Missions Fest will be back next year! We had been told that the one held earlier this year would be the last, but a newly formed board has announced that Missions Fest Vancouver 2024 will take place January 24 – 27.
In three recent messages to pastors, churches and ambassadors (agencies, ministries), the new directors said the location has not yet been confirmed, but will be during the summer.
Taste & Receive
The board also spoke of mini-conferences:
This fall, we are planning four half-day events in four different cities in the Lower Mainland. We’re calling these nights ‘Taste & Receive Nights,’ where we introduce a taste of what’s coming to Mission Fest Vancouver 2024!
We want to give churches an opportunity to meet us, be inspired and worship together. We desire your disciples of Jesus to leave with something they didn’t know they needed because they encountered His real presence.
A particular theme in the three messages – each of which included a video presentation by James Bonney, one of the new directors – was the central importance of experiencing together the Spirit’s guidance.
‘It’s not over yet’
John Hall, who was Executive Director of Mission Central / Missions Fest Vancouver for the past seven years, wrote me June 27:
Back at the beginning of February, I and the board of directors of Mission Central felt certain that the end of the organization was near.
We, the staff, had been laid off, the office furniture was being sold and plans were in place to wind down the society.
But then Steve Schroeder approached me, convinced that God was saying, “It’s not over yet.” In that kind of situation, one person’s affirmation that such a thing is so is not enough. The statement needed to be backed up by action, in this case God’s.
Miraculously, the debt that Mission Central had struggled under for years, and which had been exacerbated during COVID, was wiped out. It seemed like God was up to something.
Schroeder, President of the Christian Ministers Association Canada, and active in a number of ministries, took part in the ‘last’ Missions Fest. I wrote in my reflections following the late January gathering:
The mood was not despondent though. As keynote speaker Steve Schroeder said, during the final session, “We see the end of a certain kind of missions conference. We don’t know what will come, but something will because God is on a mission.”
After all, as noted on the Mission Central timeline:
The original plan [in 1984] was for one conference, but thanks to the nudge of the Holy Spirit and the faith of the planning team, they continued; 39 years later, the positive impact of that decision has been felt across Canada and around the world.
Passing the torch
By mid-April, things were looking more hopeful. Tony Sanz, outgoing board chair of Mission Central, posted this message on the ministry’s website April 21:
. . . the Lord spoke to Steve Schroeder, that he should lead a team that would take over Mission Central / Missions Fest Vancouver ‘as is’ from the current board and lead it forward, focused on mission and discipleship. The transition to the new team will be completed by the end of April.
Right now, the new team is seeking the Lord for further direction on how to proceed. Please pray for Steve and his team at this crucial time.
‘Don’t give up the farm’
For the past month or two, Schroeder and Bonney have been out meeting with a wide range of leaders. When we met June 5, Schroeder described the process. When he first met with the Mission Central board, another group which had been planning to take over had just pulled out. Hall told him, “The churches have lost hope.”
Though Schroeder thinks of himself as “the most hopeful man in the room,” the key to moving ahead was probably when the Holy Spirit woke him up in the middle of the night, a couple of days after Missions Fest, saying, “Don’t give up the farm.”
The (now former) board wasn’t sure what to make of Schroeder’s interest. But Hall posted on the Mission Central Facebook page March 5:
James Bonney sent this video to churches, along with two others to pastors and ambassadors.
He sensed that while many people, over the years, have participated in Missions Fest because it seemed like a good strategy, he felt, “we need the presence of God.”
Schroeder said yes to the challenge.
Schroeder and Bonney (and Paul Johnson) met with the Mission Central board March 30 (as described above). A few days after that hand-over (“we haven’t done anything, no staff left”), they received $50,000, the largest personal donation in the history of Missions Fest.
Within a week of saying yes to Mission Central – thanks also to many donations from churches and individuals – the full debt of $120,000 was erased.
Since then, the new team has spent considerable time in prayer, asking God, “What’s in your heart, what’s in your mind?”
James Bonney heard from God April 29, following one of his regular prayer walks on Mount Seymour, asking him to join Mission Central full time. He began as Faith Engineer/Director May 1. Schroeder – with whom Bonney has built a strong relationship during the past three years – said he had heard the same message several weeks earlier.
