When Culture Takes Precedence Over Evangelism

The early church was described in Acts as adding to their numbers daily. While I realize that some of the dynamics were different then, we should still have the same heart of spreading the Gospel and wanting to reach those that are lost. Anabaptists have been accused of not being evangelistic enough. Our numbers seemingly increase more by reproduction than by adding converts from the outside world to our numbers.

I’ve heard of many churches across the world growing to have thousands of members. But I have never heard of any mega-churches in conservative Anabaptist circles. (That said, I can’t say that I’ve ever hoped for mega-churches to start showing up among our people.) What is it about our churches, though, that tends to keep others out rather than “bringing them in”? What needs to change for us to make an impact on the harvest waiting to be gathered?

Anabaptists tend to have smaller groups that know each other well and have a close “brotherhood”. This closeness is often noted by outsiders and looked on with envious admiration. But often it is our close brotherhood, much like an exclusive social club, that keeps out the very ones that we should be bringing in. Is it possible to evangelize without losing that closeness and even our culture (the customs of a particular nation, people, or group) that we guard so zealously? And if it is not possible, which is of greater importance –culture and close brotherhood, or reaching the lost?

Mat. 10:34-38 ESV   34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

What are the most important things to us about our culture? Is it our dress rules? Our work ethic? Our disciplined lifestyle? The way we help each other? Our a cappella singing? Our good cooking? Our non-emotional approach to worship? Our facial hair (or lack thereof)? Our large families?

These are all things that we value and guard within our culture. Many of these can be of good value. And while each of these are loosely based on a scriptural principles, most of them are not commanded by Jesus or any of the apostles. So why do we hold our cultural standards higher than specific Biblical commands?

For example, we have the Great Commission as the “last will and testament” (so to speak) of Jesus Christ. We are preach the Gospel, baptize those who believe, and teach what Jesus taught. Yet, we are more likely to stay separate from all nonbelievers; our baptisms generally consist of young teenagers that have grown up in the Mennonite church; and we are more likely to teach our culture than the words of Jesus.

We are to love others as much as we love ourselves. We are also told to share Communion with other believers that are part of Jesus’s ONE body in “remembrance” of Jesus. But we are more likely to confront, refuse Communion, and even excommunicate people among us for dress standards not being up to our man-made codes than for disobeying direct commands given by Jesus and the apostles. Why is that?

Could it be that we hold our culture to be more important than Biblical commands? What is our opinion of other cultures or denominations that have things that contradict the Word of God (regardless of right intentions)? Think of denominations that accept homosexuality because their application of the Biblical principle of showing love to others.

Even those churches that ordain women bishops believe it’s about culture and that culture is more important than direct commands in the Bible.

We are quick to point fingers at other churches, but excuse our own tendency to do this in other areas. We believe our culture is the best culture without noticing that this is also what many others believe about their own. When we refuse to baptize those who “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” and refuse to take communion with other believers (who don’t dress exactly as we do) we are no different. When our culture does not evangelize much because we cannot assimilate people into our culture, we are holding our culture higher than a direct command of Jesus.

If our cultural hard work ethic (application of 2Thess. 3:10) contradicts the command to love our wives and train our children, we must choose which is more important. If our cultural disciplined lifestyle causes us to turn away those that don’t have the same amount of discipline that we do, we need to decide whether Paul’s command to “esteem others better than” ourselves is more important(Phil. 2:3-4). When our cultural rules of dress, with prescribed colors and numbers and shapes and lengths, are more important to us than comprehending the “breadth and length and height and depth” of the love of Christ (Eph. 3:18-19), do we need to rethink things?

And most importantly, when our cultural applications of the Biblical principle of “separation from the world” contradict the Great Commission, we must choose which is more important. What good is salt if it never leaves the shaker?

But what about unity? Aren’t we to have unity?

Unity is mentioned twice in Ephesians 4. Verse 3 speaks of the “unity of the Spirit” and verse 13 speaks of “the unity of the faith”. I don’t find either of these speaking of a need to all dress alike. Dressing alike does not create unity, nor does it keep unity. And uniformity does not equal unity.

With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit– just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call– one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Eph. 4:2-6 ESV

We are to be eager to maintain the unity of the spirit. Does that come by our many dress rules or does that have a tendency to cause divisions in the larger body of Christ?

When Jacob Ammon first started making very specific dress rules for his followers, it was to identify with the people of the poor class.1 Today, a lot of those same dress rules are more likely to keep out the very ones for whom those rules were created to identify with. It’s much more expensive today to buy material and make your own clothing than it is to go to Walmart or a second hand store, and just buy simple, modest clothing.

There are also aspects of our culture that accept only certain personality types and reject others. We tend to be, and produce offspring that are, disciplined, self-reliant, hardworking, non-emotional people. Occasionally, though, there are some artistic, flamboyant free-spirits who love odd things and bright colors that seemingly pop up out of nowhere. In our culture of discipline and sameness, this personality type is not considered a good thing. They don’t fit in well and we do our best to either get them under control or get rid of them altogether.

We then lose out on a personality type God created for a reason. What are we missing out on in our churches because we don’t allow the flamboyant, creative types? They are the “free-spirits” that have the potential to inspire us to glorious beauty. They bring vision and inspiration. They see and feel things that we may not. They often have a heart connection to God that we may not. The emotion they show that feels so uncomfortable to us, may be just what we need. Why do we squelch emotion? God created it for a reason!

We feel and show emotions to our spouses (or at least I hope we do) that sometimes may be extravagant and unrestrained. Think of Song of Solomon! Why do we think that God does not want any emotional response from us in our worship of Him? When we get rid of the very ones who could help lead us in that direction of exuberant worship filled with emotion and fervor, we lose out on an important aspect in our relationship with God.

Which personality type is better? Don’t we need both to help each other? Rigid, self-disciplined people bring stability, but they need “free-spirits” to help them not to become so self reliant that they think they don’t need God as much as others. Free spirits feel God move and are often more open to hearing His voice speak to them. They don’t feel so bound by traditions and are more open to change. They need self-disciplined people to keep them from being moved by every wind of change and to stay anchored in the Word.

Churches that allow differences in personality, temperament, social status, and dress style will have a church with a greater potential of growing. Think about it, if a doctor, a farmer, a trucker, and a redneck all attend church together, (no this is not leading into a redneck joke) that is four different types of people that could be reached by evangelism by these individuals. If we all look alike and only allow certain types of people to be accepted, we are very limited in our evangelism.church

When a visitor sees a variety of dress styles, they will be more likely to feel they will fit in somewhere than if there is only one accepted dress style. When only those who feel comfortable in one particular style are accepted, new additions are very limited.

If a the church has both women who wear head coverings and women who don’t, new converts feel welcomed. Don’t chase away the women who God has not yet convicted to wear head coverings. Perhaps He has other things that He deems to be of greater importance that He wishes to work on in their lives first. We cannot put limits on God. Preach the Word faithfully and allow Him to work at His own pace. His timing is always better than ours! Perhaps He waits because there are some others He wishes to bring into the church that would never come if they were the only one who did not wear a head covering. If we truly believe that God can convict someone, than why don’t we act like it? Forcing people to do something by rules enforced by using communion as a hammer never changes anyone’s heart. Only God can change someone’s deepest heart beliefs.

For those who are fearful of “losing our culture” if people aren’t all dressing alike, is that really all that holds our culture together? Must we look alike to care about each other’s needs and help each other out? To study the Bible together and disciple new believers? To worship God together? To host people in our homes? To sing for the elderly? To work hard and teach our children to do the same? To cook good food and share it together? To have the same goals as a church body?

Having “unity of the Spirit” is so much more than dressing a certain way. So why do we think we must look and believe exactly alike on every application if it causes us to not fulfill the last words given to us by the One we claim to follow? Our unity of faith and the Spirit should be evident by our common goal to seek sinners, tell them about Jesus and baptize them– just as the early church did.


 

1. For more reading on this, Dwight Gingrich has an excellent article here:

“The Holy Scriptures Must Be Our Ruling Standard”

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91 thoughts on “When Culture Takes Precedence Over Evangelism

  1. Wow! Simon, you’ve expressed some of my thoughts exactly.

    One comment that I will make is about the personality types that you mention. One of the things I have been thinking about lately is how “white” the Mennonite Church is, i.e. very few black people in the conservative churches. All black people are not alike, of course, but they tend to be more expressive in their words and actions, including their worship services. The clash between a black worship service and a staid conservative Mennonite service would be difficult to reconcile. And there would be little room in a Mennonite church for an exuberant black person to express themselves.

    Also, the lack of black people in conservative churches points to the lack of evangelism that you have been talking about in this article. Honestly, if you would remove from a conservative church all the people who have generations of Mennonite blood flowing in their veins, there are many churches that would be completely or almost empty.

    If we are putting any man-made stumblingblocks in the way of would-be converts, it must stop immediately!

    Preach it, brother!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Joel, thanks for taking time to read and comment.

      “If we are putting any man-made stumblingblocks in the way of would-be converts, it must stop immediately”… We’ve never been a culture to change quickly, but I’m with you on this one. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A hearty yea and amen!
    One of my favorite verses is found at John 8:32 “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” God is love AND he hates sin! Sin is Sin! In addition,lukewarmness is spiritual death. Political correctness is satans warfare tactic of Divide and Conquer used in an attempt to kill us all, as compared to God and Jesus purpose which is to divide what is satanic from what is Christian to SAVE those who have accepted Jesus and follow the TRUTH, not fellow man and worldly leaders. Gods Purpose will not change and it is not corruptible, so being just simply Mennonite or alternatively becoming lukewarm and accepting things that God deems as sin using the excuse of “peace peace” will put in satan’s camp and NOT GODS Church/Kingdom. I say to all of you lets just stick to the truth and it will make as free. Push comes to shove it is more important to follow HIS WORD than anything else including any lukewarm human version of peace, peace, peace. Corruption and coercion does NOT lead to any kind of peace. Sometimes we will have to fight a little more before peace will come, I believe turning the cheek does not mean “becoming a doormatt” Truth always comes before true peace and NOT the other way around. I refuse to accept false or lukewarm peace. God is NOT mocked. God is a God of Love and Order, all for OUR OWN GOOD. One can seize the TRUTH right now, whereas peace will not truly be remotely achieved in “this world” Keep on preaching THE TRUTH, good and right hearted people!
    Best Regards;
    Delmer B. Martin

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      • Hello AJ,

        I’m not sure what example you are referring to as being “my way or the highway”. Could you be more specific?

        I have no problem with honest opinions and constructive criticism on this site, but please keep in mind that showing others respect while disagreeing will be of greater worth than sweeping judgements.

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      • AJ replied to my post above dated August 5 at 2:07pm and after giving it some thought I just wish to add that the more the old Anabaptist and old order Mennonites and Amish were persecuted and ridiculed and scorned…the more their congregations grew and thrived to the very present date. I for one, would much rather be a member in a congregation where the shepherds are passionately protective than be in a congregation where the shepherds focus on introducing the members to the “wolves” and the worldly and the church building has nothing more than revolving doors. I am completely convinced that the closer we stick to Biblical Truth the less negotiable we will be with this wicked world and lukewarm Christianity. It is what it is! God is Love, TRUE LOVE and He wants each and every one of us to accept Jesus and do as the Bible tells us.

        Romans 16: 17-20 “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”

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  3. I am encouraged to see that people are thinking through things of this nature and wrestling with them. I would be interested in what a church, or culture, might look like if Simon were to design it correctly? Is there somewhere I might go to see this in real life, today? It seems to me that some of the excesses , errors and mistakes are being identified here….. but I am not exactly sure what is being recommended to change them. The old mantra of “become like the world to win the world” has been tried enough by now, I would think…. but I guess someone could give it another go.
    I am not completely encouraged by the underlying premise of the conversation above, as in, …..
    “When our culture does not evangelize much because we cannot assimilate people into our culture, we are holding our culture higher than a direct command of Jesus.”
    Is that, in fact, the reason we do not evangelize much? Is it reality? Is it an excuse? Perhaps I read it wrong, but it seemed like a bit of a stretch to fashion an article, based on an argument, that may or may not be accurate. (I do agree that too much rigidity in cultural/religious norms has not helped the Kingdom at large)
    This year alone, nearly 10 Million people will travel to the most rigid, conservative among us, to see them, and their communities. 10 million souls. To see the Amish. Wow. Perhaps we are not seeing it all as clearly as we think?
    I long to see environments where people with good, solid, character, godly heritage, and real personal conviction, can reach out freely to those around them…… lending a patient caring hand to those who struggle on multiple levels, even for years, without demanding perfection or even agreement. The problem seems to be, evil sucks. Evil seems to suck away at the foundation until it all flushes down the sewer together.
    I, for one, am truly excited to hear how this is all going to be turned around………………

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    • Hello Steve,
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I’m not sure how familiar you are with my blog. In a fairly recent article (Radical Shepherding), I wrote about a church that I’ve been observing and hearing much about the last several years. You can check that article out and follow the link in the comments. I’ve been told the pastor there is a friend of yours. I’m sure this particular church is not perfect, but that is a church that has an Anabaptist culture but does not place cultural values higher than Scripture.

