Posted by: thebylog | September 23, 2004

Mennonite Thinking

There’s something you must understand about Mennonites. For better or for worse we have rules. And so, we talk about ’em. Are they good or bad? Do you think that one’s right or wrong?

I’ve done my share of this and if nothing else, it’s probably helped me in figuring out what I believe about things. But the older I get, the more I realize that those discussions lean, as a motorcyclist completing a 90 degree turn, toward un-productivity. In fact, discussing the rules is missing the point and is focusing on something that, within or without a Mennonite church, is mostly irrelevant to the Christian life.

Instead, when these discussions arise, we need to point them in a different direction. Namely, how can we (the people that make up the discussion) love God more passionately and reach out to others, both inside and outside our church. That is how we can effect change for the better in our churches: being unafraid to try new things in the face of tradition and by walking as close to our God as we possibly can.

Anyone reading this who does not have a Mennonite background is likely either scratching their head or rolling their eyes. Mennonites have flaws and shortcomings just like every other denomination. I know this, because I am one. Mennonites tend to look at other churches that have no rules or have adapted less restrictiveones and say, “We don’t want to end up like them, and since they got like that by lessening or throwing out rules, we need to hold onto ours.” There are flaws in this argument I think, but I see the point. Holiness, scriptural purity, a united local body of believers, that’s what rules are trying to encourage.

The solution is not to demand changes to crazy rules. Trust me, I know. The solution is to look inward. If those churches that removed some of their restrictions, if those churches are dead now, it’s because people loosened restrictions looking to be able to push the limits. I firmly believe that if a church starts from the inside and has a revolution, rules wouldn’t matter. It’s that simple. Rules wouldn’t matter. If you had ’em it wouldn’t matter. If you didn’t have ’em it wouldn’t matter.

So there you have it. I will strive to turn conversations away from whether wedding bands are wrong or right to whether I’ve let someone know about my wonderful, fulfilling relationship with the Eternal Lover of their soul.

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Responses

  1. I think a very large percentage of “mennonite church issues”, or any church issues for that matter, stem from selfishness and a lost vision. You cannot help but focus on something. And if you are in the church, and you lose you vision for people, your eyes are automatically directed inward. Suddenly, what you want, what YOU think, what you believe becomes a life-threatning issue. Mennonite, Baptist, Brethren,……I don’t care what you are, we have GOT to get over ourselves! In order to ever be effective in the work of the Lord, in order to ever complete what we are put here in this world to complete, WE HAVE GOT TO GET OUR EYES OFF OF OURSELVES!

    Why do churches split? Lack of vision. Or rather, lack of proper vision. If, as a church, you have a vision for people, if people are your passion your drive, if bringing people to the Lord is your goal, than these other petty issues aren’t going to matter.

    I have a problem! And I challenge absolutely everyone on this. If indeed being Mennonite is all that is cracked up to be, if YOU feel that it is so important to be Mennonite, than when is the last time you invited someone to come to church with you. Most Mennonites even IF they have a heart for people, don’t want to bring them into their church. Why? Because they are not accepted. We have this STUPID game that we play, and if people don’t play it our way, if people don’t look the way we do, talk the way we talk, we push them away. We refuse to love people that are different than us up close. Oh sure, we can hand out tracts with them best of them. We pat ourselves on the back for caring and for ministering as we do it. We care from a distance. We love from a distance. We are afraid to embrace someone that is different from us up close. Perhaps we are afraid, perhaps we are uncomfortable. I don’t know, but I am so tired of it.

    Each denomination is in part, a culture of themselves. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, there is no way to avoid that. But we have got to learn to respect and love people outside of our culture. We have these walls that we have carefully constructed around ourselves. We have barred the doors of our churches, of our hearts from anyone who is different. We have got to meet people in their culture. We have got to accept them in their walk of life where they are. And sure, as a person comes to know the Lord, eventually some changes will need to made. That is a given for any individual. But we don’t let them it. They see us from a distance, they know us from a distance, but the walls around us are too high for them to scale even if they wanted to. We need to tear down the wall. We need to open the door.

