Discussion Topic

Has your church has found any creative or practical ways to minister and show love to those who are homebound during the winter?

January 18, 2016 2 1 comments
Q&A

At our elders meeting we were discussing the need to provide leadership training for potential elders or deacons that haven't yet felt qualified or inspired to serve. Do materials exist?

December 28, 2015 0 17 comments
Q&A

It's Ministry Question Monday and today's featured question is: "How does your church transition new deacons into their role?"

December 14, 2015 0 3 comments
Blog

I’ve heard people say: “I thought the church was supposed to help people”— meaning “You have to give me what I want.” What we must do is avoid developing a relationship of dependency.

November 20, 2015 1 0 comments
Blog

Mercy practiced for inferior reasons can be damaging, short lived, or even cruel. Paul proposed that mercy be practiced with cheerfulness. Cheer cannot really be faked.

November 12, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

At my church, we developed a brochure listing the best public and private social services in our area. What social services have you (or your church) found helpful?

November 6, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

The apostle Paul commands that we use our gifts for the benefit of others and God’s honor and glory—because the gifts are HIS and on loan to us. 

October 28, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

In order to show we care, we need to be available to others and we need to take time to listen to what is occurring in the lives of those we seek to serve. 

October 16, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

We need to shift from viewing diaconal ministry primarily as something done “to” or “for” others to more of one which does ministry “with” our neighbors, communities, businesses, and churches. 

October 15, 2015 1 0 comments
Blog

John Calvin intentionally partnered love of God with love of neighbor. How do Deacons, as catalysts, share the blessing of serving with church members?

October 8, 2015 1 0 comments
Resource, Conference or Event

For those near Dallas/Fort Worth, the PCA Mercy Ministry conference is just a few weeks away. Come if you're excited about mercy & justice. I would love to see you there! 

October 5, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

Just as deacons facilitate the financial offerings of God’s people, they must also collect data on the talents of God’s people. Which member is a hairdresser or a handyman? Can they help?

September 29, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

It is not the deacons’ task to be “lone rangers.” In Acts 6, “the Seven” (deacon prototypes) had to have wisdom and the Holy Spirit to manage their new ministry. They needed help, as do we... 

September 14, 2015 1 1 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

The Chalmers Center is releasing Helping Without Hurting in Church Benevolence on Oct. 6. Learn how to effectively navigate the moment when someone asks the church for financial assistance. 

September 11, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

Many deacons learn and make mistakes as they go. I certainly did when I was first a deacon in the mid-1970s. Many deacons don’t know what they are doing and don’t know where to turn for help. 

September 3, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

Instead of functioning largely as "lone rangers", the approved changes invite deacons to equip and provide opportunities for members of the congregation to participate in diaconal work. 

September 2, 2015 1 0 comments
Resource, Procedure

Church leaders (especially deacons) will find this information helpful in assisting congregation members who need home remodeling for better accessibility. 

July 23, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Synod 2015 voted to include deacons at future Synods, along with expanding the role of the Office of Deacon.

June 17, 2015 0 1 comments
Resource, Article

If you're a deacon, elder, or pastor in the CRC, I encourage you to read the full report of the Task Force to Study the Offices of Elder and Deacon. Additionally, I've shared other resources to dig deeper!

June 5, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

In the absence of deacons, the full voice of the church is not heard, nor is the full ministry of the church under discussion. We await the outcome of synod’s deliberations with interest.

May 4, 2015 2 1 comments
Blog

Does acknowledging God’s grace in our individual, sinful lives change our posture of serving? Would we be able to serve with a prideful, self-righteous, arrogant attitude if we believe in God’s grace?

April 27, 2015 5 1 comments
Blog

I am not sure I’ve ever heard a deacon speak up at classis. We will soon be able to test whether this is simply a failure of my own perception.

April 7, 2015 1 16 comments
Resource, Job Description

Here is an updated version of a job description for deacons in the CRC. Use it as a template and adapt it for the deacons from your congregation and to your setting.

April 1, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

In sincere love, Christ reaches out to the unfortunate and the helpless, the lonely and the hurting. We must practice that virtue with him.

March 20, 2015 1 1 comments
Resource, Workshop or Training

If you’re in the Toronto area, join us on Saturday, March 28th, for the launch of a new workshop and online toolkit to help churches hear and respond to the biblical call to become neighbours to refugees.

