Someone gave our little Followers of Jesus Atlanta Church a generous gift for buying hymnals. We are very thankful! Now we have the delightful pleasure of selecting the best hymnal(s) to buy. And you can help us by voting.
So far, the following three-part approach seems wise, enabling us to move forward without forgetting our past:
Choose one book that helps us connect with people in our neighborhood, which is about 95% African American.
Choose another book that reflects our Anabaptist roots.
Use CCLI (a church copyright license service) to legally copy additional songs.
Goal number three requires little discussion. And we have found a hymnal that achieves goal number one superbly: The African American Heritage Hymnal—which, incidentally, includes many classic hymns familiar to most American evangelicals. We are gradually collecting some very affordable used copies.
But finding a solution for an Anabaptist hymnal is proving more tricky. Of the four or so hymn books that we and our teammates the Smuckers grew up using most, only one is something that any of us really likes. And it (Great Hymns of the Faith, compiled by John W. Peterson) is not even an Anabaptist hymnal!
(I’m trying to be kind and avoid getting too specific about which hymnals we are less satisfied with, though I can say a couple things. First, we’d rather not have an editor changing too many original lyrics. We’d rather learn classic hymns in their classic versions, leaving editorial discussions as needed for the time of singing, as teachable moments. And second, we find some hymnals have more compelling musical arrangements than others.)
We are not absolutely set on finding a hymnal that is specifically Anabaptist. But there would be some advantages to choosing a hymnal that, for example, teaches our children the best of the hymns that their parents grew up singing. And I would consider it a good thing if this hymnal would intentionally include some of the best of our (admittedly comparatively sparse) Anabaptist hymnody.
Perhaps there is an Anabaptist hymnal that we did not grow up with that would achieve this goal well? Or a non-Anabaptist hymnal that is so strong we should consider it?
Thus, this poll. What do you think is the best hymnal for Mennonites? (Or Anabaptists, if you prefer.) I’ll pre-load this poll widget with some options. Then you can help in four ways:
Vote. (You can vote for more than one if you think two are tie.)
[This post was published by the Mennonite World Review on “The World Together Blog.”]
Recent events have reminded me that being a peacemaker involves more than just being “the quiet in the land.” It also involves speaking up.
In summary, here is the three-part story I’m telling in this post:
(1) Conservative Reformed Christians in American are currently having a debate about Christians and the use of deadly force. Some of us Anabaptists spoke up and got a bit of public notice, and now I am praying that this will help more of our Reformed brothers and sisters embrace the way of suffering love more fully.
(2) What is the proper way for “the quiet in the land” to speak up?
(3) How can we do a better job of maintaining our nonresistant heritage right in our own Anabaptist churches?
Perhaps you’ve heard about it: Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. (reportedly the largest Evangelical Christian university in the world), has been in the news for his statement to students at a school convocation. With a chuckle and an insinuation that he was carrying a gun in his back pocket at that very moment, Falwell said the following to much applause:
I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in…
Facing media backlash, Falwell later clarified his comments. But the substance of his position remained the same, and he provided a very questionable interpretation for the only biblical reference he provided in his explanation:
It just boggles my mind that anybody would be against what Jesus told His disciples in Luke 22:36: He told them if they had to sell their coat to buy a sword to do it because He knew danger was coming, and He wanted them to defend themselves.
John Piper, author, chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary, and former pastor at Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis, Mn., was troubled by Falwell’s words, so he dialogued with Falwell in private and then wrote an article in response:
This article is about the people whom the Bible calls “refugees and exiles” on earth; namely, Christians. It’s about the fact that our weapons are not material, but spiritual (2 Corinthians 10:4). It is an argument that the overwhelming focus and thrust of the New Testament is that Christians are sent into the world — religious and non-religious — “as lambs in the midst of wolves” (Luke 10:3). And that exhorting the lambs to carry concealed weapons with which to shoot the wolves does not advance the counter-cultural, self-sacrificing, soul-saving cause of Christ.
