Canadian Mennonite
Volume 11, No. 16
August 20, 2007


Lessons from the global church

In Isaiah 43, God speaks of gathering his children up from the east, west, north and south. “Let all the nations gather together, and let the peoples assemble,” God says.

I had an experience of that last month when I attended the public day of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) World Assembly, a gathering of around 600 people from more than 140 countries for the mission of reaching “students in every nation with the gospel of Jesus Christ and to send them into the world to bear witness to Christ and his teaching.” IFES is an interdenominational student outreach organization (represented in Canada by Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship) that I appreciate and was involved with in my university years and through time in voluntary service.

It was wonderful to be surrounded by people from virtually every corner of the world, praising God together in many tongues and ways of worship. It was sobering to hear from those persecuted for their faith. I spoke with one young woman whose pastor is in prison for his ministry; each week, she risks her own freedom delivering a meal to him.

One of the biggest trends in Christianity recently has been the shift in weight to the church in the global south and east. This is true in our branch of the church as well, with African Anabaptist groups passing North America in size for the first time in 2003—due to their much higher church growth rates. I sure wish this turning to God for Canada as well.

IFES associate general secretary Las Newman has spent 28 years working with students around the world. I asked him why these parts of the church were growing so quickly. His answer was poverty, conflict and the search for hope. “Where there is poverty, you find faith. Where you find affluence, you will find lack of faith,” he said bluntly. “People turn to religion searching for meaning, hope, some kind of comfort. Where you find the poor, you find great faith. This is in Africa, Asia, Latin America.” It’s disturbing to hear how our wealth and comfort act to keep us from God. Those aren’t new words, though. Jesus said the same thing in the Sermon the Mount.

Newman knew about Mennonites, having done a master’s degree on 16th century Anabaptist history at Conrad Grebel University College in the 1970s. His advice to Mennonite Christians was to highlight our peace theology and to do even more work in conflict resolution in our evangelism. “This is why the [Mennonite] churches grow in Africa, because of the peace and conflict approach to missionary work…. I would continue to provide hope, any poverty reduction, water, and…how to live in peace and hope in the gospel. There are so many stories of how powerful the gospel is compared to any other means of accomplishing these goals.”

New National Correspondent: I’d like to introduce our new national correspondent, Teresa Falk. She is a member of Crystal City (Man.) Mennonite Church and a graduate of the Red River College journalism program in Winnipeg. She comes to the magazine after two years working at newspapers in Medicine Hat, Alta., and Portage, Man. Many thanks to outgoing staff person Leona Dueck Penner for her five years in the position!

Redesign: After many months of work, you’ll see a whole new look for the magazine, starting next issue. Look out for it next month!

—Tim Miller Dyck

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