March 18, 2015 0 0 comments

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I think that looked at from a historical perspective, the office of deacon is incredibly flexible and has manifested itself in many different forms.  Your note about nominating people according to skill sets brings up an interesting historical note, Harry.  In Geneva the deacons were divided up into procurators, what we would call administrative deacons, and hospitalars, who had the care of the poor and sometimes lived among them.  Calvin defended this distinction exegetically.  Maybe in our new setup it will make sense to make use of it again.  

Terry,

Thanks for "jumping in" to share your perspectives and thoughts as someone who has been intimately involved in this process for several years now. I am grateful for interest and responses that Norman's post has generated thus far. I encourage those who are following this conversation to share their thoughts on the post itself or in response to any of the comments made thus far. 

I appreciate Norman and Terry's comments. The church made an interesting change when it broadened the skill sets for the ED of the Denomination. Now when you look at the skill sets of those who are nominated to the BOT and the Boards of the various ministries, the "quota's"  for Ministers and Lay people come into play.The "Lay" people for that do not have to be Elders or Deacons but certainly can be. Looking at skill sets has became a factor on one of the Boards I served on and that is good.

If that review of skill sets could be applied to those selected to go to Synod, the distinction between Elders and Deacons could largely fall away. Now of course you need a skill set evaluation at the congregational level if you want to be consistent. But here is where the problem comes in. Pastors on the payroll can always (I hope) get time off for Synod/ Classis. But for lay people this is more problematic. Not only they have to devote time to local work in the role of Elder or Deacon but they can also be delegated to Classis and Synod.

Despite all of the new technology, and how it was supposed to help us, it has probably done the opposite. It is harder than ever to "get away" from the job. In our church polity we have to rely on the wisdom of church Councils and Classis to select the most capable (and I hope with appropriate skill sets) people as delegates to the Ministry Boards and to Synod.

I will make (repeat) another bold suggestion. Could the church not take Calvin College out of its governance structure and also find a totally new way to govern World Renew (e.g. give that role to the Deacons)?

I'll try to address your various points from my perspective as a deacon, a deacon who recently attended a classis meeting (and spoke at the meeting), and a member of both task forces that wrote the subject reports.

Your opening and concluding observation about not being sure about ever hearing a deacon speak at classis might be more indicative of the agenda and culture atmosphere of what classis meetings are like to deacons. Have the deacons been encouraged and mentored by pastors and elders to actively participate in the meetings and committees? Are the topics and discussions relevant to deacons? Do the deacons have a voice in shaping the meeting agenda? In my experience, certain pastors/elders may dominate the discussions. At the last meeting of Classis Atlantic Northeast, the delegates broke into small groups of four to pray for one another and also discuss a topic. Deacons participated equally with the elders and pastors in these small groups. This is one small example of how deacons can be encouraged to have a voice at a classis meeting. I've been told that almost every deacon from one of the churches who has attended a classis meeting in recent years has returned with renewed energy and excitement about ministry.

A couple points regarding the church order changes:

  1. The proposed changes are the result of four years of work over two task forces. The churches have had ample opportunity to comment on the changes and suggest revisions. (One specific revision suggested via overture in 2013 has been incorporated into the 2015 report.) I am sure that future synods will have additional changes based on experience working with these proposed changes.
  2. I hope that at this synod an advisory committee is assigned the sole task of working on this report. The advisory committee in 2013 was assigned additional work that didn't allow it to fully focus on the report it was given.
  3. Changes viewed individually rather than in the context of all the other changes may be questioned, but we looked at every church order article with a big picture view of the offices to ensure that the articles communicated the vision of the offices of elder and deacon that we, and hopefully the church, wants to see.
  4. We have no expectation that these church order changes, in themselves, will be the primary means of revitalization of the offices of deacon and elder. That's why there are other recommendations in the report that are just as important as the church order changes. In my opinion, this report should be viewed as the beginning of a journey of revitalization and not the final word on what needs to be done.

Finally, addressing your concern about imposing a model on the entire denomination, well, isn't that what being a denomination with a church order is all about? Isn't requiring elders and pastors to be delegated to classis meetings already an imposed model? I encourage classes to be creative and share their experiences with incorporating deacons into the structure of classis.

