Asher Witmer

rediscovering Jesus

Why I’m Mennonite (and why that’s not the point)

I took a risk in asking some questions about Mennonite distinctives. I framed the questions so they would be probing, yet wide-open for any and all to answer. It felt risky, and proved to be so.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a pressure point. Call me naïve, but I honestly didn’t realize asking these questions would produce as many fireworks as they did. My intention was not to create an argument or discredit our Anabaptist heritage. It’s just that there are a few things I wanted to share with my generation and felt I had to first ask some (risky) questions.

The Risks and Why I Did It

People tend to come into conversations like this with their minds already made up. I struggle with this, myself. Sometimes when reading what other people say, I get riled up inside and want to quickly retaliate, and that’s a sign I’ve already made up my mind on the matter.

When we come with predetermined conclusions on the conversation, we have no desire for mutual growth. We just want others to see our point. Those kinds of conversations are rarely profitable because they become big arguments that only further alienate people from each other. This was one of the risks in starting a discussion like this.

I also knew that many people would probably misinterpret my questions, leading to answers that don’t really have to do with what I was asking. In part, it is inevitable when published online where anyone from any background with any experience can read it. But it can also happen because people read the questions through the lenses of their own experiences without stopping to hear what is really being asked.

These risks made me nervous that the people I most want to influence would come away offended, either by me or those who would comment. That made me think more than twice about even posing the questions.

But here’s why I did it: Anabaptists do well at running programs, but not at engaging the unchurched and making disciples. Not yet, anyway. Some other evangelical groups are doing a tremendous job making disciples. My generation is hungry for authenticity. I think what many of us struggle with, and would cause us to leave our Anabaptist upbringing, isn’t a desire for worldliness but a desire for more of God and to authentically follow Him.

Yet, when we do decide to leave and join a church that is producing more fruit in Kingdom building, it seems like we often leave the valuable parts of our past behind. We decide it’s okay to dress less modestly, or rationalize away the head-covering. In wanting to become more effective in making disciples, we take the same physically-focused mindset that we’re frustrated with in the conservative circles and decide that changing our applications is the key to being more effective.

Because of the tension I feel in my generation, I had some questions and I asked them.

What Surprised Me about the Answers I Got

But as comments started rolling in, I found myself surprised.

I was surprised by how many people missed the heart of the questions, even after I clarified them further. It seemed like my questions felt threatening.

I was also surprised that out of five hundred and thirty words, much the discussion centered around two of them that were only used once each—and rather than asking what I meant by them, people assumed the worst.

It surprised me that we view the world more through our Anabaptist cultural lenses than Biblical cultural lenses—even to the point of doubting the authenticity of people’s relationship with God if they aren’t Mennonite. I couldn’t believe that. We act as if all evangelical Christians don’t value marriage, are filled with lust, and can’t control themselves.

One in three women are sexually abused. My Dad has been a conservative Mennonite pastor all my life, and throughout the years of counseling that he and Mom have done, I remember them commenting how that statistic has proven true even in the churches they’ve pastored. I don’t think just because you wear a plain suit means you’re not full of lust.

But what surprised me the most in all of this is that I began the post with a devastating statement, yet it didn’t seem to faze anyone.

“Church is confusing.”

No one seemed concerned by that comment. No one challenged it. And no one appeared to notice how loud it is when no one challenges it.

I started that way because in my recent Reader Survey one of the most common struggles my readers face is that “church frustrates them.” Isn’t it awful that the bride of Christ is viewed as “frustrating” instead of beautiful? Is it not appalling that we can say “church is confusing” and no one challenges the validity of that statement? Furthermore, doesn’t it break us to realize that?

Instead, we just entered a conversation with our minds made up on who’s at fault.

It leads me to another question: Are we that hard-hearted?

Christ’s Last Command

Some people pose being effective and relevant against being obedient and faithful to Christ. I think this can come from a misunderstanding of how we’re using the words.

For instance, we can try to make the Gospel relevant to our world, or we can try to bring the Gospel to our world in a relevant way. Those are two different perspectives. One ends up watering down the Gospel so the world likes it. The other simply tweaks how we share the Gospel so the world understands it.

Both Jesus and Paul tweaked how they shared the Good News depending on who they were engaging. That’s a good use of being relevant.

But I’d like to focus more on why being effective and relevant should matter to us as we faithful obey Christ. I don’t want to make relevancy and effectiveness bigger than they really are, but I believe it pin-points much of the conflict my generation feels.

Right before He left earth, Jesus said,

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations. Baptizing them in the name of the father and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even to the ends of the earth.” (Matt. 28:18-20)

While Christ gave us many commands, this one seems extra significant. First of all, it’s the last one he gave His disciples. Secondly, He takes the time to reaffirm that “all authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth.”They already know he only speaks what the Father tells Him, but he still bothers to remind them of his authority. Why? He’s getting ready to leave an important commission.

Let’s take a look at the implications of this Great Commission.

“Go”

You, me. We are to go. Not stay. Go! We are the initiators in this process. We don’t wait for them to come to us. We don’t sit around for “opportunities,” we are called to go and create opportunities.

“Make”

Christ says this in the context of an understanding that God’s Holy Spirit does the work through us (see Acts 1), yet Christ still calls us “to make.”

This means that we are creating something that did not previously exist. We’re not just helping other disciples on their journey (as important as that is), but we are making new disciples of Christ. It involves strategy. The way we disciple. Constant evaluation of whether we’re going about it in the most effective way. It means that if we aren’t “making,” we should be asking “Why? What are we doing wrong?”

“Disciples”

A disciple is someone who learns of someone else. We are to be and make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Disciples of Christ aren’t just being taught about Christ, but they have developed a maturity and thirst for Him so that even when their teacher leaves they continue to grow in the Lord. Furthermore, the final sign of a disciple is that he is making disciples. Christ’s last command to His disciples was to “go make disciples.”

Multiplication. Reproduction. If our disciples are not reproducing, we haven’t completely made true disciples of Christ, yet.

“. . . of all nations”

This is not just a commission for the local area or for raising godly families. It’s a global responsibility. It involves other nations and peoples.

Being effective isn’t just about numbers, but it most certainly includes numbers because it includes people. And if you aren’t being relevant to people, how are you going to make them disciples of Christ?

To be relevant to your neighbor who has two children under three who were born out of wed-lock, has to work full-time, and has no husband means that you help her out. Care for her and her little family. Babysit them, invite them for a meal. And in the context of loving them, share God’s truth with them.

Instead, we jump all over her sin. That’s real relevant and effective. I’ve seen a lot of people get jumped on, and none of them have chosen to follow Christ.

