Anabaptist Missiological Resources: Additional readings by category

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AnthropologyEducation & Spiritual FormationHistoryMethods and Strategy
PeaceTheologyWorld Religions 

Jacobs asserts that the philosophical presuppositions of any given culture do not need to change for initial conversion to take place as Jesus meets people where they are.  He discusses how Jesus as Lord must be placed above all other cultural understandings of the powers, and how this affects cultural themes and values, albeit slowly.  He then sets forth a number of stages of interaction between the pre-Christian culture and the Gospel that typically occur when the Gospel has been received.  He sums up by saying the experience of conversion and witnessing about it is largely culturally controlled.  This essay is good for an anthropological discussion relevant to East Africa.  

Loewen, Jacob A.“The Gospel:  Its Content and Communication—An Anthropological Perspective.”  In Down to Earth:  Studies in Christianity and Culture, edited by John R W Stott and Robert Coote, 115-130.  Grand Rapids:  William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980.

Loewen begins with a discussion of the scope of the word Gospel.  As an anthropologist, Loewen advises mission workers to increase their awareness of the role culture plays in the world of the Bible, their home culture and the culture of their host community.  When missionaries fail to do this the Gospel message gets distorted in its communication and reception.  Loewen gives several practical pieces of advice on how the mission worker must know and respond to the felt needs of the people.  This essay offers practical advice for mission workers in on culture and communication of the Gospel. 

Education & Spiritual Formation

Classen, Susan. A Spirituality of Service: Freely Give, Freely Receive. MCC Occasional Paper, No. 29. Akron, PA: MCC, 2003.  Used by permission 

Classen develops a spirituality of service based on: 1) The recognition that a theological foundation for service is not sufficient in and of itself. We can only follow Jesus as we receive the grace to do so. Receiving from God in order to give to others is essential to a spirituality of service and requires reflecting on our understanding of God, our understanding of ourselves, and our way of acting in the world; 2) the understanding that the call to serve makes service a path for our spiritual growth. God calls us to service, not just because others have needs, but because we need to grow and mature; 3) the willingness to risk looking beyond the work we accomplish in order to allow God to deepen our motivations. 

Koontz, Ted. "Commitments and Complications in Doing Good." Mennonite Quarterly Review 70/1 (January 1996): 59-80.

Koontz argues for viewing Mennonite Central Committee as "a Christian resource for sharing God's blessing.” He names a number of MCC’s core values and then corresponding complications. He reminds service workers that servanthood theology alone is not adequate to keep workers grounded in faithful discipleship to Jesus Christ. Koontz commends this loving relationship with God, responding to need out of God’s abundance, and mutuality in giving and receiving to vitalize service workers.

Used by permission

Mathies, Ronald J.R. "Service as (Trans)formation; MCC as Educational Institution." in Unity amidst Diversity: Mennonite Central Committee at 75. Akron, PA: MCC, 1996. 69-81. Used by permission

Mathies asks; "Can service be an avenue of formation and transformation? Can it provide spiritual formation for mission?" Through an examination of four "generations" of MCC service, Mathies answers these questions in the affirmative.


This article examines the relationship between a “wounded” Mennonite identity, theological education, and mission in relation to questions being asked among members of the Mennonite Francophone Network today. From its sixteenth-century beginnings, Anabaptism bore the wounds of rejection, persecution, and marginalization. In some cases this led to a Mennonite mentality of separation and legalism. Nineteenth-century efforts to overcome the “wounds of sectarianism” and “spiritual drought” led to openness to Pietism and Evangelical Protestantism. In France, Switzerland, and North America, nineteenth-century beginnings of theological education were tied to renewal movements and interest in mission as a way of renewing an often ethnic Mennonite identity prone to formalism. This combination, plus the mission movement’s insistence on Protestant unity, led to a downplaying of a more specifically “Anabaptist” theological identity when new churches were born in Congo or Burkina Faso. Another means for renewing Mennonite identity has been through a return to sixteenth-century historical origins, which in the last half century has produced fruits in terms of a more Anabaptist missiology and a world-wide identity promoted by Mennonite World Conference. French-speaking Mennonites in Canada, Europe, and Africa are searching for theological education that will form leaders and congregations in a more positive Anabaptist identity, while at the same time assuming a conscious role in the larger context of a worldwide Christian family still too often divided.

Littell, Franklin H. “The Anabaptist Theology of Mission.” In Anabaptism and Mission, edited by Wilbert R. Shenk, 13-23. Scottdale:  Herald Press, 1984. 

Littell asserts that the early Anabaptists were long carrying out a method of mission in its voluntary, lay-person-oriented nature, before the relatively recent “Great Century” of Christian expansion.  The Great Commission and the restitution of the New Testament church ordered the worldview of early Anabaptists.  The nature of their community emphasized suffering, struggle and martyrdom, which will bring about the triumph of faith without compulsion.  This brief essay is a good snapshot of what compelled the early Anabaptists as a missionary community.  

