Planting an Anabaptist Church in a City

By Allen Roth
Published on Sunday, May 2nd, 2021

How does a twenty first century Anabaptist go about planting an Anabaptist church in a city?  Is it even possible?

First of all, let’s remember that Jesus Himself promised:  “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18, emphasis mine).  In the Great Commission, the resurrected Jesus stated clearly, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples…teaching them to observe [obey] all things that I have commanded you…” (Matt. 28:18-20 NKJV).  He promised to be with us as we make obedient disciples everywhere on earth among all the people groups.  He would not command us to do the impossible!

Secondly, the apostles demonstrated that they understood His command to mean planting new churches, beginning in cities across the Roman empire.  The names have become so familiar we don’t even think of them as cities:  Rome, Ephesus, Corinth, Philippi, Antioch, Thessalonica, Lystra, Derbe, Iconium, Laodicea, Smyrna, Philadelphia and many more.  If the early Christians, with no previous church history and in an empire hostile to them, could plant new churches with the aid of the Holy Spirit, can we not reasonably expect to do the same?

Thirdly, Paul described how God had given him grace, wisdom, gifts and a special calling to plant churches by laying the foundation upon which others would come to build (I Cor. 3). These churches would be composed of believers who would be obedient to the faith that he had preached to them (Rom. 1:5; Phil. 2:12,13; I Cor. 11:1,2). Jesus builds His church through people who share the Gospel and then teach those who receive the Gospel to obey the commands He gave directly and the commands he gave through His apostles.  This is what we aim for as we plant churches, whether in the countryside, small towns or in cities.

The Lord’s Supper as Fellowship

By Marlin Sommers
Published on Saturday, April 3rd, 2021

What happens at the Lord’s supper? What is the nature of this important Christian practice? Understandings vary widely. One view of the supper, which I consider both extreme and oversimplified, is that the loaf and cup become literally the body and blood of Christ. Another extreme and oversimplified view claims that the supper is only an act of remembrance.

Let me hasten to say that it is only the extremes that I reject. I believe the loaf and cup are the body and blood of the Lord, just not literally so. Similarly, the supper clearly is a memorial act, but it is not only that. In the supper we encounter Christ. We can refer to the supper as the Lord’s table because it is a place of fellowship provided by Christ. Another common name for the supper is “communion,” which is another word for fellowship sometimes used to translate the Greek term koinonia in 1 Corinthians 10:16. 

Paul’s teaching about the Lord’s supper as fellowship in 1 Corinthians 10 gives us a key to a richer, more adequate picture of how we encounter Christ in the supper. But first, we need to think a bit more about the two oversimplified, extreme views and why they distort the Lord’s supper.

On the positive side, the literal view of communion as Christ’s body and blood is an attempt to take seriously His words “This is my body.” It also emphasizes that Jesus is genuinely present in the supper. The biggest problem with this view, as I see it, is that it makes things too mechanical. If the bread, once consecrated, becomes in and of itself the body of Christ, that makes Christ present even apart from faith and belief in Christ. An unbeliever, or even an infant with no understanding would be partaking of Christ, simply by virtue of eating. This belief that the bread is actually Jesus has sometimes resulted in strange practices designed to force-feed people Christ through the communion bread. It also sometimes makes people worry about what happens to crumbs or leftovers, since they are quite literally pieces of Jesus’s body.

The Expression of Music

By Anonymous
Published on Saturday, March 6th, 2021

Music is an expression of the heart. Listen to the heart in the following scenes:

A little girl, sitting on the hearth, happily singing, “With Daddy in the family, happy, happy home.”

A youth group, circled in front of the church, joyfully singing, “Come, come ye saints, no toil nor labor fear, but with joy wend your way.”

A 60-voice men’s chorus, admonishing each other in song, ringing out in powerful tones, “Rise up O men of God, the church for you doth wait.”

A small congregation, gathered for communion, earnestly singing, “See from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down.”

A tearful mother, standing by a tiny grave, softly singing, “Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast.”

We make music to express something we feel deeply about. In writing the lyrics, composing the music, or singing the song, we are communicating  the depths of our heart. 

Music expressed

We use music to express ourselves in various ways.

