?
In his book Is It Insensitive to Share Your Faith? (Good Books, 2005), James R. Krabill writes, “There is a degree of discomfort and a pestering uncertainty about the whole mission enterprise—uncertainty about where and with whom to engage in mission, about how such mission should be carried out, and ultimately, about whether mission is even appropriate at all in this diverse, multicultural 21st century.”
When Mennonite Church Canada’s Christian Witness Council last met, we explored how to breathe life into one of our unstaffed ministry mandates—evangelism and church planting—prompting such questions as, “Do we see evangelism and church planting as a critical area of ministry?” and, “What does it mean to share our faith in an increasingly uncertain world?”
Since the beginning of the Anabaptist movement, we have claimed the centrality of Christ. Menno Simons often quoted I Corinthians 3:11: “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.”
In a recent Facebook post, Dann Pantoja, Witness worker in the Philippines, offered his thoughts about sharing faith. “If we go to a community with a so-called ‘Christian love’ and try to do everything for the community without cultural sensitivity, without respect for the people’s dignity, as if God was absent in that community before our ministry arrived, then our ministry’s concept of ‘Christian love’ must be [re]evaluated with the love of Christ.”
As we interact with people of other faiths, or even of no faith, we can be honest about how we see the world differently and how we understand or experience God differently. Jesus demonstrated this. He never turned anyone away, yet held everyone accountable by challenging his disciples and others in a manner reflecting respect, value and love.
Krabill writes, “The church has never ever in all its history been a perfect model and messenger of God’s big plan to save the world. . . . God is not only saving the world. God is also saving the church. And the church’s job is nothing more or less than to serve as a witness to that salvation.”
Evangelism and church planting speak to our desire to see the world transformed by the love of God experienced in relationship with Christ. I believe this passion is ignited within us as we continue to live out a bold yet vulnerable witness as a people who share a faith in God that highlights the centrality of Christ. That is the kind of evangelism I pray our church is excited about!
Norm Dyck is chair of Mennonite Church Canada’s Witness Council.
--Posted Nov. 19, 2014