Women’s Head Coverings in Corinth: Are the Amish Doing it Right?

The Amish Papers - Chapter 20

Women's Head Coverings in Corinth: Are the Amish Doing It Right?

This final chapter is an article that was published as my last monthly “e-teaching” of 2022, in December. I wrote it in response to a request from one of the young Amish-background believers from Johnsonburg.

One of the things I’ve been blessed to observe among the Amish-background new believers in Johnsonburg, PA, is their toleration for diversity of personal convictions regarding issues on which the Bible is silent—a phenomenon that is generally foreign in Amish culture. I’ve noticed, for example, some of the women continue to wear some form of daily head covering, while others don’t. And they all still love each other and get along! No one is condemning anyone else for their personal convictions because everyone loves the Lord and is trying to please Him. Of course, that is exactly what the New Testament teaches believers to do regarding issues on which Scripture is silent (see Rom. 14; 1 Cor. 8).

As I was writing that last sentence, I knew some readers would be thinking, “But Scripture is not silent on the subject of women’s head coverings.” That, of course, is true. Paul did mention something about women’s head coverings, once, in 1 Corinthians 11:1-17.


The Amish Prison Uniform

The Amish Papers - Chapter 19

Among the multitudes of rules in Amish Ordnungs, rules regarding clothing number in the hundreds. It is no exaggeration to say that Amish people wear required uniforms that, in their minds, “separate them from the world.” To those who understand Amish culture, Amish clothing is akin to the uniforms that incarcerated people wear that identify them as prisoners. Just like those behind bars, Amish people have no choice in what they wear. This article, posted on Facebook on 12/8/22, explores that topic.

Most “outsiders”—the “English” as we are called by the Amish— are apt to think that all 350,000 Amish people in North America dress uniformly. They have no idea that there are scores of subtle variations in Amish dress codes from one Amish community to another. Those variations include acceptable women’s dress colors (always muted, solid colors but never patterns), number of pleats on women’s kapps, the number of men’s suspenders (0, 1 or 2), the brim width of straw hats, and much more. Amish people can often tell where other Amish people are from by observing those subtle dress code differences. And they also quickly notice if anyone within their own community is transgressing the dress code. Violators are corrected and disciplined if necessary.

Many Amish people have no clue about the origins of their dress peculiarities. If you ask an Amish woman, for example, why she has no buttons on her dress and must use scores of straight pins for fasteners, she is likely to tell you that is just how it has always been. And why are buttons not forbidden on men’s clothing? No one knows that either. (Buttons are used on men’s trouser flies and shirts.)

Amish folks would likely be very surprised to learn that modern Amish obsession with meticulous details regarding outward attire may well stem from the culture in which Jakob Amman, their founder and namesake, was born. Amman, a tailor by trade, was just as familiar as every other European of his time with what were called “sumptuary laws.” Those were strictly-enforced civil regulations that, among other things, stipulated detailed clothing restrictions for various classes of people.

For example, in 1672, officials in Switzerland’s Canton of Bern mandated that silk clothing be forbidden for the general population. They made an exception, however, for nobility—as long as their silk clothing was unadorned and without ruffles. Interestingly, the same mandate required maids to make their dresses from simple, “rural” cloth, with plain collars and without any lace or ribbons. The rationale was obvious: Maids should be easily distinguishable from their higher-class superiors.

So, imagine living under a civil government, wedded to a state church, that stringently regulated clothing styles and adornment of all citizens. Imagine your state government encouraging all its citizens to spy on and report the non-compliant. That was the only world Jakob Amman ever knew. As a tailor, he risked paying steep fines if he made or sold forbidden clothing.

All of this is to say that, although modern Anabaptists generally justify their distinctive attire with biblical references to modesty, simplicity and humility, the actual origin of their peculiar dress is more likely overbearing 17th-century European civil law that was designed to preserve class distinctions and the social order. Said another way, Amish attitudes regarding clothing distinctives have their origins in the “world”! Modern Amish culture is just a vestige of everyday European culture from three centuries ago.

This is not to say, of course, that authentic Christians should have no convictions regarding outward attire. John the Baptist, who wore a garment made of camel’s hair, told his convicted audiences that the person who has two coats should share with someone who is without a coat (Luke 3:11), and James similarly warned the rich that their garments had “become moth-eaten” (Jas. 5:2), a reference to Jesus’ prohibition of laying up earthly treasures. All of this indicates that clothing can be a stewardship issue.

In addition, both Paul and Peter gave general instructions regarding women’s outward attire that encouraged modesty and discouraged vanity (1 Tim. 2:9; 1 Pet. 3:3). Jesus also warned about those who cause others to stumble, which certainly has some application to modest clothing.

Still, there is no hint of a “Christian uniform” in the New Testament. And Scripture does allow for individual convictions regarding issues on which Scripture is silent, while also prescribing respect, toleration, and love for those whose convictions differ. So that is what followers of Christ do. We don’t establish clothing regulations or require uniforms.

Have you noticed that God made us all different? Our faces are all unique. Our personalities vary greatly. There are numerous body types. We possess different talents, skills and abilities. So why would God want or expect us to all dress and groom identically? That goes against how He’s made us.

And what could possibly be wrong with expressing my personality and my personal preferences in dress and grooming, within reason?

And is it possible to not wear a uniform and not be proud? Or maybe a more important question to ask would be, is it possible to allow others to not wear a uniform and not be jealous of them? (Jealousy may well be the root behind any demand for uniformity.)

Here’s one more question: Should I not care more about what my spouse prefers regarding my appearance than my bishop?

Amish folks and other Anabaptists sometimes make the claim that their distinctive attire “sets them apart from the world,” which sure sounds biblical. They also claim that their distinctive attire serves as a reminder and incentive for them to live righteously before those who are watching. OK, but distinctive dress also serves as a barrier to the gospel, because it sends the silent message to the unsaved that, if they want to be accepted by God, they must start wearing a uniform. That is one reason why modern Anabaptists are so ineffective in spreading the gospel and building God’s kingdom. (And most Amish people, of course, make no effort to reach the lost because most of them are lost themselves.)

All of this is to say that, at least to me, the Amish uniform is emblematic of a prison uniform, because all Amish people live in a social prison, jailed behind walls not made of concrete, but of threats from people whose love is conditional.

What should ex-Amish people do whose still-Amish relatives require them to dress Amish if they want the “privilege” to visit? Personally, I would have difficulty playing that game. If they know you’ve left the Amish and are no longer wearing the Amish prison uniform every day, what difference does it make if you pretend you are still Amish when you are around them? How would they react if you told them they had to dress “English” if they wanted to visit you?

I think that if I was ex-Amish, and my still-Amish family required that I wear the Amish prison uniform when I visited them, I would say:

Sorry, but I’ve believed in Jesus, the Son of God. He is now my Lord, not the bishop. And He has never given anyone a commandment regarding any uniform. Plus, He Himself never wore Amish clothes. Rather, He wore what everyone else in His day wore. If Jesus showed up today at your house without Amish clothes, would you let Him in? Apparently not! Neither would you allow Peter, Paul, John, James and Jude, who all followed Jesus’ example and wore the same clothing as everyone else, to enter your house! You might want to think about that.

So, if you want to follow manmade rules and conform to autocratic 300-year-old European culture, that is your choice. But if you reject me for following Jesus, Jesus said you are rejecting Him. And that is also your choice.

For me, I’m going to follow Jesus even if it costs me everything, including my family relationships. Knowing and serving Him is more important to me than anything, and I love Him more than anyone. Beyond that, I now have a new family consisting of millions of other people around the world who believe in the Lord Jesus like me. And I am welcome in all their homes without Amish prison clothes!

Not everyone will agree on those last couple of paragraphs, and they might suggest more grace on my part. They may well be right, and I am aware that I am still “a Christian under construction”!

Are You “Worldly” Like They Accuse You?

The Amish Papers - Chapter 18

It is fascinating, and at the same time tragic, to learn what many Amish people consider to be “worldly.” Obviously, just about any technological advancement over the past century falls into the “worldly” category in Amish thinking, even though they’ve accepted most technological advancements from the prior century. Amish folks teach their children that anything that isn’t found in Amish culture that is found in non-Amish culture is “worldly,” and those things should be avoided because Paul taught us “not to be conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2). That, however, is contrary to what Paul meant, and it is ironic that, by biblical definition, most Amish folks are actually very worldly. This article, posted on Facebook on 12/7/22, explores that idea.

I’ll never forget reading an Amish mother’s letter to her adult daughter who had left the Amish and was now driving a car. Her mother told her that there was nothing more “worldly” than that. Strangely, her mother, like all Amish people, regularly rides in cars as a paying passenger. So, the “worldliness” of cars apparently only applies to owning or driving them, but not to renting or riding in them. One can sit for days in the right front seat without being worldly, but if one shifts three feet to the left and grabs the steering wheel, hell rejoices!

In the minds of many Amish folks, anything that lies outside of Amish thinking or culture is “worldly.” Of course, they find their scriptural support by twisting New Testament passages that warn believers about the world. When the New Testament authors warned against the world, however, they weren’t warning against what stood in contrast to relatively-recent Amish peculiarities and traditions, but against sinful practices of the unregenerate world, evil that God had been condemning from the beginning.

So what does actual “worldliness” look like? The apostle John wrote:

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17, emphasis add).

John summarized the “world” as first being characterized by the “lust,” or better, the “desire of the flesh.” Paul helpfully elaborated on what he called “the deeds of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21:

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

If Paul’s “deeds of the flesh” are the outcomes of those who yield to John’s “desires of the flesh,” then people who are characterized by Paul’s “deeds of the flesh” are worldly by biblical definition.

I don’t want to generalize, because there are Amish folks who are born again, godly people. Yet there are plenty of Amish people who, by John and Paul’s definition, are every bit as worldly as the world. Statistics show that almost half of all Anabaptists have been sexually abused by fellow church members. Porn use is also prevalent, and fornication before marriage with one’s fiancée/fiancé is common. All of those things certainly fit into Paul’s categories of “immorality” and “impurity.”

And although outsiders often think of Amish people as being peace-loving and inspiringly cooperative, the truth is, they are frequently fighting and dividing, so that there are literally hundreds of church divisions among just Old Order Amish. And all of that would seem to fit into Paul’s categories of “enmities, strife…disputes, dissensions,” and “factions.”

Moreover, the Amish have pockets of everything else Paul mentioned, including drunkenness and carousing.

Added all together, it’s completely worldly.

If John’s second phrase, “lust of the eyes,” is equivalent to greed as is often suggested, that is something that is curbed by social pressure in Amish circles (but not eradicated from Amish hearts), and the same could be said of the “boastful pride of life,” John’s third phrase. Pride would certainly seem to be a factor, however, in the hearts of Amish people who actually think they could merit a place in heaven, or who are convinced that only the Amish people will be there. A thin veneer of false humility can hide a heart bursting with pride.

Regardless, how tragic it is when Amish people redefine worldliness to exclude themselves from their definition. Imagine being proud that you live in a house that isn’t connected to the “worldly” electrical power grid, but that same house is where you’ve molested your daughter or sister. Then imagine condemning your ex-Amish daughter as being worldly because she now drives a car!

