I found this comment helpful. Thanks.
Go and Tell is an easy and practical way to equip you to become a fisher of men (Matthew 4:19). This three hour interactive seminar will provide you with the tools to “be active in sharing your faith so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” (Philemon 6) Go and Tell is free online at www.fortwaynecrc.com
What does our congregation do to create safe spaces for people to share the hard stories?
Well our leadership does not really do anything. Individual pastors, including our current interim pastor, have sat and listened to some of us who ask them to listen/help/pray with us.
It not a practice of our leadership to encourage us to share the hard stuff. Generally our leaders do not admit their own struggles, at least not publicly. There were 2 elders years ago who tried to be supportive. One came back a few times and gave me a good book to read. The other started a small group for those who struggle. One of these men moved away. The other left our denomination.
Some did begin a support group for people with depression which lasted a year or so. It was a good try.
One of the issues with it was that people with depression and their families were in the same group. Separate groups at least some for the time would have been better. So would trained leadership. But it was a good try.
There are individuals in our congregation who reach out to those who struggle with abuse issues and untold stories. I am thankful for some long term friends who have listened and loved me and stuck with me. I too, reach out to others and we are mutually caring and supportive.
If our leaders never admit they struggle about anything then why would anyone confide in them. If everyone has to look nice on Sundays and seem to have it all together then there is no place for messy lives. If we are not a safe place to admit we struggle with spending too much money, or playing computer games, or getting angry or being lazy or frustration with our children, or even that we are physically ill or in debt, then how can we ever admit to addictions or mental illness of being a survivor of sexual abuse?
If we have not really understood how much God loves us and longs for deeper relationship with us,
if we have not learned how to accept our own struggles,
if we have not learned it is ok to make mistakes,
if we have not learned how to ask and accept help from those who would understand,
if we have not learned to do the work of prayer and repentance and learning a new way to be with God’s help; then how can we support others?
In general, many people care –but they don’t know how to help. It is scary for them, they want to just say the right thing and fix us. We all need to be taught how to care for ourselves and others.
So my suggestion is that anyone who gets to lead needs to truly seek God about how to lead. One thing they will learn is how to be humble and honest and repentant and transparent without shame, about their own life and then learn to do that with others.
For the rest of us who are not permitted to lead, we do the same.
For the survivors and those with untold stories we do the same as above and we keep loving and praying and listening as we are walking/screaming/suffering/crying out and receiving the joy of our own healing journey with those we have who do care.
Great article! Also want to invite readers to check out the Faith Storytelling toolkit from Faith Formation Ministries . . . it offers dozens of practical, doable ways to shape and share testimonies and faith stories. You'll find it at crcna.org/FaithFormation/toolkits.
Thanks for sharing this opening, Peter!
Great post, Syd. As to your question, "how to encourage" such a perspective/attitude, a think a key is to persuade that having a contrary perspective or appreciation is absolutely, unqualifiedly OK, even good. That's only a key of course, but without it, folks tend to see themselves as compelled to act as if they think/feel the same (that they like rap when they don't, or that they believe food stamps shouldn't be increased when they don't think that), or choose the route of being divisive.
If we lie about our honest differences to keep community, we ultimately will not keep community. Nor will we learn, as Mr. Wellstone has, how to "deal with" those differences and how to discern priorities of importance.
Michele, yes, getting help is so important. It's a huge step, and I would guess for many people it feels like failure. Of course, as you well know, getting help is a step back toward health. I hope that our society, and people in churches especially, will start to view getting help for a mental illness as the same wise decision as getting help for heart trouble or knee pain or vision problems.
Guilt is a bad motivation to do things. I know. as someone in recovery from schizophrenia, depression was my main negative symptom and guilt the main one of that. Before I was treated for this illness I felt guilty for breathing, let alone failing to do stuff. It nearly drove me to suicide, and even after I'd decided not to throw myself into a river I still had suicidal thoughts. GET HELP. It's the only way.
