This year, the British Columbia MB Conference planned a convention focussed on celebration rather than business, and the delegation responded by celebrating, breaking into spontaneous applause on several occasions. There was a lot to celebrate: impressive growth, good worship, moving sermons, scheduled fellowship breaks, interesting workshops and a catchy nautical theme that drew on the popular movie Titanic.
An atmosphere of celebration was set by the Kelowna-area MB churches. Willow Park Church enthusiastically hosted the event, and Willow Park worship pastor Ramsy Unruh led worship for most of the sessions; the group Heart Song, from the host church provided mellow music for the Saturday evening banquet. Garden Valley Community Church, a two-year-old congregation which has just moved into a renovated building, provided an enthusiastic example of church growth and contributed in a number of ways. SunRise Community Church in nearby Westbank provided worship music for the Saturday morning church extension breakfast.
Two moving testimonies evoked enthusiastic applause. On Friday evening, Leo Chia, a Mandarin Chinese church planter in Vancouver, said his life story was a testimony to the grace of God. Growing up as a fearful ancestor worshipper in Brunei and then becoming an agnostic in Canada, he finally found Christ in 1986 through fellow students who invited him to an MB church. Recommitting his whole life to Christ in 1992, he went to Panama in 1993, where he led his dying father and others to Christ. Wondering why there were so many open to the message and so few messengers of Christ, he became dissatisfied with his job and decided God was calling him into full-time ministry.
On Saturday morning, Jeff Seeger told of growing up in a broken home, moving as a teen into a life of alcohol, drugs and sex, and later becoming obsessed with his job. After a friend was killed while driving drunk, he began to re-examine his life. Some friends invited him to Garden Valley Church and the youth group at Willow Park, and he finally turned his life over to God. Now he serves as director of drama at Garden Valley and is also helping renovate that church's new building.
The Conference statistical report was not ready--18 churches had not responded yet--but it is expected that the Conference had over 600 baptisms in 1997, and a membership growth of at least 5%.
One sign of growth was clearly evident: Ten new congregations were accepted into the Conference over the course of the weekend (see sidebar).
At the Board of Church Extension breakfast on Saturday, BOCE member Geoff Neufeld noted that there is only one evangelical church for every 3500 people in Canada; referring to the Titanic theme, he said, "We need more lifeboats even though some of our lifeboats are only half-full." An offering of $4200 was given at the breakfast for the Pacific Grace Mandarin Church and SunRidge Community Church.
In keeping with the water theme, during the BOCE report, church extension director James Nikkel baptized Ku Dong and Wha-Young Cho, who will be church planting couple for a new Korean church in the Abbotsford area.
In his report, conference minister Ike Bergen affirmed two pastor couples who had served well even though their churches have closed: Doug and Karen Braun of Vernon Community Church and Michael and Lois Brown of Grace Christian Fellowship in Cloverdale.
Pastor Leo Chia
Pacific Grace Mandarin Church
Launched Feb. 1, 1998 in Vancouver, this is the first MB church which worships in Mandarin. (The other Chinese MB churches worship in Cantonese, the other main Chinese language.)
The Meeting Place in Abbotsford
This congregation, patterned after The Meeting Place in Winnipeg, chartered early this year. It is holding weekly believers' meetings and monthly seekers' services while awaiting the hiring of a pastor.
Pastor Patrick Fung
South Vancouver Pacific Grace MB Church
The original Pacific Grace MB Church (having already planted one daughter church) divided into two meeting places three years ago, but only officially became two congregations Jan. 1, 1998. The South Vancouver group has 50 people attending its English service and 230 attending its Cantonese service.
Pastor Dave Koot
The Gathering Place
This congregation, at Ladysmith on Vancouver Island, had been meeting nine weeks by convention time; 30% of attenders have never been in church before, and there have been conversions to Christ every week.
Pastor Dan Warkentin
Pitt Meadows Community Church
This two-year-old church plant has attendance of 75 and a number of new Christians, including the real estate slaesman who was the first person the Warkentins met when moving into the area.
Pastor Mike Klassen
SunRidge Community Church
This contemporary congregation in Westbank (across Okanagan Lake from Kelowna) has been meeting since October, 1997, has attendance of 70 and has made converts in a sea of 30,000 searching non-Christians.
