André Gingerich Stoner is director of Holistic Witness for Mennonite Church USA.
When 10 of us met to plan Sent 2016, we were excited about who we discovered in the room:
Dreamers, risk-takers, testifiers who were helping birth:
– a growing multi-generational Spanish community in a large city;
– a house church network of millennials that believes that “leaving people out sucks”;
– a faith community formed by professional Garifuna women;
– a new church fellowship in a small town embracing people and their messy lives;
– a community of love and faith drawn together by a social entrepreneur through hospitality and volleyball.
In various usual and unusual ways, these folks had all been called to help plant and nurture Jesus-centered communities. Though very different, we were all deeply rooted, inspired and shaped by an Anabaptist understanding of church.
We came from California to Pennsylvania, from Denver to Miami. Most of us had never met. As we shared stories and struggles and encouragement we were inspired and amazed — and deeply grateful to be together and to be connected to each other.
Here’s what Josias Hansen said about our time together. He’s from Third Way in St. Paul.
“Church planters, in general, are a special breed, yet Anabaptist church planters are especially unique. It’s not every day you get to be in the same room with people who not only have a heart for birthing new faith communities, but also an Anabaptist passion to further the growth of kingdom communities, contrast societies that reflect God’s reign on earth. Being with other church planters who share these similar values and passions is like finding your long lost family. Without already knowing one another, we could easily share our heart and struggles with one another. We could share stories and wisdom, and most importantly, we were uniquely able to encourage one another to keep pursuing our calling as sent ones.”
This was a foretaste of what we hope for when we gather in New Orleans, March 31-April 2 for Sent 2016.
We won’t have superstars. There won’t be a slick production. But we’ll share stories. We’ll hear from elders and youth. We’ll pray together. We’ll encourage each other. We’ll begin to form a national network of Mennonites called to help birth Jesus-centered communities that are salty and yeasty.
So for those who have been church planters for decades and others who haven’t yet thought of yourselves that way, for those in small churches and in large churches who are wanting to connect at a deeper level with your neighbors, bring what you have and get in the mix. Register here
We have committed significant funds to this gathering to keep registration costs down and are grateful for a Showalter Foundation grant that makes it possible for us to offer hotel rooms at half-price and travel scholarships for those who can use it.