You won’t find Community Developer in the ordination form.  Yet as I listen to cultural critics, spiritual directors and numerous other thoughtful people about personal growth there is a persistent reference to role of community.   

February 27, 2012 0 2 comments

I’m writing to ask for your help with an issue that affects all Christian Reformed churches. Faith Alive, as you know, is the publishing ministry of the CRC. But like many denominational publishers, Faith Alive is facing significant financial headwinds in today’s tough economic times.

February 24, 2012 0 11 comments

Recently I read about Circles of Support and Accountability that helped many sexual offenders as they transitioned out of prison and into our neighbourhoods. It got me thinking not just about this particular engagement as a way of serving Christ in the neighbourhood, but more generally about discipleship. 

February 13, 2012 0 0 comments

It occurred to me that perhaps one way of training elders (and pastors) in the work of pastoral care is to encourage the memorizations of the psalms. And then I wondered:  if we had a program of training for elders, which psalms should be memorized?

January 30, 2012 0 3 comments

Family and friendship ties may help us keep somewhat informed about life in other congregations, but these informal relationships are inadequate. The quality and depth of the relationships require deeper conversation and shared life.  This happens by taking seriously the

January 3, 2012 0 1 comments

Is there any "Social Justice" in our concern for retired pastors?  Should elders be concerned about the welfare of retired pastors?

December 18, 2011 0 0 comments

How many visits have we made?  Have we prioritized our efforts well? Are there particular issues that we need to address? What are some key issues for the spiritual formation of our members that we ought to highlight? How can we help each other fulfill our responsibilities? 

December 5, 2011 0 0 comments

Spiritual formation never happens in a vacuum.  It always happens when the call of the gospel challenges our habits of thinking and our way of living.  Tension alerts us and invites us to pay attention.  Amid the tension we can speak words that encourage new faithfulness.  

November 22, 2011 0 5 comments

If a person is trustworthy, we give trust easily. If a person is unreliable, we learn not to count on that person. If a person is vindictive, we become wary. So it ought not be a surprise that our understanding of God – the attributes and images we carry around in our head – make a difference in ...

November 8, 2011 0 0 comments

It is hard to imagine that weeds are a sign of grace, yet that’s what the Parable of the Weeds and Wheat is suggesting  (Matthew 13).  Everyday I drive by fields (now harvested) of various grains. The farmers I know prefer fields without weeds. Jesus words are striking...

October 31, 2011 0 0 comments

The title may seem a bit crass -- and actually it is -- but that is precisely the question that I am asked most often as a stated clerk by elders: "How do we get rid of our minister?" I vividly recall the conversation from the chair of council who actually began our phone conversation with that question. I quickly learned that he was the one having difficulty with his pastor and he simply wanted him 'gone'.

October 19, 2011 0 5 comments

Every Thanksgiving Day – Canadian thanksgiving just passed - becomes on occasion for a preacher to reflect deeply on the very act of gratitude. This year was no different. If we want to help people grow in the life with God, practices of gratitude are a...

October 17, 2011 0 1 comments

Each of the responsibilities of elders is important for transformation, but I have become convinced that one of the most important signs of kingdom transformation is increased unity. Our worship, our fellowship, and our witness are damaged when Christians are at odds with each other. Disunity is unattractive and even repugnant...

October 5, 2011 0 0 comments

In our time there are many who participate in the life of the congregation but do not become members. Part of the ministry of the leadership needs to address the importance of membership covenants and relationships. This is about our life together in Christ.

September 26, 2011 0 0 comments

A not-so-hypothetical question: you have snow birds who have been attending your congregation for a couple of years. They've resisted membership because they maintain membership in their "southern" church. Now they are wondering if they can become dual members (like dual citizenship?) at both...

September 22, 2011 0 6 comments

According to  David Lyle Jeffrey (Books & Culture - A Critique of All Religions), in the church in China “one may expect to find much higher levels of biblical literacy and theological clarity by three to five years post-conversion than amongst American counterparts after two or three decades in the church.” This got me thinking...

September 5, 2011 0 3 comments
Discussion Topic

In our 70+ year old church we are engaged in a bit of research into the differing and dominant theological streams of thought within the CRC..  Our pastor, Tom Kok, stated that there is a pamphlet that outlines the three major streams and I'm trying to locate it.  A little background as to why...