To be clear, Piper was not arguing for a nonresistant or even pacifist position. He still thinks soldiers and police officers may use guns, and that Christians may serve in those positions. He just doesn’t think Christians who are private citizens should be encouraged to pack guns for self-defense, and he advocates a very different tone than what Falwell used in his initial comments.
Amazingly, among his Reformed peers and many other evangelicals, Piper’s response has apparently been as controversial as Falwell’s original statements. Just now I did a Google search for “Piper” and “Should Christians Be Encouraged to Arm Themselves” (the title of Piper’s article). The first link listed is Piper’s original article. Here’s what I found in the rest of the top ten (Google order in brackets):
5 blog posts disagreeing with Piper. (2, 3, 4, 8, 10)
1 blog news post summarizing Piper’s article then tentatively affirming some rebuttals from other bloggers. (9)
Those 5 bloggers who disagree with Piper use language like this (again in Google order):
“I honestly don’t know much about the ministry or beliefs of John Piper… But going on this particular article he has written, he comes across as an anti-gun liberal to me… Lol, every liberal is a pacifist until the day their loved ones are threatened, then they want blood. John Piper is no different. If the evil he so carelessly tells us to “not worry about” and just “trust God” with ever came to land at his doorstep you can best believe his tune would change. Quickly.”
“Piper’s position as outlined is about as close as one can come to individual pacifism without saying so. His response unfortunately ignores much of the context of the New Testament passages it cites, and ignores the Old Testament entirely. As such, I not only view it as unbiblical and disagree with it strongly, I think it would be dangerous and unloving for Christians to accept in society.”
“Piper seems to lack virtually any and all discernment.”
“I think that Piper has missed the mark on this one, and I encourage wise men to carry a weapon and to do so carefully, Christologically, and only use it when needed…”
“I realize John Piper’s problem with Jerry Falwell is that Falwell was encouraging other Christians to arm themselves as American citizens. However, Piper does precisely what Falwell did; he’s encouraging Christians in America not to arm themselves. I’m doing what neither man has done. I’m telling you to follow the Spirit and do as He leads.”
The three discussion forums contain a wild mix of perspectives and generally a lot of confusion.
The one blog news post is much calmer, and it is the cause for my post here today. This post was written by the widely-followed Reformed blogger Tim Challies.
I subscribe to Challies’ emails and find the majority of them very edifying, both informative and convicting. However, when this onelanded in my inbox, I was troubled. But I also saw an opportunity as I read these words near the end of Challies’ post:
I have put little thought into the ownership and use of guns and found this discussion quite helpful in forming my thoughts. To tip my cards just a little, I find myself appreciating Piper’s efforts, especially related to demeanor and heart-attitude, but leaning more toward the points made by Wedgeworth and Thune [who both presented rebuttals to Piper].
Here is one of the most influential conservative Reformed voices, I thought, and he is just now forming his understandings regarding Christians and the use of deadly force. Perhaps we can help shape his thinking?
So I posted this on Facebook:
Suggestion: If you are a nonresistant Christian, please write a respectful “letter to the editor” to Tim Challies regarding his coverage of John Piper’s article about Christians and arms. This seems to be an opportune moment to invite our Reformed brothers and sisters to more fully embrace the way of suffering love.
I suggest you include two things in your letter:
(1) A brief response to something in Challies’ post (perhaps challenging one of the rebuttals against Piper’s article) or an affirmation of something you liked in Piper’s article.
(2) A suggestion that Challies read and review Preston Sprinkle’s book Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence. (http://amzn.to/1YN9aAP) If he receives a minor flood of letters recommending this book, perhaps we can convince him to read it. Imagine if he would actually start promoting it!
Then I pasted the letter that I had just written to Challies. After reading my post, several of my friends joined me, sending their own letters.