1. Worship

God intended music for worship. In Job 38:7, God proclaimed that “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” when He laid the foundations of the earth. In Exodus 15, Moses and the children of Israel sang a song of praise to God after their deliverance at the Red Sea. A 288-voice temple choir performed morning and evening during King Solomon’s peaceful reign. Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn at His last Passover supper. In Revelation 5, a holy symphony surrounds the throne of God.

God has designed mankind to worship through music. Nearly every religion today includes some type of music as a part of the worship.

2. Testify

Covid19 Restrictions and Christian Brotherhood

By perspectives
Published on Saturday, February 20th, 2021

As we all know, there are various opinions on how we should relate to the government and the various restrictions that have been put in place. As none of us have any experience with dealing with a pandemic before, we find ourselves in a lot of uncharted territory and with a myriad of thoughts and opinions. 

How do we find our way through these trying times and learn what God wants us to learn? What are the dangers we need to understand and avoid for our spiritual good and survival?

Here are a few thoughts for us to prayerfully consider:

Titus 2:11-3:2

11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,

12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

15 These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,

To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.

A Crisis Wasted?

By Anonymous
Published on Saturday, February 6th, 2021

It began for many of us like a rather normal year. There was the usual anticipation of spring and summer. Suddenly it seemed our world had become a quandary of unknowns, and a frantic search for facts and reason. We had witnessed flu seasons before and many of us had already had our turn with what seemed like ordinary winter flu, with some even experiencing it in overdrive. But we had recovered and we assumed time would now carry us into the spring and summer normality's of life.

It came like a tsunami, almost out of nowhere. We hardly knew how to adjust our minds and grasp the rapid change as it started jumping oceans and continents, and arrived with almost hysterical pretensions. It can’t really be that bad we thought. Many more die from the known infectious flu’s that circle around, and all the other deadly ailments that seem almost ordinary. But still the potential of this infectious tsunami keeps rolling on.

And then, the difficult reality of being told it is lurking nearby, silent, and insidious; the real dangers seemingly feared most by people with the more imaginative minds, but harder to reconcile for those people that tend to doubt the need to fear what cannot be objectified. For those it could seem very frustrating and needlessly restrictive, as the threat for many seemed to live mostly in the realm of potentiality.

But regardless of one’s viewpoint, there is without doubt, the almost total upend of the social order of our lives. The normal routines that we always liked to keep so tidy, and which seemed mostly in our control, suddenly required some re-direction and thinking. We have seen the hyper-imaginative, irrationally stocking up with doomsday fervor, things that portend mostly to the comforts of life. We have seen and maybe joined those who are appalled at the very idea that they would have to identify with the buying lunacy, standing in the vast lineups, clutching the normal wares, and with darting eyes, hoping no one recognizes us as contributing to the surrounding madness.

Choosing Translations for Bible Study

By Marlin Sommers
Published on Saturday, January 2nd, 2021

A preacher should have as much money in his library as in his pickup truck, or so says a pastoral advisor to my church. Those charged to regularly teach the scriptures need good tools for study. So do the rest of us. Not all of us will spend thousands of dollars on commentaries or devote years of our lives to studying the Greek and Hebrew languages in which the scripture was written. But, as Christians, we all must be students of the Word.

Fortunately, the most important tools for Bible Study are inexpensive and easy to obtain, at least for English speakers. The tools I have in mind are the Bible itself, in its multiple translations into our native language. Bible translations can be a confusing subject. There is an alphabet suit of different translations available like the ASV, CEV, ESV, KJV, NAB, NEB, RSV ….and the list goes on! What we should remember is that this represents an embarrassment of riches for English speakers. In this article I focus, not on choosing a bible for primary use like public reading and memorizing, but rather on assembling a small collection of translations for study purposes.

Choosing a set of translations for Bible study

Bible apps make it easy to compare many translations of a given verse. This is helpful, but I still advise getting two or three translations in print. You will become familiar with these select translations, and it will be easier to pore over passages, or to read extensively, with a book in front of you. If you don’t own at least two or three translations in print, what should you purchase to build your library? If you have several translations and want to add a few more, how do you know what translations will best complement your existing collection?

Keeshon’s Story: A Knock Heard Round the Hood – Part 4

By Keeshon Washington
Published on Saturday, December 26th, 2020

This story is Part 4 of a 4-part series.