August 29, 2011 0 6 comments

Confession of sin is part of the healing process. It's important to note that this does not mean that a particular sin was the cause of sickness.  It does mean that when we come before the Lord with a request on our lips we also prepare to enter into the presence of God. Coming before the Lord is not a “right,” but a gift of the Lord.  

August 24, 2011 0 3 comments

The question has been raised about the elder’s role in the governance of worship... It is important for council to establish some guidelines in the area of worship if they are delegating responsibly.  In my experience, very little of this is written down in a policy manual.  The guidance happens through conversation and, at times, complaint.

August 15, 2011 0 3 comments

But what good is it to say (paraphrasing James 2:16) “I will pray for you”  when we do not provide the support which is within our means.  Sometimes we are the answer to the prayer.

August 1, 2011 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic

James 5:13-15

 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick...

July 21, 2011 0 6 comments
Resource, Article

Increasingly, church communities are seeking new ways of living in community with countless people for whom the role “heterosexual, married with children” does not apply.  Gays and lesbians are included in that broad category.  The standard responses were varied but by and large focused on one...

June 27, 2011 0 7 comments

Fear needs to be rightly trained. Fear needs to be disciplined by the guidance of the triune God and experience of deep love.  Much of what we fear displays a mistrust of God’s guidance and direction.  Much of what we fear reveals the inadequacy of the love in community. This past synod (June 2011) reveals many conversations we need to have.

June 27, 2011 0 1 comments

Redemption is change.  Change is hard.  Even God thought the cross was the only way.  Sometimes it seems to me despite Jesus words that anyone who wishes to follow him needs to take up the cross, we prefer to escape it.  We would rather take a pill. 

June 6, 2011 0 0 comments

Perhaps one of the hardest activities of all is listening well.  Miroslav Volf in his book Allah: A Christian Response writes that in every conversation of two people there are seven present.  Me and You.  My image of you and your image of me.  My image of myself and your image of yourself.  The seventh is God. 

May 30, 2011 0 0 comments



Maybe that illustrates my point about merely following rules.   If as Tom mentioned, a group has a "short" worship service briefly before some particular environmental activity, activity which others might regard as "not resting on the sabbath", then that shows how mere rules can be interpreted however one wants.   If the short service is held merely to satisfy some "rule", then another rule which is often read on the sabbath as part of our grateful response for our salvation in Christ, is completely ignored.  And in both cases we miss the point.  

Yes, Christian service is important.  But again, compare it to being in a family.   Your wife wants you to spend some quality time with her.  She wants you to listen.  She wants you to contribute to her understanding.   And you agree, but you have one eye on your watch.   Basically, you limit her time, make it briefer than usual, with the very "legitimate" excuse that you are going to fix her dishwasher and cut the grass so that "her" yard will look nicer, and maybe you will even go to town to buy her some new dishes, or a a new vacumn cleaner.    Surely she will be happy?   And when she is not happy, you will not have a clue as to why not.  

Cheating God on your spiritual connection cannot be paid for with good works.   Was it Judas who said our time could be better spent on helping the poor.... no, that was the ointment "wasted" on the dusty feet of our Lord....   hmmn. 

I am not talking about helping people desperately in trouble.   Every action in that regard is a sermon in action.   But "community needs" and environmental concerns merely leads to people justifying their working in Macdonald's or Walmart  or Exxon on Sundays to serve the community,  After all, why is that less "community needs" than picking up papers in the gutters?   And if you pick up garbage on Sundays as service to God and community, then what is the meaning of garbage picked up  on Monday or Tuesday?   I'm not buying it.   And it has nothing to do with the church order.   It has to do with spiritual priorities. 

posted in: Leading From Behind

but Church Order serves the churches, not the other way around.  The practices change over time and the CO eventually catches up (usually by inserting the word "ordinarily").  I don't like to think of the CO as merely "suggestions" but I also don't want it to bind us too tightly as we engage our local community.

posted in: Leading From Behind

That is my point there is not enough flexibility in the Church Order.  I would challenge leaders to overture Synod to make changes so it is not "distant" from every day practices.