Yesterday morning I discovered that Challies had indeed published the letter that I sent—posted it on his blog and sent it to his thousands of email subscribers. I was delighted! Here is the letter, as Challies published it:
Thank you for giving John Piper’s article on Christians and arms respectful press. I found his words a refreshing breath of Christ-centered love. In response to your summary of responses, I have two thoughts:
(1) While Piper’s article is not perfect, I am disappointed that he has been charged with being “biblicistic and dependent upon a specific understanding of the relationship between the New Testament and the Old” (Wedgeworth’s words). How can it be wrong to see the new covenant as our lens for interpreting and applying the old, as Piper is trying to do? As an Anabaptist, I come from a long theological heritage of doing just this, and our people have suffered for centuries for refusing to bear the sword. I don’t think it is true that Piper “assumes that we need a direct biblical teaching on a matter in order to know whether it is morally permissible or not” (Wedgeworth’s explanation for his “biblicistic” charge). Rather, Piper is drawing biblical theological deductions from the pattern of God’s unfolding revelation, which climaxes in Christ’s defenseless self-sacrifice and his call for us to follow in his steps. This is no mere simplistic “biblicism.”
(2) Since you have expressed interest in this question of Christians and the use of force, I strongly encourage (exhort, implore, urge, beg!) you to read and review Preston Sprinkle’s book Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence. A complex topic like this cannot be properly addressed in a handful of short articles. Sprinkle deals with the biblical evidence from both testaments in detail, historical evidence from the early church, and the toughest practical questions from today. He says he is from your own Christian neighborhood: “The Christian subculture in which I was raised and still worship is nondenominational conservative Reformed. I’ve been influenced over the years by John Piper, John MacArthur, R. C. Sproul, and many others who swim in that pond” (from Chapter 1). So you will identify with his way of handling Scripture. And he’s thought about this for a long time, making what he calls a “reluctant journey toward nonviolence.” Piper needs to read this book (I think he’s stranded somewhat inconsistently halfway on the journey). And I think you would find it very helpful as well. Tolle lege!
—Dwight G, Leon, IA
[PS: I did change the Amazon affiliate link from Challies’ to mine. I trust that’s acceptable! 🙂 ]
A letter from one of my friends, Conrad Hertzler, was also published:
I appreciate the overall respectful tone with which you responded to John Piper’s piece “Should Christians Be Encouraged to Arm Themselves”. However, I am disappointed in the narrowness of the arguments used by cited authors in support of Christians using deadly force against attackers. It seems to be basically assumed by people holding your position that the only recourse left to a man whose wife and/or family is being attacked is to stand idly and helplessly by if he does not have a gun handy. As well, the situations which are created by proponents of deadly force are extremely hypothetical and no attempt is made to sort through all the nuances of such hypothetical situations. For a very well stated stance on the non-violent position, I would strongly encourage you to read Preston Sprinkle’s book Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence. Mr. Sprinkle has arrived at his position “reluctantly” and as such has though through it well. Blessings.
—Conrad H, Mozambique, Africa
All told, three of the five letters Challies published on this topic were in support of non-violence!
Now, listen closely to Challies’ reply to Conrad:
The narrowness of the articles I quoted was a reflection of the narrowness of the responses. I did not find any articles from people who agreed with Piper and extended his argument.
Read that last sentence again:
I did not find any articles from people who agreed with Piper and extended his argument.
Challies is a voracious reader, both of books and blogs. (He shares about eight recommended links nearly daily on his own blog.) Yet he did not find any articles from people who agreed with Piper!
Where are the voices in support of Christian non-violence?
To be sure, there are such voices, and they are available online. (See below.) But if Challies was not hearing voices supporting even Piper’s very incomplete embrace of non-violence, you can be sure that there are many other American Christians who have never heard a solid biblical defense of this teaching.
I believe we Anabaptists, given our unique history, are specially equipped and entrusted to carry the message of Christian non-violence, of suffering love. We have a responsibility and opportunity not only to live this message (the “quiet in the land”), but also to share it with fellow Christians.
