What We Believe and How We Live
A Statement of the Christian Community
at Elmendorf in Minnesota
We believe in God the Father, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried, descended into hell. On the third day he rose again from the dead, ascending into heaven where he sits on the right hand of God the Father, and from whence he shall come to judge the living and the dead. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy undivided church, the community of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
What we believe about
God and Man
We believe God made us, with the earth, the heavens, and all living things, perfect. But we lost our perfection through disobeying him. Now, unless we believe in his Son, Jesus, whom he sent to teach us and redeem us through his death on the cross—unless we follow him, and join ourselves to his body of believers on earth—we are useless to God, and he will cast us into the lake of fire (the hell).
The Kingdom of God
Through repentance and forsaking our sins, through faith, through the Spirit of God falling on us and giving us new life with Jesus who rose from the dead, we may enter the narrow door into his Kingdom. We may become heirs with him of eternal life, and receive the promise of reigning with him—after the restoration of all things—in new heavens and a new earth where righteousness dwells.
We recognize the Kingdom of God (the Heavenly Kingdom) in its first stages of peace, justice, and mercy already established on earth. Wherever men and women that believe in Jesus and follow him, old people, young people, and little children live in peace and equality one with another—wherever they give themselves for others as Jesus gave himself for them—his Kingdom comes. But we believe it will come in unspeakably greater power and glory when Jesus himself will come again. We give ourselves and all we have to the proclamation of the good news of his Kingdom, and expect to live, work, and worship with Jesus in its heavenly love and light forever.
We love our captain, our hero, Jesus for overcoming Satan and giving us eternal life. We want to fight with him, following him in every move, letting him fill us with his Spirit so we may overcome. We stand with all that take a stand and fight for Jesus and his Kingdom on earth (our battle not being one of flesh and blood, but of the Spirit).
We want to continue, all our lives, in a spirit of repentance—praising God for saving us from sin and bringing us into the Kingdom of his Son, while recognizing our humanity (with its weakness and shortcoming) and our responsibility for it. We believe it is possible to live above sin, to stand perfect before God through the work of Christ, but we also believe we can fall, and that we must watch and pray continually to remain safe in him.
We believe Jesus is the light of the world, enlightening all men that come into the world. We believe his Spirit speaks to all men in all places, calling them to him (even though they may not know or recognize him). But only those that answer his call will be saved. Only the ones that seek will find him.
Apostles and evangelists, sent out by the church, need to help seekers find their way. But we cannot make people seek God. That is the Spirit’s work.
We believe all children, since Adam and Eve disobeyed God and fell into sin, are born with a sinful nature. We believe that children born to unbelieving parents may carry an even greater burden of spiritual uncleanness. But we believe God begins to hold them responsible for this, only after they personally commit sin (after they reach years of understanding and deliberately go against God and their conscience). God will not hold the innocent guilty, or judge children for their parents’ sin.
We believe the Spirit calls men into leadership and various positions of service in the church. This call, we believe, will be recognized by the Spirit-led body of believers, and handled accordingly. In this way the Lord may build his church.
We believe the Spirit calls certain men to lead the church. We respect them and honor their work. Every Elder is directly accountable to Jesus. Never-the-less we believe every Elder is also accountable to the church of Jesus (the local church), and to other Elders, just like all the rest of the members are accountable one to another. For this reason we do not have one man making decisions on his own that affect the whole church. Neither do we have one man doing all the teaching or administration. We believe in a plurality of elders.
As a community we seek to divide our work evenly among all members. Not everyone is apt for the same jobs, but everyone needs to contribute as the brotherhood sees fit. Every able person needs to work with his own hands to provide for himself and for his own. Families take responsibility for their children, and for the elderly, physically handicapped, or otherwise disabled among them.
In our work and responsibilities given to us, we submit ourselves completely to the decision of the brotherhood.
Celibacy and Marriage
We recognize the ministry of single brothers and sisters among us and honor them. If they choose to remain single to serve the Lord (or if they lead a celibate life for any other reason, such as in the case of having been widowed, separated, or divorced) we commit ourselves to supporting and caring for them as long as they live. We thank God for them.
Nevertheless we believe that God wants most people to marry and have families. We openly encourage the married state and commit ourselves to doing what we can to lead our young people into it. We encourage them to find suitable partners with the advice of their parents and the church leadership—while assuming full responsibility for the choice they make and promising to stick with it as long as they both shall live.
We do not permit our members to initiate divorce, or to get remarried as long as a divorced partner remains alive.