In this essay, Martinez tells the history of how Anabaptists came to exist in Latin America.  One way was through migration of Anabaptists coming from Europe and Eastern Europe, some of which set up colonies for themselves with differing levels of openness to the outside world.  The second way was through the evangelistic work of Anabaptist missionaries and MCC workers.   Martinez then describes the Anabaptists in Latin America today in terms of their numbers, connections, and diverse theological emphases.  Finally, he discusses where Anabaptists are headed and what their role might be.  This is helpful in tracing how Anabaptists got to Latin America. 

Sawatsky, Walter.  “What if the Three Worlds of Christian History Converged?” In Evangelical, Ecumenical, and Anabaptist Missiologies in Conversation: Essays in Honor of Wilbert R. Shenk, edited by James R. Krabill, Walter Sawatsky, and Charles E. Van Engen, 38-48. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2006. 

Sawatsky looks at the three major streams of Christianity in the world in terms of first-, second- and third-world and highlights the need for writing global ecumenical history with perspectives from these streams.  He summarizes the divisions of the early church which led to losing track of each other.  He asserts the helpfulness of reading each other’s histories for examples of dealing with a variety of challenges, and names several major combined historical and missiological attempts at a comprehensive global church history.  Echoing Andrew Walls, he calls for a “re-commissioning” of the historian as missiologist, in order to bring the streams together.  This is a helpful reminder of the global Christian reality. 

Shank, David A.  “Anabaptists and Mission.” In Mission from the Margins, edited by James R. Krabill.  269-294. Elkhart:  Institute of Mennonite Studies and Scottdale:  Herald Press, 2010. 

Shank gives a brief historical overview of how Anabaptists, Protestants and Catholics have viewed missions, particularly in relation to the Great Commission and the Anabaptist commitment to carrying it out, both by men and women.  Shank  compares three types of mission approaches of the 16th century, the first involving a type of coercion of the masses, and the final type being of voluntary nature, with an emphasis on the believers church model.  He then describes the Anabaptist movement as being a messianic resurgence and finally, how all of these influence modern Anabaptist missions.  Shank’s unique contribution here is seeing Anabaptism in a messianic movement light.

Shenk, Wilbert. "Mission and Service and the Globalization of North American Mennonites." Mennonite Quarterly Review 70/1 (January 1996): 7-22.  Used by permission

On the occasion of MCC's 75th anniversary, Shenk reflected on the globalization of North American Mennonites and its connection to service and mission. Shenk identified three fruits of the past century of engagement in mission: 1) "An enlarged and enriched understanding of the gospel as one"; 2) "a deepened conviciton and confidence in the gospel as a result of participating in its continuing spread to peoples who have never yet heard and embraced the gospel of Jesus the Messiah"; 3) "the recognition that agencies, methods and strategies are only instruments and should never be regarded as otherwise."

Methods and Strategy
Long-term mission worker in Japan, Mary Beyler, speaks of how identification with her host community through the tea ceremony re-shaped and reoriented her for effective ministry in Japan.  She explains how Japanese cultural values found in the tea ceremony teach her things about biblical faithfulness and discipleship that her North American culture could not teach her.  This includes such things as slowing down, preference of the group over the individual, mutuality and reciprocity, and yieldedness to a master.  This kind of contextual identification is useful also for establishing relationships with Japanese people who see her respect for their culture.  This gives an example of contextualized ministry. 

Krabill, James.  “Teaching, Preaching and Healing:  What if Jesus’ followers did it Jesus’ way?” In Is it Insensitive to Share Your Faith:  Hard Questions about Christian Mission in a Plural World. 44-58. Intercourse, PA:  Good Books, 2005. This essay is found in the book, Is It Insensitive to Share Your Faith? Hard Questions about Christian Mission in a Plural World, by James R. Krabill. © by Good Books ( All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Into a world of much pain and brokenness, God brought Jesus to reconcile all things back to God.  In the Old Testament the word “shalom” describes God’s ideal for humanity and all of creation.  Krabill explains the multi-faceted meaning of this word and asserts that Jesus embodied shalom.  Instead of splintering apart the individual facets of shalom in our mission and service efforts, Krabill insists that we keep it held together.  Since Jesus exemplified this approach, we should also keep all kinds of teaching, preaching and healing together.  This chapter explains why holistic mission is biblical. 