      I have no problem with any cultural heritage that does not contradict God’s commands. My problem is when “Anabaptist culture” (or any other culture) contradicts “Kingdom culture”.

      I don’t believe we need to “become like the world” to win the world. But could you show show me scripturally how dressing a certain way keeps me from being worldly? Neither Jesus nor His disciples looked any different from those around them, nor did any of them advocate other followers of Jesus to dress differently. Having a worldly mindset is so much more than dressing a certain way. And dressing differently does not keep out a worldly mindset.

      You take dispute to these words, “When our culture does not evangelize much because we cannot assimilate people into our culture, we are holding our culture higher than a direct command of Jesus.”

      My “reality” has been that it is rather pointless to invite people to the church I grew up in (or most other Anabaptist churches) because they will not be accepted unless every cultural “law” is followed to every jot and tittle–and even then it’s often still not good enough. So I f I lead someone to Christ, where should I send them? The local church downtown?

      How many “success stories” have you heard of Anabaptists evangelizing and “assimilating people into our culture”? I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it certainly is rare. I have seen a few failed attempts, however, and I’m guessing you have also.

      When we “put a yoke on the neck of the disciples” and a “greater burden than necessary” for new converts, what good does it do? (Acts 15)

      You mention ten million people a year travel to the Amish to see the “most rigid, conservative among us”. And what good will it do them? Will they see Jesus? Will they see salvation? Or will they see the oddity of just one more works religion that has nothing to offer their hungry souls?

      I, too, would like to see more “environments where people with good, solid character, godly heritage, and real personal conviction, can reach out to those around them… lending a patient, caring hand to those who struggle on multiple levels, even for years without demanding perfection or even agreement.”

      But it’s not happening in our circles now. And if we change nothing, nothing will change.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Steve,

      As someone who, like Simon, has pointed out some of the flaws in Mennonitism, I too have been asked, “So what do we do?” The implication, at least sometimes, seems to be, “If you can’t tell me the right thing to do, then don’t tell me what’s wrong.”

      I feel that Simon and I, and others like Asher Witmer, are wondering ourselves what “right” looks like. We look around us and see problems, and we write about those problems. Part of our desire is to stimulate others to think about what we should do, but not necessarily to give all the answers.

      However, I will put this forward: there are some things in the Mennonite church that could simply be dropped without being replaced. There is no need to find a replacement for cape dresses and plain suits; Jesus never commanded us to look different from the world. We could stop requiring ladies to cover their heads with a specific, regulated covering, and allow them to decide what they want to cover their heads with.

      And there is one more thing that is at the center of all this: the Mennonite identity. If we want to truly follow Christ, we have to stop identifying as “Mennonites” and “Anabaptists” and seek to be “followers of Christ”. Jesus repeatedly tells us that He is the head of the Body. The very fact of calling ourselves “Mennonites”, “Anabaptists”, “Baptists”, “Methodists”, or any other denominational name, indicates that we are not following Christ alone. Otherwise, “Christian” would be enough.

      Stopping the usage of the term “Mennonite” is not enough, in and of itself. There are churches that profess to be “non-denominational”, but their church is still centered around itself, the pastor, whatever, instead of Christ. What we have to do is stop following men (Col. 2:20-23), and set our affections on things above instead (Col. 3:1-4).

      John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, said: “And as for those factitious titles of Anabaptists, Independents, Presbyterians, or the like, I conclude that they come neither from Jerusalem nor from Antioch, but rather from Hell and Babylon for they naturally tend to division. You may know them by their fruits”. (emphasis added) (p. 48, Pilgrim’s Progress, “The Life of John Bunyan”, undated copy from Hurst & Co. Publishers, New York)

      Let us use this article as a launchpad and reminder to seek God’s answers!

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    • I will add one more thing. The answer is not to become like the world to win the world (although do take “to the Jews I became as a Jew” into account); the answer is to become like Jesus in order to win the world.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are correct Joel, because if we compromise with the world and it is NOT in obedience to Gods Commands, we do Not Love God First and Most! as Jesus and as required at…

        Matthew 22: 35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 36Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment…

        God calls the lost… (not us humans) and we should seek out those HE HAS CALLED…
        John 6:44 44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

        We should NOT compromise with the world or the worldly…
        Romans 12:2 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

        Striving for perfection…Fear of the Lord etc.
        2nd Peter 1:10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:

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    • Hardly any of those curious about the Amish are willing to actually do what they do, they want the benefits without paying the price…and it is even more difficult to purely follow Jesus than being Mennonite! On the other hand growing up Mennonite or Amish is a gift, it is akin to having grade 8 without ever leaving home…however the truth is satans people all seem to have phd’s so that is why evangelizing in the modern world is very difficult for Mennonites and Amish. Gods Purpose will not change but people have to accept His WORD by freewill before they will receive HIS Blessings, as compared to satan who offers “the whole world” just for bowing once to him! It is truly a spiritual war!

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  4. As someone who wrestled himself, yes wrestled myself into Mennonite culture, I agree with much of this article. It’s important for us to be thinking of these things. Even more important, is to ask those people in our churches, who don’t dress like us, wear coverings, sing like us, etc. If they feel welcomed into the house of God.
    You can do everything in your own power to make them feel good, but them still feel so far apart from the rest of the “mature” or “more Godlier” Mennonite people. God forbid i get that from my home congregation in York, Pa. No they are likeminded Mennonite Christians who are purposed to bring people to christ. See we have it easy here, everyone in our church(mostly) has the same mind (Bring people from the city of York to Jesus) The Spirit shows us by case and by circumstance how much to allow and how much not to when it comes to new people.
    I experiece this separation, even after being a member for 7 years, when i go to visit or preach at other churches, who have bonded together to simply worship, but not to bring others to Jesus. Those churches, no matter what they change, no matter how tolerant they are, will never be an open door to Jesus until they purpose together to be so. And in reality, a lot of those churches are full of or at least trickled with members who would prefer not to have outsiders come in. God help us all. He surely is worthy of a church that is fulfilling its true purpose. We need to get our act together!

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    • Hi Keeshon,

      Thank you for commenting. You mention churches who “have bonded together to simply worship, but not to bring others to Jesus….churches…with members who would prefer not to have outsiders come in”. This is a good description of many Anabaptist churches that I have encountered as well.

      You are right, no matter how much these churches change outwardly, or how tolerant they become, it will do them no good if this mindset doesn’t change. On the other hand, those churches that do desire to reach the lost, must be able to assimilate converts into their church culture. If our Anabaptist culture in general cannot do this, we need to figure out which of our enforced rules are biblical commands, and which ones are just traditions. Traditions should not be enforced by refusing the communion cup and/or excommunication for those who do not follow them.

      It sounds like you are a part of a church that desires to see God’s church grow. “The Spirit shows us by case and by circumstance how much to allow and how much not to when it comes to new people.” Praise God for churches following the leading of the Holy Spirit!

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  5. I have been challenged and inspired by your blog. Our son and I had this very discussion after coming home from church where unity was the topic. We need to hear from God. What does GOD have for me?
    Thank you for sharing!!

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  6. In response to Steve, I think this fleshing-out of God’s kingdom is happening more than we think. It is happening in quiet, small ways, a little leaven that is barely discernible on a large scale, but has tremendous potential for growth.

    Our family lives in a town with no others of the same heritage. We lead a small group, help with Bible studies, and have many spiritual conversations with people. Nobody else looks like we do, but they still come to us because we have no agenda except to bring God’s presence to our town and to give people access to Jesus.

    I know there are others doing similar things. Some friends of ours host a weekly meal, during which they pray, read scriptures, and take communion. They have atheists and people of other religions attending regularly.

    Other friends have a community garden, which gives them opportunities to connect with people, to bless them and be blessed.

    Is this not the church at work? If we can let go of our cultural preferences and follow God’s leading, I believe we will see much more of this. People are so hungry for Jesus.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I believe that the “whole” world is looking for something-TRUTH in these spiritually quickened last days , especially those who desire to know and serve God. Our purpose should be to find the lost sheep that GOD IS CALLING by His Holy Spirit AND to feed the saved sheep that have made the right decision and to not flirt too much with the “goats” in their pen!

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    • Thanks for commenting. Your family is making an impact on the community and being salt and light. These are the things that I hope to see happening more in our communities. “If we can let go of our cultural preferences and follow God’s leading, I believe we will see much more of this.” I agree!

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  7. Thank you for your article. I am glad this subject is being discussed. I have wrestled long with this issue, and have come to the conclusion that there is no perfect church. The bottom line is, opening your doors to the community can get messy. Rubbing shoulders with the world gets you dirty sometimes, rumples your clothes. But Jesus was not afraid of this.
    I attend a community church with Mennonite roots which is fast losing its “Mennonitism”. It kind of makes me sad, but I have chosen to stay because I would rather be a part of a church that has messed up while doing the right thing, than a “perfect” church that is not fulfilling it’s calling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A lot of good thoughts here. “The bottom line is, opening your doors to the community can get messy. Rubbing shoulders with the world gets you dirty sometimes, rumples your clothes. But Jesus was not afraid of this.”

      Amen. Working with any sinners, in the church or outside the church, can be painful and messy. But it’s following in Jesus’ steps.

      Thanks for commenting.

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  8. Another one that hits a nerve. Where we fellowship the people are great and would do anything for you. They try really hard to evangelize but in general their numbers only increase because of reproduction or poaching from other conservative Anabaptist churches or from families that have left the large Amish community that surrounds us. Every year they have a big Vacation Bible School but I think the local families who send their kids are scared off by the way they dress because no matter what they do new families who don’t already dress like them never fellowship there.

    In general we are the only people to not dress like everyone else on Sunday morning. My wife dresses modestly and covers her head but in a different way than the rest of the church and we stand out because of this. We have already run into the issue of being denied the Lord’s Supper and we recognize that until we conform exactly to the expectations as far as dress and other issues we will always be little more than visitors no matter how long we attend.

    The question really becomes, how does a local church maintain the standards they hold dear while still being open to others who are not at the same place in their Christian walk, and even perhaps re-examining those dearly held standards to make sure they come from Scripture rather than just tradition?

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    • Hi Arthur,

      Thanks for weighing in. I think families like yours are what will make a difference when you speak out. We need to hear your voice. Hearing friends from non-Anabaptist background sharing their heart and being open is what made me rethink a lot of my previously held dogmas.

      There is no doubt in my mind that we need to make some changes. What all that may entail yet-I don’t really know. But I do know that God is moving and I believe He will continue to bring conviction to our people and will bring forth shepherds who will begin to promote change. May the Spirit breathe life into our dry bones..

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  9. Simon,
    Thanks so much for sharing this! You have voiced many of the things I’ve been thinking for years but you’ve stated it much more eloquently then I’ve been able to.

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  10. Many of churches have followed your model in the past. I have personally watched as they lose their way and die a slow death…

    And I wonder how you, Simon are evangelizing? Or are you to busy blogging that you don’t have time to evangelize?

    In my experience in evangelism the very things you think we should drop are what open the doors to sharing of Christ and his Kingdom. They are what attract people to Christ and give them a desire to a part of his kingdom.

    Lastly, i would say it is quite easy to find fault as you do on this post, but another story to live with a mission all focus. Anyone can tear down a building but it takes one with insight and vision to build something. I would encourage you to build and not just find fault.

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    • Hi Chris,

      I’m wondering how extra-biblical rules about dress uniformity bring “outsiders” to salvation? And if this is true, where are all these converts? Our Anabaptist churches should be full and overflowing if this is what “attracts people to Christ and gives them the desire to be part of his kingdom”.

      I love many things about my culture and heritage. I have no desire to walk away from it or destroy it. But there are things within our culture that are not lined up with Scripture that need to change. If I felt there was no hope for our people, I would walk away. I write because I see a hope for change and I believe God is working among our people.

      I know you love the Anabaptist church as well. You are one who will defend and lay down your life for those whom you love. Keep on because God has made you a defender. But make sure that in your loyalty, you do not excuse away sin in those you love. We Anabaptists are not a perfect people and God does require change when He brings conviction. If you search the Scriptures and find passages that say that God does want His people to all dress in uniformity in order to be considered worthy of baptism, membership, and communion, then please let me know.

