What is an Anabaptist Christian? free download link here
“Every day they broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and since hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people Acts 2: 46 – 47.
By referring to his followers in family terms, it became evident that Jesus wanted his followers to not only believe in him, but also to have a strong sense of belonging to each other. Observers were amazed at what God did in and through these groups of early Christians. They had the gifts, insights, and courage to continue doing what Jesus had begun to do while he was with them. If you would have asked those first followers of Jesus, I believe they would have said, “Jesus-centered Community is the center of our life!”
Over time the idea of belonging to Christ and to each other as a close-knit community was largely lost. Those who wanted to follow Jesus obediently and to experience close community chose to become monks and nuns who lived in monasteries and convents. This gave the impression that following Jesus and daily life and living relationally in Christ center community wasn’t possible for common people.
Martin Luther and other reformers originally intended to reform the Church to its biblical Origins. Luther and zwingli were prevented by The Peasants War and other political circumstances from implementing many of their intended reforms. They continued with:
- the basic structures of Constantine and the Theology of Augustine
- the state church as the structure for the church
- the sanctuary as the center of the church
- infant baptism as the introductory right into the church
- the use of the sword by the government as the tool for discipline
- the interpretation of a “flat” Bible as the primary way of knowing God’s will. (A flat Bible means reading and applying the scriptures from the Old Testament to the new, with no authoritative priority given to the life and teaching of Jesus.)
The anabaptist saw the church as being composed of transformed believers who were committed to Jesus and each other in covenant communities. Both Protestant and Catholic leaders view this as a threat to the established church. As a result, they imprisoned and severely persecuted many Anabaptists. More than 4,000 were drowned, beheaded, or burned at the stake as Martyrs for their faith.
The early Anabaptists’ strong sense of belonging to Jesus and their loyal support of each other help them to live devoted ethical lives in the context of a hostile world. If you would have asked them, I believe they would have said with the first disciples “Christ-centered community is the center of our life!”
In today’s world, Christians with an Anabaptist perspective understand and practice christ-centered community in three distinct ways.
- Forgiveness is essential for community
- Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. He prayed fervently that we would be one with each other even as he is one with the father. A warm sense of community and all the benefits pertaining to it emerge when members of the body of Christ are committed to asking each other for forgiveness. Confession and forgiveness remove the barriers that prevent fellowship with God and with each other. Anabaptist christians believe that forgiveness is essential for creating and nurturing community.
- The scriptures are interpreted in community
- Christians from an Anabaptist perspective believe that the scriptures need to be studied both privately and in the context of a Spirit-guided community where fellow believers give and receive counsel. Generally, community members who come together in small groups, classes, and conferences in the spirit of Christ can best determine what scripture is saying to them about a particular situation.
- Community is experienced in face-to-face groups
- Some aspects of christian living happen best and relational groups of 12 or fewer people. This is often true when we give and receive counsel, discern gifts for Mission, and have fun and fellowship. Healthy congregations are structured for community. They are often networks of small groups. Some would go so far as to say that the small group is the basic unit of the church. Christian from an Anabaptist perspective experience Christ-center community at the center of their life.
~This is a section from a short eBook by Palmer Becker which you can get as a free download here.