It is interesting that modern technology is often deemed to be “worldly” by modern Amish, but that 100-year-old technology is not, by either modern Amish or their ancestors. A horse-drawn buggy was at one time a disruptive technology, and one that could have called for a “fence law” that prevented some potential sin. Somehow it was allowed. The fact is, any technology can be used for good or evil. (I’m using a laptop for good as I’m writing this.)

Regarding automobiles, I understand that many Amish “draw the line” between owning/driving one and riding in one under the belief that it curbs sin. If you can’t just hop in your car anytime you want and drive to a bar, that might help you avoid getting drunk so often. Fair enough. But those of us who are born again, new creations in Christ don’t need fence laws to help us stay sober. We have the indwelling Holy Spirit to empower us. Plus, our desires have changed. Getting drunk no longer has any appeal.

The need for fence laws is a tacit admission that the Holy Spirit is absent, and the fence law becomes the cheap substitute that exchanges love for God for fear of man.

The solution to all this? Only the gospel of Jesus. So, “keep the main thing the main thing.” Don’t argue about non-essentials, traditions and customs. Just keep repeating the only important question to your still-Amish family members and friends, “Have you been born again through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?”

Regarding the Ominous Predictions about Your Children by Your Still-Amish Family

The Amish Papers - Chapter 17

Those who leave the Amish will inevitably be told by well-meaning family members that their children will ultimately “go to the world.” That danger, of course, does exist. But it is not inevitable, as has been proven plenty of times. This word of encouragement to Amish-background parents was posted on Facebook on 12/3/22.

“Just wait and see. Since you’ve left the Amish, all your children will go to the world.”

Many former Amish folks have heard that threatening forecast from their still-Amish relatives and families. It is usually followed by solemn examples of children who “went to the dogs” when their parents left the Amish.

Most ex-Amish parents considered that risk before they defected, and they decided it was worth taking the chance. The alternative was to stay in the Amish Prison and continue raising little prisoners—who would one day be adult prisoners who could then start raising some little prisoners of their own.

Of course, if you want to control people’s behavior, prison is a great place to do that. You may have noticed that no prisoner ever robbed a bank as long as he was in prison. If you put prisoners in solitary confinement, you can even keep them from punching fellow prisoners. If you tape their mouths shut, you can keep them from using curse words. There is no end to how “holy” you can force people to be…all you need is enough restraint.

I hope by now you are chuckling, and I hope you noticed that the word “holy” in my last sentence was in quotation marks. That is because imposed holiness is not holiness at all. It is coercion. No one finds any virtue in prison inmates who don’t rob banks while they are in prison.

You may have noticed that God has placed us all in an environment that is not void of temptation. From the Garden of Eden, He has allowed the devil to tempt people (but with limitations). Free moral agents must be tested. Thus the reason for the “forbidden fruit.”

Parents, however, can take a tip from God, who promised His children that He will never “allow [them] to be tempted beyond what [they] are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that [they] will be able to endure it” (1Cor. 10:13). All Christian parents must determine the right balance of protection from, and exposure to, temptation for their children, based on their ages and maturity. The goal is to prepare them to one day “leave the nest,” equipped to resist temptation and follow Jesus—because they love Him. (By contrast, if you are Amish, the goal is to prepare your children for life sentences in prison…Amish Prison, that is.)

Along those lines, should your children be educated in home school, private Christian school, or public school?

Personally, I recommend the protection of the first two options for as long as possible. Some say those options are “over-protection,” but neighborhood hoodlums and Sunday school gangsters will usually provide your children with ample exposure to the contrast between darkness and light. And please note that Jesus only sent adults out to evangelize the world, calling even them “lambs in the midst of wolves” (Luke 10:3). God is not calling your children to win the heathen; He is calling you to “bring [your children] up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

So don’t fear your still-Amish family members’ pernicious predictions regarding your precious children. Let your children see you obey your Lord Jesus every day, and teach them God’s Word. They will follow your example and one day raise your grandchildren the same way!

Coping with Amish Family Rejection

The Amish Papers - Chapter 16

One thing, among many, that I often admire about Amish-background believers is their willingness to pay a price to follow Jesus, and that price often includes rejection on some level by their family and friends. That willingness to suffer affirms the sincerity of their faith. Still, I know it isn’t easy, having faced plenty of rejection myself for my love for our Lord Jesus. This short article was posted on Facebook in two installments (on 11/25 & 29/22), the second of which I felt was the most significant.

One thing, among many, that I often admire about Amish-background believers is their willingness to pay a price to follow Jesus, and that price often includes rejection on some level by their family and friends. That willingness to suffer affirms the sincerity of their faith. Still, I know it isn’t easy, having faced plenty of rejection myself for my love for our Lord Jesus. This short article was posted on Facebook in two installments (on 11/25 & 29/22), the second of which I felt was the most significant.

I’m writing primarily to Amish-background believers who’ve faced rejection by their parents, siblings, relatives, and former Amish friends. Much of what I have to say, however, applies to anyone who has suffered rejection for the sake of Christ.

I’ve titled this article “Coping with Amish Family Rejection” rather than “Overcoming Amish Family Rejection,” because I’m uncertain that anyone who has suffered rejection from those who ought to love them is able to “get over it,” at least in this life.

Although it is often said that “time heals all wounds,” wounded people know that, although the deep psychological pain of rejection may hurt less over time, it very often leaves permanent scars. Many wounded people—for good reasons and because they are good people—do their best to hide their pain. Still, they’re wounded. And how they cope affects their lives every day. For example, people who are wounded by rejection are apt to guard against being rejected again. For them, any and all relationships are risky.

As I’ve observed newly born-again Amish friends be rejected by their Amish parents, relatives and friends, I’ve marveled at their grace towards those who’ve rejected them. It is a testimony to the Holy Spirit’s transforming power. Still, I can’t imagine they aren’t hiding some hurt. I wish I could help them, and this article will be my attempt at that.

Of all people from whom we would expect love, certainly our parents would be at the top of the list. And for that reason and others, parental shunning is utterly perverse. Everyone knows that fact deep within them—including Amish parents who shun their adult children—but their mixed-up minds have mastered their hearts.

Of course, it is appropriate for parents, at times, to express their disappointment with a child, and that can even be appropriate at times with adult children (although the downside risk is much higher then). But the only proper way to express disappointment to any age child (or just about any person for that matter) is with affirmation, love, and encouragement.

Parents, if your child’s behavior falls short of your reasonable expectation, make sure any correction, verbal or physical, is jammed full with love, beginning to end. Even to a small child whose behavior requires discipline, you can first say, “Johnny, you are a good boy, and good boys don’t act the way you just did. So, I’m going to punish you to make sure you remain the good boy that you are.” That’s affirming, not demeaning. And after you administer the punishment, add some more verbal and physical affirmation. If your child is crying, hug them until they stop.

The hearts of older children—as well as all of us adult children—are no less fragile, and we all need just as much tenderness and affirmation if correction is going to have a positive, rather than a negative, result. When I think about Amish parents who tell their adult children that they are no longer welcome at any family gatherings because they’ve left the Amish, I marvel at the utter foolishness of such actions and the strangeness of the social system that motivates such madness.

Shunning is a method of coercion, that is, forcing people to do what they don’t want to do. Of course, that is what being Amish is actually all about if the truth be told. It is nothing but a system of social coercion under the guise of Christianity which, by the way, has absolutely nothing to do with coercion. Christianity at its core is antithetical to coercion.

I can’t think of anything more miserable than a bunch of people who all outwardly conform to rules just to prevent their loved ones from hating them! It’s like a circular firing squad, and everyone has a gun. “Don’t even think about removing yourself from our ‘circle of love,’ or else we’ll shoot you!” (If anyone ever writes a country song about Amish life, a good title might be, “Hating To Love You.”)

But I’m not writing to foolish Amish parents, and neither are they reading this. So what are the victims of attempted social coercion—followers of Christ who are being shunned by Amish family members—supposed to do? Let me tell you what I’ve admiringly observed among many ex-Amish people who are suffering family rejection. May their example inspire you as it has inspired me:

#1) Remember that the Lord once said to Samuel, “They have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me” (1 Sam. 8:7). If you’ve been born again and your Amish family is shunning you because of it, then God’s words to Samuel certainly have application to you. More than rejecting you, they’re rejecting Jesus Christ, even if they don’t recognize it.

Jesus once similarly said to 70 of His disciples, “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me” ( Luke 10:16, emphasis added).

It can help you cope with your family’s rejection if you recognize that they are actually rejecting Jesus, of whose body you are a member. And that, of course, will help you to feel compassion for them rather than bitterness or anger. They are people who need to repent, believe in the Lord Jesus, and be born again, or they will perish. Good reason to pray for them.

And while their rejection of you is the sure evidence that they are not in Christ, it is also the sure evidence that you are in Christ. Which leads me to a second coping suggestion…

#2) Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11, emphasis added). Your rejection by people is proof of your acceptance by God.

Jesus told His followers that families would be divided because of Him, because some would believe and some would not:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household (Matt. 10:34-36).

So don’t be surprised that your family is divided.

Jesus continued:

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me (Matt. 10:37).

Although some professing Christians think that “not being worthy of Jesus” has nothing to do with salvation, they would have a hard time explaining how that could possibly be. Did Jesus actually mean: “If you love your father, mother, son or daughter more than Me, you are not worthy of Me, but don’t worry about it, because everyone is not worthy of Me, including those who actually do love Me more than they love their family members…so it really doesn’t make any difference if you love Me more, or love Me less, than you love your family members”? That would not seem to be too likely…

Can we just be honest? In Matthew 10:37, Jesus clearly revealed that people can be “worthy” or “deserving” of Him. That is indisputable. And people who don’t love Him more than they love their “loved-ones” are not worthy or deserving of Him. Jesus doesn’t belong to them.

The truth is, everyone who genuinely believes that Jesus is the Son of God makes Him Lord, and they love Him supremely, more than their families. And they deserve Him. If you don’t love Jesus supremely, more than anyone else, you are not yet a Christian believer. Matthew 10:37 is very simple to understand, yet it is all but ignored by the purveyors of false grace who litter the landscape of modern Evangelicalism.

All of this being so, those who, like you, have been faced with the choice of pleasing “loved ones” or Jesus, and who choose Jesus, prove that they are worthy of Him. And that should certainly provide consolation to Amish-background believers who are being shunned by their Amish families. You’ve passed the test! You’ve proven that your faith is genuine. You are worthy of Jesus…according to Jesus! That is one “silver lining” in your “dark cloud” that can help you cope.

So, rejoice that “the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, will be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:7). And let your shunning family see your joy in being shunned for Christ’s sake. It might help them see the error of their way.

#3) Remember that you are a victim of people who are victims themselves. Like you, your parents were born into a system of social coercion, as were their parents. There have been generations of victims over hundreds of years. For that reason, you can have mercy on those who are shunning you, reminding yourself that, “If they knew better, they’d do better.”

Although Jesus said it would have been better if Judas had not been born, we note that He prayed for His persecutors who divided His garments because they, unlike Judas, did not “know what they were doing.” In that respect, your shunning family members are more like the Roman soldiers at Jesus’ crucifixion than they are like Judas. And worse, they think they are doing what is right and perhaps what is best for you, hoping to lure you back (into their bondage).

All of this is to say, it is easier to have mercy on family members who are shunning you if you remember that they are not entirely to blame for their sin against you. The blame also belongs to their ancestors all the way back to Jacob Amman (at least).

