The Plain Testimony
Further Quotations from Friends of today, about plainness.
Reprinted from The Call
I was led to share this experience with you, in witness to the impact that plainness can have on others’ paths toward finding and serving Him. I was, after all, led to believing in, following, and serving Him through the plainness testimony of others; initially, the Old Order Amish.
The impact of plainness on my seeking and finding the Lord is even more remarkable because, although I had been raised in a devout Southern Baptist home, I had become very bitter, suspicious, and disenfranchised by “mainstream” institutionalized religion by age 10. By my mid-20’s, I had all but abandoned any desire to seek a spiritual path. I existed for nearly the next three decades completely void of spiritual meaning or practice in my life.
My first encounters with the Amish occurred when I was living in Illinois. My occupation required me to travel the state extensively. Although I was always in a rush to get to the next business call, for reasons unknown to me at that time, I found it impossible to pass through the Amish communities in Illinois without pausing if only for a moment to wonder about these folk. They seemed to be taking such a different approach to life. They always seemed to be at such ease and enjoying whatever they were doing at the moment - even hard physical labor. I often thought, “What do they know that I don’t know?”
Many years later my very dear wife and I moved to a rural area of Southwest Missouri. It was not until after starting to settle our property did we discover that we were living within a few miles of a rather large community of Old Order Amish folk. This only rekindled my earlier fascination with the Amish and their unique approach to life. Eventually, fascination gave way to focused study and inquiry concerning the Amish. It was then that I learned how their lifestyle is actually an integral extension to religious faith and practice. As I learned more, I was led to start reading scripture, a practice I had not engaged in for close to 30 years. I was curious to learn how religious belief and practice could possibly be connected to the plain and simple lifestyle followed by folk such as the Amish. After all, no such connections had ever been made in my earlier religious upbringing. To the contrary, my early indoctrination into institutionalized religion seemed to be as much (if not more) about a “fashion show” - i.e., who was wearing the latest designer clothing, the most jewels, and who had arrived in the most prestigious automobile - as it was about learning how to be faithful servants of the Lord.
In becoming increasingly scripturally-literate, I have made two very important - even life transforming - distinctions. First, I have been awakened to the source of so many decades of frustration with trying to find spiritual meaning to my life. That being, of course, the very tainted view of what a spirit-led life might look like through the shallow, superficial, and overly commercialized institutionalized Christian denominations of my earlier days. Secondly, because He awakened my eyes and heart to the plainness testimony of folk such as the Amish, I found a path to true Christian faith, practice, and service.
Once set on this path, I was eventually led to the Religious Society of Friends. Further leading by Him brought me to Friends in Christ. I found them via, of all things, the Internet. He does, indeed, work in mysterious ways. I felt that I had finally “come home.” Then, through a Friend’s mentoring, I was led to further in-depth study of Primitive Christianity as espoused by Friends in Christ. The more I learned, the better I came to really know Him, and eventually, to seek a path of service to Him.
While I consider the Friends in Christ to be my “spiritual home” I should assert that at this point (only because of geographic constraints) I am not officially affiliated with the group, nor with any yearly or monthly Friends meetings in the USA. Still, I am following the Primitive Christian practices of Friends in Christ and other conservative branches in the USA. Likewise, I am constantly seeking His will and leading to find or form a meeting of Primitive Friends here in my little corner of the USA.
The point of this long and rambling witness and testimony is that I truly believe that I would still be searching for a relationship with Him if not for my exposure to folk of plain and simple faith, appearance, and lifestyle. Quite unbeknownst to them, my Amish acquaintances inspired me to seek counsel in scripture which eventually led me to Him. They did this by the testimony of their faith - a faith lived rather than merely “done” on special occasions.
I am now led to become increasingly plain in appearance, speech, and overall lifestyle for the benefit of others and for myself. Because of my own experiences, I do believe that living a plain and simple life is a powerful testimony to others about the power of the Lord. If it is His will, my following this path of plainness will be an inspiration to other lost sheep - as I was not so long ago. Plainness for me, then, is my testimony, my way of witnessing, and my way of ministering - as way opens. As for myself, I find that I am able to stay on the path of seeking and serving better the further I can distance myself from worldly influences. I do believe that Christians, primitive or otherwise, should live and be in the world as this is our greatest opportunity to share Him with others. I believe equally, however, that we should not be of this world. Adherence to a plain and simple primitive Christian lifestyle helps me keep the proper balance.
- Bill Carnagey