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CMC Annual Conference Recap: John Stahl-Wert & Missions Day

By Lydia Gingerich

Over the course of three sessions, John Stahl-Wert explored how great leaders build high-performance cultures, focusing on defining purpose, promoting values, and discovering identity. Stahl-Wert looked at the nature of the Kingdom and the nature of the King, urging his audience to follow the example of God’s design to “move in and through a people to accomplish his purposes.”

Stahl-Wert started on Saturday morning by talking about our purpose as followers of God: to be a blessing to the nations. God’s desire is to see the nations be blessed by him, and he created us to be “an instrument of himself in the world.” Our Great Leader knows the importance of giving people a direction to walk in, and as leaders we can do the same. Stahl-Wert observed that in high-performing cultures (whether that be churches, companies, conferences, etc.), “Everyone understands why their work matters.” As Christians, God has made it clear that our purpose is to be a reflection of his light in the world. Have we made it clear to those we lead what their purpose is as a member of the group?

On Saturday evening, Stahl-Wert looked at another component of cultures that succeed: “Values are practiced throughout the organization.” He pointed out that God created an environment in which we learn and grow by making mistakes that build our character. He doesn’t just tell us how he wants us to behave, he models that behavior and gives us everlasting grace for the difficult process of aligning our heart with his. As leaders, we must cultivate a community in which members are aware of our values and how to live them out. Are we leading with the same integrity that we want to see in those we lead?

Finally, Sunday morning was all about God’s work in our lives to reveal our external identity as sons and daughters of the King, and the implications of that reality. Stahl-Wert explored the story from Matthew 11 of John the Baptist sending a message to Jesus from prison. His message was this: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (ESV). John was no longer sure that he wanted to identify himself as a follower of Jesus, and he was asking for affirmation. Jesus responded by recounting the miraculous works he had done – giving John the assurance he asked for.

“Before Jesus Christ our ability to participate in the eternal was contingent on other things. We weren’t enough, we came up short.”John the Baptist could point to the works Jesus did and remind himself that he was following the Messiah – his imprisonment and impending death would not be in vain. Believers today also have a work to look back on as our assurance: the cross. “Before Jesus Christ our ability to participate in the eternal was contingent on other things. We weren’t enough, we came up short.” But Stahl-Wert reminds us that this is no longer the case. Knowing our identity in God means knowing that we have been completely freed to accomplish his purposes.

Stahl-Wert talked about our misunderstanding of the Kingdom of God as a common flaw in the human condition. “We often say we can’t do what we ought to do because we aren’t who we ought to be. Of course we aren’t who we ought to be, but this is not a disqualifier for the race. Jesus’ work on the cross has allowed us to start. He just waits for us to say I need you, and we don’t need to say it more eloquently than that.”

Missions Day

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Two long-term workers from Rosedale Mennonite Missions (RMM), Esta* and Dan,* shared as a part of the Missions Day Program. Joe,* President of RMM, reflected on the beginning of Esta Felder’s journey overseas when “RMM took a big risk” by sending her to work in a sensitive country with a drama ministry focus in which RMM did not have much experience. “But Esta took an even bigger risk,” and God continues to bless and grow her ministry.

Dan expounded upon Luke 10:2-3 to emphasize his view of the harvest and how it relates to his missional philosophy. “I used to read that Luke was saying to go and reap the harvest, and I still think he is saying that. But I’ve come to believe he’s not only saying go and reap the harvest, but go, and find the harvesters. We have the privilege of discovering them, and walking with them, and encouraging them. We share with them what we have learned from God and the Bible so that they can be better mobilized to reach their own people.” Disciplemaking is the heart of biblical leadership and an appropriate addendum to John Stahl-Wert’s weekend message and the overall theme of Conference.

During his final address, Stahl-Wert emphasized our ability to be used by God even when conditions are difficult. This is especially important when inviting nations who have never heard of God to worship him. Because of Jesus’ work on the cross, people like Esta can shine God’s light through drama--without knowing if anyone will be interested. Because of Jesus’ work on the cross, people like Dan can walk into remote villages in Southeast Asia and trust that God will raise up Christ-followers who will go on to be leaders and harvesters in their own community. Because of Jesus’ work on the cross, people like us who find our identity in Him can take risks to do what God is asking us to do – even if we feel inadequate. What is God asking you to do?

This year $204,000 was raised n support of missions through Ride for Missions, Rosedale Mission Cruisers, and many generous gifts to the Missions Day Offering. RMM is deeply grateful for your partnership in inviting the nations to worship Jesus.

*Name changed or omitted for security