A Brief History of Neffsville Mennonite Church
Neffsville Mennonite Church grew out of the revival spirit of the Brunk Revival Campaign which swept the Lancaster Conference Mennonite churches in the summer of 1951. The revivals emphasized inner spiritual renewal which contrasted with the outward rules and regulations of Lancaster Conference, and some therefore perceived these rules as legalism. The theology of Scofield dispensationalism, derived from Moody Bible Institute classes, radio, and Bible Conferences, also played a key role in shaping this anti-legalism thinking.
Prayer meetings at East Chestnut Street Mennonite Church in Lancaster eventually led in 1952 to the formation of a new Mennonite Church apart from the Conference. Early leaders of the group of about eighty charter members included Ross Goldfus, John Rudy, and Ammon Kauffman. Maurice Landis became the first pastor of the group which united with the less-strict Ohio and Eastern Conference (now Atlantic Coast Conference).
The new church grew rapidly, largely through the influx of other Lancaster Conference members dissatisfied with the Conference rules on dress and television. In 1955 the growing church built the present structure on the Lititz Pike, with later additions in 1965 and 1990. Membership currently stands at about six hundred. Migration from Lancaster Conference largely ended by the 1970’s as the Conference rules and regulations abated, and today, more growth comes from the community.
John R. Martin became the first full-time pastor in 1961, followed by Clyde Fulmer in the 1970’s and Edwin Bontrager in the 1980’s. Linford King served a long pastorate from 1987 to 2002 and currently Hunter Hess functions as lead pastor.
In 2002 Neffsville Mennonite Church celebrated its 50th anniversary. As part of that celebration it published a 250-page narrative history of the congregation, Pathways to Renewal, written by Roy S. Burkholder.
Who are the Mennonites?
In the 16th Century, a small group of earnest young believers within the Protestant Reformation in Europe believed that reformers Martin Luther and Huldreich Zwingli had not gone far enough. This small group believed that the New Testament taught that the church should be separate from the state. They believed people should voluntarily follow Christ through adult baptism, rather than join the state church through infant baptism. They were also passionate about sharing their faith with others. In January of 1525, Conrad Grebel led this group of believers in an attempt to recover New Testament Christianity when they baptized one another and verbalized their faith in Jesus Christ at Zurich, Switzerland.
Fired by their new faith, the believers began to evangelize. The movement rapidly spread to South Germany and the Netherlands. The official churches immediately opposed the movement and scoffed at them as “Anabaptizers”, which literally means “re-baptizers”. The state would not tolerate this change because in essence it defied the government-run church, despite the Anabaptist’s strong appeal to Scripture in support of their position. In a short time, many Anabaptist leaders were martyred. Thousands more died gruesome deaths at the hands of their persecutors over the next two generations.
In 1536, Menno Simons converted to Anabaptism in the Netherlands. He traveled throughout northwestern Europe, strengthening and defending the persecuted Anabaptists through his preaching and writing. Eventually, many Anabaptists came to be called Mennonites. Using the Bible as their guide, early Anabaptists took seriously Christ’s command to go into the world to witness to people everywhere, even across national boundaries. Persecution and hardship also scattered the increasing number of Mennonites.
Some trekked across Europe into Poland in the 16th and 17th centuries and then into Russia at the invitation of Catherine the Great in 1789. Others migrated from Europe to North and South America. All were looking for a place to establish homes and churches where they could practice Christian faith as they believed. Global expansion also came through the mission and service of Mennonites in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Today over half of the world’s Mennonites are found in India, Congo, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Brazil, and other countries outside of Europe and North America.
In Canada and the United States, some 46 groups claim roots in the Anabaptist movement, including the Mennonite Church, the Mennonite Brethren, the Brethren in Christ, the Amish, and the Hutterites. Beyond local congregational life, Mennonites have established many cooperative ministries, including colleges and seminaries, mutual insurance programs, health services, and aid organizations.
Much of the above information was taken from a brochure published for the Mennonite Church by Faith and Life Press, Newton, Kansas and Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Herald Press, Scottdale, PA, and Waterloo, Ontario. Copyright 1999 by Faith and Life Press. Written by Melodie Davis, Mennonite Media, Harrisonburg, VA.
From its beginning, Neffsville desired to be part of the larger Mennonite Church for fellowship, mutual sharing, and worldwide witness. Neffsville is part of the Atlantic Coast Conference, a member of Mennonite Church USA.
Atlantic Coast Conference
The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) is an association of congregations that have accepted the foundational beliefs of the Mennonite Church USA as expressed in the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective are committed to giving and receiving counsel from the conference leadership and/or the constituent congregations, and are willing to share in the program of the conference with interest, prayers, personnel and funds. Atlantic Coast Conference congregations accept the Bible as the written Word of God and as the standard for Christian faith and life.
Mennonite Church USA
Neffsville Mennonite Church is a member of Mennonite Church USA. On any Sunday you will find Mennonites gathered for worship in about 60 countries around the world. Mennonite Church USA is one of nearly 20 formally organized groups of Mennonites in North America that vary in lifestyle and religious practice but all stem from the Anabaptist movement. The Mennonite Church USA desires to be a people of God characterized by a commitment to biblical foundations and to Anabaptist perspectives. Though their streams of faith may differ, Mennonite groups hold common beliefs: Jesus Christ is central to worship and to everyday living. Behavior is to follow Christ’s example. The Bible is considered the inspired word of God. Membership continues to be voluntary, with adult baptism upon declaration of faith.