Gary, yes, not just triangles within our families, but within the communities of our churches. In answer to your question, I hope and pray that this will be the case, not only for pastors but for everyone else in the church too.
The story of Pastor Ye is very special........ He should make a book about his life! I know 2 Vietnamese families in Holland Mi. They are very devout Catholics. I suppose Ye is a common name.
This was a good question -- asked several years ago. I'm wondering if any of the participants in this original discussion could tell us what happened. How did things work out? Advice for others considering join youth groups with other churches?
I agree, thank you, Mark, for raising the subject and giving another nudge to the discussion. Response to mental health crisis is vital, as well as mental health maintenance and prevention of crisis. A quote from Ed Friedman's "Generation to Generation" has stuck with me, that "Stress is less the result of some quantitative notion such as 'overwork' and more the effect of our position in the triangle of our families." I know I've found this helpful when I begin to feel the burdens of ministry, that maybe those burdens are not necessary. Could we create a denominational context where it's normal for pastors to consult with mental health care providers, where pastors continue to explore our own areas of risk?
Easy Process to post. Thanks.
After hearing the new name I resisted posting a comment because I wanted to wait to see if my initial reaction would last. After all, I'm sure that much time, thought and prayer went into the process that resulted in the suggested name. But after two weeks I find the name still fails to resonate with me. Perhaps it's because I like jazz and appreciate dischords. Or perhaps it is my limited experience of church always being messy. We don't always get along but get along anyway because we recognize that our mission is more important than our relatively petty squabbles. Resonating sounds like something to dream of but I don't think will ever be achieved on this side of life.
I can see the desire to have some kind of descriptor before "global mission " but personally don't think "resonate" works. Too bad World Renew is already taken.
Thanks Mark, for an interesting article of your faith journey. As you seem to suggest, your new experience is not so unique, as you had previously thought, but perhaps unique to the CRC experience. You new found experience seems quite typical of others within Christianity such as the Pentecostal’s personal religious experience. Of course the Reformed expression of faith has always been somewhat skeptical of such expressions of faith because it is largely dependent on one’s own subjective experience and has no objective evidence that grounds it in reality. But such an experience as yours seems to be increasingly finding acceptance in the “third wave” movement that is gaining a foothold in our denomination. Of course the appeal of such an experience as yours is that it contains a personal experience of Christ that so many thought was missing from the CRC experience in the past. It also contains a personal experience of the Holy Spirit that many CRCers thought was missing in the experience of our church members. Perhaps, though, they simply did not understand the unique ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Understandably, such a faith experience sets itself apart from a more informed non Christian’s experience, who has a difficult time accepting a religious expression that is solely grounded in subjectivism and feelings rather than objective reality. As you suggest, you are “living out a different expression of Christianity” than what has typified the Reformed expression of the faith. Thanks for giving us a small glance into your new found expression of faith, which you refer to as a refinement of faith.
To supplement the comment of Bill Via re possible legal rules, I know of no US state where non-profit laws would prohibit this. And If the church's bylaws do, they are easily changed, by simple action of the council, unless the bylaws themselves required additional (e.g., vote of congregation). If there is a prohibition in the articles of incorporation (which I frankly have never seen), then congregational action (and a filing with the state) would also likely be required, but again, I've never seen such in a CRC's articles and wouldn't expect to.
Whenever the question "may we do this" is asked, it really needs to be accompanied by saying also, "as far as _____________ is concerned."
By my view, there are a number of possible problems with doing this, but none of those possibilities are actually a problem. For example, it could perhaps be a problem with the IRS (from several angles), but I think it clearly is not. And it could be a problem with the workers compensation insurer, but I think that unlikely as well. Etc.
Last but not least on the least is whether this would be OK with the congregation (a political question really), but I expect it would be. (They could be asked/informed).
So bottom line: I can't imagine how this would be other than permissible, and beyond that, appropriate.
Kelly, thanks so much for sharing about your own journey. Blessings in your resumption of ministry work!
