My experience came from being brought up in the church but not seeing many, if any, examples of the Word come alive. I didn’t see examples of people living out the Christian life.
Yes, I witnessed good preaching and acts of service—people feeding the hungry and singing in the choir—but there was not real transformation. It turned me off.
I wrestled constantly with the question of where were the true examples of Christianity? I didn’t see many in the traditional church setting that I was exposed to—until I became a Mennonite.
I was in my early 20s back in 1985. I was laid off from work and living in Detroit. A friend of mine was attending a Bible college in Detroit and one of his professors was a leader of the Michigan Mennonite conference. He shared with us the vision of the Mennonites to plant 20 churches in inner city Detroit by 2020 with intention to recruit African-Americans males for leadership.
They invited us to to spend several days in Shipshewana, Indiana at the Menno Hof Center learning about Mennonites and the Amish. We were three African-American men staying with a white couple in their home. The thing that really impressed me was their testimony:
The husband had resigned as president of a bank and went down to Alabama to establish credit unions in very poor, very impoverished, very rural communities. He used his skills for service. I said that’s true Christianity. This was an example of the Word come alive. We always knew there would come a time when we’d leave to plant other churches. And when it was my time, that’s what I did.