If, as some suggest, the roles and responsibilities of the offices reflect or are intended to reflect and perform the functions of Christ as prophet (pastor), priest (deacon) and king (elder), what does it say about our denomination's view of the role and responsibilities of the deacon (priest) when we don't include them and give them a voice and vote at synod?

 

Norman, I full support the full inclusion of deacons at all assemblies.  We work together in God's kingdom and we need to share information, encourage one another, and partner together.  So, we need every opportunity to be in the same room together.  I understand your uncertainty, and we'll have a big learning curve.  I'm hoping that the changes we have to go through will leave lots of room for evaluation and flexibility so we can make accommodations.

Norman, I did find your reference to deacons not participating at classis meetings quite disturbing, and I shared that with you privately.  No elder, minister or deacon can be evaluated by the number of words that are being said at a classis meeting.  I might even suggest to you that some people (ministers in particular) probably say too many words at Classis and do not add a whole lot of value to the meeting.

I have been very blessed being in the presence of all God's servants.

Diane Plug

John Klein-Geltink, a deacon from Classis Chatham, emailed his response to this post and asked me to share it here--for some reason he was unable to post it directly.

Hello Jack
When I read the report I was rather put off as are other deacons.For the past 13 years a number of deacons of Classis Chatham have served on the Classis Chatham Ministry Committee and attended Classis meetings and voted on all matters. We even asked to set time at classis to have churches share Diaconial ministry at local communities,which did happen at our last May meeting.Deacons also designed questions to be discussed at Church visits about the nature of diaconial work in their commuttees.So I am not sure what Norman is talking about.
 

To those who might have missed it, there is a post on The Network's site for Deacons entitled, "What's Up With Deacons Going To Synod?." The post itself is a letter written to CRC Deacons by The Task Force to Study the Offices of Elder and Deacon. Given the interest sparked by this particular post, I think anyone wanting to better understand this issue might find it helpful. You can get directly to the post by going here. You might also be interested in reading a letter written in 1939 by a deacon that addresses the matter of deacon inclusion/representation also posted on the page for deacons here.

 

Jeff,

I think you--and others--might appreciate and benefit by reading a letter written in 1939 by deacon Hendrik Schoonekamp about the need for and importance of deacon inclusion and representation. You can read it on The Network's page for Deacons here.

While I support the idea of including deacons at Classis meetings, I wonder about the participation. It is hard to find deacons that are able/willing to take a day off of work for a Classis meeting. I often wonder about the possibility of deacons having their own meetings and reporting to Classis. A number of years ago I was in another Classis that made the change to include deacons. The attendance of deacons was minimal at best. We need full participation of deacons to make it work well.

True, deacons have their hands full at the local church level.  This has sometimes been used as an argument for not delegating them to the broader assemblies.

But couldn't the same thing be said of pastors?  Of elders?  Yet there is no talk of them staying home.

Ultimately, doesn't it all go back to fully reflecting the work of the risen and ruling Christ, though the offices, at all levels of assembly and decision making?  It will be interesting to see what might take place when this becomes a reality.

 

 

Here is the summary of the Synod's Agenda. Look how neatly all the ministries of the CRC HO Departments & Ministries have been pigeonholed into the five streams. The CRC Extension Fund in Canada, which is 3 times large than the US (Loan Fund) one, is not even mentioned anywhere.

Faith Formation
Calvin College
Discipleship and Faith Formation Ministries
Servant Leadership
Chaplaincy and Care Ministry
Christian Reformed Church Loan Fund, Inc., U.S.
Pastor-Church Relations 
Pensions and Insurance
Safe Church Ministry
Global Missions
Christian Reformed Home Missions
Christian Reformed World Missions
Loving Mercy and Doing Justice
Committee for Contact with the Government
Disability Concerns
Race Relations
Social Justice and Hunger Action
Urban Aboriginal Ministries
World Renew
Gospel Proclamation and Worship
Back to God Ministries International
Calvin Theological Seminary 
Worship Ministries

The order is very telling. Gospel proclamation is last. With a 557 page Agenda it will be an interesting Synod. Why Deacons would even want to participate is a question for me. They have their hands full at the local church level.

I for one am excited to see what the changes might bring. I have been at classis meetings where elders barely spoke a word. According to this line of reasoning, perhaps we shouldn't delegate them to classis, either.

