Shane Hipps has a message for the Mennonite Church: There’s a “tsunami of people coming your way because they are attracted to the Anabaptist faith.”


Shane Hipps has a message for the Mennonite Church: There’s a “tsunami of people coming your way because they are attracted to the Anabaptist faith.”

“You have people knocking your doors down wanting to live like this,” the pastor of Trinity Mennonite Church, Phoenix, said at Hesston College’s Anabaptist Vision and Discipleship Series Nov. 7 through 9.

While addressing the theme for the weekend, “Digital Discipleship: Forming Faith in an Electronic Age,” Hipps also offered strong affirmation and challenges for the Mennonite Church.

“It’s not just what you believe (that’s attractive),” Hipps said. “It’s how you hold your beliefs — with radical commitment and daring humility.”

Hipps likened the Anabaptist beliefs of the Mennonite Church to a clear, blue, deep pristine lake that he used to visit as a child. But that lake has since been invaded by a weed that threatens to choke it to death, he said.

“Your ‘weeds’ are born of the fact that you’ve married your faith and your culture,” he said. “Parts of your culture have nothing to do with Anabaptism and Jesus,” he said.

Those weeds are stopping the “tsunami of immigrants” at the church doors, and they include four-part singing of hymns, dress codes, quilts, knowing the acronyms of Mennonite organizations and Mennonite last names.

Quick to acknowledge the beauty of four-part singing, Hipps explained there is nothing wrong with the cultural aspects of the Mennonite tradition. It’s just that when it comes to welcoming non-ethnic people into the congregation, they can get in the way.

“What you have to offer is too valuable to withhold, so stop letting cultural weeds get in the way of your water,” Hipps said. “We need it too much.”

Author of the book “The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture: How Media Shapes Faith, the Gospel and Church,” Hipps shared his perspectives on that topic with an audience that included Hesston College students, faculty and staff, Beachy Amish from several Kansas communities, and lay persons and pastors from 10 states.

“The medium is the message,” Hipps stated, and offered the example of lighting in a sanctuary. When all the lights are on and the seating is in a circle of chairs, the Gospel that is presented is one of community, openness, and vulnerability to each other. When the lights are darkened over rows of pews, the Gospel being shared nonverbally is one of isolation and individuality.

Another catch-phrase repeated by Hipps was “You become what you behold.”

“Choose what you put in front of yourself,” he cautioned, and later warned that MySpace and Facebook are addictive, especially to teenagers.