Thanks Keith, that's helpful!
Thanks Marian for your insights and your question.
Yes, you are exactly right that sharing faith is all about relationships. Relationships are God's tilled field for the Gospel. The Church Renewal Lab emphasizes this reality as we teach the importance of nurturing a "personal parish" where everyone invests in intentional relationships with those God places in our path.
The three-step plan suggested in this article seeks to provide simple training so followers of Jesus are able to give answer to the hope that is within them. Recently I put this into practice with a young person God put in my path. Our first meeting was not faith connected but during subsequent gatherings I began to introduce "God-words" into our conversation so he understood that I was a person of faith. During an extended coffee time a couple months later I asked if I could share my testimony with him and when he tragically lost a couple friends in a drowning accident I was able to share the hope of the Gospel.
Moving from God-words, to testimony to sharing the Gospel has been an important part of my own faith sharing journey.
I've read all of the 4 parts in this series, as well as numerous other explanations of "missional" and "m issional church" and I'm still at a loss to understand exactly what it means. My conclusion is that it is not so different than the word "smurf" was to those little blue cartoon characters. Indeed, by the end of a "Smurfs" episode, you had a sense for what the word "smurf" meant, but only a sense, and vague at that, but they kept saying it and so perhaps you felt obliged to have a sense for what it meant. And so you did.
Thank you for that encouragement, Karen! I'll pass that along to the others who worked on the resource as well. Appreciate it.
This is a wonderful resource, Danielle. Thank you for including such great ideas for talking with children about how they can welcome and love the refugees in their community.
Thank you for your comment. What a blessing that your 3 grandkids are so eager to go to their church on Sunday. As a parent that’s a dream I also share for my grandkids one day! The Orange curriculum which I described in the post and which they use at Yellowbox Church has always been very intentional about reaching out to families and providing resources to churches to help them to do that. Although the CRC has always talked about the “three legged stool” of faith formation---church, school, home--I don’t know that we’ve always done the best job we can encouraging and equipping families to form faith at home. We kind of left that leg of the stool up families to figure out. It’s something that Faith Formation Ministries is working to change (and a big part of our going to the BOT to ask for funding.) We need to do a better job supporting family faith formation. And we can certainly learn from Orange in that regard. So thanks for making that important connection.
Several years ago I sat down with an enthusiastic Children’s Ministry Director at an Ontario church. They had been using 252 Basics for several years and were planning a renovation that would add space to their building so they could fully implement the program. Beyond their baptism Sunday, the kids at that church don’t enter the main sanctuary or worship with their families again until they are in Grade 6. They are dropped off before the main worship service begins and picked up afterwards. The Director told me that families love it because they can enjoy worship without their kids and because their kids are learning to make wise choices; the leaders love it because the prep is minimal; and she loves it because “you don’t even have to be a Christian to teach it” so it’s easy to get volunteers.
Here’s the thing. Children are not bait to get parents to church. Children grow in faith as they are participating in worship with all generations in addition to time spent with their peers in an age appropriate learning environment. Children learn about wise choices at school; at church we have an opportunity to grow in them a deep and wide faith, a three-dimensional faith which Robert Keeley defines as “a faith that is rooted deep inside so that even when our head doubts or our heart falters, our faith remains strong. This faith goes beyond platitudes and catchphrases. It’s a faith that realizes that God is faithful even when our questions go unanswered.” (Helping Our Children Grow in Faith, p. 14)
Your point about the what and the how being intertwined is an important one. We need to teach in creative ways that capture the hearts, mind and spirit of the kids we’re leading and learning alongside. We need to build loving, faith nurturing relationships with the kids in our programs. We need to encourage and equip their families. But---if we want to nurture in children a three-dimensional faith, we can’t introduce them to a one-dimensional God of wise choices. We need to invite them into God’s story and help them find their place in it. And we need to teach from a curriculum that does that.
I'm just trying to follow the thread here. Yellowbox Church uses Orange, the negative example from the article. https://communitychristian.org/resources/kidscityparentresources/
So the point of this comment contradicts the posted article's point.
I'm just trying to understand. pvk
Thanks for this article. I wonder if you could share a story of how this has played out? It would be so helpful to read an example of how this has been put into practice.
I have seen that one of the pieces of sharing a faith story is the need to develop relationships with people who are far from God. As we develop relationships, we begin to see the places where someone might be open to something of the Gospel story. In my experience, I've had opportunity to share really only once I've developed a relationship. The sharing typically takes on a unique shape, depending on the story of the person I'm connecting with. Also, the story is told over time, through the rhythms of life - rhythms of eating together and simply doing life together. We need to know the basics of sharing a faith story, certainly. However, the relational piece of ministry I believe is equally important. Many of us struggle to get beyond our church community. We need to rub shoulders with people so that they will "ask you to give the reason for the hope that you have".
I hope you will share a story, to give a context for faith sharing.
Perhaps, if your church has a disability advocate, he/she could help the visually impaired person set up a library card and borrow the desired titles. Many libraries have extensive audio collections now and would probably facilitate something on an individual basis. Several online sites have classics available for no charge as well as Amazon which has constantly changing audio book selections that are free. I also believe the Society for the Blind or similar organizations might help you set up if you need to have the materials physically available at your church.
Hi, at Nelson Avenue Community Church (CRC) in Burnaby, BC we have a Safe Church protocol that requires all those who work with children, youth and lead adults to have filled out an application with 2 references, attend an interview, have a criminal record check and attend Safe Church training and yearly refreshers. This is for all people including the parents of the children in the ministries. Our denominational Safe Church Ministry would be able to help you with that.
Great question! Decreasing the risks involved in a public display of aggression and violence is important for everyone in your church community. The office of Safe Church Ministry is primarily a resource for responding to the occurrence of abuse & prevention of abuse - so security and risk of public violence is not necessarily in our area of expertise. We however want to point you towards some excellent resources for security training. One of those resources is from Brotherhood Mutual, a leader in insurance coverage for churches. They have a free download called Big Book Checklist (click here for the download) that offers several risk management checklists for ministries. If you look at page 51 there is a page titled "Violence in the Church." As you look through this checklist there may be several things that you could integrate into your policy for training your elders and deacons - specifically a regular training that a percentage of the church's leadership could go through so that your community is prepared for a variety of scenarios that could possibly come up.
I hope this helps!
Eric Kas - Safe Church Associate
Thanks for this thoughtful reply! I agree that leaders set the tone, and their willingness to be vulnerable and open seems to be a key ingredient. I appreciate this verse, 1 Peter 4:8, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins". I think genuine love and care for someone will show through, even when we make mistakes, or don't say exactly the right thing. Listening is often far more important than speaking. Rather than "fixing" we need to be present, reflecting the love of Jesus. Thanks again for your comment.
Thank you for sharing this helpful article! Any chance these links may be housed on a different site now? A few readers have been looking for the "Ministry Interview Form" but it looks like it may have moved.
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.
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?
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.
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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!