If we aren’t “making” and if it’s not with “all nations” (or other people), we aren’t obeying.

“Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”

This means that we are making disciples in alignment with our triune God. And it is His power that works in them, not ours. They have died with Christ and have been raised to new life in Christ.

“Teaching”

I am not a Hebrew scholar, but in his book, The 7 Laws of the Learner, Bruce Wilkinson says that one of the Hebrew words for Teaching, Lamad, literally means “To cause to learn.” In Deuteronomy 4:9-10 we see this word used both for “teaching” and “learning.”

“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known (or “teach them”) to your children and your children’s children– how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’”

In other words, according to the Hebrew, if the student didn’t learn the teacher never taught. This is why effectiveness is important. If we aren’t able to pass it on, we aren’t fully obeying.

The sad thing is, not only can we not pass it on to other people, we can’t pass it on to our own children. That means we’re not actually “teaching.” Oh, we may have revival meetings and someone may stand up front ranting and raving, but few are actually being caused to learn of God—personally inspired to pursue God themselves.

“. . . to observe all things I have commanded you”

This is faithfulness. Effectiveness is not just about numbers and it’s not just about obedience. It’s about teaching (causing to learn) people (numbers) to obey what Christ commanded (faithfulness).

To obey Christ means we will surely obey His final command. Yet, we aren’t really.

That leads a lot of people to question whether or not we are authentically following Christ. But then, we have so many cultural things that we expect new disciples to take on, and they don’t want to. Not that they don’t want to follow Christ, they just don’t necessarily want our culture.

And then that can cause us to struggle, wondering “if our culture is that bad, is it even right? Maybe we would be more effective if we changed ‘cultures.’”

So, some leave. And sure, I think they find an ability to more effectively make disciples because there are less physical things they have to change. But what I’m wrestling with is whether that’s actually any healthier or any different than what they left?

Just like conservative Anabaptists too often look at the physical as signs of holiness, is easy to look at the physical (no longer apart of Anabaptist culture) as a sign of being effective.

Valuable & Biblical and What the Parable of the Talents Teaches Us about Them

It seems that muddled in with this intense struggle we have an inability to differentiate between what is valuable and what is Biblical.

Conservative Anabaptists try to make the valuable, Biblical. And people get frustrated by that.

Those that leave, seem to think that if it’s not Biblical it’s not valuable. But is that really true?

Yes, I believe women can apply the principle of modesty wearing pants. I’ve seen some modest slacks. And I’ve certainly seen ridiculously immodest dresses.

But I honestly think the best application of modesty is to wear a long dress. That’s something my heritage gave me. It’s valuable. The Bible doesn’t say it has to be a dress, but it’s a valuable application that I have no desire to throw away.

There would be no added value for me to start wearing shorts every day. That obviously shows more skin, heading towards immodesty. The only reason I would do it is for a cooler body temperature and to fit in with culture. But if my obsession in life really is Jesus Christ, why would I bother making a decision based on fleshy desires? I would need more than that.

What my parents taught me in wearing long pants every day is a valuable application of modesty. I don’t have to change it, even if “long pants” isn’t necessarily in the Bible.

But hear me out. Anyone who has grown up in a Christian home has valuable parts of their heritage and culture.

Maybe the evangelicals could dress more modestly, but they have learned to love people and engage society at a level where they are able to influence people for Christ. Many of them exhibit more joy and patience and live with greater faith than we Anabaptists.

I am just as concerned about those who reject everything and immerse themselves into Anabaptism as I am with those who reject Anabaptism and immerse themselves in evangelicalism. It’s not one or the other. They both have valuable ways of living out the Christian life.

Lately, I’ve been meditating on the parable of the talents. I think this parable often gets abused, even to the extent of some people trying to claim that Anabaptists are those with five talents and evangelicals are those with two. That makes me sick.

The point of the parable isn’t how much one or the other had, but what they did with it.

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

“He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

“And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

“He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

“But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.

“So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Two servants added to their talents and were called “good and faithful servants.” One hid his talent because he wanted to make sure it was there when the master returned.

If our talents can be likened to the valuable parts of our culture and upbringing (which probably isn’t a complete interpretation of it), then we need to be adding to them. As Anabaptists, we need to learn to sort through the junk and let it go. Then take the valuable and add to it.

Adding to it means learning from our evangelical friends, sorting through their junk without embracing it, but then adding their valuable to our valuable. The vice-versa is true if you’re from evangelical background.

But if we insist on calling the other heathen and worldly or self-righteous and proud, if we cling to our valuable and hide it so it’s well “preserved” for when the Master returns without using it to grow ourselves, even what we think we have will be taken away. We will be wicked and slothful servants thrown out by our Master.

Why I’m Mennonite

I think what is behind the drive of those who want to preserve the Anabaptist way and end up overvaluing our culture, and the drive of those who leave Anabaptism wanting more authenticity, more effectiveness and more life is ultimately a desperate desire to experience more of Christ.

I am Mennonite because I grew up in a Mennonite family. I can’t tell you if I would be Mennonite had I grown up with a different background. But I do believe most Mennonites and Evangelicals are all wanting one thing in common: more of Christ.

The authentic followers of Christ among Anabaptists will seek to follow Christ faithfully and wholeheartedly. That will probably lead them to do things that make cultural Anabaptists uncomfortable.

In the same way, authentic followers of Christ among Evangelicals (or Pentecostals, Baptists, Orthodox. . .) will seek to follow Christ faithfully and wholeheartedly. They will do things that are uncomfortable in their culture.

So, I’m Mennonite. A part of the Anabaptists. I’m glad to be a part of a group of people with a history of men who were willing to live radically. As I continue to study the Bible, I feel that Anabaptists are doing a tremendous job of trying to obey all of Scripture.

Yet, unlike many Anabaptists, I’ve grown up in the world. (Jn. 17:18) My family has interacted with lots of unbelievers. We have many non-Mennonite Christian friends. We love them dearly. Many wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ.

One of the things all this interaction has convinced me of is that there is just as much junk “over there” as there is “over here.” I have no desire to leave the Anabaptist church. Not because I’m obsessed with Anabaptism, but because I know that I’ll only trade in the issues I face here for issues I’ll face there.

We as Anabaptists need to keep learning of God. Just because our forefathers radically followed Christ, doesn’t necessarily mean we still are today. I can’t help but believe that if we did radically follow Christ, as the early Anabaptists did, we could end up being as much persecuted by our own church as the Catholic Church.

We have developed a strong culture. One closely knit to Biblical principles. So close, we’ve married much of the valuable with the Biblical. That’s part of why I posed some questions.

