Group Study Guide for


[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

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

Chapter 6: Mennonites in South Russia

  • Why did Mennonites live in colonies in Russia?
  • What were positive elements which self-government provided for the Mennonites?
  • What problems did this colony life pose for Christian practices?
  • Can you identify at least six countries where Mennonites of Russian ancestry live today?
  • For North Americans, one of the newest groups which Roth describes (pp. 135-37) are the more than 100,000 Aussiedler (or resettlers) who returned to Germany after the collapse of the Soviet Union. How would you describe these communities?
  • Address the questions on page 138.

Chapter 7: Mennonites in North America I

  • In what ways was the Martyrs Mirror a teaching device particularly for American Mennonites?
  • How have Mennonites in the U.S. dealt with the recurring American wars?
  • Roth notes five types or themes of renewal among the Mennonites in America: Revivalism, 2. Progressivism, 3. Old Order Movements, 4. Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism, 5, Historical Memory. Which of these movements have you and the congregation experienced to the greatest extent and why?
  • How do Mennonites continue to be impacted by American religious movements?

Chapter 8: Mennonites in North America II

  • Is it significant that the first North American Mennonite missions were organized by recent German and Russian immigrants?
  • Is Roth correct to identify recent Mennonite church growth as an “urban explosion”? (p. 183)
  • On page 186, Roth notes some of the contributions which newcomers or new Mennonites make to the church, enriching and renewing the tradition. How have you experiences these contributions?
  • How have you experienced moving from “they to we” in your congregation or your conference?

Chapter 9: Mennonites Around the World

  • There are now more Mennonites and Brethren in Christ living in the Global South (900,000 in 2006) than in the North (600,000). How did that remarkable transformation occur?
  • How do the well-established churches of the North accept the enthusiasms and concerns of the newer, younger conferences of the South?
  • Note the questions on page 206 mid-page.
  • Are you prepared to identify with the affirmation of the Congolese church leaders? (p. 209-10)

Chapter 10: Mennonites in the World

  • “Anabaptists emerged within the context of a fracturing church.” (p. 218) How important is it for Mennonites to take seriously attempts to unite the Christian movement?
  • On pages 224 to 227 Roth presents an argument against what he calls generic Christianity and for Mennonite distinctives. Where do you identify strongest with his arguments, where the least?
  • Roth presents four ways for Mennonites to relate to the broader Christian world. (p. 228) Can you give more examples of these ways in your region or conference?
  • Is your congregation engaged in such a conversation? Why? Why not?

Conclusion: Conflict and Renewal in the Anabaptist Mennonite Tradition

  • Who are “the storytellers, the keepers of memory” in your community? Are they as wise as Roth suggests?
  • What do you think of the triangle—“Context/Tradition/Spirit” (p. 240-42) for reflection on wisdom in the church?
  • How would you summarize the Anabaptist–Mennonite tradition as a gift of God for the Christian movement and indeed the entire world?
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