Amish Youth Talk: Church Community

Today we have the conclusion of an Amish father’s talk to a group of youth and parents.  In continuing the theme of facing temptation, in this section he examines the importance of church community.

You can read the previous parts here:

Part 1: Pop Music

Part 2: Cell phones & the Internet

Part 3: Temptation & Character

In the Rules of a Godly Life it says if you desire to lead a holy and God-pleasing life and to attain eternal salvation after this time, then you must measure your whole life by the word of God, as the only standard of faith and conduct, and let all your thoughts, words, and deeds be in accord with the same as commanded by God.

This has really given me much to think about over time.  If we just could gain control of our thoughts first, then our words and deeds would come so like our thoughts are.

But most of us go about this backwards and certainly I include myself.

We tend to focus and give the most attention to our deeds because this is what people see and that is what builds or destroys our reputations.

The old saying ‘actions speak louder than words’ seems to be true.  It seems sometimes we are not as careful with our words as with our deeds.  But with our thoughts it seems for me anyway that we tend to let them run all over the place like a bunch of rowdy little children.

My question again is does popular culture help or hinder our thought life?  Or should we spend more time reading material like the Rules of a Godly Life?  Here again we must make the choices.


I would like to ask another question.  I promise it won’t take too long but I feel this is very important.

My question is, is our ability to make good choices enough to keep our hearts and minds safe?  Is it enough to do the best we can and think that with a little willpower and with good choices all will be O.K.?

It is true we must make our own choices and the Lord wants to help us.  It is also true that we are weak and since other people cannot fight the battles in our minds for us we must fight them for ourselves.  But we don’t have to by ourselves.

Yes we must decide for ourselves to better our thoughts and behaviors.   Even still the truth is we will never overcome our bad habits and compulsive behavior on our own and with our own willpower.

The question is does the Lord even want us to try to overcome by ourselves and with our own willpower, even when seeking his help.

The Bible says already in Genesis it is not good for man to be alone.  It also says ‘Pray for one another and confess your sins.’  We could go on with more Scripture but I would like to read to you two devotionals that have been very meaningful to me.

Along with illustrating how we need each other I think these devotionals will point out the blessings of living in church community where people look out for one another with love and discipline.


The one reads like this:

A church family will help keep you from backsliding.  None of us are immune to temptation.  Given the right situation you and I are capable of any sin  (1 Corinthians 10:12; Jeremiah 17:9; Timothy 1:19).

God knows this so he has assigned us as individuals the responsibility of keeping each other on track.

The Bible says ‘Encourage one another daily so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness’ (Hebrews 3:15).  A related benefit of the local church is that it also provides the spiritual protection of godly leaders.  God gives the shepherd leader the responsibility to guard, protect, defend, and care for the spiritual welfare of the flock.  We are told their work is to watch over your souls and they know they are accountable to God.

Satan loves detached believers.  Unplugged from the life of the church body, isolated from God’s family and unaccountable to spiritual leaders because he knows they are defenseless and powerless against his tactics.


The other one reads like this:

Proverbs 11:14.  Where no counsel is the people fall.  But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

One of the marks of America is its individualism.  We talk about a “personal Savior” and about “my calling”.

Yet the Bible was written to communities about communities.  It was meant to be lived and expressed as a people not a person.  According to Scripture each individual has something vital for the whole community.  It is one of the oldest schemes of our spiritual enemy Satan to isolate people.

He knows that isolation will cut us off from the wisdom that multiple perspectives bring.  Even in professional athletics where athletes should know the game, the role of coaches is vital.

We may remember major Christian leaders who have fallen publicly.  When we learned more about why, we found that they were essentially doing things alone.

We all need a community around us that helps us to see the blind spots that we won’t see on our own.  This is what makes victory sure.


The question again is this:

Does being addicted to the internet, which is very self-indulgent, bring us together or pull us apart?  Studies show social media tends to isolate.  In New York City, a city of millions living close together, 40 percent of the people live alone!  Does the popular culture of music that is not worship, and competitive sports that is really only about beating the other guys, and the immoral chatter of social media, and the searing and scarring images of porn strengthen our faith and the churches, or weaken them?

Our choices will make a big difference not only for us and our children but also for all future generations.

The choices are ours and we will have to live with them.

It takes true humility to admit our weakness and to seek help.

It also takes true humility to be a help to others.