      And yes, evangelizing is dear to my heart. My mission is to the Muslim community, teaching Bible studies, and involving and training my children to also be mission-minded. But you are right, blogging can be time consuming. Pray for those who write what God has laid on their hearts. We need to stay balanced between doing what we feel God is calling us to do and yet still keep our family responsibilities foremost in priority. Thank you for your concern.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ello Mr. S. and Mr. F;
        I can “feel” where both of you are coming from…my own personal experience was coming out of the old order group (never baptized) as a actual middle age atheist and then after many years becoming a Christian in 1998 and being baptized in a newer Mennonite Branch Church…my congregation had over 1000 adherents with 300 members on an average Sunday…I knew the members well and thought I found an excellent church (at least till I walked into it) In this new democracy I found myself in, I could not help but notice which direction things were going in…long story short, I noticed how the older and wiser seasoned Christians were disappearing and indeed in some cases being outright dismissed etc. and in just 3-4 years this congregation turned inside out…worst than the building getting torn down! it was being taken over by the new hordes of adherents. I was horrified when one of the first member votes tabled was “all the benefits if we just took the name Mennonite out of our “official name” and replaced it with something more “inviting” to the community at large. This was just the beginning of this congregation being turned inside out. I mean this literally in that, the senior preachers had to go, the deacons had to go and never be replaced, solid lengthy Bible based sermons were changed to the most entertaining motivational type speaking from the front using electronic media extravaganza to the fullest. The beautiful old hymn,s all of the widely diverse Mennonite background type older core members knew so well was replaced with loud rock and roll and even worst bands singing strange christian lyrics. I left this group in 2001 and last time I checked I was shocked to find the MENNONITE name was actually still on the building but it was like a “party” of professing christians going on inside, Absolutely NOTHING was Mennonite and I had to really strain to even find anything true “Christian” about it. Nobody seemed to know anybody personally. No matter which way you look at the “fruits” of the tree were a lukewarm, convoluted “everything is ok- do not worry about it” mess and this devastated me and especially my friends who were many of the charter members from the 70’s. Brothers where you are both good and right I support you and where you are both possibly wrong I would err on the side of caution from each perspective. As one very concerned sister alluded to previously; as Mennonites and Amish, we can and should always seek to become better Christians, we CAN DO BOTH But NOT if we abandon everything Mennonites and Amish do which IS Biblical ! In these end times satan is trying to use “divide and conquer” war tactics everywhere where Christians are. The largest Mennonite conferences in the world are going thru huge schisms right now caused by THE DEVIL! To make matters even worst one side has now actually welcomed the works of satan into their midst and even into leadership. (all in the name of the second command as an excuse) Millions are being led astray in this politically correct society that surrounds us. Few are actually being saved! (and staying saved) So please be cautious both of you! One can always be compromised by the devil but nobody can compromise with God!

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  11. Simon, I notice you do not reply to all comments. Dont feel obligated to reply here either if I don’t !take sense. let me share from my perspective.
    I am part of a small group that has as much as 15% nonmennonite background on attendance. 1\2 of which are members that have been baptized in our church and have no issues whatsoever with our requirements. In fact they tend to be !ore appreciative of culture than those with Mennonite blood.
    As to the thoughts not you have shared, history will tell you these ideals have been tried before and the outcomes are all the same. The world won. Solomon said there is no new thing under the sun.
    . We will be servants of someone and will follow someone. If I choose to allow these ideas to become a part of my thinking, I have just become a follower of Simon or someone else who has the gift of speech and writing.
    These philosophies usually only allow one to choose between two unhealthy ones. Let’s add a third option. For example, I was told it is better not to wear a veil and be submissive to their husband than to wear a veil and not submit. Brethren, we all know there is another option what is it? Wear a veil and be submissive.
    Brethren, let’s us go on to perfection not paying again the foundation stones but let us maintain biblical nonconformity , be of the same mind , be not confirmed to this world in practice in thought and action, all three and you can have a heart for God, be evangelistic and maintain the faith that was once delivered to the saints.

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    • Hello Andrew,

      Thanks for weighing in. I believe in teaching what is in the Bible and not detracting from or adding to it. So when I write, that is my thought process. When I suggest that we should not refuse communion to someone who does not dress exactly like we do, that is because it is not scriptural to make that requirement. I don’t believe it is about trying an “ideal” and whether or not it works. If it’s in the Bible, do it. If it’s not, don’t punish people for not doing it.

      I am not hoping for “followers of Simon”–or anyone else for that matter–my desire is to point to the Word and that our people make sure they are following the teachings and writing of God. Many of the extra-biblical practices that we have come from following the teachings of a man (Jacob Ammon) rather than God.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and for being gracious while disagreeing. I appreciate it.

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  12. Thank you Lord for calling your people to revival whatever culture they may be in. Thank you Simon for allowing the Lord to use you in specifically pointing out some of the most glaring short comings and sin that has crept into Anabaptist groups. Disobedience to God’s Word in some of the areas you mentioned is regularly defended in the name of church purity. The ensuing blindness and powerlessness experienced by many Anabaptists should be totally predictable.

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    • Hi Daniel,

      Thanks for taking time to read and be an encouragement.

      It seems when we defend our sins in the name of church purity, we become impure. When we focus on the outward so much that we overlook the deadness that is inside, we become exactly as you described–“blind and powerless”. Good word.

      Thanks for commenting.

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  13. An old Christianity Today article said, in effect, that every revival is doomed to failure in a few generations. When a people group emphasize thriftiness, hard work, and good morals, (all other factors being ignored, barring continued discipleship, caveats, etc) they will succumb to materialism and lose their effectiveness. Does this negate the value of thriftiness, hard work, and good morals? No, this negates the value of multigenerational autopilot.

    For conservative Anabaptists: if our church standards disappeared and we had to redefine our culture based on the values of the Bible, what would it look like? If a group of Christians redefine their native culture based on the values of the Bible, what would it look like? Perhaps our foreign missions can “beta test” this for us (*cheerful sarcasm*). However, there is value in the Anabaptist culture being used as a reference in creating this new Christian culture. With the decline of the Western culture and colonial snobbery/white supremacy (which may have influenced us) we have the opportunity to respect and learn from other non-European cultures.

    Remember, a group of people that agrees on a standard of ‘normal’ will create a culture. The second-to-last paragraph described some (hopefully Biblical) values that are commonplace in our culture.

    What solution(s) do we have to this problem? Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is hardly advisable. I appreciate and respect churches like York that corporately emphasize evangelism. I want to bless them in it, and acknowledge that may be one solution to this problem. However, a warning for the rest of us that don’t have it figured out: How will our current decisions impact the longevity and vitality of the Church as we know it?
    Blessings.

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    • Hi Kenneth,

      Thanks for bringing some good questions and thoughts to the discussion.

      “Multigenerational autopilot”…I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before. 🙂 But I think you’ve hit on a key motivating factor within our culture. We want to be able to keep the generations after us where they need to be. That desire to have our children and grandchildren following God and keeping our ideals and values is a good thing. But it doesn’t take very many generations to turn our ideals into something completely different than we intended.

      That is why the Bible must be our foundation. Any enforced rules added as a “multigenerational autopilot” (I’m going to be chewing that one!) have a tendency to turn into legalism or an adverse reaction at some point within a few generations.

      You speak of “beta testing” within a church group to see what would happen were culture only defined by Biblical values. I realize you were probably speaking half in jest, but I have been watching a few Anabaptist churches that seem to be attempting to do exactly that. Some of these churches are churches that were once very liberal minded and are now following Biblical teaching without extra rules being enforced. It’s been interesting to see the impact they are having on the community around them.

      I think many of our Anabaptist cultural values are Biblical values. However, the uniformity of outward appearance and the rejection of those who do not look like us is what I don’t believe is part of the Kingdom culture.

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      • Thanks for the response. Yes, the “beta test” line was in jest, because foreign missions actively engage the culture and work to bring people into the Church (while the home church focuses on maintenance and money). This duplicity is patently wrong. Also, we can’t afford to experiment on/with the destiny of eternal souls.

        Some offline discussion about this post reminded me of something Val Yoder shared in 2013 about the beauty of holiness. I think that he verbalizes some of the answer to the cooperation of culture and evangelism. I might add that if evangelism is not a verbalized, lived-out priority in a church, no change in the culture or standards will fix that.
        Blessings.

        http://www.fbep.org/sites/default/files/Separation-and-Nonconformity-Colloquy-Essays_0.pdf (PDF, Val’s essay is pages 29-37)
        http://christianlearning.org/nonconformity-in-cross-cultural-context-colloquy-2013-mp3.html (commercially available MP3 of the talk)

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      • Thanks for sharing that link. I read Val’s essay and thought he had many good thoughts. I will have to read the remainder of essays at a later time.

        Some quotes that stood out to me as I read it:

        “We must move from a fixation to be different, to a passion to be transformed.” (pg. 30)

        “The beauty of holiness does not primarily come from contrasting the world, but from imitating Christ.” (pg. 32, emphasis mine)

        When our only goal is to look different from the world, it is pointless. This is what I’m coming against.

        Some of our uniformity is a result of laziness in discipleship. Rather than teaching modesty and the heart behind it, we teach that everyone must wear a uniform dress that is modest (because it’s easier) and we end up missing the heart teaching altogether. Part of the beauty of holiness is dressing modestly. But is it possible to be holy without that specific uniform while still dressing modestly? According to some of our church rules, the answer is “no”.

        This is where we have failed. We refuse to recognize that others may be following holiness and dressing modestly simply because they don’t wear our exact “uniform”. Why do we reject those that God has not?

        Val also says, “We should not attempt to impose our applications upon every culture we seek to evangelize, we should teach and demonstrate a suitable application, which in turn invites and compels the host culture to determine and utilize their own Biblical application.” (pg. 36)

        I think this is applaudable! But why can we then not apply this same concept when we evangelize in our home country?

        For those churches that have no interest in evangelizing, let them make as many rules as they want, they are not imitating Christ or following holiness anyway. They are attempting to live lives of nonconformity by hanging onto the coat sleeves of the faith of their fathers rather than “being transformed by the renewing of their minds”. When we live lives of nonconformity in outward appearance only without holiness, our lives are not any different than that of the world. We just seek to hide it more. Anabaptists have some of the most heart-rending stories of sexual abuse and sin that is hidden and covered up by even those in the ministry. Our “separation from the world” does us no good without seeking holiness.

        But for those churches who are seeking to evangelize, why can we not apply the above mentioned concept?

        Thoughts?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hello Kenneth and Simon:
        I read both your last responses and I believe we should evangelize in the world without becoming “a part” of it or becoming “Unequally yoked” with it (and certainly NOT letting any of “it” get control of us. Satan is the great deceiver. I firmly believe both evangelism and NOT becoming worldly can and should be done. WE CAN DO BOTH SUCCESSFULLY as long as we do not compromise Gods WORD. (notice I did NOT say Gods Purpose or even His Will) Going too far in one way or the other will NOT truly work.The Bible is a an amazing two edged sword to benefit all humans. We should certainly NOT stray away from Jesus examples in the ministry because we are in fact; in subordination to Him , and inferior in skills and abilities and Spiritual strength as compared to Jesus Christ. Keep up the good works and the work of the good!
        Best Regards;
        delmer

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      • Simon, thanks for the reply and apologies for the late response. I think we’ve covered the culture/evangelism dichotomy from all sides. I think that we agree that the “beauty of holiness” concept that Val Yoder mentioned is paramount.

        You wrote: “Why can we then not apply this same concept [of applying principles in the host culture] when we evangelize in our home country?” I confess that I have not studied the evangelistic efforts in our culture to see how they attempt to apply principles. However, I suspect that a church will find a way to meet its (stated or unstated) goals. If its goal is reaching the lost, it will reach the lost. If its primary concern is maintenance, it will do its best to maintain. I don’t think these are necessarily mutually exclusive goals. To back that up, I cite the uptick in children’s ministries in the conservative Anabaptist spectrum.

        Delmer, thanks for the response. I agree; truth cannot be compromised for any reason, including evangelism. However, I think that we can allow for personal growth in those we are discipling/mentoring. That’s easy to write but harder to live. I know that I have difficulty giving myself or others the grace to grow.

        Blessings to all.

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      • You bring up an “uptick in children’s ministries” among Anabaptists. I think this is a great ministry, but this is partially where I have seen some of our problems arise. Young non-Anabaptist teens get saved and wish to get baptized. In my experience, our churches refuse to baptize because they are not wearing the right “uniform”, or combing their hair to the correct standard, etc. Our applications might suit us well, surrounded by our family of multi-generational Anabaptists, but it may not fit their culture at all. How can they explain why they must wear completely different clothes to their families and friends without being able to use any Scripture as a reference? Often their families accuse them of trying to join a cult. But yet we insist that they must dress exactly as we do or we won’t baptize them.