But neither do we need to throw it out to be effective. We simply need to learn to walk in love. Being Mennonite (or non-Mennonite) really isn’t the point. It’s whether I’m following Christ and focused on Him.

A Paradigm Shifter

John tells us,

“Anyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.” (1 Jn. 5:1)

Do you notice? The only condition for being born of God is that we believe Jesus is the Christ. The Anointed One. The Son of God.

And do you also see that the proof of our love for the Father is that we love everyone who has been born of Him. Even if they’re not Mennonite.

One Last Thing—No, Two

There are two questions I want to leave you:

For those who are obsessed with preserving Anabaptism, are you surrendered enough to God to let His Holy Spirit do the work in peoples’ lives, and take their confessions of belief at face value? Enough to love those who make different applications than you do? Embracing them as brothers and sisters without emotionally requiring them to conform to your culture?

And for those of you who are tempted to let it all go, are you humble enough to see the valuable and forgiving enough to admit its value and embrace it, even when it reminds you of experiences and people that have hurt you?

May we all be found truly faithful in following Jesus Christ.

*You may also be interested in reading A Prayer for My Generation.

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About Asher Witmer

I am a son of God, husband, father, and difference maker. I love helping people sort through hard questions they face and rediscover Jesus. I have written three eBooks dealing with church frustrations, and send out daily posts addressing faith, church and relationships.

  • Asher,
    I have been looking over your blog for the first time and it is a blessing to read different of your posts.

    I agree with much of what you say here, but I question — why hang onto the Mennonite and Anabaptist names? I too grew up Mennonite. I know the culture. But unless I’m reading my Bible wrong, it is a carnal desire to call one’s self after a man or group.
    I’ll just post here some insights I had written down on the subject awhile back:

    1 Corinthians 3:1-4 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? 4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?
    • When someone is carnal that they will want to follow men and man-made commands. It is the carnal desire.
    • If someone calls themselves “Mennonite”, “Baptist”, “Conservative”, “Lutheran”, “Anabaptist”, etc. or follows after any other denomination or group other then Christ alone, they are most likely carnal. Such a person is following at least to some degree someone other then Christ. It is because the carnal desire is to follow other people.
    • Carnality is the reason for division in the Church. It is the reason for Church splits, and it is why there is not unity of belief even within denominations (see vs. 3).

    I am eager to hear your thoughts
    Nathan

    • Nathan,

      I identify with your concern, but here’s why getting rid of the names aren’t very important to me:

      1. The names (specifically, “Anabaptist”) were not names the people gave themselves, but derogatory remarks others called them by. The same as when people began calling the early church “Christians” (little Christs).

      2. While there certainly are people who cling to a specific name or person and preach it more than they preach Christ (like focusing on teaching Anabaptist theology over simply teaching the Bible), there are many who are not “Anabaptist” because they are following a person. As I mentioned above, the names became something others identified them as. I’m Anabaptist because that’s the setting I grew up in and as I look at scripture and live out what it says, I get called Anabaptist because of some of the way I live. Furthermore, out of all the walks of faith in the world, many Anabaptists are doing well at truly being disciples of Christ–I don’t see it worth chunking that and trying to “fit in” somewhere else. Though, I also heavily believe promoting and preserving Anabaptist thought should not be the focus of our lives and fellowshipping only with Anabaptists is like saying I’m only related to those in my family who also write with their right hand. I am brothers and sisters in Christ with many people who are not “Anabaptist” and never will be.

      3. In my experience working in the inter-city, even when I try to avoid talking about denominations, they’ll always bring it back: “No, no–what GROUP are you apart of?” To spend time trying to explain that I’m just Christian and I follow Jesus and obey His word is a waste of my time because it usually makes them mad and they walk away alienated thinking I’m weird. But it’s not because I’m weird for being radical for Christ. I haven’t done any such thing. I simply spent a bunch of time telling them I follow Him. I didn’t explain (or show) what that means.

      I see it more profitable to engage them and briefly (very briefly) explain my affiliation with Anabaptists and then use the Biblical values that get me labeled as “anabaptist” to disciple them in what it means to follow Christ. For instance, if I am with ladies, they’ll probably ask about the veiling. Rather than explaining it as a cultural distinction, I’ll explain it from the Bible and how Paul exhorts women to cover their heads and how it’s a sign of submission. Then I’ll use that as an opportunity to explain how we men need to also walk in submission and I’ll take them to Peter where it talks about living in an understanding way with our wives so our prayers are not hindered. And speaking of prayer, I’ll begin sharing answered prayers that I’ve experienced and how that’s convinced me that God is real. When they say, “He never answers my prayers!” I’ll empathize with them and then engage them on their level and hear their story so that when we are finished I can pray with them and they can see God answer a prayer. By the end of our time, I spent the same amount actually explaining what it means to follow Christ rather than spending it trying to convince them “I just follow Christ” and never showing what that means.

      4. The focus is Jesus Christ. Just like someone who is busy trying to preserve “Anabaptism” or any other particular denomination, if I busy myself trying to get rid of it, I am still mis-focused. Because of that, I don’t think it’s a proper use of my time to try to de-denominationlize myself in a denominationlized culture. A better use of my time would be learning how view other denominations as brothers and sisters and learning how to work together even though there are things we may disagree on. The question I have for anyone trying to get rid of Anabaptism or whatever it may be is can you also view them as brothers and sisters? Can you work with them? If not, there’s no difference between your attitude and the attitude of those you’re running from. Nothing has changed in the heart. Just the setting of the body.

      You’re right in that the name shouldn’t be the focus. It is carnality to say “I follow so and so,” but for me personally, that’s not what I’m saying when I call myself “Anabaptist” or “Mennonite.” Rather, I just think it isn’t worth giving so much attention and focus to all of that, whether it be trying to promote/preserve it or rather trying to get rid of it. That’s where I’m at with it.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Nathan. Did you have anything more to say or any further questions?

      God bless!

  • Ann F.

    I would love to hear an insightful message on Pharisaical deductive reasoning to their way of life. Is it possible that some of us Mennonites border on same approach to religion/culture?

  • Ann F.

    I would love to hear an insightful message on the Pharisaical deductive reasoning to their way of life.. Is it possible that some of us Mennonites border on same approach to religion/culture

    ?

  • R.

    By listening to this sermon you may understand better why evangelicals place so much emphasis on evangelism.
    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=5209234630
    One reason is a small percent of their children remain in the faith.

