Church has been on my mind and heart in recent years. As I’ve grown into my role as a wife and mother, I’ve realized that church life and how it should be isn’t as cut and dried as I thought it was. I love my church, and seek the best for her as the Bride of Christ. Writing about issues is one of the the best ways for me to clarify my own beliefs, and forces me to study and pray through the Scriptures in ways I wouldn’t normally.
Several ideas and issues have stirred my conscience recently. I have felt God moving me to use the writing gift He gave me to “admonish and build up(I Th. 5:11)” my brothers and sisters in Christ. Whatever I write, I strive to write with love and humility and without judgement or condemnation. For the next few months, I hope to publish a blog each week dealing with an issue that is close to my heart.
I’ll start with this question: Is your church safe?
A statement has been floating around our church lately.
“The church should be a safe place for our children.”
While I agree, this idea raises two questions:
- How are we making the church safe?
The Bible is clear that we must take care when creating rules. When Jesus spoke against the Pharisees’ way of life, He nearly always mentioned their extra rules they had placed on the people(Matt 9:10-13; 12:1-13; 15:1-11; etc.). This doesn’t mean that rules are wrong, indeed they are necessary in the home when raising children!
However, if we are making the church safe by severely limiting our children’s interaction with those outside of it, or teaching them that only our way of practicing Biblical principles is correct, we, like Pharisees, are in danger of trusting our rules to keep them safe, rather than Jesus. If we don’t trust Jesus with our children, why do we follow Him at all?
- If our church is safe for our children, is it safe for anyone else?
Our first calling as a church is to bring glory to God. Within that, we are to foster a deep, sacrificial love for those stumbling in darkness around us. Not so long ago, we were one of them. Under that, we’re called to care for our families.
Our fleshly nature sees putting family first as natural. We love them the most, so if we chose our own way, we would sacrifice the world in order to save our children. We would make sure our church was very safe for our families, possibly at the expense of making it unsafe for other desperate people.
This surely makes God weep, for He did the opposite. He sent His only Son to a very unsafe world, allowed Him to be tempted to the extreme, then killed by the ones He came to save.
When we make our church safe for us and our children first, we have no way to welcome the poor and needy around us. They may visit a few times, but how could they hope to find a home among us? Each denomination has its own traditions, but we as conservative Amish Mennonites have grown up within this rigid structure of plain, hand sewn dresses, head coverings, altered suit coats, and many other expectations. Unlike Jesus, who dressed as a peasant because He was one, we make anyone else stand out when they step inside our church. And we stand out whenever we go anywhere else.
Do you agree or disagree? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Gideon Yutzy says
Appreciate hearing your thoughts, we are not a traditional mennonite church but do have hearts to see biblical principles addressed , but if we get seekers, (we do quite often) we accept them as they are, baptize them and serve them communion. Then we hope that living out the bible , teaching truth. And hopefully the Holy Spirit brings change and conviction.
That’s encouraging and inspiring. Our journey to being like Christ is life long, and it’s vital to accept a believer as soon as they have accepted Christ’s salvation. To refuse to do so is making our own standards of salvation.
I love how you trust in the Holy Spirit–He is a much more capable guide than we are!
Gideon Yutzy the younger says
Apparently your thoughts here especially interest people by the name of Gideon Yutzy. I read your comment, Uncle Gideon. What you’re doing is noble and I hope God will continue to lead you guys.
Thanks for posting this, Sheri. You wrote: “Each denomination has its own traditions, but we as conservative Amish Mennonites have grown up within this rigid structure of plain, hand sewn dresses, head coverings, altered suit coats, and many other expectations. Unlike Jesus, who dressed as a peasant because He was one, we make anyone else stand out when they step inside our church. And we stand out whenever we go anywhere else.” Esther and I think about this a lot. And we are not sure what to do about it.
On one hand, as many of our more traditional friends are quick to point out, those Amish and Mennonites who were willing to assimilate have often ended up embracing a lot of the rubbish of pop culture.
Yet it’s easy to cherry pick from history, and I think if we’re honest, bad things also happen among the conservative Anabaptist churches who cling too steadfastly to their traditions. They become materialistic and bigoted, for instance. I realise it’s hard to find case studies of our people in which a group dropped regulations and still remained faithful followers of important NT teachings (i.e., peace, lifelong heterosexual monogamy, the headship order, etc.). It will be interesting to watch Followers of the Way in this regard. https://www.followers-of-the-way.org/
Is it possible to expect mature actions from the members of our churches or must we specify in great detail how they live, down to their wardrobes? On the other hand, is it ever appropriate for a semi-monastic, co-ed neo-Christian order to have a “lifestyle agreement”? (It sounds better than “rules.”) If so, how do we determine how the lifestyle agreement should look? Who gets to say? How often can and should it be reevaluated?
I will stop now because I have more questions than answers and furthermore, my comment is longer than the original post and FURTHERMORE, we hope to see you all in a few weeks and we can talk about it face to face. Until then, thanks for this food for thought!
Thanks for responding, Gideon the younger, and for clarifying which Gideon. 🙂 I actually thought Uncle Gideon was you–I guess you write enough alike.
You raise excellent questions, ones I don’t have answers to either. I have dreams, I would say, that believers should be mature enough to live holy lives based on Scripture, without having extra guidelines. Or at least very basic guidelines–clarifications of Scriptural commands. I dream of a church family that loves deeply enough to hold weaker members accountable until they gain strength.
I call myself a seeker of these dreams, certainly not an authority on how to achieve them, except that I know only God can bring about the Church He desires.
I look forward to talking about it more when we’re together!
“I have dreams, I would say, that believers should be mature enough to live holy lives based on Scripture, without having extra guidelines.”
I have had that same dream for possibly close to 20 years now… is it too ideal? Unrealistic? Maybe only in A fantasy world?:)
Somehow it seems so refreshing… at least Heaven will be all and far more than our dreams could ever be!
I enjoy reading your writings… keep it up!
It’s encouraging to hear someone else dreams of this! I am determined and persuaded that God wants us to work toward this dream. To simplify church life and depend more on Him, rather than ourselves.
I do think that right now is a time to work on purifying the church, and as sins hiding behind tradition are called out, accountability and true unity are established, and the generations start to work together, extra guidelines will fade in importance, without much effort on our part. We’ll be too busy changing the world!