        My preference would be to teach Biblical principles, then follow Val’s idea of teaching and demonstrating a suitable application but allow them to “determine and utilize their own Biblical application” within their culture. Why not teach modesty without insisting that only one specific dress style can be the only true application of this? Another example of this would be the headcovering. We have our own application of that Biblical directive, but why reject other applications when new converts attempt to follow in their own way? Often their own application covers better than ours and still we insist that only our way is acceptable.

        Arthur Sido wrote a response to this article with some good thoughts from an “outside” perspective. http://thesidos.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-bible-as-unified-whole-rather-than.html

        Another reader directed me to an article from Dwight Gingrich addressing some of these things as well. http://dwightgingrich.com/is-radical-lifestyle-hurdle-for-seekers/

        For those readers that are still following the comments on this post, you will find these articles to be of interest. Dwight’s article has a lot of comments on it that you may find interesting as well.

        Liked by 1 person

      • If you are an evangelist looking to covert those of the world into Christianity and baptize them outside of an established conference or congregation, than that is one thing. If God has led these precious souls and their hearts to be converted then their pilgrimage and soul searching continues on a fairly vulnerable basis, if they are baptized as an individual rather than also as a new congregation member somewhere in a Christian congregation…ON THE OTHER HAND If you have a healthy unified Christian congregation I would urge you to be very cautious with the flock you have been entrusted with. If someone truly wants to have Holy Communion with your group In Christ, they will show the fruits of the Spirit in confirmation both on the outside and from the heart and soul. The Bible tells us to “test the spirits” and I believe it is for everyone’s benefit. I am deeply concerned when I see what is going on in the world and especially when I see all sorts of prophesy unfolding; unnatural affections (un-Godly) and so many things that are simply anti-Christ and anti-Bible and for just one simple example, nowadays we are seeing men with long hair AND wearing “coverings” claiming to Love God while at the same time they not only want us to open our doors, once they get a foothold they will not just be completely non-compliant they will actually insist that you change YOUR ways. This would meant that your congregation would not only become non-mennonite , it would also be Non-Christian (anti-Christ) as well. Personally speaking, I well remember the period back in 1970’s something when I thought my parents family and by extension the congregation and by extension the whole conference were just way “too strict” in the way they dressed, and sure; it have been nice at the time if they had all adapted to my way of thinking and interpretation of the Bible. As it turned out I did NOT become baptized or participate in Holy Communion till some 18 years later. I now recognize having the wisdom of hindsight; what was Gods will all along, for my family and also for me. They were RIGHT and I was WRONG at the time. By 1988 we all at peace with one another but it was quite an intense pilgrimage for all of us. We still are not able to have communion “together at the same table” but we know THE TRUTH and we now know that we serve the same God and are part of the Church of Jesus Christ. If one has received a Christian baptism and is seeking to have Holy Communion it is important to find a congregation who will accept you the way you are or you will have to make changes to be truly united, (anyone who expects the congregation to change for them is not wise or very Christian) and please accept my free advice that it is NOT usually wise to rush into a congregation that will “just accept you the way you are” The Holy Spirit will direct you if you are willing (God will never let you down) My pilgrimage continues…My favorite verse from the Bible is John 8:32 “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” The absolute beauty of this is, that this Scripture applies to BOTH the convert AND the preacher and the teacher!

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      • Delmar,

        I’m sure not all Anabaptist churches are the same, but in my experience, baptism is refused unless the convert is willing to become of member of that particular church. I’m not sure if you read my posts on baptism or not, but that is one thing I see as a problem. The earliest Anabaptists did not refuse baptism because of dress and neither did the disciples.

        There are definitely some things to refuse membership/communion for. If there is sin that needs to be dealt with, definitely do that. But what I’m referring to is such instances when a woman is refused baptism because of things like maybe wearing a head scarf rather than a traditional cap, or a man because he has-or doesn’t have- facial hair. All extra-biblical things such as these should not be what makes us decide whether someone is a believer.

        You mention fruit of the Spirit, I would agree also with that. But some of our people think the fruit of the Spirit means a certain way of dressing. 🙂

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  14. Several commenters here made it sound like it’s no good pointing out what is wrong if we don’t have a replacement plan. But I think we don’t always know what the replacement looks like–that often we need to step out in faith and God makes our path clear bit by bit.

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    • Indeed. If there is a problem, there is a problem. PERIOD. No one will look for a solution if they don’t first realize that they have a problem.

      Obviously, we must eventually find a solution, or we end up as just a bunch of gripers. But, for example, as Simon keeps pointing out, if it is unbiblical to refuse communion to someone just because they don’t follow our church rules, then we need to stop refusing communion. How hard is that?

      If dropping cape dresses and plain suits results in a church becoming just like the world (and I don’t mean that they just look like the world, but act and think like the world as well), then the church wasn’t following Jesus to begin with. Actually, their thinking was probably already more or less aligned with the world, even when they wore the plain clothing. There are way too many people who are not “conformed to this world” (at least in their looks) but have failed to “be transformed by the renewing of their minds”.

      Please, brothers and sisters, remember this: if we follow Jesus, He will guide us in the right way. If there is a problem, we need to find out what He wants us to do, instead of being paralyzed by a fear of change. As long as change is directed by Jesus, it will not lead to the death of the church. On the contrary, it will result in greater life!

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  15. Simon i think you are right in your thoughts in some way, but why not rather leave the different emphasis on applying the scripture to different DENOMINATIONS?
    True, some People will not feel comfortable in a certain setting, BUT maybe someone else finds just at your conservative Mennonite church a place to come to rest and worship comfortably.
    I strongly believe there is NO need to create a ‘neutral’ type of church that fits for most anybody. You’ll never get this any way. Rather with boldness and confidence step out there AS WHO YOU ARE, tell the gospel of our Lord Jesus trusting in his Holy Spirit to guide a new convert as He (hopefully) guided each one of us long time believers.
    By the way,our son just moved to a Pentecostal church. We are a bit sad, of course, on the other hand the only thing that will count in the end is if he lived his live for Christ. Some are more ‘free spirited’ and will feel happier with drums and worship parties, others will just want to keep going with a cappella singing and cape dresses.
    But you are right! Rules and regulations may never become the pillar on wich we stand. It must always be the Gospel and the redeeming love of Christ.

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    • Hi Ruth,
      I agree with your statement that “there is no need to create a ‘neutral’ type of church that fits for most anybody”. And that is not the change I speak of. But when one Anabaptist church refuses to baptize men who don’t wear a beard, and across town is another Anabaptist church who refuses to baptize men because they do have a beard, how is that holiness or Christ-like? Or when Communion is refused because a woman is wearing a dress made out of the wrong material or the wrong pattern (even though it be modest), how can we claim this to be Biblical? Baptism and Communion were never meant to be a used as a tool to force our extra-Biblical applications on converts.

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    • Jesus prayed: “Not for these only do I pray, but for those also who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that you sent me. The glory which you have given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and you in me, that they may be perfected into one; that the world may know that you sent me, and loved them, even as you loved me.” (John 17:20-23)

      Jesus does not teach us different doctrines or give different commands based on our denomination. He does not tell the Mennonite ladies to put their hair in a bun with a Mennonite cap on top, while telling the Holiness Pentecostals to forget the cap, and the Baptist ladies that they can cut their hair as short as a man’s.

      Nor does Jesus allow each denomination to decide which of His commands they will keep and which ones they will ignore. All denominations are to keep ALL of His commands, and not add any of their own. (“Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.” Titus 1:14)

      Ultimately, the goal of every church should be to follow Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. Will there be some differences and variations in belief and practice? Sure. But that doesn’t negate these words of God:

      “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you also were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in us all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)

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  16. Simon, You do have a point in the extremes you brought attention to. However unity in the church will only come at the cost of someones idea. No two persons will ever agree totally on every issue. Submission as the Bible teaches does not only mean to obey Biblical thus saith the Lords, but Gods word demands that we submit to one another and you cannot submit to something you agree with for then it is no longer submission but following your own preference. If Church life cost you nothing it is worth nothing. I believe every believer must submit at least one idea or two to maintain the closeness needed and proof of humility for exhortation and rebuke to be effective.

    Rules are not what will give a congregation holiness. I believe specific restrictions can only assist one to live a holy life if they choose to allow them to. Resistance and chaffing of these brotherhood agreements by parents, almost always will create in their own children a resistance to their authority.

    To me a church regulated standard of practice can also be like driving a stake, to give us an idea if our practice is becoming more world like or more Christ like. Without something to compare everyday applications to it is difficult to know our own direction. Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

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    • Hello Titus,

      Thanks for joining in the discussion. I understand where you are coming from, but ask that you would consider some of these thoughts as well.

      I have no problem with churches making standards, my disagreement lies in churches holding those standards higher than the Word of God. When believers are refused communion or baptism because of extra-Biblical standards, we are saying in essence, “You are not truly saved unless you do….”

      It reminds me a bit of Act 15 when men of Judea said to newly converted Gentiles, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”ESV (vs.1)

      What do we say to the newly converted? “Unless you wear a cape dress you cannot be saved.. Unless you grow a beard (or shave it off), you cannot be saved. Unless you part your hair in the middle, you cannot be saved….”

      That doesn’t sound like anything any good Anabaptist would say, and most of us would vehemently deny that we believe that. But that is precisely what we say when we refuse baptism or the communion cup to those who don’t follow the extra-Biblical standards we have.

      The apostles disagreed with the men from Judea. And somehow I get the feeling they would disagree with us too. Peter’s words in verses 8-11, “And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as He did to us, and He made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

      You say “if church life costs you nothing it is worth nothing”. I could agree with that statement if it said “if serving Christ costs you nothing, it is worth nothing.” It is only in serving Christ that anything we do is worth anything. Even submission to church authority is worth nothing if not done for Christ.

      “You cannot submit to something you agree with, for then it is no longer submission but following your own preference.” That is true. I would add that the opposite is true also. Forcing someone to submit is not submission either. Requiring others to do exactly as I do or I can’t believe they are saved is not what the Bible teaches either.

      Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
      What if God were trying to reveal something in the Anabaptist practices that we are deceived about. How will we know it? Shouldn’t His Word be what we align with?

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  17. Agree totally with that. When we attended a Mennonite group we where not allowed for communion,because we where not members.(Uniformity was required there too) That is not biblical i believe.
    The communion is, as Jesus pointed out himself,
    to be taken in rememberance of HIM. Even Judas Iskariot attended the last supper!
    This certain teaching of most conservative Mennonite circles certainly is to be corrected.
    A strong emphasis on modesty or acapella singing etc, tough is in my oppinion something worth to keep.
    There are people out there who very much appreciate this. I hope for your churches that you can be driven by the love of Christ more and more if there has krept in a lukewarmness.
    I personally would be very delighted to have the opportunity of going to a anababtist church here in Switzerland 🙂 Blessings

    Liked by 1 person

  18. It is time to Fish! Time to stop the fighting. It is time to cast our nets, instead of stones at every other church on the block. It is time , High Time, to get off face book, and get our face in the Book! And when we fish, were in the boat, we don’t get down in the waters of this world to catch fish.
    Just a few thoughts … I really enjoyed the post, Simon..

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  19. One thing I’d like to say. I’m glad I can have communion and remember the Lord’s sacrifice for us. See I got baptized into an Anabaptist church when I was 14. I left when I was 21. In that period of time, I was allowed communion twice. I dressed just as modestly as everybody else but I was still ostracized. I think because I asked too many questions or something. I ended up leaving the faith all together. When I did come to know the Lord, my first Sunday in my church now, I was offered communion. I nearly wept in wonder. I could hardly believe that after all these years, I was being invited to share in the Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection. I have communion at my church every Sunday now. I don’t think I’ll ever take it for granted. I’m so grateful that Jesus loves me and accepts me, even welcomes me to his table even though I didn’t make the Mennonite cut.

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  20. >>Anabaptists have been accused of not being evangelistic enough. Our numbers seemingly increase >>more by reproduction than by adding converts from the outside world to our numbers.

    Deceased Mennonite theologian, John H Yoder, wrote something so provocative that it effortlessly lodged itself in my mind many years ago. I’ll have to paraphrase it for you, as best I can remember it:

    If in your church there are not people from various origins, backgrounds and ethnicities who have been united by the Spirit, then your church is not the new humanity in Jesus Christ and in your church the Gospel is not true.

    There it is. A thunderbolt through the Mennonite sky; a thunderbolt sufficient to startle every honest Anabaptist into sincerest reflection upon this sober question…what in the world am I investing myself in?

    Like

  21. >>Is it possible to evangelize without losing that closeness
    >>and even our culture (the customs of a particular nation, people, or group)
    >>that we guard so zealously? And if it is not possible, which is of greater importance
    >> –culture and close brotherhood, or reaching the lost?

