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A path to renewal through many voices
Mennonite Church Canada/MennoMedia joint release
Harrisonburg, Va., and Waterloo, Ont.—Throughout history, Christian renewal movements have repeatedly emerged as God’s Spirit energizes the church and changes lives. Most times this has happened, Stuart and Sian Murray Williams say, believers have turned back to what they call a “multivoiced” model of church. In their new book The Power of All: Building a Multivoiced Church, they examine multivoiced church and the way it can revitalize Christian life.
Multivoiced church is an alternative to the dominant tradition where churches have come to rely on one person or a small group of people, the Murray Williamses say. Instead, multivoiced church expects that “the whole community is gifted, called, empowered, and expected to be involved in all aspects of church life.”
Looking both backward and forward, the Murray Williamses see God working strongly in churches that encourage the participation of all members. They see the roots of multivoiced church in the New Testament church: its learning, worship, community-building, and decision-making. As renewal movements crop up throughout history, God’s Spirit is repeatedly poured out on all believers, they note. These Christians then turn to an earlier ethos and practice of broad participation by members, but often gradually shift back toward “monovoiced” church, with more passive participation by many and leadership by few.
The Murray Williamses believe that the Day of Pentecost provides an indication of God’s intention for the church, “an expression of the new covenant and a foretaste of the heavenly kingdom.” Jesus’ life and ministry, too, provide a model and encouragement toward multivoiced church, they say.
“Our conviction is that the [church’s] future lies primarily with smaller, more organic and relational communities, which are by nature and design multivoiced.” The Murray Williamses describe the ways multivoiced churches equip their members, shaping mature disciples of Jesus who are less dependent on programs and professionals, and who have skills for effective mission and ministry in the world.
Fostering many voices in a congregation does not have to mean the end of existing church structures. Within present congregations that are less multivoiced, Christians can choose to “experiment, reflect together, learn from mistakes, and press on beyond initial discouragements and resistance.” With courage and persistence, the Murray Williamses say, change toward participation can come in churches where Christians have been passive consumers more than active participants.
The Holy Spirit works where Christians encourage the participation of all believers. “Those who begin to explore multivoiced approaches to church are often surprised by the wealth of resources within the community as gifts are shared, voices are heard, and energy is released,” the Murray Williamses say. “It is as if a lid has been lifted and the Spirit is free to work in fresh ways.”
Sian Murray Williams is a tutor at Bristol Baptist College. She is currently moderator of the Faith and Unity Department of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. Stuart Murray Williams helps direct the Anabaptist Network in Great Britain, and serves the network as a trainer and consultant with particular interest in urban mission, church planting, and emerging forms of church. He is the author of the bestseller The Naked Anabaptist.
For more book information and book video trailer, see www.MennoMedia.org/PowerOfAll
MennoMedia, a ministry of Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA, creates faith-based print, video, radio, and web materials.