If you can model mercy, there is a better chance that your alleged “Christian” Amish family members who are shunning you will wake up to their error as they witness Jesus living through you. You can “do all things through Christ who strengthens you” (Phil. 4:13), and being persecuted by your own flesh and blood is an opportunity to experience not only “the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings,” but also “the power of His resurrection” (Phil. 3:10). That’s good!

Here’s something else to remember:

#4) Jesus suffered the rejection of His family, so He has felt the same pain as you. He, however, found a remedy that will also work for you.

Of course, Jesus suffered rejection throughout His entire earthly ministry. John wrote, “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). Can you imagine being rejected by people whom you created?

Rejection was such a predominant part of Jesus’ experience that Isaiah wrote of Him hundreds of years before His incarnation:

He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face. He was despised, and we did not esteem Him (Is. 53:3, emphasis added).

If you are in Christ, a member of His body, you will share in His sufferings. And rejection is a primary part of those sufferings. If you haven’t experienced at least some rejection, you should be concerned. Jesus warned, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you” (Luke 6:26).

It is one thing to be rejected by strangers and acquaintances. But that pales in comparison to being rejected by “loved-ones.” Many Christians have never realized just how much Jesus was rejected by His family. Concerning His four half-brothers (see Mark 6:3), the New Testament records, “Not even His brothers were believing in Him” (John 7:5).

Although we might be able to sympathize somewhat with the challenge of being one of Jesus’ brothers who all grew up in a family where one person never sinned—their rejection of Him is still difficult to understand. Surely, they heard from their mother the supernatural circumstances that surrounded His birth. And although they were aware of His miracles (see John 7:1-4) and were likely present at His first miracle when He changed water into wine (see John 2:1-12), they still did not believe in Him. Scripture records that they encouraged Him to attend a feast in Jerusalem where they likely knew He would be endangered (John 7:1-9). Were they hoping He might be harmed? Perhaps just as Joseph of the Old Testament foreshadowed Christ, so Joseph’s jealous brothers foreshadowed Jesus’ siblings.

When Jesus visited His hometown—the backwater village of Nazareth and a place where everyone knew Him, His earthly father, mother, half-brothers, and half-sisters—the residents tried to kill Him by throwing Him over a cliff (Matt. 13:54-58; Mark 6:1-6; Luke 4:16-30). Being hated by your hometown friends would be bad enough, but it is VERY possible that some or all of the members of Jesus’ own family heard Him preach in Nazareth’s synagogue that day and even participated in the attempt to kill Him.

There is no indication in the New Testament that any of Jesus’ half-brothers, with the exception of James (Gal. 1:19), and perhaps Jude, ever believed in Him. And the fact that Jesus, during His crucifixion, entrusted His mother Mary into the care of His disciple John (John 19: 25-27) makes us wonder if His half-brothers had rejected her because of her faith in Him.

How did Jesus cope with such painful rejection by His own family? We can find a clue in Mark 3:

And He came home, and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal. When His own people [or “kinsman”] heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses”….

Then His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him. A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.” Answering them, He said, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:20-21, 31-35).

Jesus identified with a new family, one that accepted and received Him. And that is just what we should do when we suffer rejection by our families. Just as with Jesus, our new family consists of all those who “do the will of God.” Those are all true believers in Jesus, His “sheep” (not the goats). Christians, by New Testament definition, are those who strive to follow and obey Jesus. Those who don’t aren’t actual believers.

When we are born again, we become instant members of God’s great big family, with Him being our spiritual Father, Jesus being our oldest brother, and with many other brothers and sisters all over the world. That is why we soon discover that we actually prefer, if given the chance, to spend time with our spiritual family more than our physical family (if our physical family members are not yet born again).

This is also why Jesus promised: “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in this present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30). Although we may not all literally leave our families in order to take the gospel to faraway places, we all, in a sense, leave our families when we decide to follow Christ against our family’s wishes.

Of course, when Jesus promised the blessing of many “brothers and sisters and mothers and children,” He wasn’t talking about attending one-hour church services once a week to look at the backs of other people’s heads in the pew in front of you. He was talking about the kind of close relationships that true born-again believers continually enjoy with each other. It is truly a little taste of heaven, the “fellowship [Greek: koinonia] of the Spirit” (Phil. 2:1).

If you don’t have that, “seek and you will find” (Matt. 7:7), and it will go a long way towards mitigating the pain of your family’s rejection. In fact, if you do, your Amish family might even become jealous. That would be a good thing (Rom. 11:13-14) if it helps them realize that you are being blessed in spite of their efforts to make you miserable and bring you back into their darkness!

Regarding Honoring Your Parents

The Amish Papers - Chapter 15

This was another short Facebook article for my Amish-background friends, many of whom find themselves accused of “not honoring their parents” due to the fact they’ve left the Amish against their parents’ wishes. It was posted on 11/24/22.

I’ve learned that many Amish folks think that the first commandment God ever gave is to “honor your parents.” The reason they think that is because they’ve heard Ephesians 6:1 read from the German Bible in their churches, but they don’t understand German well enough to grasp Paul’s words that honoring one’s father and mother is not “the first commandment,” but “the first commandment with a promise.” That is, it is the first commandment that is accompanied by a promised benefit if you obey it, namely “that is may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth” (Eph. 6:3).

In any case, the point of the common Amish misconstruction of Ephesians 6:1 is that there is supposedly nothing more important than obeying/honoring one’s parents. So, no Amish person, they say, should ever leave the Amish if his or her parents are against it. That is why so many who would prefer to leave remain in the Amish Prison.

Of course, honoring one’s parents is important (it is contained in the Ten Commandments), but Jesus said that the most important commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). So, if one is forced to make a choice between obeying/honoring one’s parents or loving/obeying God, one should love/obey God—even if one’s parents are dishonored in the process.

You probably recall the man in the Bible who wanted to follow Jesus, but he requested Jesus’ permission to first bury his father, an obvious act of honoring a parent. Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead” (Matt. 8:22). If that man returned home to honor his parent, he sinned. You might want to stop and think about that.

All of this is precisely why Paul did not write in Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents,” but rather, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (emphasis added). Children, even young children, should only obey their parents so far as their obedience does not require them to disobey the Lord.

Here’s another relevant Bible verse that could almost be paraphrased, “Children, disobey your parents in the Lord, for this is right”:

“I [God] warned their children not to follow in their parents’ footsteps, defiling themselves with their idols. ‘I am the Lord your God,’ I told them. Follow my decrees, pay attention to my regulations” (Ezek. 20:18-19, emphasis added).

How about that? God effectively told children not to “honor their parents.”

Since we’re considering Ephesians 6, I should mention that it also includes instructions to parents regarding how they should treat their children. Ephesians 6:1-3 was never intended to be quoted without including the very next verse: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4, emphasis added). Paul did not instruct parents to teach their children religious, manmade traditions. Rather, he told them to teach their children about Jesus and what Jesus taught. Fathers should be “making disciples” of their own children, teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded (Matt. 28:18-20).

I’m sorry to say that too many parents, Amish and otherwise, are tragically ignoring the first part of Ephesians 6:4. I love the Amplified Version’s rendition of it (read slowly): “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to the point of resentment with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive; nor by showing favoritism or indifference to any of them], but bring them up [tenderly, with lovingkindness] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

It is heartbreaking to see children whose parents exasperate them under the alleged “discipline of the Lord.” Why can’t those parents foresee the inevitable future? The time is coming when their children will get as far away from them—and their religion—as they possibly can. And when they do, they will take all their emotional scars with them.

Regarding adult children, only very foolish parents attempt to control them. Almost nothing could be more unnatural or perverse within human relations. And only extremely foolish parents attempt to control their adult children by quoting Ephesians 6:1-3! Wise parents know that love, self-sacrifice, and encouragement are the magnets that keep children—both young and old—close, while angry threats, finger-wagging, and shunning all repel like skunk squirt.

All of this is to say, if you followed Jesus out of the Amish Prison and your parents are condemning you and shunning you for it, it is they, not you, who should feel guilty. They were wrong to keep you in that prison all of your childhood, and they are wrong for condemning you for escaping it. As God said through Ezekiel, “I warned their children not to follow in their parents’ footsteps” (Ezek. 20:18, emphasis added).

I should add that your parents are themselves victims of how they were raised, as were their parents. So there is reason not to be angry with your parents, but sympathetic.

Thank God you did not follow in your parent’s footsteps and escaped. Now, follow Jesus! And pray, as Jesus taught, that God will send laborers into the harvest…people whom your parents respect who can influence them to follow their children out of the Amish Prison to become slaves of Christ and sons of God!!!

To Those Who Have “Broken Their Lifetime Vows” to the Amish Church

The Amish Papers - Chapter 14

This short article was written in an attempt to help my many Amish-background Facebook friends have an answer for the common Amish criticism that they had “broken their lifetime vows.” It was posted on Facebook on 11/23/22.

Your still-Amish relatives who are asking you how you could break your lifetime vow to the Amish church are asking the wrong question. They ought to be asking what gives any church the biblical right to require people to make a lifetime vow to it. The apostles had no such practice, because Jesus never commanded it. So, rather than be on the defensive, take the offensive stance, with love and respect. Ask them to show you in the New Testament where the apostles asked anyone to make lifetime vows to any church, sect, or list of rules.

Beyond that, ask them if they are still practicing the Ordnung to which they made vows as a teenager. Have they moved to a different Amish community with a different Ordnung? Then they broke their lifetime vows.

On top of all that, if you had made a lifetime vow to a church that you eventually realized had strayed in many significant ways from biblical truth and practice, you could be sure that remaining loyal to such a church would make you disloyal to God. If you had made a lifetime vow as a teenager to serve Baal, Molech, or Mohammed, would God expect you to keep that vow? We all know the answer!

Breaking a lifetime vow to the Amish church is not a sin; it is an act of repentance.

Regarding the Traditions You Were Taught

The Amish Papers - Chapter 13

This short article is one I wrote for my hundreds of Amish-background Facebook friends, posted on November 23, 2022. I addressed a common mis-handling of Scripture that Amish bishops and ministers often use to attempt to persuade wayward, born-again Amish people to “return to the fold.”

When your still-Amish relatives, friends, bishops and ministers tell you that Bible says that you should “hold to the traditions that you were taught” (2 Thes. 2:15), it might be good to gently remind them that Paul wasn’t referring to various traditions handed down to children by parents and grandparents. Rather, he was talking about traditions He handed down to the Thessalonian Christians. Here is what he actually wrote: “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught, whether by word of mouth or my letter from us” (2 Thes. 2:15, emphasis added). He similarly wrote to the Corinthian Christians, “Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you” (1 Cor. 11:2, emphasis added). Both 2 Thes. 2:15 and 1 Cor. 11:2 have nothing to do with parental or grand parental traditions.

And who handed down to Paul those traditions of which he wrote? It wasn’t his parents. Paul’s traditions had been handed down to him by the Holy Spirit, and he recorded those traditions in his letters to the New Testament churches.

So, if you are following the New Testament, you are following the traditions Paul wrote about in 2 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians. In contrast, those who ARE following traditions handed down to them by their parents and grandparents that contradict the New Testament, are not following the traditions Paul wrote about in 2 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians.