    Simon, I don’t think it advances a new radical Reformation (i love the name of your blog, btw!) to pit “culture and close brotherhood” over against “reaching the lost.” I understand your concern and I share it, but let us be careful not to set up a false choice. We must pursue all that Christ and the NT call us to pursue, and that would include BOTH close brotherhood AND reaching the lost. Both are equally important to authentic NT discipleship and ecclesiology. A loose band of evangelizing zealots is no more of a genuine NT church than a clan of blood relatives and ethnic kin. You already know that. I’m just reminding you that neither close brotherhood nor aggressive evangelization can be sacrificed in the interests of the other. No. The original radical Reformation had both. Therefore, we must pursue both in order to find our place as their unworthy heirs.

    A close brotherhood with no converts? No church there. An army of witnesses with no genuine community and koinonia? No church there either. Radicals pursue the impossible…a nonconforming brotherhood of deepest sharing which lays itself out in Gospel love and witnessing fervor for a world that despises its very existence.

    Neither conformity nor complacency!

    Like

    • Hello Kevin,

      You are correct. It’s not about pitting “culture and close brotherhood” against evangelizing in the sense that you are speaking of. The point I was making is that our excuse for not allowing “outsiders” is in fact our cultural “close brotherhood”.

      Our custom of not allowing others in our midst that look differently or have a different background to have full membership stems from a fear of losing this familiar cultural closeness that we have among us. The brotherhood that is in Christ crosses all cultural lines, backgrounds, and ethnicities, and that is not what I’m referring to. Your term “clan of blood relatives and ethnic kin” may be closer to being a more accurate term (although not completely accurate either) for what I’m referring to.

      Your last paragraph resonates within my spirit. Thanks for commenting.

      Like

  22. >>The point I was making is that our excuse for not allowing “outsiders”
    >>is in fact our cultural “close brotherhood”.

    Perceptive. Honest. Humble. You are a rare bird, Simon. I’ll be back tomorrow, Lord willing.

    I don’t think I’ve ever met a Mennonite without something of a defensive spirit. Your frankness actually blows my mind.

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  23. How many children in our Anabaptist churches are born Christians? The Angels in heaven rejoice over any one sinner that repents. The need to evangelize is commanded. And is a natural result of a true born again believer. However the scripture would also speak of training our children to promote the faith which began with our ancestors. There have been Christian parents in their zeal to win the lost have lost their own children to the world. We cannot consider one soul more important than another but out own children are our first priority. Jerusalem (home) then Samaria and the uttermost part of the earth.
    All have sinned and come short of the glory of God

    Concerned Anabaptist

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    • Sometimes it is in our evangelizing, that our children realize what true Christianity is. What do we teach our children about our beliefs when we don’t evangelize at all?

      Those who push their children aside to evangelize will likely lose their children, but those who put family/children on a pedestal and don’t evangelize at all will face just as great of a chance of “losing their children” because they are not being shown a true picture of what the church is to look like.

      There must be both. Disciple your children, but let them join you in evangelizing also.

      Like

    • Yes in fact we can use hindsight /history going all the way back to the early 1800’s and we can see by actual family and church history books and by observing which church cemetery where the offspring were buried… In all the schisms what occurred is that the more strict (old fashioned/Plain/ non-conformist’s children usually stayed in their parents group along with the grandchildren etc. where the more liberal/ more worldly more modern advocates in the schisms usually lost their children and grandchildren to other even more worldly groups. Matthew 18:6 and Mark 9:42 and Luke 17:2 all state that instant death would be BETTER than leading the children astray. Andrew, your concern for the children and the youth and the immature Christians is solidly grounded.

      Like

  24. >>What are the most important things to us about our culture?

    >>These are all things that we value and guard within our culture.

    >>So why do we hold our cultural standards higher than specific Biblical commands?

    I’m tired tonight and not thinking well. But all day I’ve been musing upon these sentences and want to make a brief comment upon them. It seems to me that you have identified the essence of the contemporary Anabaptist problem with laser-like precision and have unfolded it for us in the most succinct and clear terms. Our culture…our culture…our cultural standards, you write. And that is it. That is the problem. That is the elephant in the room.

    It’s an elephant because it’s not just a problem among other problems. It’s an elephant because it is a HUUUUUUUUUUGE problem. It is *THE* contemporary Anabaptist problem. This problem is soooooooooo large, so colossal, so extraordinarily mammoth that by comparison Mennonites, Amish and Hutterites have no other problems at all. Every other problem is relativized by the enormous, the immense, the HUUUUUUUUUUUGE problem of…(you know the answer…) OUR CULTURE.

    Now the culprit here is not culture. Culture itself is inescapable, right? Human beings produce culture reflexively. We cannot avoid culture-making even if we wanted to. But we don’t want to avoid it. Culture-making is a good thing. It is a gift from God.

    So what’s the HUUUUUUUUUUGE problem then? Culture is inescapable. All societies produce and develop culture. The Mennonites are no different in that regard. They have developed their own culture, their own particular ways and means of doing life together. So what’s the big deal then? What’s all this ruckus about??? Have I simply wasted your time about nothing?

    I’m going to leave it there for now. Simon will complete the picture for us.

    Neither conformity nor complacency!

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    • You are right. Culture itself is not the culprit. It is only when we hold our cultural traditions to be of greater importance than direct commands of God that it becomes a problem. It is in doing this that it becomes an idol.

      Culture is a good gift from God, but just like any good gift, we can allow it to become an idol if we love the gift more than the Giver.

      When church authority is used to enforce culture, we misuse church authority. And herein lies another problem..

      Like

  25. Also, we should consider and make sure the culture is not the final authority in our lives. Culture says we should wear the wedding band , not the bible! Many reading will not agree, but let me ask you a question. How do you know which hand to put it on? Which finger? We learn this from our neighbors, not from scripture. Culture has pressed many into its mold and is the final authority, not the Bible.

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    • Hi Jeremy,
      You are correct in saying that culture should not be the final authority in our lives. The Bible must always be our final authority. However, we are affected many ways by culture and culture itself is not wrong. It is only when culture contradicts scriptural commands that we need to abstain from it altogether. But if I do something that is the same as the culture around me, that in itself is not wrong. It is only those cultural things that are sin that we must turn away from. We can’t base Kingdom Culture off of the culture around us (ie. do the opposite of the world). We must be so into the Word that we know immediately what aspects of the culture around us contradicts the Word.

      Like

  26. I would like to conclude my thoughts from last night.

    To review briefly:

    1. Mennonite culture (what Simon has termed “our culture”) is the single largest problem facing contemporary Mennonites/Anabaptists. This problem is so HUUUUUUGE that, comparatively speaking, all other Mennonite problems are minuscule.

    but

    2. Culture-making is an inescapable human activity. It is impossible that a group of human beings should socialize, that is, form a society, without also forming culture. Creating culture is an aspect of what it means to be created in God’ image.

    So what’s the problem with Mennonite culture then??? Why is it so BAD? The problem is that Mennonites claim to be a church. And that claim completely changes the math, so to speak.

    A church is a body whose head is Christ. He forms assemblies of believers who are united together under His headship. That means the mind of Christ defines us. His Word tells us who we are.
    To live under the Lordship of Jesus is to submit to His definition. The faithful church renounces all pretense of autonomy or self-government. She aims to follow the Word of her Head.

    “And he is the head of the body, the church (Col 1:18).”

    “They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow (Col 2:19).”

    It is extremely important to take this in as a starting point. A genuine church has a living union with Christ such that His Word, and His Word alone, define that church. This is crucial. This is absolutely crucial.

    Now there are two ways that a church may renounce the Headship of Jesus Christ. One is the Evangelical problem and the other is the contemporary Anabaptist problem. Evangelicals renounce the Headship of Christ by deleting significant aspects of His Word. They will not submit to their Lord’s definition of female piety, for example, which requires women to pray with heads covered. God has spoken, but they will not be defined by His Word, even though He is their Head. HUUUUUUGE problem.

    But there is another way to renounce the Headship of Christ. A church may take it upon herself to EXPAND Christ’s definition of His body and add their own wisdom to His Word. This is the contemporary Anabaptist problem, of course. Mennonites practice the head covering, but they detail the practice far beyond their Head’s definition. In other words, they speak definitively where their Lord has not spoken at all. The Amish make definitive rules on the covering where their Head has made none. The Hutterites insist the covering must be this style or that color when Christ their Head has not defined the style or color. You get the point.

    In sum then, if the Head of the church has not spoken on a matter, then let us be silent. Let us allow the Head of the church to define the church. After all, He bought us with His own blood. Christ certainly has the right to tell us who we are, does He not? What shall we say then of a church that usurps the right of Christ and imposes a definition upon His people that He has not approved? We must conclude that such a church has lost connection with her Head.

    Neither conformity nor complacency!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. >>When church authority is used to enforce culture, we misuse church authority.

    Indeed. That is exactly right. You have a very fine way of stating the essence of a matter.

    Church authority is real. It is a gift from the Head of the church to His body. But that authority extends no further than the Word of God written. Church leaders have no right to mandate or enforce anything beyond the written Scripture. They must point us to the Word and the Word alone. That is where we hear the voice of our great Head, Jesus Christ. When church leaders go beyond the written Word, they become the functional head of the church. They displace Christ from His position as Head of the body. They substitute their voice for the voice of Christ. They assume His role as definer of His people. This is a HUUUUUUUUGE problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. >>When church authority is used to enforce culture,
    >>we misuse church authority.

    >>We can’t base Kingdom Culture off of the culture around us.

    There are 3 different forms of culture that have come to light in this discussion.

    1. the culture of the world
    2. “our culture”/Mennonite culture
    3. Kingdom culture

    Now the devout Mennonites among us will assert that “our culture” and Kingdom culture are pretty much the same thing. But is that true? Honestly, is that argument even plausible?

    Simon identifies the distinctives of “our culture:”

    >>What are the most important things to us about our culture? Is it our dress rules?
    >>Our work ethic? Our disciplined lifestyle? The way we help each other? Our a cappella singing?
    >>Our good cooking? Our non-emotional approach to worship? Our facial hair (or lack thereof)?
    >>Our large families?

    We have to ask the hard question, painful to many though it be. Are these the characteristics of Kingdom culture as defined by Christ and the apostles in the New Testament? Are these the cultural marks by which the NT people of God can be known and identified?

    If not, what is a devout Christian trapped in “our culture” to do? He must have Kingdom culture to thrive.

    Simon, how about a future article for us with this heading, “The Primary Marks of Kingdom Culture.”

    Like

  29. >>The early church was described in Acts as adding to their numbers daily.
    >>While I realize that some of the dynamics were different then, we should
    >>still have the same heart of spreading the Gospel and wanting to reach
    >>those that are lost.

    Amen. Amen. Amen.

    Whatever else we may identify as a primary marker of Kingdom culture/authentic Christianity, this zeal for spreading the Gospel MUST make that list. Evangelism is a PRIMARY identifying characteristic of NT Christianity. It is impossible to read the Book of Acts and deny this. If you want Kingdom culture, if that is your desire, then it is IMPERATIVE that your local church (primarily your minister) be actively engaged in the propagation of the Faith. There are other imperatives, to be sure. Evangelism isn’t the ONLY important trait of Kingdom culture. But evangelism is SO important, SO cardinal, so constitutive of Kingdom culture that you CAN’T have Kingdom culture without it.

    This is a HUUUUUUUGE problem for “our culture,” for Mennonite culture. And even if Mennonite culture DID develop the requisite zeal for propagating the Faith, there remains THIS highly significant problem which Simon honestly states…

    >>… we cannot assimilate people into our culture…

    “Our culture” not only fails to manifest much zeal for evangelism, it has the further deficiency and demerit of being unable to receive, assimilate and incorporate new believers. “Our culture” forces believers into a Mennonite mold that Christ Himself does not require. Just like the Judaizers of the first century insisted that new believers become Jewish in practice (that is, submit to the Old Testament Law), so contemporary Anabaptists insist that their new converts, if they have one or two, submit to the standards of “our culture.” This makes the reception and assimilation of new believers virtually impossible. It certainly precludes the kind of Gospel movement we read of in the Book of Acts.

    So what is the answer, you ask? Another Radical Reformation. That’s the only answer. How bad do you want it? How far are you willing to go to have it? How much does it mean to you to follow Jesus and serve His Kingdom? How desperate are you for authentic NT Christianity?

    Neither conformity nor complacency!

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    • Kevin,

      Pray for the Spirit to move and breathe life into our people and that we would become once again a people of life and fervor rather than dry bones. May we each do our part in speaking, preaching, writing, and spreading truth to those under our sphere of influence. And may we become whom He has called us to be.
      Blessings!

