Why I wish I were a Mennonite

Why I wish I were a Mennonite

Posted: Tuesday, June 17, 2008

by Aaron Taylor

My name is Aaron D. Taylor and I’m a charismatic Christian.  If you ever see me driving with my glasses on, I may look dignified, but don’t let my appearance fool you.  Throughout my life I’ve been slain in the Spirit and drunk in the Holy Ghost on numerous occasions.  I’ve felt the anointing, laid hands on the sick, cast out devils, and been prophesied over countless times. It’s taken me a long time to feel comfortable in my Pentecostal/charismatic skin, but I can honestly say today that I wouldn’t trade my Pentecostal/charismatic heritage for anything.  I’ll admit it’s been a very long time since I’ve “shaken under the power” or “danced in the Spirit”, but to this day I pray in tongues, lay hands on the sick, and if I ever need to get the devil off my back, I’ll gladly pull out the “Sword of the Spirit” and start quoting Scripture.  We Pentecostals and charismatics have a lot to be proud of.  We were a miniscule, lower class fringe movement 100 years ago and now there are over 600 million of us around the world!

So why do I wish I were a Mennonite? Yesterday was my 30th birthday and when I think about the past 30 years of history, on nearly every moral issue that speaks to how Christians are supposed to live as a peculiar people surrounded by a godless culture, the Mennonites have been right and we’ve been wrong.  While charismatic leaders were “naming and claiming” plush clothing, fancy cars, and million dollar mansions, Mennonites were teaching their children to live simply so that others could simply live.  While charismatic leaders were petitioning the government to keep under God in the pledge of allegiance, Mennonites were warning their children about the dangers of nationalism. While charismatic leaders were building “apostolic networks” to win the world for laissez-faire capitalism, Mennonites were sharing possessions, building communities, and identifying with the poor. While charismatic leaders were putting bowling alleys and coffee shops in their multi-million dollar church buildings”, Mennonites were providing a decent living for third world farmers by setting up international co-ops and selling fair trade coffee.

As a charismatic, I never heard terms like “revolutionary subordination” or “civil disobedience” spoken in church.  I knew that racism was a sin except for when it came to Palestinians.  My list of sins never included sexism.  It never occurred to me that following Jesus might include making sure that whatever investments I had in the stock market didn’t go to weapons manufacturers or companies with sweat shops in Indonesia.  Bearing the cross meant everything from giving up lust and smoking to bearing annoying in-laws gracefully, but the one thing it never meant was following Jesus in the path of non-violence.  Imitating Christ meant performing miracles, never once did it mean identifying with the poor and the oppressed like the civil rights activists did in the 1960’s.  It never once occurred to me that a Christian killing another Christian in battle might be a violation of the principle that loyalty to the body of Christ transcends national loyalties.  Had someone suggested to me a few years ago that a Christian dropping a bomb on a defenseless village in Afghanistan is a contradiction of the number one priority of the church—saving souls—I would have looked at the person like they just arrived from Mars.

I wish I were a Mennonite because now that I realize that a Christian can’t call Jesus Lord without doing what He says (Luke 6:46) and at least attempting to walk as He walked (I John 2:6), I can’t for the life of me figure out why so many of my Pentecostal/charismatic friends have never considered the fact that Jesus never once made the distinction between personal enemies and national enemies.  If I were a Mennonite, I’d be able to mix freely with those who don’t twist Romans 13:1-4 to mean that a Christian can kill with impunity as long as he or she is an agent of the state—and the person deserved to be killed.  I wouldn’t have to make the case to friends and family that these four verses are sandwiched between two passages that state unequivocally that Christians are never to repay evil for evil and that love is the fulfillment of the law.  I wouldn’t have to feel ostracized for pointing out the obvious that Jesus—not Rambo—is the only standard of love by which a Christian is called to imitate.

Yes, I think there are a few things that Pentecostals and charismatics could teach Mennonites—and the broader evangelical world—as well.  Much of the evangelical world views Scripture as a set of propositional truths; whereas Pentecostals and charismatics tend to view the Bible as a living document infused with spiritual power.  Pentecostalism is great at presenting a holistic view of God as ready and willing to meet individual felt needs.  This along with our supernatural worldview explains why Pentecostalism overrules liberation theology in Africa and Latin America. But as long as we’re measuring who has more to teach the other, I’m going to have to say that the world’s 600 million Pentecostals have a lot more to learn from the 1 million Mennonites than the other way around.  As much as it saddens me to say this, when my secular friends ask me to point them to a version of Christianity that actually looks like Jesus, until we in the Pentecostal/charismatic world get our act together, I’m going to have to point them to the Mennonites. Should the two traditions decide to merge in the near future, I think it would produce the most incredible spiritual and social transformation the world has ever seen. For the love of God, the Church, and a world desperate for change, I sincerely pray that day comes sooner rather than later.