We really need each other.  We need family and friends and church to encourage and influence each other and to be good examples.  Girls, your decency and appropriate behavior will be a very good influence for a youth group like this.

This life is a struggle as long as we live.  But with the good Lord’s grace we can all do better.  Grace isn’t just a cover for our sins.  It is also the power to repent and do better.

I wish grace to all of you and especially to these wonderful and precious young people.

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    1. OldKat

      Sounds familiar

      RE: “Even still the truth is we will never overcome our bad habits and compulsive behavior on our own and with our own willpower”.

      I think the speaker and the pastor at our church have been comparing notes! I’ve heard this theme voiced many times, but it is worth hearing again.

    2. Naomi Wilson

      This article reminds me of the one thing about the Amish (as well as OO Mennonite) churches that makes me want to groan and smack my forehead against my hand: the emphasis on Christian community life, and yet the general and often unspoken stance against accepting outsiders. How can it be that a seeker can be completely convicted of the articles of conservative Anabaptist faith, and be not only willing but accustomed to living a simple and physically toilsome life, and yet know that the chances of being truly accepted into an Amish church are slim to none? The seeker (and seekers’ children) is left completely isolated, turned away from the world, and yet not able to find a home in a conservative plain community.

      Sorry for the rant, and for being a bit off topic. I enjoyed today’s post very much.

      1. Ed

        Very true. At the same time, one can hardly blame them. I understand the Amish identity is based on separation from many elements of the outside world, including use of their own language. I can only imagine that accepting a large influx of “outsiders” would lead to dilution of Amish beliefs and probably the end of the Amish as a distinct culture.

        Also worth pointing out is that the Amish do accept converts – but on their own terms. We’ve heard on this blog of some who have gone down that path.

        Personally I appreciate the Amish method of engagement with the outside world. Most Amish are active in their communities are friendly with their neighbors. They are not hunkered down on a compound. Though I would not join them, I would love to have Amish as neighbors.

        1. Dody

          I would rejoin, if I were married to a man that would join. I am not so I abide by his wishes.

        2. OldKat

          Well said

          Good job Ed, or at least I think so. Then again you wrote comments that EXACTLY mirror how I feel about the subject.

          I’d LOVE to have Amish neighbors. That said, I wouldn’t be a candidate to join their church.

      2. Naomi Wilson

        trying to clarify

        I should emphasize that I said the *one thing* about Amish churches. In regards to the theology, lifestyle, values, etc. that I have observed among the Amish, I humbly have the utmost respect. I refer to my own family when I describe a seeker in my previous comment. I was not meaning to start a heated debate about Anabaptist vs. Protestant views on salvation.

      3. Osiah Horst

        Church community

        Hello, Naomi: My brother-in-law is married to a girl who grew up in Chicago and left that life to become a member of an Old Order Mennonite church, a wife, a mother and now a grandmother of Old Order Mennonite children, all of whom are part of their community. We don’t have as many seekers coming into the church as we might like but, too often the very things that attract the seeker are also the things that turn them away. If we were to change our ways to accommodate seekers, we would destroy the things that attracted them in the first place.

    3. church "family"

      I recently read an article discouraging the concept of “my church family.” The phrase sounds so warm and cozy, but essentially, a “family” is a closed group and referring to a church as a “family” doesn’t sound very welcoming to anyone outside.

      1. Naomi Wilson

        Yet at the other end of the spectrum from the Old Order churches, you have our modern evangelical churches, that have adopted the ways of the world in order to be “attractive” to outsiders. Just as the speaker in the article states, a huge portion of the New Testament is devoted to instructions to communities for living the Christian community life. To follow these teachings is to truly strive for “the narrow gate.” Modern evangelical churches flat out ignore these portions of God’s word.

      2. Ed

        I guess this gets down to the Christian belief of being “in this world, but not part of it.” Each church or religion has to set some sort of boundaries to distinguish themselves from the broader population. It also appears that the most orthodox sects (in Christianity as well as Judaism) are the fastest growing in numbers.

        At the opposite end of the spectrum we have Unitarian Universalist church, a denomination “of the Christian tradition” yet which permits members to hold almost any beliefs, including atheism.

        While I would probably be more welcome to join a UU church than an Amish one, intellectually, I find it easier to understand Amish beliefs and practices than Unitarian.

      3. Carolyn B

        Church family

        Carol, thank you for sharing your thoughts on “church family”. I’ll have to ponder your concept for awhile.