    I have seen Mennonites drop scriptural applications in exchange for evangelism and in the process lose their own children. I have seen way too many Mennonites get frustrated with their own church and focus on its problems finding fault with it, then try a non Mennonite church while their children lose faith in Christ.

    We need to let the Word of God dwell in us richly, obey it, and follow him. He will direct us, He will guide us even when things get confusing. Keeping Christ first in our live’s, will keep us from getting so focused on the current issues that we lose out.

    • No kidding. I grew up in evangelical / Charismatic contexts. Almost nobody I grew up with is still attending church, and most of them wouldn’t even identify as Christian anymore. The lack of any distinctives and the lack of much of a defined culture (other than one that tends to be engaged in political causes by being against things) leaves not much to hang on to. As far as divisions and splits go – those happen in every church and evangelicals are not excluded. The church my family attended from age 7 – 10 doesn’t even exist anymore, and the home church my parents attended after that doesn’t have any of its original people in it 15 years later. In essence, the community I grew up in simply ceased to exist.

      Barna Group has done a good deal of research on church growth patterns, and most evangelical growth is just reshuffling of people who are already Christians of some variety or another who end up in an evangelical setting. Nobody is excited about sheepstealing, although you aren’t going to tell someone who starts attending your church to go back to where they came from. But it’s not genuine “making disciples of all nations”.

      Evangelicals also don’t think that they do evangelism some amazing way or discipleship some amazing way – they are genuinely concerned with the trends they see. I don’t think any of them would want us Anabaptists to switch over to doing everything like them. A lot of them look at us, especially the strong families and how many children stay in the faith, and ask “What are we doing wrong?”

      As Mennonites I think we should accept that we have barriers that simply mean we cannot succeed with the evangelical models of evangelism. We should continue to do what we do best, and let the evangelicals keep doing there thing, too. There are some of us out there, like me, who desperately wanted to be Christians, and for whom it’s just impossible to figure out how to be a Christian whilst retaining our own worldly culture. I am grateful there was a strong Christian culture still in existence for me to join up with and convert to. Without plain Anabaptists, I don’t think I would be a victorious Christian now.

  • Ann

    I have never heard that a Christian can have two dimensions or two parts regarding his/her walk with the Lord. Meaning Anabaptist and/or Evangelism. To me, it seems that the two are so intertwined that it is impossible to separate them.

  • Br. David

    Thank you so much for your wisdom. You bring up a lot of great points and it seems that we’re going through a lot of the same questions over here in the Catholic Church as you are. I think the best book I’ve read on the subject is “Forming Intentional Disciples” that while it is Catholic, you may be able to glean something from it and learn something new… God bless brother in Christ!

    http://www.amazon.com/Forming-Intentional-Disciples-Knowing-Following/dp/1612785905/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431460904&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=forming+intnetional+disciples

  • Reblogged this on lavernrh.

  • al longenecker

    As a lifelong Mennonite , now not nearly as conservative as I was raised , I feel more evangelical than anything else, I affirm this conversation! To me the question has become and is:How am I able to handle the great commission in the setting I am in. If Jesus had simply left us with the commands to live right and love Him, we would be pretty cool in our simple and relatively pure pursuit of a Godly lifestyle. He, however, did not do that . He gave us charge to fulfill that changes everything. The iconic’ plain’ lifestyle often appears to be generally exclusive by nature and directly militates against ” bringing in the sheaves”…. hence the struggle. May God help us all as the day approaches, to truly get the Kingdom message. Thank you all for being in the struggle See you in eternity! Al Longenecker—- an old deacon

  • fifi

    Hi There, Thanks for the openness to discuss this topic. Just a word about denominations; I have grown up in the Coptic orthodox faith, married and began to attend Roformed Calvinistic churches, adher to some kind of Pentocostal, piotist beliefs, and now am going to a Mennonite church with my family. As i moved around in christendom I have found that every denomination has a pet doctrine they cherish most, be it the 5 points of calvinism, separation from the world, or whatever it may be. But you know what is really interessting, God does not mind denominations, because God understand freedom of conscience. Because we are limited creatures we can always find something in the Scriptures that is lacking in the rest of christendom, so we run to create a denomination that emphasize that one thing and that is ok. I have studied the history of revival and awakenings and found that the Spirit is poured upon the church under one condition, when Christians begin to have compassion on the lost to the point of considering the salvation of their souls more important than head-covering, modes of baptism, or the 5 points of Calvin. When Christians hear the name of God being blasphemed and Satan’s kingdom advancing and it aches their hearts to the point of losing their sleep, and appetite to eat and cry to God with anguish to vendicate His own name and honor His Son Jesus. That is when they join hand in hand, Baptist, and Ana-baptist, Roformed, and Arminian, Amish, and petecostal. all with one cry, that the lamb that was slain may receive the reward of His suffering. Not that the Monnonite throw their head-cover away, or the Coptics their babies with the baptismal water. God is not interested in that, but He is very much interested that His bride would be one that the world may know Jesus. Now I have a question, why do people always quote the command to the great commision from Matthew rather than Mark? Are they affraid of signs and wonders?

    • Good words.

      ” I have studied the history of revival and awakenings and found that the Spirit is poured upon the church under one condition, when Christians begin to have compassion on the lost to the point of considering the salvation of their souls more important than head-covering, modes of baptism, or the 5 points of Calvin.” And when Christian repent of their lack of faithfulness–that’s another component to most revivals. Thanks for sharing!

      You know, I looked at the Mark passage and thought about putting that one, but the Matthew account felt more complete. Thanks for pointing out what Mark says, though:

      [Mar 16:15-18 ESV] 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

      Some will try to say that true disciples of Christ will be working miracles, but I think that’s a slight misinterpretation of the passage. “They will accompany” (or follow, according to some versions). And Paul talks about miracles being one of the gifts of the Spirit.

      I think in conservative churches we are often too scared of miracles, but on the other hand, others have over emphasized them. We need to follow Christ in faith. The more we understand that, and realize the power of prayer, the more we will see miracles. But I don’t think they should be our drive for evangelism.

      • fifi

        Agree, Jesus said, signs and wonders will follow those who believe, NOT those who believe will follow signs and wonders. They are given for attestation, and authentication of the gospel preached. Without the pouring of the Holy Spirit we may make followers of our ideology or denomination not unlike how a Muslim, a Hindu, or JW makes followers. You started this post talking about how we need to be risky in asking questions sometimes. How you asked your self what Jesus meant by John 14:12 ” Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” I am sure you know something about logic ans exegesis. This statement contains only 2 possibilities. Jesus was lying, we do not know what it means to believe. I choose the latter, becasue i have seen from the history of revivals that every time the Spirit was poured upon a church, many, many so called believers discovered that what they had was nothing more than a mental assent.