Clergy mental illness is widespread across the denominational spectrum. My first bout with depression came through a complete awareness of unrealized expectations for ministry, aka burnout, as a young ordained Pentecostal church planter. Through a prolonged leave of absence, I was able to come to a complete understanding of the cause and finally cures for situational depression (dysthymia). Self-care is of primary importance for long-haul success in ministry. As I result of my mental illness, I lost years of potentially productive pastoral ministry. I am thankful to God and to those who provided the loving care I received for restoration back to health and eventually productive ministry after a 14-year absence due to depression.
The best piece of advice and take-away from that awful dark period was, " why work 55-70 hours per week for 10 years when you can work with health and effectiveness 35-40 hours per week for 40 years.
Self-care is what makes me currently effective in ministry for the long run. Talk to your leadership about the need for self-care. Form a covenant with them to preserve your mental health, so you can run the race with the endurance needed for a full, rewarding career in ministry.
Henry's article basically gives my answer. Deacon can be clerk of council, though that raises the question of who will be clerk of the consistory (elders). A non-council member may serve as minute taker, and and be asked to take a vow of confidentiality.
Why not share here since you are posting here?
In my book entitled Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary I answer this question directly on page 196. Members can access this on the web library of the CRC.
While the Church Order may not address this, it is probable that either your congregation's by-laws or state or provincial non-profit by-laws do. It is common to require that the council (or non-profit board) have certain officers who must be members. That said, there is nothing to prevent the treasurer having a bookkeeper who does the actual financial entries or the clerk having a scribe to assist with the minutes.
I see no problem with this arrangement. The purpose of the church is to promote prayer and for Christian ministries to meet and serve the neighbourhood would appear to fall within the purpose of promoting the Christian religion.
Article 35 of the Church Order states that the council shall be "composed of the minister(s), the elders, and the deacons." Other than that I am not aware of synod having addressed this question. There would appear to be nothing against having someone who is not an officebearer be present to take minutes. Care should be taken about confidentiality and when sensitive matters are discussed, council would need to ask the clerk who is not an officebearer to leave the meeting.
Guilt, what, really? CRC people?!
Thanks very much, Mark. This is one of those issues that church councils need to be aware of at least as much as pastors. Our efforts as pastors to try to be all things to all people is not what St. Paul meant, though we and councils out-guilt ourselves with that mis-interpreted verse selected out of context by adapting it to our idolatrous service to overwork disguised as work ethic.
Just got a question from someone wondering if the membership transfer form can also be used for CRC to RCA transfers. Any advice? Thanks!
This week I am celebrating the 40th anniversary of my profession of faith (May 15, 1977). But for me to reach that point many things happened, the first was God drawing me to Him. There have been times when I could not pray, either because I could not concentrate or was too upset with him to even want to pray, but others prayed, and eventually I started again. These days I pray in writing.
I appreciated the article. I think there is a lot that has been lost and/or taught sporadically.
In his book, The Naked Now, Richard Rohr discusses the lost art of seeing how mystics see. Perhaps his biggest argument is that our problem comes from our tendency to dualistic thinking blinding us to broader reality. He writes that in Christianity, "Faith" largely became believing things to be true or false (faith as intellectual assent) instead of giving people concrete practices so they could themselves know how to open up (faith), hold on (hope), and allow an infilling from another source (love.)
That's what came to mind as I read your post and I would recommend Rohr's book for continued reflection on refining your faith, "seeing" better, and more fully experiencing God in the present. Rohr would recommend any of Thomas Merton's early books, like, The Seven Storey Mountain, New Seeds of Contemplation, or Thoughts in Solitude, for more help along similar themes.
It is both the what and the how.
Yellowbox church in Naperville, Il, a thriving new mega church with multiple campuses has such a vital Sunday School curriculum that kids talk to kids at school and convince their parents to let them go to to church. Thousands of families have joined this new contemporary church because of the vibrancy of the programs for kids. I know because my three grandkids can't wait for Sunday.
