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10 Reasons Why I Appreciate the EMC

For a season in my life I wanted nothing to do with the word, “Mennonite”. My ethnic background is from the Low-German Mennonites, and after a number of bad experiences with my own people I decided I wanted very little to do with it. That is, until I met my wife.

My wife is not a Low-German Mennonite. But she is a Mennonite. Her family hails from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and when we first met she told me that she is a Christian. Not only that, but she told me that she is also a Mennonite. My jaw dropped. She just said the “M” word with pride. At that point in my life I had no idea what a Mennonite was, beyond the Low-German Mennonite ethnicity. This fascinating (and beautiful) woman, however, spoke of it as something much deeper and more profound. I was intrigued.

Eventually we got married, and I began studying and looking into what it meant to be a Mennonite. I read about the Mennonite/Anabaptist understanding of the Bible, the history of my own people, and the faith convictions by which early Anabaptists lived and modern Anabaptists continue to embrace. I grew to love so much of what I learned. Mennonite was no longer a negative word in my vocabulary.

Now I am the pastor of a Mennonite church within the Evangelical Mennonite Conference (EMC). While it is immensely popular to complain about things we don’t like, one Mennonite belief is about not conforming to unhealthy cultural practices around us. So to go along with that tradition, here is a list, in no particular order, of things I have come to appreciate about the EMC. While I’m sure there are more reasons than these to appreciate, I have included 10 reasons below:

  • 1. The Theology
    • The EMC takes theology seriously. That is, they take seriously the responsibility to correctly handle the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15). While there are always different interpretations of what a particular passage may mean, I have yet to meet another EMC pastor who does not take this responsibility seriously. Furthermore, as someone who has come to love Anabaptist Theology, the EMC holds to those faith convictions that are deeply important to me. Things like spreading the Gospel, taking care of the downtrodden, understanding the Bible in the light of Jesus, recognizing the dignity of humanity as image bearers of God and how that applies to views against violence and against a culture of death. I could go on, but suffice it to say that I appreciate the theology and discussion about theology within the EMC.

 

  • 2. The Other Churches
    • As a life-long church goer and now as the pastor of a church I know how easy it is to become incredibly busy with all the events, struggle, and joys of one’s own church. Yet we as a local church are only one expression of the global body of Christ and we as churches need one another. Through our connection to other EMC churches, it gives a sort of pre-existing relationship with others where we as leaders can go to for fellowship, friendship, advice, or teamwork for local projects.

 

  • 3. The Accountability
    • These connections with other pastors and with Conference leaders help provide a framework of accountability. We as leaders and churches are accountable to other churches and to the wider conference for the actions we take. How this works itself out varies from one situation to another, but it is there and it is helpful for us as we seek to serve the Lord together.

 

  • 4. The Support in Troubled Times
    • When churches go through difficulties, the EMC is there, willing to send in mediators, advisors, and to pray for and with churches as they experience conflict. I know that not everyone has experienced this. I have on occasion heard various complaints about the EMC for not providing this support. After listening to those criticisms, the first question I asked was, “That sounds hard. But did you call EMC leadership and ask for help?” Each time I’ve heard that criticism and asked that question, their answer every time was “No.” The leaders in the EMC are human beings, just like you and I, not some magical, psychic, all-knowing beings. Only God is all-knowing. Thus for the rest of us we must learn how to communicate and ask for help. I will say, however, that for myself and others I know who have asked for help, it was given. Was it perfect help? No. But there was love and support in the times we needed it the most.

 

  • 5. The New Beginnings
    • There are always new church plants on the go within the EMC. The church I pastor is less than 20 years old and is the result of the EMC having the vision to send a church planter to our community and start something new. I greatly appreciate the vision of the EMC leadership to see beyond what simply is and onward to what could be or will be. Could we do more of this? Absolutely. Could we do it more efficiently? Sure. This, however, takes people. People like you and me to be bold and brave and to step out and do something new.

 

  • 6. The Budget
    • For as long as I have known the EMC, more than half of the budget is spent on missions. Another significant portion is spent on Canadian church planting. The remaining minority of the budget is spent on ministering to our existing churches and administration. I appreciate the emphasis on serving and giving instead of on hoarding. I mentioned theology earlier, and the budget is where we, “put our money where our mouth is”. Generally speaking, the EMC does this well and is fairly consistent between what we profess to believe and what we do with our money.

 

  • 7. The Mission
    • I appreciate how the EMC does missions and cares for its missionaries. I know things have changed over time and are continuing to change, however there have been countless missionary efforts that have done some pretty amazing things. Ministry in one part of Mexico was so successful that a number of years ago the EMC actually stopped working there because the local people caught the vision for themselves and now do their own work. It was empowering and life giving. I get nervous when ministries seem to be more about expanding their own base of power, instead of about how to empower others. From what I have heard and seen about EMC missions, it does quite well in this regard.

 

  • 8. The Friends
    • I will speak as a pastor for a moment. There are certain realities about being a pastor that are difficult to live through and hard to explain to those who have not been there themselves. Please understand that I am not trying to belittle the struggles of others or put us pastor’s up on a pedestal. We struggle along like any other human beings. What the EMC has given to me, however, is a network of other pastors, many of whom have become close friends, and who have been there for me through everything from my birthday party to theological questions to advice when in times of conflict.
      Speaking to other EMC churches, or any church for that matter, encouraging your pastor to spend time with other pastors, even just as friends, can do great things for your congregation. It gives your pastor much needed support and when things get tough, they will be able to do a much better job during those times if they have trusted friends.

 

  • 9. The Events
    • There are a number of events put on by the EMC regularly that help provide education, inspiration and support to church leaders and church people. There is the annual EMC convention, the bi-annual Conference Council where decisions are made, the semi-annual Ministerial retreat, the semi-annual youth gathering we call Abundant Springs, and other events like youth leader retreats, spiritual gift seminars, training for church accountants and more. I have learned a lot through these various events, which have strengthened me as I serve.

 

  • 10. The Publications
    • There are a number of publications that the EMC produces which have educated me, made me think and re-think issues, and have helped me in my personal spiritual development. Need I say more?

It has been on my mind for awhile to write this out, and my hope is that those in our church and those in other EMC churches will find renewed vision to continue to work together for the sake of the Gospel.

Kevin Wiebe

Kevin Wiebe

Kevin Wiebe is the senior pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship in Stevenson, Ont. He served in a mission-based Christian radio ministry in Fort Vermilion, AB, before obtaining a BA (Communications and Media) from Providence University College in 2013. He began at NLCF in July 2013. He is married to Emily; they have three young children.

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