Aaron D. Taylor is an author, a speaker, and the founder of Great Commission Society, an organization dedicated to sharing the love of Christ and serving Christians living in countries hostile to the gospel. Aaron is the author of “Alone with a Jihadist” a book scheduled to be released in January 2009.


The Modern Mennonite

The Modern Mennonite

My friend Layne and I took a roadtrip this weekend to shoot a wedding in The Ozarks. We stopped by the Sedalia. MO Starbucks and while waiting for my drink I looked out the window and saw this. Two mennonite girls, just keepin’ it real. Playing on a cellphone, sipping on a frappe and sporting some sweet Nike kicks. Who knew? I love this image.

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Mennonite Hero for today

September 23, 2013

Missions and chickens

Written by  Linda Moffett

A Central Asian woman prepares to milk on a local farm.A Central Asian woman prepares to milk on a local farm.Photo by an EMM worker in Central Asia.

Having grown up on a dairy farm, Jacob knew that a career in agriculture would suit him well. After getting a bachelor’s degree at Pennsylvania State University, he continued studying and earned a Master in Dairy Nutrition. Jacob also wanted to serve in Christian missions and chose a short-term assignment with Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) in Central Asia.

Jacob worked with EMM long-term missionaries who are working in a poultry business, a business for transformation project. The business provides a witness to Muslim neighbors, some economic stability in an impoverished region, and a much-needed source of employment for local Christians, who often face discrimination.

“Local believers need jobs and sources of income,” Jacob observed. “But the culture here is clannish; basically you get a job because you know someone. This makes getting a job difficult for Christians living in a largely Muslim context.”

The poultry business Jacob worked for sells chicks and feed, but it also trains local believers to set up and run their own businesses. This provides a way for them to move to different locations throughout the country and earn a living while spreading the good news of Jesus. “These local believers are much better at leading people to Christ than we are,” said Jacob.

“If people think you are a paid missionary, your credibility is gone,” Jacob said. “So being in the country for a non-missionary purpose is important. By working in an agricultural business, I am dealing with the government and local corruption, so I have the same struggles as the locals do.”

“Jacob’s technical expertise opened doors for relationships rather quickly,” said Dan Rice, EMM’s business for transformation coach. “We want to take opportunities created through business to model our faith and build relationships. We have the opportunity to share
the good news of Christ in a contextualized way.”

“Just to see the looks on the Christians’ faces when they learned they could start their own businesses and to hear their stories was incredible,” Jacob said. “The vision for the poultry business is an amazing vision that I pray is fully realized.”

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1st Mennonites arrive in America

VIA History Channel

Oct 6, 1683:

First Mennonites arrive in America


Encouraged by William Penn’s offer of 5,000 acres of land in the colony of Pennsylvaniaand the freedom to practice their religion, the first Mennonites arrive in America aboard the Concord. They were among the first Germans to settle in the American colonies.

The Mennonites, members of a Protestant sect founded by Menno Simons in the 16th century, were widely persecuted in Europe. Seeking religious freedom, Mennonite Francis Daniel Pastorious led a group from Krefeld, Germany, to Pennsylvania in 1683 and founded Germantown, the pioneer German settlement in America and now part of the city of Philadelphia. Numerous other German groups followed, and by the American Revolution there were 100,000 Germans in William Penn’s former colony, more than a third of Pennsylvania’s total population at the time.

Mennonite Couple sues over gay wedding venue


Christian Wedding Venue Turns Tables on Gay Agenda, Files Lawsuit

Betty and Richard Odgaard
Betty and Richard Odgaard filed a lawsuit against the state’s Civil Rights Commission after being threatened with punitive action for declining a request to plan, facilitate and host a same-sex wedding ceremony. (The Becket Fund)

The owners of an art gallery in Iowa filed a lawsuitagainst the state’s Civil Rights Commission after being threatened with punitive action for declining a request to plan, facilitate and host a same-sex wedding ceremony.

