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Fall 1985 · Vol. 14 No. 2 · pp. 3–5 

Mennonite Brethren Church Membership Profile, 1972-1982, Preface

Al Dueck, J. B. Toews, and Abram G. Konrad

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5).

The exhortation of Paul in his second letter to the Corinthian church is a call for self-examination to know the status of their faith. Already in his first letter to the Corinthian believers he warns of the danger to their faith from the environment of a secular, pagan culture to which they are exposed (1 Cor. 15:30-34). His message to the church is a clarion call, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13).

The concerns of the Apostle are a mere echo of the words of Jesus to his disciples, “You are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). The writings of John offer the same concern in the exhortation, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). {4}

The exhortations of Jesus and the apostles are very relevant to our “post-Christian” 20th Century. The Believers’ Church of today, caught in the cauldron of revolutionary changes, finds its orientation in the unchangeable revelation of God through Jesus Christ and the Scriptures. God does not change, neither do His purposes for the church in the world change.

The Mennonite Brethren Membership Church Profile is a small effort in response to Paul’s exhortation to examine ourselves whether we “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). To employ social science methods in this self-examination provides the benefits of this discipline in examining the influence of culture upon social behavior. The voices of Robert Bellah, et al. (1985), Alasdair Maclntyre (1981) and others cannot be dismissed by a discerning church that is not “of the world” in purpose and character, but has a sacred calling to be “in the world.”

A weakness in this discernment lies in the processes which rest upon the base of changing cultural influences and values. The responsibility of the church is based upon an unchangeable foundation which judges all values, character and relational behavior within the cultural environment. While the limitations of the social sciences are recognized, the results of the Mennonite Brethren Membership Church Profile can provide a basis for reflective discernment and new developments within the church.

The implications of the data emerging from the Profile are offered within the framework of our Scriptural understanding of the 16th Century Anabaptists—the left wing of the Reformation. The “soul” of this movement was a cry for a return to the apostolic New Testament Believer’s Church of the first Century. The founding document of the Mennonite Brethren fellowship of 1860 based its commitment upon the same principles and practices. Reference to Anabaptist faith and practice in these chapters identifies a Scriptural understanding of faith and practice that grows out of the 1st and 16th Century Believers’ Church. Reference to “tradition” must be similarly understood.

The involvement of several groups in the study of the Profile outlined in chapter 1 testifies to our sincere interest in a careful interpretation of the data and to genuine concerns about the development of implications. The Profile can serve as important reference material for our Conferences and churches, and it will also provide helpful material for a forthcoming publication by J. B. Toews, Mennonite Brethren: Faith and Life. {5}

Our claim to be a Believers’ Church, true to the Scriptures, demands a positive and honest response to the Scriptural exhortation to examine ourselves. The Mennonite Brethren Church Membership Profile research and publication serves as one element in the examination process. We trust that this activity will be followed by a continued prayerful study of the Scriptures, a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s guidance in response similar to that for which the prophet Jeremiah prayed, “Restore us to Thee, O Lord, that we may be restored; renew our days as of old” (Lam. 5:21).

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