If divorced (or divorced and remarried) people wish to join us, we ask them to live a celibate life among us. If they have children to raise, we will help them do it in as far as we are able.
Depending on the situation, divorced and remarried couples visiting our community may be accommodated as single guests.
We expect our young men and women to conduct their courtship and make plans for marriage in a completely open way—not in secrecy, spending long periods together alone, or in the dark, but among the rest of the brothers and sisters in the light of day.
That couples planning to get married will need some time to themselves, we understand, but there are not to be physical before marriage, (Hands Off Courtship) and we encourage them to keep their courtship brief (not much longer than a year). Once they are fully convinced the Lord wants them to marry, and if they have prepared themselves spiritually to take their place as husband and wife in the home, they can proceed with their Parents, Elders and the Church’s Blessing.
We do not marry young men and women without their parents’ consent, unless their parents oppose the union on invalid or unscriptural grounds. Then we go by the voice of this local church. We believe marriage is of God.
Parents take first responsibility in training their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Yet all parents in our community recognize that in ourselves we are incomplete. Our children must also become integrated into the lives of others, the work, and social order of something higher and greater than the natural family. For this reason we entrust our children to caretakers, teachers, and work supervisors outside our family circles.
We believe it our responsibility (not that of the state) to operate our own school, choose our own curriculum, and have brothers and sisters of our own congregation as teachers and role models for our children. We expect all families in our community to support and co-operate in the work of the school.
In training our children at home, in school, and throughout the community we use love and discipline—corporal discipline (spanking) if necessary. He that spares the rod hates his son. Parents stand in first place to administer this discipline, but if necessary our children’s’ teachers and work supervisors also stand responsible to give it.
We believe it important for families to spend time together throughout the day, eating together, working together where possible (fathers with sons and mothers with daughters), and encourage spending evenings together as families.
We hold a worship meeting on the morning of the Lord’s Day. We sing together, have at least two brothers share publicly (an opening and a main message) and leave time in every meeting for testimonies and prayer.
At other times we have a Bible Study meeting. Several evenings a week, we expect the congregation to gather for Scripture reading and common prayer. In these meetings we expect the active participation of all that attend, in singing, in leading in prayer, and in sharing what the Lord has laid upon their hearts.
The leaders of our community meet every weekday morning to decide on schedules for the day and make practical decisions. Once a week all the brothers meet to discuss and handle what affects the community as a whole.
Only our men give instruction and share inspirational thoughts in our worship meetings. We do not mind if our sisters ask questions, share testimonies, pray, or make confessions when we come together informally, but we do not have them teach or exercise authority over the men.
In commemoration of special events in the life our Lord Jesus we celebrate his birth, his resurrection, his ascension to heaven, the falling of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, and sometimes other days. But we do not go along with pagan practices that have invaded and corrupted these celebrations in western society (Christmas trees and Santa Claus, Easter bunnies, etc.). Neither do we judge or criticize those that do not keep these special days.
Like all other days in the year we expect our days of celebration to be conducted in holiness, true joy and godly fear.
Every local church, we believe, stands directly responsible to Jesus. We do not see a Scriptural precedent for any higher level of church authority than that of the local church. We believe, however, that local churches in which the Spirit of Jesus moves, will not think of themselves as “independent” or as an “only church.” Every city in Jesus’ Kingdom, like every household in those cities, and every individual in those households, needs each other.
We celebrate our unity with other local churches by fellowshipping together, by seeking counsel one from another, and by supporting them in their work and outreach wherever possible.
The higher the level of our doctrinal and practical unity, the more intimate and meaningful our fellowship one with another becomes.
We believe God holds our bodies and souls in his hands, and that if we turn sick he alone can heal us. If any among us is sick, we encourage him to call for the elders of the church, so they may anoint him with oil and pray for him to be healed.
Even though we credit God alone for our healing we use medical services where necessary. We recognize that God works through medical and surgical means, many times, to heal the sick.
We believe sickness and death came as a result of Adam’s disobedience and fall, but to get sick or die does not mean we are personally guilty of sin, today. Neither does it mean our faith is too weak to get healed. It is not God’s will that believers should always get healed, or that they should always be kept from diseases, accidents, and death. God may call on us to glorify him through our sickness or permanent disability. If that is what he asks of us, we will accept it patiently and with grace.
We do not recognize the “gift of healing” (miraculous powers to cure) of those that refuse to walk in the way of Jesus and his Kingdom community. Rather, if such people perform miracles, we suspect their power comes from the evil one.
