By David Steele, General Secretary
Greetings to you in the name of Christ our Savior!
Once again, I want to express my gratitude for the many ways you and your congregation faithfully strive to live out the gospel—to simply try to do what Jesus did. The vital ministries of our Church of the Brethren congregations, small and large, are at the heart of our church. We should never diminish the essential role that each unique part of the body plays in our common ministry together.
These are challenging, yet hopeful, times for the Church of the Brethren. It is easy to be consumed by our struggles, yet I am heartened by the incredible ministries and programs that are happening in our congregation, districts, and the denomination. I count it a privilege to work with an incredible team of staff working on your behalf to help us all continue the work of Jesus.
As a denomination, we have been working to refocus our efforts and adapt to meet the changing needs of the church. As has been reported via Newsline, there have been a number of staffing changes and ongoing internal structural adjustments. From an outside perspective, these changes may appear cosmetic, but they represent a shift toward a more holistic approach to our ministries, grounded in mission and discipleship.
Our mission aims to serve as Christ’s presence in communities, establishing local churches, both in the United States and internationally, that offer a cup of cold water to a thirsty world. Where there is conflict, we offer peace. Where there is suffering, we offer healing. Where there is hunger, we offer food. Where there is ignorance, education. Where there is despair, fellowship. Brethren mission stands as Christ’s light in the world, challenging the church to be more than a mere mouthpiece of the gospel, but also a doer of good works that demonstrate God’s love to the world.
Through our discipleship, we embrace Jesus’ call to go make and be disciples, sharing our lives more fully with others. This emerging vision of discipleship has its emphasis on making and growing disciples, forming and developing leaders, and transforming communities. As we strive to support new and renewing congregations, we are recovering a Brethren way of evangelism, helping congregations to disciple new people—more diverse people, more young people.
While intentionally grounding our ministries in mission and discipleship, we are also assessing our efforts at intercultural ministries. We as a church must more fully live into the 2007 Annual Conference statement “Separate No More: Becoming a Multi- racial Church.” This must be more than just a commitment. It must become our desire: desire not only expressed through advocacy but growing out of Christ’s commandment to love our neighbor. A desire that finds its roots in mission and discipleship. We must begin nurturing this kind of desire in our hearts and the hearts of others—into the heart of the church—because it is this kind of desire that will open us to new possibilities to thrive.
My friends, I do hope you believe that our struggle together is worthwhile. We are doing great things together in our congregations, in our districts, and in the denomination. Our efforts of offering the cup of cold water to the world reveals that we are about another way of living—the way of Jesus. May we not forget that through our simple acts of service and peacebuilding we, too, are working to save the world—in Jesus’ name.
I invite you to join me in another way of living.
Will you give to the Church of the Brethren today?