all blogs
Blog posts

The Future Church Summit: Encountering God in the unexpected

4.1. 2017 Posted By: Mennonite Church USA 134 Times read

Iris de León-Hartshorn is director of Transformational Peacemaking for Mennonite Church USA. The Future Church Summit (FCS) will take place July 6-8, at the Mennonite Church USA convention in Orlando. This post originally ran on the Menno Snapshots blog of Mennonite Church USA.

“…explore the moral imagination as the capacity to imagine something rooted in the challenges of the real world yet capable of giving birth to that which does not yet exist.”

— John Paul Lederach, The Moral Imagination

In his book, Lederach refers to Romans 8:22, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now,” encouraging us to be open to the unexpected and finding the doors that open up to something we could not have imagined alone.

The Future Church Summit for me is about encountering God in the unexpected and finding a way forward for the church.

As a member of the “Theme Team” for the summit, I’ll be gathering the dreams, ideas and passions of the 700-1,000 people attending the summit. A few weeks ago, we did a trial run of the FCS with the Constituency Leaders Council and I can’t explain the excitement that I experienced as I listened to people engaging with each other and sharing their stories and dreams for the church.

Throughout the meeting, their ideas and dreams started to trickle into the Theme Team [table groups at CLC could submit ideas to the team via iPads at their table]. And then the pace started to pick up and we were off and running. As our team of six began to work at discerning recurring themes, we started to see places of unexpected concurrence and I could feel God’s Spirit among us.

I have been working as a facilitator for many years and I’d be the first to tell you that no process is perfect, but I believe God is calling us to be faithful and open to a path that we may not be able to yet imagine.

I find hope and anticipate God’s wonder in the midst of our human messiness. It might be difficult to allow ourselves to let go of our preconceived ideas and dream together. But we have a choice to make: we can enter this process in fear that we might lose or we can enter with our imaginations open to see the realities of our challenges while being open to something we have not yet seen. I pray we choose a posture of openness to God’s spirit and are willing to enter into the summit with expectation and wonder.

Our hope is that we will have many places of engagement to hear from youth and the many people attending Orlando.

I want to encourage you: when you find places to engage in the Future Church Summit, do it. The more dreams, ideas and passion we are able to gather, the fuller picture we can create of where God is moving us.

We find ourselves at a crossroads: both within our church and with our current culture in the world. Division is a fact of life, but there has developed a culture of encouraging division among people and groups of people. Many institutions are fragile and that includes the Christian church.

We, as part of the communion of Christians, will need to make choices that help shape another narrative: a narrative of hope, love and our commitment to following Jesus. And in our world’s present culture this narrative is going counter to what we are being told.

We are at a place where we need to seek God deeply, listen to each other in love and be open to follow Jesus in unexpected ways. The Future Church Summit process is one way for us to engage in birthing something different that we desperately need. It is on the verge of being revealed if we are open to see it.


The Mennonite, Inc., is currently reviewing its Comments Policy. During this review, commenting on new articles is disabled. Comments that were previously approved will still appear. Comments on older articles can continue to be submitted for review in accordance with the policy below. To promote constructive dialogue, the editors of The Mennonite moderate all comments and comments don’t appear until approved. Anonymous comments are not accepted. Writers must sign posts or log into Disqus with their first and last name. Read our full Comments Policy.

Leave a Reply