by Joetta Schlabach, pastor
Faith Mennonite Church, MInneapolis
During 2016-2017 the Deacon Commission at Faith Mennonite Church in Minneapolis invited persons in the congregation to join in triads for spiritual support and growth. Ten triads were formed. Suggestions were provided for helping guide the experience, but each triad determined how often to meet and how they would structure their time together. Some met weekly; others bi-weekly or monthly. Here are comments received from those who participated:
"I felt more connected to the community; this was all new to me."
"The triad meetings were a time to deliberately talk about our faith/spiritual lives - or lack thereof - in an intentional way. The triad meetings deepened our faith lives. We shared our individual faith stories, and spent much of our subsequent meetings talking about prayer: what, how, why. We sometimes prayed for each other or concerns we brought to the group. We agreed that the triad struck a nice balance between checking in and getting to know each other AND focusing specifically on our individual/shared spiritual lives."
"Our triad usually read a scripture passage together and we often doodled with colored pencils as we talked. We always ended in prayer for one another and concerns for the world. We met by Skype when one of our group was in Tanzania for work. This felt like a life-line for all of us!"
Here is the handout that people received to guide their groups:
Triads for Spiritual Growth and Deepened Relationships
Each triad will decide how often to meet: This might be one-hour weekly meetings or longer bi-weekly or monthly meetings. Each triad may choose from among the following ideas, using one or a combination, or following an agenda of their own. We encourage each triad meeting to include a time of prayer for one another.
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Below, Delicia and the new Journey International volunteers make diaper covers for refugee families.
by Matt Troyer-Miller
pastor, Wood River Mennonite Church, Wood River, Nebraska
Since I became a pastor, I have been involved in a number of interesting and surprising events. One of the more interesting events happened several years ago, when one of my neighbors asked if I would be willing to perform a house blessing for him. As I spoke with him further, it became clear that this was not going to be a typical house blessing. He described how two spirits would come into his house, and these spirits would scare his children. Even though I had never been involved in something like this, I recognized that this was chance to share the gospel with my neighbor. I didn’t want to dismiss his request out of hand, so I requested some time to pray about it.
During this time of prayer, I also began discerning the situation with trusted mentors. Some had personal experience with deliverance ministries; others did not. In the end, I agreed to organize a blessing service for my neighbor. If you are interested in the whole story, check out the new Spiritual Deliverance page at www.centralplainsmc.org.
With the story, you'll find a list of my “Top 5 Resources on Spiritual Deliverance.” In compiling this list, I tried to find resources that were practical, theologically sound, and compatible with an Anabaptist understanding of Scripture. I list several resources that I found helpful, and I have also included suggestions from other trusted Mennonite leaders and missionaries. If you are looking for a more in-depth bibliography, I’ve also shared Willard Swartley’s bibliography. Willard is a long time AMBS professor and church leader, and the bibliography is representative of a lifetime of reading on this topic.
Of course, this list is not comprehensive, and there may perhaps be other good resources out there. However, I hope that should you find yourself in a situation similar to mine, that this list can be a place for you to draw on the wisdom of other Christians who have spent a lifetime considering the implications of God’s victory over evil.
by David Boshart
Executive Conference Minister
Members of Central Plains Mennonite Conference have been living into a Covenant of Spiritual Practices since it was adopted one year ago. Our Annual Meeting in July provided an opportunity to check in and discover if our covenant was making any difference. Church history is replete with new initiatives that fail to produce substantive difference. Our delegates sent a clear message that a renewed commitment to spiritual practices is making a discernible difference in our local congregations and within the conference as a community.
The significance of this difference should not be underestimated. It is hard to remember a time when church members came together to report a change in the spiritual vitality of their congregations.
When asked what difference our covenant of spiritual practices is making, the delegates offered four measures of spiritual growth. I offer specific examples of each from the written comments from table groups.
Strengthened witness beyond their congregations
Delegates reported that an emphasis on spiritual practices has resulted in transformed attitudes toward prisoners. Members have seen reconciliation with others and healing of broken relationships. Some reported growth and connection to the wider community by moving church meetings outside the church building. Our members are thinking more intentionally about what we want our identity to be in the community.
Increased awareness that our spiritual practices are essential to Christian vitality
Focusing on spiritual practices raises our awareness of the Spirit’s presence in our midst. By fasting we are made more aware of the needs of others. We become refreshed in giving ourselves to the things we should be doing anyway. We are more aware that God is among us.
Strengthened sense of community within congregations and across our conference
The covenant of spiritual practices makes us more honest with each other about our spiritual lives. It is clearer for us to know how to handle our disagreements. When we practice our spiritual lives together, we build relationships together. We become more patient with each other as we walk together in spiritual practices. Spiritual practices help us “lean into each other” when we struggle. We are reminded that we – across our conference – have many things in common.
Increased confidence and competence in practicing the Christian life.
The covenant of spiritual practices gives us new eyes for Bible study, new energy for faith, new hope to have better answers to share with people who are turned off by Christianity. This emphasis has created greater understanding that transformation is more a process of God’s grace than what we do.
These are just some examples of all the ways our conference delegates expressed the difference our emphasis on spiritual practices is making.
As I reflect on this feedback, I wonder, what is needed to keep us moving farther on this same path?. Discernible transformation grows out of our understanding of God’s grace more than our grand designs. Maybe moving to the next level is as basic as keeping our focus on those things that bring us face-to-face with Jesus and doing those things together. Could that make all the difference?
Central Plains Mennonite Conference
creates settings for our congregations and partners to grow in holistic witness to God's reconciling mission by developing leadership, encouraging fellowship and promoting lifelong discipleship.