And if still-Amish friends and relatives tell you that you aren’t “honoring your parents” if you reject any of their traditions, you might gently remind them that God struck Paul down on the road to Damascus, in a sense, because he was following the tradition of his parents and grandparents! From then on, Paul certainly rejected the traditions of his parents and grandparents that contradicted God’s truth. Jesus became his Lord, and so he listened to and obeyed Him, the One who said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:37).

Rejecting the unbiblical traditions of your parents and grandparents is not a sin; it is an act of repentance.

My Apology, Replies to My Letter, and Hope for Family Reconciliation

The Amish Papers - Chapter 12

Image of Amish buggy

As two of staff members of Heaven’s Family (the international relief and development ministry that I founded two decades ago) worked on colllecting Amish community directories from all over the U.S. for our mail list, I worked on a follow-up letter to the letter we mailed in June of 2022 to 63,000 mostly-Amish and Amish-background households.

Below is that follow-up letter. As of this writing, it is scheduled to be mailed in March of 2023. Our hope is that it will not just be immediately discarded by Amish households that receive it, but that the words on the exterior of the mailing—”My Apology, Replies to My Letter, and Hope for Family Reconciliation”—will motivate them to open and read it.

Greetings from beautiful Pennsylvania, a state that was named after William Penn, a Quaker Christian man who, in the 17th century, was instrumental in creating a safe place for persecuted European Christians, including Mennonites and Amish folks. For thousands of Anabaptists, Pennsylvania was an answer to their prayers. Today, Pennsylvania has the largest Amish population of all the states (81,500), leading even Ohio and Indiana. Anyone who lives in or near any Amish community knows what a blessing they are to local economies and everyone’s well-being. They have a reputation of being family-centered, hardworking, and honest. I count myself blessed to live within the boundaries of Pennsylvania’s third-largest Amish community, and within the vicinity of several others.

I wrote a letter in June that we sent to thousands of Amish households across North America. (If you didn’t receive it and you would like to, please just write to me and request it.) I’m happy to report that I received over 200 written replies, including many requests for English Bibles and more information about being born again, as well as many phone calls. I’d like to share some of the written replies with you later in this letter, as I think your will find them interesting. But first, I would like to apologize for a misunderstanding.

As I shared the story of the “Johnsonburg Amish Awakening,” I told how two-dozen Amish adults were born again—including a bishop named Levi and minister named Jonas—and how they were eventually excommunicated from their Amish community for “adopting a new faith.” For that reason, some who received my letter assumed that I believe a person cannot be Amish and also be born again. So please allow me to clear that up. I don’t believe that! (And I never said that in my letter.) There are many Amish people who have been born again and who follow an Amish lifestyle. I’ve received letters from some of them (and I’ll share a few with you). Most all of them know that believing in Jesus and obeying His commandments are what is most important.

The primary purpose of my previous letter was to spread the good news that Amish people in Johnsonburg had recovered their Anabaptist spiritual heritage. They have been born again as described in the Bible and the 1632 Dordrecht Confession. And that same spiritual blessing has occurred to tens of thousands of other Amish-born folks, some of whom are still Amish and some of whom are not.

I also wanted you to know the good news that, if you have not been born again, you can be. Jesus said that, unless we are born again, we cannot see or enter the kingdom of God (see John 3:1-16). So being born again is very important. If you are interested in learning more about what the Bible teaches about being born again, I would be happy to mail you two articles I’ve written on that subject, titled, “What Does It Really Mean to be Born Again?” and “Amish and Born Again.” If you would be interested in learning what the Dordrecht Confession says about being born again, I would be happy to mail you an article I wrote about that titled, “An Honest Look at the 1632 Dordrecht Confession.” Just write me with your request.

Before I continue, perhaps I should tell you a little about myself, because a number of people wrote asking, “Who are you?”

I am a 64-year-old man, married for 43 years. My wife and I have 3 children and 12 grandchildren. My wife was born again at a very young age, and I was born again when I was a teenager. Over the past 43 years, I have served in vocational Christian ministry as a pastor and a Bible teacher. All during that time, I have read and studied the Bible. That, of course, doesn’t mean I might not be wrong about some things. But I have focused for 43 years on trying to understand the Bible and teaching others what I’ve learned. I have written a number of Bible-based books, including two daily devotionals. (And I would be happy to mail you a free copy of one of those devotional books, titled HeavenWord Daily, that guides you through the entire New Testament in one year. Just write with your request.) I believe the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit and the most important book that exists. It contains the accounts of Jesus’ ministry and His words. Everyone should be reading it every day.

Additionally, twenty years ago I founded a ministry called Heaven’s Family that is somewhat similar to a ministry you might be familiar with called Christian Aid Ministries. Like Christian AidHeaven’s Family works around the world to serve the poor, and particularly poor Christians. With the help of other Christians all over the world, Heaven’s Family has invested tens of millions of dollars over the years serving suffering Christians and expanding God’s kingdom. I have had the privilege of traveling in about 80 of the world’s countries in ministry service over the past four decades, and I know many Christians around the world. And when I say “Christians,” I am speaking of people who have been born again and who are striving to obey the Lord Jesus Christ.

In addition, I’ve also found that I have a special and sincere love for Amish people. I can only think that love has been given to me by God. That is why I have a bumper sticker on the back of my car that says, “I love Amish people.” And that is why I raised tens of thousands of dollars from Christian friends (who also love Amish folks) to pay for the printing, postage, and mailing expense to send my previous letter to 63,000 mostly-Amish households. That was a small price to pay, however, to help Amish people whom God loves rediscover their lost spiritual heritage. And it was a very small price to pay compared to what Jesus paid on the cross so that all of us could be born again and enter God’s kingdom!

So that is a little about me. Of course, I am nothing without Christ. If there is any good in me, it is because of Him. Like Paul, I can say, “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).

Another reason I’m telling you a little about myself is because I have heard that some Amish leaders are saying that I am a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Actually, however, I am a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, striving to obey His commandments, which is why I sent my previous letter, and why I am sending this letter. Two of Jesus’ commandments are, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15), and “Go and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). Again, those are commandments of Jesus. When I once asked an Amish bishop why the Amish don’t obey those two commandments, he told me that Jesus only gave those commandments to His original apostles. That is like saying Jesus only gave the Sermon on the Mount to the first Christians. Please note: Jesus commanded His apostles to “go and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you,” so Jesus’ apostles also taught their disciples to go and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that Jesus had commanded them. It was an on-going, never-ending commandment.

God has wanted every generation since the apostles to hear the gospel and become Jesus’ disciples, which is why true Christians (those who are striving to obey Jesus) over the past 20 centuries—including your Anabaptist forefathers hundreds of years ago—proclaimed the gospel far and wide. And that is what I have been trying to do for the last 43 years. Our ministry has a Christian website full of Bible-based articles I’ve written that have been read by millions of people, and a YouTube internet channel where we’ve posted over 1,400 Bible-based videos that have collectively been viewed by millions of people. God wants other people to go to heaven besides me, or besides just Amish people, because Jesus died for the sins of the entire world (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2). That is why He commanded His followers to preach the gospel all over the world. If you are born again, you should be involved in spreading the gospel, not only to Amish people who are not yet born again, but to others who have not yet been born again. Again, Jesus commanded His followers to spread the gospel—and not just by how they live their lives, but by spoken proclamation, just as Jesus, the apostles, and the first Christians all did (see Matt. 4:17; Mark 16:20; Acts 8:1-4).

And the gospel we should proclaim is the one that John the Baptist, Jesus, and His apostles preached, a gospel that offers people forgiveness of their sins through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (see Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:4, 15; 6:12; Luke 24:47; Acts 20:26; Heb. 6:1).

Interesting Replies

Now I want to share some of the replies I’ve received from Amish readers to my previous letter. Those replies reveal a broad spectrum of belief and practice within Amish culture. Some replies were very kind, while others were rather unkind. Regardless, I appreciate everyone who took time to write to me, and I wish I had time to send personal replies to all of them. I also wish you could read all of them. Some were deeply spiritual, very thoughtful, and referenced numerous Bible verses, while others reflected tragic biblical ignorance.

As I read those many replies, it also became obvious that many Amish folks are not aware that there are Amish communities that are very different than theirs. Some Amish folks think that all Amish people are, like them, born again and striving to follow Jesus. But minister Jonas, who was born again in January of this year, and formerly of the Johnsonburg Amish community, told me that he didn’t know of a single pure courtship among the young people in his community, including his own courtship. Just in the last year, two Johnsonburg Amish men have gone to prison, convicted of pedophilia, a sin that many Amish communities try to hide. One of those convicted men told minister Jonas that his father told him and his siblings, “I don’t care what you do with each other, but I don’t want any pregnancies among you.” That Amish father was encouraging incest among his children.

So there are Amish people and communities that are deeply spiritual and Bible-focused, and there are Amish people and communities that are full of religious hypocrisy—like just about every other Christian denomination in the world. My burden is for those Amish folks who are not yet born again.


To begin looking at the replies I received to my initial letter, here is one from an Amish woman in Ohio who, thankfully, is not representative of most Amish people:

We received your devilish letter. Their is no such thing as being born again, unless you are working for the devil. If we join Church and make that promise before God and people, that is the only time, their is nothing like being born again. I feel like turning you in for harassing other people and communities. If you think you are saved, keep it to yourself, why would you want someone else to know…. Once judgment day comes I am afraid HELL will be the place for your people. Those Johnsonburg people are breaking God’s first rule, Honor thy Farther & Mother… I have not read you whole letter, but what I did read, it is the Devils path, not Gods ways as their is nothing like being born again. And when that Judgement day comes, it will not be Jesus, it will be God. As it looks like you don’t understand the Bible, it says ONLY GOD knows when that will happen, not even Jesus or the Angels know. Jesus does or will NOT rule the entire world. GOD is in control of it all…. If you would keep your ass out of their [the Johnsonburg Amish’s] business and leive them alone, maybe they would be better off…. I think you got your brains in the wrong end of your body. We don’t want to see another letter from you or we will turn it into the prosecutor. Their is one more thing the German Bible did not change since day one and it will not change, it is people like you that are changing it for your own good, not how God wants it.

Sadly, I did receive quite a few letters from other folks who, like her, were not very good at “turning the other cheek.” The worst thing is that she believes “there is no such thing as being born again.” She contradicts Jesus as well as the apostles Peter and Paul (see John 3:1-16; 1 Peter 1:3, 23; Gal. 4:29). I hope that born-again Amish people will reach out to her, and others like her, with the gospel, so that she might be born again.

Although it is not as serious of an error, she also mistakenly believes that “God’s first rule” is to honor one’s parents. I’ve noticed that many Amish people think that, because they’ve heard Ephesians 6:2 quoted from the German Bible, but they don’t understand German well enough to understand that Paul wrote that God’s commandment to honor one’s parents is “the first commandment with a promise.” That is, it is the first commandment God ever gave that was a coupled with a promised blessing to those who obey it. God’s actual first commandment was given to Adam to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28). God’s commandment to honor one’s parents wasn’t given for another 2,500 years.

Rather than focus on negative letters like that one, let’s focus on some encouraging letters that can help us discover God’s will for our lives. Here is an insightful letter from a gracious born-again Amish bishop in Pennsylvania:

Dear David…,

I will begin by quoting Eph. 2:8-10: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (the good works)

The good works are the fruit of a born-again Christian—not by which we are saved, but Jesus Christ “our Lord” made it clear in Matt. 25 that they which don’t respond “with works” to those in need will be told, “Depart from Me, ye cursed…etc.” My concern is—we need verse 10 as much as verses 8 and 9 that you quoted.

