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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Congregations are the Center of Mission

In a television advertisement with variation iterations, a one-year old child trades stock and bonds electronically using an e-trade app on a computer or mobile device. E-trade not so subtlety pushes the idea that even a baby doesn't need a broker to invest on Wall Street. It's that easy!

Alas, we will always have brokers with us. But increasingly we are able to cut them out of our lives and build relationships directly with, say Wall Street, or whatever or whoever we want to connect. And so it is that the church too is racing into a future where brokers (churchwide agencies, conferences, denominational structures) will play a different role. In this new age, as Mennonite Church USA makes clear, congregations are the center of mission. Brokers do not do mission and ministry on behalf of congregations anymore, but must equip and empower congregations as expressions of the church's vocation. Brokers will no longer have networking as their primary raison d'etre unless they can add value to relationships.

I expect Clinton Frame Mennonite Church, rural Goshen, to announce their intent to leave Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference at our annual sessions beginning tomorrow. Rumors fly that others will join them. For many local Mennonites, emotions are running high. But as I reflect on this decision, it occurs to me that my personal relationship wtih Clinton Frame, and my local congregation's relationship with Clinton Frame will change little. In particular we will continue partnerships in mission with Clinton Frame around, BAR Retreat, Amigo Center, Bethany Schools, Goshen College, Michiana Mennonite Relief Sale, conversation about being a large Mennonite church, and other mission and ministry locally, and perhaps beyond. Indeed, we already partner with local Mennonite congregations that a not part of our conference. CFMC will become another one.

In many ways institutions are no longer necessary for networking. Clinton Frame is a local example. Technology enable us to expand that circle, making connections without brokers. It seems we really do believe congregations are the center of mission, at least we are behaving as as such. And this fact is going to reshape the church.


Anonymous said...

This sounds like it fits in the file you described as "blue" in one of your recent sermons. Makes me wonder if we will ever hear a description of the "underlying" file.