This download includes all four talks plus a question and response time from the second plenary session at our Once & Future Mission event focused on the Anabaptist tradition.
While questions of Christian community have been seen as secondary or even dispensable in many sectors of the North American church, asking and embodying what it means and looks like to be the Church in our world are at the very center of Anabaptism. Taking a “radical approach to community” means, among other things, understanding the church as intimately connected to our understanding of the gospel and God’s design for (cross-) cultural engagement and change. This plenary session will explore the broad contours of an Anabaptist understanding of the church and related implications and practices for the Church in our Post-Christian culture.
Presentation 1: Bruxy Cavey
Paul’s understanding of the Church as “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) is an affront to those of us steeped in the overly-individualistic and hyper-spiritualized ideas of Christian community in our day. Yet reclaiming and operating out of this biblical/theological reality is at the very heart of the Anabaptist tradition. This understanding and approach to Christian community isn’t “radical” in the sense of being edgy or novel, but in the sense of being “rooted” in the person and work of Jesus through whom we embody God’s intention for human existence. It entails “the wrong people” actually living together as a family of those who gather around the Scriptures, seeking to incarnate God’s kingdom and mission in their daily lives and contexts.
Presentation 2: Samuel Sarpiya & Dennis Webb
Community, or our theology of the Church, is often seen as the Anabaptist corrective to an overly individualized form of Evangelicalism. Yet, the vision for such a rich form of community— of disciples gathered around the scriptures— frequently trades on the ideal. In other words we easily talk of what a faith community should be and stumble to live into that vision. Samuel and Dennis will describe how they seek to create communities that reflect the diversity within their towns, value the gifts that emerge from the intersections of these cultures, and how they strive to embody the kingdom of God described in Revelation 7:9: “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” Whether through teaching conflict transformation in local schools or simply playing cricket on a Sunday afternoon, Samuel and Dennis will explore the realities and possibilities of embodying the Kingdom of God that bridges cultures without erasing them.
Presentation 3: Kurt Willems
Throughout the biblical narrative we see God dwelling amongst a people. This cluster of humanity is invited to shape its communal imagination through the grid of a radical story: a counter-story. The theme of counter-story permeates the Scriptures. Whether that of the Jews in exile or the early church in the shadows of Rome’s oppressive domain, God’s people thrive when they are positioned in the margins of culture—not the center. In Post-Christendom a similar theme has emerged. The church used to take the center stage of society, but not so any longer. Although this creates a fearful shock to many communities within the North American church, the Anabaptists are equipped with a counter-story to gift to the whole Church for this new moment. Christian communities shaped by a commitment to costly discipleship and mission posture themselves to make a Kingdom impact. However, this requires that each community rid their imaginations of the values of empire and re-embrace a vision of embodying a counter-story of peace, justice and hope.