Evangelical & Anabaptist Part 4 of 4

Our understanding of God comes from the Bible. We believe that Jesus calls
the people of the church to live in community (being), to serve God and
others (doing), and to communicate to the world that God reigns over
everything (telling). Our beliefs can be condensed into these three ideas.

MB¹s (Mennonite Brethren) seek to think and live biblically. We commit to
believing, studying, and obeying the Bible as our trustworthy and final
authority. (2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21). Our confession of faith
is a statement about what we believe the Bible has to say about living in
our world today. As a biblical people, we commit to resolving questions
about God and how we are to live by asking, ³What does the Bible say?² and
³How do we apply Scripture so that it guides how we live in today¹s world?²

We seek to allow the Bible itself to guide us in our understanding of God.
We believe we should always go to the Scriptures for answers to questions
about God, rather than to human systems such as systematic, Evangelical or
Anabaptist theologies. These may not accurately or adequately reflect a
biblical theology. We seek to avoid using any single verse in a way that
puts it above the rest of what the Bible says about a particular issue.
That is called proof-texting and can distort what the Bible means to say.

At the same time, we recognize the priority of Jesus¹ teaching. When we
read the Bible, we use Christ¹s teachings as the first ³lens² for reading
other scriptures. We want to know what Jesus said or taught about
something, believing that, as God in human form, we should look to Him first
for a correct understanding of Scripture. Our progression is to read the
Gospels through the lens of the Sermon on the Mount, the rest of the New
Testament through the lens of the Gospels, and the Old Testament through the
lens of the New Testament.

Our desire is to follow the pattern of the early church in answering
questions about their faith. As those early Christians discerned God¹s will
together at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, we gather to study God¹s Word
together and discern his will for us in our modern world. We don¹t
interpret the Bible in isolation. We do it within the community of faith.
The early church gathered together and evaluated the apostolic testimony of
Paul, Barnabas and Peter; so we gather together to discern the biblical text
and how its authority guides our lives. We try to interpret the Bible in
this way within a world-wide community of faith guided by the Holy Spirit.

Though our primary authority for faith and life is the Bible, we have also
been influenced by a number of different faithful Christ followers. When
our church formed in 1860, the first members expressed their agreement with
Menno Simons, a pastor and Christ follower of the 16th century. They were
also influenced by the Lutheran pietist movement with its emphasis on (1)
group Bible study, (2) warm Spirit-filled faith growing out of personal
conversion, (3) thoughtful spirituality nurtured by disciplined Bible study,
and (4) a desire and commitment to tell others about Jesus, his good news of
salvation and peace with God. MB¹s were also open to influences from the
larger evangelical church, especially Baptists who encouraged world missions
and helped the young MB church develop its congregational polity. This
openness to other evangelical churches continued in North America in the
twentieth century and still characterizes MB¹s today.

Even though we claim the Bible as our source of understanding about God, we
recognize that other Christians also claim that the Bible is the source of
their distinctive beliefs. Within our community¹s historical faith, we
guard against non-Biblical influences that might distort what we believe.
Two labels have been used to describe our community¹s understanding of
Scripture: Evangelical and Anabaptist. Both words have origins in
particular historical movements. Through the years these words have taken
on different meanings or associations depending on how our culture has
experienced them. Some find the labels positive and helpful. Others prefer
to avoid them. We use them to identify the biblical perspectives that we
affirm. Although their current meanings overlap to some degree, what
follows is a summary of what we have taken from each tradition ­ both
Evangelical and Anabaptist.

The word ³evangel² itself means gospel or good news. It relates to the Good
News of Jesus Christ. The following emphases of evangelical faith describe
some of the good news that we affirm. Individual Christians experience
spiritual birth through choosing to enter a trust-follow relationship with
Jesus Christ. (John 3:3; Acts 16:31; Matthew 16:24). This new status and
relationship with God is made possible through faith in Jesus¹
substitutionary death on the cross, and his victorious resurrection. (John
3:16-18; Romans 3:19-26; Ephesians 2:8-9). The authority for our
understanding of God is the Bible (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Maturity as a
Christ-follower is nurtured through relational and personal spiritual
disciplines (1 Timothy 4:8). The purpose of the church is to point people
to Jesus and to call others to join us in this new life he provides (Matthew
28:16-20; Acts 1:8). We believe that our purpose as God¹s church is to
engage our culture, transforming it as we pursue Christ¹s mission and
cooperate with other like-minded Christians.

We have also been influenced by the Anabaptist faith perspective. The word
³Anabaptist² was first used to describe 16th century reformers who insisted
on believers baptism rather than infant baptism (and emphasized the
separation of church and state). Like our forefathers in the faith, we
believe that God¹s people are made new in Jesus and are to grow as followers
and learners (disciples) of him (Mark 8:27-38; Matthew 5-7). Jesus
followers announce and publically celebrate their decision to join the
family of God by being baptized (Acts 8:34-38; Romans 10:9-10). We intend
to demonstrate faithfulness to God as we practice holy living and mutual
accountability (1 Peter 1:15-16; Matthew 18:15-20; Galatians 6:1-2), worship
together in community (Hebrews 10:25), and join with God to accomplish his
mission (Matthew 18:15-20; Matthew 9:37-38; 1 Corinthians 9:22). Our
authority comes from Scripture and is interpreted within the community of
believers as revealed to us by the Holy Spirit (Acts 15). Our mission comes
from Jesus¹ Great Commandment and his Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).
We are called to love our neighbors (Matthew 22:34-40), to make disciples
(Matthew 28:18-20), and to make peace through reconciliation with God,
ourselves, our enemies, and God¹s creation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20; Matthew
5:38-42). Our mission will almost always be counter-cultural because our
allegiance is to the Lord Jesus. The kingdom he proclaims puts us in
tension with the culture around us which often demands allegiance to other
people, governments and temporal values.

To sum up, we proclaim a biblical understanding of God that is both
³Evangelical² and ³Anabaptist.² We continually seek a biblical vision of
the work and mission of Jesus for individuals and for the world. Our
passionate commitment is to live as God¹s kingdom agents in the world,
anticipating the glorious day when God¹s kingdom is perfectly fulfilled.
Core Convictions
* We are a believer¹s church: to deal with our human sinfulness, we teach
conversion to new life through faith in Jesus Christ and practice baptism as
a public sign of personal commitment to Jesus as Savior and Lord.
* We are Bible-centered: we accept the Bible as the inspired and
authoritative word of God, seeking to obey its teaching, as illumined by the
Holy Spirit and interpreted in the Christian community.
* We emphasize discipleship: we seek to live as authentic followers of Jesus
in our daily lives, orienting our lives around Jesus¹ teaching and model.
* We value Christian fellowship: we believe the church is a biblical and
mutually loyal community that expresses itself in worship, fellowship,
accountability and witness.
* We are mission-minded: we share our faith by telling others about the
Good News of Jesus and serving others in our neighborhoods and around the
world, in obedience to Jesus¹ Great Commandment and to the Great Commission.
* We seek peace: we believe the Bible invites us to be at peace with God and
with others, even our enemies.
* We cultivate healthy relationships: we are committed to choices that
produce wholeness, healing, joy and peace in all relationships.