Wednesday, May 11, 2005

On Seekers and Such

Who would have thought that last post would generate such discussion?

First, to the ones who were troubled by the "judgmental" tone, your concerns may have merit because I genuinely disliked those "Amish" people I met. I was trying to be friendly to the mom, who was holding a baby. This is how the conversation went:
Me: Polite question about her children.
Lady: Answer the question, gooshy-goo to the baby, say something to her teenagers off to the left.
Me: Polite question about where they live.
Lady: Answer the question, gooshy-goo to the baby, talk to her teenagers.
Me: polite question about her husband’s work.
Lady: Answer the question, gooshy-goo to the baby, talk to her teenagers.

It’s really hard to have a conversation with someone who won’t toss back the conversational ball.
My slightly-creepy feeling about all this was compounded by the fact that right beside us her teenage daughter was goofing off with her stepbrother in such an inappropriate way that it nearly made my skin crawl and the mom did nothing about it. It all seemed so incongruous with the whole Amish-imitation dimension.

So…afterwards I was trying to be charitable and see the humor of the situation but I willingly acknowledge that my motives were probably less than loving and I should examine my heart.

And, on another rabbit trail, I notice a few people use the term "seeker" for these folks. Having watched a long line of people from outside the Amish/Mennonite culture pass through the church, I feel that the term is often a misnomer.

As I see it:
True seekers genuinely want to live God’s way. The others are usually motivated by lofty visions of the "simple life."
True seekers think and pray long and hard about joining the Mennonite church. The others act on impulse and just as quickly grow disillusioned.
True seekers are willing to submit to a brotherhood even if things don’t always make sense to them. The others are determined to do things in their own way and on their own terms.
True seekers ask lots of questions and have a teachable spirit. The others tend not to listen to anyone.
True seekers wait a few years to establish credibility before they try to change anything in the church, and then they do it quietly and one-on-one. The others make a lot of noise, publicly, very soon after the disillusionment sets in.

As you may have guessed, I have found the "others" difficult to work with, and trying to help them feels like casting pearls before swine.

There are certainly true seekers who find that our church is not a good fit for them and leave amiably, but I wish to extend my admiration here to those who have successfully made the transition, most notably our friends TH, MH, and PL. I know it hasn’t been easy for them, and I think they ought to give Seeker Seminars, showing people how it’s done. In addition, they have all challenged me to a more genuine walk with God, and MH is a writer who has often encouraged me. Our church is better for having had them among us.

Quote of the Day:
"I wonder who ever came up with the theory that green beans are edible."


  1. Dorcas, This is a VERY good post and it could not have been said any better.
    You have correctly pointed out the difference between true seekers and those who just want to live a simple life, or even those who come with the idea that they are going to "change" the church.
    For any of the rest of you that had a problem with the previous post..this post should answer any question that you had.

  2. EVERYONE who has not found the Lord is seeking for truth whether or not they know it! They just manifest that vacuum in different ways. What a sobering responsibility lays on us who know to tell those who don't know.

    Yes, I do personally know Dorcas.

    I have no problem with "Anonymous" because then I can better consider the message, without the source clouding it.

    I commend you, Dorcas, for still having a soft spot in your heart for the Amish and your willingness to defend them. AND take note of all your fans who are willing to take up their swords for you.

  3. I would suggest, Dorcas, that a possible reason you have received so many comments lately is that you have hit upon a topic that is painful for many people.

    For those of us who have attempted to enter a religious community, it seems impossible to ever feel fully accepted as part of the group. There are always little things, much like those you described, which outsiders miss and those who are properly bred will do without a thought. I am tempted to conclude that many people beside myself have felt the pain of rejection as we have attempted to be accepted.

    Likewise, I sense that there are individuals who were “born in the church” who are frustrated and hurt by the stream of outsiders who come and go. I’ve heard genuine concern over a community’s failure to effectively reach outside of its own families. I can only guess that the outsiders have done things that hurt the true-blue community members as well.

    (After living in Round Lake, we, should know that it is impossible to perfectly fit into another culture. I often remember you relaying the humorous details of the Borrowed Wedding Ring episode.)

    But it isn’t just conservative Anabaptist congregations that have these struggles, although they may have a unique version of the problem. I think the underlying problem is the same root of most sin… pride and self-focus. In your setting, Dorcas, the debate may be over what is in the Church Standard and in our church it is over Worship Music Style. My guess is that in both cases, one side doesn’t want to let go of their control and the other side doesn’t want to let go of their rights. In either case, the warring parties are focused on themselves rather than their fellow believers for whom Christ died.

  4. I would enjoy hearing more from Steve Byer, or others who have struggled with becoming accepted in a church. What are some specific, practical ways that we "insiders" can change our thinking and our responses, so that those unnecessary walls will be gone?

