The 3D experience and beyond

October 22, 2018
by Johnnie Gnanamanickam
Assembly Vision Team member and Associate Pastor at Mt. Pleasant Mennonite, Chesapeake, Va.

Reflections on the Conference Assembly theme and experience

If you found yourself wondering what “the 3D experience” means, or are thinking, I get the out part but what’s up? What’s in? And what do 3D glasses have to do with the conference, my congregation or me?— you’re probably not alone!

This language might be new and seem strange at first to some. However, the concept isn’t new or different from what we already know to be true of the basic dimensions necessary to living as disciples of Jesus Christ.

One participant simplified the theme this way: “We are called to be in relationship with God and our brothers and sisters. From this stance we are then prepared to communicate God’s love to our neighbors.”

Assembly 2018 logo

Up-in-out 3D gauge

UP: As disciples, our value and identity are grounded in a relationship initiated by God (Romans 5:8), not based on our efforts or accomplishments. We need simply to rest in that identity as God’s beloved, redeemed through the cross.

IN: Disciples grow into maturity through sharing their gifts with other believers in the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13). It is in the context of these relationships that the gospel is made visible and we experience transformation through the Holy Spirit.

OUT: Healthy disciples reflect God’s love for the world by reaching out to people and inviting them to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20). It is this overflowing love of God that gives disciples perseverance to serve day to day, seeking the fruit of the kingdom.

The 3D gauge
I have found it useful to use this triangle as a gauge—getting into the habit of asking myself how I’m doing or where I find myself on the triangle and which direction(s) the Lord is inviting me to move towards.

I would highly recommend this discipline of evaluation to you personally, as well as for your family, small group, congregation or any Christ centered group. At the personal level, it’s even better to have an accountability partner or mentor ask the questions and help reflect on and plan for necessary adjustments.

For example, some weeks I find myself spending more time and energy on outward activities, relating more to people in need of God’s love. Reviewing where I stand in the triangle on a week like this helps me realize that I need to prioritize upward time with the Lord and inward connection, fellowship, or partnering with my brothers and sisters. The interpretation of the reading on my 3D gauge for this week would look more like this: “As I communicate God’s love to our neighbors, I discover my need for God and my brothers and sisters.”
Could we employ the 3D gauge to review our individual and collective experience at Conference Assembly and beyond?

Assembly highlights
Here are some of my highlights from Assembly and what each experience looks like on my 3D gauge. Our individual experiences will differ at least somewhat.

Missional stories from:

  • Kendra Yoder (Garden City Church plant, Richmond, Va.)
  • Seth Hankee (Greenmonte, Stuarts Draft, Va.)
  • Randy Smith (Mtn. View, Hickory, N.C.)
  • C3 Hampton—Beginning & Future
  • Lynne Eggert (VMMissions’ E3 Collective program)
  • Norma Teles (VMMissions worker serving Roma people at Joshua Center in Lezhe, Albania)

These were definitely outward expressions, inspiring us to reach similarly outward and, as well, to seek the Lord upward about how we could partner and support (inward) our brothers and sisters in mission.

Dr. Natalie Francisco, co-pastor of C3 Hampton, brings the evening message at Virginia Mennonite Conference Assembly on July 19, 2018. Her message, Transformed to Serve, brought into focus each of the three dimensions of being a kingdom disciple. Photo: Jon Trotter
Dr. Natalie Francisco, co-pastor of C3 Hampton, brings the evening message at Virginia Mennonite Conference Assembly on July 19, 2018. Her message, Transformed to Serve, brought into focus each of the three dimensions of being a kingdom disciple. Photo: Jon Trotter

Pastor Natalie Francisco (C3 Hampton) reminded us of the need to allow the Spirit of the Lord to transform us from the inside out (upward), and that we prepare and position ourselves for transformation when we gather inward with one accord, one mind, one passion in her message “Transformed to Serve.”

Glen Guyton, Executive Director of Mennonite Church USA, in his message “We Have Seen the Lord!” exhorted us to “leave the dead things alone!” Because we have this upward experience with the Lord, we can gather inward (together) as we move outward and forward in mission.

Chakesha White’s experiential lesson with blindfolded space-seekers was a memorable illustration on the challenges we all face in our upward relationship with the Lord, being surrounded by many competing voices, and the importance of distinguishing and following the one voice that is trustworthy amidst the clamor.

We heard Moriah & Micah Horst’s call for our congregations, districts, conference to be inwardly intentional about making room for, encouraging and inviting younger people to participate.

Aldine Musser’s paper on moral distress and Ross Erb’s presentation on responding to misconduct by non-credentialed leaders are much needed practical counsel for addressing problems with our inward relationships.

Dillion & Esther Sinclair’s Bible study modeled inward teamwork as a couple and passionate upward worship.

Then of course, there were ‘business’ items on the agenda. All these included upward and outward elements, but were primarily part of our formal and informal shared inward experience.

Beyond Conference Assembly
So what does your experience look like on the 3D gauge—at or even beyond Assembly—as a member of VMC and of God’s kingdom in this world? What directions are the Lord inviting us to reach towards in this time—as individuals, as congregations and as a conference?

How is God calling us to grow upward in our relationship with the Lord and experience God’s power to transform us into Christ-likeness? How is God moving us inward in our love for and equipping of one another as individuals, families, and congregations? How is God compelling us together to move outward and make disciples of all people groups?

I welcome you to share your responses to these questions at https://goo.gl/DYtccD

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