[This article first appeared in The Weekly, a publication of Metamora Mennonite Church, on Sunday, March 1 – only church was snowed out, so nobody saw it. So I’m posting here and on our church website.]
Does it matter?
I’m knee deep in transcribing interviews, coding survey data and writing (Dmin thesis). It’s a bit like herding cats, only the cats are ideas and insights that have to be captured, and written down, and put into a coherent form.
In the midst of all that, a question popped into my mind. It’s one that I will explore further, but today, I want to ask you the question:
Does it matter if we are Mennonite or not?
The question comes out of a series of observations.
- A very strong majority of people, in both surveys and interviews, say being Mennonite is important as a distinct, or different, way of following Jesus.
- That same, very strong majority, think Mennonite theology and practice plays an important role in the world.
- That very same strong majority says it is important to welcome and include new people in the life of the church.
- Yet, that very same strong majority says it isn’t important if new people, coming into the church, are or become Mennonite (either theologically or communally).
This is curious to me.
On one hand, we acknowledge that the Mennonite name is often misunderstood outside of our congregation. We also recognize that, to some degree, this misunderstanding hinders our outreach in the community.
On the other hand, we acknowledge that Mennonite faith – properly understood and practiced – is distinct and needs to continue. That involves successfully reaching out to our non-Mennonite, non-Christian, neighbors.
On the other “other hand” (if that were possible), we are not intentional about leading others into the Mennonite way of faith and practice. For example, it’s common to hear Mennonites say that we are not trying to make Mennonites out of others. What matters is that we are Christian.
If being Mennonite is important, both theologically and institutionally, then why don’t we intentionally make Mennonite disciples of Jesus?
If being Mennonite isn’t important, either theologically or institutionally, then why in the world would we keep the name – which we believe hinders outreach?
Either it does or it doesn’t matter if we’re Mennonite. Which is it?
Feel free to talk among yourselves about these questions, or give me a call. We can sit over a cup of coffee and talk. I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can also email me or comment below.