        Since becoming a member of the Roman Catholic church in 2000 from fundamental Protestantism, I feel I have an even bigger family, church-wise. But that just may be me carrying my own concepts of family into the church. When my brother married his first wife, I immediately “adopted” and was “adopted by” my sister in law’s extended family. I guess I see community as an ongoing adoption rather than an exclusive club.

        Thanks to Mr Reihl for allowing Erik to share his presentation with us. Mr Reihl, don’t worry about a thing. I think it was very thoughtful of you to check in here to help Erik clarify or explain to us any question we may have. God bless.

    4. Barb

      Good point, Carol. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but your observation makes it very clear that if you are “in” the church family you are in, and if not, you will not likely ever be. Powerful thoughts.

    5. Dody

      I wish I were in a community to help point out my failings in a gentle way. I am in a community, but not that sort. I miss my old life. It was simpler. I didn’t have to be the one to say no to all the immoral stuff. There was a leader to do it for me. This was a gift to me then, but now I am alone and I must deter the immorality from creeping into my house. It is a constant battle for the hearts and minds of my children and I fear I am losing.

    6. Carol

      Hi Erik, Romans 3:23, 6:23; John 3:16. No one can live a Godly life+go to heaven without believing what God has said in His word. Ephesians 2:8-10. Believe God and receive the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross as the full payment for our sins as God intended. Jesus satisfied His Fathers wrath against sin; justice was meted out at the cross by Christ Himself. This constitutes ones being born-again(our dead spirits made alive to God upon our belief+ indwelling of the Holy Spirit). Life long sanctification then ensues as we walk according to God’s word, will and way; which is the fruit of our salvation in Christ. God has told us “”there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved”. God has provided one way only that leads to Himself and that’s through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus said of Himself while He was here on earth, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me”. May His grace and mercy abound to all, especially to those in unbelief. Carol

    7. Diane Paulson

      What About the Holy Spirit?

      I noticed no mention of the Holy Spirit in the individual believer’s life. This is the sad state of the Amish, who use outward laws instead of the leading of the Spirit. Maybe the New Order acknowledge HIm? Certainly any strength for real change comes from the power of God through the Spirit, not just accountability to other believers. Can’t have one without the other and still be free from the Law and alive in Christ’s righteousness. They are sadly still under the Law as are non messianic Jews.

      1. Naomi Wilson

        I am not in anyway denying the significance of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian, but it seems that often the leading of the “spirit” takes many who profess to be Christians to such a “freedom in Christ” that there is no difference between their “freedom” and “do what thou wilt,” which is the motto of the church of Satan.

        1. Dirk

          Diane read well what Naomi wrote, it is well put, but in case you do not get it allow me to spell it out more sharply.

          The blood of the Lamb does not set you free from obeying the commands of Jesus, this the Amish know as is evidenced by their lifestyle, the blood sets you free from sin and not the yoke of obedience.

          What is on the inside will be reflected on the outside, so if you claim to be a Christian internally, I should see evidence of this claim externally in a lifestyle lived in obedience to the Bible and not popular secular culture.
          However if I see an external lifestyle that is unbiblical and appears no different from secular heathen culture, I have no choice but to conclude that this is where your heart is at.

          So tell me Diane, if I saw you in your local shopping mall, would you stand out as a Christian from the crowd like a sore thumb, like any Amish person would, or would you blend in and appear no different from the rest of the unbelieving shoppers whose lifestyles are based on Hollywood and popular secular culture?

          Where is your heart at? Is it in the world or in Christ? I only have to look at your external lifestyle, your dress, your speech, your actions, to know the answer. If you dress like the world, speak like the world, act like the world, then you are of the world and not of Christ.

          You speak of the Holy Spirit and question whether the Amish have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Rather, you should question if the Holy Spirit can indwell a person who is not obedient to scripture, a person who has believed the lie of satan that freedom from the law means not only the law of Moses but also the law of Christ.

          Will the Holy Spirit indwell a person who refuses to submit to the law of Christ? I think not.

          The only task left to us now is to determine what are Christ’s laws, the Amish have decided what they are and obey them as they believe the Bible instructs. To make a statement as you have that they are in error for doing that, for obeying the law of Christ, is a claim as Naomi so rightly pointed out, only someone from the church of satan would make. Beware and cautious with whom and where you fellowship, satan can appear as a Christian pastor, as an angel of light. Discern whether your pastor’s teachings are separating you from the world or uniting you with the world.
          God has and will always call for separation of His faithful from the unbelieving world. What does your pastor call for?
          Seeker friendly teachings to put aside the Bible and live more like the world to attract converts? That’s a demonic teaching.

