the weblog of Alan Knox

Missional Anabaptists

Posted by on Aug 16, 2007 in blog links, church history, missional | 2 comments

Dave Black has published the sixth part of his series on the Anabaptists: “What I Have Learned from the Anabaptists (Part 6)“. These articles are getting better and better, and they motivate me to want to learn more about the Anabaptists. This article concerns the Anabaptists’ views of the Great Commission. He says:

In speaking of the missionary heart of the Anabaptists my highest hope is that it might help us to implement biblical principles in our own lives and fellowships. I believe that if we are open to a fresh leading of the Holy Spirit, at whatever cost to our present way of living, we cannot help but become more missional in the way we think and act. The purpose of the Anabaptist movement was more than to recall Christians to their biblical roots. At every point the Anabaptists sought to correct the notion of their contemporaries that the Great Commission had been fulfilled by Christ’s original apostles. It was this emphasis that explains the contempt, and even disgust, that some of the magisterial Reformers felt for the missionary program of the Dissenters.

Our own situation is much like that of the erudite Anabaptists. Today we have to strip off the false notion that missions is only for professionals. Jesus is asking His followers today to take seriously not just the gathering but the going forth. What we must learn to say to the world is: “Here we are. We are willing to make any sacrifice to see that you know Jesus. We are not asking you to come to church with us. We love you right where you are. We love you no matter what you do to us. If we have to build a hut next to you for the rest of time just to witness to the love and grace of the Lord Jesus, we are going to make that effort. We’re not going to take you out of your environment or make you a part of an institution just to keep the institution going.”

I love this last part. Are we willing to go where unbelievers are, not just to hit and run, but live among them? This is true missional living… and I would say, this is true “follower of Christ” living.

Beyond the discussion of the Anabaptists’ view of the Great Commission, Dave also discusses the Anabaptists’ view of the church. Why? Because what we think about the church will affect what we think about the Great Commission. So, what did the Anabaptists think about the church:

For the Anabaptists, the church meant a great deal. It was a community consisting of those who had a vital relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior. It was the brotherhood of the redeemed, purchased by Christ’s spilled blood. It was the fellowship of the regenerated who as “living stones” were being built up into a holy temple. It was the body of Christ-centered sharing where each bore the other’s burdens and thus fulfilled the law of Christ. The church was all of this to the Anabaptists. But it was much more than this. The church was the community of those who not only worshiped God and learned of Christ but who witnessed and served, proclaiming in word and deed the Lord Jesus Christ and His full and free salvation to anyone who would listen. For the Anabaptists the biblical church was a Great Commission church – witnessing, evangelizing, and ministering in love both to each other and to the outside world. For them the whole of life was to be one of service and sacrifice.

I love this description of the church. I don’t think I’ve read enough about and by the Anabaptists. How about you?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 8-16-2007

    Because I grew up Mennonite, I’ve got some personal history in it. The Anabaptist mode of thinking will never leave me, no matter what denomination, fellowship, or brotherhood I end up in, Lord willing. My parents spent 2 years in Paraguay as support teachers to the missionaries there. The community rubs off.

    My caution is one I’ve stated before. When we study a group of Christians, we usually study the founders. There is always a tendency in renewal movements to become insular and exclusive within a matter of generations. Many, if not most, of the Anabaptists became ethnically unique groups, settling towns and communities by themselves, insulating themselves from the surrounding culture, sort of like little Israels. I’m the first generation of my family to marry outside my “tribe” since, oh, the early 1700’s.

    Just about every denomination begins with great First Things. There is an issue in the church that must be addressed, and the church, led by the Holy Spirit, searches the scriptures and addresses it. But successive generations tend to follow the writings of the first generation, rather than seeking the Scriptures in the same way their fathers did.

    Obviously, there’s still much good among the Anabaptists today. But as I said in previous comments, it helps to look at church history with humble eyes. Paul counted his religious pedigrees as dung, compared with the surpassing value of his present knowledge of Jesus Christ. But God still redeemed Paul’s past and used it to His glory in Paul’s mission.

  2. 8-16-2007


    Thank you for adding some information from your background as a Mennonite. I agree that as we study different periods and peoples within church history, we should look for the good (that which parallels with Scripture) and be warned by the bad (that which does not parallel with Scripture). I think this is true of the Anabaptists as well as the patristics, the medieval church, the reformers, and every different brand of modern followers of Christ. If someone is a follower of Christ, we can and should learn from them. As a human, there will also be areas of their life that should not be imitated.