The last few decades have seen the decline of a lot of organized parts of our society, from bowling to religion. In many ways, this is welcome, like a brush fire clearing the ground. The downside is that it leaves us with questions of identity. We know that we don’t want to be like those old things, but we don’t know what we are.
In the American church, this has led to about 30 years of confusion. Traditional denominations struggled to reach boomers, which led to the seeker churches and their wild step-children, the emergents. However, with declining institutions, our culture struggles to provide a sense of identity, and so do these new churches.
Many turned to a movement claiming heritage in the 16th century reformers. This provided black and white theology, gender roles and political stances. In a world without identity, this movement provided a name, community and instructions. It also left many of us scratching our heads. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a part of something bigger. Those of us who disagree must respond by working harder to articulate we believe God is calling us to be.
Increasingly, many, including myself, have been using the term “neo-anabaptist“. While I see this as a welcome alternative, there are two major problems.
1. Historically, the Anabaptists are known for withdrawing from society. I do not believe that modern-day missional thinkers can fully embrace this side of the heritage.
2. When I read others toying with this phrase, I often think “I’m not sure we mean the same thing when we say anabaptist.”
So here’s my challenge to us who are embracing this term: Let’s create a new confession.
As the early Anabaptists gathered in Schleitheim in 1527 to figure out what they had in common, we who find this approach to life together, theology and mission important, should find a way to state what we agree on.
The Schleitheim Confession addressed seven topics valid to the 16th century. Here are seven issues a 21st Century missional neo-anabaptist must to address:
The Centrality of Jesus
Who do we believe Jesus is? What does it mean to read the Bible through our understanding of Jesus? What does it mean to be a church that looks like Jesus?
The Mission of God
What is God up to in the world? Where does the church fit in to that mission?
The Believer’s Baptism
What does it mean to become a follower of Jesus? What should be the consequences of baptism? What does the church call the unbeliever to do?
A Contrast Community
What is the church? What is it’s relationship to God’s mission? How does it relate to a globalized, pluralistic world?
The Image of God
What are the consequences in believing that all are made in the image of God? How does this inform our approach to gender, race, economics, pregnancy, leadership, etc.?
A Commitment to Peace
How does the church practice peaceful relations internally? How do we model peace to outside parties with whom we disagree? Does the church have a responsibility to make peace in the broader world?
From Here to Eternity
What is the church’s role in stewarding the earth? To what extent do we embrace trends, opportunities and technology? How do we best anticipate the God’s new creation?
My hope is that others will respond to this, in blogs, conferences and their own churches. Let’s have a conversation about who God is calling us to be.
What do you think? Do you see a need for a new confession? What would you take away or add?