  • Bradlyn Wadel

    Thankyou for these posts. They have inspired me again to be faithful and fruitful in fulfilling Christ’s last command.
    I think that a biblical understanding of how God wants new testament churches to operate is foundational to our beliefs about applications of biblical principles in relation to our culture. You noted that many people think church is confusing, and I believe that this carries over into confusion about applications and brotherhood agreements on Biblical teachings.
    I would love to see your views on how a church should be structured.
    How much should unity of witness be valued in the local church?
    Who is part of the church?
    Is group belief important or is individual understanding all that matters?
    On what basis do we excommunicate someone who is living in sin?
    These are a few of the questions that help us define our views of church standards. I would like to give my view on these things but don’t have time right now.
    Bradlyn Wadel

    • Bradlyn,

      I’m afraid I’m still learning a lot about many of these topics. I’ll probably share some throughout posts on my blog, but much of what I have to say is simply the process of sorting in all through. 🙂

  • Rhonda

    Satan recognizes the “value” of our Anabaptist ways also, and will do everything he can to take the “good” (modest and sometimes distinctive dress, head covering, etc) and use it for evil. Thus, when we as Anabaptists try to live that way, Satan comes in and attempts (rather successfully) to turn the outward into a stumbling block – AKA legalism to many. So throwing it out or not having a church standard is not the answer. I personally see the benefits and value church standards as a way to prevent drift, which is certainly what Satan would love to do – remove the valuable things from us.

    Excellent post, Asher! It reflects our thoughts and conversations recently, and clinches some of the ideas we’ve been throwing around!

    • I agree, Rhonda. I don’t think throwing it out is the answer. If we’re not supposed to be focused on the physical, throwing it out only confirms that we were.

      Thanks for sharing.

  • Frances Herrala

    I am so thankful for your blog and for the questions you ask. Know that the questions you ask, the dialogue you inspire and the desire you have to bless and edify your fellow believers is powerful. Your recent articles give me such hope for the Mennonite church. Because you dare to ask the questions, I believe you can find the answers you are looking for.

  • Gina Troyer

    What is our reason for being a christian? To avoid hell? To preserve truth? To bring others into God’s kingdom?–To further the kingdom of God…it sometimes seems that our main goal as a Mennonite christian, is to preserve truth, and preserve our children…and that’s how we hope to further the kingdom of God. We should keep a hold of truth…but I agree with you..our churches need to be engaging with the communities and people around us…not isolating ourselves. We must be able to bring “outsiders” into our churches–we need to be furthering the kingdom of God…and doing that will force us to take a hard look at what is really truth. I believe the headship veiling is truth–modesty is truth–but is the Way we have always worn the veiling,..our particular Type of modest clothing, truth? I don’t think so. Can we hold tightly to truth, but loosely to applications? To be a church who is real, and able to minister to the people around us (not in our churches) –and I believe that is what God wants–these are things that need to be honestly discussed, and I thank you for having the courage to do that!

  • Wow, it does me good to hear and read discussions like this. It isn’t just us struggling with this issue. Thanks Asher and all others posts.

    • George Wolfe

      THE MASTER IS CHRIST JESUS.THE LIGHT.THE DOOR.THE WAY.THE BREAD FROM HEAVEN.THE SHEPHERD OF THE SOUL.THE HIGH PRIEST.THE ALTAR OF INCENSE.THE TABLE OF COMMUNION.THE GOLDEN LAMPSTAND THAT LIGHTS US WITHIN.THE ARK OF THE COVENANT.THE ETERNAL ALTAR.THE ETERNAL SACRIFICE UPON THE ALTER.THE BANNER THAT WE FOLLOW THROUGH THIS WILDERNESS : -THE LION OF JUDAH = CHRIST.THE OX OF EPHRAIM = CHRISTTHE FACE OF REUBEN = CHRIST.THE EAGLE OF DAN = CHRIST DO NOT FOLLOW ANY OTHER BANNER ! “ONE” IS YOUR MASTER…..EVEN CHRIST !!!

  • May God bless you brother as you continue to serve and strive for Kingdom growth! This is a topic that has been heavy on my heart lately and I have been challenged and inspired by your willingness to risk criticism in sharing your thoughts publicly. Just out of curiosity, do you by chance know the Kurtz’s?

    • Sam and Bonnie? I sure do! We worked with them in LA. How do you know them?

  • Marvin

    Thanks for your openness. I find the discussion on denominationalism and all it’s entrapments to be futile. The title itself speaks of immaturity as Paul spoke of those that became ‘Paulites’ as carnal. We can discuss these subjects on religion, it’s pros and cons and NEVER get anywhere…’questions that only gender strife’. Focus on Christ Jesus, his call to make disciples and the harvest will be a hundredfold instead of the small returns on our efforts we see today in most denominations. Keep on seeking! Blessings, Marvin

  • Jeremy Warren

    Hello Asher,

    I was challenged and blessed as I read this well thought out blog post. I grew up in an ultra-conservative Mennonite community. And I have wrestled with these very issues for the last 20 – 25 years (since my teen years) in several different conservative anabaptist communities. This ultimately came to a climax about 3 – 4 years ago and we ended up leaving the conservative anabaptist congregation we were a part of and have since joined a more main-line evangelical congregation.

    I thought I would offer a few observations from my perspective…

    Not all evangelicals fit in the same box. Sometime the perspective from my background would be that evangelicals are typically not too concerned about personal holiness and easily disregard clear Bible teachings. In my experience in the local church family (Harvest Bible Chapel – Waterloo Region) that we are now a part of, this has certainly not been the case. The Gospel is central in the church and personal holiness and practical obedience are key in the teaching and various discipleship ministries of the church. All that to say – I think this quote from your blog post is spot on –

    Quote ~ “But here’s why I did it: Anabaptists do well at running programs, but not at engaging the unchurched and making disciples. Some other evangelical groups are doing a tremendous job making disciples. My generation is hungry for authenticity. I think what many of us struggle with, and would cause us to leave our Anabaptist upbringing, isn’t a desire for worldliness but a desire for more of God and to authentically follow Him.”

    Moving on, the tension between the ‘Biblical’ and the ‘valuable’ is very real. I have been apart of an Anabaptist type church in the past that would totally agree with you that the dress vs slacks question for sisters is not a Biblical issue and that there are in fact modest slacks. They would accept a sister wearing slacks as a sister and fellowship with her freely as a sister in Christ. But they would not be comfortable accepting her as a member in the local church. I think the primary reason is that this is a direct threat to the Anabaptist culture, which in many ways is dependant on physical, external distinctives for its own preservation. I understand the thought process , but I don’t think we have the prerogative (from a Biblical perspective) to deny a person who is genuinely born again and walking with Christ the privilege to be a full part of the local church even if they don’t meet our cultural norms or do not have the same Biblical convictions in some areas. When I say Biblical convictions, I am talking about ‘greyish’ areas in the Christian context, not clear issues of sin.