    The only way to live your life effectively for Jesus is to live a life LIKE Jesus. And that may very well include embracing some “ugly” people! The life that Jesus lived was scorned by the religious leaders of that day. He touched the filthy. He loved the fallen. He befriended those that not only the church of that day, but society had pushed away and turned their backs to. I think if Jesus walked the earth today he wouldn’t be popular with Mennonites! Well, first of all, he broke every tradition in the book. He didn’t just gently break them. He SMASHED them! And he loved. Oh how he loved. He loved the people that we don’t dare love.

    We have got to get over ourselves! We have got to love the people. We have got to tear down the walls, of our hearts, and of our churches!

    Ag

  2. I am very sad to say that I have experienced The bad side of Mennonites, I have experienced the side were all they looked at was how I dressed and they really didn’t care what I was going through. I have also been through many church splits and saw for myself just how ugly they can fight. Please don’t get me wrong, I have no bitter feelings towards you Mennonites, but I am very grieved over the fact that your not able to accept some people as they are. I can’t find anyplace in the Bible where Jesus told someone he/she had to dress a certain way and join an organization to be saved from their sins.
    I love the Mennonite people but I am sorry to see that the lifestyle they carry behind their dress is often very sinful. I have worshipped with many denominations and have not seen much difference between any of them. Their enthusiasm for sharing the gospel is about the same. Judgement is poured out quite heavily by all.
    Ag your enthusiasm is rather explosive! If only more people believed the same.
    Nony Mouse

  3. Hurts abound, both inside the church and outside of it. But I hope that there is more healing within the church than outside of it. And it starts with me and who I am and how I minister.

    The church is people. That’s why we end up with rules. Some of us are more immmature than others. We all have our opinions. We end up with rules so that we can live peaceably. Maybe some of us in the same church think it is okay to wear jewelry. Others think it is not. We discuss it and make a rule so that we don’t have to continue to argue and discuss because we will always have some difference of opinion. It doesn’t mean that we all now have the same opinion. Life is full of rules and always will be.

    It’s funny. I go to an alcoholics anonymous meeting and a narcotics anonymous and I hang out with people who attend them regularly and I hear some of the same things that tend to happen in churches. Sometimes there are arcoholics or addicts that have a personal pity party when they speak or some who always have to talk. But the old timers always say that you take the good and leave the rest. They continue to insist on attendance and the value of it and how really working the steps correctly really does work, but there is always some bad with the good. And you take the good and walk away from the bad. But you still remain a part of the group and you just put up with the bad.

    miss

  4. My work here in Poland brings me into close contact with a lot of non-Mennonite, non-Christian people. Those are the people I form relationships with all the time here. They’re my friends and I love talking with them. Tonight I was teaching a teenage group that I also had last year — it took us the whole hour and a half just to catch up on talk about our summers and stuff.

    And I think about how the same thing can happen in the States. It’s so different there. What teaching job could I get? Who wants to be tutored? Especially the kind of tutoring where they just want to talk for an hour every week. You know, people aren’t begging me to teach them English there. And they don’t ask me why I’m there. And people are more or less familiar with the Mennonites. They know us, are comfortable with us, and just aren’t so “curious.” And you can’t talk about how differently we view a relationship with God (as opposed to the general Catholic view) because all people are rather evangelical and know the answers. It’s just, different.

    But I’m not saying there’s nothing that can be done about it. I’m just saying the opportunities don’t just fall into your lap every day. So what could I do, how could I be involved in a way that would bring some of the same open doors as I have here? That’s what I’m wondering… And I’m wondering if it could feel as natural and okay there as here to hang out all the time with non-Mennonite friends…

    And stuff. Crystal

  5. It is very sad to see the way some Mennonites have turned some people totally away from any kind of Christianity. It not only falls on the people making the “rules” either I think there are a lot of Mennonite young people who are just as hypocritical as some of the people in authority.