Read Part 1 HERE

Read Part 2 HERE

Read Part 3 HERE

Leaving Home 

When I was sixteen my mom had not compromised all of her desires for me. She was still my mom, and I still gave her a respected voice in my life. One desire she held firmly was that I should go to college after I graduated. I always resented this rule because even after being influenced by the Mennonites for several years, I still felt smaller than white people and thought college was a lofty idea. It wasn’t a goal that was meant for someone who had been through the things I encountered. My mom had gone to college, but she was a white woman.

Keeshon’s Story: A Knock Heard Round The Hood - Part 3

By Keeshon Washington
Published on Sunday, December 20th, 2020

This story is Part 3 of a 4-part series.

Read Part 1 HERE

Read Part 2 HERE

“God Please Bring My Dad Back!” 

Every day I would come home from school to a continual argument going on. It always had to do with either money or drugs, and the energy and sound coming from my parents often sounded demonic. It wasn’t uncommon for them to direct this energy towards me and I would then be verbally abused as well. If not directly targeted, I would be encouraged to choose sides and agree with one parent over the other. When I refused to do that, they would both be hurt by me and I would feel like trash for not being a better person. I will never doubt that they loved me and ultimately are a reason I survived, but their addictions caused me massive amounts of pain.

One example of this painful lifestyle is the time I saw my brother (Budder) almost die in front of my house. An argument had begun between our house and the neighbor’s, and it became violent enough that soon dozens of friends and family sprawled into the street. I watched as our neighbors brought out weapon after weapon to scare Budder and his friends, but Budder is a stubborn person. It all climaxed when the craziest lady of the group held a butcher knife over my brother’s head and swung it down towards his neck. It felt like time had slowed down, and that I was watching my brother’s life flash before my eyes. My dad grabbed her hand before she was able to bring it all the way down, and I’m thoroughly convinced the swing would have killed my brother. My dad was also on blood thinner, so a  cut to his wrist could have easily been fatal. But this was everyday life; I had become numb to it all. 

Keeshon’s Story: A Knock Heard Round The Hood - Part 2

By Keeshon Washington
Published on Monday, December 7th, 2020
This story is Part 2 of a 4-part series.

Read Part 1 HERE

Soon after VBS, I was solicited for a weekly program that ran through the year. I remembered enough from the VBS picnic that I didn’t put up a fight, but I still went with a general cynicism toward the whole program. I remember walking into our school gym with a look that would have shot right through you. I was unwilling to enjoy myself, and made that clear to everybody around me. One of my teachers was a man by the name of Dave Mellinger. He had a smile that always looked like he had just pulled a prank on someone or done something mischievous. I knew when I first saw him that he was going to be annoyingly loving. 

Keeshon’s Story: A Knock Heard Round the Hood - Part 1

By Keeshon Washington
Published on Saturday, November 28th, 2020

In 1775 British forces were stomping through Massachusetts with their eyes set on seizing weapons stockpiled by the American colonists. On this journey they encountered a small army of minutemen and as it is reported, “somebody fired the first shot.” This led to another small battle later that day that left the British retreating back to their home base. This first shot is famously known as “the shot heard round the world.” It began the Revolutionary War, and eventually led to the freedom that many of us live in today. 

It may be a little unconventional to start a blog series with a history lesson. But what can I say? I’m a teacher in practice and at heart. When I was growing up, I never imagined I would be a history teacher. For me, life was limited to a host of undesirable options, all of which ended with me living in a crime-infested reality that would either get me incarcerated or on a t-shirt (in my home area, we put our dead friends on t-shirts to commemorate them). I was loved by enough people that if I did happen to die, I would become like the many of my friends or cousins that had met the bad end of a gun. I would be grieved over for a week, and then never mentioned again. 

You can imagine my skepticism when a group of white people came into my neighborhood (what we call to this day “the hood”), and preached a message that promised a different path. A path that would avoid spiritual death entirely, and minimize earthly death and its effects. A path that would lead me to live in joy and in endless hope, helping me to forgive anyone who had ever wronged me and have unwavering peace. A path that would help me know the force or entity that had created me in the first place. All of this sounded like a fairy tale that rich white people told kids like me to bring me into compliance. While they lived more reputable lives than myself, I sat and listened to their doctrine. I resented it all, and for a brief part of my life, came to hate God.