We certainly need the new birth (everyone) which changes the way we think, which changes the way we act—everything matters (Romans 12:1-2). It is being preached over & over in the Amish churches. I will admit some ministers take the new birth & the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit within, through which we grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, together as one & the same. [Yet] we believe the new birth is the beginning of a new life in Christ Jesus—the same as the birth of a child is only the beginning and that child has lots of growing ahead to reach maturity. We will not reach perfection in this life, but through faith, repentance, confession of sin, restitution etc we can be blameless – made righteous – through the blood of Jesus Christ, our Lord & Savior….

As a bishop, I feel the responsibility and weight of truly loving God and fellow man—leading them by word and example—pointing them to Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. There is no other salvation, but we are well-satisfied with what God has provided through Jesus’ blood for forgiveness of sins. May we glorify His name in all that we say and do. Amen.

What an excellent letter! That bishop has a good understanding of the gospel, knowing that “we are saved by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8), and that salvation is “not a result of works” (Ephesians 2:9). He also understands, however, that God’s grace transforms those who have faith, so that they live lives characterized by good works, as Paul made so clear in Ephesians 2:10 and Jesus made so clear in His foretelling of the judgment of the sheep and goats (Matthew 24:31-46). If I were Amish, I’d want to have a bishop who believed like that bishop!

That bishop also understands that some Amish leaders are mixing the Bible’s teaching about the new birth with the Bible’s teaching about growing spiritually after the new birth. They mistakenly think that the “new birth” occurs gradually, over one’s lifetime. But it doesn’t. There are no verses in the New Testament that mention or imply a gradual new birth. If you read the book of Acts, for example, you will read about thousands of people whose new birth was an event, not a process. As that Pennsylvania bishop wrote, “We believe the new birth is the beginning of a new life in Christ Jesus—the same as the birth of a child is only the beginning, and that child has lots of growing ahead to reach maturity.”

Jesus used the phrase “born again” to help us understand that spiritual rebirth is an event that occurs in a short period of time, just like a physical birth. You must first be born again, and only then can you grow spiritually, because only then does the Holy Spirit live in you.

Here’s an excerpt from a born-again Amish woman in Pennsylvania who, like bishop Levi and minister Jonas, realized later in life that she had not been genuinely born again when she was baptized as a teenager:

…I love what you wrote on being born again. How true, how precious and amazing!

I’m so thankful to Jesus who made it possible for us all, Amish, Mennonite, or anyone [to be born again].

I agree too, that although I wanted to be born again, I basically just was baptized because I wanted to do what was right….

Thanks be to God I grew enough to finally realize what born again means and made the change! (Inwardly I felt different not outwardly, I don’t think people could tell.) I finally really truly TRUST HIM. What peace!

Once you know that all your sins have been forgiven (Acts 10:43), that you are God’s dearly-loved child (1 John 3:1), and that His Holy Spirit is living in you (1 Cor. 6:19) to help you obey His commandments, you automatically have peace that you never previously enjoyed (Rom. 5:1). That is just part of the blessing of being born again!

Here’s an excerpt from a short letter from a recently born-again Amish man in a state I will leave unnamed who is hoping to help other Amish folks in his community to experience the same blessing:

Hello David, and greetings sent to you from above where all good things come from.

I’m a born-again Christ-follower Amish man. I’m ___   years old. It was just a few years ago when I was born again. Wow. Life is good. Life is great….

We will try to win one soul at a time….

I have been told by a few people that I have a new faith. I praise God for my new faith!

It is never too late to be born again, whether you are 33 or 93! I was blessed to actually meet the author of that letter and his wife when I was traveling in his region a few months ago. A wonderful couple who love the Lord!

Here’s an excerpt from a corrective and gracious letter from another born-again Amish man in Kentucky:

…I have never heard it preached or even said that baptism itself will make you born again. That is not the way the Amish believe. I have heard it said often that baptism is an outward ceremony of what has already happened in that person’s heart. I have heard & we can read it in the Bible as in Romans 10:9: “That is thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Actually, you explained it very well in your letter. We often told that our Ordnung, as we call it, will not save us! Salvation only comes through Jesus….

As far as baptizing, we cannot read in the Bible that sprinkling or immersion is best. None of that has anything to do with the new birth that happens within…. [I agree 100%!]

I sense you are a well-meaning born-again minister of God but you have been misinformed or at least poorly informed of the Amish beliefs. I trust when you see me driving down the road or my church brethren you can think, “There goes a brother in Christ,” instead of, “There goes a lost soul”!

If I ever saw him driving his buggy down the road, I would certainly think, “There goes a brother in Christ”!

Here’s an excerpt from a wise born-again Amish man in Ohio:

Dear David, greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! We received your letter regarding being born again….

…we don’t have to be Amish or ex-Amish or non-Amish to be or not be born again. I personally know of a lot of Amish people that are born again, but sadly, yes, I know a few that do not appear to be born again, or know the meaning of such.

I would never discourage someone from studying the Bible, if that someone is seeking the truth. My own grandfather studied his Bible very well, but only picked his passages. Today he is ex-Amish, all alone, even his ex-Amish children cannot get along with him, and for years he was on probation by law. He has molested and abused, but still today he quotes scripture to prove that he is saved. My personal feelings here is this, May God bless all who truly seek His will…. I wish you the Lord’s blessing with spreading the gospel.

I like what he said about the error of “picking your passages.” God gave us the entire Bible, not just a few verses. You can make the Bible say anything you want it to say by isolating verses from their context.

One of the most spiritual letters I received was from a remarkable teenage, born-again Amish girl who sees herself as an “Amish missionary.” She is greatly burdened for Amish young people who are thinking about leaving the Amish:

Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, Father, Lord, Redeemer, God, Best Friend, Lover, Provider, and Protector. These are only a few of the names to describe our Lord. I have personally experienced Him to be all that, and I understand in your letter that, that’s how you’ve experienced Him too….”

By the way, I am a ___-year-old Amish girl who loves her God, her family, her friends, and her heritage….

But I also have another concern: That is for all the hurting, confused, searching [Amish] youth who are desperate for a change. And they think leaving the Amish is the only way.

Do you feel it is the only way?

Do you feel that we cannot be a sincere, vibrant, hope-filled, alive Christian, as an Amish person? I know I’ve wondered. But not anymore. Up until I was 15 years old I always read my Bible and kinda had a relationship with God, but I still didn’t know Him personally. Didn’t know Him to be the Life-Changer He is. When I was 15 I had a breakthrough in the way I viewed God. At that time I was dealing with a lot of hurt and pain. I felt dead, helpless, desperate, cold, hard, empty, and was living my life in such a way. I thought death look more appealing than life. Then, through His grace, He allowed me to see Him as “Jesus, my perfect Father.” That changed my life. From there on it’s been a journey. Continuously growing and changing in my love and knowledge for Him….

Honestly, David, I admit there’s much about our culture that I don’t understand, that simply doesn’t make sense. There is much that I really wish were not the way it is but there is also much about our heritage that I deeply value and hope I will never need to give up….

I believe that in every denomination under the heavens we all have our personal choice. Will we believe in Jesus? And you know, I cannot blame the people who leave the Amish. Because I know that there are preachers and people who preach the Ordnung more than the Bible. My church rarely preaches about anything other than the Word. I know there’s Amish out there who simply don’t know God and live their lives that way. And they’re desperate for a change. But I wish the same thing you wish, that the change would happen in their hearts. They can serve Jesus as an Amish person or an English person, Greek, Jew, servant or freeman. And then impact the people closest to them with the Word of God, with the love of God.

As for Bible studies, I have often wished we could do that [but it is apparently not permitted] but I’ve found there are plenty of ways to be filled if we seek and search…. I prayed for years for friends who could challenge me spiritually and who would desire the deeper things of life. My prayers have eventually been answered. I have the same friends I did as a 16-year-old, but I’ve changed and they’ve gone through hard times and changed too. Once they hit hard things in life they started searching, I was able to offer them Jesus…. Two years ago the possibility of friends who desire more and are on that road, and friends who have more and continue to find more of Jesus, looked pretty unlikely. [That has all changed now.] We do not have meetings, but we do talk and encourage each other whenever we have the chance….

Like I wrote earlier there’s much about the Amish church that could use improvement. As in more love, less hypocrisy, less focus on outward appearance, more boldness with God and His Word…honestly, I could go on and on….

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that there are 200 different ways to be Amish. But that’s how it is. Every church, every youth group is still different. Just like in all other cultures, every family, every church is different….

I really appreciate you, David. The day I knew God as my Father is also the day I felt a distinct impression that I was to remain in my home, my family, my church and be an “Amish missionary.” I think you are with me on that one. I just wonder what would happen if you’d encourage Amish to do it the hard way. Stay Amish and work for peace instead of confusion. Respect their authorities in every way possible, but continue to spend time with Jesus. Alone in their rooms if that’s what it takes. And then have those good conversations, and get brave and bold and tell their brothers about a better way. The way of respect, peace, stability, and truth. Transform their thinking, their ways, but remain Amish. Wouldn’t that spring a great revival? We truly need one.

Wasn’t that a precious letter? There isn’t any doubt that she has a very personal relationship with God through the Lord Jesus. That is what happens when you are born again.

Here’s an excerpt from a great letter from a born-again Amish man in Indiana:

Dear Brother David, I have read your letter and am glad to hear about the born again Amish….

I believe there will be people in Heaven from all corners of the world, including Amish and all true believers. If I didn’t believe that I would have left the Amish. I’ve been to many different denominations. Mennonite, Baptist, Assembly of God, Beachy and more. I feel at home in my church….

I hope the Johnsonburg church will start preaching so all can understand. Our churches in Indiana have some very talented preachers. Many use the English language sometimes to explain the Scriptures if it is easier to understand.

You must be born-again to reach Heaven. Read John 3:3.

Here is a heart-breaking letter from a born-again Amish wife and mother who feels trapped in a spiritually-dead Amish community:

I am an Amish housewife and mother. I want to thank you for reaching out and attempting to bring truth and light to our culture. God knows we need it!

I have felt so suffocated by rules, rules, and more rules, and I’ve been starved for spiritual nourishment in a language I can understand! At church, the sermons, the songs, the prayers and reading of the Bible are mostly in High German. The vast majority of people in our community do not understand that language very well. The most important words we will ever hear and read—from God’s Word—are in the language we understand the least. It is so tragic!

So many of our young people are into partying, bed courtship, and so on, and their parents don’t stop them. It has been this way for generations, and I cannot see that it will ever change. Any change is frowned upon. Tradition is more important that God’s Word!

I want my children to live godly lives, but this spiritually silent culture is not conducive to that. We hardly dare talk about God or Jesus to others in our community or they will think we’ve become “extreme.” Most would prefer their children not read too much Bible, lest they be led astray! How sad!

I have been so miserable in this strict, silent culture. Please pray for us and continue spreading light! My prayers are with you! May God open Amish eyes, minds and hearts!

By the way, a number of those who wrote to me told me how blessed they are to be able to read the Bible in three languages (German, English and PA Dutch) so that they can compare them and arrive at the intended meaning. I agree! I can only read English, but it is for the same reason I like to read different English translations. But for those who live in Amish communities where German is not well understood, the preaching and Bible-reading ought to be in a language everyone understands. That is why Martin Luther translated the Bible into German…for German-speakers!