posted in: Leading From Behind

Church order seems to be a distant thing in the day to day practice of church life. It's good to have in certain circumstances, say, in outlining the process of ordaining a pastor. But situations arise that Church Order doesn't address and a church has to deal with it. As one of those churches that substitutes environmental cleanup for a regular worship service, please be assured that we also have a short worship service beforehand. The ancient Christian pattern and the Church Order do oblige us to have a worship service on Sunday morning. We have a short service of singing, prayer, short meditation, an offering, and a blessing. Then we extend our worship by addressing community needs. It forces us to remember that worship and work must be one and that we exist for the sake of others. After all, Church Order 73 calls us to bring the gospel to all people at home and abroad, and Councils are enjoined to stimulate the members of the congregation to be witnesses for Christ in word and deed. How we do that is as unique as our own neighbourhood. Structure and flexibility are both very important in the way we organize ourselves as churches.

posted in: Leading From Behind

Al, you have raised a very good point.  Often the church order seems to be adjusted to practices that are already happening.  While there are things that should probably be adjusted in the church order, it has quite a bit of flexibility, much of which has been added over the years.   For example, in some articles, using the word "normally" or "ordinarily", seems to leave room for practices which are different from the norm.  However, since "ordinarily" is not defined, it can lead to the exceptions becoming the norm as things change over the years. 

I think this is interesting to raise this issue in the elders section, since the church order gives so little actual attention to the role of elders specifically.   It is difficult to point to an article other than article 25 as to what the specific role of elders is, and the article is shared with deacons.   Since elders ultimately have the authority to appoint, delegate, supervise, it is surprising that so little attention is paid to how that is done.   The whole relationship of elders to pastors (who are supposed to be elders as well) seems to be skewed, particularly when you have 18 or more articles dealing specifically with various aspects of pastordom/ ministry/preacherhood, and only one specifically mentioning elders.  

Of course, it is obvious that only synod can change the church order, since that is where it originated.  But it is also obvious that individual councils can selectively apply the church order within their locality, since it is the elders who are ultimately responsible for those decisions. 

While the church order may be a good thing to have, in many aspects of spiritual life within the church, more will be gained by convincing and teaching the benefits of certain practices, than by simply highlighting the fact that some distant body made some rules which should be followed.   For example, I have read or heard of some churches substituting some works of service, such as environmental cleanup, or visiting sick in hospital in place of holding a worship service.  The church order did not seem to stop them.   But I believe they have lost the understanding of our relationship to God.  The reverence and worship we display for God is the underpinning for the value of doing any good works.  Good works cannot substitute for our direct worship.  God does not want our sacrifices (works);  God wants our hearts.   Faith without works is dead, but works without faith are not pleasing to God.  A comparison might be made to parents who supply food and clothing and toys for their children but never take time to talk with them or play with them.   Our worship services are valuable simply because they do not seem to have any physical earthly purpose for us the way food and clothing do.   They are dedicated to concentrating on God, and on our fellowship in our Lord.  Skipping this will lead to a breakdown in communication with God.   Understanding this is more important than memorizing some rules. 

posted in: Leading From Behind

The US Declaration Of Independence was the greatest advertising copy in the history of the world. 

posted in: Are We All Equal?

Great post, Al.  As the person responsible for finding and placing many volunteers in the life of our church, I wholeheartedly agree that we must look for the right fit of gifts and interests to match the needs.  Not everyone is a Sunday School teacher, some prefer Stephen Ministry work.  Some members love to sing into the microphone, others prefer to "play" with the sound equipment.  Some are gifted with leadership skills, some are blessed with the ability to listen and follow well.  

When we find the right match for our volunteers (and for ourselves), life blossoms.  When these things don't match, people get tired, frustrated, and the job doesn't get done as well as we'd hoped.  Then we hear complaints and people feel misused and conflict ensues. 

I've appreciated this quote from Einstein:  “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

posted in: Are We All Equal?

When do the cows come home?  But there is something like historical research so we can distinquish between a fairy tale anda  story from a historical perspective.

Study until the cows come home. You will not know which story is true in this life.


