To quote one of my favorite Sesame Street characters of my early years:
“Hello, Everybodeeeee!” (gotta love Grover).
I’ve just been given the privilege to be a contributor here on YAR and it was suggested that I give a bit of an intro so y’all know who it is writing this stuff.
For what it’s worth, concerning my denominational “pedigree”, I was born and raised in the Mennonite denomination. At that time, the churches I went to were the MC churches (as opposed to GC). My life started in Puerto Rico as the second son of two mission minded people. My parents got their start in PR in Voluntary Service and spent 10 years there all told. So, culturally speaking, while I’m German Mennonite by descent, my preferred flavor of church is a little less traditional.
I’m not sure how “young” I am. I’m 36 years old. But I guess I’m “young” in that I’m not stuck in the Mennonite/Anabaptist “church as usual” mentality. We need to start thinking about what it means to BE the church and not just GO to church. Life in the “church” is so much more than Sunday morning and the “church” is so much more than the institution that runs that Sunday morning service. “Church” is who we are every day and should define what we then do every day. If Sunday morning “go-to-meeting” should go away, the church will still be the church.
That kinda brings me to the “Anabaptist” part of why I’m here. I’m Anabaptist in my upbringing and, as much as can be said, my ethnicity. In fact, I’d classify myself as neo-Anabaptist in that would love to see a revival in the Anabaptist denominations (Mennonite, Brethern, etc) towards getting back to our roots of radical faith. The Anabaptist movement in Europe was so much more about being the church instead of “doing” church. The whole point of “re-baptising” was to get away from the ritualistic and legalistic practices of even the early Protestant denominations and to move into a genuine whole-life living out of the Gospel. Four hundred years later, it seems we’re emulating those denominations that we broke from in the first place.
Which brings me to the “radical” part. Someone classified my preaching in church as a “free radical”. I’m not afraid to ask questions, challenge answers, think outside the box, argue the devil into and out of a topic, etc. To keep preaching the same stuff each Sunday is what someone called “chewing old vomit”. We’ve been there, done that, and we’ve gotten stale. Does this mean there’s no truth in what we’re doing? No. But is what we’re doing relevant and important in the post-modern, post-Christendom, post-Enlightenment world that is present in Europe and beginning to find prominence in thought in North America? That’s the question that requires an answer.
I’ve embarked on a journey with God to become His minister in this dynamically changing world. I’m doing it from an Anabaptist viewpoint but I like to think (and who knows, I could be wrong), I’m getting back to my radical roots. As Anabaptists, historically, we dared to stand up to the status-quo, risking our lives. We stressed living the faith every day and in every way. Our lives, historically, have been categorized by our characteristic of living “non-conformed” lives and working towards transformation of ourselves, of our communities, and of the world around us. My challenge is to be non-conformist even within our own Anabaptist denominations. Have we come so far that we are no longer the radicals we started out as? I think so. I pray that God will lead me in the exploration of what it means to truly live a radical faith.
-Robert Martin, Pennsylvania