Tag Archives: anabaptist

Seeking Christian Unity

NOTE: This post should be read as a follow-up to my last post, On Christian Community, Diversity & Equality.

As my faithful readers know, I recently began pastoring Christiansburg Mennonite Fellowship in Southwest Virginia. My first month has been a great experience. We love our church. We’re getting settled in and planning for the year ahead. Thank you for your prayers and support.

I’m currently in the middle of a sermon series entitled Anabaptism 101. To use Stuart Murray’s language from his book, The Naked Anabaptist, we are covering the “bare essentials” of the Anabaptist tradition.

You can “LIKE” and listen to the sermons at CMF’s Facebook page if you’re interested. The series will eventually be archived at our new website.

In the first message (“Beginning of a Movement”) I cover a lot of history in about 40 minutes. I begin with the NT/early church and then talk about the merging of church and state with the emperor Constantine in the 4th century. From there I go on to describe the situation and circumstances that led up to the Radical Reformation in the 16th century.

It’s impossible to talk about the Anabaptists and not mention the terrible persecution they endured by both Protestants and Catholics because of their “radical” view of discipleship and their rejection of Christendom—the imperial church, militant and triumphant. It is rather shocking to read what the magisterial reformers (Zwingli, Calvin & Luther) thought about Anabaptists.

I make mention of this in the message, “Radical Discipleship” (2 of 6).

John Calvin is even responsible for seeing to the death of “heretic” Michael Servetus, a radical non-conformist. It’s ugly, folks. It should sober us to know how well-intentioned and misguided a Christian can be in “defending” truth.

This still happens today. It’s just mostly with our tongue that we burn people at the stake. According to James, that’s no small thing (James 3:1-12).

Okay. So let’s be honest, the Anabaptist movement isn’t without spot and blemish either. I want to make that clear as I write and preach on Anabaptism, and when explaining my reasons for naming this particular group “my tribe” and tradition.

Murray discusses this in his book. I highly recommend The Naked Anabaptist if you’re curious about Anabaptism. If you’re a Greg Boyd fan, you should know that he has written the forward for the book.

Embracing a Spirit of Unity

Yesterday I met a Lutheran pastor in our community for the first time. Our church partners with his church, and others, in ministering to the homeless during the winter months. I stopped by to drop off some clothes and Bibles. I had the pleasure of catching him in his office.

Our conversation lasted for about an hour and a half. It was an encouraging dialogue. I wanted to share some of it with you as a follow-up to my last post, “On Christian Community, Diversity & Equality.”

When I first met this brother, one of the first things he did was embrace me. He looked at me through watery eyes and apologized for what his tradition (Martin Luther/Lutherans) had done to mine (Menno Simons/Anabaptists).

I must say that I was surprised by the refreshing gesture, which set a tone for the entire meeting. Reconciling love was in the air.

Let me say… this pastor (I’ll call him John) didn’t have to do that. It was a long time ago. He didn’t do those things to me. Besides, I just recently joined the Mennonite USA and began pastoring an Anabaptist congregation.

Yet, he did it. And it brings me to tears as I write this post.

I can’t help but wonder how this act of kindness might be imitated in other areas of life and faith. What would that look like?

Before I could even sit down, John went right into telling me that his wife of 20+ years had left him for another woman. She is now married to her new partner. As a result of this (still ongoing) experience, his views on marriage and human sexuality have changed. It quickly became clear that we have some disagreements on this issue. It’s the world we live in now.

I hope you know me well enough to know that I didn’t bolt for the door. I listened to his pain, and I did my utmost to understand his journey. I have no doubt that we will have some edifying conversations in the future regarding the topic. I look forward to it. I can see Jesus at work in this fellow pastor.

Most of our conversation was focused on reviving the Ministerial Alliance, a network of pastors in our area. The association is meant to coordinate ministry efforts and encourage continued ministry in our local communities.

In the past this group has been made up of both male and female pastors from different traditions. Of course, some choose not to be a part because of theological/biblical interpretive disagreements on a number of issues.

For some folks, “ecumenicism” is a bad word. Doctrines still divide those who love Jesus and want to build his Kingdom. It’s unfortunate. But after my recent conversation with John, I’m hopeful about the future of the church.

Listen to Jesus’ prayer for his Bride to embrace unity:

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”  John 17:20-23 NLT

Over the last few weeks, through local ministry and in attending an ecumenical conference, I have encountered folks from many different denominations. I even helped to feed and clothe the homeless alongside Lutherans.

I have been reminded of the singular bond that brings us together and sets us apart from the world: a love for Jesus, neighbor, and enemy—to see his Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

May Christ’s church seek peace and unity in love, so that the world will know.

D.D. Flowers, 2014.


2013 in Review

Hello blog readers and subscribers!

It has been another great year here at the blog. In fact, it has been the busiest year so far with almost 80,000 views! Thank you for reading and giving your feedback along the way. You encourage me to keep blogging.

