Becoming Anabaptist

Finding a way to follow Jesus in a post-9/11 world

Nov 9, 2015 by

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“I wasn’t born a Mennonite. I like to say I became one the old-fashioned way — I chose to be one as an adult.”

While I wasn’t in Kansas City, Mo., July 1 to hear Hal Shrader make this statement in a sermon, I saw it the next day in the convention video recap from the day before. It made me smile and feel a little more comfortable sitting alone in the Thursday morning adult worship session amid a sea of people I did not know.

Why would I get up in the middle of the night to fly from Chicago to Kansas City to attend a convention where I didn’t know anyone? The short answer is that I wanted to meet as many Mennonites as possible. Well, I did that, and mere months later, I’m working for Mennonite World Review.

You might be wondering, “Wow! How did that happen?”

To tell you that story, I’d need to back up quite a few years — to 2001. Back then, however, I wasn’t quite an adult. I was 12.

But God was calling me that summer, showing me that following Jesus was about more than a life-after-death deal. Following Jesus meant something new and different about my life now.

I discovered Anabaptism during this time through books published by conservative Mennonite publishers. Their witness made a deep impression on me that I’ve never lost.

The day after I turned 13, Sept. 11 happened. I think my limited exposure to Anabaptism immunized me to the wave of sentiments that seemed to sweep everyone I knew. I understood from the very beginning that getting carried away with nationalistic vengeance would only lead to greater wickedness, and I was convinced Anabaptism was the only way to go, at least in this area.

I spent my teens and early 20s dreaming of Anabaptist fellowship (my efforts to convert others weren’t very successful) while trying to harmonize Anabaptist theology with the fundamentalist, evangelical and Reformed traditions that influenced me (much of which I still greatly appreciate).

I had to wait many years before I was able to make some Anabaptist friends. I drove 45 minutes one way to Plow Creek Mennonite Church in Tiskilwa, Ill., for a year and a half, and it was worth it.

Now I live in Tiskilwa, working as assistant editor and Web editor for MWR, and I’m excited to use my new season in life to advance the kingdom of God.

I’m particularly drawn toward small towns, where people may feel more isolated in smaller congregations and feel there are fewer opportunities for sharing the gospel and for other ministry. I’m excited to encourage fellow young adults to make fellowship a priority.

Shrader’s convention message has a lot in common with my story and my vision for the future. I’m sad I didn’t get to meet him at convention, but I’m sure there are many more out there with stories like ours. I want to meet as many of them as possible.

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