Third Way is an Anabaptist church.
Anapbaptist Christians trace our theological heritage to the “Radical Reformation”—Protestant churches seeking a distinctive, biblically-based life of following Jesus. That movement developed into separatist communities like the Amish and Old Order Mennonites as well as fresh new Anabaptist churches (like Third Way!) which seek a new way to faithfully advance Jesus’ kingdom in our modern cultural context.
Here are four core values which shape Anabaptist faith and practice:
Core value 1: Love is the center of God
Love is not something God does; it is the essence of who God is. God exists as three Persons who are so filled with self-sacrificial, other-oriented (agape) love for each other, that They form one being.
Out of this love shared by Father, Son, and Spirit comes God’s loving act of creation. Humans are created to image and represent God. God looked on Adam alone in the garden and said it wasn’t good—because a single human cannot fully reflect a God who exists in three Persons bonded together in agape love.
God’s calling for the human family has always been to live in loving harmony with God, creation, and each other. This is the central calling of God’s covenant people in both the Old and New Testaments. Jesus’ most important command is to love God and neighbor—even if that love costs us everything we have.
We believe that God has shown His love above all in God’s only Son, the Word who became flesh and fully revealed God’s divine being and character. Jesus showed us exactly what the Father is like. On the cross we see a God so filled with love and compassion that He is willing to sacrifice Himself to His enemies in order to heal and rescue the human family.
- God the Father, Son, and Spirit only do what is loving at all times.
- The central message of the entire Bible is God’s love.
- We are called to experience and extend God’s love at all times to all people.
Core value 2: Jesus is the center of our faith
Jesus began His ministry in approximately 30 CE by gathering together a group of disciples. For three years these disciples lived, ate, and worked with Jesus, observing Him as He cared for the poor, healed those who were ill, gave sight to the blind, and taught the multitudes. During these years, and also in the days after His resurrection, Jesus became central to their lives and faith. They became believers who accepted Him as their Master-Teacher, Savior, and Lord.
Both the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world demand our ultimate obedience. God has ordained government to control evil and to do good in a secular world, so we need to obey government to the extent that Christian discipleship permits. But when there is a conflict between the ways of Jesus and the ways of Caesar, we say with the early disciples, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”
Accordingly, this means not giving blind obedience to whatever our government and culture commands. Since our highest loyalty always belongs to Jesus Christ, we may on occasion need to disobey a government order because it is contrary to the teaching and spirit of Jesus. When we disobey, we will be submissive to the punishments of government.
- Accepting Jesus leads to transformed living.
- The Bible must be interpreted from a Christ-centered point of view.
- Jesus needs to be accepted as both Savior and Lord.
Core value 3: Community is the center of our lives
Jesus wanted His followers to not only believe in Him, but to also have a strong sense of belonging. Jesus’ disciples shared their lives together, learning from Him, until at Pentecost they became the core of a new society called the church. The first believers “met day-by-day,” not only “in the Temple” (the gathering of the whole church) but “in their homes” (the home congregations or house groups), “eating with glad and humble hearts, praising God, and enjoying the good will of the people” (Acts 2:46-47).
The central problem of humanity is not a lack of finances, a lack of education, or the lack of power. The central problem is that we offend and reject each other. From the very beginning of time, human beings, both as individuals and as groups, have offended God and each other with our arrogance, self-centeredness, and disobedience. Our offensive attitudes and actions break our relationships with God, with each other, with our inner selves, and with the whole earth.
Our three-in-one God who lives in community wants us to also experience the joys of community. Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. This happens when we are reconciled both to God and to each other.
- Forgiveness is seen and practiced as a means toward community.
- The Scriptures need to be interpreted in community.
- The church must be structured for community.
Core value 4: Reconciliation is the center of our work
One of the greatest challenges facing the early Christians was the racial, religious, and cultural conflicts between Jews and Gentiles. After ministering to people of many backgrounds and inviting many into the family of God, the apostles came to agreement about how people from these different backgrounds could become one body through faith in Christ. As a result, the church developed a culture of peace and reconciliation, or reconnection.
Transformed people explicitly seek reconciliation and involve themselves in ministries of reconnecting. While some Christians believe that evangelism is at the center of their work, others emphasize peace and social action as their center. These two important parts of outreach can be brought together in the “third way” concept of reconciliation. The purposes of God are “to reconcile to himself (God) all things through Christ” (Colossians 1:19).
Accepting Jesus will cause us to change our thinking, our friendships, and our way of living. Broken or alienated people will be transformed as they join us in God’s family where we, too, are being transformed. These new relationships and way of living change nearly everything and bring us together, in a way that is in stark contrast with the world. Mental, emotional, spiritual, physical, and social areas of life are transformed through our new relationships with Christ and each other.
- Transformed people “think reconciliation.”
- Transformed people help people to reconnect with the Father.
- Transformed people work to help people be reconnected to each other.