And here is the majority of an insightful, gracious letter from a 20-something Amish woman in a southern state:

David, greetings in our Lord’s name. I am a young Amish girl and sincere about my faith. I readily admit that there are too many inconsistencies and hypocrisy and not enough open-minded studying of God’s Word among us Amish people. It has often made me sad.

Sometimes I fear we are too much like the scribes & Pharisees who held their traditions higher than God’s Word. But I hope you realize that there are sincere Amish people who love the Lord, believe in Him and follow His Word.

There are many Amish churches and they are not all the same — we are having splits among us and sometimes shunning gets done in an unscriptural way I believe — but I am quite content to let God judge everything — He searches the reins & the hearts — He know what our goals are in life and what we are willing to endure for His sake.

Today, if someone tells you they are a Christian that does not necessarily mean they are….

Today’s Christian often says if the heart is right nothing else matters — I have had no college education but I would say if your heart is right everything matters!!

Words are easy to throw around — many people say they are Christians or they are born again and then in works deny Christ. If we love Him we will keep His commandments and we will believe that faith without works is dead…

We owned a very nice property here in ______ County, sold it, and are relocating “just because” of church issues and the way they are being handled (but we are still Amish). I could just cry sometimes because of the condition of some of our churches and I think that is why so many Amish people look for something better. God’s Word has all the answers if we seek with an open mind.

I’m sure that many Amish readers can identify with what she wrote. I like that she emphasized that, if we love Jesus, we will strive to keep His commandments.

Finally, here is much of an excellent letter sent from an Amish bishop in Missouri. His letter is so well-written and biblical that I wish it could be read by all the Amish people across North America who have not yet been born again:

I was born Amish 55 years ago, baptized 38 years ago (after having been sufficiently instructed and taught in the Christian Faith), married 35 years ago, ordained to ministry 25 years ago, and ordained a bishop 15 years ago, all in the Amish church. I was taught and instructed at a young age that all of that has absolutely no power to save me, but we believe and confess with the 1632 Dordrecht Confession of Faith Article 6, that “neither baptism not the Lord’s Supper nor church membership, not any other outward ceremony can without faith and the new birth, change or renewal of life, avail anything to please God or to obtain from Him any consolation or promise of salvation. (Eph 4:21, 22) On the contrary, one must go to God in true and perfect faith and believe in Jesus Christ as the scriptures say and testify of Him. Through this faith we obtain forgiveness of sins, are sanctified, justified, and made children of God, yea partake of His mind, nature and image, as being newly born again of God through the incorruptible seed from above.” This is what I was taught at a young age and in my great weakness still try to teach that to my community and congregation.

Like I said I don’t know anything about the Johnsonburg community, but here in the Midwest in our circle of fellowship all of the communities will encourage their respective churches to study the Bible so that everyone understands what the will of God is. Because we know that “not everyone that saith, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven. But he that doeth the will of my Father which is in Heaven” (Matt. 7:21). So we know and confess that it will not help anyone to say, “I am Amish and I obey all of the rules and regulations of the church, etc., etc.” And in the same way it will not help to say, “I have been saved at the altar, and I got to Bible study meetings multiple times per week, etc., etc.” But note what our Lord says, “He that doeth the will of my Father which is in Heaven.”

I feel blessed and privileged that I can study The Holy Bible in 3 different languages German, English and our Pennsylvania Dutch. I also have in my bookcase the English Bible in 3 different translations the King James Version, the New King James Version, and the Wycliffe translation. But having said that, I also realize that having all those different Bibles in my possession, or even being very knowledgeable in the Holy Scriptures is still not going to get me to Heaven, but remember, “He that doeth the will of my Father which is in Heaven.”

I love how that Amish bishop is focused on what is the most important thing…doing the will of God. If the Ordnung helps to accomplish that, it is a good thing. If, however, it hinders people from accomplishing that, it is not a good thing. I can’t imagine anyone could disagree with that!

Family Reconciliation and Harmony

Finally, I’d like to talk about something that is universal among everyone who has been born Amish, and that is the hope of family reconciliation. I received many letters and phone calls from Amish people all over the country regarding that hope. Not only have Amish families been divided due to different Ordnungs, but practically every Amish family has suffered division between family members due to shunning/excommunication/defection (it is often stated that about 15% of all Amish people ultimately leave the Amish).

Even though excommunication and shunning are practiced to different degrees of mildness and severity from community to community and family to family, no one enjoys any of it, either those doing the excommunication and shunning or those being excommunicated and shunned. Amish folks are hoping that family members who have left will come to their senses and return to their Amish roots. Folks who have left their Amish roots are hoping that their still-Amish family members will come to their senses and escape as they have. The hearts of those who are being shunned and those who are doing the shunning are broken. Both long for reconciliation. How tragic it is that so many families have been torn apart.

Of course, everyone longs for a harmonious relationship with all of the members of their families and extended families, and I think we’d all agree that is also what God desires. He wants us to be rightly-related to Him and rightly-related to each other, as those two things are the basis of the two greatest commandments—to love God and love each other (Matthew 22:35-40).

Jesus told us that, because of His coming to earth, families would inevitably be divided (Matt. 10:34-37). But the family division of which we foretold would be between believers and unbelievers, between those whose Lord is Jesus and those whose Lord is not Jesus. God never intended that families would divide over opinions, convictions, or Ordnungs.

One bit of good news is that the gospel of Jesus Christ, as revealed in the New Testament, not only makes a way for reconciliation between God and people, but it also makes a way for reconciliation between people who were previously at odds. In New Testament days, the gospel resulted in the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles (see Eph. 2:11-19), two groups that previously had very little to do with each other. But when both Jews and Gentiles were born again, they all then had the same Lord and Savior, the same Heavenly Father, and the same indwelling Holy Spirit. The early churches were full of reconciled Jews and Gentiles!

Similarly, when we realize that we are all sinners who have “fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and that salvation is offered to us all through God’s grace and received by faith, it puts us all in the “same boat.” There is no room for pride, or thinking that we are better than others. Consequently, those who believe in the Lord Jesus and strive to obey His commandments love all others who also believe in the Lord Jesus and who strive to obey His commandments, even if they might hold to different convictions regarding issues about which the Bible is silent. The outstanding mark of those who are born again is their love for each other, as the apostle John wrote, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:14), and as Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Among all the Amish folks who sent replies to my first letter, their love, or lack of it, clearly identified those who were born again and those who were not. Those who are born again expressed love and sincere appreciation for me in their letters, even though many, if not most, hold to different convictions than me regarding driving buggies or using electric appliances. I knew that if I met with any of those folks, we would enjoy wonderful fellowship with each other, as we are children of the same Heavenly Father, and we share the same Lord and Savior. In stark contrast, those letters that expressed hatred and animosity against me were clearly written by Amish people who have not yet been born again. If they were born again, they would love other people (like me) who are born again, and they would rejoice in any effort that is being made to help people who are not yet born again to be born again.

The apostle John affirmed these facts when he wrote, “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10). So it is not only false prophets who can be identified “by their fruit” (as Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount), but non-believers can also be identified by their fruit. Those who don’t “practice righteousness” and don’t “love their brothers” are not children of God. They are children of the devil. That is what the Bible says.

And when John wrote about “practicing righteousness,” the “righteousness” of which he spoke had nothing to do with any Ordnung, because the early church had no Ordnung. John was talking about keeping Christ’s commandments. In fact, he wrote in the very same letter: “By this we know that we have come to know Him [Jesus], if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1John 2:3-4).

Again, having a relationship with Jesus is not based on keeping manmade fence laws or traditions. It has everything to do, however, with keeping Jesus’ commandments. As Paul wrote, “What matters is the keeping of the commandments of God” (1 Cor. 7:19). So, when Amish people excommunicate and shun people who have been born again and who are striving to obey Jesus’ commandments, and they shun them because those people aren’t keeping certain Amish traditions, they reveal that they are not born again themselves. They also reveal that their traditions are more important to them than Jesus’ commandments. Worse, they reveal that they are spiritually children of the devil!

The good news is that children of the devil can be transformed into children of God by being born again! And when they are born again, they discover that they automatically love all others who are born again, including those with whom they were previously at odds. That is how the gospel brings about reconciliation in families. Paul wrote, “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another” (1Thes. 4:9).

If you have family members who are genuinely born again—as evidenced by their striving to obey Jesus’ commandments—and you are shunning them because they no longer follow Amish traditions, if you will be born again, you will not be able to shun them any longer. You will be reconciled to God and your born-again family members. And that wonderful story of family reconciliation has happened millions of times around the world as people have been born again!

Here are some beautiful words written by a young man who was raised Amish but who had not been born again until recently, and who then led his Amish mother into the new birth:

It is so touching to hear your mom humbly but seriously admitting that they as parents were wrong, and their parents were wrong too. Mom’s [new] faith is beautiful! And mom, if you read this, we love you, and Jesus does even more! Also, we never hold it against you parents. This has been happening for many generations and obviously everyone wants to think their parents have sound doctrine so you all followed in the footsteps of the one before you. Praise God, He gave you and I and anyone that wants His beautiful gift of salvation and our blinders fell off!

Family reconciliation does not require that everyone agree on certain lifestyle convictions on which the Bible is silent, because born again people love each other in spite of their differing convictions. It is clear in the New Testament that the early Christians did not all share the same convictions on certain issues, such as the propriety of eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols (Rom. 14:1-23, 1 Cor. 10:14-33). Paul instructed them, however, that their differing convictions should not stand in the way of them loving one another and living harmoniously. Living harmoniously implies accepting each other’s differences, just as musical harmonies are different than melodies, yet both complement each other.

But doesn’t the New Testament teach the practice of excommunication and shunning? Yes, certainly, but the New Testament teaches excommunication and shunning of people who unrepentantly disobey Christ’s commandments, not people who share different convictions regarding issues on which the Bible is silent. We are supposed to excommunicate and shun people who claim to be Christians yet who deny Christ by their blatant, unrepentant practice of disobedience to His commandments. They bring a stain upon the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, because Jesus is clearly not their Lord. You can read in 1 Corinthians 5, for example, about a man whom Paul instructed the Corinthian believers to excommunicate. That man was living in an unrepentant, immoral, sexual relationship with his stepmother. In the New Testament, there are no instructions to shun someone who has transgressed the Ordnung, because the early church of the apostles had no Ordnung. They focused on obeying the commandments of Christ, because that is what Jesus told them to do (Matt. 28:18-20).

All of this is to say, if you are born again as an Amish person, and you have family members who are also genuinely born again but who are not Amish (even if they were at one time), if you are shunning them, you are sinning. Jesus commanded us to “love one another” (John 13:34-35). May I gently suggest that you need to repent and ask their forgiveness. And then enjoy family harmony as God intended—harmony that is not conditioned upon everyone agreeing on issues on which the Bible is silent.

But what about reconciliation with family members who have left the Amish who are not born again, and not only are they not following the Ordnung, but they are also ignoring the commandments of Christ?

Of course, to be reconciled and enjoy family harmony with such family members it is imperative that you be born again. If you are born again, and you hope to enjoy reconciliation and harmony with those kinds of family members, they will have to be born again as well. So you need to obey one of the commandments of Jesus and share the gospel with them so that they can be born again by repenting and believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.

