Study Guide: Ana-What?

Sunday February 17, 2013 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

Throughout Scripture, we see a strong emphasis on positive traditions in the Church. In both the Old and New Testament, God repeatedly calls his people to be anchored with a sense of history. In this sermon, Greg explains why the Anabaptist tradition is closest to Woodland Hills.

Extended Summary:

Woodland Hills is starting a new journey, and we don’t exactly know where it will lead us. Lately, we’ve been feeling the need to partner with and align ourselves with people that share a common vision of the Kingdom. The Anabaptist tradition is the tradition that we most closely align with, and we’re pursuing a conversation with this tradition on what it might look like to be a part of it.

To understand the Anabaptist tradition, we have to go back to the 4th century. There was a Roman emperor called Constantine. He “converted” (it is disputed by some theologians) to Christianity and made Christianity the official Roman religion. This was the first time that the Christian movement became a part of the state. It was also the first time that Christianity felt the need to make people be Christian, even through violent means. We consider this to be a terrible thing for the church. This state-religion status of Christianity was the state of affairs during the 16th century when a strand of reformation emerged. This strand was the beginning of the Anabaptist movement.

The Anabaptists wanted to reform the church tradition. They wanted to institute adult baptisms that required a believer to proclaim their intention to live like Jesus. They wanted to separate church and state by separating tithing and taxation. They wanted the membership of the church to be a way of life and not being a part of the state. This desire to reform got the Anabaptists into trouble with the local government and other groups within Christian tradition. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be going over these distinctives of the Anabaptist tradition. Right now, we want you to know why we think it’s a good idea to have a conversation around joining this tradition.

First, we believe that we should be connected with and truly in relationship with others who have the same Kingdom vision. Just as much as an individual Christian needs other Christians to share life with, a church needs other churches to share their vision with. Woodland Hills is no different. We’ve felt God telling us that we need others to help us carry out this vision that he’s given us.

Second, we sense that we need to identify ourselves with a historical tradition. The Anabaptist tradition is far from perfect, but they have a heart that is very similar to our own. And they have a long tradition of living the theology that we preach at Woodland Hills. Throughout Scripture, we see God emphasizing over and over again to his people to remember the past and how God has led them to this point. We feel it’s important to be able to point towards a strand in the church tradition and say “that’s us”.

Finally, we think it’s important and necessary to unite with others in order to more effectively advance the Kingdom. We see ways that we could help the Anabaptist culture in advancing the Kingdom, and we see ways that they can help us in advancing the Kingdom. The Mennonites have a wonderful piece of treasure given to them by God. When we unite with them in carrying out the Kingdom, we get to participate in that honorable piece of work that God has given them. We can be a bridge in many ways to the Anabaptist tradition and today’s culture of Christianity, and we think God is calling us to investigate the best way to do that.

This is an exciting moment in Woodland Hills’ history. We’ve never really had a home in any kind of tradition. The BGC wasn’t a bad fit, but it wasn’t any kind of fit. And when we look outside of ourselves, we find that there is a group of people that have a similar heart and passion. Please join us in prayerfully considering what it would look like to partner with them. Pray for our leaders and pray for their leaders. Pray that they would find wisdom and God’s direction for our church.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What additional questions and comments did you have about the sermon and supporting texts?
  2. What did you know about the Anabaptists before listening to this sermon?
  3. Do you think it’s important to be connected and in relationship with other churches in advancing the Kingdom? Why or why not?
  4. Do you think it’s important to identify with a historical tradition? Why or why not?
  5. What are your thoughts and feelings about having the conversation of joining the Anabaptist tradition?