By Glen Guyton
As the person responsible for planning the national convention for Mennonite Church USA I get a lot of feedback from people across the denomination. We, Mennonites, are a very passionate bunch. We are a very intelligent and gifted group. Mennonites tend to care about a lot of issues of social justice and it impacts how we desire to engage the world.
The Mennonite Church USA Healing & Hope vision statement says, “God calls us to be followers of Jesus Christ and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to grow as communities of grace, joy and peace, so that God’s healing and hope flow through us to the world.” That flow requires resources; it takes time and energy to get things done. Any wise steward knows that resources are finite; there is a limit to what we can do.
As Christians we have to realize that God sent Christ to save the world and none of us have been given the power to deliver salvation. At our very best we are an extension of God’s love without the omnipresence or omnipotence of Yahweh. We have a spiritual limit (time, talent, resources) and therefore we need to have a spiritual budget.
Mennonites are outraged by, interested in, or deeply concerned about a lot of “good” things: creation care; Israel/Palestine; immigration; LGBTQ inclusion; John Howard Yoder; Gender equality; drones; and racism, to name a few. The champions/advocates of each of these issues want me and the denominational staff to also be champions/advocates of these same issues.
But as a good steward of both myself and of the denominational resources, I understand that I cannot be. I need to be able to listen to God in my personal calling and my vocational calling.
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it…”(Romans 12:1-2 MSG)
I have often told our staff that, Mennonite Church USA and its affiliated organizations must become leaner and more nimble in order to stay relevant and to be able to move with God’s Spirit. Can we, as a denomination response to God’s call if we are bogged down by “worldly” issues or “good” causes that may or may not be Godly causes?
What if as good stewards, we decided that Mennonite Church USA (the denomination) would only focus on three things as illustrated in The Anabaptist Vision by Harold Bender:
- Discipleship: Teaching its members how to live their everyday lives with Jesus as the center of our faith.
- Community: Demonstrating that the church is a family and providing the structure for members to voluntarily commit themselves to one another under mutually agreed upon covenants.
- Peace and nonresistance: Advocating for peace and justice in our nation and world and providing tools to help others resist violence and injustice.
I wonder how that church would look?