However, (and this is vital) if you lead them to think that they must also start keeping the Ordnung along with repenting and believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, you have added to the gospel what is not part of the gospel. You have erected a barrier to the gospel which may well prevent your family member from believing the gospel. You will be held responsible before God for misleading them into thinking that He is expecting something from them that He actually isn’t expecting. To avoid that, you must convey to them that keeping the Ordnung is not necessary for salvation. If they then repent and believe the gospel, they will be born again and become “new creations in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17). Then both you and they will be children of God, and you will enjoy sweet reconciliation and family harmony that is not conditioned on agreement on issues about which the Bible is silent!

What about those who have left the Amish who think they are born again, but who show no evidence of it by obedience to Christ’s commandments or love for other born-again people? How can you enjoy reconciliation and family harmony with them?

Again, if you are born again, those kinds of family members should be treated as needing to be born again, because they do need to be born again. So you should obey Jesus’ commandment and share the gospel with them, telling them that if they will repent and believe in Jesus, God will forgive their sins and make them His reborn children. You will, however, have to first convince them that they actually are not already born again, even though they think they are. I suggest that you show them a few of the Bible verses I referred to earlier about the marks of all true believers, such as 1 John 2:3-4 and 1 John 3:10, 14.

A Common Barrier to Family Reconciliation

But isn’t it wrong for your family members to have broken the lifetime-vows to the Amish church that they made at their baptism as teenagers? I’ve asked many formerly-Amish people what they say to their still-Amish family members when they make that accusation. They’ve given me various answers. The most common one is that they think their still-Amish family members are asking the wrong question. They should be asking themselves why they are part of a church that expects teenagers to make a lifetime vow to it, something that the original apostles never asked anyone to do and that is not found anywhere in the New Testament. Asking or requiring anyone to make vows to a certain church or doctrine is unbiblical.

Beyond that, many say that they only made vows because they were pressured to, or they knew they could never be married unless they did. Now that they are born-again children of God, their allegiance is no longer to any church or bishop, but to their Lord Jesus Christ. Had they made vows when they were teenagers to Mohammed, Molech, Buddha, or Baal, they are certain that God would not be expecting them to keep those vows since they have repented and been born again.

Regardless, you will never ever enjoy family reconciliation if it is conditioned upon your formerly-Amish family members returning to Amish traditions. If you think they are going to hell because they are no longer Amish, there is nothing in the New Testament to support your view. If they are willing to reconcile apart from you leaving the Amish, but you are not willing to reconcile unless they rejoin the Amish, you are the one standing in the way of reconciliation, not them. Can you imagine getting to heaven and seeing your born-again family members there whom you shunned? Wouldn’t that be embarrassing, to say the least? When the Ordnung, by itself, breaks families apart and keeps them apart, then obviously it is not a good thing.

Many folks who wrote in response to my previous letter explained why they believe the Ordnung is a good thing. Many of their reasons are biblically sound. Yet the fact remains that the early Christians and the apostles who led them had no Ordnung other than the commandments of Christ. They also had the indwelling Holy Spirit to help them obey His commandments. And that was sufficient for them. Why are those two things not sufficient for Christians today? I have written an article that take a closer look at the idea of Ordnungs, titled, “A Tale of Two Ordnungs.” If you would like a copy of that article, I would be happy to send it to you. (Just write and request it.)

Thank you for allowing me to share from my heart. My conscience is clear that I have tried my best to help Amish folks experience the blessing shared by all the original Anabaptists—your ancestors—the blessing of being born again by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. As I shared in my previous letter, you don’t need me to teach you. You have the Bible, hopefully in a language that you understand. If you don’t, I would be happy to send you a free, English New Testament. If you need a large-print Bible, I would be happy to send you a large-print, red-letter King James Bible, but it will cost me $30, so I would appreciate your financial help on that if you can afford it.

May the Lord bless you as you seek for His truth!

The Truth About the Johnsonburg Awakening

The Amish Papers - Chapter 11

The truth about the johnsonburg Amish awakening

Because of all the good things that were happening within the growing group of Amish-background believers in Johnsonburg, and because I knew that news travels quickly among Amish people across the country due to all the family connections, I decided to attempt to tell the true story of the Johnsonburg Awakening to every Amish person in North America. So I wrote the letter that follows, raised tens of thousands of dollars from friends to print and mail 63,000 copies, borrowed a mailing list of 32,000 mostly-Amish and Amish-background households from Mission to Amish People, and mailed the letter in June of 2022.

Over the months that followed, I received over 200 responses, with about half being positive and half being negative. The positive replies were often from born-again Amish people. The negative replies usually were focused on some cherished Amish cultural practice or tradition that I mentioned in my letter, and I later regretted not “keeping the main thing the main thing.” That is, I wish I had only focused on the gospel, and not mentioned what naturally happens to Amish people once they are born again and “the light bulb comes on” regarding all their traditions.

In any case, many of those who responded positively requested, through a response card that we included with the letter, that we send them an English New Testament, or more information about being born again, or to be contacted by someone with an Amish background who had been born again and was serving the Lord. We fulfilled all their requests. One young Amish couple in Johnsonburg who received the letter were born again as a result, and they became part of the Johnsonburg Amish-Background Church.

Within a few months, we began working on compiling a more thorough and up-to-date mailing list of North American Amish households, with the plan of sending a follow-up letter that would include some of the positive responses that we received to the June letter. That follow-up letter is the next chapter in this book.

News often travels very fast among Amish folks! So you’ve perhaps already heard about the “Johnsonburg Awakening” in Pennsylvania. I’ve been blessed to have witnessed it from the day it began, which was January 31st of this year. That was the day I met Jonas ——–, an Amish minister who had been born again a few weeks earlier, and Levi ——–, an Amish bishop who had been born again a few years earlier.

Both of those Amish men, of course, had been baptized when they were teenagers, and according to what many Amish people believe, that is when they were supposed to have been born again. But by the time I met them, they both had come to realize that they had not actually been born again when they were baptized as teenagers. When they were baptized then, they said and did what they were expected to say and do, but they did not possess a genuine heart-faith in Jesus Christ. It wasn’t until years later that they truly believed in Jesus—as evidenced by their genuine repentance and subsequent heart-obedience to His commandments. That is when they were truly born again. When someone truly believes in Jesus, Jesus becomes their Lord, because that is who He is. Jesus is Lord! In fact, the Bible calls Him the King of kings and Lord of lords! If Jesus is not your Lord, you don’t actually believe in Him. You may think you do, but you don’t. As the apostle James wrote, faith without works is dead, useless, and cannot save anyone (see James 2:14-26). And as the apostle Paul wrote, “For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living” (Romans 14:9).

Again, when Jesus becomes someone’s Lord, that is when they actually believe in Him, and that is when they are born again. That is the spiritual “regeneration” and “new birth” that are both mentioned in the 1632 Dordrecht Confession, an experience that was the centerpiece of all the original Anabaptists’ faith. Your Anabaptist ancestors hundreds of years ago were all born again, just like Levi and Jonas. If they could speak to you from heaven, they would tell you that what I’m writing to you is the truth.

When someone is born again, it is a spiritual rebirth that is accomplished by the Holy Spirit, as Jesus said to Nicodemus (John 3:1-16). Born-again people are “new creations in Christ” as Paul wrote (2 Corinthians 5:17). When people are born again, they start their lives over.  That is why, in the New Testament, the apostles only baptized people who first confessed a genuine faith in Jesus (Acts 8:36-37). The baptisms of those believers represented their death and their resurrection. The apostles immersed them under water and then lifted them out of the water, which symbolized their death, burial, and resurrection, as well as their cleansing from sin (see Romans 6:3-4, Colossians 2:12). Being born again is like being raised from the dead! Anyone who has been truly born again knows what I’m talking about. Born-again people view their lives as divided into two sections: before they were born again, and after they were born again. It is that dramatic. Has that happened yet to you? If not, it can! It can happen today!

When I met Jonas and Levi and their wives, it was obvious to me that they were all born again. I was born again myself more than 45 years ago, and I’ve been in vocational ministry for more than 40 years as a pastor and an itinerant teacher. I’ve personally met thousands of people who have been born again, and all of them have told me of the changes—some very dramatic—that occurred in their lives when they truly believed in Jesus and made Him their Lord. Some were former drunkards, adulterers, liars, thieves, or homosexuals (just like in the Corinthian church; read it yourself in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). All were sinners to some degree. But when they were born again, their lives were dramatically changed. All of them became better people. Being born again always improves people…most of them, very significantly! The only exception is when someone is raised in a godly Christian home. In their case, being born again is not so dramatic on the outside. But it certainly is dramatic on the inside!

And we should not be surprised that most born-again people are dramatically different from what they were before they were born again. The Bible also teaches that those who are born again are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. When someone truly believes in Jesus, the Holy Spirit, whom the Bible also refers to as God, comes to live on the inside of them (Acts 5:3-4 and 1 Corinthians 6:19). Think about that! God comes to live on the inside of those who truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ! How could such a thing happen without it dramatically changing the lives of such people? Who would ever believe that God could come to live inside someone and it would not significantly affect that person and their behavior?

So that is what happened to bishop Levi ——–, his wife, minister Jonas ——–, and his wife. And just like the thousands of other born-again people whom I’ve met over the last four decades, those four felt so blessed, and they wanted all their family members and friends to enjoy the same blessing. So we talked on the evening of January 31st about what could be done to achieve that.

We agreed to start by having a weekly Tuesday evening Bible study that would alternate between Levi’s and Jonas’ houses. And Jonas and Levi decided that they would try to start additional evening Bible studies to which they would invite other Amish people, where they could tell them about being born again and becoming true believers and true followers of Jesus Christ.

Before long, there were a total of five weekly Bible studies, and those who attended were also being born again. Just like their Anabaptist forefathers who read a translation of the Bible that was written in the language they used every day (German), they started reading Bibles that were written in the language they use every day: English! They were often surprised at all they learned, and what they learned further changed their lives. Just as Jesus promised them, the Holy Spirit became their teacher, leading them into the truth (John 16:13).

When those who attended one of those Bible studies truly believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and were born again, they of course wanted their families and friends to also be born again. So they told them what had happened to them, and soon the Bible studies increased in size as others were born again. Within two months there were about two dozen adults attending the Bible studies, plus their children, and there were already six spiritual generations of Amish people who had believed and led others to genuine faith in Jesus and the new birth. By the time you read this, there will probably be even more Johnsonburg Amish people who are born again, and there will be even more spiritual generations. The Johnsonburg Awakening is now influencing other Amish communities even in other states.

As you might imagine, the devil did not like what was happening in the Johnsonburg community. Satan does not want anyone to be born again because he wants everyone to go to hell to suffer what they deserve for their sins. Make no mistake about it: Jesus said that unless people are born again, they will never see or enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5). That means, unless you are born again, you will go to hell when you die. Again, read it for yourself in John 3:3 and 5. Your eternal destiny hinges on whether or not you are born again. Only born-again people will enter heaven.

