Rediscovering Anabaptism Discussion guide

Session One

View the Introduction segment of the video, and mark on a flip chart (or large paper) the key ideas as they arise. Pause the video at the end of the Introduction to look at the key ideas and ask which of these reverberate with experience in your group.

Read the following sentences to the group before carrying on with the video:

Anabaptists spoke of following Jesus both in practical and in ecstatic ways. Just as in Jesus’ life, their life should have consistency between words, prayers, and deeds. Listening to Jesus, following in his steps – that was the simplicity of their calling. But it was a costly way.

Ask the group, as they see the next segment of the video, to listen for characteristics of Christian discipleship which Anabaptists emphasized.

Play the segment on Discipleship.

List the characteristics of Christian discipleship on a flip chart. (Ideas may include imitation of Christ; uncompromising terms of obedience; love of enemy; a belief that it is attainable and possible to follow the example of Christ; a desire to be wholly open to the Spirit; genuine good news; a desire to change; an emphasis on the corporate character of the church; a commitment to be answerable to one another; a belief that lifestyle not just ideas; an understanding that Christian discipleship is not easy, but it is our calling)

Discuss: If Jesus was divine, can we possibly live like he did? Are we supposed to try to live like Jesus? What does the New Testament say about this?

Read the following sentences to the group before carrying on with the video:

Sixteenth-century Anabaptists learned the hard way what it meant to be a small and powerless minority at a time when the church in Europe provided the ideology which undergirded the whole of society. Anabaptists believed that Christian identity came not through being born into a given nation or culture, but through being reborn in a faith commitment to Jesus Christ. Almost five hundred years later, European Christians, as a whole, need to learn this lesson as well.

Play the segment on Living in a Post-Christian Society.

Discuss: Are these ideas from the video helpful for Christians in the UK today?

As a group, argue for and against the following propositions:

• Our society is Christian.
• Christians do not need positions of power in society in order to make an impact. We can do our best things for society from positions of vulnerability or weakness, and by a distinctively Christian lifestyle.
• Christians’ first proper identity is within the transnational church. Being ‘Welsh Christians’ or ‘English Christians’ is not relevant.
• If the urban poor resist the Gospel, something is wrong with the message being offered.

Session Two

Read the following sentences to the group before starting the video:

All the Protestant Reformers in the sixteenth century agreed on a return to the Bible as the primary source for faith and life. They looked at similar issues but the Anabaptists came up with some distinctive perspectives.

Play the segment on The Bible.

Ask for responses to the segment. You then might discuss one or more of the four main ideas in this section. Write on a flip chart one word or phrase for each point:

1. All Bible interpretations must square with Jesus. Jesus is the key for understanding all of Scripture.
2. The Holy Spirit works to bring Scripture alive not only for specialist scholars, but for all Christian believers. A Bible scholar should serve as a resource, not as an independent arbiter.
3. The Bible is the church’s book. It should be read corporately as a guide and inspiration for communal life.
4. The Bible helps the church to interpret life, and to find the way to obedient discipleship.

Read the following sentences to the group before carrying on with the video:

Most people in our society live ‘in proximity, not community.’ For Anabaptists in the sixteenth century, mutual support and common life were essential for survival. Today many people are searching for practical forms of community, and often feel that these will be crucial to survival in the twenty-first-century western world.

Ask people to listen for points that answer the following two questions as they see the next segment of the video:

1. What makes community difficult to achieve?
2. What are steps toward Christian expressions of community?

Play the segment on The Church as Community.

Write responses to the questions on a flipchart. These may include:

What makes community difficult to achieve? Affluence, privacy, apathy, fragmentation of life, competitiveness, and greed.
What are steps toward Christian expressions of community? Simplicity and vulnerability in lifestyle. People desiring to live, corporately, in alternative ways to our individualistic society. The depth and quality of Christian relationships which can make a unique and tangible effect on a local area.

Read the following sentences to the group before carrying on with the video:

Anabaptists in the sixteenth century deplored how a hierarchy controlled the church. They longed for a way of being church which could avoid the pitfalls of power-wielding leadership. Compelled to meet in forests, caves, and barns, their forms of worship and decision-making gave responsibility and value to all participants. They understood that the church requires full participation and is the basis for service to the world

Play the segment on What or Who is the Church?

Discuss:

1. How can our ways of worship enable full participation?
2. How can we find new forms of Christian presence, less encumbered by our buildings, structures, or habits of thought?
3. How can our churches put into practice this definition: ‘The church is a community of people committed to following Christ in everyday life’?

Session Three

Read the following sentences to the group before starting the video:

In sixteenth-century European Christendom, faith was assumed, required, or compelled. Anabaptists, in contrast, shared with simplicity and courage their vision of church as a voluntary community of Jesus’ disciples. They loved Jesus, and they couldn’t help but evangelise, even though it might cost their very lives. Because of their focus on Jesus, their mission held together the themes of peace, community, and discipleship.

Play the segment on Doing Mission

Discuss: Can we imagine a church…

…that Jesus might want to join?
…which has not ‘olds’ to share, but ‘news’ having to do with peaceful and just lifestyle?
…which practices disciplined listening and extends genuine friendship to ordinary people?
…which develops simpler forms of meeting and serving the larger community around it?
…which models its life on a journey, not a fortress?

Read the following sentences to the group before carrying on with the video:

The Anabaptist tradition puts shalom at the heart of the Christian faith. Peace was the central message in Jesus’ ministry, in the cross, and in resurrection. Jesus integrated God’s passion and provision for reconciling all of creation. Biblical shalom encompasses the Gospel.

Play the segment on Peace.

Discuss: What do you make of these statements by people on the video:

‘Shalom sums up everything that I believe as a Christian. Peace is simply the heart of the Bible.’
‘They called me mad. They said shalom is laughable. It’s sheer idealism.’
‘Shalom? It means commitment to bringing justice to people at the margins.’
‘The recurring pattern of always looking for “the next experience” needs to give way. I long to see Christian discipleship brought into the centre as a movement in the power of the Holy Spirit.’
‘Truth is in our relationship with our living Lord. We need to keep going back to Scripture. We need to keep asking, “What would Jesus be saying to us today?”’

Discuss: What practical ideas from this video do you want to integrate into your personal walk with Jesus? What ideas for how to be church can you carry into your congregation?