    I have come to seriously question if it is possible to make congregational regulations regarding dress, lifestyle, etc (Biblical or cultural based) and the end result in each case will be some level of legalism. The focus or centrality of the congregation will ultimately be those practices or distinctive and not on the Gospel and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. There are sincere, godly Christians on both sides of this issue, both from personal experience and observation. So I think each of us as followers of Christ need to come to a place of rest and peace regarding in which context we can best serve Christ and lead our families well.

    There are many things that influence each of our perspectives on these issues. I believe it is most important thing is that we as followers of Jesus Christ keep the Gospel central, fully embrace our own sinfulness and brokenness, and love one another as Jesus loves each one of us. And then personally seek to differentiate between the Biblical and the culturally valuable. We need to hold tightly to the Biblical and a bit more loosely to the ‘valuable’, especially as it relates to imposing on other Christians.

    Just some of my thoughts on the subject. May God bless you as you wrestle with these important questions.
    Jeremy

    • Jeremy,

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  • Anonymous

    Wow wow and wow!!! I am from Belize! I am an evangelical, born and raised evangelical and as a little girl attended a mennonite school. Being at a mennonite school really helped me in my spiritual growth and I grew to love my mennonite brothers and sisters in christ! I have many times wondered about the same issues that you have addressed in your article. I agree with you that the bottom line is that its about our personal relationship with christ and seeking him more and more! We as evangelicals have our own ” junk” to deal with, but as God word states,we are to fix our eyes
    ( mennonitesand evangelicals)on Him who is the only author and perfector of our faith!

  • Celia

    Thanks so much for this Asher. I have had similar thoughts about the parable of the talents applying to valuable things from our heritage. Now, how do we go about investing them in a way that risks losing them but allows them to grow? A mentor of ours advocates “strategic engagement” in lieu of “defensive isolation” as a model for our conversations with people of different faith perspectives. It sounds like this is what you are advocating as well. Although I don’t like the combat analogy, I guess it does apply, as long as we remember that our enemy is the great Deceiver and not our brother who we are having the conversation with. I still believe this type of conversation is possible, but so rare, and so hard. I wish I knew how to grow in this. Maybe it’s just the messy hard work of practicing, and risking sounding like a fool, or being shown to be wrong. Thanks for doing your part, in making an effort here.

    I also agree with what you are saying about the mold of applications that we have historically tended to make for new Christians. When someone says “I am a sinner, and I want to follow Jesus..”, what in your experience/opinion should be our next step of discipleship, as a friend, and as a church?

    • That’s a good question, Celia. Here’s an idea:

      I think how we approach discipleship is often formed by our view on membership and the requirements to be a member. (Perhaps those should be looser?) Marital intimacy usually isn’t a requirement for membership. But the head covering is. So we take our new disciples to the head covering. While that’s a Biblical principle to disciple people in at some stage, why not first address marriage and relationship issues and use that as a lead-in to things like the veiling and modesty.

      I’m know there are some churches that have more of this type of approach, it just seems that often we focus on what it takes to get them to be members and our membership requirements can often have extra-Biblical things. If we focus on that, we miss some of the more crucial discipleship areas.

      Those are some of my rambling thoughts.

  • James Horst

    Wow, just wow! Brother, I don’t know you but I hear your heart and, as someone from the “older generation”, I want to commend you for asking the hard questions. In the last 5 years, I’ve asked some of the same questions of my peers (I’m Mennonite) and the answers one gets are simply amazing. I won’t go into all that here. Simply put, as I get older, the less the denominational tag means to me. The idea of making disciples of those who may not share my views on applications(attire) have been frustrating in the sense that I believe we need to go for the heart/spirit first, then discipleship as follow up. But, trying that in the local body, and getting told why that doesn’t work raises some difficult feelings in me to say the least. Do we no longer trust the Holy Spirit? Or do we try to usurp His work. He is part of the Godhead! Would seem to me that if I’m going to assume the work of the Holy Spirit, I’m saying I’m equal to God. I think NOT! That idea got lucifer kicked out of heaven. Would to God ,we could get to a place where all are welcome in our circles initially, then we do the work of discipleship .
    Thanks for letting me vent. 🙂 God bless you as you live out the life of Christ within you and keep challenging us.

  • Amish Turned Evangelical

    Hi Asher,

    I stumbled upon this because a friend posted it on Facebook. I grew up Amish and transitioned to Mennonite but have been part of Evangelical (non-Anabaptist) culture for the past decade. I still value many things that my background taught me, and I’m happy to see others still in Anabaptist culture valuing these things as well. While the heavy emphasis on clothing sometimes derails rather than facilitates serious conversations about godliness, conservative Anabaptists offer an example of “marching to the beat of a different drummer” and being happy with following God even when doing so doesn’t make them popular. For many Anabaptists, following God shapes one’s lifestyle rather than being a “hobby” that we add to our unchanged lives. That offers a godly witness to those Christians who say that change to less godly standards is “inevitable” if we want to stay “relevant” and to those unbelievers who say that Christians are no different than anyone else (except that they have a social club that talks about Jesus).

    I’m glad you recognize that moving to the evangelical world comes with its own set of problems. While I am highly appreciative of our efforts to bring others to Christ, for example, I’m a bit downhearted that we don’t do as well about keeping them. We may bring them in, but all too often we don’t truly “make disciples.” The door in and out of evangelicalism (and in and out of the church at large) seems even wider than the doors between the various striations of Amish-Mennonite. Evangelicals have historically done better than mainline churches at retaining people in the church, but my own observations lead me to wonder whether this is still the case today since so many youth and new converts alike are “here today, gone tomorrow.” Another caution: In the evangelical desire for “relevance,” we sometimes water down the transformational power of the gospel and make it something that can be tacked on with the right words. Say this prayer. Speak these words to other believers. Show the correct amount of fervor while you are speaking. If you speak the right words in the right way, we can add you to our list and see how we are “growing” (in numbers at least). But this by no means always the case. There are certainly Evangelicals for whom “lifestyle Christianity” is important and where evangelical work does actually result in “making disciples.”

