This article was originally published by The Mennonite

MC USA: A dream for following Jesus

God calls us to follow Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, to grow us communities of grace, joy and peace, so that God’s healing and hope flow through us to the world.—Vision: Healing and Hope statement for Mennonite Church USA

I’m a Mennonite Christian today because I am drawn so deeply to the Anabaptist emphasis on discipleship, or following Jesus in daily life. I resonate with the early Anabaptist who said, “No one can truly know Christ who does not follow him in daily life, and no one can truly follow him who does not know him.”

I also identify with the Anabaptist conviction that Jesus is the center of our faith, that community is the center of our lives and that reconciliation is the center of our work. Further, I heartily affirm the high priority we place on Christian formation.

Nevertheless, I dream of a day when we follow Jesus in a more complete way across Mennonite Church USA. Here’s the heart of my dream: that we develop a range of Christian practices that more fully embrace Jesus in the four primary ways he is revealed to us in Scripture.

They are named on the Renovaré Covenant card I have carried in my wallet for many years: “In utter dependence upon Jesus Christ as my everlasting Savior, Teacher, Lord and Friend, I will …”

As Anabaptists, we are not content with a statement of beliefs.

Like many other sincere Christians through the centuries, we have sought to put our faith into practice. Over time, our practices have grown into traditions that both reveal and conceal the four aspects of Jesus’ life and character.

As individuals and congregations, we can become so accustomed to our particular practice of following Jesus that we may look down on Christians who follow Jesus in a different way. In my travels across Mennonite Church USA, I have observed that different streams of spirituality inform the way we follow Jesus. While each of these is inspirational in its own way, it tells only part of the Jesus story.

Richard Foster, the founder of Renovaré, speaks of six different spiritual streams or traditions that inform Christians who seek to follow Jesus. Each of them sprung from a particular emphasis in the Gospels or the book of Acts. Each of them seeks to follow Jesus as Savior, Teacher, Lord or Friend.

Following are the six traditions as Foster views them:
Contemplative—spending time with God in prayer and meditation;
Holiness—having pure thoughts, words and actions, and overcoming temptation;
Charismatic—welcoming the Holy Spirit while nurturing and exercising my spiritual gifts;
Social justice—helping others less fortunate than I;
Evangelical—sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and reading the Scriptures;
Incarnational—unifying the sacred and the secular areas of my life while showing forth God’s presence.

The time has come for us to more explicitly embrace these six streams as means of growth in Christian discipleship. Mennonite Church USA can be an ideal place for us to grow in our understanding of Jesus, if we are willing to learn about these streams from each other.

While some of these streams may seem more “Mennonite” or “Anabaptist” than the others, our church will be stronger and more faithful if we foster these complementary ways of following Jesus in keeping with the Scriptures.

Each of them is consistent with our Anabaptist emphasis on following Jesus in daily life. That’s one reason we stay in fellowship with Anabaptist Christians in other denominations, as well as the broader Christian movement, such as Christian Churches Together.

Over the next months, I intend to use this monthly column to explore the practical implications of my dream for our denomination, particularly as expressed in the six streams Foster named. Let’s learn from each other to follow Jesus in all his fullness.

Ervin Stutzman is executive director of Mennonite Church USA. This appeared in the February issue. 

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