Recently, a friend asked me what exactly a Mennonite was . It was in a way a startling question because what you have been all your life does not need explanation!
But I thought for a minute and this is the quick answer I gave her .
“What exactly is a Mennonite anyway ?
In the 16th century there was a man named Menno Simons, a Catholic priest who began to question the doctrines of the Catholic church... namely transubstantiation and infant baptism and he began to search the scriptures..
He left the Catholic church and his priesthood and began to teach from the Word of God. He was of course persecuted, as were his followers who came to be called Mennonites. Menno never wanted to gather to himself followers , he desired that people follow only Christ and the scriptures... but the name stuck and Mennonites there are even today!
The Mennonites, because of the persecution from all sides, stuck together... and were especially isolated as a group when Catherine the Great invited them to come farm in Russia in the 1700s.
There they lived ...and developed their own dialect, customs, food, dress, even look! For all intents and purposes they became an ethnic group with all the characteristics peculiar to a national people, including recognizable ‘sur-names’ --- though of course they were without a country.
When they moved to the US or Canada or Paraguay they retained their ethnic distinctions and stayed , until recently, in their own social and church groups.
It is only in the last generation that they have really begun to integrate into other churches and society as a whole. In another generation or so , ‘Mennonite’ will be little more than something left in one's ancestral history !”
In writing out the above simple definition of a ‘Mennonite’, I realized that there is a parallel happening in Christendom.
Almost 2000 years ago, a very special man walked this earth, who taught the Word of God. His name was Jesus, the Christ. He, Himself, never called His followers Christians, but the name was given (Acts 11:26) and it stuck. There are Christians in the world today.
As their leader was persecuted so were His followers through the centuries and they stayed tightly knit together.
Christians, in becoming like their Leader, developed their own characteristics – in speech and actions , character and even dress…. They stood out from the world around them. They were either respected – and gathered to themselves converts - or they were hated, scoffed and persecuted.
They have always been a tight ‘family’ - IN this world but not having their own country!
(Heb 11:16 "But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.")
Until this last generation…..
I have become increasingly concerned and saddened at how the Christians no long stand out. More and more , Christians are being absorbed into the world around them, accepting the 'norm' of the world's teaching , morals and standards. As a result the world is finding its way into the church.
Non-Christians no longer find it easy to define “what exactly is a Christian?” And, sadly many Christians no longer find it a question they themselves can easily answer.
After another generation, if the Lord tarries, will the world know what a Christian is ?
The bible (II Thess. 2:3) talks about a ‘great falling away’ that will come before Jesus comes back. But there is a ‘remedy’ ….. a safe guard . When we see the things happening in these ‘end times’ then we are to pull in closer together.
Heb 10:25 "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching."
We know there is safety and encouragement and strength in numbers.
Recently, I have been seeing encouraging signs here and there of people who are desiring to press in together , to study the bible more , to pray more ! A bible study that Vic and I lead is no longer satisfied with meeting once a week – most weeks we meet twice!
Are you a Christian ? Do you know what it means? Do you stand out from the world around you ? Do the people who watch your life know who you are in Christ and why ?
1Pe 3:14-16 "But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed. "AND DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THEIR THREATS, NOR BE TROUBLED."
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed."