NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network) — When he first applied for the job, months ago, Mike Sherrill, who became Mennonite Mission Network's new executive director August 1, says he did not imagine that it would mean leading the agency through a pandemic.
But in God's providence, that's exactly what he's doing, and he's eager to share the challenges and gifts of this calling Nov. 17, during the free webinar, "Adapting to the pandemic and innovating for the future." During the online event, being streamed at 7 p.m. EST, he will share the unfolding vision that he and the mission agency's Executive Cabinet are casting for the future. Participants are encouraged to submit questions for Sherrill prior to the webinar, or live in the chat dialog during the hourlong event. Click here to register.
"These are extraordinary times, and none of us could have imagined being in this place socially and politically," Sherrill said in a recent interview. "Months down the road from when the pandemic started spreading worldwide in March, we realize this pandemic is not going away, and we have to deal with it."
The Holy Spirit is inspiring Mission Network, using the compass points of adaptation and innovation as guides through a shifting landscape. "We have adapted rapidly," he said, "we transitioned from a face-to-face, brick-and-mortar way of working to virtual platforms. I think it is very impressive that our entire organization could pivot like this in ways that are positive, productive and efficient."
Sherrill expressed that the need for rapid adaption is unleashing fresh creativity and innovation which is helping the agency not only survive, but thrive in these changing times.
"The challenges are catapulting us more quickly into a digital future that was coming our way eventually but now are in front of us immediately," he said. "Also, we are being challenged to deal more comprehensively with such issues as systemic racism that are now at the forefront of our awareness."
Sherrill's trust in God and the call to join God's mission is energizing members of the Executive Cabinet, including John Lapp, senior executive for International Partner Engagement, and Sandy Miller, senior executive for Resourcing and Engagement.
"As a mission colleague of Mike, I was not surprised when, as executive director, he quickly brought to the table his strong sense of positivity, energy, and vision toward the mission of the church," Lapp said. "One necessary change is to move away from old habits, which included racism in ourselves, our organizational practices, and our program plans. In a transitional year, Mike is building a new identity and vision for mission that will energize our staff, our constituency, and our partners."
Miller stated that even as the pandemic interrupted Mission Network's in-person activities, Sherrill has encouraged staff members to not let it stop them from digitally reaching out to partners.
"As Mike leads the Executive Cabinet, he encourages new thinking around strategic planning that builds on the use of social media and technology for resourcing and mobilizing people to engage in mission," Miller said. "Mike wants to design our strategic goals with a view of the end results in mind ... to engage our own communities and learn from others by reaching across the street and around the world. The world is in our backyards and linked to us by cyberspace. It's time to join hands with other lovers of Jesus to create a more just and equitable change in the United States."
Sherrill believes that because of the need for rapid innovation in a complicated time, it is all the more crucial for Mission Network to hold to its center in Christ, while joining God in God's mission throughout the world.
"At Mission Network," Sherrill said, "we are using intentional energy to focus on what God is saying in Scripture, and to be prayerful in mutual efforts to strive to follow Jesus in respecting everyone, and to decrease all our ways of 'othering.'"
In rightful concern for all others, it is easy for Mission Network to get stretched too thin, he reflected. The agency needs to address injustice and pursue renewal and repentance, keeping in mind that it is partnering with God's movement in the world.
"We are a mission agency that is called to center on, and share, the good news of Christ, and to be the gospel amidst all the situations and challenges of our unfolding world," Sherrill said.
For more information and to register for the free Nov. 17 webinar, "Adapting to the pandemic and innovating for the future," click here.