How do we do this? My online friend Miriam Iwashige, who also wrote a letter to Challies (you can read her reflections here), acknowledged this challenge:
It’s often difficult (perhaps especially for Anabaptists?) to get exactly the right balance of truth-telling and respectful dialog.
Anabaptists have varied in their approach to public debate and influence. Many of the first Anabaptists did not hesitate to speak up:
The first generation of Anabaptists dared to challenge the policies of contemporary rulers. Menno Simons did not hesitate to argue against capital punishment and to call persons in authority to obey the will of God for their office. With his forthright, almost defiant, exhortations to magistrates, Menno stands as a prototype of prophetic witness to the state1
But prolonged persecution in the 1500s and 1600s left the Anabaptists a different people:
After this period of persecution, Mennonites kept to themselves and sought to be the “quiet in the land.” They wanted to practice their religious beliefs and social customs with as little interference as possible, but were not very active in the communities around them.2
This affected the Anabaptist approach to church planting and cultural identity:
Within the mainstream of Swiss, German, and Dutch Anabaptism, the impulse to “go forth … and establish a church” by forming new congregations in every village and town was subverted when intense persecution and other factors transformed large segments of the Anabaptist community into “the quiet in the land.” It was in the lengthening experience as relatively isolated quiet people in the country that a distinct ethnic, subcultural identity became an increasingly pervasive element in their self-consciousness as church.3
It affected evangelism and other forms of social engagement:
The period of Mennonite exclusiveness had arrived. Although severe persecution ceased, irritating discriminations by the authorities continued, and the typical Mennonite became the “Quiet in the Land,” emphasizing the virtues of simplicity, honesty, and adherence to the faith of the fathers, but without imagination or judgment as to opportunities or responsibilities of the higher faith in Christ. The 16th-century Anabaptists had been “in the world but not of the world”; the 18th-century Mennonite was neither “in the world” nor “of the world.” This explained the continuing lack of evangelistic zeal for a long period after persecution and discrimination had passed.4
Anabaptist social influence became mostly limited to prayer—with most of that, perhaps ironically, also silent:
Although Mennonites became known as the “quiet in the land” when they sought ways to avoid the sword of the state, their prayers continued to be an expression of their concern to remain faithful to God as they continued to be accountable to one another in covenant community. In their search for a faithful life-style, Mennonites rejected elaborate liturgy and dogmatic theology in favor of practices that were more simple and quiet. Initially Mennonites (Dutch) prayed silently during worship… In time they prayed silently twice during each service, a practice some maintained until the end of the 18th century. At home also their prayers were in silence before and after meals[ 5. Smucker, Marcus G. “Prayer.” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 3 Jan 2016. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Prayer&oldid=102612]
What should we do with this heritage of silence? This is a complex question, and we are not likely to all agree on the answers. For my part, I am not sure I am ready to fully imitate Menno Simons’ aggressive approach, although I have done a few things like signing some government petitions. Nor have I felt called to participate in all modern forms ofMennonite sociopolitical activism.
However, disagreements aside, I think we should be able to all affirm one form of active engagement—urging fellow Christians to follow more closely in Christ’s steps. We can’t expect unregenerate government officials to govern according to all the principles of Christ’s kingdom, but we can expect fellow believers to want to follow Christ more fully.
This is why I wanted to write that letter to Challies, and why I was glad when several of my friends joined me in the effort. Please join me now in praying (silently or otherwise!) that Challies and many of his readers will read the Preston Sprinkle book that Conrad and I recommended to him. If Challies is convinced by Sprinkle’s exposition of Scripture, the ripples could impact many.
Far too many of us, rather than speaking up effectively for the way of peace, are gradually drifting away from our own nonresistant heritage. One piece of evidence: I have been surprised and troubled to see how many Anabaptists (or ex-Anabaptists) post statements in support of the military come Veterans Day (or Memorial Day in Canada). In my mind, if I thank a soldier for fighting so I can enjoy a free country, then I have no business claiming conscientious objector status when the military comes looking for recruits.
