(Mennonite Church USA/Mennonite Mission Network) — Through a new "Learn, Pray, Join" initiative running until April, Mennonite Church USA will highlight the work of planting peace churches taking place in collaboration with Mennonite Mission Network, a Mennonite Church USA agency.
"Anything that's alive should show signs of growth," said Glen Guyton, executive director of Mennonite Churcch USA. "Church planting is one sign that we are fulfilling both our mission and the great commission. Mennonite Church USA should be growing and moving into areas of need. We want to remain relevant and impact our nation."
Individuals and congregations are invited to learn more about church planting through reflections on the Menno Snapshots blog and with a webinar on Mar. 13 that will include a panel of peace church planters and Mennonite Mission Network staff. Mennonite Church USA invites people to pray for those working at the various stages of church planting, and to join the initiative by supporting ongoing church-planting work or sponsoring a church planter in attending Mission Network's Sent conference Apr. 26-28 at The Beloved Community Mennonite Church in Denver, Colorado. Resources are also available for those discerning a call toward church planting.
The Sent conference, a yearly event that began in 2016, invites leaders who are gifted and called to church planting to gather for networking, worship, resourcing, and inspiration.
"We are recapturing the imagination of how our existing churches were planted," said Mauricio Chenlo, minister for Church Planting at Mennonite Mission Network. "This imagination begins by gathering missional leaders who are called and gifted in this ministry. That is how the Sent conference began."
As part of this year's conference, Mennonite Mission Network is rolling out the Sent Network, a new process being designed to support those who are interested in church planting through three phases: exploring, equipping, and sending. By meeting with Mennonite Church USA conference ministers, Mission Network staff found that while some conferences were actively engaged in church planting, others felt they had less capacity for these initiatives, according to Sandy Miller, director for Church Relations at Mennonite Mission Network.
"Mennonite Mission Network sees congregations and conferences as the ones to engage in church planting, and we're offering to walk alongside and help them in areas where they need support to create new communities of faith," said Miller. "We offer a clear message of peace church planting based in who Jesus is."
The Sent Network utilizes both virtual and in-person learning, including assessment, training, support networks, and educational resources based in the unique missional theology and history of Anabaptist churches. The goal is to support people moving through the stages of church planting as they transition into Mennonite Church USA pastors. More information about the Sent Network will be available at the Mar. 13 webinar.
"We're grateful for the initiative of Mennonite Mission Network, especially the creation of resources offered through the Sent Network, to help congregations and conferences engage in effective church planting," said Michael Danner, associate executive director for church vitality and engagement for Mennonite Church USA. "We are committed to planting Mennonite Church USA congregations within our conferences, rooted in missional practices that bring life to neighborhoods through the proclamation of the gospel."
"Planting churches is an old practice in Christian history," said Chenlo. "We can say it began after the resurrected Jesus greeted the fearful disciples saying, 'As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.' The church is sent out to be a transforming and hopeful presence in the world."
More information about how to "learn, pray, join" for peace church planting can be found at: http://mennoniteusa.org/churchplanting.