Group Study Guide for

Stories

[Cover of John D Roth's Beliefs]

How Mennonites Came to Be

by John D. Roth

Study Guide written by John A. Lapp and Alice W. Lapp. John is a historian and retired church administrator. Alice is author of Christ is Our Cornerstone: 100 Years at Lititz Mennonite Church (2007). The Lapps can be reached at jalapp@dejazzd.com

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

See also Stories in the MennoMedia online catalog.

Introduction, Chapters 1 - 5 Chapters 6 - 10, Conclusion

One of the special dimensions of STORIES is the lists of questions embedded in the text in most chapters. Some of the following questions are similar to those included in the text.

Introduction: Conflict and Renewal in the church tradition

  • Are you convinced that “telling stories”—remembering together our shared past—is important to understanding who we are? (p.10)
  • In your experience, has tradition been stifling (p. 12) or a “map of the past” which orients us in the present and possibly for the future? (p. 13)
  • This book is premised on the insight that “conflict is inevitable” and “deeply rooted in human experience.” (p.15) Why is it difficult toappreciate the positive dimensions of conflict?
  • “Ours is not the only story of Christian faithfulness.” (p. 19) How is this understood and expressed in your congregation?

Chapter 1: A Newborn Church

  • How do you compare the church as a movement (p. 22ff.) from the church you experience today?
  • How do new church members “catch the common vision” (p. 29) of a Christian congregation today?
  • Are the six items on pages 24-28 as significant today as in the first century?
  • Is the process of “movement to structure” a recurring pattern in church history?
  • Do you see it taking place in the early 21 st century? Where? How?

Chapter 2: A Catholic Church

  • Missionary and mission leader David Shenk wrote (The MENNONITE, June 5, 2007) about three different journeys for peace: Jesus, Constantine, Mohammed. How could this chapter nudge you to reconsider Constantine’s role in church history?
  • How do the practices of a “Christian empire” alienate many people to the Christian cause?
  • “Christendom refers to the fusion of religion, politics and culture.” (p. 44) Describe your relationships with friends or acquaintances who hold to this position.
  • How do you engage people, especially other Christians, in conversation regarding the meaning of “Christendom” as defined above?
  • What did Anabaptists including Mennonites inherit from the Catholic past? What do you consider positive and what is problematic in that inheritance?

Chapter 3: A Protestant Church

  • If the body of Christ, then and now, “was a living organism, not a fragmented corpse” (p. 50) how do we justify different Christian bodies?
  • How has the modern Christian movement been impacted by the Protestant Reformation’s “individualistic and subjective character”? (p. 60)
  • What have Anabaptists including Mennonites inherited from modern Protestantism?
  • What do you consider to be positive and negative elements in the Protestant inheritance?

Chapter 4: An Anabaptist Church

  • Why were Anabaptists considered a “threat to the foundation of political stability” (p. 68)?
  • Who has changed more—the structures of modern states or the practices of contemporary Mennonites?
  • Is it significant that the first major Anabaptist document—Schleitheim (p. 75) is labeled a “ confession” rather than a “creed”?
  • Compare and contrast the story of this chapter with Chapter 2 “from movement to structure.”

Chapter 5: Mennonites in Europe

  • Summarize in your own words the key insights of Menno Simons. (p. 92-93)
  • How might the questions Roth raises regarding the decline of Mennonites in the Netherlands (p. 88) be relevant to North American Mennonites at the beginning of the 21 st century?
  • “The struggle for identity amid the pressures of compromise and voices of renewal has structured the contours of Anabaptist—Mennonite history ever since.” (p. 113) How do you observe this struggle in your congregation or conference?
  • What are the critical issues regarding compromise and renewal which you see today?
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