Kraus, C. Norman, A Theological Basis for Intervention Ministries. MCC Occasional Paper, No. 20. Akron, PA: MCC, 1994.  Used by permission

With reference to Mennonite Central Committee, Kraus develops an account of MCC's Christian mission as agapeic intervention in situations of need. MCC, Kraus contends, does not send service workers into the various parts of the world merely to be respectfully and sympathetically present, but to be catalytic and dialogical change agents. This is fundamentally implicit in its explicit Christian identity as a part of the God-Movement (Kingdom) inaugurated by Jesus Christ.

Shank, David A. “The Shape of Mission Strategy.” In Mission from the Margins, edited by James R. Krabill, 159-167. Elkhart:  Institute of Mennonite Studies and Scottdale:  Herald Press, 2010. 

Shank defines the mission message and strategy as taking the shape of the cross of Jesus which involves self-denial, servanthood, identification,  and humility.  Self-denial goes beyond giving, it is giving up, especially of privilege.  Servanthood and identification are grounded in vulnerability and are risky because of the danger of “docetic mission” or mission that fails to truly enter into the life, faith and temptations of the host community.  Humility, while necessary, can still be perceived as proud foreign intrusion, which brings one back to putting everything into the light of the cross.  This essay is persuasive for seeing the cross as the strategy and message. 

Shenk, Wilbert. “Three Studies in Mission Strategy.” Mission Focus 14 (2006):  90-122.

Transforming mission, crossing frontiers and an Anabaptist view of mission are covered in this three-part essay.  Shenk argues that mission theology and practice should focus on the life-changing nature of the Gospel, with reconciliation as a main theme and strategy, and draw on the Anabaptist understanding of disciple-making.  Shenk reviews four strategies that have been and are still being used— proselytization, conquest, escape and evangelization, with evangelization being the most faithful form.  Mission theology should take Jesus as the prime source of inspiration for theories and practice.  This is good information for thinking about strategies and methods for Anabaptist mission.

Stutzman, Linford.  “An Incarnational Approach to Mission.” In With Jesus in the World: Mission in Modern, Affluent Societies.  100-124. Scottdale:  Herald Press, 1992. 

Stutzman explains incarnation as the decision to demonstrate and communicate the Good News of the kingdom within a particular social location with the goal of being in the world as Jesus was.  The first step in using an incarnational approach to mission is to locate people in the society who are most receptive to the message of Jesus, the “integrated critics” of a society.  From this position, the emerging faith community can raise the hopes of the marginalized, offer alternative hopes to the misplaced hopes of the majority and  challenge the false hopes of the establishment.  This is helpful for those interested in incarnational ministry in post-Christian settings.

Key essays on mission in this volume marking MCC’s 90th anniversary cover topics such as MCC’s relationship to Mennonite World Conference; a relational methodology, and how MCC understands and practices development and relief.

Terrence Jantzi, "A Theoretical Framework for Understanding MCC's Emphasis on Relationships" in A Table of Sharing: Mennonite Central Committee and the Expanding Networks of Mennonite Identity, edited by Alain Epp Weaver. Telford, PA; Cascadia, 2011.  397-418. Used by permission

Ronald J.R. Mathies, "Synergies in Mission: MCC and Mennonite World Conference, " in A Table of Sharing: Mennonite Central Committee and the Expanding Networks of Mennonite Identity.  Edited by Alain Epp Weaver. Telford, PA; Cascadia, 2011 (84-102); Used by permission

Robb Davis, "MCC's Development Paradigm(s)," in A Table of Sharing: Mennonite Central Committee and the Expanding Networks of Mennonite Identity. Edited by Alain Epp Weaver. Telford, PA; Cascadia, 2011. (339-352). Used by permission

William Reimer and Bruce Guenther, "Relationships, Rights, and 'Relief': Ninety Years of MCC's Integrated Response to Humanitarian Crises," in A Table of Sharing: Mennonite Central Committee and the Expanding Networks of Mennonite Identity. Edited by Alain Epp Weaver. Telford, PA; Cascadia, 2011 (353-374); Used by permission.

This piece in the Mission Insight series seeks to persuade readers that biblical peace is at the core of the church’s mission.  Early Christians embraced peace and reconciliation as the heart of the Gospel, made possible by the cross and resurrection of Jesus.  Jesus shows the way to peace and the church is the sign of God’s intention for communities of peace.  People who have received God’s forgiveness, grace and reconciliation through Jesus want to share it, let it transform the way they deal with enemies and invite others to come and see what it means to be a peace church.  This essay is good for expanding people’s understanding of mission to include peace.

Kreider, Alan, Eleanor Kreider and Paulus Widjaja.  “Peace in Worship.” In A Culture of Peace.  95-118.  Intercourse, PA:  Good Books, 2005. This essay is found in the book, A Culture of Peace: God’s Vision for the Church, by Alan Kreider, Eleanor Kreider, and Paulus Widjaja. © by Good Books ( All rights reserved. Used by permission.