We reject all forms of witchcraft, non-scientific cures, and any type of alternative medicine that defies natural law.
We believe that in the local church we should bear one another’s burdens and share all things—our joys as well as our sorrows. We believe what one has we all have, what one suffers we all suffer. This we express in our life together, and in our community of goods.
More than this we cannot, as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven—sons and daughters of the King—consider living in any other way. We believe God’s Kingdom, like all human society in the beginning, has always been fully communal. We recognize money, possessions, and all capitalist and ungodly socialist or communist systems, as a result of man’s fall, his wickedness, and greed. We have to do with the world’s economics only insofar as is absolutely necessary for the time being.
We express our equality among ourselves in our willingness to wash one another’s feet, like Jesus washed his disciple’s feet. This may take the form of literally, spontaneously, washing one another’s feet, but even much more, we want to express with our lives the attitude of Jesus behind it. That, if we follow Jesus, we may exemplify every day, all day long.
Whether it is with the kiss of peace, the right hand of fellowship, or with a friendly embrace, we expect our members to honor one another and greet one another regularly with appropriate gestures of love and fellowship.
In our houses, our entertainment, our dress, our music, our speech—in every area of life—we want to identify with Jesus and his Kingdom to which we belong.
We have rejected the god of this world, and refuse to identify with him. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight. Therefore, we want to live modestly in simple houses, all of whose features serve a practical purpose. We want to use simple furniture, eat healthy, simple meals (as much as possible what we can raise ourselves), and dress ourselves modestly.
We reject the fashions of the world in hair styles, impractical clothing, and whatever features of dress serve for nothing but to draw attention to ourselves.
We do not use jewelry, and we reject the use of the wedding ring.
We expect our women and girls to wear long hair and to keep it covered (for the sake of modesty, as a sign of headship order, and because of the angels) in public.
For the sake of modesty, we do not have our sisters wearing trousers. Rather we expect them, and the brothers of our community also to dress modestly. We feel there is a great value of identifying ourselves visibly one with another and with our community, we expect all those that join us to conform quickly to our way.
We expect everyone in our community to use whatever electronic equipment we may own (computers, radios, sound systems, and audio-visual equipment) in a responsible and edifying way. Parents are responsible for how their children make use of these things.
We do not believe our families and our community should have unlimited unmonitored access to the Internet. We do have phones with internet but require our members to have accountability programs on them. (Covenant eyes, accountable forever) Etc.
We believe the use of public television to be more harmful than profitable, and reject its use altogether.
Fire arms, if used among us, shall never be stored or considered as weapons of self-defense. Only responsible people shall use them where necessary.
We believe ourselves responsible for all money that passes through our hands. Everything we spend on ourselves that we do not need, we rob from the person that needs it.
We believe we should give, collectively, of our money as needs arise and the Lord provides. However, there are countless ways our members may give of their time, their resources, and their abilities to people both inside and outside our community. We encourage all to give freely to others as we have freely received.
We believe we should leave no debt outstanding except the debt to love one another. Therefore we feel responsible to pay all money we borrow on the date agreed, and to return borrowed items as soon as we are done using them.
We do not find it inconsistent with what we believe to accept government assistance in programs designed to help the general populace. We do not believe, however, that we should make use of collecting agencies in any circumstance, or declare bankruptcy. All our members, whether newly arrived or of long standing, need to pay what taxes, bills, or the cost of goods and services they have incurred.
We do not place our elderly in homes for the aged. We do not believe it would be right to shirk our duties one to another by depending on outside help.
The holding of some insurance policies, where we live, is mandatory. Other arrangements for help in case of fire, accident or drought may be good stewardship of what the Lord has entrusted into our care. But “cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. . . . blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out his roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes, its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
Note on this Statement
If any further light is given to us, if more information becomes necessary on any subject, or if we must change a position in the light of Scripture and the Spirit’s leading, we will do so.
Our final word is the teaching of Jesus Christ and the Apostles as given in the New Testament. Based on that we also honor and accept as our own the statement written by Peter Riedemann, Rechenschaft unsrer Religion, Lehre, und Glaubens (Account of Our Religion, Doctrine and Faith), at Marburg in Germany, in 1540-41, the Fünf Artikel (Five Articles) written by Peter Walpot in Moravia in 1545-1547, and the Brüderliche Vereinigung (Brotherly Union [Schleitheim Confession]) drawn up at Schleitheim in Switzerland in 1527.
“We are not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes; first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written, ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16-17).