Regards the first item I did some research on the new name.
""" welcome to: Резонансные глобальные миссии
Russian is one language where the word "resonate" is not going to translate.
The word is a verb, and as a verb, it's very wierd to put it in a proper name.
And the word itself completely does not fit the context of the name."""""
I hope others who can read Chinese, Korean and Arabic will also do some research and share it with others.
Good questions, John Span.
Some of the us and them mentality is also found in scriptures. "If they are not against us, they are for us." but also "they went out from us" "Being in the world, but not of the world." There is an antithesis between good and evil, between right and wrong, between God and Satan. In that way, the muslims are an example to Christians. Even Jesus said, "Love your enemies.", knowing Christians would have enemies, and Jesus did not say, "have no enemies". Jesus said that daughters would be set against mothers , and sons against fathers. That he did not come to bring peace, but a sword. Again, Jesus highlighted the dramatic changes that would occur, which were life changing. Part of the struggle. The antithesis. Not peace at all costs, but surrender to God.
On the other hand, Jesus did say, "Love your enemies." Go the extra mile. Give the extra cloak. Forgive seventy times ( or more). Follow the example of the Good Samaritan. The sword Jesus talked about was not a sword of steel, but the sword of the word of God, the sword of the spirit working in men's hearts. The armor was the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation.
Muslim book, muslim faith, and muslim practice does not follow Jesus, but follows the sword carrying Mohammed, who has only one book, Quran, and did nothing more than many other leaders did who merely attempt to gain a following and gain earthly territory. At most, he was a king like Alexander the Great, or Julius Ceasar of Rome. At worst, he was a fraud and a charlatan, like the emperor Nero, or the leader of the Moonies, Sun Myung Moon. In no way could he be shown to have a legitimate revelation from God, or to be a true prophet in the order of Elijah, Elisha, Nathan, Moses, Isaiah, Nehemiah, Jeremiah, the apostle John. By neglecting the writings of these prophets, and the writings of the gospels, and of history, he has even lost the title of scholar or preacher or teacher of God's truth.
That does not mean that everything that Mohammed has written or spoken is false. Some things are true no matter who says them. There are some truths in every faith and in every culture, and in every religion. But these truths should not obscure the fact that the underlying basis is shaky, unstable, or false. The bible clearly says that in the last days there will be false prophets and anti-christs.
It is no good to merely say that Jesus was a prophet, and then ignore the most credible witness accounts of what Jesus said. Ignoring those accounts (the gospels) is merely a way of making Jesus into the image of man, into a follower of other men such as Mohammed, rather than actually treating Jesus like a prophet. It would be more honest for Moslems to say that Jesus was not a prophet at all, than to give him a superficial lip service. It would be more honest to say that Jesus was not a prophet at all than to ignore the witness and testimony of those who lived with him for three years before his death, and talked with him for forty days after his resurrection. Those followers followed Jesus teachings, and followed Jesus example. Mohammed did not do so, and thus in practice disregards Jesus as a true prophet.
Just as many atheists attempt to discredit the scriptures (unsuccessfully), by attributing human failings to writing, transcribing and translating, so Muslims put themselves into the same camp as atheists by using the same reasons for discrediting scripture. So how are Muslims and atheists then different in this regard? Do they not both attempt to impose their own wishes and desires on who Jesus should be, and on what Jesus can do? Would this not be like attempting to say that Mohammed was actually Chinese, or Norweigan, instead of an Arab? It would be false, just as the Moslem portrayal of Jesus is entirely false.
The irony is that it is harder to love your enemies than it is to hate them. It is harder to surrender to God, than it is to commit suicide. It is harder to give your life for others, than it is to take the life of others. Unless you have the spirit of God in your heart. Unless you really know the Lord Jesus.
I stumbled onto this while thinking about our own (non-CRC) church plant in an urban, poor, minority section of a more rural city (Carrollton, GA). The family that moved here with us bailed a year into the plant after realizing that the were not cut out for this which left us wondering whether we stay, how long do we give it, etc. we decided progress toward the three marks you identify would be our measuring stick.
