What Does It Mean to Be Mennonite? Will Troyer, April 2011
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Ever since I can remember I have been attending a Mennonite church and have been raised in a Mennonite family. The Christian values and traditions have been rooted inside of me ever since I was born. As I started to grow older and make decisions on my own I decided to go to Bethany Christian schools for middle school and high school which had an important role on shaping my faith and ultimately in the end helped me make the decision to be baptized into the Mennonite church. But what does it really mean to be a Mennonite? And what were the deciding factors of me choosing to be a Mennonite?
First I will describe what I believe it means to be a Mennonite. When I think of a Mennonite I usually think of a peaceful person who is involved in mission work or a church going person with a strong sense of community. Both of which are important parts of the Mennonite faith. I believe that being a Mennonite you must not only believe what the bible says and what your pastor says but to live out your faith in your life as much as possible. Although it might be hard at times to stay true to your faith in the end it will have a positive impact on the people around you and you will not be forgotten. Learning about martyrs and people being persecuted for what they believe is an example of just how strong faith can be. Although many people have become martyrs in their faith they have had a large impact on many other believers and will not be forgotten. Being a Mennonite in the U.S. I don’t have to deal with persecution as many parts of the world are dealing with. This does not have to stop me from being strong in my Mennonite faith. In reality I would say that to be a Mennonite is not just saying you are part of a religion but also a lifestyle that we should live in our everyday lives based on Jesus’ teachings. By doing this we are living faithful lives but also at the same time impacting people around us in a way that is not forced on them but through practical implementation of our faith in our everyday interactions with people. In the end I would say that to be a Mennonite you must not only go to church and gain knowledge about the Mennonite religion but also live by what you’ve already learned and continue with the opportunities God is laying out for you.
Now you know what I believe it means to be a Mennonite, but why have I chosen to become a Mennonite? This is not an easy question to answer considering there are many factors that go into why I chose to become a Mennonite. I would say that the major reason I am a Mennonite today is because of my parents and family. I was raised in a Mennonite home and learned what it meant to be a Mennonite at a young age. Although at the time I might not have known what they were teaching me was the “Mennonite way“ I can now look back and see that what they have taught me has shaped me for who I am today and what I want to be in the future. By going to church every Sunday and even sometimes more I realized that church was an important part of my life and the community I was part of helped to teach me and guide me in my decision to become part of the Mennonite church. I would say that going to Bethany Christian Schools for most of my life also has played a major role in strengthening my Mennonite faith. By learning and growing with fellow peers I made friends that had the same interests as me and seemed to share the same Goals in life. By taking bible classes in high school and college it has also helped me understand how far the Mennonite religion has come and how hard it was for the “founders” but also successful considering the amount of Mennonites there are today. I am not only Mennonite because of the people around me though. I have chosen to be a Mennonite because I think there values and ways of teaching are good. I am a peacemaker, which is one of the key points that Mennonites represent. I also try to follow the Christian ways as much as possible. Jesus is the ultimate teacher and by following his teachings it will be our path to living a fruitful life and making it to heaven.
Although I do call myself a Mennonite there is still much more learning to be done to expand my faith, which I have a whole life to explore and grow through God’s teachings and further opportunities. Hopefully I will continue to grow through God’s teachings and have a positive impact on the others around me, whether it is in my daily life or through service to people in need.
This essay was completed for an Anabaptist/Mennonite History class at Goshen College in April 2011.