Yes, I know:
No Bible verse explicitly says “Christians must not serve in the military” or “Christians must not use force to defend their families.”
Genuine Christians come to a range of conclusions on this subject.
And I have some questions I’m still wrestling with, such as this: If I believe it is wrong for me to use deadly force, is it ever right for me to call 911 when I or my loved ones are threatened, thus inviting another to do the deed that I cannot do for myself?
But, even while acknowledging some ambiguity regarding specific life situations or specific Bible texts, it is certainly possible to come to a coherent, convincing biblical understanding of Christian non-violence.
The days are past (if they were ever here) when we Anabaptists can take a casual approach to passing our nonresistant heritage on to our children. Many of our youth are now listening to a wide range of non-Anabaptist voices. Much good is coming from that; I would be very unhappy if we restricted our input to only Anabaptist sources. However, when rigorous non-Anabaptist teaching is paired with rather casual Anabaptist teaching in the home church, then doctrines such as nonresistance are likely to erode. This is especially true when so many of us are listening to the very same Reformed voices that Challies hears and promotes—the ones who have offered so little in support of Piper’s rebuttal to Falwell.
I believe most of us grow up assuming rather unquestioningly that nonresistance is right; I know I did. I also heard some good teaching to support it. However, some of our teaching is not as rigorous as I think it needs to be. One example: A while back (within the past 3-4 years, as I recall) the Christian Light Publications Sunday School curriculum included a series of lessons on nonresistance. This series helpfully covered a range of texts that support nonresistance, but no biblical texts used to challenge nonresistance were included in any lesson text. I wish the series had included one or two lessons wrestling directly with these “problem texts”—texts such as Romans 13:1-5, Acts 10 (Cornelius the centurion), or Luke 3:14 (John the Baptist failing to call soldiers to lay down their arms).
If this is our usual approach to teaching nonresistance, then we will lose it as soon as we hear more convincing teaching from other sources.
So where do we look for solid teaching on Christian non-violence? I will end this post by again affirming the work of a Reformed author who wrestles with this subject better than anyone else I have read in my admittedly limited reading.
The best thing about this book is its engagement with Scripture. But it is also helpful in at least two other ways: for its survey of what the early church believed about Christians and violence, and for its honest engagement with the most difficult practical scenarios you might face in real life.
This book would work well for small group discussion. Why not read it together with a Sunday School class, or with a mid-week Bible study group? If you want to build conviction for nonresistance in your church, I can’t think of a better resource.
If you want more book suggestions on this topic, let me know. I have more good ones in mind.
And if you want to begin with some free reading, see these two articles by Sprinkle:
What are your thoughts? How well are conservative Anabaptists doing at passing on our heritage of non-violence and suffering love to the next generation? How can we best share this heritage with Christians beyond our Anabaptist world? Share your insights in the comments below.
PS: In an ironic turn of events, my writing of this post was temporarily interrupted when I finally gave in to my daughter’s demands that I teach her how to play Risk. I don’t know if you approve of that or not, but I did somehow manage to retain my nonresistant convictions despite many hours playing Risk as a youth.
My employer and friend Marvin Kauffman recently gave me this book to read and review, since he enjoyed it. I’ve found it an interesting read. Robertson is a prophetic voice and a lifelong kingdom pilgrim who is still eager to learn how to better follow Christ.
I’m not quite done this book, but here is a brief overview.
The book is divided into two parts. Part One is called “Something Is Missing: In Search of the Kingdom.” Robertson discusses four “cloud layers,” as indicated by his chapter titles:
The Big Picture Is Being Replaced by Little Pieces
Anabaptism Is Being Blended with Popular Protestantism
Spirituality Is Being Separated from Practice
The Authority of the Bible and of the Church Is Being Replaced by the Authority of the Individual.
