Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How I Became An Anabaptist

I read a Jack Chick tract in middle school that introduced me to Christian commitment, and I took it seriously. But I didn't surrender my life to Jesus until I was 13 at a Vacation Bible School at a non-denominational church. I joined that church, which was an evangelical, dispensational-doctrine church. I eventually got involved in a pentecostal missions group, Youth With A Mission, and my participation in ministry in my home church was cut off at that point, because of their disagreement with pentecostal doctrine.

I went to Bible School, beginning in 1986. While I was there, I had many questions about the foundation of what we believe. I determined that the only thing that I believed was Jesus, based on him raising from the dead. If that was the case, I surmised, then the whole of Christian doctrine should be re-formed, beginning with the life and teaching of Jesus. So I wrote out all the teachings of Jesus, each saying on a separate index card, and reorganized them according to subject. Then I wrote conclusions on each topic on other index cards, and this was the core of my theology. In doing this, I had to re-interpret Paul, especially about what he said about faith and works, and found that understanding Paul makes more sense understood in the light of Jesus, rather than the other way around.

Later, I was reading a biography of Martin Luther. The author, rather anachronistically, said that Luther opposed a group called "Mennnonites", who believed in obeying the Sermon on the Mount literally. I said to myself, "That's the kind of group I want to be a part of" and so looked in the Yellow Pages for Mennonite churches. At that time, there were two Mennonite churches in the area. I visited both of them, but at Peace Mennonite I met William Higgins, who was an avid student of both theology and Anabaptism. His approach to theology was similar to mine and so my family and I tried the church out. One of the things that amazed us was the community involvement in the church-- some folks were living on the church grounds, and everyone was involved in each other's lives, in a postitive way. We saw this as doing what the early church did as well-- live in communities that were involved with each other.

So we joined Peace Mennonite, and later the PNMC supported our beginning a church among the homeless and the mentally ill. In looking around at other denominations, I realize that while other denominations would accept our ministry, they would not have accepted a church made up of the homeless and mentally ill, which has very little financial support.

Thus, the Anabaptists were a fit for us theologically, socially and for our calling.

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