Christian education is a lifelong process. So materials must be appropriate for the developmental and intellectual stages of the student. (I didn't mention--and I am not talking about--age!). The church is a secondary support for the primary teachers: THE PARENTS. (The primary support should be their own parents, siblings, extended family members, and accountability partners--i.e., other Christians.) The church should make sure all adults (especially PARENTS) are mature and healthy individuals relationally and spiritually. (They should also know how to define "mature" and "healthy" in those contexts and the process.) We are then to train them to be good discipleship makers (teachers and life coaches) to their own family and spheres of influence.

          The following are good resources to start using:

(3) THE TRUEU DVD Christian Worldview Curriculum young adults: (

(4) REWIRED: A Teen Worldview Curriculum (

You will then know how concrete and/or how abstract your material must be. For example, you shouldn't try to teach the doctrine of the Trinity until the person is intellectually capable of handling abstract math concepts like Pi and infinity (and after they are ready for Algebra and Geometry). They will then be able to understand the difference between 1 x 1 x 1 = 1 and 1 + 1 + 1 = 3 without much trouble since they will have learned that certain mathematical concepts have unique properties (e.g., “one” and “zero” with multiplication and Pi).  Consequently, they can then apply the same contrast to the Trinity as being an argument more like 1 x 1 x 1 = 1 rather than 1 + 1 + 1 = 3.  They will also have the capability to distinguish different denotations for the homonyms (1) "person" used in everyday speech as an “individual or individuated being” and (2) "person" used in theological speech to mean a “distinction, subsistence, role or personality—distinct thing [res]”.


Contemporary physics, for instance, has discovered an apparent paradox in the nature of light. Depending on what kind of test one applies (both of them “equally sound”), light appears as either undulatory (wave-like) or corpuscular (particle-like). This is a problem. Light particles have mass, while light waves do not. How can light have mass and not have it, apparently at the same time? Scientists can’t yet explain this phenomenon, but neither do they reject one form of light in favor of the other, nor do they reject that light exists at all. Instead, they accept what they’ve found based on the evidence and press on.

Like physicists, we are no more able to explain the mechanics of the Trinity than they can explain the apparent paradox in the nature of light. In both cases, the evidence is clear that each exists and harbors mystery. So we must simply accept the facts and move on. Just because we cannot explain the Trinity, how it can exist, or how it operates does not mean that the doctrine must be rejected, so long as sufficient evidence exists for its reality. (Defending Your Faith by Dan Story, pp. 100-101).


In short, if you are teaching confirmation class to those still in a concrete thinking stage and rules stage (the majority of those 10 and under), they won’t be able to understand the catechism. Nor will they be able to understand the various forms of proofs (verification versus falsification; scientific versus logical versus historical, etc.) and their uses and limitations.   


You will have to make sure your Parent education program (i.e., Christian Education program) is structure and designed to revisits the contents of the catechism with the students again when they reach more abstract stages of ethical and intellectual development (around the time they can grasp Algebra and Geometry) and use abstract principles in their ethical thinking like umbrella concepts for positive and negative rules and regulations: e.g., the Great Commandments versus Laws and regulations. They must be able to know--as well as know how to determine--"the right means, the right goals, and the right proofs" for the subject at hand: historical, social scientific, scientific, logical and/or philosophical, etc.

You ask a very good question, Al.  We are going thru planning of the sunday school program, and it includes a bit of a struggle with where catechism classes should begin.  Some say earlier and some say later.  I'm inclined to think that if the youth only go through or cover the catechism material once, they will not learn it very well.   Between missing a few classes, and missing out on the repetition at different ages, they will miss out also on the opportunity to grasp the concepts better.   It seems to me that there are different ways of teaching by the catechism and about the catechism, which should be appropriate to different ages.   The sunday school classes and bible stories seem to cover the stories of Jonah and the big fish, and David and Goliath, many times over.  The repetition of that does not seem to be a problem. 

As an elder I also agree that I have not monitored what has been taught, and particularly not the teaching of the catechism, very well.  One of the ways of improving that perhaps is to have the elders teach some of the catechism classes;  at least that will lead to a better understanding of what is taught and how it is learned.  But teaching catechism classes must come from the heart, it must be not just a use of materials or going thru a program, but it must be a conviction of the faith, and a passing on of this faith as a lifeline of hope and trust. 

