Kingdom Journey: Shawnele Surplus (Part 2)

The Kingdom Journey Series shares how Christians with roots in the Restoration Movement came to embrace Kingdom Christianity.

Name: Shawnele S. | Age: 50 | Location: Oregon | Rest. Mov. Roots: Church of Christ

30581673_10204940997921578_6265515243640717312_n         Read part one of this interview here.

5.) What have been some of the difficulties along the way?

While most of our specific difficulties may not be the same as others people’s, most will probably have similar general difficulties. That is, many Kingdom teachings are not only foreign, but contrary to what we have been taught it means to be a “good Christian.”

Good Christians” fight for their country.

“Good Christians” are involved politically.

“Good Christians” are patriots – who applaud and emulate the attitudes and actions of their founding fathers.

So, to be a Kingdom Christian is, in our culture, to be “weird” at best…potentially even a “bad Christian” to many. To a large degree, this is an internal struggle – at least at first. However, a lot of these beliefs could be held quietly if one chooses to. But some cannot.
Having a piece of fabric on your head (or your wife having one on her head) is kind of hard to miss. When the internal struggle led to a decision, that led to an external behavior, and that was the next difficulty.

Nearly everyone just ignored my head covering, and everyone we tried to have a meaningful study with refused (including a preacher). However, the few who could be cajoled into taking a cursory look at the topic came away with something like, “Maybe, but it’s not a salvation issue” or “Well… just don’t bind it on others.”  There really was no desire to wrestle with Scripture to discern God‘s actual will in these matters.

So, a difficult and sad thing for us has been finding that our brothers and sisters in Christ weren’t willing to study God’s Word with us. Additionally, we don’t know any Kingdom Christians in our real (non-cyber/book) lives. That is, of course, a discouraging difficulty.

6.) How does this kind of deep wrestling with Scripture play out practically in a marriage? Do you and your husband talk openly about these issues?

Well, I am very blessed that my husband loves God and wants to know Him better and please Him.

In our marriage this looks like a lot of wrestling with Scripture individually and together – and a lot of talking about it. We live in the great Northwest where being a Christian is synonymous with being a gun toting, independent, patriot – rather than a peacemaking, humble, citizen of Heaven only. Much more personally, I am a peacetime veteran. A divorcee. A gun owner.  A long-time political participant and even a political activist (in the past).

We were taught the importance of owning guns and protecting ourselves not only from “bad guys” – but from our government.  The idea of living on as little as possible and giving sacrificially also flew in the face of what we’d been taught about saving up a big nest egg for those retirement years. All of this is to say that these new discussions and discoveries were not even on our radar. This has been completely unfamiliar territory for us for the most part.

I am so grateful Clint and I can trust that we both love each other unconditionally and love and want to please God even more.

While we have wrestled with some of these issues and sometimes one of us is convinced before the other, it is wonderful to have the confidence that your spouse wants you to do what you believe God would have you do even if he is not fully convinced, and also desires to please God himself and be honest with the Word–even if we’re not entirely on the same page (at the time – or ever).

It is such a blessing to have a God-fearing-and-loving partner on this exciting, scary, glorious, nerve-wracking, beautiful journey!

7.) What can conservative Anabaptists learn from the Restoration Movement and vice versa?

I truly think the reason it was so much easier for Clint and I to come to these understandings is because of our Restoration background. The preacher who baptized me in Missoula really taught me to love the Word and seek God’s truth in it for any question or dilemma.

Like I mentioned, head covering was my first real challenge in this regard, and when I applied the same principles I apply to understanding, say, baptism – it was pretty clear what I needed to do. That scenario has played out over and over again on numerous topics. So while I don’t find that “restoring  1st century Christianity” an Anabaptist principle, it is a guiding principle for me.

I firmly believe Jesus and His apostles instituted the church – and Christian lifestyle choices and behaviors – for His people exactly as He intended. I wish that was a guiding star for my Anabaptist brothers and sisters.

I think my Church of Christ brothers and sisters could take a page from the Anabaptists in their willingness to look and behave completely differently than the culture around us. I don’t know if this is just unique to my area, but to the members of the Churches of Christ here, almost nothing could be worse than not blending in, visually–in personal dress, career choices, possession accumulation–with the people around them.

8.) What church do you attend currently?  

Currently, we worship at home following the model we see in 1 Corinthians 14. We have worshiped with other families at home, but restoring first century Christianity was not a goal other families have shared. We pray that the Lord will lead us to another like-minded body of believers – or lead them to our home. (Since worshiping in homes was a first century practice, we do believe in that as well!)

9.) What encouragement would you give to a reader in a Restoration Movement church who is going through a “Kingdom awakening” of their own?  

I teach my children and other ladies to commit to following and loving God’s revealed will. I want that to be their North Star. While remembering these are fallen humans and not infallible, I encourage other women to seek “fellowship”, hopefully in person, but, if not, through the many resources available. I especially appreciate the books of those godly men who have long ago gone to glory (in addition to much of David Bercot’s resources).

Of course, I always encourage prayer  for wisdom and discernment and for God to bring like-minded believers into your sphere.

10.) What is on your book shelf or what are you reading currently (in Scripture or otherwise)?  

To list all of the books I have loved, would take more space than you have!

Will the Real Heretics Please Stand up by David Bercot was really helpful for me because it got me thinking in terms of what the early church believed and why that’s even important. Common Sense by Bercot is also another absolute favorite. When I try to introduce others to these ideas, those are my go to introduction books.