Here are the 20 most popular posts of 2013:

  1. Jesus UnCrossed
  2. Support Us or You’re a Bigot?
  3. How Worship of the American Flag Changed Everything
  4. Meeting Jesus at Abu Ghraib
  5. Is the Pledge Good for Our Kids?
  6. An Open Theism Theodicy
  7. Why I Do Not Support or Oppose Gay Marriage
  8. In Awe of the God of Science
  9. Loving God With Your Mind
  10. Anabaptist Core Convictions
  11. Really Bad Church Names
  12. Josh Garrels on Believing
  13. The Difference Between Conviction & Condemnation
  14. Finding the Naked Anabaptist
  15. On Christian Cynicism
  16. Jumping Over Jesus
  17. Heaven is Not Our Home
  18. The Twilight Zone God
  19. Is God Good?
  20. God is Not Cynical (So Why Are You?)

Other blog highlights in 2013 include the following:

Was there a post this year that you appreciated more than others? What was it and why?

Please do me the honor of reflecting back on this year’s many posts and let me know if you there was one or two that especially ministered to you. (It may be a post that’s not mentioned above.) I sincerely thank you!

You can expect one more post in 2013. There, there now. Dry your eyes. :-) Stay tuned for a personal Christmas post from the Flowers family.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


Bruxy Cavey on Anabaptist View of Church & State

Bruxy Cavey is the teaching pastor of The Meeting House, one of the largest and most innovative churches in Canada. The Meeting House is an Anabaptist congregation associated with the Brethren in Christ.

Bruxy is a gifted teacher and author of the best selling book, The End of Religion: Encountering the Subversive Spirituality of Jesus (NavPress, 2007). He is a frequent guest speaker at conferences, churches, and universities in the United States.

In the following video excerpt, Bruxy shares an Anabaptist reading of John 18:28-40, the conversation Jesus has with Pilate about the Kingdom of God.

Listen to Bruxy talk about how Jesus is Messiah and king, and how we’re called to follow him in radical opposition to worldly powers.

It seems to me there is a growing number of evangelicals that are beginning to embrace Jesus’ radical call to non-violence and separation from the kingdoms of the world? What do you think? Do you find this message comforting in the midst of national and global problems?

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


Greg Boyd on Anabaptist Mega-Churches

Yesterday over at ReKnew.org, Greg Boyd responded to a common objection. Can you have an Anabaptist mega-church?

Some may claim that a church can espouse an “Anabaptist” theology (or partially), but if they are large enough to be considered a “mega” church they can’t really be an Anabaptist congregation.

I’ve heard this skepticism before. In fact, I have personally discussed this objection with Greg, since Woodland Hills Church has evolved into an Anabaptist congregation, and because I entered the Mennonite USA back in June of this year to pastor an Anabaptist church in Virginia.

Here’s an excerpt of what Greg had to say in his post:

Ironically, those who argue mega-churches can’t be Anabaptist churches are assuming, in the process of raising this objection, a non-Anabaptist definition of church as a weekend gathering. If the leadership of Woodland Hills thought that our “mega” weekend gathering was “the church,” the objection would indeed be valid. But we don’t think this, precisely because this would be a very non-Anabaptist position to assume!

I was encouraged to read Greg’s response because it reflects my own thoughts, and my personal experience as well.

After leaving vocational ministry within the SBC in 2006, and meeting in “organic” house churches for five years, I became very critical of organized churches, especially mega-churches. And for good reason. Mega churches have a tendency to base their success on attendance in their corporate gatherings, and have little to no concern for real community.

Meeting in homes for several years, deconstructing and reconstructing my understanding of the church, was necessary for me to see the benefits of face-to-face community, as well as the larger “mega” gatherings.

It was during that time that I was becoming an Anabaptist. And I deeply resonated with this concern that Anabaptists have for community and keeping it simple. Historically, they’ve done it better than most.

Anabaptist theology and practice rightfully recognizes that face-to-face community is essential in being the Body of Christ in any given location. So, there is a legitimate concern that community might be lost if a church grows beyond a certain point. Some would say it will be lost.

But is this necessarily so?

Again, listen to Greg’s response:

What Woodland Hills Church (as well as and the Meeting House in Toronto and other mega-Anabaptist Churches that may be out there) demonstrates is that we don’t have to chose between embracing the church as community, on the one hand, and holding a large weekend gathering, on the other. There’s nothing intrinsically anti-kingdom about large gatherings. After all, large crowds flocked to Jesus, and the early Christians in Jerusalem met in large groups in “Solomon’s porch” (Acts 5:16-19). The key, however, is to always remind people that the primary expression of church is not the large group, but the smaller communities that come together in houses to share life, study the word, worship and minister together.

I’ve discovered that it is possible to grow in number (corporately) and maintain real community. With it will come challenges, but they’re opportunities to build the Kingdom. We should embrace them.

It may be that the maturity level of some believers has them seeing a weekend “mega” gathering as church. They are just passive receivers of sermons. I think you’re always going to have people who think that way. I’ve even seen them in house churches. They just come, sit, and leave.

So it’s like this. If the leadership and core members hold fast to promoting and practicing sincere relationships in face-to-face community, the church will stay the course of vibrant Kingdom community and outreach.

I appreciate Greg helping us to see the way forward.

Are you a part of an Anabaptist church? How has your church responded to the idea of growing into a large congregation as you reach your community? Do you believe it’s possible to grow numerically and maintain a deep level of community? Please, share your thoughts.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.

Read Greg’s entire post here at ReKnew.org.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 462 other followers

%d bloggers like this: