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A Tale of Three Churches – Current Evaluation

by on December 15, 2014

I am a committed Anabaptist. Much of my life has been invested in study and in instruction in Anabaptist circles. My conviction is that We (Anabaptists) have what the world needs. God has entrusted His Word to us and He has given us courageous leaders from the past for direction. Many principles from the early Anabaptist movement are still providing leadership for us today.

There is always a challenge to being an Anabaptist. Everyone views and reads the Bible through some kind of a filter. The filter is the most important part of being a believer. The filter(s) in people’s lives control what they see and understand from the Bible. It is my conviction that the Anabaptist “filter” is the most useful and least obtrusive of all possible filters.

That said, any belief system can become an ideology and begin to control the level of truth (or lack thereof) in the system. That danger exists in the Anabaptist world also. In fact, it is a major problem. Only by overcoming the ideologies that develop in the system can we begin to hear from the Holy Spirit and have our hearts illuminated by the Scriptures.

After years of study and teaching Bible and Anabaptist history here are some observations:

1. Need for introspection – most groups prefer defensive posturing to genuine evaluation. They do not want to hear how things could be improved. They are involved in status-quo maintenance. They have their impressive leaders who set the course and the others follow. Self-evaluation needs to replace self-congratulation.

2. Need to hear from the prophets – God sends prophets to all groups. They are there, they have something to say, listen to them. They are the ones who are not impressed or influenced by politics. They are the ones who will tell the truth, no matter what.

3. Need for knowledge of history – Church history and our own history. Who reads Menno Simons or Alexander Mack? We read modern evangelicals but not our own historic writers. We depend on the internet but not on the integrity of history.

4. Need to understand ordination – The definition of ordination is: to be called and to be given a charge. Ordination does not convey inordinate power. Historically, ordination was a call to a life of serving and shepherding.

5. Need to eliminate power struggles – they are so destructive. They only serve the purposes of the people involved. The members suffer as a result of the struggles for power among leaders. Find ways to stop fighting and find places to serve and build. We do not all have to live and work at the same location.

6. Need youth – youth are the answer – they are the ‘new conservatives’ – they have to face life with different skills than we did. They are doing so – doing better than we did. In a day of aging leadership in our churches, youth are the answer. Trust them. They will be here long after we are gone. Prepare them for their leadership roles.

7. Need to learn to work together –para church groups are growing. They may be the answer to some of the struggles. Similarly minded groups can work together even if they are not part of one congregation or conference.

8. Need for Bible teaching – This is the greatest need. Jesus saw the people as sheep without a shepherd and He taught them many things. Our people need solid teaching. For the most part, that is not happening. Most of the teaching they do get is from Evangelicalism on the radio and in books. We must prepare leaders to know how to teach the Word of God. They must be prepared and able to make the Bible come alive for the people.

9. Need for sustainable leadership – Godly men who are Spiritually and emotionally healthy are desperately needed in our churches. Men with vision and discernment and wisdom and are led by the Holy Spirit of God.

10. Need to value intentional instruction
– In the home – healthy homes that raise healthy children
– In the Church – healthy churches that support healthy families
– In the schools – healthy staff who impart health to students
– Need for people to be committed Anabaptists and not just plain-dressing protestants
– Need for depth in academic rigor – the earliest Anabaptists were scholars
– need for apologetics – to know and defend what we believe

Can these needs be met? They can and in some places they are. The continued existence of the Biblical witness of our communities is dependent on our commitment to the Word of God in each life.

God bless you as you make and keep and teach that commitment.

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