Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Question

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."


Tammie @ Are You For Real? said...

I'm SO glad I asked! Understanding what it means to be a Mennonite was SO difficult for me to understand, because I have nothing in my world to compare it with. I suppose this is the same kind of confusion a non-believer feels when he observes the life of a true believer ... one who is practicing obedience. And I'm certain this is why Scripture commands us to be ready, in season and out, to give an account of the hope that is within us. God KNEW non-believers would take notice and ask questions, when they see the real thing.

Thanks for your very insightful answer!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your post. It has given me lots to think about. Thank you. Dairymary

Betty said...

As always a great post! I´m going to bookmark this post, so that I can send people here when they ask me what a Mennonite is. Terrific explanation!

Lovella said...

Julie. . it is indeed a wonderful explanation and challenge as well. Thank you for sharing this.
Oh .. .and thank you Tammie for declaring yourself the asker. . .

Elsie said...

Great little summary of what a Mennonite is! I'm glad that denominational lines are blurring, so that people of many different backgrounds now worship together as brothers and sisters in Christ. I agree with you, that there is a blurring of lines between the world and the church, and that is not a good thing! We need wisdom to know what it means to be IN the world but not OF the world, and encourage each other in the faith. (Twice a week? Wow!)

charlotte said...

i love being mennonite, at least the way i grew up with it.
i was blessed, i lived under grace, forgiveness and was taught the truth about God's love and gift to us all...that is Jesus.
Being a mennonite, does not make you a christian....that is a personal choice and that is what matters.....

Anonymous said...

Good post,I think we can/do get distracted as to what is important - following Christ.
God Bless!

Faith said...

You have a beautiful view from your porch....I love the deer so close...and also like Pearls ...another favorite of mine too..I look forward to reading your blog....

betty r said...

Great explanation, Julie!
Bible study twice a week? That is awesome..

Demara said...

I hate how the word "Christian" is so loosly spoken of to define some people's lives.

I am not a Christian, not if the word is used by anyone who believes a Christian is a "nice person".

I prefer not to label my life. Instead, if someone asks, I will say, "I believe in Jesus and that He is returning again, are you ready!?" Then I want to stand out as His child! Not as a "Christian" a label that IS SO "loosly" stated, as if it doesn't mean anything.

I want to focus on God in my life, not on how a "Christian" should act. Instead, I want to ask myself how should I act? for God, my Father? How does He want me to be?

If I were to label my life it would read: GOD'S

Thoughts on Life and Millinery. said...

What with the popularity of that Mennonite Girls Can Cook blog, I am SO glad you took a moment to clear up what a Mennonite was. It was drifting dangerously close to being defined as "a person who has to cook constantly and take pictures of what they cook."

Sort of sad...I liked the old definition: A group of people whose women all wear lacy hats.

Still think the hat thing beats the cooking thing for being cool...