Christianity is messy. At least in America. We have far too many factions and variations of church — pick which one you like best, and when the going gets rough, pick again. This generation doesn’t need more churches; it needs a revival of faith.
I’m speaking specifically to Anabaptist churches. Not because they are worse than others and not because they are better. I speak to Anabaptists because I am one. I understand this denomination the most. I feel the frustrations others feel as they work with their Anabaptist brothers and sisters. I value the upbringing and heritage I have been given, as many Anabaptists do.
This generation of Anabaptists wants to know we won’t be written off when we verbalize the frustrations we feel. We want people to care, to invest in us and help us chart an even better course — no matter how good or bad the current one is. But in our ambition for the change we want, I fear we may neglect what we really need.
We don’t need more churches; we don’t need different doctrines.
Yes, for some it may be best to leave the current church we’re attending. But for many that’s not even what we really need. Concluding the Anabaptist church is the problem and therefore basing decisions on that is to have the same mindset of those who are busy trying to get everyone to stay, as if the Anabaptist church is somehow inherently better than other churches.
We don’t need everyone to stay “Anabaptist,” neither do we need everyone to leave. I see at least seven things this generation of Anabaptist really needs.
#1 – We need communities where we live out our belief of love for each other.
This is membership, it is absolutely vital. We have been trained to give up when it gets rough and there are two ways of giving up: dig in and fight or walk away without saying anything.
#2 – We need boldness glued together with conviction.
The glue is respect for everyone. We need people willing to be different from the status quo while also faithful to truth. But more than mavericks and strong conservatives, we need those who can disagree while pursuing each other as brothers.
#3 – We need lives devoted to prayerful communion with God and his Word.
Our prayer lives are far too shallow and nothing eternally good will come from godly intentions unless we lean into Holy Spirit power through prayer. Furthermore, our desire for truth is far too fickle. We struggle to see the value of daily meditating on God’s Word because of overemphasis on spiritual disciplines. Yet, the farther away we get from God’s letter of love to us, the farther away we get from God himself and the more unattached we are from reality.
#4 – We need hearts of worship. Not reaction.
Whether we appreciate our Anabaptist church or not, we tend to react to those who see things differently. No one side is any better or any more fruitful than the other. It feels more fruitful to leave because we become free to do what we want. But that freedom is actually bondage in disguise because we end up becoming enslaved to doing what we could not do before. At the same time, it feels more fruitful to stay because we see ourselves as faithful or less rebellious. The fact is, though, most are simply reacting. Not worshipping. And nothing will get better unless our decisions are based from hearts of worship — no matter what church we start attending (or what church we don’t leave).
#5 – We need to actively seek out and listen to godly mentors at least 20 years older than ourselves.
Not everyone that old is problematic — like some might feel. I am blessed to have older men around me who empathize with me while reminding me of things I miss. We need to hear them. We do not have the answers to our problems in and of ourselves. We need to wisely seek counsel from men and women who are authentic, sincere, loving and strong.
#6 – We need to stop criticizing and start creating change.
Criticism — no matter what your view of church is — gives us the illusion of doing something profitable. It hasn’t become profitable unless it translates into positive change.
#7 – We need God.
We are faulty our perceptions of what church should be like and what we really need. God is not. We need his Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth, and we need hearts humble and broken enough to acknowledge and surrender to where the Spirit is going and what he’s saying to us.
Let’s talk about what we want, but let’s also move toward it remembering what we really need.
Asher Witmer is a husband, father, writer and teacher from Los Angeles currently serving as a principal at a small international school in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He blogs at asherwitmer.wordpress.com, where this post first appeared.