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A Tale of Three Churches – Beginnings

by on November 14, 2014


Reaction and Beginning

All three churches in this discussion had very eventful beginnings. Actually they all began as reactions.

Mennonite – There are two kinds of Anabaptists/Mennonites: Swiss and Dutch. The Swiss began in 1525 and the Dutch in 1530. In both cases they were reacting to the Catholic and Reformed systems.

The Catholic system held sway over the then-known world for more than one thousand years. The Reformed system began by Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli and others was a reaction to the Catholic control. The Reformed returned to a more Biblical position but fell short of the early Church and Biblical concept of New Testament Church.

For a short time, the early Anabaptist/Mennonite groups were a reaction to the current expressions of church found in the Catholic and Reformed teachings. After a short time (a few years) they realized the futility of attempting to correct the existing groups and founded the Church now known as Mennonite.

They ceased being a reaction and proceeded to produce a Spirit-led fellowship of believers who committed to follow Christ as taught by the Scriptures. Come what may, they were committed to follow after (nach folge) Christ in living out the Scripture as they understood it.

Brethren – In 1708 a group known as the Brethren began. They came out of the Pietist movement. The Pietist movement began in the Lutheran and Reformed groups.

For a few years the Brethren were a reaction to the state churches. They then realized that the only way to proceed was to begin a new fellowship based on their understanding of the Scripture as expressed by the early Church. They separated from the existing churches and formed a new group of committed followers of Jesus.

They were directed by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Scripture, and Church history to form a new fellowship.

Brethren in Christ – In about 1780 (the date seems uncertain) The Brethren in Christ began as the River Brethren. They were called River Brethren because the baptized in the river and their first congregations were founded close to a river.

Two men from Mennonite parentage realized that the Mennonite Church, as they experienced it, was not fervent in Spirit as they believed it should be. These men sought counsel and began a new fellowship in attempt to live out the teachings of the New Testament as they understood it.

They moved from reaction and searching to beginnings that led them to be diligent followers of Jesus Christ.

Observations –
These beginnings were painful and difficult. There was uncertainty and persecution. There was trial and temptation. There was shepherding and guidance and struggle and fasting and prayer and Scripture searching and ….

Today we are grateful for the decisions they made and for the price they paid. They were, in their turn, revivals in their time.

Each of them, in turn, had to count the cost and evaluate how long to remain a reaction and when to move to a new beginning. That decision was not easy. That decision is never easy. It will never be easy.

Revival depends on perceptive evaluation of where we are and where God is calling us. Revival is a return to God after a time of complacency. Revival is paying the price – the price that these groups paid.

There were many voices. There are many voices. Beginnings are never easy. Let us be careful lest we honor the past leaders but not have the perception and courage to be leaders today.

Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. Ezra 8:21

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