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Fall 1991 · Vol. 20 No. 2 · pp. 48–49 

Response to Henry J. Schmidt

Response to “Diverse Models/Strategies of Church Planting/Growth Among Mennonite Brethren” by Henry J. Schmidt 20/2 (1991): 21–44.

Dale Warkentin

The purpose of this consultation is to develop a workable strategy to accomplish our stated denominational goals for church planting/growth. Henry Schmidt’s paper proposes several models/strategies of church planting/growth that can enable us to reach those goals. I respect Schmidt’s wide experience and extensive reading. However, he includes too many diverse models. I feel inundated by all the condensed lists. Schmidt lists the biblical principles which provide a proper foundation and help us place our strategies in the perspective of the new era of God’s reign.

Our record of minimal church growth (or even decline) during the past fifty years graphically paints the need to place evangelism at the heart of our denomination. We must be willing to demonstrate our commitment through our financial giving. If we are serious about growth, Schmidt says, we need administrators and church planters. In addition we also need {49} places to meet, whether rented or purchased, and this too will take some creative financing.

Although this is a North American consultation we must remember that our North American vision statement is global; we must see needs and resources from a world-wide perspective. On a global basis, where in the world are new church starts most needed? Do we need to plant a Mennonite Brethren Church in all major cities in North America before we plant churches in the many unreached cities of the world? How should our personnel and financial resources be allocated globally?

Even as one reads Schmidt’s paper the gap between where we are and where we want to go grows ever larger. Is it really possible for us to make the necessary changes to reach our goals? Can we overcome our mono-ethnic rural mentality? Do we really want to grow?

When it comes to forging a denominational strategy, we need to contextualize our Mennonite Brethren perspectives. Some people question whether encouraging numerical growth, developing larger churches, focusing on growth corridors, centralizing denominational leadership and taking a more transdenominational stance are compatible with our Anabaptist heritage. But I believe we need to become more flexible, relevant, and inclusive and we can do so without denying our identity. Too often our criticism of how other evangelicals do evangelism, has only resulted in our doing nothing.

Schmidt lists eight shifts that will help us reach our goals. Some of these are radical shifts for us, but we need to be willing to make the necessary changes and to pay the price as the Holy Spirit guides us. The challenge, of course, is to agree on what changes must be made, to find qualified personnel, to raise necessary finances, and then to motivate our fellow members to move outward. Only then will we be in a realistic position to offer hope in Christ to our troubled world.

Dale Warkentin
Secretary for Asia, Mennonite Brethren Missions/Services
Fresno, California

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