What Does It Mean to Be Mennonite? Samuel Chege, April 2011
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Learning about the Anabaptist-Mennonite background and struggles to establish their identity has been a great addition to my faith. Furthermore, comparing and contrasting the current Mennonite generation beliefs with earlier generation, has developed my current knowledge on the Mennonite denomination today. From the readings and group discussions, I agree with a lot of the Mennonite teachings and beliefs on the word of God. To begin with, I have found Mennonite to be a group of Christians who are fully committed to the word of God and are happy sharing with other denominations. Most of the Mennonite teaching is based on the New Testament which is appealing to me. I believe that Jesus came to save people from a doctrine that was very strict and drew people closer to God. Mennonites hospitality and willingness to stretch a helping hand seems to be drawing many people to explore the Mennonite faith.
Moreover, Mennonites have a wonderful theology when it comes to war. They are very peaceful and do not believe in the uses of “sword” to solve conflicts. To the Mennonites, the use of sword in solving anything is against Jesus’ teachings. I agree with this thought, however, it becomes challenging when one uses the “sword” for self defense and yet they are Christian. This is not only difficult for Mennonite but also for other Christian denomination. Whether there is a justifiable use of sword or not, is a question that has left biblical scholars digging for an answer. The positive side on the practice of peace among Mennonites has seen the eradication of the fighting rituals and witchcrafts among some of the African countries through missionaries over the past years. Therefore, with a continuation of maintaining peace, many people are attracted to join the denomination. That is one thing that draws my attention on considering the Mennonites way of practice.
Lack of Mennonite involvement in the government office is a topic that should be re-visited. My concern is on how the government would survive if a higher percentage of community members consisted of Mennonite believers. I think there should be guidelines as to how far the church should get involved rather than completely not being involved. This is a challenging topic because one easy way for someone to fall into temptation is mixing church and government; the two entities should be kept separate. On the other hand, they should be together to allow a good relationship of larger society and church institution.
Another thing that comes up in mind is the Mennonites ways of praise and worship songs. I think that people in church should bring some liveliness during praise and worship songs. I find that when praise and worships are livelier, (in that members rejoice and clap during the songs), it draws the Holy Spirit closer. From attending a Mennonite church, I find that there is a structured praise and worship style which might not allow time for the Holy Spirit to move within the members. Mennonite denomination does a great job reaching out and helping the needy but I think they should stretch further and have a session in church that is committed in praying for people and different issues that are facing the world.
In addition, the topic of fasting and praying should be addressed more in the Mennonite denomination. This is because it helps Christians to be closer to God and it gives people a chance to reflect and repent their sins. This would lead to less excommunication and splitting of church/ members. Another impressive thing about Mennonites is that they believe in tolerance of all kinds of people. Jesus taught to “Love thy neighbor”. He never specified whether that person is black, white, homosexual, atheist, Muslim or Christian. Many Mennonites try to follow Christ’s teachings and try to show love and tolerance to all people no matter who they are. Most denomination have gone through the bible from page to page in order to justify their stands on who should be in their church, and why some practices, for example homosexual, should not be practice. I find this as judging others without knowing. Besides it portrays a good example of Jesus teaching that a blind cannot lead another blind. Mennonites do a good job welcoming anyone regardless of their belief.
I also agree with Mennonites on the teaching of baptism. People should be baptized when they truly understand and have made decision to follow the denomination. Some religions have passed their beliefs to their young ones and that leads to people following a religion since it’s a family tradition, without understanding why they do it. Unlike some religions, Mennonites allow their young to choose for themselves to be baptized or not. This is important since religion should be a personal choice. People should chose a place where they fell close to God and practice what keeps them close to God.
During one of our discussion, I learnt that some of the Mennonites do not practice exorcism. I was brought with a background that people are supposed to pray the devil out of people who are tormented by demons. This was based on the teaching of Jesus as he sent the demons to the pigs. In addition, more of prophetic teaching should be taught in the Mennonite church. I believe God speaks through people and through a massager like a prophet; people can be able to follow ways that God wants them to follow.
This essay was completed for an Anabaptist/Mennonite History class at Goshen College in April 2011.