Pastor John Hua
Port Moody Pacific Grace MB Church
Burnaby Pacific Grace MB Church was planted as a daughter church of Pacific Grace MB Church several years ago. Three years ago, the daughter church also divided, with the main group moving to Port Moody and a smaller group staying in Burnaby. The Port Moody group now has attendance of 320. The Port Moody and Burnaby churches became fully separate Jan. 1, 1998.
Pastor John Kwok
Vancouver Christian Logos Church
Launched Sept. 7, 1997 in the west end of Vancouver (near the University of British Columbia), this congregation has seen 20 conversions so far. The church chartered in January, and has attendance of 100. A Caucasian Christian in the area told the pastor he had been praying for a Chinese church in the area for 10 years.
Pastor David McLauren
Indo-Canadian Community Church
This congregation has attendance of 40 and is seeking to reach an Indo-Canadian community of 100,000 in Surrey and Delta.
Pastor Bob Ferguson
Sayward Community Church
This congregation on the Sunshine Coast (north of Vancouver) was started two years ago with the assistance of Henry and Edna Thiessen and recently chose to be adopted by the MB Conference. Bob Ferguson has been the bi-vocational pastor for the past several months.
The convention featured powerful messages by three Mennonite Brethren: John Neufeld, senior pastor of Bakerview MB Church in Abbotsford, B.C.; David Ewert, long-time MB professor and Bible scholar; and Jim Holm, Director of Constituency Relations and Dean of Students at MB Biblical Seminary in Fresno, Calif. The first message was deeply moving and thought-provoking; the second provided sound teaching; and the third sent the delegates home with inspiration and encouragement.
On Friday evening, Neufeld spoke on "I am not ashamed of the gospel" from Romans 1:16-17. He pointed out that the gospel does offend people, first because it reveals the righteous anger of God against sin, and second because it says the only way to salvation is the cross of Jesus and people's good works are worthless; people who preach this gospel will be resisted and even persecuted. Nevertheless, Neufeld affirmed, the gospel should not cause shame because it is the power of God for salvation.
On Saturday morning, David Ewert spoke on "In praise of ministry" from II Corinthians 4, describing several aspects of all Christian ministry:
1. The spiritual foundation: God's mercy.
2. The ethical requirements: unblameable conduct, honesty in method (not manipulating the Bible) and accountability before God and people.
3. The limitations: Satan has blinded people to the gospel, and only God's Spirit can convert them.
4. The glorious matter to proclaim: Jesus, not the preacher.
5. The fragility of the messenger: Christians are fragile (broken) and insignificant in value, but carry light and are chosen by God.
At the closing banquet on Saturday evening, Jim Holm wrapped up the convention theme with seven pieces of nautical advice given to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3: sail in the centre of the channel (love); don't let the wind blow you off course; don't choose the first harbour you come to just because it looks easy; use the compass and don't trust your own intuition; look forward, not backward; you can go through the rapids if the Captain opens the way; don't settle for anything less than full speed ahead.
As has become the custom, most of the board reporting and discussion took place in two slots of workshops Saturday morning. (A third slot of "equipping" workshops took place late Saturday afternoon.) However, all of the Boards reported briefly in one long business session that consumed most of saturday afternoon but generated almost no discussion.
In his report Friday evening, conference minister Ike Bergen expressed two main concerns: the need for every MB to be more involved in personal evangelism, and the fact that dealing with church struggles has consumed more of his time and energy in the past year, leaving less energy for more positive initiatives. The need for new pastors has eased somewhat from last year, but is still a significant concern. The Board of Pastoral Ministries reported it had interviewed 15 candidates for licensing or ordination in 1997, and 16 in the first four months of 1998, and there are 32 pastors who have been appointed who have not yet been interviewed. It is stil the Board's goal to interview pastors before they are hired, and it is also looking at periodically re-interviewing pastors who have already been licensed.
The B.C. Conference operates on the calendar year. In 1997, the Conference received revenues of $1,113,885, up only slightly from revenues of $1,092,057 in 1996. The 1997 income was well below the target of $1,206,000, but, largely due to eliminating a planned contribution of $56,800 to a capital fund, the Conference ended 1997 with a virtually balanced budget (a deficit of $709). The 1998 budget, passed at the last convention in May, 1997, contained no increase, staying at $1,206,000. The 1999 budget, passed at this convention, again calls for no increase, staying at $1,206,000.
Elections filled 34 vacancies on various boards, but left three slots unfilled, including the position of assistant moderator. JC
Return to the M.B.Herald Vol. 37, Nos. 11 & 12 Home Page