And I think we should not underestimate the capacity or abilities of our young people when they are learning. 

Thanks for the incredibly thoughtful reply. I'll have to mull that over a bit.... but my initial reaction is that what you say makes sense

Ryan, I agree with most of your answers, especially in terms of our responsibiilty and response to God.   Only I have difficulty with your definition of human.  You said, "One of the biggest differences between humans and animals is that we know good and evil and can strive towards good.  The more we do this, the more human we are."  

I agree that humans can know good and evil and take responsibility for it, while animals are driven merely by instinct.   But I do not agree that humans can be more human or less human.   You see, the problem with saying that men could be less human, such as Hitler for example, is that if he is nothing more than an animal, how could he be held eternally responsible for his actions as a human being?   How can an animal know good and evil?   How could an animal repent from his actions?   Why would we expect anything else from an animal or a less-than-human? 

You see, he is fully human, although he had perverted his humanity and his relationship with God.  He is fully accountable to God as a human.  It is in our full humanity that we are sinners;  we cannot use the excuse of our instincts or our supposed animal instincts to excuse our disobedience.   Jesus became fully human, and in his humanity did not sin, and because of that, was able to be a substitute for us as humans.   Jesus did not become partially animal in order to redeem our animal nature.   It is disobedience and obedience that is at stake, not a reversion or change to some animal nature.  Although we might sometimes use the terms "monster" or "animal" to describe a particularly heinous situation, we should realize it is ultimately a figure of speech. 

John . " 

"Ryan, perhaps you ought to define what you mean by human."  

One of the biggest differences between humans and animals is that we know good and evil and can strive towards good.  The more we do this, the more human we are.


"If we have rejected God, are we then not living by our "animalistic" nature, as you term it?"

Well there are morally confused Christians and moral atheists, but certainly on the whole, I think the person who knows there is a God who loves us and cares about how we behave in this world is more likely to strive towards the good.


"Does it matter then if we choose a violent or coercive pathway, or a  politically pleasing persuasive pathway while we still serve only ourself?"

Yes, it does.  For example, I'm pretty sure that there's about 6 million Jews (not to mention their families) who wish that Hitler would have chosen a non-violent politically pleasing pathway rather than the violent one he in fact chose.


"Does it matter then if we achieve the approval of men or not, if we have rejected God?"

It is not about achieving the approval of men.  It is about loving our neighbor as ourselves, striving to follow God's commands to the best of our abilities, and all the other things a good and obedient Christian is called to do.


"How does your definition of "human" fit with the potential to be redeemed?   Is the mere act of repentance a transition from less human to more human?"

Certainly.  There are few things on the earth more likely to drive men towards living in a way God wants us to live than genuine repentence.


"Did the man on the cross next to Jesus  become more human without any other act than acknowledging his own guilt?"

Yes, I think so.  But I'd be a little wary about concluding too  much from that.  Complete changes of heart moments before death are possible, but rare.  Usually there is a lot of life to be lived between repentance and the end of our lives.  And in that window of time, if we don't live out our faith in deed, one has to question the sincerity of the original conversion.

"Or was he still inhuman or less human because of what he had done?"

Through his evil act of murder, he certainly created havoc and misery on this earth.  In scripture, it seems that God has forgiven him for this evil he has done.  That's great, but again, the question is what we ought to conclude based on this.  If we conclude that God thinks murder is okay so long as you say some magic words before you die, I think that's a very tough conclusion to reconcile with the whole of scripture.  Remember, we are talking about a God who wants men to live together in harmony.  A God who flooded the world solely because all but a few people treated each other miserably.  Disobediance to God stains our souls and is not something we should take lightly. 

"Is it our own actions, or the grace of God that redeems us?"

The grace of God can redeem any of us at any time, obviously.  He is God and we are not.  But I believe (and the Bible argues strongly in favor of this notion) that if we use this fact as an excuse or a crutch to excuse evil or (worse still) to argue that God doesn't care about evil and that it doesn't have any ultimate impact, we are on very shaky ground indeed.