While not necessarily on Kingdom topics in the Anabaptist sense, Fenelon’s Let Go, William Law’s A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, and Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God are all books I re-read often – as they continue to draw my heart closer to the Lord’s and increase my desire to draw near to know and obey Him.

An Anabaptist book that really rocked my world that I often offer to others is Roger Hertzler’s Through the Eye of a Needle (on the doctrine of non-accumulation). I also listen to Bercot’s talks (many of which can be found free on YouTube) and talks from Followers of the Way (I especially appreciated their debates on war and voting).

11.) Anything else you’d like to add?

As a woman, I find more and more that the deeper I dig into knowing God through His Word, the more I see God has a very unique and very powerful role for women in the Kingdom– one that has certainly been watered down and robbed of its beauty and power over the centuries.

Of course, most women living this beautiful life do not have the time or the motivation (because of their God-given calling and temperament) to write on this topic. While I have a number of Godly Christian female friends, I do not have Kingdom women friends in “real life” – and while I understand why these women aren’t writing and sharing in a public forum like many of the men are, I still wish that was a resource more available to us women.  So – I’d love to know if there are resources for women living the Kingdom life.

Also, just something from our own life to share: we recently switched our homeschool Reading and Language Arts curriculum to Christian Light Publishers – which is an Anabaptist company. We find the stories do a wonderful job of shoring up these new-to-us doctrines and beliefs so that our children have the head start that we didn’t have!

Thank you, Eric. Thank you for providing this forum. I look forward to the other testimonies and reading through your many resources!

Kingdom Journey: Shawnele Surplus (Part 1)

The Kingdom Journey Series shares how Christians with roots in the Restoration Movement came to embrace Kingdom Christianity.

Name: Shawnele S. | Age: 50 | Location: Oregon | Rest. Mov. Roots: Church of Christ


1.) Sister Shawnele, tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Shawnele Surplus and I live in Central Oregon (which is where my husband, Clint, and I were both born and raised). I spend most of my days raising and homeschooling our three minor children, keeping our home, and helping my husband with our horse training business.

(For the record, you wouldn’t want me to train your horse; I do the office work part of the business…and a little bit of the grunt work!)

We also have three adult children, two grandchildren, a small beef herd, a small horse herd, a passel of chickens, and a couple of dogs. We are also avid gardeners. 

All of these things combine to make a perfect practice ground for learning to love and follow Jesus.

2.) When did you come to follow Jesus?

I was raised to know about and have feelings of love for Jesus.

I attended a Baptist church as a teenager, but I never knew what it meant to truly know and love the Lord until I met an amazing body of Christians in Missoula, Montana when I was 24. I actually didn’t know it was a Church of Christ until I moved away (the sign said, “The Lord’s Church: a church of Christ, a family of God”).

When I moved away and asked how I would ever find such a body of believers living out God’s Word with passion and sacrifice, I discovered that they were not just a Church of Christ, but a more conservative “non-institutional” congregation. I would never again find a church like that one. The people in that body have forever molded and inspired me.

3.) Can you explain more about your involvement in the Churches of Christ?

That congregation in Missoula was my first taste of God’s intention for love, deep fellowship, and unity in His people. After my time there, I worshiped in a few other non-institutional Churches of Christ as I moved about – finally worshiping in “mainstream” Churches of Christ.  

Clint was “born and raised” in mainstream Churches of Christ in our area and that is where we reconnected after having known each other throughout childhood.

4.) How did you become interested in a more “radical”, Kingdom-focused Christianity?

For a while, conventional Church of Christ Christianity worked for Clint and I, but we began to crave more than programs and the lifeless twice-on-Sunday-and-don’t-forget-Wednesday- night routine. We knew there was more – but when we talked to others and asked (maybe even agitated) for deeper relationships there was just no interest in developing these relationships or a more open look at the Scriptures.  

People thought we were crazy or, worse, rabble-rousers! We were also seeing some inconsistencies in teaching to obey all of scripture. Certain passages were ignored or explained away. And when we would challenge these, it was not well received.

The last Church of Christ we attended was 30 minutes away, so on the drive we began to listen to podcasts and sermons. It was listening to Francis Chan on our drives to and from Church that began to really shake us up and cause us to begin to look at our walk with Jesus from a different vantage point.

Suddenly, our church attending, Sunday School teaching, LTC-leading, there-every-time-the-doors-were-open Christianity began to be exposed for the superficial walk that it was. At every turn, the rabbit hole went deeper.

At some point during that time, I was on an email list with other homeschooling moms and the topic of head covering came up. It had in the past, but I never bothered with it. “It’s just cultural”, after all! However, after having had our eyes opened to the reality our beliefs about what the Bible teaches really weren’t “settled” after all, I decided to take a closer look.

I was amazed…stunned…disturbed…by what I saw!

Employing the same principles I had learned in my beloved Churches of Christ, it was easy to see I should be covering my head when I prayed or taught.

More than half hoping to be wrong, I asked Clint to read the passage with an open mind and tell me what he believed it said. He really studied it for the first time and then told me how he understood it.

And then began our search for a suitable head covering.

(And the people who thought we were crazy now knew we were!)

In retrospect, this was a crucial fork in the road, setting the stage for how we would handle these issues in the coming years. I have friends who have broached this topic with their husbands only to be ridiculed and discouraged. I cannot imagine how challenging this road would be if that were my situation.

Even though I had begun to cover, I inhaled everything on head covering I could find  which was our introduction to David Bercot and Scroll Publishing where things really began to get out of hand!

Click here for part 2!