Sent 2016: A gathering of Mennonites planting Jesus-centered communities, was the first gathering of Anabaptist-Mennonite church planters of its kind. Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Mission Network brought together church planters, groups testing the call, pastors, missiologists and conference leaders March 31-April 2, to explore approaches, best practices and the variety of perspectives that exist on church planting through an Anabaptist lens. This is the second post in a series from participants in Sent 2016.
Olak B. Sunuwar was born into a Hindu family in Nepal and converted into Christianity when he was in high school. He taught at Himalayan Bible Training Centre, and was actively involved in church planting ministry and working for the Church’s unity and peace in Nepal. He worked among socially marginalized communities (ethnic minorities, drug abusers, refugees) in Hong Kong and led Nepalese Christian Council Hong Kong for several years. Now he is pursuing a doctorate in Christian Ethics at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, and is involved in Living Water Community Church, helping with the Nepalese-speaking congregation. He is married to Mona, and together they have two daughters.
Jesus Christ has given two important tasks for his people. The first one is the Great Commandment – loving God with all our heart and mind and loving neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). The second one is Great Commission — preaching the Gospel and making disciples all around the word (Matthew 28:18-20). I believe that loving God and people through the work of peace and justice in the community is not complete unless we are sharing the redeeming power of Jesus Christ to fulfill the Great Commission. The Great Commandment and Great Commission of Christ are two sides of a coin — we can’t follow the Christ merely accepting one part. Without sharing the good news of Christ, Christian’s good works such as feeding poor, giving to those in need, helping the stranger and more are just doing philanthropy work which become the motto of many social clubs and secular organization.
Sent 2016 reminded us of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It was very interesting to hear that many local church planters felt that we Americans are sending missionaries to plant new churches in foreign lands but we have forgotten our own land. I think our fellow Mennonite brothers and sisters felt urgency to preach the gospel of Christ and plant new churches in the USA along with good works inspired by Christ to show love and care to the community.
Therefore, I believe that Sent 2016 combined our action and urgency to preach the gospel and plant churches in the USA.
The Nepali group of Living Water Community Church in Chicago has been engaging with the non-Christian Nepali community in Aurora which is around 40 miles away from Chicago, helping the community with family counseling. Since the beginning of the 2015 we often visit them and have already built a good relationship with them. At the same time we are witnessing and sharing the love of Jesus Christ. There are many people who are ready to receive the gospel, but we have been wondering how to plant a church, since we were not aware of any guidelines for a church planting ministry. Literally we have been waiting for the Sent 2016 conference to get more ideas and learn how church planting functions within Mennonite Church USA and to meet the contact person for the church planting mission. It was helpful.
I think Sent 2016 provided opportunities for church planters to share and hear church planting stories in different parts of the USA and among different groups. Overall the conference was about hearing stories and encouraging each other for the church planting mission rather than discussing practical church planting strategies and planning.
Through hearing others’ stories about how God is working in the community, as well as the challenges we have faced and how we overcome those challenges, I realized that my church (LWCC) is part of this mission too, because we also have similar experiences where God has been faithful to us in our missional journey.
The workshops were amazing! We explored different topics of church planting and mission that helped participants to understand the notion of mission. I think Mennonite Church USA took the right initiative – offering participants the opportunity to become familiar with situations in church planting and churches’ progress across the USA.
Sent 2016 reminded us that loving neighbor is also telling them about the way of eternal peace and life – believing in Jesus Christ. I believe Sent 2016 refreshed and recharged church planters to preach the gospel and plant new churches. Thank you so much to the organizing team and church that kindly hosted this event.