Reflections Following Anabaptist Renewal Circles Meeting in Hartville January 16-17, 2015

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Reflections Following Anabaptist Renewal Circles Meeting in Hartville January 16-17, 2015

Five hundred years ago Europe was in crisis: feudalism was breaking up, the monopoly  of the  Catholic church was breaking up; new winds of freedom were blowing; the Turks were threatening from the east.

Would the people of Europe truly find God or would they come under new gods that would prove more destructive than the dark ages from which they had just come?

At this moment  the light shone. And God in His grace raised up a remnant who were determined to overcome by the blood of the lamb, the word of their  testimony and not esteeming their lives unto death.

A powerful  movement began to sweep Europe. The movement was focused on the  Presence of Jesus; it was  Spirit- empowered; it was radical ( non-compromising); it was grounded in Scripture.  It was characterized by signs and wonders and miracles. It swept through Switzerland, Germany and Holland. Thousands were impacted by the movement.  A leader  baptized 3,000 on one occasion. At one time 25 percent of the area that is now Belgium and Holland identified with this new Anabaptist movement.

God was giving Europe  the opportunity to enter into a vibrant relationship with Himself  that could save them from  godlessness and even from the ultimate devastation of two world wars.

But after only ten short years, this powerful new movement received a destructive blow by Satan, the archenemy of revival. At Munster, Germany,  the Anabaptists followed charismatic, but deceived, leaders to their eternal shame and destruction, leaders who attempted to forcibly establish the Kingdom of God on earth.

Menno Simons, a former Catholic priest,  worked tirelessly, especially in the Netherlands to pick up the pieces after the Munster rebellion to establish this scattered people firmly on the Word of  God.  In so doing, he made a shift which appeared necessary, and even good at the time. This shift had the ultimate effect of hindering this new move from being the movement God  had intended to sweep Europe. Menno Simons shifted from a  focus  on the living Presence of Christ  to an emphasis on becoming a holy church, of getting it right and doing it right.

Consequently the people, instead of crying out to God for revelation and power and holiness created by His Spirit, became preoccupied with avoiding another Munster. As a result these people became  known as the “quiet of the land,” a good people, hard working and conscientious, people of their word and of the Word.

Truth was still found among the Anabaptists however. In fact “many radical men and women of faith  went to martyrs deaths with courageous witness in both the Netherlands and in Switzerland long after Munster. And there were significant revivals with great ingathering during the next 150 years at least.” (in written communication from Richard Showalter,missiologist)

But this people,for the most part, no longer had a vision to change nations and impact the world with the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. By the time  of Menno Simons’ death, most Anabaptists had disagreed with some other Anabaptist over “how to get and keep it right” and had been excommunicated at least once by some other Anabaptist. Even as the impact of Munster powerfully affected the movement, the teachings of Menno Simons also affected the movement much beyond his immediate area of ministry.

And now, over five hundred years later, we are again in crisis. After two devastating  World Wars we face the real possibility in Europe of the revival of Neo-Nazism and racial hatred and genocide like we have not seen before.  And in America, once considered a Christian nation and the hope of Europe, we face the loss of the Christian foundations of our society. And we face confusion and anarchy here like we have never known before.

But thanks be to God!!

God is once again raising up a radical people who  are bonded to Him  by the covenant blood of the Lamb and who fearlessly speak the testimony of the Gospel even though it mean their deaths. God is once again starting, not a denomination, but a movement.  And He is breathing on people all over the world in varied religious traditions.  And, praise be to God, He is also breathing on the smoldering embers of many in the Mennonite  Church in starting that movement.

But God needs more than  good people and  good Mennonites and good Anabaptists. He wants radical disciples who live in His presence  and who then are propelled into the market places of the world with the radical message of Peter and John, good men who were transformed by the Spirit ( and by ‘devoting themselves to the apostles teaching, and to the fellowship and to the breaking of bread and to prayer’ Acts 2:42-47 ) and who could say:

“Look at us; we have something for you. We have life and healing and the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Do not look at our past;  do not look at our heritage; do not look at our personal strengths or failures. Look at the Christ in us, who is the hope of glory.  World, we have something for you. Look at us!” Acts 3:4.

It is time. Time to seek His face; time to wait in his presence till he baptizes us anew with the Holy Spirit and with fire. It is time to ask for incredibly big things; time to seek a revelation of HIs love and power that will transform us from being simply good men and women to being flaming evangels of His love and power in a world that is breaking apart and in desperate need of the everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is time to expect a new move of God that will change nations and affect the outcome of history.

And once we have received that revelation, no devil in hell, or even death itself shall prevent us from doing all that He has called us to do.

I want to be a part of that kind of movement.

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