Part Two is called “Putting the Big Picture Together: Essential Pillars of the Faith.” In this part, which forms the bulk of the book, Robertson discusses twelve core realities, rehearsing them in a manner designed for use in training disciples. Again, chapter titles:
God Has Spoken
The Kingdom of God
The New Birth
You Will Give Account
Robertson says “I come from a background of evangelical Protestant Christianity and am moving towards the kingdom Christianity that characterized much of the early Anabaptist movement” (p. xiv). Given that self-description, it is no surprise to see that John D. Martin wrote the foreward to the book. (Brother John D. is known for, among other things, his hymnal and his involvement with both the Anabaptist Identity Conference and Charity Christian Fellowship.)
Given the endorsement by John D. Martin, it is also no surprise to see Robertson critique Protestants for having “in general, like the original Reformers of the 1500s, … missed the essential Gospel core” (p. 17). (That’s probably not a nice thing to say on Reformation Day.) And it is no surprise to hear Robertson critique modern Anabaptists for looking more and more like evangelicals. Nor is it surprising to hear him emphasize that “the church as a new people group has the right to establish general standards in practical and cultural areas and to pass them on to other churches” (p. 144). (I’m not entirely convinced by his exegetical argument on this point.)
But other things that Robertson says are perhaps less expected. As a sincere and original disciple, he does not fit neatly into our expected boxes.
For example, listen to these extended excerpts which first inspired me to share this post. Do you think our brother is saying something here that we need to hear?
One thing that puzzled me when I first came into contact with Anabaptist people and their writings was their use of the word discipleship. They talked much of discipleship and even claimed that one big difference between themselves and the Protestant evangelical churches was their emphasis on discipleship.
Coming from my Protestant background, I reached the opposite conclusion. It seemed the Anabaptists had no time to disciple because they were so busy working to make a living. And if they did have time, they had no actual program to do so, except maybe a pre-baptism class.
The Protestants, on the other hand, had whole libraries of books describing one-on-one discipleship, group discipling, multiplying disciples, and sharing the faith. They had an incredible stock of resources that could be used to give direction and guidance to the disciple. So what was the difference? Who really emphasized discipleship? I think the answer is both. Eventually, I came to learn that for the Anabaptist, discipleship meant obedience in all of life. Without growth in obedience to the teachings of Christ, they believed there was no discipleship. They rightly saw that discipleship involved all of life and not just class time.
The problem, however, is that there are still men and women, young and old, who need to be systematically taught the basics of the Christian faith, practice, and witness. All too often we Anabaptists have no sound resources to do so, and no people who have been trained to take on this joyful task. Here the Protestants can teach us, for they have men freed up to develop resources, to train laborers, and to do the actual work of discipling.
To my dying day, I’m sure I will remember the different men who after experiencing great revival in their lives and joining the church, shared their desire and even expectation that they would be meeting with me at least once a week. Oh, the agony to know I could not meet their expectation and that there was no one else prepared to do so…
We must not just talk of discipleship. We must train and free men up to do it. We desperately need both the Anabaptist and Protestant understandings of discipleship. (pp. 84-85, bold added)
(I am very happy to endorse that statement on this Reformation Day.)
Jesus’ pattern of preparing disciples who will themselves make disciples seems to be more of an apprenticeship, rather than seven years of seminary. This apprenticeship, [sic] involves both study and practical work right from the start.