    For me it is hard to draw the line between extra-biblical rules and Godly conviction…because I have seen both “conservitives” and “liberals” (using mennonite terminology) who are stuck in the mud…the “conservatives” thinking the more we hold to the traditions the more “godly” we are and the “liberals” thinking the freer and looser we are the more “spiritual” we are. To be honest I get ticked at both sides because they are both focusing on extra-biblical stuff that won’t get anyone to heaven. I think all of you are right in saying we need to focus on winning people for Christ rather than trying to figure out whether to or not to wear jewlry or etc. Anyways…just some ramblings…I get a little worked up when this subject comes up. : ) -Marcel

  6. You only get worked up?

    Smoke billows from my flared nostrils. Well it’s not exactly that bad, but it’s not a subject that I can remain seated on.

    The bottom line is that we need to be what God has called us to be. We need to do what God has called us to do! AND, we need to be careful that we don’t make life more complicated than what God intended it to be. Love. It’s all about love.

    Ag

  7. Way to go, Ag and the rest of you. I’ve greatly enjoyed reading all the great comments in response to a great post. I hope sometime to get the chance to treat all of you as a Christian brother should! 🙂

    David

  8. You already have. I met you once. You were so sweet (okay is acceptable to tell a guy he’s sweet when he really was?). You blessed me.

    Ag

  9. “Have you ever met me Ag?” he asks in fear and trembling.

    Tom

  10. “Have you ever met me Ag?” he asks in fear and trembling.

    Tom

  11. Tremble no more. I never met you. But I will yet. That is on my list of things to do in life. Right in the middle of “Touch a snake without fainting”, and “Jump into a barrel of melted chocolate at Hershey’s”, lies “Meet Tom”.

    Ag

  12. Tremble no more. I never met you. But I will yet. That is on my list of things to do in life. Right in the middle of “Touch a snake without fainting”, and “Jump into a barrel of melted chocolate at Hershey’s”, lies “Meet Tom”.

    Ag

  13. Ummm…I’m speechless.

    Thanks Ag, I’m glad you were blessed, and I praise God for that. I’m definitely still a work in progress, though, and need prayer as much as anyone else. 🙂 Blessings to ya!

    David

    P.S. That’s cool, I’ve met Ag and I didn’t even know it!

  14. Ummm…I’m speechless.

    Thanks Ag, I’m glad you were blessed, and I praise God for that. I’m definitely still a work in progress, though, and need prayer as much as anyone else. 🙂 Blessings to ya!

    David

    P.S. That’s cool, I’ve met Ag and I didn’t even know it!

  15. See, David didn’t mind that I called him “sweet”. I’ll have to put that down in my record book. But maybe he’s to sweet to object to being called sweet. Hmmmmm. Something for me to ponder.

    Ag

  16. See, David didn’t mind that I called him “sweet”. I’ll have to put that down in my record book. But maybe he’s to sweet to object to being called sweet. Hmmmmm. Something for me to ponder.

    Ag

  17. No Ag, I didn’t mind, it didn’t bother me at all.
    Ponder no more, at least not on that one…

    David

  18. No Ag, I didn’t mind, it didn’t bother me at all.
    Ponder no more, at least not on that one…

    David

  19. See, this guy is just SWEET! I love sweet people. They make me feel so kind.

    Ag

  20. See, this guy is just SWEET! I love sweet people. They make me feel so kind.

    Ag

  21. Well, I have met Ag and KNOW it. Try that on for size.

  22. Yeah, but we don’t know who you are so it doesn’t mean much!

    Tom

  23. Yeah, but we don’t know who you are so it doesn’t mean much!

    Tom

  24. Hmm. Tried it on, didn’t fit.

    So, do I drive you absolutely nuts, or do I make you say something like, “you are such a blessing”?

    Ag

  25. Hmm. Tried it on, didn’t fit.

    So, do I drive you absolutely nuts, or do I make you say something like, “you are such a blessing”?