          As for the Jews, they are being obedient to the law of Moses as they understand them to be in a manner akin to the Amish being obedient to the law of Christ.
          To believe that freedom in Christ means no obedience to any divine laws, be they OT for Jews or NT for Christians is a grievious error and surely of demonic origin.

          SO Diane, please stop and reconsider your stance on what freedom in Christ means, for if it permits disobedience it is not of God.

          Luke 11:35 Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. KJV

    8. Ben Riehl

      I just want to say that I am the speaker and the writer of the above talk. It was my first public speaking experience from prepared remarks. It was a very powerful and moving experience for me. Both the preparation and the delivery of the talk.
      I wanted primarily to point out that the two devotionals I used were from evangelical writers. The Purpose Driven Connection and a devotional from Grace Baptist Chapel in NYC. I selected them because the message was very pertinent.

      I also wanted to say that with our natural families we are born into them and have nothing to say to it. We come prepackaged with our roots whether we like them or not. I believe that is by divine design.

      I realize it doesn’t quite work that way with a church family, however the competitive marketing impulses for each others members that you notice in the mainstream churches are something of a puzzle to my mind. After all we called to witness by our example, more than we are called to take over all culture. We can expect ridicule and suffering for our beliefs. Is that partly what is meant by bearing our cross daily and following Christ.

      I want to make a little disclaimer. I am very seldom on the net and have no computer or cellphone at this time. I do feel slightly guilty and apologize for any offence or appearance of inconsistency.

      1. OldKat

        No need

        RE: “I do feel slightly guilty and apologize for any offence or appearance of inconsistency”.

        No need to apologize for anything you said Ben. You spoke truth and did a fine job. I wish I would have heard that speech in person.

    9. Ben Riehl


      To say that the Holy Spirit and that doesn’t have a role in an Amish persons life is downright slanderous. We do not only depend outward laws for salvation anymore than you do.

      For the typical Amish person .The Holy Spirit is probably more often the quite still voice Elijah experienced in the wilderness rather than the loud showy form of today, that is very often ostensibly used to do as you want or used as license to do follow your own desires.

      But for your information we believe in and depend on the Holy Spirit for spiritual guidance. I certainly felt the power in my experience of doing this address for our youth.

    10. Slightly-Handled-Order-Man

      Dear Mr. Riehl,
      I just wanted to thank you for allowing Erik to post the text of your presentation on the internet for a wider audience. I for one feel that, along with Erik’s posts on the publication “The Rules of a Godly Life”, provides an interesting perspective ought to be shared. These excerpts from your presentation are much appreciated.
      “SHOM” from Ontario, Canada

    11. To Mr. Riehl

      There was a wonderful time in my life when I had the spiritual keeping of young adults in my care. I fully appreciate your talk to these young people and the perspective you’ve offered, in addition to the follow-up comments you’ve offered above.

      Like you, I taught my students to listen for the “small, still voice” of the Spirit in their lives. The Spirit moves in gentle, subtle ways in our lives and will offer the guidance that is needed. And sometimes the Spirit acts in very loud and compelling ways. In all cases the Spirit knows what we each need, so each of us experience that Movement very different.

      Having read your talk, I wish I still had my old ministry position, so I could share it with my darlings! I hope that there are others who can do so.


    12. Paula

      Completely off subject, but I can’t help myself: More info about your book, please!! I’ve waited politely ) 😉 for a few days since the initial announcement but details have not been forthcoming!! Inquiring minds want to know– 🙂

      1. Thanks Paula, I’ll have a post on it very soon, thanks for your patience! 🙂

    13. Jody


      My daughter is dating an ex-Mennonite. She has been in a relationship with him for 2 years. He lives 800 miles away and he has told her that he is moving to her state. He seems to be an honest guy but he just hasn’t made any moves to get here. I think his ways are very different from hers and I just can’t see how this is going to work. Is there any advice or maybe a different point of view that you could offer. Thanks a lot

      1. Dirk

        hi Jody, I can only give you the advice my father gave to me.

        Irrespective of race, nationality, religion or color, there are only two types of people in this world. Good people and bad people. Associate with the one and avoid the other.

        Bottom line is he a good ‘un or a bad ‘un.