It is easy to criticize those who spend years in academic study preparing for future ministry, but have we fallen into the same trap of preparing now and obeying later? Perhaps we have adopted the philosophy that we must first build a strong, united church with no problems or needs and then reach out to others. But consider with me, would you apply that idea in your business? No, if you drank coffee and built unity every day you would soon go broke and get on each other’s nerves. In the workplace, team building, training, problem solving, and work go hand in hand, and so it should be in the church…
This command [the Great Commission command to “go”] violently interrupts the plans we have for our lives and businesses. The call to missions shakes us up; it is not comfortable…
The great missing link in much of Anabaptist missions today is this purposeful preparation, mobilization, and support of laborers. We Anabaptist-type groups have been good at doing relief work, cleaning up after hurricanes, re-building barns, and helping with medical expenses. Our labor (time) and money are poured into these projects and into schools to educate our children. We have excelled at these social ministries, but why has not even more time and money been expended proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom in every place, beginning in our own countries? We claim to have the foundational pillars of the faith that all must hear, but we leave the job of proclaiming the faith to the Protestants (who we say, have largely missed the critical kingdom message). That makes no sense.
We have prided ourselves in having no salaried ministers in our churches as if somehow not having paid workers will earn us a special “Well done” from the Lord. I know this is a sensitive subject with no easy answers, but maybe it needs to be examined. The final issue is not: “Are workers paid?” but rather: “Is the job God gave us being done?” To get the job done will take an army of trained, Spirit-filled volunteers as well as men who are released to give large portions of their time to equipping laborers and advancing the message and ministry of the kingdom. Why have we left this job to zealous individuals and to the rich among us? It is not the independent individual who has been commissioned with this great job, but the whole church. The church must get a vision of the work to which she is called, and then discern how her labor force can be equipped and supported to get the job done. To get the job done is going to take both sacrifice and support…
Frankly, we are better at supporting intensive missions when they are overseas than we are close to home, but missions begins at home. The church is a missionary community in which we all together seek to sacrifice and support so that the kingdom is advanced, beginning right here close to home. As long as missions is mainly something that happens far away it will never be a vital part of the life of the church…
As kingdom Christians we believe the church has been given a job. To do this job, we need a continual stream of prepared laborers.
The blessed heritage of the Anabaptists places the responsibility to accomplish this job onto the whole church, not just the professional clergy… There is great potential as a while community of faith takes responsibility for the work. There is incredible potential, but all too often we have failed to embrace a specific purpose to which to give ourselves, and though we raise up laborers from within, we have failed to train them and to raise up enough to get the job done. No business would prosper and expand if it were run this way…
Who in our churches has been given the responsibility to oversee the advance of the kingdom beyond the local church? Who has God set apart and gifted for this? How can they be supported to free them to do the job? We ordain pastors and deacons, but what about evangelists, traveling teachers, apostolic church planters, and men with prophetic ministries to the whole church or society? Why have we focused so much on those ministers that serve in the local church and neglected to equally recognize God’s call for ministers who serve beyond the local body?…
In the book of Acts we see that there are apostles such as Peter, Paul, and Barnabas who are given to missionary outreach, and there are helpers such as Timothy and Titus. Then there is another group, the elders of the local church. These two groups of leaders work together but have two distinct areas of gifting and responsibility…
We must prepare and release laborers both inside the church and outside, so that the whole job of both missions and pastoring is faithfully carried out…
This pillar [missions] is not for later when we are mature or have resolved all the problems and needs in our Jerusalem. No, this pillar is for now. It must be there from the beginning. It is why we are still here. (pp. 160-65, bold added)
“We never did join the Mennonite church,” Robertson writes, “but our interaction with them caused me to go back to the Scriptures again and again to see what they really said” (p. 5). Robertson clearly throws his lot in with what he calls the “Radical Believer’s Churches” (p. 5), yet he aims to learn from the broader church, and his allegiance is ultimately to Christ alone.
I don’t agree with all of Robertson’s conclusions, but I expect I would be encouraged and deeply challenged if I met this brother over a cup of coffee or—more likely—in his prayer cabin or on the streets of some Canadian town, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom.
What do you think? Do you agree with Robertson’s diagnosis of how poorly many Anabaptist local churches handle missions? Do you agree we should learn from the Protestants in how they train intentionally for both missions and discipleship? What can we do to better recognize (both see and authorize) those among us who are gifted in evangelism and church planting? How should the money flow change to get the job done?Share your passion in the comments below.
Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.