The authors speak of peace being at the heart of God’s mission resulting in bringing people together to worship the Lamb.  They claim that worship changes the way people view the world, it transforms them and gives them new ways to work at God’s great project of peacemaking.   They describe how in Christ people are one in their praise and belonging, therefore affirming solidarity with God’s global family.  In worship, the hearing, re-telling, pondering, celebrating and continuing of the biblical story of God’s peace at work in the world shapes our own understanding of the world and our part in it.  This is a unique cross-cultural contribution on worship and peace. 

Ramseyer, Robert. “Mennonite Missions and the Christian Peace Witness.”  In Mission and the Peace Witness, 114-134. Scottdale:  Herald Press, 1979. 

Ramseyer focuses on four main points in this essay.  The first is to take a look at how Mennonite missionaries have done in establishing peace churches.  Then he examines why Mennonite missions has separated salvation and the peace witness and advocates for keeping them together.  For Anabaptists, salvation is a new kind of living and transcends the faith/works dichotomy.  He grounds this in the person of Jesus and how to understand the atonement.  Finally he suggests ways missionaries today can keep these vital elements together and warns of likely rejection by other Christians and societies.   This article is persuasive in its aim and does well at that.


Barrett gives a historical view of the word missional and then works to define its current meaning.  The missional church sees the mission as belonging to God and permeating the very nature of the church.  It involves witness to the gospel, service and practices in the context of the community.  This community is an alternative community to the dominate culture, where it seeks to be shaped by Christ and to live as a sign of God’s in-breaking future.  This is a very basic essay identifying what is meant by the word “missional.” 

Grace, Kristen A.,D. Merrill Ewert, and Paul R. Eberts, "MCCers and Evangelicals: Perspectives of Development." Conrad Grebel Review  13/3 (Fall 1995): 365-384. Used by permission

Both Anabaptists and evangelicals could benefit from a careful consideration of how the emphases of their respective theological traditions promote or constrain community development. Unexamined assumptions about Christian witness can lead to bad development practice. This suggests that individuals engaged in religious intercultural ministry, and the organizations they work for, should b concerned with development a clear theology that guides why and how they do development so that both word and deed promote a consistent witness.

Krabill, James.  A Theology of Mission for Today:  A Statement of Mennonite Board of Missions. Mission Insight 1. Elkhart, IN:  Mennonite Board of Missions, 1999.

In this first publication of the Mission Insight series, Krabill places the mission of God in the context of a broken world needing the whole Gospel as a healing solution.  He briefly touches on Jesus, the role of the church, the strategy consistent with Jesus and who is included in God’s peace plan for the world.  Thoughts about the risks involved and the empowerment needed conclude the booklet.  This very accessible essay gives an overview of one Anabaptist mission agency’s theological commitments nearing a new millenium. 

Shenk, Calvin E.  “Essential Themes for an Anabaptist Missiology.” In A Relevant Anabaptist Missiology for the 1990s, edited by Calvin E. Shenk.  63-92. Elkhart, IN: Council of International Ministries, 1990.

Mission begins with recognizing it in the larger context of the missio Dei  and grows out of love and obedience to Christ.  He calls for missiological discernment and teaching mission workers how the Anabaptist vision informs missionary practice.  He focuses on the following topics in relation to mission:  the kingdom of God, Christology, the Holy Spirit, the role of the church, holistic mission, the Incarnation, inter-faith relations, and eschatology.  He examines these and offers helpful suggestions for how they relate to the future of missions from a 1990’s perspective.  This article could help in a comparison of how themes have or have not changed in the last two decades. 

Showalter, Richard.  “Part 1:  The Vision.”  In On the Way with Jesus, 15-30. Scottdale:  Herald Press, 2008.

In Part 1 of this book, Showalter focuses on mission vision.  The vision is grounded in Jesus and found in Scripture.  It is more than pithy statements and principles—it must be substantive and lived by followers of Jesus.  In the uniqueness of Jesus the very presence of God is among us redeeming, restoring and releasing and is expressed by Christians in passion for Jesus and compassion for the world.  Showalter ends Part 1 by reviewing how the Christian message has spread in all directions of the world since the time of Jesus.  This book argues its points through short statements and sections in summary style. 

World Religions

Nickel commends the approach for Christian witness to Muslims of imitating Christ in suffering love and the wisdom of the cross.  He addresses the problem of the Crusades and says that although Christians dishonored Christ in that effort, we should not hesitate to honor Christ today by presenting the Gospel of peace and the glory of Christ to Muslims.  Christians engaged in this type of ministry need to trust God for the results and never resort to coercion, manipulation or enticements.  Finally, Nickel alerts those who wish to commend Jesus to Muslims to be prepared for persecution.  Nickel writes for Christians bearing witness to Muslims.  

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