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  30. If the only commands we were to obey were Biblical quotes, I would be denied the privilege of applying the scripture ” obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves, for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief, for this is unprofitable for you.” We would also cease to exist as a people that had the ability to teach and to train with all authority (Titus 2:15) And no longer have the cohesion to send out preachers to the lost. (Romans 10:13-17)

    Do the civil authorities not have the right to make rules to follow or are they also wrong to expect us as Christians to obey them where they ask us to practice laws not found in scripture. Speed limits, gun control, etc.

    I have a multitude of counselors who have proven to me evangelizim and maintaining the faith once delivered to us by previous generations and passing on a passion for holiness and are also helping to provide a great cloud of witnesses for me. I feel blessed to be a part of the group I am a member.
    There are plain separated evangelistic non resistant Bible thumping Anabaptist out there if you look for them.

    I

    Like

    • Civil authorities are there to make and enforce rules of the land. Church authority should be over an entirely different realm of our lives. Church authority gets its authority from the Word to teach and enforce the Word. Church authority is there to “watch for our souls” and will “give an account” for those under them. (Heb. 13:17) Verse seven of the same chapter says we are to “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God, whose faith follow..” (Emphasis mine)

      I don’t find anywhere that churches have the authority to ask those under them to practice things not found in Scripture in the same way civil authorities do. Speed limits, how many guns we own, etc., are beyond the scope of church authority. That is why we believe in separation of church and state.

      Titus 2:15 says “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority”. What things? It is pointing back to preceding verses. But interestingly enough, there is nothing there about dressing a certain way nor combing your hair a certain way.

      We need to separate what is cultural and what is Biblical. Cultural things that are not wrong or right should not be called sin by church authorities. As Kevin Brendler said it, “Church leaders have no right to mandate or enforce anything beyond the written Scripture. They must point us to the Word and the Word alone. That is where we hear the voice of our great Head, Jesus Christ. When church leaders go beyond the written Word, they become the functional head of the church. They displace Christ from His position as Head of the body. They substitute their voice for the voice of Christ. They assume His role as definer of His people.”

      Romans 10:13-17 brings some questions to mind. Who is sent to preach to the lost? And who does the sending? Aren’t we all sent? I see these verses as being almost an echo the command given by Jesus.

      If we are all commanded to preach to the lost, then why must we wait until church authority sends us? Do we really believe that this command is only for the few that the church authorities send out? We are also commanded in Scripture to do many other things. Must we wait for church authorities to pick and choose a select few who need to obey other biblical commands as well? Or should church authorities teach all Scriptural commands to all those under their authority and rebuke all those who are not obeying them?

      We should not have to make an effort to find evangelistic-minded Anabaptists. It should be all of us.

      Like

      • My understanding is that the Bible requires obedience to civil government as long as it does not conflict with Gods other commands. If the civil government does not get authority from God then where and from whom does it get it’s authority? If not from God, then I need not obey, but follow my own interpretation of scripture and live as I feel is correct, as you are suggesting is appropriate in the Bride of Christ.

        Also, the protections built into restrictions mandated by a body of believers will never take the place of the Gospels or Pauline epistles, they can only assist us in holy living if we willingly desire these protections. No one is forced to be a member of a particular church. I promised to submit to the restrictions when I joined my church, not because I agreed with all of them but I was satisfied that the church had my best interest in mind and I have not been disappointed.

        A quote I read recently that has been a challenge, “A critical spirit is the result of an unthankful heart.”

        My thought is in looking for non-conformed, evangelistic Anabaptist is that you can usually find what you are looking for. I circle with many of these, Christian Aid Ministries for one is sending out much in the way of physical aid, paving the way for like-minded churches to send out missionaries and supporting them thru prayer and with funds to provide a place to nurture the young in the faith, provide an ark of safety, a place to rejuvenate, fellowship and receive admonition.

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      • Greetings Andrew:
        A hearty yea and Amen to being involved and the very good idea of personally following up evangelically with the good works of the group called “CHRISTIAN AID MINISTRY” I am familiar with their organization in Elmira Ontario Canada and in Weaverland PA and they are even more closely linked to the conservative and more non-conformist old Order groups than M.C.C. and the “CHRISTIAN AID MINISTRY” are an excellent alternative to the really large and more mainstream M.C.C.
        PS: I believe both you and Simon are on the right track with regards to non-conformity to the other system, I agree with both of you in that the closer we get to the Truth, the better it will be for us and the whole church. However when it comes to obeying a worldly ruler we can be cautious because of what it states at Hosea 8:2-4 Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee. 3 Israel hath cast off the thing that is good: the enemy shall pursue him. 4They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off.” and we can also see what Jesus said to the ruler Pilate found at John 19;11 “Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.” Amen

        Best Regards;
        Delmer B. Martin

        Like

      • I think you may have misunderstood my last comment. (Or perhaps I didn’t state it very clearly). I believe all authority is given by God–whether that be church or civil authority. But their realm of authority is much different.

        The church does not make civil laws any more than civil authority has the right to enforce Scriptural commands upon all its citizens. We are to obey civil authority as long as we are not asked to do something contrary to Scripture.

        But the church is not given the authority to make up whatever laws it wants. If Christ is the head, the body follows the teaching/leading of the head. It doesn’t take the lead. When the Anabaptist radical reformation began, it was against church authorities that were enforcing all manner of extra-biblical rules. If we are not lined up with Scripture, or if our applications of Scripture cause us to disobey direct biblical commands, then we need reformation again.

        “No one is forced to be a member of a particular church.” True. But many have been kept out or forced out over matters that are not biblical? Why do we reject people that Christ has accepted?

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  31. Dear Brothers and Sisters:
    I am been in both kinds of congregations that we have been discussing and am unaffiliated by membership currently. I appreciate non-conformists and evangelists and it is painfully obvious to me now that one must be a non-conformist (no part of the world) first before true evangelism is effective.

    From an Old Perspective
    True Amish and Mennonites are greatly influenced by our fore-parents and NOT simply tradition. We are profoundly aware of the experiences of our ancestors back in the Reformation who were treated exactly like Jesus and were in fact martyred for their belief by Royal/State religions. They were hated, hunted and tortured and killed simply because they refused to conform and recant their faith.
    Now many will say, oh that was way back then, the world has changed…I say nay, the world has NOT changed, (other than for the worst) in fact it looks more like Sodom and Gomorrah than ever. What is extremely nasty nowadays is that we live in a so called politically correct world where everything goes…nothing matters…and the prediction in the Bible about lukewarmness even amongst so called Christians is becoming TRUE right INSIDE our congregations. Everywhere around us, no matter which county you live, we can see what happens when the blind are leading the blind…It is a fact that God is NOT a God of confusion, while simultaneously satan is the great deceiver. We all know the facts about the 2 roads, and unless we FIRST enter through the “narrow gate” and stay “on the narrow road” “where few will be found” we will be destroyed along with everyone that is following us. We cannot allow ourselves to be deceived by satan and expect to be blessed by God. We must not become confused that the “path” we are on is a place where most of the world does not accept and in the end will not accept while we must persevere and never give up the faith. This is indeed an uncomfortable place to be IN THIS WORLD and in this system we find ourselves surrounded by. There is simply no way around it and no way to avoid it, without compromising The Truth!

    From a Modern Perspective
    Many of us from Amish and Mennonites parentage striving as imperfect Christians in this modern world know how our parents and grandparents and great parents lived and indeed many of us are aware of our non-conformist heritage back some 4-14 generations and we know they were non-conformists and their success of this way of life combined with the Truth Of The Word is our evidence of the “goodly heritage” of the Bible that we have inherited. We know that our fore-parents would not compromise their faith in being loyal to The Word to the best of their abilities. This is NOT something we can really brag about because the Bible makes it clear that (Proverbs 9:10) “Fear of the Lord” is only the beginning of wisdom. This is True and it is a fact and this is part of acceptance of the “narrow gate” principle.
    I am entirely convinced the old Anabaptist were correct and what they believed from the Bible has been proven to be even more true today than ever before. I believe these facts need to be embraced as we move forward. The worst thing we could do is take a step back, before we move forward. If we take a step back we could become deceived by satan and every step we take into the future will lead us in the wrong direction and onto the path this leads to destruction.

    Of course those of us who have an Anabaptist background will be a bit loyalist to how the past generations have proven to us that Truth Of The Word, if for no other reason, we owe the BEGINNING of our wisdom of our Heavenly father to these precious Christians, whether they were preachers or farmers or both. Let me be PERFECTLY CLEAR, we do NOT hate the sinner but we “hate sin” as in 1st Thessalonians 5: 21-22 “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.” and Ephesians 5:11 which stipulates “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” and as stipulated in Romans 12:9 “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” and stipulated in Psalm 97:10 “Ye that love the LORD, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked.” and as in Amos 5:15 “Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph.” and corroborated in all the following as well; as in all the following 1st Thessalonians 2:4 and 1st Thessalonians 5:22 and Romans 7:24 and James 4:4 and 1st John 1:6 and 1st John 3:20-21 and Psalms 1:1-2 John 8:44 and Romans 6:23 and Isaiah 1:6 and Psalm 38:4 and Titus 1:15 and Matthew 6:12-15 and Isaiah 1:18 and 1 John 1:6 and Genesis 3: 1-24 and John 10:10 and Isaiah 59:2 and Romans 7:24 and Ephesians 6: 10-11

    Please forgive those of us who have had many preachers and deacons and elders in our heritage as we tend to be really straight forward and blunt in our pilgrimage and uncompromising on the Truth we know. I personally would even go one step further and remind you of what Jesus did in the temple when he did something that even most old Mennonites and Amish would never do. Jesus took a very proactive position and He made a stand for the Truth and He acted on it forcefully! I can admit that I do NOT believe that most of my fore-parents would have done this… but I confess I would! Please forgive me if you do not agree with me however in my imperfection I cannot compromise The Truth. I have no power to do this…it simply cannot happen, so please forgive me if your opinion differs.

    For you that are true Christians that are out in the world preaching the truth I respect you because this is also a command. I especially respect those brave ones from Mennonite and Amish background that are being led by the Spirit to go out into the world all by themselves to preach The Word to the lost strangers of this world. This is extremely important work because you can show them the way. This is what Jesus did, however taking care of congregations is also just as serious a matter. It is a matter of life or death in every individual case! It does little good if you only evangelize and you become surrounded by a bunch of immature Christians and later lukewarm Christians who will perish if you do not take care of them. This is a crucial responsibility because how can we possibly with a clear conscience continue mainly evangelizing without continuing to care for those whom have been converted. What will happen to you? What will happen to me?

    This is exactly what I am referring to above, one can be an evangelizer and a non-conformist but the key is to be NOT of the world OR to be unequally yoked with them. This is actually a necessary PREREQUISITE!
    Truth = Freedom

    Like

  32. Andrew wrote:

    >>If the only commands we were to obey were Biblical quotes,
    >>I would be denied the privilege of applying the scripture
    >> ” obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves,
    >>for they watch for your souls,

    Do church leaders possess authority to issue a command to Christ’s sheep when the great Shepherd of the sheep has issued no such command in His Word? Does Hebrews 13:17, the text Andrew quotes to support his position, provide local church pastors with Divine authority to enforce standards and rules within the church when the great Head of the church, Jesus Christ, has provided NO such standards or rules in His Word?

    Look at the text closely. What does it say exactly?

    “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who
    will give an account (Heb 13:17)”

    1. Church leaders do have legitimate, God-given authority
    2. Members of the church must obey their leaders and submit to them

    The text does not say what Andrew would have us believe. The text does not go as far as Andrew would take us. Hebrews 13:17 does not say that church leaders may use their God-given authority to enforce their own wisdom upon Christ’s sheep. It simply does not say that nor is it implied. Andrew is reading his position INTO the text. He is ASSUMING that the God-given authority, which church leaders legitimately possess, INCLUDES the right to compel obedience to rules and standards that are not found in the Word of God. Andrew has gone beyond what is actually written in the text.

    Always be careful of determining what a text can mean before you carefully examine it. Stay with the Word and within the Word.

    Now, how do we know what the God-given authority of church leaders actually includes? They have legitimate authority so they must be able to enforce something. Authority means the power to compel obedience. So what may church leaders compel us to obey?

    “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living
    and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season
    and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time
    will come when they will not endure sound doctrine (2 Tim 4:1-3).”

    That is the apostle Paul’s instruction to a young pastor/church leader. Timothy is to preach, reprove, rebuke and exhort according to the sound doctrine of the Word of God. That is the EXTENT of the church leader’s authority right there…the Word. The church leader may NOT enforce his own doctrine, the denominational doctrine, the cultural doctrine or the doctrines of Mennonite application. The church leader may NOT compel obedience to any of these things. He may not set them up as church standards. He who does so abuses the authority which the Master has given him. Preach the Word, says Paul. Rebuke and exhort according to the sound doctrine of the written Word, says the Holy Spirit.