    And here I disagree slightly with your understanding of “making disciples,” an emphasis often promoted by evangelicals. The word “disciple” does not mean “convert” (although true converts become disciples) — it means “follower” and is closely related to the word “discipline.” If we help new believers become disciplined followers of Christ, then we are fulfilling the Great Commission. Of course, we are often called to play a role in bringing others to Christ, but I’m afraid that while conversion is the work of the Spirit and the church is charged with discipling, many of us think we must convert others and expect the Spirit to take care of discipleship without our help. (That, by the way, is a critique of evangelicals, not of Anabaptists.)

    Blessings to you as you follow Jesus, the One we love and worship. May we serve Him and His body faithfully and beautifully even though we have been called to identical ways of following him.

    • Amish Turned Evangelical

      Correction of my last sentence: “May we serve Him and His body faithfully and beautifully even though we have NOT been called to identical ways of following Him.”

    • Thank you for sharing this. These are good insights!

  • Charles Rohrer

    Hi,

    I came across this article on fb and finally got a chance to read it.

    I’m really been struggling with this Anabaptist vs other Christians subject for some time now.

    I liked the way you explained your position and and reason you remain Anabaptist; it helps me out, and even more that you receive Evangelical s and others as Christians.

    I believe what you said in the article is correct, that what many are seeking is more of Christ. And that is good! Because those who seek will find.

    There’s a verse that many Mennonite people must not read at all or don’t believe its supposed to be in the Bible. “He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. “KJV. So if there’s life there’s fellowship.

    Thanks for the thoughtful article.

    • Praise God! And thanks for sharing.

  • Asher,
    Thanks for the discussion. I will admit I totally missed your heart on the questions and responded from my own experience(wanting to give up). I feel somewhat confused/defeated (wounded soldier) and craving the wilderness in my own life. Thank you for a perspective I’m comfortable with.

    I also just read your Dad and I PDF and my heart hurts for you. I was more a momma’s boy so my lack of deep relationship with my Dad wasn’t real painful to me but it was a real hindrance. I, “believe it or not”, looked for that affirmation in a girl that refused to give it and I struggled with bitterness for a while until I one day I was thinking how I was so wronged by that person and was just getting very angry. I was tired of the burden and anger so I told God I want to forgive her and I want him to forgive her also. I immediately felt a burden and angry tension leave like(poof) it was amazing to say the least. God later revealed to me she was an idol to me and since he hates Idols he purposely makes them fail me. When I first learned God believes in me (sounds weird) it changed my life. I was also challenged with how I’m relating to my 4 almost 5 children. God Blessed me with a wonderful wife. she is my wife and not a god to me and I am happy to lay my life down for her as Christ did for the church.

    All the responses that were received in your former topic revealed alot of confusion that you pointed out was not a primary concern on everyone’s minds. I was just thinking how did confusion become an accepted norm even for myself.

    One thing I was pondering lately is something that has the potential to twist my mind into a pretzel. Alot of times we say or hear that church is the kingdom of God. but lately I was thinking No Church is not the Kingdom of God, church is the bride of Christ and its the Kingdom of God that helps it function properly. So when Jesus was preaching the kingdom of God he wasn’t preaching Church and I also concluded its not just heaven but something we experience now. So it looks something like this ” blessed are the poor in spirit for they shall inherit Revelations 21:1-7″. not perfect but you get the point. its not what I can do for God but what he will do for us. then we respond with fruit that is pleasing to him. So the question I want to ask my self is- Am I experiencing the Kingdom of heaven and how can I help those around me also experience it.

    I have no desire to debate any of this here and thank you Asher for an opportunity to express a piece of my heart here. I struggle with posting this knowing there are people that know me going to read it but its ok. I have a touch of social media phobia.

    Blessing on your journey,
    Nelson

    • Thank you for sharing, Nelson. Both in this article and in the previous one. I thought you shared some good insights.

      And I agree, Jesus didn’t preach church. He taught a whole new way of life that radically changes us whether we’re from Mennonite, Evangelical, unchurched background.

  • Barb King Thumma

    You talk about culture, evangelicalism, modesty. There are other people using the name Mennonite. They will use it at their large group convention and make decisions quite different from the Bible that I read in my home “Mennonite” church. I find the church that I attend now, not Mennonite, is quite a bit more modest in dress and Biblical in preaching than the church where my parents still attend. The change is disturbing. You may want to reconsider that these names mean. I believe that many people in Mennonite churches need to consider removing themselves from the larger group/denomination that is meeting this summer in Kansas City. People want to hear truth. They are hungry for the Word of God.

    • Yes, there are other churches (that aren’t Mennonite) with modest dress and solid Bible teaching.

      What group is meeting in Kansas City this summer?

      • Barb King Thumma

        Mennonite Church USA The convention of the churches that joined from Old Mennonite Churches and General Conference Mennonite Churches.

  • anonymous

    Asher,

    I very much appreciate the article and think you addressed the issues well.

    I agree with what Phil Yoder said about identifying ourselves as Amish or Mennonites to people who see something different in us. As soon as we point them to anything other than Christ, the hunger is satisfied. I have personally witnessed this numerous times in conversations I had with people.

    I don’t think that you should be afraid of the fireworks that an article like this creates. There is security in standing for what is right and true even when people disagree. At the same time, I think that there is value in listening to the critique that people might have to offer when they think we have strayed off course. Brotherhood is valuable and the Anabaptists do pretty well with it from what I have seen.

    I think sometimes that Anabaptists have a culture of being divisive. It is almost like it is in us. Are there good ways we can overcome the culture of divisiveness? Maybe you have some tips. I also think we are an anxious people and don’t always understand who God wants us to be, maybe because of some of the cultural applications we make based on biblical commands. Are there ways we can become secure in our identity in Christ alone?

    God bless your ministry.

    Jamien

    • Some good thoughts, Jamien! Thanks for sharing.

      Could you clarify what you mean about having a culture of being divisive?

  • Dbeach

    Thanks so much for what you shared here. This is the part that spoke to me the most: “And for those of you who are tempted to let it all go, are you humble enough to see the valuable and forgiving enough to admit its value and embrace it, even when it reminds you of experiences and people that have hurt you?”
    Lords blessings!

  • First of all, thank you for the excellent article. It was like a refreshing drink of water on a hot day!

    As someone who has been tempted to “let it all go”, but stayed because we recognized many of its “values”, what is your suggestion now? Those who stay and try to bring about change (such as reaching out to those outside of the box, speaking out about double standards–and we have many–,trying to be salt that is not just staying in the shaker) are viewed as and treated as trouble makers.

