The best is yet to come
Posted on October 31, 2017 by Aaron Kauffman
It’s easy to look at the present landscape of the church in North America and get discouraged. Nearly all denominations are in decline. Young people are increasingly estranged from the church of their parents. And assimilation to dominant American values— whether conservative or progressive—is at an all time high. Where are the streams that God is causing to spring up in what feels like a spiritual wasteland?
I see at least three streams of renewal.
The first stream is the rise of a truly global church. In the Anabaptist family alone, we’ve grown from 1.3 million in 2003 to 2.1 million today. There are more Anabaptist Christians in Africa than North America, more in Latin America than in Europe. The North American church is not the center of God’s movement, and the future of the gospel does not depend on us or our institutions. That is good news! Yet it is also an opportunity for partnership. At VMMissions, many of our mission workers are taking a support role as our global partners lead in mission, whether in the Caribbean, Europe, or Southeast Asia.
A second stream of renewal I see is the growing immigrant population bringing spiritual vitality to our churches here. People from all over the world come to our communities in search of jobs, a better life for their children, or refuge from war and violence. And these immigrants are starting churches. Over the past decade or so in Virginia Mennonite Conference (VMC), eight of the twelve churches that have been planted are led by and made up of immigrants. Many of these churches are thriving, including Manantial de Vida, a Spanish-speaking congregation in Harrisonburg, Virginia. In September, they just sent their first mission workers, Francisco and Juanita Machado, to Spain with the help of VMMissions and Mennonite Mission Network.
A third stream of renewal is the growing missional unity across denominational lines here in the United States. Churches of all types are waking up to the fact that this country is a mission field. At VMMissions, we are mobilizing local mission workers within VMC and beyond, to help the church engage our increasingly post-Christian culture. This takes the form of Kids Clubs, prison chaplaincy, human trafficking awareness, church planting, and more. I believe the Holy Spirit is uniting followers of Jesus from across the Christian family who hold together the grace and truth of the gospel with deeds of justice and compassion – the kind of truly evangelical faith that Menno Simons taught – so that we can all more effectively join God’s mission together.
The present may appear bleak for the North American church, but God’s Spirit never ceases to do new things. May we see with eyes of faith that the best is yet to come.