Ryan, perhaps you ought to define what you mean by human.   If we have rejected God, are we then not living by our "animalistic" nature, as you term it?  If we reject God, then we depend on ourselves, create our own gods, make ourself into a god... is this not animalistic?   Does it matter then if we choose a violent or coercive pathway, or a  politically pleasing persuasive pathway while we still serve only ourself?    Does it matter then if we achieve the approval of men or not, if we have rejected God?  

How does your definition of "human" fit with the potential to be redeemed?   Is the mere act of repentance a transition from less human to more human?   Did the man on the cross next to Jesus  become more human without any other act than acknowledging his own guilt?   Or was he still inhuman or less human because of what he had done? 

Is it our own actions, or the grace of God that redeems us? 

Debra, yes Paul was a flawed human being.  But then, so are you.  If being flawed means your view should be disregarded, then I guess your view should be disregarded.  Paul was showing us how to worship Jesus, how to serve his Lord and our Lord.   Paul as an apostle chosen by Christ, presented the scriptural and Godly perspective on homosex, drunkeness, slandering, swindlers,sexually immoral, greed, etc.      Loving everyone does not mean loving everything that they do.  There are many things that Jesus did not speak about directly but that scripture still gives us guidance on, and  the apostles were able to write about that. 

Here is a list that we were given earlier this year.

This was composed by a lawyer who has been dealing with lawsuits against churches in which inproper recordkeeping played a huge role.

Hope this helps

Doug Sebens

Lynden, WA.




What to Include:

*Name of the Church

*Meeting date and location

*Names of present Board Members

*Names of absent Board Members

*Names of Guests

*Time the meeting was convened and by which Board Member (usually the Chairperson)

*Approval of Agenda (which should include prior meeting minutes)

*Meeting topics and discussions

- The order of the minutes should follow the order of the agenda

*Time the meeting was adjourned


What to Leave Out

The minutes are a factual record of business. Do not include:


*Opinions or judgments: Leave out statements like "a well done report" or "a heated discussion. "

*Criticism or accolades: Criticism of members, good or bad, should not be included unless
it takes the form of an official motion. Thanks or expressions of appreciation should only
be included if there was a clear consensus of meeting participants. (For example, by

*Discussion: If the organization has opted to include discussion summaries, do not
personalize it by recording the views of individuals.

*Extended rehashing of reports: Just hit the highlights or key facts, particularly if a written
report is attached.

*Identity of voters: Unless a participant asks that their vote or abstention be recorded, don't
identify any voter by his or her position on the issue.


After the Meeting

*The Secretary types up the minutes and distributes them to the Chairperson for approval
before distribution.

*Secretary signs the Minutes once they are approved by the Chairperson and distributes
them to each Board Member (and other appropriate persons) as soon as possible after the

*Secretary files the original Minutes in the Church corporate records book or other safe
place at the Church office.

I didn't say our humanity is dependent on our perfection. Like I said, no man can ever be perfect. But I do firmly believe that when we repeatedly choose the evil over the good, we harden our hearts and forsake a bit of our humanity. It is the folks like the murderers in Aurora and Oak Creek who we rightly call "monsters". The habit of evil corrodes the human heart.

Man has an animalistic nature and a Godly nature. Again, we cannot be perfect, but we can choose whether or not to completely reject any attempt at living a holy life. If we make that unfortunate choice, we become more selfish and narcissistic and less empathetic and kind-hearted.... in other words, less fully human.

I can understand how the debate raging around gay marriage and the Chick fil A controversy can stir passions on both sides.  But what is hard for me to understand is the "If Jesus didnt talk about it he must be ok with it" arguement. Jesus did not talk about homosexuality...I grant you that. But then to take the arguement to the conclusion that since He did not talk about it He then must  be for it or at least not against it is absurd. Jesus never came out against the Roman occupation of Isreal. So he must think that one country invading another is a good thing?  He never talked about beating your spouse so therefore he must be for it? He never talked about infanticide so therefore we cant possibly have a Christian response to abortion? Debra mentions Jesus talking about marriage, yes, but it was in the context of In the begining and Male and female.