This work is slow and hard. The people we're trying to reach generally don't know the Bible and have a totally cultural view of what a church is. We live with them, have them in our home, teach them English or life skills, provide free biblical counseling, and of course urge them to be reconciled to God thru Christ.
Churches in these kinds of neighborhoods may never be mature in these three areas. Financially, they will never raise 200k per year. We are only able to do it because I have a great job and we fund everything while taking to salary. We've said we just want to see the percentage of money from other sources increase.
Regarding self governing, we have said we just want to see someone not in our family leading something - anything - that serves our church family or community.
For self reproducing, we just want to see those that are legitimately redeemed acknowledging that Charles Spurgeon was right when he said every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.
Global Mission. Amen to that.
Resonate. For all the nice talk given above and in the video, a few vital items are missing:
a. The whole counsel of God, proclaimed in power, can cause a resonance which is nothing less than open hostility. Think of the sneers and jeers received by Jesus and the Apostle Paul. If one delivers a message that tickles the ears of its auditors, yes, it will resonate, but not in the right way.
b. It is possible to resonate with the values of secular culture more than with the Gospel proclaimed in power. That is why the Apostle Paul said that he would not employ "plausible words of human wisdom." The mission might respond that it has built in safeguards, but if a survey of 15 local CRCNA churches is done in the area where I live, the influences of the culture are strong, if not growing stronger.
c. What about the word, 'resolute' ?Sure it is not as soft and cuddly as resonate, but it implies direction, conviction, being constrained---all which are pregnant with theological value. Is resonate pregnant with Reformed theological value? To this reader, not at all on a first reading, and perhaps not at 5th reading.
I can't escape the force of 'resolute' on a first reading.
Resolute: marked by firm determination
"The love of Christ constrains me" (2 Cor. 5:14) =being marked by firm determination.
Global Missions Capacity Builder
Serving in a partnership between CRWM and Interserve
You are forgiven!
Sure thing Karen.
Give me a call sometime at RedArrow Ministries, 269-657-5679.
Your comment paints a great picture of the unique context of every CRC and an important reminder of why a one-size-fits all approach doesn't work. I'm also part of a church plant and my small group of kids there includes those from different faith traditions, those who come with their grandmas and have parents who don't own a Bible, kids in distress, and kids whose parents grew up in the CRC, and more. It's an exciting challenge:) And I suspect that even in churches that aren't plants we're going to be seeing more parents who are Biblically illiterate in the coming years. So it's important that the children's ministry toolkit we hope to create will include ideas and resources that are both theologically sound and flexible to shape for the different needs of the church leaders who use them. I'd love to chat some time with you and learn more about the needs of your church and the sorts of things you are doing there to meet those needs. It's the best way for us to gather ideas that we can share with other churches!
Thanks for your feedback. Although I posted this to the Pastors page because of the comment a pastor on the Board of Trustees made about how he wished every CRC pastor was able to hear, I'd love to see the information it contains shared with elders, children's ministry coordinators, and anyone else who is tasked with choosing what and how their church will invite kids to live into and live out of God's story. It's important!
Yes! The list to which I linked is a list that's created each year by a Church Educator from the Episcopalian tradition and shared on buildfaith.org but in the toolkit we do plan to point folks to curriculum from other Reformed publishers (for e.g.e Growing in Grace and Gratitude, Feasting on the Word and LOGOS (an intergenerational curriculum) are all available through the PCUSA.) There are also other resources available from other sources which would work in a Reformed context which we'll include in the kit. The goal of the children's ministry toolkit will be similar to our other toolkits----links, ideas, information on resources that churches can shape to fit their particular context.
Thanks for the article!
I agree wholeheartedly that our children and their Faith Formation NEEDS to be an important focus of every Church.
