Menno Simons was one of the most prominent leaders of the Anabaptist movement in the
Netherlands during the 16th century. However, he was not the founder of the Anabaptist
movement, nor even one of the first generation leaders. Menno’s leadership came at the
time when the Anabaptist movement was in danger of losing its original identity. Menno
championed the original peaceful Biblical Anabaptist concepts.
Menno Simons was originally a Roman Catholic priest. Gradually, Menno realized that
the Bible should have preeminence over the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church. The
Bible became the source of his authority and his sermons.
The events at Münster, where some spiritualist-Anabaptists tried to set up a “New
Jerusalem, led Menno to finally surrender to Jesus Christ. Menno taught “the word of
true repentance,” reproving all sin and wickedness and showing the people the narrow
path. He soon became known among the Anabaptists as a capable and devoted leader.
Menno Simons was thoroughly Bible-centered in his beliefs and practices. The Bible
became the cornerstone of his work. His theology and Biblical practices were also Christ-centered—rather than Paul-centered, as was the case with some of the reformers. He
emphasized discipleship within the congregation, the Church of Christ. Menno believed
that the requirements for church membership are regeneration and the willingness to bear
the cross of Christ. In fact, Menno developed a theology of martyrdom or suffering.
Menno Simons’ leadership was extremely important to the Anabaptist movement. First,
he prevented the collapse of the northern wing of the Anabaptist movement by his
leadership, writing, and speaking. One of his books, the Foundation-Book, helped to
restore the original Anabaptist concepts and principles. Menno’s writings were
particularly effective. They were formed by a man who knew the scriptures and honestly
wanted to give all for the Christian church and the glory of God. Through Menno’s
devoted life, a distinctive witness in the Reformation movement, representing a Christian
brotherhood and a Christian way of life was preserved. An example of these basic
principles included separation of church and state, freedom of conscience, voluntary
church membership, democratic church government, holy living, and Christian