    Finally, consider the apostle’s exhortation to the Corinthians:

    “Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit,
    so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.”
    Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other (1 Cor 4:6).

    1. Do not go beyond what is written
    2. If you do then you are puffed up in being a follower of one over against another.

    There is only one Lord, one Faith and one baptism (Eph 4:5). No one is free to determine for Christ’s church what is best for Christ’s body. No group of church leaders is free to determine that either. Christ alone determines that and He has already done so. The Faith has already been given to us in its entirety. It cannot be improved upon. And you can locate the WHOLE of the Faith in the Word of God. Therefore, do not be puffed up with tribal traditions. Heed the Word alone. Do not go beyond what is written.

    Neither conformity nor complacency!

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  33. Before the Mennonite pioneers and Amish pioneers of USA and Canada learned the English language the german word Gelassenheit has historically been used in an attempt to describe the focus of the love that the Mennonites and Amish have manifested. I have not found the word Gelassenheit in my old German Bible…, however we can (judge the fruits – Matthew 7: 15-20) + (test the spirit as per 1 John 4:1) and Since God IS Love (1 John 4:8) AND John 15:13 stipulates “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

    Are we individually anywhere near this standard? Are our modern congregations full of people who apply this Christian Love? I confess we are NOT! I will go one step further and be reminded where lukewarmness leads to. There is a lot of work to be done in ourselves and in the congregations!

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Andrew wrote:

    >>If the only commands we were to obey were Biblical quotes… We would
    >>also cease to exist as a people that had the ability to teach and to train with
    >>all authority (Titus 2:15).

    This statement is troubling. The premise here is that the teaching authority of a church extends beyond Divine revelation. This sounds very much like the Roman Catholic position, but Andrew supports his assertion with an appeal to Titus 2:15.

    What does Titus 2:15 actually say?

    “These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority (2:15).”

    What specifically is the content of the teaching that Titus is to communicate with all authority?

    “But as for you, teach what befits sound doctrine (Titus 2:1).”

    There it is. Teach sound doctrine. Then between vv1-15 some of the particulars that Titus is to teach are detailed. But we have those details recorded as Scripture for us! Church leaders are to encourage and rebuke according to the sound doctrine of the inscripturated Word. They possess authority to perform that function on behalf of the people of God. But they possess no authority to invent doctrine or enforce human traditions upon the body of Christ. When church leaders go beyond what is written and claim authority to enforce extra-Biblical traditions then they have abandoned the chain of command. In other words, they have gone rogue. They are not ministers of Christ at that point, but independent managers of an institution intent upon the preservation of the institutional legacy.

    So very much of contemporary Anabaptism is focused upon preservation. But it’s not sound doctrine that is fiercely guarded so much as it is the distinctives of Mennonite culture.

    Lastly, I cut and paste below a portion of an article on Scripture and Tradition from a Roman Catholic website. The author is faithful in describing each position. Judge for yourselves what Andrew’s position most nearly represents… Protestant or Roman.

    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    Protestants claim the Bible is the only rule of faith, meaning that it contains all of the material one needs for theology and that this material is sufficiently clear that one does not need apostolic tradition or the Church’s magisterium (teaching authority) to help one understand it. In the Protestant view, the whole of Christian truth is found within the Bible’s pages. Anything extraneous to the Bible is simply non-authoritative, unnecessary, or wrong—and may well hinder one in coming to God. 

    Catholics, on the other hand, recognize that the Bible does not endorse this view and that, in fact, it is repudiated in Scripture. The true “rule of faith”—as expressed in the Bible itself—is Scripture plus apostolic tradition, as manifested in the living teaching authority of the Catholic Church, to which were entrusted the oral teachings of Jesus and the apostles, along with the authority to interpret Scripture correctly. 

    http://www.catholic.com/tracts/scripture-and-tradition

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    • Just to be clear I have never been and I am not an ordained minister or deacon, or anything really… other than a prodigal son and a pilgrim who has a deep concern for the Mennonite and Amish and the true seekers whom God has called.

      The very last verse in Titus 2:15 that is PARTIALLY quoted actually ends with the words “Let no man despise thee.” The NIV and the KJV ends with the exact same words.

      Titus 2 in its parts or in its entirety, completely supports Andrews position.

      When I reviewed Titus 2 this evening without even meditating for very long I confess I became perplexed because IF I was a preacher and did NOT want anyone’s spiritual conscience to be motivated…I could not get away with even just reading TITUS 2 out loud to the congregation, much less actually expounding on anything at all.

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  35. Greetings, Thanks for reading Titus 2 and pointing out the last phrase. It does shed light on the idea that the things we have to teach the young men is how to be sober, what sound speech is etc.

    The effort in my replies are to point out that there are Mennonites who are practicing closed communion who are happy, safe, and bringing non-Mennonites into their churches that appreciate a firm stand and the Godly culture demonstrated in the midst of a crooked and perverse culture. They are even planning peaceful divisions and starting new outreaches in communities hours and hours away, willingly taking a financial lost to place little Christian Anabaptist communities among people who have never been exposed to non-resistance, non-conformity, separation of church and state, etc.

    I feel these positive points have been overlooked and my replies were looked upon as a threat. Sorry if I was an offense to anyone, but again, we are very happy in our small churches and thought maybe someone reading could get the idea that closed communion folks are all caught in a trap they cant get out of. This is not the case. PTL

    I take the last part of Acts 5 as my parting testimony to those whose beliefs differ from mine. My observations and the history I have read, indicates to me, that Churches who have embraced this doctrine of open communion have not maintained and passed on the doctrines fundamental to sustainable Godly living and the Anabaptist Church.

    My prayer is that we could all be found faithful and our influence would cause men and women to know truth and know peace in their hearts.

    Ps 85:10 Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

    Blessings to all.

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  36. Simon wrote:

    >>When a visitor sees a variety of dress styles, they will be more likely to
    >>feel they will fit in somewhere than if there is only one accepted dress style.

    .Does anyone read Simon’s expression and feel no sympathetic inclination toward its truth?

    Is there anyone who feels that Simon’s statement makes no sense?

    Does anyone read Simon’s sentence and wonder, “What’s the big deal?”

    Then your religion has sadly worked to harden your heart.

    If you do recognize the truth of Simon’s expression, if you are sympathetic to his meaning, if your heart does resonate with his point…

    Then things must change. You must change. You must make a move.

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  37. Dear Simon;

    I am completely convinced; the Scripture that unites the Old Anabaptist AND the schismites of the days gone by (and some of the modern schismites) and the wise Mennonite/Amish nowadays; is; all the scripture that makes it clear that everyone from Adam and Eve to this very day, will be held accountable at the end of our lives and there are only 2 sides; satan vs. God and the “lukewarm” are automatically NOT with God. The Scripture makes it clear in SO MANY PLACES that the spiritual battle is between satan and God and there are only 2 sides the Godly and “the worldly” and that True Christians must be separate (or get separated) FROM the world. All of our battles in this world are spiritual battles between these 2 factions. It is a fact that any so called third faction is automatically by default created by the great deceiver satan. Every single decision we make is in one of the 2 categories. Fact #2, we all have freewill, so it is all about either love of God or satans ways-anti-christ (worldliness) The Anabaptists AND the schismites on Gods side, based solidly on Scripture and anyone today who consistently stays separate from the world is ON the RIGHT PATH (The Narrow Road) and anyone who joins the world and worldliness and worldly religeous ways is on the broad road leading to destruction with satan…who will be judged and will cease to exist except for in Hell. Fact: our world by freewill choice of all its citizens is worst than Sodom and Gomorrah was described.

    The 1500-1750 Anabaptist were amazing in that they risked their lives to simply stand against the Royals/state religion (s) that had become so corrupt that infant baptism was a prerequisite to becoming a citizen. It was a “control theory” developed by those in power. The Anabaptist readily and rightly discerned that not only was infant baptism not of GOD, it was Adult Baptism was advocated for, by GOD and Jesus. Back in the Reformation days the average person could barely read and write and those in control of society were the ones that could read and write well and who owned most of the Bibles. The early Anabaptist leaders were most all minor leaders who came “out of” the mainstream “old Royalty/State religion who were privileged enough to have some exposure to TRUTH and as a result had a complete change of heart when they read and studied and meditated on scripture. The later Anabaptist (especially their writings and testimony in the Martyrs Mirror etc ) which in many cases was given just prior to one facing death are some of the most poignant witness ever written by the average man/woman.

    Up until the early 1800’s it was always a small group (in the minority) who would choose by freewill be separate from the world…but in our modern world we can clearly see, who by MAJORITY freewill have chosen to be “in the world” including false religions” and “lukewarm christians” who are actual anti-christ. It is disgusting to God.

    NEW DIRECTIONS
    For example the “General Conference Mennonite Church” was formed in 1847 in USA and 1849 in Canada when a very large group of rebellious Mennonite leaders in the FRANCONIA CONFERENCE of Congregations USA (and just 6 or 7 leaders in Canada) by freewill decided try to to change the Mennonite Church and force worldly changes to be accepted by all. When they failed to get “their way” they left the conference and took their freewill followers with them. (there were even lawsuits over meetinghouses) A lack of Christian love was the result on both sides of the schism and only satan smiled at this point. From 1847 The original conferences of the early 1700 era kept on going just the way they were and the new General Conference Mennonite Church” adapted just about every modern way to proselytize society (especially Mennonites) into their new group all the while preaching “peace and unity” etc. etc.

    Since 1847/49 the original and what became the mainstream USA and Canada Mennonite Conferences AND the General Conference Mennonite Conference operated independently and both their membership numbers increased however their worldliness increased just as rapidly. Their new focus on worldly evangelism came at the expense of the communing members and the family. All sorts of sins and badness became more and more common. Many many new religions came out of these early efforts including the Pentecostal Church, Methodist Groups, United Brethren Groups, some Brethren In Christ groups, The Evangelical Mennonite Group, The United Church etc. etc. It is always extremely telling when a group tears down the sign on their church building that used to say Mennonite______, what happens right after that. (That is when the world not only enters in BUT when the world takes over, no matter how good their original intentions were) Mennonites and the Amish were not perfect in the old days but what we are witnessing nowadays is devastating to the TRUTH.

    There were several huge mergers in the mainstream USA and the mainstream modern Canadian Mennonites in the 2000-2002 era and they are all already coming apart at the seams. What is shocking to me nowadays is that it is THE MAJORITY of these so called Mennonites that are accepting MORE Worldliness instead of less worldliness!!! This is disgusting in Gods eyes. In summation it is BETTER to be solid and true to a simple faith that it is to adopt any controversial worldly ways in the name of the great commission. Lukewarmness only leads to one place, destruction! It is predicted in The Bible and it is happening right in our mainsteam groups…our people who were born with and born into a “goodly heritage” as per the Bible are being destroyed!

    I am going to boldly state for the record right now that the Lancaster Mennonite Conference and their daughter Conference, Franklin Mennonite Conference in USA is finding its way back to the TRUTH. They only joined the umbrella Mennonite USA Conference a few years ago and in the last year or so they have faced reality of their decision ..and PRAISE GOD, they are finally sticking to the Truth and it is making THEM FREE just like the Bible stipulates. I know the history of this area very intimately and from a detailed and documented perspective and what is really amazing to me is the fact that the “old order” who became the Weaverland Mennonite Conference way back in 1893 actually separated from this very same conference because they rightly believed that this same Lancaster Mennonite Conference was becoming way to worldly. It was true at that time. IT is TRULY AMAZING that after 300 years of being a individual Mennonite Conference based in Weaverland and Groffdale Pennsylvania and after becoming the largest conference, they have; using the same freewill, made a conscious decision to serve God and NOT the world…(back to their roots where the beginning of wisdom is FEAR of the Lord) their wise leaders and the very large majority of their communing members have decided to TURN AROUND and follow the TRUTH and make a stand against a world that is controlled by satan due to freewill. Praise God…there is hope for everyone including me! I say this because everywhere we witness the good being corrupted into evil and NOT the other way around as per GODS PURPOSE.

    Unification and Mergers and the like are NOT GOOD if the TRUTH is becoming more corrupted and co-opted and is done by anti-christ worldly manipulation and coercion and not based on a Biblical separation from the world. Fake peace and un-biblical unions are of satan and anti-christ to corrupt the few True Christians that are left in the world today. “Wolves in sheeps clothing” are satans favorite tools to lead whole groups and congregations to destruction. (satan is not all stupid) I find it difficult to witness in our modern world that these wolves are barely bothering to even hide who they really work for. Not only do they no longer even bother to “dress like sheep” it is evident that these modern day wolves are wearing NOTHING at ALL! Certainly not any kind of True Christian Love! They love THE WORLD and obviously NOT the TRUTH!

