The U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches is gearing up for a new church-planting initiative.
The plan calls for churches and experienced church-planting leaders to form a resourcing network, providing a catalyst for church planting and working in tandem with district and national leadership.
During a May 19 teleconference with the USMB National Strategy Team, Fred Leonard, who chairs a subgroup of a task force assigned to develop strategy, shared the church-planting model:
— The “who” that guides USMB church planting is Jesus Christ. Everything will be centered upon Jesus.
— The “why” is that we are called to glorify God by introducing people to Jesus Christ — so the dead come to life, the lost are found and the darkness is overcome by light.
— The “what” is to nurture new, healthy, sustainable and multiplying churches through planting new churches, rebirthing dying churches and multiplying healthy existing churches.
Leonard said task force members have various opinions on the details of how this will be accomplished. However, they agree the church-planting model must be gospel-focused, Spirit-led, outward-driven and centered on the gospel — all with the expectation of birthing self-sustaining, multiplying churches.
He made it clear that new churches will follow the MB Confession of Faith.
“We are Anabaptist,” Leonard said. “We will plant MB churches.”
Local churches will be encouraged to call out gifted church- planting leaders and to help support these planters with resources.
As has been the practice for some time, all potential church planters will undergo a rigorous assessment process, likely to be followed by an apprenticeship or on-site training with an experienced church planter. Although this might delay the process, it increases the success rate.
“We also find church planters through prayer, training and discipling and visiting colleges and seminaries,” Leonard said. “We prefer homegrown. We want planters between their late 20s to mid-40s. We want to be known for deeply caring for our planters and resourcing them with the things they need to be successful.”
As the National Strategy Team discussed the task force update, it became obvious that there is still substantial work to be done to determine how districts, district church-planting boards and the national USMB staff fit into the church-planting model.
“We need to all own this together,” one NST member said. “If this will be a partnership with districts and have a national identity, we need to all process, own it and move it forward.”
USMB national director Don Morris said, “We want church leaders to weigh in and offer their input. Church planting is vitally important for our MB family. We need to get this new strategy right.”