Thank you for your thoughtful comments for us to consider as we look ahead to Synod 2015. I share your concern about the possibility--perhaps even likelihood--that the delegates to Synod 2015 could get "bogged down" with all the recommended changes to the articles of church order. You raise some important questions and I would like to hear what others are thinking about it as well.

For anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of and appreciation for compassion, I strongly recommend: Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life.  One of the many things I learned from reading this book was that compassion is much more about taking action than it is about a feeling or emotion. Although I read this book in the early 1980s, it helped shape my thinking about my relationship with and view of those who suffer. Today, when I hear someone mention the problem of "compassion fatigue," I am grateful that I have God who never tires of having and showing compassion to someone like me on a daily basis.

posted in: Compassion

Thanks for sharing this letter. The corporate church has always recognized the work of Deacons. The local church, and I am willing to venture in 100% of the CRCNA congregations, are in someway engaged.  World Renew is the CRCNA's  diaconate.  The work they do and the support from the community and governments is significant.   This is one of the areas of the church that does NOT need fixing. Including Deacons as official delegates to synod and add that to the complexity of that oversight body is not needed.

The funds to run World Renew, or for that matter the Diaconates of local churches, are not an issue. Deacons also have regional Diaconal Ministries which work well.

Thanks to Mr. Schoonekamp and the Deacons that have gone before him, after him and are now serving, have done an excellent job in proclaiming the message of Jesus in the work they do both locally and via World Renew (and many other organizations). 

Thanks for your thoughtful response. I too have discovered that many of those on the margins often have a faith in and relationship with God that is not only present but often more vital and real than my own. These experiences challenge my assumptions and remind me that we are all broken and in need of God's shalom . . . it's just that some brokenness is more visible or more difficult to hide.

To stay grounded when "helping/interacting" with ALL people I remind myself "There but for the Grace of God go   I."

People on the margins can and often are closer to God than I perceive because I look through my own filters. 

Very good points. Congregations vary demographically. Age brackets, economic variants, social, political, culture capital, to name a few require assessment of in-congregation discussions and assessment before developing plans for community programs. Different generations have varied world-views. Thus there may need be multiple outreach strategies. Question: is the neighborhood changing faster than the congregation? Question 2: What do the young congregants think they can/should do? Seniors? 30, 40, 50 something's? etc. 

 

 

Let me suggest, also, my new book, Not Just a Soup Kitchen: How Mercy Ministry in the Local Church Transforms Us All. It is based on over 40 years' experience at Northside Chapel and Madison Ave. CRC in Paterson, and Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. The appendix has other worthwhile resources plus a chapter from the out-of-print Servant Leaders by Ben Vanderzande.

The 2015 Faith & Finances certification training schedule is now available from The Chalmers Center. Check out https://www.chalmers.org/our-work/us-church-training/get-trained/.

Steve,

 

 

Thanks so much for your response to this post. I'm sorry I didn't see and respond to it sooner. 

I really appreciate your thoughts and suggestions regarding the use of a "Micah 6:8 principle" as a reminder and  guide in all we do and how we do it as reflections and servants of Christ.

Jack

 

 

 

 

Phillip,

At Many Peoples Church we carry a rollover benevolence fund that serves that purpose.  We initially set the fund up with $ 1,000.00.  Over the last 8 years since we began meeting for worship, at least 6 church members, and several community neighbors have borrowed from that benevolence fund.  Their reasons were much like the case study you described.  We ask people to sign an agreement that underscores 2 things - 1 - their commitment to repay the amount according to the terms they agreed would work with their budget And 2 - they understand that failing to repay will mean that we will be unable to help others from this fund.  The fund depends on their repayment.

So far, 3 out of 4 people have repaid the loan.  We feel like the benefits far outweigh the possible 25% losses.  It's a model Habitat for Humanity uses for home loan repayment.  This models adds an element of sustainability to charity.  That feels very much like the model used by the early church - a model that depends on healthy 'receiving' and 'giving' by God's people.

John Hoekwater

Janice - If you'd like, you can post it here on The Network as a resource for deacons. See here for instructions on how to post.

Christian Service Ministries (ministry of classis Chicago South) has also written a 12 month "deacons devotional" based on the charge given to deacons.  If you are interested in seeing it, jot a note & we can email it to you.  