From the context of a Church Plant perspective, I spoke with various people from Faith Alive often over the past 8 years. I shared with them the problem we face is complete Biblical illiteracy of many people of our congregation. With 2/3 of our people coming into our faith community being brand new to church or returning after many years, most of the parents we meet have very little Biblical knowledge to speak of. While the content of Faith Alive materials like Dwell are fantastic, they have been tried in our setting and are 'over the head' of most if not all of our kids. More and more families from the area are not just coming to us with a deficiency of Bible knowledge, they are coming to us with ZERO Biblical understanding...because they didn't even own a Bible!
We serve in a Post-Christian setting where some kids think the story of Adam and Eve is on the same level of authenticity as the story of 'Beauty and the Beast.' When God brings them into our midst, guess which story they know better?
Thank you Karen! I agree with the article and the comments so far!
Two further thoughts...
1. What does it communicate when this is assumed to be information for pastors? How about elders? In my first church I was given almost no say about Sunday School curriculum, thankfully the second church I had did value my input. And, I hope that I'm not alone among pastors in placing a high value on the input of professional educators when it comes to the pedagogy of the curriculum.
2. I hope this is somewhat of an answer to Tim's thoughts. While the CRC curriculum is an improvement on the other, I still wouldn't say it picks up on the better aspects of Reformed theology. It reinforces a sense of assurance of our salvation (justification!), but fails to plant seeds of sanctification. I've found, sadly, that many adults who have grown up in our churches actually begin to feel less assured over time because a) they don't sense themselves becoming more godly and b) the preacher seems to believe we need to hear the message of justification again - maybe that's a sign we didn't understand it before!
In my own young adulthood I went from extreme boredom with my faith to fervent excitement when I began to understand a Reformed (emphasis on Reformed!) view of sanctification - a view that put God in the lead, yet gave me a role in watching His transforming work in my life and even being allowed to participate in exciting ways! And then I discovered many others who were experiencing the same thing and then we got to watch God work in each other and support each other through the ups and downs of all that!
Thanks for the helpful article! In the toolkit that Faith Alive is preparing, I hope we can help direct churches to other Reformed publishing houses. The linked chart of 50 curriculums appears to be heavily drawn from non-Reformed, mainline denominations (Episcopal, ELCA, UCC, UMC, etc.). There are some other great options out there that are deeply Reformed and didn't make the list - such as Great Commission Publications (https://www.gcp.org/) from the PCA/OPC. We've found their Sunday School curriculum to be very solid in our context.
While I agree with much of what the article has to say, I want us to also stop and consider that the young adults who are leaving the faith from our churches also grew up with those same covenantal teachings, albeit with an older version of some of the same curriculum. But they are still leaving. Somehow, we need to discover what it is that we are missing in our teaching, not just what "the others" are missing in their curriculum. Could it be that in our covenant theology that we fail to emphasize our response to God's faithful promises? Do we presume a faithful response acceptance because we have taught the meaning of the words? I don't have the answers, but I am also not hearing those kinds of questions being asked within our denomination.
Probably the largest collection of Christian radio programs and podcasts can be found on Crosswalk.com, though they will tend to be the mainstream sorts of programs you'd hear on Christian radio. Another resource might be iDisciple. But neither of those would likely have much for independent or start-up podcasts.
I second Doug's "amen". Teaching children truisms and trite morality lessons will not equip them to grab hold of the promises sealed to them in baptism, nor will it teach them to understand/handle scripture correctly. Children are often so much more ready and able to understand and internalize deep and meaningful truths than they are given credit for. If we expect little from our children, we will get exactly what we expect. The great commission starts at home and in the church and blossoms outward from there. Karen, thank you for posting this.
Sorry about that. It should have ended by saying "how it translates into all the language BTGMI uses". I stopped because I translated "resonate" in to those languages and it was interesting the words that came up. Of course I am not familiar with the Chinese, Arabic etc. that use other lettering forms.
This is provided by the CRCNA. But if the RCA would like to offer something similar to their churches, we'd certainly be open to exploring it.