  5. I think that to someone not involved in the Mennonite/Amish community looking in, it looks like everyone get's along with each other, lives a simple life, and is ultimately at peace inwardly. Who of us doesn't desire some simplicity in what seems like a complicated world? But somewhere in the process of pursuing this peace that seems so illusive they begin to believe that it is in a particular lifestyle or behavior where peace is realized. The next step is to make this lifestyle the center their theology and they will worship the lifestyle rather than Jesus. (Incidently there is no sacrifice too large for the things that we truely worship)
    Sadly there are many within the Mennonite/Amish community who don't have this peace either, but they eventually conclude that what they do have is as good as it gets. (a good moral lifestyle)
    Ultimately the deep needs of our heart are only met in a relationship w/ Jesus. Whether you were born into an Anabaptist setting or have joined as an adult; anything less than Jesus will bring disillusionment and spiritual death

  6. Floyd, SO real said. Thank you. That challenges me to inspect my own heart. I've found out that it really is possible for me to go for a long time just fulfilling the requirements of our lifestyle, and of our church's "culture", while allowing my relationship with Jesus to wither away. Such emptiness!!

  7. Response to Sheryl Hooley:

    Let me clarify that the purpose of my previous post was to highlight my belief that people often respond out of their pain, and I’m at the front of the line of those doing so. Also, both sides of an issue usually hurt each other.

    I can’t say that I’m surprised that you have responded by asking for practical ways to make changes to your own response. As I have observed relationships and counselling situations, many of us think that the way for two disagreeing parties to solve their problems is for each side to carefully articulate their pain and the reasons for it. Then the right and proper response is for everyone to tip toe around the other’s pain. Hogwash!

    First of all, who of us can properly and logically explain all their areas of pain. For example, I go weird inside when my wife and I get separated while out shopping. I panic. I get mad at her for not being where I expected her to be. I get mad at myself for letting it happen once again, since it happens with some regularity. Now if I am to try to help my wife get inside of my head and understand why I respond this way, it’s not going to happen cuz I don’t understand it very well myself. Furthermore, it is ludicrous to think that she will be able to maintain and follow a complete list of all the ways she needs to behave around me.

    “So what’s to be done with the pain?” you will rightly ask. To quote from Floyd Yutzy, “Ultimately the deep needs of our heart are only met in a relationship w/ Jesus.” Let me explain what that means in a practical way for me and the above situation. As you might have guessed, I struggle with rejection big-time. That is part of what is going on when I panic that I can’t find my wife in the store. I’m never going to find a solution for that pain anywhere short of Jesus. As I realize the unconditional love that Jesus has toward me, a believer… That he is excited about me. That when I sin, he’s not mad at me, and it didn’t surprise him, and he wants me to keep trying to follow and not to give up…

    Allow me to be more specific. This morning while I still preparing to get up, I asked Jesus to give me a picture in my mind of how he viewed me. And right away I saw myself as a little child being held by Jesus and him tickling me and us both laughing with delight. Let me tell you, that is not rejection! And today, when I start to feel rejected (and I will feel it), I have a picture that I can return to that will take away my pain.

  8. I have been reading all of this and trying to see if I can add anything of worth.

    I came to the Conservative Mennonite Church through the witness of three female members of my current congregation back in the 70's. They did not preach about Mennonites; they introduced me to Jesus Christ.

    They showed the true love and concern a Christian should to a lost soul, and never once mentioned their church until I brought the subject up, at which point they invited me to attend anytime I wished. I was welcomed into the homes of these ladies, two were sisters and the other a cousin to the others. I also was invited into the homes of the cousin's two brother's and their families. In these times of visiting and sharing I was carefully and lovingly brought to the Saviour, and never encouraged to be a Mennonite.

    As I came to the Lord in faith, I saw that this congregation had something that I wanted. I was still a little 'green' in my understanding of what a "Mennonite" was or was supposed to be, but by God's grace and the help of faithful brothers and sisters, I am still here and would rather die than leave this faith and church I've found. No, we are not perfect, especially me, but God has blessed this congregation and we have seen many come and go as they served or sought the Lord; many to the mission fields around the world.

    There have been successes among us seekers as well as failures, but these Christians I call brothers and sisters, still reach out in love to all in the name of Christ. They will rally around anyone that wants to learn to live simple too, as long as the simplicity is to be to honor the Lord.

    Well, I married the cousin's sister when she returned home from teaching elsewhere and the Lord gave us a son and two daughters over the years, one daughter marries this summer, the others are already married, our son and his wife have two daughters that the wife and I would like to see more often.

    Such is the life of a seeker of truth and how it is today after 30+ years. It all came together when three Christian young Mennonite girls reached out to a lost 'hippy' and brought him to Christ and welcomed him into their families and church. May God continue to richly bless them for their love.

  9. Truthseeker,

    Thanks so much for sharing your testimony. It was definitely "of worth" and exciting to hear about. It challenges me to continue to reach out to others with the Good News.


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