By Ervin Stutzman
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses… Acts 1:8”
In September, I visited a number of Mennonite churches in Indonesia. There I saw a demonstration of God’s power that is leading the church to dynamic growth.
I was deeply moved to hear the story told by Pastor David Epenetus Meijanto of the Maranatha church in Ungaran. This growing congregation conducts monthly evening services for prayer and healing which are attended by many of their Muslim neighbors. Since Muslims believe that Jesus is a healing prophet, they are drawn to services where people look to Jesus for healing and hope.
One evening, a Muslim imam brought his nine-year-old daughter for healing. He had taken her to physicians in the area, without noticeable improvement of her eyesight. This conservative imam stood out in the congregation, dressed in garb reminiscent of the Taliban. Throughout the two-hour service, members of the church surrounded his young daughter in prayer as they engaged in Pentecostal-style praise and worship. Tears streamed down the imam face as he witnessed his daughter’s sight substantially restored. And the church gave vibrant praise to God.
These signs of Gods’ power are quite common in the church in Indonesia, as they are in some other parts of Mennonite World Conference. In their recent book Winds of the Spirit: A Profile of Anabaptist Churches in the Global South, Conrad Kanagy, Tilahun Beyene, and Richard Showalter give witness to the many ways that the power of the Holy Spirit is being released in these various church communions. The book was inspired by Kanagy’s survey of Mennonite Church USA that resulted in his book Roadsigns for the Journey. But because of the many different assumptions in non-Western national churches about the work of the Holy Spirit, he and his colleagues asked very different survey questions. In fact, some of these questions would seem “far out” in Mennonite Church USA congregations.
In a recent article published by Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in their Vision journal, Cheryl Bridges Johns suggests that parts of the American church have a “Holy Spirit deficit disorder.” And C. Arnold Snyder reminds us that the most important emphasis of our Anabaptist forebears was the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. These serve as reminders that the power we most need in the church today is granted to us by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps, as one senior minister recently suggested, some of us are afraid of the Holy Spirit. This is understandable, given some of the abuses that we may have witnessed by leaders professing to be led by the Spirit. Yet we must not shy away from the power that is released by Spirit of God among us.
John Howard Yoder once proposed that the modern day Pentecostal movement is the closest modern parallel to the Anabaptist movement in the 16th century. If that is true, there is much to learn about the power of the Holy Spirit from brothers and sisters in our newer Mennonite communions such as Indonesia and also those in the United States who vibrantly embrace the work of the Holy Spirit. They may even point us back to our roots of faith. And that would be a powerful thing!