    Ag

  26. Back to the original subject, as someone who has no Mennonite background, no mennonite family,(except my sister,) but is now Mennonite, the most upsetting thing about Mennonites in general is….MENNONITE THINKING!!! A lot of it is stupid. Now, I’m not saying that written standard are wrong. And I’m not saying that talking about them is wrong… sometimes. But, too ofter I have seen people get SO wrapped up in ‘the standard’ that they completely miss other things, far more important!!!!! It is crazy. And I also wish a church wouldn’t be an ‘outreach church’, because there are no other Mennonite churches in he vicinity, then, not be an outreach!! And if they DO reach out to others, then they laugh about the flaws this non-Mennonite has (behind their back.) A lot of Mennonites , having been raised in the Church, kinda, feel like every person feels and acts and thinks like Mennonites. And they find others, that don’t, WEIRD. And, I can tell you this, that hurts their witness to the community. Which is a lot of what is important, right??
    Lauren

  27. Back to the original subject, as someone who has no Mennonite background, no mennonite family,(except my sister,) but is now Mennonite, the most upsetting thing about Mennonites in general is….MENNONITE THINKING!!! A lot of it is stupid. Now, I’m not saying that written standard are wrong. And I’m not saying that talking about them is wrong… sometimes. But, too ofter I have seen people get SO wrapped up in ‘the standard’ that they completely miss other things, far more important!!!!! It is crazy. And I also wish a church wouldn’t be an ‘outreach church’, because there are no other Mennonite churches in he vicinity, then, not be an outreach!! And if they DO reach out to others, then they laugh about the flaws this non-Mennonite has (behind their back.) A lot of Mennonites , having been raised in the Church, kinda, feel like every person feels and acts and thinks like Mennonites. And they find others, that don’t, WEIRD. And, I can tell you this, that hurts their witness to the community. Which is a lot of what is important, right??
    Lauren

  28. Lauren, I’m hearing you. One thing you need to remember is that this is not just Mennonites, this is “people”. As long as there are people, there will be problems. We are not perfect, no one is perfect. I’m not, you are not, they are not. And it can be sad and extremely frustrating to see, but we can’t focus on that. We need to focus on us. Just because someone else is being exclusive and judgemental, doesn’t mean that I have to be. Just because someone else is riding on the wings of complacency doesn’t mean that I have to. Just because someone else has lost their vision, doesn’t mean that I have to.

    Focus your eyes on what YOU can do. Go forward and make the difference that YOU can make! Be willing to embrace those that others have rejected, even if you are ridiculed for it. Love with all your heart, everyone, everywhere. Those that seem to be the most “undeserving” of love are usually the ones that are most desperately in need of it. There is alot of hurt out there, there are alot of wounded people. You alone can’t touch them all, but take the time to touch the one in front of you. That’s all you need to do, simply love the one in front of you!

    You are precious!

    Ag

  29. Lauren, I’m hearing you. One thing you need to remember is that this is not just Mennonites, this is “people”. As long as there are people, there will be problems. We are not perfect, no one is perfect. I’m not, you are not, they are not. And it can be sad and extremely frustrating to see, but we can’t focus on that. We need to focus on us. Just because someone else is being exclusive and judgemental, doesn’t mean that I have to be. Just because someone else is riding on the wings of complacency doesn’t mean that I have to. Just because someone else has lost their vision, doesn’t mean that I have to.

    Focus your eyes on what YOU can do. Go forward and make the difference that YOU can make! Be willing to embrace those that others have rejected, even if you are ridiculed for it. Love with all your heart, everyone, everywhere. Those that seem to be the most “undeserving” of love are usually the ones that are most desperately in need of it. There is alot of hurt out there, there are alot of wounded people. You alone can’t touch them all, but take the time to touch the one in front of you. That’s all you need to do, simply love the one in front of you!

    You are precious!

    Ag

  30. Ag, that was beautiful. Thank you.

    Lauri

  31. Ag, that was beautiful. Thank you.

    Lauri


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