Thanks for the great resources!

And deacons can be more effective when they partner with other community transformation folks in their town--Communities First Association is a great resource for developing local partnerships http://archive.cfapartners.org/ and for additional training materials http://archive.cfapartners.org/tool/ 

Phillip, I'd still structure it as a gift.  If along with the gift is a semi-formal understanding that they will do their best to give $50 to the benevolence fund to bring it level, that's fine.  Two advantages.  Because the $50/month is not required it become a tax-deductible gift.  And if they run tight in month seven they can use their money to put food on the table that month and drop $50 into benevolence in month 13.  The idea of a member being a formal debtor to the church sets my teeth on edge.  There is at least as much dignity in freely and joyfully giving to the benevolence fund throughout the year as there is in making mandatory payments.

This family does not want a hand out but the dignity that comes with getting over this hurtle in a way they can manage with the church's assistance. I don't know what Bill Vis means by "help them get on their feet now, not a year from now." The money would be given now and they want to pay it back in a manageable increment. The church has already helped this family out with several "gifts" to cover other expenses. The interest free loan was an idea I threw out (I'd just read some of the Bible passages I posted) and they jumped on it. We could say "here is $600 and we appreciate your contribution to the benevolence as you can," but we've already done that with other expenses and everyone involved seems to want this aid to be different.

I like that direction, Bill. And if the family feels called to 'pay it forward' to help other families in a similar situation down the road, they could always voluntarily contribute to the benevolence fund over time. Not to pay back a loan, but out of gratitude to God.

Thanks for the thoughtful question, Phillip.  My personal perspective is that the church is not a bank and does not make loans.  In the situation you mention, give the family $600 and help them get on their feet now, not a year from now.  Making someone a creditor of the church will inevitably color the spiritual relationship, in a negative way.

Thanks for letting us know about this Terry. It seems like the good folks at The Chalmers Center have once again provided yet another useful resource and tool--along with the When Helping Hurts book, videos and seminars-- for those of use engaged in diaconal ministry. I look forward to learning more about it and hearing stories of how God is using Faith & Finances to reconcile and transform lives . . . lives that witness to and advance God's reign of shalom in the world.

Hi Jack,
The process for recruiting deacons (and elders) that Lesley has written about is posted on the ServiceLink website under the ENGAGE link. Included on that page is a write-up of this process as well as job descriptions for both deacons and elders that can be edited by local churches. Additionally we've posted webinars for new deacons and elders.

Thanks for sharing this Kris! I think that event was a positive example of collaboration among organizations and neighbors to raise awareness about an important justice issue in the U.S. today. Interestingly, on the topic of immigration justice, Tim Keller makes a very compelling case from Scripture-- in Generous Justice--that how we welcome, treat, care for and include the immigrant/stranger/alien (as one of the groups in what he refers to as the "quartet of the vulnerable") is an indicator as well as a demonstration of our relationship with and love for God.  

posted in: What About Justice?

Thanks for the good reminder! I'm a deacon at my church and a small group that I am in showed a film called "The Stranger," about immigration, to a group of nearly 200 in the Holland, MI area. The response was very positive and it was a great collaborative effort with neighborhood participants and help from other organizations like the OSJ and the Methodist Church organization Justice For our Neighbors. 

posted in: What About Justice?

Thanks for sharing this Abigail. I'm grateful for the support that OSJ and World Renew will be providing and hope many deacons and diaconates will take advantage of these resources.

posted in: What About Justice?

Thanks for this important post, Jack! The Office of Social Justice has also created a new group study called Live Justly, created in partnership with Micah Challenge U.S., that will be available around September. This could also be a great resource for a deacons' Bible study or another small group!

Plus, you can receive the Live Justly curriculum for free by signing up for World Renew's Deacon's Newsletter (information regarding signing up will be going out soon). 

posted in: What About Justice?

Hey Jack--

Perhaps I can provide my two cents.

