Signposts: A witnessing community

(Appeared first in November 2012, The Mennonite. Reprinted with permission.)

By Ervin Stutzman

Ervin Stutzman is executive director for Mennonite Church USA

He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.       —Micah 6:8 (TNIV)

As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.—Acts 4:20 (TNIV)

The Mennonite churches in Indonesia have a lot to teach us about being engaged in God’s mission. In September, I visited churches in Indonesia at the invitation of the Jemaat Kristen Indonesia. JKI is the newest of the three Mennonite conferences, or synods, in that country. I had the pleasure of preaching and teaching at their seminary and in several congregations. I also met with pastors and church leaders in several locations. On two occasions, the gatherings had representatives from all three Mennonite conferences.

I was particularly encouraged by my visit to the Injil Kerajaan (Gospel of the Kingdom) Church in the city of Semarang. This dynamic megachurch has a highly visible public witness. The members worship in a 5,000-seat facility that they call the Holy Stadium.

Their facility serves not only as a worship center but as a school building for their 4,000 elementary and high school students. They are constructing buildings for a college, a hospital and an orphanage. The congregation also touches their community in visible ways through assistance with small businesses. Their church campus will likely serve as the venue for the 2021 assembly of Mennonite World Conference.

Each Sunday, a large worship team and costumed dancers lead this charismatic congregation in worship and praise. After the service, people have the opportunity to purchase locally grown organic rice from the farmers who produce it, at prices that enable these farmers to hold their heads high. This stands in contrast to the many places around the country where farmers are paid a pittance for rice that is shipped and sold at a high markup in the cities.

Thousands of Muslims come in and out of this facility for a variety of services, including regular times of worship and prayer for healing. The people who are touched by this congregation stand as witnesses to the close connection between dynamic Christian worship and fair economic practices. The church has found such favor with city officials that they regularly seek the church’s assistance and counsel in ventures to enhance the welfare of the city.

This is impressive, given the deep tensions that often exist between the small minority of Christians and the majority culture in  this nation with the largest population of Muslims in the world. These enthusiastic followers of Jesus exemplify a mission trait embraced by  Mennonite Church USA.

Missional character trait: This community has a vital public witness.

Signpost: The church makes an observable impact that contributes to the transformation of life, society and human relationships.

As a Mennonite church, we have known about this missional principle for a long time. This belief propelled a Sunday school class in Kansas to begin a ministry that blossomed into Mennonite Disaster Service. The same impulse prompted pioneers in faith to organize Mennonite Central Committee.

The same faithful drive impelled business people to start Mennonite Economic Development Associates, which provides business opportunities and resources to help lift people out of poverty. These ministries have become a visible sign of our belief that allegiance to Jesus Christ touches every aspect of our lives.

In the same way, congregations all across our church are ministering to the diverse needs of their neighborhoods. Some of these ventures may come to the public eye, while others remain largely out of view. We needn’t worry about the visibility of our public witness. Rather, let’s be sure that we touch the lives of our communities in a way that brings God’s healing and hope to the world.

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One thought on “Signposts: A witnessing community

  1. Wish my father had lived to see this one ~ M. Morrow-Farrell, Philadelphia, PA.

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