Satan knows, of course, that Jesus has made a way for everyone to have their sins forgiven through His sacrificial death, and he knows that when people truly believe in Jesus, all of their sins are forgiven and they are born again. As long as they continue in faith, they will not perish, but will inherit eternal life, as Jesus promised (John 3:16). And so the devil does all he can to keep people from knowing and believing what Jesus said about the necessity of being born again. And the devil has worked very hard in the Johnsonburg community to slander all the newly-born-again people who attend the Johnsonburg Bible studies. He knew that, unless he stopped what was happening in Johnsonburg, it would spread to other Amish communities, and potentially thousands of people who are now on their way to hell would be born again, forgiven, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit who will empower them to live truly holy and pure lives.

I’m happy to tell you that the devil has not succeeded. Although bishop Levi, minister Jonas, and all the newly-born-again Johnsonburg Amish have been excommunicated from their community, the gospel has continued to spread, not only in Johnsonburg, but in other Amish communities across the nation. The word “gospel” means “good news.” That is what Jesus commanded His followers to proclaim to the whole world (Matthew 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15-16).

Tragically, all of those newly-born-again Amish people in Johnsonburg have been accused of “adopting a new faith.” The truth, however, is that they have not adopted a new faith at all. Rather, they have recovered the original faith of your forefathers (the 16th-century Anabaptists), the apostles, and Jesus. All of those people believed that being born again is essential, and they all believed that those who are not born again will never see or enter the kingdom of God, as Jesus promised (John 3:1-16). They all believed that being born again was not something that automatically happened at baptism, but is something that occurs when people truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and repent. They all believed that being born again is an inward transformation that results in external changes, including sacrificial love for fellow Christians and obedience to Christ’s commandments (1 John 2:3; 3:14).

If you doubt me, just read the New Testament in a language you understand, and also read the 1632 Dordrecht Confession in a language you understand. Thousands of Amish and formerly-Amish people across the country have done just that, and they have been born again and are now experiencing all the blessings that accompany being born again. They know their sins are forgiven (1 John 2:2). They know they have eternal life (1 John 5:13). They know they are God’s spiritual children and that He is their heavenly Father (1 John 3:1). They know they are not destined for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:9). And they want their Amish family members and friends to experience the same blessing. So they never stop praying for them, and if they are given the chance, they try to tell them about being born again through faith in Jesus Christ.

The Current Situation

So what is the real reason that the newly-born-again Johnsonburg Amish have been excommunicated? It is because they believe what their Anabaptist forefathers gave their lives for, that is, for believing the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is repeatedly presented in the New Testament. And just as the unregenerate (non-born-again) Roman Catholics and Protestants once persecuted the early Anabaptists because those Anabaptists were truly born again, so now unregenerate (non-born-again) Amish people are persecuting Amish people who have been truly born again. And just like the early Anabaptists proved that they loved Christ above all others, so the newly-born-again Amish believers are willing to forsake their family members and friends if they must in order to follow Jesus Christ in whom they have believed (Matthew 10:37).

I do understand that none of the unregenerate Johnsonburg Amish desire in their hearts to excommunicate and shun their family members and friends who have recently been born again. They think, however, that they must do it, because they think it is what God expects them to do. They are not full of hatred like the Roman Catholics and Protestants of old who murdered the early Anabaptists. Rather, they are simply ignorant of what is plainly and repeatedly taught in the New Testament, and they have inherited old traditions that tragically stand against the gospel of Jesus Christ. Beyond that, they are afraid of what other Amish people will think of them, and so they are caving to the peer pressure so that they, too, won’t be excommunicated and shunned. But that is cowardice. (If you want to know what happens to cowards, read Revelation 21:8.)

Anyone who reads the New Testament in a language they understand will see clearly what all the newly born-again Amish people in Johnsonburg have seen. If you are uncertain, then read the New Testament for yourself. Trust no one, including me, regarding what God expects of you. Read the New Testament for yourself and pray that God will help you to understand the truth found there. He will!

Regarding the Rumors

Perhaps you’ve heard the rumor that bishop Levi and minister Jonas will no longer practice shunning. That is entirely untrue. They will continue to practice shunning as it is outlined in the New Testament, particularly as it is described in Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 5:1-12. Levi and Jonas will not, however, be practicing any shunning for reasons other than those found in the Bible. Once you are truly born again and the Holy Spirit is living in you, your primary desire is to obey God and His commandments. For that reason, when you have to choose between following God’s Word or following human traditions that conflict what God has revealed in the Bible, you follow the Bible, not the traditions.

Another rumor you may have heard is that an English man named David (that would be me) has introduced a different Bible that teaches it is OK to drive cars.

It is certainly true that in our weekly Bible studies, all of us have been using various English translations of the Bible. We have not been using the German translation of the Bible for the same reason we have not been using the Spanish, French, or Chinese translation of the Bible—because none of us can read Spanish, French, or Chinese. And none of us can read German (which is not true of all Amish people).

The Bible has been translated into hundreds of different languages, and for one simple reason, so that people who speak and read those languages can understand the Bible. That is why Martin Luther translated the Bible into German. He wanted the German people who didn’t understand Latin to be able to read a Bible in their own language.

I’m sure you know that the Bible was not originally written in German. Neither Moses, any of the Prophets, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, John, James or Jude ever spoke or wrote in German. Rather, the Bible was originally written in the languages of the people who were alive when it was written, which included Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. And that is why we use English translations of the Bible at our Bible studies. We want to understand the Bible so we can understand the gospel and obey Jesus. It is just that simple.

If you are concerned that we are not using the German Bible, you should not be. What makes anyone think that the German translation of the Bible is the only accurate translation among hundreds of translations that exist in hundreds of languages? The fact is, the groups of modern linguistic scholars who have translated many English versions of the Bible have many more ancient biblical manuscripts from which they can translate that were not available to translators like Martin Luther 500 hundred years ago. That is because so many ancient biblical manuscripts have been discovered since then. Modern translations are more accurate to the original texts than translations from several hundred years ago.

Regarding the rumor that the Bible we are using teaches it is OK to drive cars, there is no translation of the Bible, including the German translation, that teaches it is wrong to drive cars. The Bible was completed 1,800 years before cars were invented, so of course the Bible has nothing to say about cars.

Regarding driving cars, I suspect that all of the Johnsonburg Amish who have recently been born again will sooner or later be driving cars, for several reasons. First, because no version or translation of the Bible forbids driving cars, as I have already stated. The newly-born-again Johnsonburg Amish follow only the Bible and obey Jesus’ commandments, just as did all true Christians for the first 1,600 years of Christianity’s existence. No true Christians for the first 1,600 years of church history had any Ordnung other than Christ’s commandments.

Second, there is no moral principle that forbids driving cars. Every Amish person already knows that, because all of them pay others to drive them in cars. How could any Amish person honestly claim it is a sin to drive a car when all Amish people pay others to drive them in cars? If it is a sin to drive a car, then Amish people are paying others to sin on their behalf.

Imagine if I wanted to murder an enemy but I felt that murdering him would be a sin. If I paid someone else to murder my enemy, would I be guiltless? What would you think of me if I said to you, “I would never murder anyone!” when I had, in fact, just paid someone to murder my enemy?

By the same reasoning, every Amish person who has paid someone to drive him in a car is morally no different than an Amish person who has driven a car himself. Any Amish person who has paid to be driven in a car and has also condemned another Amish person for driving a car is being hypocritical.

The third reason I suspect that all of the Johnsonburg Amish who have recently been born again will eventually be driving cars is because they have been delivered from the bondage of the fear of others (which is what keeps Amish people from doing many other things that are not morally wrong) and they have replaced it with the fear of God. We read in John 12:42-43: “Many even of the rulers believed in Him [Jesus], but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.”

The newly-born-again Amish people in Johnsonburg are not afraid of what others may think of them or what others may do to them. In fact, they count themselves blessed if they are persecuted for their faith, because Jesus promised His persecuted followers that they will enjoy great reward in heaven (Matthew 5:10-12). Because they know that there is nothing in the Bible that forbids driving a car, they can drive cars with a clean conscience.

Of course, driving cars or not driving cars has nothing to do with being born again or getting to heaven. Most Amish folks who realize that defend their policy regarding using taxis as a means to lessen temptation. OK, but I’ve owned a car for more than 40 years, and I only use my car for good! One good thing I do with my car is drive Amish people to where they want to go!

In any case, if you want to know how being born again changes people, ask people who have been born again! If you know Amish people who are born again, ask them! If you know any former Amish people who are born again, instead of shunning them, why not humbly discuss the Bible with them? In the Johnsonburg group, there are born-again young people who previously had a habit of getting drunk every weekend. But no longer. Yet they have been excommunicated and are being shunned! Should we prefer that they return to being drunkards, whom the Bible declares will not inherit God’s kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)? One of them is a bishop’s grandson!

But should not all Amish people honor their parents? Yes, of course they should! That is a commandment from the Bible. But Jesus requires His followers to love Him more than they love their parents (Matt. 10:37 and Luke 14:26). If followers of Jesus are forced to choose between honoring their parents or honoring God, they will choose God. When a man whom Jesus called to follow Him requested that he first bury his father (which would have been honoring his father), Jesus said, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead” (Matt. 8:22). Had that man honored his father in the way he desired, he would have sinned. Jesus expects us to honor our parents as long as honoring our parents doesn’t get in the way of obeying Him.

Jesus declared that He will build His church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). No one, especially the devil, can stop the gospel from spreading. Any who are standing against the recently born-again Amish people in Johnsonburg, or anywhere else, are fighting against God. Those among the Amish deacons, ministers and bishops who excommunicate those who are born again are even more accountable to God as leaders, because “to whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48). They should be leading their flocks into genuine faith in Jesus Christ and the new birth. They, like Levi and Jonas, should be leading Bible studies to help their flocks learn and obey the commandments of Jesus. Jesus warned the Pharisees of His day, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13).

Those who excommunicate and shun people because they are born again reveal that they themselves are not born again. One of the signs of being born again is love for others who are born again (1 John 3:14-15). If you are shunning others because they are born again, you are shunning God’s people who have had their sins forgiven and in whom God’s Holy Spirit dwells! So, you are effectively shunning God! That is why, when Amish people are born again, one of the first things they do is ask for the forgiveness of those whom they have been shunning because they were born again.

If you can read German, wonderful. If you can’t, I strongly encourage you to read an English Translation of the New Testament. There are many English translations, such as the New American Standard Version, King James Version, New Living Version and so on. If anyone tells you that it is dangerous for you to read the Bible because it might lead you astray, you can be sure that is the devil speaking through that person. Only the devil would tell you not to read God’s Word. If you don’t have any access to an English New Testament, I would be happy to mail you one. You don’t need me, or anyone else, to discover the truth that is in the Bible. Jesus promised everyone, “Seek and you will find” (Matthew 7:7).

You are dearly loved by God! Jesus died for all your sins so that you could have eternal life! You can be born again today and become a “new creation” in Christ!

If you have a question, would like to receive additional information about being born again according to the Bible, or would like to be contacted by someone who was born Amish but who has been born again and is now a follower of Christ, please respond by mailing the enclosed card back to me. It will only cost you a postage stamp. You can also write to me at: P.O. Box 33, Smicksburg, PA 16256.

I hope to hear from you. In the meantime, I will not stop praying that you will read the New Testament for yourself that you might believe the truth that is only found there! If you have already been born again by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, spread the good news to those in your Amish community who are waiting to hear!

James 4:6: God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Ephesians 2:8: For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Hebrews 11:1: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.