Two reflections from the SENT 2019 Conference

July 15, 2019
by Clyde G. Kratz
VMC group that went to SENT 2019

Participants from Virginia Mennonite Conference (from left): Juan Jose Lagos, planting a church in Winston-Salem, N.C., with hopes of receiving financial support from the TCK District, Alfonso Alvarado, planting a church in Lacey Spring, Va., with financial support from Northern District congregations, Chris and Heather Scott, planting a church in Winchester, Va., called “the exchange,” Veronica and Armando Sanchez, planting a church in Waynesboro, Va., with financial support from Southern District congregations. Tyler & Kendra Yoder were unable to attend this event, but are planting a church in Richmond, Va., with financial support from Eastside Church (Harrisonburg) and Eastern District congregations. Ministerial Training Trust Funds held by various districts in Virginia Mennonite Conference covered the costs. Photo courtesy of Clyde Kratz

Reflection by Clyde G. Kratz

Clyde G. KratzI had the privilege of traveling to Denver with a number of church planters in Virginia Mennonite Conference, April 26-28, 2019. Mennonite Mission Network planned and hosted the event for church planters at the Beloved Community Mennonite Church, an intercultural church plant in Mountain States Mennonite Conference. Because Virginia Mennonite Conference mission statement calls us to equip leaders and others to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to neighbors near and far, I attended this event with our church planters.

Linda Oyer, New Testament professor, former mission worker and church planter in France with Mission Network, provided two engaging Bible studies. She compared and contrasted the vision of unity and diversity in the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Luke. Vern Rempel, church planter of Beloved Community Mennonite Church and other musicians led worship.

Mauricio Chenlo, Minister of Church Planting, and Sandy Miller, Director of Resourcing and Engagement, made presentations on the delivery system for equipping and sustaining church planters. The curriculum includes three phases — explore, equip, and send. In addition to the online study, there will be group learning and individual coaching as needed.

I came away from this event with three takeaways.

1) Church planters need the encouragement and support of established congregations. Church planters can experience discouragement and falter under the weight of stalled initiatives that do not bear fruit fast enough for their expectations.

2) Our Latino church planters value relationships with other Latino church planters across the country. The common bond built in these settings may be similar to many of us developing lasting relationships in our Mennonite schools, mission and voluntary service assignments, and activities. They provide a lasting impression that forges our identity as colleagues and co-workers in God’s kingdom.

3) Mennonite Mission Network’s work in equipping church planters is a vital ministry. It develops effective church planters who will forge and lead healthy congregations.

Reflection by Chris Scott

One of the great gifts for me of the SENT conference is a simple one: I appreciate the opportunity to spend time with like-minded people who share a passion for instigating new works of the Kingdom, fellow laborers in translating the good news of Christ and the community of faith into a new context.

Spending time with these dreamers inspires and renews me to follow the call of God. One challenge of church planting is a feeling of disconnection from the wider church body. But in hearing the stories and seeing the excitement in the eyes of my sisters and brothers, I am reminded that God has placed me here.

SENT was helpful and worthwhile. I found it rewarding to be around people at all points of the planting journey. One of the most exciting conversations I had was with a woman who had recently started meeting with four or five couples in her living room in Michigan. She was asking what it means to be the people of God in her time and place, and seeking how God might be leading them. She reminded me to reflect on God’s plan for our group in Winchester, and not simply go along the path of least resistance.

There was solid content at SENT as well. Dr. Linda Oyer brought deeply thought-provoking messages, looking at the good news in the gospels. It was challenging to hear from her and then reflect on how the good news might be nuanced in my community.

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