Values for the Church & Her Leaders (part 5): Why I am an Anabaptist

The final value that we will explore for the church and her leaders is that of being an Anabaptist.  This is the stream from which my faith-tradition flows, and it includes several key elements.  Although the word or idea of “Anabaptism” is not found in the Bible, it is a unique approach to the Scriptures and the way of Jesus that sets this value apart.  Rather than attempt to describe the movement in its fullness perhaps I should give a summary statement and then allow another source to inform us of an overview the Anabaptist way.

The summary I offer is: “The way of Jesus subverts the empires of this age.”  At the heart of what it means to be an Anabaptist is a commitment to follow the teachings of Jesus, and to allow the subversive nature of discipleship to expose the “empires” of the world and of popular culture for what they are; counterfeit realities.  Empires are often powerful nations, but can be any system, person, or thing that culture imposes on our imagination to keep us in bondage, limiting us from experiencing the kingdom of God.  A covenant community is invited to renew her mind, to convert our imaginations into Christ-like actions, and to live as an alternative to the default operation of a fallen world.

In order to help in understanding more about the value of being an Anabaptist community and leader, the Anabaptist Network has offered this overview:

1) Jesus is our example, teacher, friend, redeemer and Lord.  2) Jesus is the focal point of God’s revelation.  3) Western culture is slowly emerging from the Christendom era when church and state jointly presided over a society in which almost all were assumed to be Christian.  4) The frequent association of the church with status, wealth and force is inappropriate for followers of Jesus and damages our witness.  5) Churches are called to be committed communities of discipleship and mission, places of friendship, mutual accountability and multi-voiced worship.  6) Spirituality and economics are inter-connected.  7) Peace is at the heart of the gospel.[1]



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  • kimberly quinn

    Churches are called to be committed communities of discipleship and mission, places of friendship, mutual accountability and multi-voiced worship.

    This is the one that speaks to me most. Committed communities for example, one of the things I have seen in 30 years of attending church is this tendancy to be at church for what we get out of it, and as soon as it doesn't suit us we look for another church. I understand that there are times when God calls us to move to a new place, but often we move because of selfish motives.
    I could talk about the others but I would probably wind up writing a blog myself.
    Good post, lots of deep thoughts to "unpack" as a former pastor of mine used to say.

  • Conrad

    Hey Kurt, I'm not terribly familiar with the anabaptist way, but one thing on the "anti-empire" part, I don't believe that empire directly correlates to government. It seems to me that it withraws from government and encourages christians not to participate in it. Where as I believe christians should be active in their governments. I could be wrong, but just my thought

  • I, too, value my Anabaptist heritage although I have not been particularly comfortable with those churches that have descended from it, in recent years.

    In response to Conrad, I would only suggest that (1) the Anabaptism tradition–just like Jesus' own context–grew in a time and place where people did not have even a putative voice in their government, as we do (or believe we do). I believe there is room for us to explore, within the values of Anabaptism, what our responsibility is to engage with our government to the extent that we have either real or rhetorical influence…but it is important that as we do so, we never confuse our nation with our Kingdom citizenship. This, I believe, is a common failing of American Christians, though not only Americans. This leads to

    (2) There remain ways in which the Kingdom of God must always stand counter to empire-like tendencies in any government, our own most definitely included. The church's willingness to compromise values like peace, the equality of people in God's eyes, and God's obvious concern with the poor…compromising those values IMO is evidence of the world's system (or the world's notion of what is "practical") having co-opted the church.

  • Greg

    Why do you label yourself "Anabaptist"? It wouls seen the Anabaptist would fall into the "empire" category you described here. I believe any category you place yourself into, limits the Kingdom within.
    You also wrote of your "faith-tradition". I also believe any tradition limits the Kingdom within. Mark 7:13
    Christ did not follow tradition or set up category's for people. He followed The Voice.

    Would it be correct to simply call yourself Christ's child?
    Matthew 11:27, John 8:38, John 10:27

  • I'm not too familiar with what it means to be an anabaptist..but amen! I like your description. I like when you said: A covenant community is invited to renew her mind, to convert our imaginations into Christ-like actions, and to live as an alternative to the default operation of a fallen world.

    and…the part about how the church aligning itself with labels associated with wealth and status is damaging to the message us Christians are trying to live out. I agree with that. One book that really drove that message home for me was Shane Claiborne's book, Irresistible Revolution. It makes one wonder about the churches that have lavish furnishings and yet live in urban areas where people are homeless. Jesus was all about service and loving the most marginalized. I've read where it was written that if one has two coats, they have one too many because somewhere there is someone cold and without a coat. Thats the mindset of Christ..selflessness. May God help shape all our characters towards that result…being like Christ.

    Anyways….I love your description of an anabaptist…seems very much aligned with scripture.

    • Kurt

      Jessica! wonderful thoughts and thanks for kind words! You may be interested in the "beliefs" section of this site as it is all from an anabaptist perspective…