Vision for Witness (Mennonite Church, 1983)
Vision for Witness (Mennonite Church, 1983)
Vision for Witness
The urgent task of the church is to witness that Jesus Christ is the only Lord and Savior of the world, that the one who raised him from the dead is the only true and living God, and that the Spirit who filled him dwells in the community of believers and is the firstfruit of the new creation.
The vision for this witness needs to be revived. Too often this witness has been merely assumed by the church rather than actively proclaimed.
Mennonite Church leaders in congregations, conferences, and churchwide agencies need to recover the vision and focus on the witness which brings people to faith and commitment to Jesus Christ.
This vision has important implications for churchwide agencies, congregational life, and the personal lifestyle and discipleship of all of the people of God.
1. The Present Situation
a. The church's vision for witness has been influenced by the technological, social, economic, political, religious, and environmental changes of the past fifty years. Some tend to see salvation as relating only to the here and now, while others interpret salvation as being confined to the next life. These extreme viewpoints have caused misunderstanding, distrust, and at times doubts about the relevance of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ for this time.
b. The vision for witness is further affected by some questionable evangelistic techniques. Methods have sometimes been used which have distorted the biblical message, causing negative reactions and a decline in evangelistic zeal.
c. Patterns of decision-making have changed for many. For some, accepting Christ has become a group decision. They participate in a baptismal class without making a personal decision. For others, important decisions like choice of vocation and post-high school education are often made by the individual alone. They do not seek the help of Christian counsel from the congregation. This has led to faith with an individualistic emphasis and attitude.
d. For many this switch to individualism produced a vacuum between profession and practice. Many individualistic, nationalistic, and nonbiblical forms of church are attempting to meet the needs of a generation of Christians who have come to think of church as an audience rather than a community of believers and a disciple way of life.
2. The Message
a. The message of the witness is Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. The task is to proclaim and follow the Jesus who died on the cross for the sins of the whole world, whom God raised thus conquering death in all its forms, and who now lives through the Spirit in power among his people.
b. Christ calls and leads his church to be a living witness of his way in the kingdom of God. Committed, caring communities of faith are the bases from which the true Christ is proclaimed in word and deed. Living examples of love and care by disciplined believers give meaning and authenticity to the spoken word and credibility to his unique call and claims. These fellowships invite and nurture new believers.
c. Salvation comes through God's action in the person of Jesus Christ. The church bases its witness on the testimony that "salvation is found in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven given to men, by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12, NIV).
d. Peacemaking is an integral part of the good news about Jesus to a world which faces the prospect of devastation by human miscalculation. Jesus came to bring wholeness-a right relationship with God and with one another. Such reconciliation is salvation to all who are enmeshed in sin, polarization, and conflict.
3. The Challenge Before the Church
a. Christians need to remember that apart from faith they too "were separate from Christ" and therefore belonged to those who are "without hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12, NIV).
b. The church must encourage biblical preaching centered on the Christ of the Bible, God incarnate, Lord of the church, rejected leader of a remnant people in a secular age. The task is to call for discipleship as a way of life; this runs counter to the ways of a dying world.
c. God is at work in many places and in a variety of ways. For the disciple each ministry is to be done in the name of the Master, Jesus Christ.
d. In the church, the body of Christ, members participate in a corporate witness to his lordship and the calling of people to faith in him.
e. Each congregation should arrange its structures so that those who are brought to faith are fully included in the life of the congregation. Each should be an inviting and nurturing community for those seeking meaningful, caring relationships and wishing to join in the "God movement."
f. Witness should be a top priority for each churchwide agency and conference, and in each congregation. Training should be given for using the wide variety of the gifts of all members.
g. Each congregation should be encouraged to support, financially and in other ways, missioners at home and worldwide for the work of evangelism (calling people to faith), nurture in the faith (teaching and leadership training), service (giving the cup of cold water, healing and development), and prophetic witness (testifying to Christ's lordship over the powers in word and in deed).
h. Congregations need to promote a style of life which reflects faithful stewardship of the great resources which God has entrusted to his people. In using them first priority must be given to kingdom interests.
4. The Call
The call is to follow the example of Jesus in leading people to salvation and discipleship. The message of his kingdom is dynamic, exciting, and always new. It is to be shared locally and worldwide in all ways which embody Christ's spirit.
Let us follow Christ with the conviction that he will be victorious. For Jesus Christ is already our Lord and his kingdom has begun. We look forward with Him to that great culmination when all shall acknowledge his lordship.
The call to the church is a mighty spiritual ministry. Let us therefore experience in Christ the deep lessons of prayer, silence, meditation, confession, simplicity, self-sacrifice, and celebration. Let us be keenly aware that if anything good is accomplished through us it will be through the power and guidance of his indwelling Spirit.
Approved by Mennonite Church General Board April 17, 1982
Approved by Mennonite Church General Assembly August 6, 1983
Context of the Statement
This statement emerged from a call within the Mennonite Church for a fresh spirit of mission within the church. The document was developed within the Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries and initially brought to the Mennonite Church General Board in 1981. After revisions it received approval in 1982.
The Vision for Witness can be seen as a precursor to the "Ten-Year Goals" approved by the Mennonite Church General Assembly in 1985 that named specific goals (500 new congregations, 500 new mission workers, etc.).
Statements by the Mennonite Church General Assembly state the understanding of the Mennonite Church at the time of the action. Statements have informal authority and influence in the denomination; they have formal authority as confirmed or endorsed by area Mennonite Church area conferences and/or congregations.
Proceedings, Seventh Mennonite Church General Assembly, August 1-7, 1983, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pa. Lombard, Ill. : Mennonite Church General Assembly, 1983: 30-31.