Later this month we will be embarking upon our 150th year as Evangelical Friends in Mid-America. As I reflect upon that fact, I am reminded that not many organizations, institutions or churches endure that long. None of us were here 150 years ago to participate in that first Yearly Meeting in Lawrence, KS. But, as I read about it, it must have been quite an exciting event as 3000 Friends from across the country gathered for this new thing God was beginning on the eastern edge of Lawrence.
From those early days of “Kansas Yearly Meeting” to the establishment of “EFC-MAYM” many things have changed. We have expanded from Kansas into Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, and Minnesota, as well as associated with Evangelical Friends across North America to reach the “ends of the earth” by partnering together through Evangelical Friends Missions. Today, we are part of a worldwide movement with a clear identity and calling to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment.
As we join together on July 23-25 on the campus of Friends University (est. 1898 by Kansas Yearly Meeting) the question which begs to be answered is “Where do we go from here?” One of the reasons organizations, institutions and churches come and go is because they lose sight of the reason they began and allow peripheral items to distract them from their calling.
There was a practice in the Old Testament of using stones as a way of reminding people of their identity, history and calling as the people of God. Stones were stacked at various places along the countryside so that as people passed by in future generations those stones would stand as a reminder of their identity as God’s people. We, as God’s people, need to regularly be reminded of who we are and why we exist as well.
Later this month we will pause, as we celebrate 150 years of ministry in Mid-America and will be reminded of our primary calling and reason for existence as we move into the next 150 years. During our Sesquicentennial year we will refocus on fulfilling the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment by considering three crucial parts of our mission and calling.
The first thing we will consider is how we can revitalize and strengthen our existing churches across Mid-America. EFC-MAYM only exists today because of the churches we represent. Without local churches there is no EFC-MAYM. Those of us on the EFC-MAYM leadership team clearly recognize our primary calling and responsibility to encourage, support and facilitate healthy church development across our region.
The second thing we will consider is the crucial need to plant and establish new, life-giving churches throughout our seven state area. Without new life, all organisms eventually die. About a year ago I spent time with some of our Friends in Arkansas City as that church concluded its life cycle. As we discussed decisions regarding disposition of property and legal closure we also discussed the vision of life coming from death. Through the closure of Arkansas City Friends Church has come the opportunity for a young vibrant Hispanic congregation to have a meeting place, as well as financial resources to help launch new Friends churches in the future, such as the Raymore Friends Church currently being established in the Kansas City area. In John 12:24 Jesus reminds us that it is through death that life comes. Therefore, we believe whenever a church completes its life cycle new churches must be planted to continue that work and calling.
Finally, we will learn more about how we, as EFC-MAYM, can be used to fulfill God’s greater calling around the world through our partnership in EFC-NA and Evangelical Friends Mission (EFM) to launch new mission fields among unreached people groups around the globe. Never has there been a time in our history where Evangelical Friends Churches across North America have been more unified and committed to working together for the cause of global missions.
It seems a bit ironic to me that as we stand on the precipice of 150 years of ministry that we have some of the most exciting opportunities ahead of us, to work together in Mid-America and around the world to fulfill the calling God gave us back in 1872. God’s timing is perfect! We are excited about sharing this time together. Please plan on joining us July 23-25 on the campus of Friends University!
Thayne A. Thompson, Executive Supt.