Both Schroeder and Bonney were clear in their appreciation for the work of John Hall and the former board. They are particularly keen to support the ambassadors. In a video sent out specifically to them, Bonney said:
One of the first things we felt the Father say – which is a huge deal – was to not charge any of the exhibitors, any of those ministries, to have a spot at Missions Fest. We want it to be free. We just felt like the Lord was saying, “Highlight them, they’re the heroes, the ambassadors of all the ministries that represent me globally, locally, all of it.” . . . But here’s what this means; we need tons of prayer.
One thing that quickly became clear as I met with Schroeder and Bonney is that each has a long-term personal connection with missions and missionaries.
Schroeder’s grandfather, Peter Schroeder, was a missions pastor, who was involved with overseas missions. He was also a full-time businessman who was active in the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship and was friends with its founder, Demos Shakarian.
His father, Harvey Schroeder, founded Valley Church on the North Shore as a ‘home missions’ plant.
Bonney was actually born on the mission field:
My parents were missionaries with Canadian Baptist Ministries from 1983 – 1994. They worked under the national church in Manado where I was born in 1984. My brother Nathan was almost two years old then.
The following year my parents went to language school in Bandung near Jakarta. Then we moved to Pontianak, West Kalimantan, where my father taught in a seminary to train students for church planting ministry in the interior villages.
It was shortly after studying at Moody Bible Institute of Chicago (which prioritizes ‘living on mission’), while working as a youth pastor in southern Indiana, that he first heard the call to come to Vancouver. He helped plant and pastor Westside North Shore (now The Shore Church), before “a season of missionary journeys while waiting to hear what God had next.”
James Bonney sent me this statement relating to the ‘culture’ of Mission Central:
Why we exist
Mission Central is the umbrella ministry of MISSION FEST Vancouver, a historical Canadian global missions conference. Our passion is to inspire great faith and hope by releasing the supernatural life and power of Jesus in the hearts of God’s family.
We do this by
Hosting conferences and events that strengthen relational friendships through stories, teaching and impartation of the Holy Spirit. We walk in relational unity with churches, mission ambassadors, and faith-based ministries.
Inspiring disciples to co-labour with Christ everywhere He leads.
We believe we owe people an experience with someone who loves them with the Father’s affection, with someone who will practice interacting with God in front of them. We want our ambassadors, disciples of Jesus, and visitors to leave with something they didn’t know they needed because they encountered Jesus.
Co-labouring is more important than calling.
Following Jesus is meant to be a felt partnership of interaction and trust. The Great Commission isn’t about our going but about it being a co-mission, a co-partnership with Him. We’re not saying calling isn’t important, but rather learning to recognize and respond to a real person whose Kingdom comes where the King is, is what our calling is all about. He loves the journey with you more than the journey. It’s in our culture to practice and inspire those around us to pursue a Person whose presence is revelatory, wondrous, and ready to be released on what He’s doing. It’s our hope that you leave times with us transformed to live a supernatural, co-labouring friendship with Him.
Your ‘yes’ is more important than your position.
We are with you because He is, not because we agree. Every story, testimony, and journey with Him is initiated with a ‘yes’. We champion your ‘yes’! Connecting to His empowering presence and beliefs about us makes our positions on practice or doctrinal perspective matter less. It’s our practice to actively share the testimonies of your personal encounters and journey to release the same faith and hope for others. We honour your history, purpose, and passion because you said yes to Him. When we value His passions for you, it connects us to the power, perspective, and purpose He’s pursuing with all you do.
Giving space is more important than filling space.
Nothing compares to discovering the difference between what you can do and what you give Him space to do with you. Giving space begins with a posture that believes and is attentive to what God wants to do in our time together. It doesn’t mean we’re not prepared or organized, but we’re flexible to adjust to His promptings. If Missions exist to release the presence of a person, Jesus, whose work in the Gospel brings people into His family, then giving space for Him to speak and to transform is key. Throughout the book of Acts, it’s apparent that when the Holy Spirit is given space to direct and operate, the work of encounter, missions and salvation is done with and through Him. We value the moments when waiting is everything rather than feeling the need to fill the time with great content. If what we do can be done by us, then we don’t need God to show up.