Group Study Guide for

Beliefs

[Cover of John D Roth's Beliefs]

Mennonite Faith & Practice

by John D. Roth

Study Guide written by Karl R. Landis, Director of Leadership Development, Lancaster Mennonite Conference

These Study Questions are also available for download as a Word document or in PDF Acrobat format.

See also Beliefs in the MennoMedia online catalog.

Preface, Chapters 1 - 6 Chapters 7 - 13

Chapter 7: Faith as Discipleship: Christian Practices in the Mennonite Tradition I

  • Do you find the Mennonite view or the Catholic view more compelling with regard to who should aspire to meet the high standards Jesus set for thoughts and behaviors? What scriptures can you cite in support of your answer? (p. 87-89)
  • What does it mean to say that “human weakness allow(s) the presence of God to be fully revealed”? (p. 90) Does this remind you of any scripture verses other than Luke 10:19?
  • What two crucial points are frequently misunderstood regarding Christian discipleship? (p. 91)
  • How would you explain the Mennonite understanding of stewardship in one or two sentences of your own words? (p. 94, 97, 101)

Chapter 8: Faith as Discipleship: Christian Practices in the Mennonite Tradition II

  • Which, if any, of the five statements on sexuality did you object to? Why did you object? (p. 101-103)
  • Are any of the five statements controversial in your congregation? Would any of them be controversial in your local community? If yes, which ones, and why would they be controversial?
  • What difference does the resurrection make for the Mennonite understanding of true power? (104-105, 107)
  • What does the author give as the main reason Mennonites are committed to loving our enemies? (p. 104-106)
  • What does the author give as the main reason Mennonites are committed to loving our enemies? (p. 104-106)
  • How has the Mennonite understanding of peacemaking sometimes been spiritualized or politicized? (p. 106-107)
  • What connections do you see between cultivating the practice of service (p. 109) and loving our enemies (p. 105-106)? How do they both express the gospel of peace? (p. 109, also see p. 14, 50-51)

Chapter 9: Faith as Discipleship: A Critique...and Ongoing Questions

  • In your own life, have you struggled more with trusting in “cheap grace” or in your own good behavior as the means for being reconciled with God? Explain the problem with each of these approaches in your own words. (p. 112)
  • Why might someone think Mennonites are parasites on the civil order? Do you think we are? On what basis might a Mennonite answer “no” to this question? (p. 113, also see p. 104-107)
  • Why might someone think Mennonites are naïve about the reality of evil? Do you think we are? On what basis might a Mennonite say we are not naïve about the reality of evil? (p. 114-115, also see p. 104-107)
  • Who in your congregation or community does the best job of emphasizing the need for personal faith and high moral standards on the one hand and the need to care for the needs of the poor and downtrodden on the other hand? (p. 115-116)
  • Assuming that your country is not the same thing as the kingdom of God, how might you and others in your church appropriately express your patriotism (your love for your country)? Or do you think any expression of love for your country is inappropriate? (p. 117-118)
  • How does a call to live a simple, less expensive way of life combine the Mennonite understanding of stewardship (see p. 92-95, 104, 107) and our compassion for the poor and downtrodden (see p. 97, 109)? (p.118)

Chapter 10: The Visible Church: Commitment and Worship

  • What do Mennonites mean by a “two kingdom” view of the world? (p. 126-127, 140, 142-143) Why might a critic see this view as too dualistic (i.e., too black and white)? (p. 147-149)
  • What problems do you see with maintaining a “two kingdom” view of the world? What problems do you see with discarding such a view?
  • Why have Mennonites traditionally avoided elaborate, formal, or highly structured approaches to worship? Why have Mennonite forms of worship tended to be rather informal and to include the involvement of the congregation? (p. 128-131, 149)

Chapter 11: The Visible Church: Practices that Shape Community

  • What are the eight different meanings the Lord’s Supper (communion) has had for Mennonites? (p. 133-134)
  • What three aspects of our salvation does celebrating the Lord’s Supper remind us about? (p. 135)
  • How is mutual aid linked to the Mennonite understanding of what it means to be the church? (p. 136, 142-143)
  • When insurance was introduced by the financial services industry in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Mennonites generally agreed that it would be wrong for them to buy insurance. Can you use the Mennonite understanding of mutual aid (p. 136) and the two kingdom view of the world (p. 126, 142-143) to make a case against Christians buying insurance? Why do you or do you not find this case compelling?
  • Why did the early Anabaptists say that “a church without discipline…might just as well baptize babies”? (p. 137-140, 142-143)
     
  • Based in the Mennonite understanding of church discipline, what do you think it says about our churches that we practice very little church discipline any more? (p. 137, 142-143, 151-152)
  • Why do you think Mennonites have been so excited to discover the exhortation to “Preach the gospel always, use words if necessary.”? (p. 109, 141-142)

[Note: This phrase is often incorrectly attributed to St Francis of Assisi. It does not appear anywhere in his writings or sayings.]

Chapter 12: The Visible Church: A Critique...and Ongoing Questions

  • Why might someone think the Mennonite understanding of the separation of church and state is simply irresponsible? Do you think it is? On what basis might a Mennonite say this view is not irresponsible? (p. 145-147)
  • Some Mennonites have argued that we should no longer bother with being a separate denomination, that we should be content to be Christians without any particular denominational label. Why do you agree or disagree with that view? (p. 154-156)
  • What would we gain and what would we lose by disbanding Mennonite congregations and the Mennonite denomination in order to join other congregations and denominations? (p. 154-156)

Chapter 13: An Invitation: Mennonites in the (post)Modern World

  • How does the author summarize the Mennonite understanding of the Christian faith? (p. 158)
  • Why do you think people today find the pursuit of a life of pleasure so appealing? What problems result from this way of thinking? What is the author’s suggestion for how Christians ought to respond to this sort of thinking? (p. 162)
  • Why do you think people today find giving up altogether so appealing? What problems result from this way of thinking? What is the author’s suggestion for how Christians ought to respond to this sort of thinking? (p. 164)
  • Why do you think people today find resorting to coercion and violence so appealing? What problems result from this way of thinking? What is the author’s suggestion for how Christians ought to respond to this sort of thinking? (p. 166-167)
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