Betty and Richard Odgaard, a Mennonite couple, own and operate the Görtz Haus Gallery, a 77-year-old building that used to be a church. They filed the suit in Polk County District Court Monday.

“The Odgaards welcome all customers into the Gallery, regardless of their race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion or disability,” the suit states. “The Odgaards cannot, however, host activities or display art that would violate their religious beliefs.”

Betty Odgaard was born and raised a Mennonite. When she and her husband founded the Görtz Haus Gallery (Görtz is Betty’s maiden name), they made sure to keep the old church elements, such as the stained glass windows depicting Biblical images.

With its religious decorations and architectural elements, the gallery has served as a place to express the Odgaards’ faith for over a decade. One of their favorite ways to do that is hosting wedding ceremonies in the old church’s sanctuary. They personally help plan and host every wedding, and are both at the gallery from morning until night for each wedding ceremony.

Lee Stafford told KCCI 8 News in August that he and his fiance, Jared, had toured the Görtz Haus before their planned nuptials. Once the Odgaards realized the event was a same-sex wedding, they declined the couple’s business, saying it was against their beliefs.

“We hire and serve gays and lesbians, and have close friends who are gays and lesbians,” explains Betty Odgaard.  “And we respect that good people disagree with our religious conviction against hosting a ceremony that violates our faith. We simply ask that the government not force us to abandon our faith or punish us for it.”

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is representing the Odgaards. Emily Hardman, the Becket Fund’s communications director, says the case involves “individual freedom.”

“Every Iowan should be concerned that bureaucrats are forcing Betty and Richard to personally host a religious ceremony against their religious convictions,” she says.

The Polk County District Court ruled in favor of six same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses in 2007. A unanimous Iowa Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision in April 2009, making it the third U.S. state to legalize gay marriage.

Learning about bananas

Connecting Peoples Honduras

Written by: Charissa Zehr

Every January we have an MCC Honduras team meeting to do planning for the year ahead. This year, our meeting was in El Progreso, an interesting city not too far from San Pedro. The “valley of Sula” or the greater San Pedro area has a lot of manufacturing and production that is sent to the major port city of Puerto Cortes for export. Bananas and sugar cane are major cash crops in the warm climate of the flat valley, as opposed to in the western mountains (where Santa Rosa is located) that mostly rely on cash crops of coffee and tobacco.

One of the highlights of this retreat was being able to visit a banana plantation and learn about the whole process–from the tree to the Dole box that shows up in North American grocery stores. It was fascinating! (Full disclosure: I have a mild obsession…

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A new three letter word

This may sound cynical to some but . . .

There is a Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) at Eastern Mennonite University.  From the title, I really don’t get what this is.  Maybe if I still went to a Mennonite Church I would understand it better.  From the outside it sounds like a really big fancy name for “mediation”.  Communities across the country use mediation for all sorts of conflicts.  Maybe they should get a bigger or fancier name to make it sound better.

I’m not putting down the effort.  I just prefer simple names.  I should have added CJP to my three letter Mennonite names.

I don’t know what peacebuilding is.  Spell check doesn’t either because it keeps underlining it red.  Try it.  It’s not a real word.

Peaceful states?



World’s Tallest Mennonite

World’s Tallest Mennonite

Field review by the editors.

Newton, Kansas


Carved from Kansas limestone, 11 feet tall on a six-foot base, skinny like the Skowhegan Indian, this statue was probably one of the last WPA projects. It was completed just before Pearl Harbor in 1941, and its stripped-down social realism style reportedly drew gasps of displeasure when it was unveiled.

Perhaps because raising a monument to pacifist Mennonites was politically incorrect during the World War II years, this “Mennonite Settler” statue instead emphasizes the crop that they brought with them. It stands inside a tiled circle that reads, “Commemorating Entry into Kansas from Russia of Turkey Red Hard Winter Wheat by Mennonites.”


World’s Tallest Mennonite

Athletic Park

Athletic Park Drive, Newton, KS
I-135 exit 31. Drive west on E. 1st St. for two miles. You’ll see Athletic Park on the right. Turn right on Grandview Ave., then make a quick right on 2nd St. into the Park, then a right onto Athletic Park Drive. Circle the Park, and the statue will be on the left side at the north end of the Park as the road curves to the left.