A Spirit-led Movement

Keith Weaver serves as Conference Moderator for LMC to provide directional spiritual oversight and promote a missional vision. His vision is to see LMC become a fellowship of congregations fully engaged in the mission of God and multiplying disciples of Jesus Christ and new faith communities.

By Keith Weaver

In 2019 at our Celebration of Church Life, I led a workshop where I described the growing geographic footprint of LMC. Someone asked the question, “Keith, are we an area conference, or is LMC a denomination, or are we a fellowship of churches?” After fumbling around and not really answering the question, Richard Showalter, who was in the audience, helped me out when he  said, “I think LMC is a movement following the Spirit in mission.”

I found this word “movement” an interesting choice of words, and I have thought about it often since that day. Movement implies change. It implies advocacy for change that is redemptive and transformative. This word “movement” seems like a good word to describe our fellowship of churches.

The essential qualifier in the LMC mission statement, however, is the phrase, “Spirit-led.” Our Dwelling in the Word text this year is Acts chapter 1 and that text makes it abundantly clear that to be engaged in God’s mission requires the infilling and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Acts 1: 4-5 reads:

While staying with them, Jesus ordered them, “Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the promise of the Father. “This”, He said,” is what you have heard from me, for John baptized with water but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” And then in verse eight, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 

Our Dwelling in the Word text last year was Romans 8, which talks extensively about the role of Spirit in the life of the believer. Verse 9 and following says: 

“But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal body through His Spirit that dwells in you.” 

Karen youth from Habecker Mennonite Church. Photo by Jonathan Charles

So, I think we can say that if we belong to Christ, then we have the Spirit within us, and we have all the resources we need to engage in the mission of God.

I believe this phrase, “a Spirit-led movement,” is both descriptive of LMC and an aspiration. It will always be an aspiration in the sense that we “see through a glass darkly” and follow Jesus as we are able. But the LMC narrative of mission over the centuries tells a story of congregations engaged in the mission of God. That story is not over yet. 

For example, I see the Spirit of God at work in the many creative adaptations that have been made in congregations through the whole coronavirus experience. Congregations are very much engaged in the caring and outreach ministries of the church, right through this experience. I see the Spirit of God at work in the generosity of God’s people as they contributed $130,000 to the LMC coronavirus relief fund. I see the Spirit of God at work in congregations and leaders who are working at racial reconciliation. I see the Spirit at work as congregations start new churches that have taken a variety of new forms. 

In an effort to keep pace with the activity of the Spirit, LMC leaders work at renewing governing structures. We pursue missional engagement through fostering congregational church planting. We are seeking racial reconciliation. In the last weeks and months, all of these initiatives have converged so that the governance and structure task force is rolling them all into a single plan for the future of LMC. I think this is evidence of the Spirit of God at work all across our conference.

New York City district introduces new leaders at Celebration of Church Life 2019. Photo by Jonathan Charles

The EMM and LMC collaboration discussions over the last 9-10 months as LMC and EMM are equally encouraging. With Marvin Lorenzana taking over as EMM President, LMC leaders expect significant collaboration in the mission of God. I believe the grace of the Spirit is at work within LMC.

But there are a few sobering indications that this phrase, “a Spirit-led movement” is less descriptive than I like to acknowledge. I understand some of the political polarization I see in the society around the church. I think, however, that when that same polarization takes concrete form in the church, it shows we have lost something. 

I have heard brothers and sisters in the church say that if someone votes one way, they are betraying the peace and justice of God. Others said that if you vote the other way, then you can’t possibly be a Christian. In fact, several weeks ago, a well-meaning brother, in all sincerity, told me that he is not sure their congregation can be faithful until those other people leave the church. How did political ideologies begin to define our commitments to the kingdom of Jesus Christ? To the extent that socio-cultural norms define the church, then I’m afraid that we have the form of godliness but are denying its power. I would go so far as to say that the degree of polarization in the church today is a denial of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2 makes it very clear about the truth of who we are in Christ. Ephesians 2:13 and following says:

“But now, in Christ Jesus, you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace. In His flesh, He has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commands and ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body, through the cross, thus putting to death the hostility through it. So He came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who are near. For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.”

Taking a break at 2019 Spring Leadership Assembly. Photo by Jonathan Charles

This beautiful text describes our place in Christ and his reconciling work. We are called to be, and we can be, a healthy vibrant church as we live into the fullness of the power of the Spirit that is in fact within us. I pray that this new mission statement can be encouraging for all of us to aspire to flow in the fullness of the Holy Spirit, nurturing a sensitivity to where the Holy Spirit is moving, and following the leading of the Spirit into mission.

Practical ways to nurture a greater sensitivity to the Holy Spirit include spending more time in God’s Word, reducing our time in social media, encouraging the spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, and confession. Leaders can and must find intentional ways of discipling people toward fullness in Christ and into the kingdom of Light, being transformed by the renewing of our minds and conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.

LMC’s Mission Statement

A Spirit-led movement to:

  • Make Disciples of Jesus.
  • Mobilize every member as a missionary.
  • Multiply faith communities locally and abroad!
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