In the Bible it says that whosoever will may come. The message of Jesus Christ was that his message was for everyone. He loved to gather people in, and if anyone left, it was because they chose to go. His message was inclusive, not divisive. Consider the behavior of a church that censors the rest of the world, calling them lost and doomed to hell because they are not joined to the correct group. This minimizes the message of Jesus and confines it to the understanding and administration of man. It is simply not possible for man to administer God’s church. When men are concerned with minutiae and endeavor to hold everyone to every detail of some man made law, chaos will ensue. This is very distressing indeed to those who have a deep and abiding belief in the system. It will cause them to sin, to actually blaspheme, in order to maintain their position in the organization. In the process of doing all of this, a great deal of ill feeling is generated, which must then be mashed down in order to to justify all the things one has had to do in order to keep one’s world intact. How far have we fallen from the intentions of Jesus as he preached his message of love and peace?
http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~eidse/jacobmkroeker.html This is a link that was sent to me by a reader. This article tells the story of John Holdeman coming to the Kleine Gemeinde in Canada. The word gemeinde actually means church, or congregation, and of course the word kleine means little, hence little church. In this article there is reference to Abram Friesen Gemeinde, and the Peter Toews Gemeinde. Here we see that the various congregations were being identified by the man that they looked to as leader.
Now the article begins to speak of “The Holdeman Split” and says this...”Very shortly after this ministerial election Jacob was to face the greatest crisis of his ministry when the Holdeman revival swept the community and split the Kleine Gemeinde…He says that initially they thought that Mr. John Holdeman wanted to unite with them (vereinigen) but once he had proved and examined them he found them to be “too light”. Mr. Holdeman could not accept the Kleine Gemeinde baptism because he regarded it as “unevangelical”.
The article further states
He dreamt that he and Mr. Peter Toews were crossing a large body of water in a boat when they were caught in a violent windstorm. They feared that the boat would sink in the ponderous waves and they would be drowned. They rowed frantically to make their way to shore and finally after tremendous effort made it to a point where large trees with many branches bordered the shore. At the first opportunity Jacob grabbed one of the branches only to have it break off in his hand. Finally he managed to grab hold of a larger branch and pulled himself to safety. When he looked around however, he could see no trace of Bishop Peter Toews. He says he was so glad to wake up and find that it was all a dream and though he never put much stock in dreams he felt that this particular one had a lesson from God for him. He concluded that God was reminding him that he had been putting too much trust in human leadership and not enough on the hand of the Almighty. He resolved that he would commit himself anew to the guidance of God and trust that the Lord would not forsake him in this time of severe trial. That, he says, was also his experience in the years that followed.
It is noteworthy that Jacob, in his interpretation of this dream never draws the conclusion that it proved him to be right and Mr. Toews to be wrong. It becomes even more significant when we note that John Holdeman put much emphasis on dreams in arriving at his own interpretive decisions.
Shortly after this experience the Kleine Gemeinde gathered for a brotherhood meeting with John Holdeman with one of his assistants, Mark Seller, in attendance. Jacob records that the brethren could not all agree to the doctrinal position proposed by Mr. Holdeman and finally Peter Toews, apparently convinced of his own personal stand, gave the church over to Mr. Holdeman. (“Uebergab Holdeman seine Gemeinde”). This was a heart-wrenching experience for Jacob Kroeker who had been a minister for only three years.
The high esteem in which Bishop Peter Toews was held by the Kleine Gemeinde made the experience the more devastating. Jacob emphasizes that they felt very much like flock of sheep who were without a shepherd. Furthermore the division cut deeply into personal relationships as people struggled to come to grips with the doctrinal issues they were suddenly confronted with.
Here we see that John Holdeman built his gemeinde upon division and strife. He came amongst these people and judged them unworthy of his fellowship, but instead, commanded them to join themselves to him and receive HIS baptism. Who in heaven or earth remanded baptism into John Holdeman’s hands? We can see here that the spirit of division and superiority was built into the very foundation of the Holdeman Gemeinde. The article speaks of the “shattered gemeinde” that Holdeman left in his wake. Jacob Kroeker laments the state of the beloved church that was ravaged by Holdeman;
In reflecting on his lengthy years of ministry Jacob says he always felt very poor in spirit and very inadequate to lead the church in the straight and narrow way. He regrets that the church has strayed from the principles on which it was founded and is inclined to follow after material pursuits and having everything up to date. (“alles vollaufzu haben”) He sees pride as being a threat to godliness in the church and compares it to the state of Sodom in the Old Testament. He emphasizes that it is through “much suffering and tribulations that we enter into the kingdom of God.”
He also laments that he, a poor sinner and yet a servant of God, entrusted with the weighty calling of saving the church of Christ, has not better discharged that trust. A servant of Christ, he says, must “gather together with Christ that which was scattered, must bind up what is wounded and heal those who are sick.
Brother Kroeker accurately assesses the situation when he says that we must gather together with Christ that which was scattered, must bind up what is wounded, and heal those who are sick. How different a situation we see in Holdeman’s church today. We see the leaders scattering, dividing and beating the sheep in order to keep together Holdeman’s mistaken understanding of what constitutes a true church. His pattern has been successful in creating a strong cultural group. There is no doubt that many people have lived sincere Christian lives within this framework, and that many principles have been retained for generations. The same, however, can be said of the Amish. There are many things on the side of this type of cohesiveness, but one must ask if it is truly the spirit of God. The article concludes with this assessment of Kroeker: Aeltester Jacob M. Kroeker’s significance in the history of the Kleine Gemeinde lies very much in his commitment to the original vision of Klaus Reimer that the church must be a body of committed believers whose life will demonstrate the reality of discipleship in a spirit of humility and devotion. He refused to be swept off his feet even in the wake of a popular movement like the Holdeman revival. He reflected seriously on the doctrinal issues that were involved and even though he sensed very keenly the abandonment of the Kleine Gemeinde as a “flock without a shepherd”, he refused to let go of the faith that God had directed in the past and would continue to do in the future. I believe it is safe to say that without Jacob M. Kroeker and his sense of commitment at a very critical time in their history the Kleine Gemeinde could not have survived.
Kroeker maintained that the church must be a body of committed believers whose life will demonstrate the reality of discipleship in a spirit of humility and devotion. He refused to be swept off his feet even in the wake of a popular movement like the Holdeman revival.
So what are we to make of the Holdeman revival? Today the spirit of Holdeman’s revival continues within the Holdeman Gemeinde. This is to say that even now ministers, deeply infected with the spirit of division and judgment that Holdeman propagated, are going throughout their own church, judging, dividing and destroying. I say destroying, and I do not say it lightly. When men and women are put in the vise grip of judgment as administered by the Holdeman church they often lose their faith in God. I am disappointed to see this, but not surprised. This tells me that they were built on a false foundation, and when it crumbles, they are left with nothing. They begin to doubt God, or they spend the rest of their lives allowing themselves to be beat over the head, as they accept the shunning and judgment that has been placed on them.
In conclusion, let it be said that all that can be shaken will be shaken. All that is not built on the right foundation will fall. If there are ministers who are intent on sifting out that which does not suit their agenda, they will also fall. The days are truly evil and it is a time for Christians, those who love God, to follow him with all their hearts. Religion is being ridiculed today and rightly so. People who defend religious traditions and the structures built by man will be made to look foolish. I encourage all men and women to follow Christ and Christ alone, no matter what the cost. The example of Jesus is that even the Son of God was called a heretic and a blasphemer. Let every man be true to himself and to God, REGARDLESS OF THE COST.