First term, second year for myself both as a deacon and on the administrative committee. One of the most important things that I require for effective ministry is understanding who I am as a deacon and what exactly my role is in the church. One particular phrase of the charge, and perhaps a little twist is to say that we are administers of mercy. Mercy is kind of a loaded word, but perhaps that's the beauty of it-- that mercy could be a display of comfort, understanding, financial or physical help. But ultimately the bottom line is to be servants of Christ. Maybe we can call it a Micah 6:8 principle. But what we often fail to do is connect the decision to the reason. When we provide a benevolent service to a needy family, we discuss situations, numbers, and innumerable other details which block us from understanding what the decision means and why we're doing it. I think opening a meeting in prayer might lack the kind of focus that is required for deacons to get into this mindset-- you are administers of mercy.

Maybe it's as simple as opening with prayer, and then the chair looking at everyone in the eye and saying "Remember why you are here. Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God." It's a prayer of itself, and we all can say amen to that while serving the purpose of returning the focus to the importance of the roles of deacons in our churches.

 

Thanks for your helpful suggestions Karl. It seems to me that most--and perhaps all--of your suggestions would apply to nearly all church "business" meetings. 

I've been a deacon for a couple of years now.  The deep longing of my heart (and not only for deacons' meetings!) is for meetings that energize me and give me satisfaction.  Sometimes this happens!   It's gotta be well-planned, with good prep.  The chair needs to have thought it through ahead of time.  Important discussions need to be framed helpfully, and minor things not allowed to suck up our time. We need to produce well-discussed and thoughtful and clear decisions on important topics.  Specific tasks or assignments that are important but straightforward can be handled by one or two, then reported on succinctly, or only in writing.  Enjoying being with fellow deacons makes it really good.   This means some humor, some prayer, some Bible study. Fellowship time is clearly defined and then efficient work proceeds crisply and smartly.  And the meeting does not drag - ever.  And it's over - promptly, timely, respectfully.

The needs are endless but our God has endless resources; the wounds are deep but you serve as a healing balm; the flexibility to meet those needs is limited by your willingness to dream big; your worth is not defined by waiting tables but rather enhanced by being identified with the one who washed feet; your victory certain and calling in Him secure and “if God is for us, who can ever be against us” (Romans 8:31)? From The Deacon by Cary Holbert

posted in: The Deacon

Here is a devotional I wrote in 2013 as part of 12 months "deacons devotional" dissecting the "charge given to CRC deacons."  I serve in the ministry of Christian Service Ministries funded by Classis Chicago South.  

Month 10                                            Monthly Deacons Devotions

“Be prophetic critics of the waste, injustice, and selfishness in our society.” 

(Based on the Charge given to deacons at their installation in the Christian Reformed Church.)

What kinds of waste do we see around us?  What can we do about it?  Is our church being stewardly or wasteful?  Think about money, time, water, electricity, paper, food, etc?  

 

Are you encouraging your church to be generous?  The more generous we become, the less selfish we are.  How can we focus less on our own needs and those of our neighbors in our communities and around the world? 

 

The Christian Reformed Church website has a section devoted to the “Office of Social Justice” where they cover topics such as: 

Abortion          domestic poverty                    economic justice          global poverty

HIV/AIDS      human trafficking                   immigration                 refugees

Religious persecution                                      restorative justice

 

Visit http://www2.crcna.org/pages/justice.cfm or Visit:  www.crcna.org  

Click ministries; scroll down and click denominational ministry programs;

scroll down and find “office of social justice”

 

The Old Testament prophets speak about injustice and selfishness.  The sin and disobedience that occurred 2700 years ago still occur. 

Is. 5:7 “He looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.”

Is. 10:1-2 “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.” 

Is. 59:11 “We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away.”

Ezekiel 22:29 “The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice.” 

Amos 5:12, 15, 24, “You deprive the poor of justice in the courts….Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts….Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”

 

What is your deaconate doing to address any of these issues?  Maybe you could recruit a few people from the congregation to be part of a social justice committee to raise the awareness in the congregation.  Maybe your church already has people in your congregation who are wrestling with poverty issues, immigration issues, abortion issues.  What can you do? Maybe you want to pick 1 area to focus on for 1 year and see what kind of response you receive from the congregation.  Is there a particular issue that you feel passionate about?  Seek God, a God of justice, for His wisdom on ways to bring justice in this world. 

 

Recommended book: 

Hybels, Bill.  The Power of a Whisper. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 2012.  