    On a personal note, I find nothing wrong with you boldly giving the Truth to the people you are ministering to, in fact I think it is awesome because what you build in the name of Jesus can become “their the church” and you can just keep on preaching the truth and what they do after they become saved will be up to them. I respect that you have chosen to minister to the lost people, especially since we are in end times. It may even be quite wise to target the completely lost people nowadays (people that are not aware of any of the Truth) because those that have “lukewarm beliefs” may already be lost forever due to their own freewill. I hope you agree with me that the Bible makes it clear that “God calls the lost” who are still worthy of being saved. For some reasons I can discern that YOUR VISION/MISSION is based on the Biblical Principle of “Evangelizing” those that would perish for “Lack of knowledge” (not even being aware of the Truth) I am your Christian Brother in that I have a deep passion to witness those that know part of truth (the lukewarm” to accept THE WHOLE TRUTH and get OUT of the world and since I know the hearts of the Amish and Mennonites who are struggling bigtime, my discernment focuses on this area. More POWER and Strength and Faith to both of us! Matthew 5: 14-17 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. 17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”

    Unity and Peace would be awesome but the TRUTH IS that anything and everything that satan designs is anti-christ. I believe that the Apostates are those that knew GODS Truth, but got corrupt by satan/worldliness and by freewill chose to “eat the apple” of being more part of the world, than to be less “In the world” There is more than adequate Scripture that instructs US ALL to be in the world BUT NOT OF THE WORLD. Any and all denial of this fact only leads in one direction (Satan-antichrist) . We can love our neighbour all we want but if we disobey the Truth we became fatally flawed. In the old days we hear much about the radical Anabaptist who by freewill chose Gods side and NOWADAYS we hear much about those with a “goodly heritage” choosing the world and by freewill joining satans anti-christ church. This is disgusting! in Gods eyes!

    Frankly since both satan and Jesus came to divide the world as stipulated in the Bible…and we can “test the fruits” to see the results (who is working for whom?) …we can “mark those among us” who are doing satans /worldly works. Truth vindicates itself!!! Truth is NOT a side…GOD is Love and what HE states is TRUTH and is the ONE THING that will NOT be corrupted (or re-defined by humans) . Even if someone changes the text in the Bible the TRUTH will make us free!

    The modern Mennonite concept of congregation and church is becoming more and more corrupted by the world/satan’s systems and I DO NOT APPROVE of it. All the mainstream churches have sold their communicant souls to anti-christ a long time ago and the unions/world/global Religeon that are happening nowadays are simply just satans anti-christ system of swallowing up the masses, knowing he has little time left before JUDGEMENT DAY. We must FIRST seek the narrow gate and then follow the narrow path and NOT the “mainstream” worldly antichrist way! Even though I was not baptized in an old order group, I defend the “Anabaptist and the old order Mennonites and the old order Amish because at the very least they found the “strait gate” ! and yes We Must all be BORN AGAIN!

    Best Regards;
    Delmer B. Martin
    Elmira Ontario

    Matthew 7:13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

    Luke 13: 23-24 Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, 24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

    John 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

    John 3:7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

    Matthew 6: 24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

    1 John 2: 15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

    2 Corinthians 6:17 “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,”

    Romans 12: 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

    1 Peter 2: 9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

    Deuteronomy 14: 2 For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.

    Revelation 18: 4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.

    Psalm 4: 3 But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him.

    John 15: 18-19 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

    Ephesians 5: 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

    John 14: 22-24 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.

    PROVERBS 9: 10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

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  38. Christian greetings in Jesus’ name to all who may be reading this! May I kindly add my thoughts to this lengthy public discussion that has so resonated within my and my family’s hearts since initially reading it some weeks back?

    I will try to quickly outline our journey a little bit to give you some background.

    My husband and I were both raised within Catholic homes, both getting saved around age 17, myself through an evangelistic TV program, and he through a tract, and also his reading The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsay. We met at a Christian College, plugged into a Calvary Chapel non-denominational, evangelical church setting from our marriage until fifteen years ago. The strengths of such a setting at the peak of its growth? MASSIVE evangelism, often person to person, the bringing in to church of co-workers, family members, relatives. Our original church started with seven men in a prayer meeting, exploding to 2,000 in ten years. Expository teaching, line by line, from the Bible: what it meant when it was written, along with how to apply it. Just seeing so many get saved over this time was incredible, so I know what it is like firsthand to see a church grow with all sorts of people within it.

    The negative part we began to question after some years: very little accountability. For many years there was no actual membership, you can and went “as the Spirit led”. (After our stifling lives as former Catholics, it seemed appealing at first). The idea of divorce and remarriage, even among ministers, was accepted, which we began to wonder about The “come as you are” dress code did begin to sour as you would see people come in anything to church. Our last time there after many years in this setting was two-fold: seeing two conservative Mennonite girls go from what many of you are familiar with, to highly slit skirts, jewelry, taking their hair down. We knew nothing of Mennonites, but it saddened us somehow. The last Sunday we attended, the associate pastor got up to preach in shorts, a polo and sandals. We didn’t know what we’d next do, but wanted to find something with a little more reverence.

    We hunted around and found a conservative Mennonite church within a half hour’s drive. How to succinctly describe our 14 year stop there? We NEVER were accepted. It was hard enough to not be from Mennonite background and earnestly question why you all did what you do, but also had the immense hurdle of not being related to an extended family church. All the other non-related Mennonite families who had come in during our time also left over our years there for similar reasons.

    When we came into the Mennonites, we had been looking for four things: a hope for living more simply in our lives, finding people who shared our conviction of not having a television, modest dress (not necessarily a cape dress, which we had never really seen yet), and an intense desire to be involved in evangelism, both in our locality, and overseas, especially among indigenous missions trying to get the Gospel to their own people, with their own people.

    What did we find instead? I guess if I could find a sentence to summarize our overall (Please note – there ARE exceptions!!) experience (which did include thankfully a myriad of Mennonite friends we made in MANY churches in several states to counter-balance our home church, or we NEVER would have stayed as long as we did): Welcome to the Grand Illusion. Looking “simple” on Sundays but having often high end cars, houses, and all the latest electronic gadgets. My Mom once said ( a Christian, non-plain woman) after seeing all the myriad of Mennonite groups that moved into her town in recent years- “except for the clothing, they really are basically just like everyone else.”

    We did everything we were “supposed ” to do, to be a part of this Mennonite church: the dress, the many man-made rules, instruction class, which did seem a bit different for people who had been evangelical Christians since the early 1980’s. We then began to see after never being allowed Communion, (which of course we desired) and never being allowed to join despite application (because there was always SOMETHING we were not doing just right) that we never COULD be a part of them.

    Personally speaking, I found last year that dressing this way for 14 years did NOTHING to change/challenge my own deeper spiritual life, but made me begin to do what I so had dreaded for years: see the entire world through Mennonite glasses. Starting to think, as my husband puts it, that OUR way was the ONLY way. Look at her covering compared to mine, her dress pattern, her shoes – you name it. How would I feel if someone’s entire perception of me was based on a five second view of how I look?

    Somehow our church managed to have a few non-Mennonite people come to it, and NOT make all the prescribed dress changes, but we always were the ones who sat in the back row – me, along with the ladies from that category – the Misfits Row we’d laughingly call ourselves. When we prepared for a recent move to the Midwest, I visited one lady who had been attending for 9 years from across the street, and except for her Mennonite next door neighbor, no one ever visited her and came into her house before I did. Shame on me for not doing it long before, and assuming our churches’ sisters had been doing it all along. I learned a painful lesson I will never forget.

    What was our church conveying to outsiders? We LOVE having you add to our attendance numbers, and pointing to you as “we have people from the community attending” but have no interest in how you are doing spiritually.
    Having Vacation Bible School and seeing at the finale picnic all our church children but ours sitting together each year, apart from the community children, It was quite clear there was no close contact. How can we lead people to Christ if we never get our hands dirty, get into their world even a little bit by showing a personal interest in them? Our children thankfully even began to see this and feel badly for not having sat with them in earlier years.

    How did our children fare having basically grow up in these settings? After a daughter went to Bible School two years, she came back very disillusioned, bitter. She said the principal took each aside to ask if they are in compliance with all the rules there, did her dresses match up, etc.? She said no one once asked her how she was doing spiritually, how could they pray for her, what were her dreams and goals in life? She came home telling us of some of the wild youth there that nonetheless were members at their home churches, the profanity, drinking, movies etc. She walked away from this setting, and has no interest in any church right now – telling us the heart cry of so many she met was the same: no one really cares about us inside, except if we measure up to the standards, so who cares how we live?? I have heard these same sentiments echoed over and over in many mid 20’s to 30’s Mennonite women I have met, remembering their “youth” years.

    The current cry of the youth (and not just Mennonite, I might add, but Christian church worldwide) seems to be not “Use us, Lord” but “Amuse us”. So, they as a whole seem to be tuning out to every diversion possible, especially electronic, despite looking “right”.

    Our second daughter is the one who shared with us your article. Someone from her church had posted it online, and liked it. The part that hit our daughter so hard was about the “free spirit” so aptly described. I must say if that part of your article helped only one family who read it, it was well worth including. This touched my husband and I SO greatly – to actually see put into words what we have been trying to squelch for nearly 15 years in this daughter. She loves the Lord, is a member in good standing at a fairly conservative Mennonite church where she lives, yet often does not totally fit in because of her personal tastes in colors, patterns, and such. How crazy this is, to judge others on this one aspect, when she has a special spot for hurting, lonely, or misfit people she meets in the community. For so many years in our home the endless conflicts that could have been avoided had we just known and embraced this thought that God made her this way, and to stop trying to continually push a square peg, so to speak, into a Mennonite round hole. Our relationship with her now will thankfully never be the same.

    Our other older children have seen some of the same inconsistencies that we have seen in the past 14 years – one is in a Mennonite church that thankfully is starting to begin see some of the inconsistencies your article mentioned, another is in a Southern Baptist College, truly torn on whether to eventually join a Mennonite or Sothern Baptist church (because in either setting being baptized immediately makes you a member, whether you wish to be or not – can someone explain to us why you cannot after getting saved become baptized, even if you are not sure on which church to join yet??-Just a side thought) – seeing what he feels the great lack of evangelism as a whole within the Mennonite structure vs. the once-saved always saved mentality within Southern Baptists.The younger ones still at home have also seen the inconsistencies your article have mentioned,

    An important question we wonder: how DO you find others who feel this way? All we can do, and have been doing, is to give a printed copy of the initial article to others we know. Many say they agree with it – yet truthfully, what might ever change? The deep, lifelong ruts of “we have always done “x” this way” just seem too hard to change within most people/Mennonite churches.

    HOW do you find Anabaptist churches that don’t trade the freedom from the so many man-made rules stance, to oh boy – now with less rules we can get into TV, movies, and all we have been “denied”? We seem to see this over and over when we meet Christians in less strict settings. Yet truthfully maybe these things are already sadly secretly within the ranks anyway, despite all the rules?

    I am reminded at what a young married Mennonite woman recently told me: “As we were growing up in (very conservative Menn. conference) we were repeatedly told don’t do this or that – but no one actually bothered to sit down with us and give us valid reasons not to – of how these things might really hurt our spiritual walk.”

    Lord, as Christians, may our heart cry be “Give us something to live for, something worth dying for, and something to pass on to a hurting, lost world besides our culture.”

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hello Jonna;
      I found your response to be one of the most profoundly touching comments to date. It seems to me like you have a really good grip of the TRUTH. It is a fact that our modern congregations are nowhere close to the congregations of of the past. Confusion has crept in from both the old and the new perspectives. Truth AND Christian Love are not the dominant forces at work. I know our Mennonite history well and unfortunately lukewarmness is a result of the final assault that satan is perpetrating on our “goodly heritage” The divide and conquer war stragety is in full swing. My heart goes out to you and your family and I urge you to meditate on what is my favorite Bible verse at John 8:32 “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” and NEVER give up!
      your fellow pilgrim;
      delmer

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, Jonna,
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts in such a heartfelt manner. We need to hear these things.

      “HOW do you find Anabaptist churches that don’t trade the freedom from the so many man-made rules stance, to oh boy – now with less rules we can get into…all we have been ‘denied’?”

      I don’t have all the answers, but one thing is for sure, if the rules are the only things keeping us from getting into all that we have been denied, it was never in the heart to start with. What is in our heart will come out at some point.

      Again, thank you for sharing so openly.

      Liked by 1 person

  39. Pingback: 10 Blogs Worth Following (and why you should) - Asher Witmer

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