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A Tale of Three Churches – Future – Scripture

by on October 1, 2014

The Anabaptist community is divided into three groupings.

On the right are the old order groups. They have rejected much modernization in religion. The do not have Sunday School or revival meetings. They do have strong community and strong socialization processes. Most of their children join the church, marry and remain with the group. They are growing – in some cases growing very rapidly – doubling in number every 20 years and starting new settlements, schools and congregations. Education is basic and life is simple.

They are primarily culture oriented. They each have their unique understandings and applications of separation from the world and hold strictly to those expressions. Their honesty and integrity and industry are well known.

On the negative side, they have some areas where sin is rife and politics rules. Law is law and rule is rule. Anyone daring to break from the ordnung is banned and shunned.

On the left are the liberal groups. They have acculturated and are not typically recognizable. They have adopted modernization in most ways and favor higher education. They have left most of their Anabaptist roots. Some of them are involved in sharing good things with the world around them.

The middle group is the group which my essays address. The middle group is made up of groups who are almost old order on one side and groups who are almost liberal on the other side. For the most part, these groups are headed in a liberal direction. Some people call them “transitional” because they are in transition from old order to liberal.

The Old Order groups will survive on the strength of culture. The liberal groups will survive on the strength of ideology. What is the future of the middle group? Can they continue to be Anabaptist in thought and practice? What would that mean?

There are several areas that need to be addressed. Among those areas are: Scripture, The Holy Spirit, Worship, History, and Leadership. The following essays will address these types of subjects.

Scripture
The future for the Anabaptist community is inextricably linked to Scripture. Both the Mennonite and Brethren Churches were birthed out of the Scripture. They read and studied the Bible and took it at face value. They honored and obeyed the Scripture. Many of them memorized much of the Bible. In fact the Brethren said, “The New Testament is our only creed.”

The Bible was the prominent factor in both private life in the home and in corporate life in the Church. If the Anabaptist community is to continue to be a Spiritual expression of Scripture, that will have to be restored.

One prominent Brethren leader writes:
“The Expository sermon is a message which unfolds the truth contained in a passage of Scripture. A good expositor will open up the Scriptures (Luke 24:27) and explain the meaning (Nehemiah 8:8) in such a way that the audience will wonder why they had not seen it before! Expository is not merely making some running comments on the successive verses of a Bible portion. Instead, it involves the formulating of a theme, grouping the verses under headings which amplify the theme, and then proclaiming the practical message of the passage.”

If the Anabaptist community is to continue, this type of preaching is imperative. It is hard work but it must be done. There is a hunger for the Word of God in our churches. Those of us called to preach and teach have an awesome responsibility and opportunity. We must be about our Father’s business.

The home must also become a place of Scripture teaching. The Bible must become a focal point in the life of the individual and the family. Personal commitment to study the Scripture and family devotions are part of what it means to be Anabaptist.

Life has become so busy that there is scarcely time for the Bible. It becomes a brief exposure on Sunday morning Sunday School and Church. This will not work. The Bible must once again regain its place of prominence in our lives.

We commit hours for sports. Many of us will watch a ball game for 3 or 4 hours. How much time have we invested in the Bible? We commit hours for leisure. How much time to study the Scripture and meditate on its truths. We commit hours and years to business and farming. How much time to prepare our eternal souls and the souls of our children by committing time to the Word of God?

We are trying to be people of God without being people of the Book. That will not work. To be people of God means being men and women of the Scripture where Scripture is the prominent force in our lives and the Scripture directs our thinking and behavior.

Our leaders must be diligent students of the Scripture and all of us must be committed disciples of the Word of God. It should be the first wall of defense against the world and the answer to our deepest longings and needs. It should direct our decisions and plans. Only then will we have the needed strength to continue to be the people of God.

Jesus said, “Sanctify them by thy Truth. Thy Word is Truth.” It is the Word of God that will set us apart unto God. Nothing else will work.

For thirty years I have studied and taught the Scripture. It has been a life-changing experience for me and for many of my students. We are the hammers and the Bible is the anvil. Hammers wear out, the anvil; never!

I am calling us as a community to return to the Book of books – the Bible. It is our life-blood and our heritage and our future. Blessings await that we can hardly imagine if we will do that. God bless you as you do that.

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