Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada have a joint Vision statement: 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.
With such a vision statement, it is only right that the first priority of the church is Christian Formation. I define Christian as the creating of persons in the image of Christ and creating communities as a family of God. The Purposeful Plan of Mennonite Church USA puts it this way: “God intends that by our participation in the community of those who are formed by and for the Kingdom, we will be healed and infused with hope for ourselves and for the world.” It states further that “Authentic witness to the Kingdom is made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us.” Unless there is Christian Formation in us individually and as communities, we will not be able to properly implement the rest of our priorities.
We live in an individualistic age—a hyper-individualistic age—in which self-help faith tends to be taught and learned as yet another consumer product. We contend as Anabaptists that our formation is both personal and communal. We learn and are shaped by God’s Spirit in community and through community. This is our heritage as a people, a vision going back to the calling of Abraham, through the Apostolic vocation given to the early disciples and inherent in the formation of the first Christian communities in Acts chapters two and four.
To quote again from the Purposeful Plan: “This first and highest priority commits us to fashion and mold our lives after that of Jesus Christ. As the sent One of God, Jesus sends us into the world. As missional communities, our congregations, conferences, and agencies will ensure that people are invited to make a commitment to Christ, discipled in the way of Christ, taught to engage with the scriptures, helped to develop Christian identity from an Anabaptist/Mennonite perspective, and given the capacity to cultivate their vocational calling.”
In addition to individualism, we have to fight for time. In an age of microwaves and social media, it’s tempting to think that we can quickly heat up spiritual practices and maturity or to hope that God will send us an invitation on Linked In or appear on our Facebook newsfeed. It is in this sense that MennoMedia works as an arm of the church in providing excellent and relevant resources in print, on paper and digitally, online and on video, to equip and help teach and learn as communities of faith. This is our first priority.
To give a few examples: Books such as the have helped shape our understanding, practices and identity as Anabaptists in an age of Post Christendom. A resource for daily common prayer, such as, Take our Moments and Days, helps us to form regular disciplines and practices of prayer. In recent years we produced new hymnal supplements Sing the Journey and Sing the Story, which have brought wonderful and new music to our worship setting and deepen and enrich our common tradition.
This post is an excerpt from a presentation being made to the delegates at the Mennonite Church USA Convention this week in Phoenix, AZ