Gentlemen,  World Renew is doing an excellent job of representing the Christian Reformed Church both nationally and internationally.  World Renew is present in 38 countries and is admired by numerous NGO's for the success it has shown in fighting injustice and poverty.  Andy Ryskamp was chosen to lead the Integral Alliance due to the skills he has shown in leading World Renew.  Please go to the World Renew web-site and see for yourselves.   

I agree, Bread for the World is a helpful resource that focuses directly on waste and injustice. They were even recommended to CRC churches by Synod in 1979.

Great post! The Diakonia Task Force did a survey, available on their website I think, that affirms the hunch that in general deacons don't take a very active role in being prophetic critics of waste and injustice. I have, however, seen deacons take on this role in powerful ways. Some examples are: finding legal services for immigrants, advocating for better immigration laws, and one church that found a pro bono legal organization to help someone fight an unjust landlord. All of these examples started with an individual coming to the deacons for benevolence and were moved towards justice because the deacons thought in a creative long term way about the situation they were presented with.    

Thanks for sharing this information about BFW's Offering of Letters effort. Thanks too for doing your part in fulfilling this important part of your charge as a deacon.

Partnering with Bread for the World with their annual Offering of Letters (http://www.bread.org/ol) is one of the best ways U.S. deacons can fulfill this part of their charge. This year, for example, the focus is on reforming U.S. food aid, directly addressing waste and injustice. I'll be organizing an Offering of Letters in my church this coming Sunday, facilitating the writing of letters to members of Congress on this topic.

Bonnie, I agree with you that it takes humility to make such a shift in how we do diaconal ministry. I also believe and agree that it is essential for us to pray for it. Thank you and stay tuned!

What a wonderful and thought-provoking question. My initial response is that it takes humility to do "with" rather than "for" and that's not easy. I hope that we are ready for this necessary paradigm shift and I will pray for it.

 

Karl, thank you for sharing your thoughts and some of the challenges you have faced and continue to face as a seasoned veteran of diaconal work.  I think many of us who have been doing this work for a while definitely get your "drift" and can empathize with you . . . I know I can.

Your comments reminded me that this work of advancing God's reign by transforming lives, communities, and systems is first and foremost God's work and mission (or what my professors at Calvin Seminary referred to as the "Missio Dei" or God's Mission)  It also reminded me that this work is not something that I can or should do or try to do by myself or on my own power. I need to be doing it "with" others, empowered by God's Spirit. I don't know about anyone else, but this is something I find I need to do daily and often throughout the day. 

Any other thoughts or comments? 

I did an urban seminary internship for two years, and have been active in race and community development professionally for 45 years.  I go to an urban church that sits in the middle of a community of high needs, and we have a long standing relationship with John Perkins.   We also have a community house next door where some congregation members live to give expression to our commitment to be the presence of Jesus in the neighborhood.  We have a food pantry, and we are very concerned about the gentrification happening in our parish.   Ive talked with Lupton, and read Toxic Charity, as well as When Helping Hurts.  Ive read the Bible too.  So why is it so very hard for me to give up my old assumptions and paradigms about. helping, and why do I persist in talking the new ABCD lingo while doing things pretty much  the old way?  Why do the old habits and patterns and programs continue to shape my behaviors?   it's like my racial attitudes.  I can talk the talk, but rooting out the old junk in my heart is way harder than root canals.   Here's what 'Ive been thinking about.......   1.  I LOVE my comfort zone.   2.  being a change agent is difficult, lonely, unpopular.  3.  Changing my own behavior is way hard when I'm functioning in a context packed with traditions, opinions, policies, habits, and procedures that are in tension with radical development theory and practice.   4.  Taking neighbors seriously and listening to them and genuinely respecting and nurturing their emerging leadership takes long and demands persistance and tenacity, grace, patience, humility.   I prefer fast and thrilling.   5.  Working with a diverse and heterogeneous population is inefficient.  It's much more efficient to design a program, get it funded, and roll it out.  6.  The task is overwhelming.  Kids are being lost to the streets at a rate that far outpaces anything our little local efforts could possible address.  Even if I made a radical change in my own behavior, I'd still be making barely a dent.   7.   You get my drift.  Can you sort of get a feel for what my New Year's resolution might be?    What if following Jesus more closely outweighed all my wants and opinions?  What a journey I'd be on!   Time for transformation of my mind.  Again.   Pray for it.

 

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