    How can we stay silent when people outside of the Mennonite culture begin to attend the church, but then are picked on because they don’t look quite right? Or when people complain that we have too many women (not from our culture) who are occasionally attending but don’t wear a covering? Or when people who are attending but are not members are asked to find another church because they believe differently on some applications?

    I have seen too many Mennonite churches that are so focused on making sure everyone is following the details of every little application that they ignore obvious SIN in the lives of members that at least LOOK okay on the outside. It seems like we have been staying busy “straining gnats and swallowing camels”.

    Do we even care about what is in the heart and is causing sin? Does forcing someone to conform to outward rules do anything in the heart?

    I think many of our generation want to see authentic Christianity, but are held back by an older generation that is bound by fear of what it “might lead to”.

    • Those are some tough questions, and my answers may not be what you need right now. I say that particularly because I’ve been blessed (almost spoiled) in that I have never really been a part of a church that didn’t care about making disciples. . . and wrestling with this issues. I’ve had individuals who seemed extra critical of me, but most of the authorities I’ve been under in life invested in me and tapped into my desire for more authenticity. Furthermore, they showed me what that looks like.

      But I guess one thing that I think people who want to make a change need to evaluate is whether they are being the change they wish others were.

      For instance, I can get frustrated because people in my church don’t reach out. We just sit around discussing theology and doctrines and traditions. But am I reaching out? Am I engaging the unchurched?

      Or maybe I’m frustrated because my church seems “dead,” and I want more “life.” Am I being a life-giving person? I have direct access to Life, Himself. I don’t necessarily need other people to be life for me (that’s different if I’m considering the environment I want my children to grow up in). But I really can be a life-giving person right where I’m at. And the more I invest life into people, the more my church may come alive.

      It’s the difference between blaming others and taking personal responsibility.

      Having said all that, you bring up some valid issues and I don’t know what the perfect answer is. . .but I just encourage you to keep listening to God and following Him. It may bring about some persecution.

  • anonymous

    It is so refreshing to me to see these things being raised and discussed. I was a member of a plain church for 20 years and feel no sense of closure about leaving because I didn’t feel that there was any place to discuss my concerns. I left because I finally concluded that being in that church was mostly about clan and culture even though Christ was preached every Sunday.

    • Too often, that seems to be the case. When our lives aren’t really about what we talk (or preach) about, people become disconnected and disinterested.

  • May God BLESS you, Asher. This is a clincher that I’m going to file away. You are a big asset in His kingdom if you live this out.

  • Anonymous

    *

  • Andrea Hershberger

    Thanks, Asher, for opening this subject and engaging it! This is something we are/have been struggling with/learning and you’ve put it into words well!
    One more thought to add- recently in an opening at our church a brother spoke on the parable of the talents. Two things he said really hit home with me- 1) Our churches are very rich- not necessarily monetarily, but with heritage and relationships etc. 2) if we don’t invest this wealth for fear of losing what we have- we will lose it. We need to be willing to risk investing in order to reap multiplication!
    I heard the same thing in what you were saying. We need to hear this! Well written! Glory to God! Thanks for being willing to be used!

    Andrea

    • “We need to be willing to risk investing in order to reap multiplication!” Amen! That’s good, Andrea.

  • This is excellent! I spent a month writing about my own journey through some of these same questions. You’ve said it very well! I especially like your thoughts on what’s Biblical and what’s valuable… Thanks for taking the risk. We need to hear this!

    • Anonymous

      Do you have a blog?

      • If you click on my name it should take you right to it. I spent the month of January writing on this subject ….

  • Chris Witmer

    I think you nailed it for many of us, bro! Thanks for opening yourself and allowing Christ to flow through you!

  • Rosina

    This is powerful! Thank you.

  • Julia Brubaker

    Amen to your article, Asher! You put into words many of the thoughts and questions I have about life and our Mennonite culture and how we relate to others. Thank you for being brave enough to raise these important questions.

  • Brave post. Kudos for engaging the issues!

  • phil Yoder

    Hey Asher I’m encouraged with what I see in your heart
    I do have one question
    If our only focus is Christ why would we continue to identify ourselves to the public with a denominational name?
    My personal opinion is that the minute we mention a denomination as a reference to who we are, that curiosity in people’s minds gets satisfied and produces a cooling down effects on the hunger that was there.
    On the other hand if we refuse to satisfy that hunger or curiosity with anything but Christ the fire only burns deeper, stronger, driving them to find answers, the answers that can only be found in Him
    -Phil

    • Great questions, Phil. And my answer is just where I’m at based on my own experiences (particularly in relating with people in LA), so I could be wrong.

      But here’s where I’m at: when someone comes up wonders “what group are you apart of?” because we stick out and people in LA always like to know which weirdos you hang out with (everyone’s a little weird in LA). I always say, “we are Christians. We follow Christ.” That rarely satisfies them. In fact, I’ve had some people get upset.

      As broken as it is, our culture thinks in terms of denominations. Even if you’re not a believer. Their questions about what group you’re apart of aren’t necessarily because of “the hope that is within you,” but because the way you live out the Christian life is particularly different than anyone else they’ve seen. Those distinctives are usually mainly cultural. And I think it can almost be healthier to just acknowledge that and then move on and talk about Jesus.

      I think just like conservative Anabaptist can error on the side of viewing their physical differences as a sign of a holier way, those of us that recognize that can error on thinking that getting rid of the name automatically makes things better or holier when it comes to relating with people. Again, I could be wrong, but that’s where I’m at now.

      I do believe we need to be careful not to get caught up in discussing the theology and history of Anabaptist’s when what the person needs most is Jesus Christ.

      In essence, what I’m saying is that I don’t think just refusing to identify with a denomination is what drives people to find answers in Christ, but when we can move beyond that and engage them and talk about Christ–and then as they watch us live it out.

      Is that in align with what you were asking, or did I misunderstand you? Maybe you have more thoughts.

      • GEORGE WOLFE

        VERY WISE…….IF YOU JUMP SHIP, YOU WILL ONLY FIND MORE OF THE SAME. AND MUCH WORSE !

        YOU HAVE A VERY GOOD MIND, AND I FULLY SUPPORT YOUR WISDOM.

        THE CENTRAL MESSAGE OF CHRIST JESUS IS FOLLOW ME…..THIS IS NOT ON A HOLIDAY TO THE SOUTH OF FRANCE……IT IS THE COMPLETE MORTIFICATION OF THE SELF…..OUT OF THIS COMES THE LIFE OF THE OTHER, SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU DIED TO YOUR OWN EGO AND SELF IMPORTANCE TO BECOME A TRUE SERVANT OF OUR LORD AND KING, CHRIST JESUS.