Paul was not our savior, merely one more flawed human being. He went about with the thorn in his side and had anger issues and problems with women. We do not worship Paul, we worship Jesus. And Jesus, being the perfect person, would have told us about what to do with homosexuality, just as he told us about adultery if it was of any consequence. What Jesus did talk about was to love our neighbor and our enemy, not to persecute them. He did not tell us to hate anyone, but to love everyone. To take the log out of our own eye before we worry about the splinter in others.

Richard, it would seem to me that supporting someone who might be villified for his christian belief, is different than persecuting someone who is not a christian. 

Ryan, is our humanity dependant on our perfection?  Would you be willing to abort an imperfect baby because they are less human?  It is in our humanity that we sin as human beings.  It is in our humanity that Christ restores us to Himself. 

Debra, Jesus talked about a man leaving his father and mother and cleaving to his wife(not a man cleaving to a man).  Paul mentioned the sin of homosex, Romans 1:26–27, 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, and 1 Timothy 1:9–10 .  The fact that there is no record of Jesus discussing it in detail proves nothing.   It was so obviously wrong that it did not need to be discussed.  No one is denying anyone the right to be celibate. 

Jesus never talked about homosexuality as an issue or a sin or anything else. He did however talk about the sanctiity of marriage. It seems to me that keeping people from marriage, regardless of their orientation, would be the sin that Jesus would highlight, not who it was who wanted to marry. We want people to be celibate outside of marriage and then we want to turn around and deny a whole segment of society that right.

"  For example we believe that stealing, killing, fraud, and lying are inappropriate and criminal behaviors.  However that does not mean we believe the person committing those acts are any less human that we are. "

Actually, that's exactly what it means.  Jesus was the most fully human person who ever lived, precisely because He did not sin.  that is the target we should be striving for.  Of course, none of us will ever hit it, but those who strive to and come closer are more fully human than those who do not.

In other words, I believe Mother Thresa was more fully human than Hitler.  The fact that someone affiliated with the church would teach otherwise should be quite disturbing to all of us.

Thank you, Brother Al, for reminding us where the "focus" is to be.

The most offensive part of this whole fiasco has been the promulgation of the idea that "if you're a 'good' Christian you will eat at Chick-Fil-A." The whole thing started as a socio-political statement, but because of the nature of the instigation, the 'Christian' machine started rolling. Though the event showed some Christians' appreciation for the restaurant it did little to promote the Christian message. In fact, the crowd I minister to, mostly saw it as a message of hate for homosexuals; using much more colorful metaphors than I would.

No one has addressed this fundamental ethical issue, or the inconsistency of this 'Christian' machine. They felt it necessary to defend CFA from the LGBTs, but where is the consistcy when Microsoft, Apple, Google, and so many other companies that are integral to our lives now, actively support the LGBT agenda? Where are the refusals to use those companies products in protest? Oh, wait a almost can't have any product anymore from any company that doesn't support something contrary to what you believe. So we make exceptions for them because, why? It's a necessary evil? I don't know, but I believe a consistent ethical system can be built that allows us to live by our standards and use products regardless of the social or ethical stance of the business.

This whole thing, to me, smacks of the meat (chicken?) sacrificed to idols. Paul didn't seem concerned that the meat had been sacrificed, nor that the money Christians spent on it went to support the Pagan temple. He was more concerned with offending the weak Christian, and by extension I think we could safely add the sinner. Jesus never went out of his way to offend the sinner, but he would confront them when necessary. There's a big difference.

We need to study how Christ loved the sinner and confronted the sin better, and perhaps we can be a more consistent ethical people.

I quite agree--much better, no doubt, to articulate some pastoral counsel on this than to keep silent. The homosexuality thing is such a polarizing hot button that people are afraid and confused, or they just glibly join one of the poles and batter away at the other side, it seems. Where's the gospel sweet spot in all this? Can't our respect for human dignity (yes, despite our fallenness) be heard as clearly as our perspective?

Thanks for all the feedback.  Coming up next my "take" on Church Discipline.

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If I am not mistaken the Synodical delgations from each classis begins at the local level delegating to Classis and then delegating elders to Synod. So Elders at Synod make the final decision. Prior to that happening the proposed Hymnal is asked to be reviewed by the churches for feedback. So the whole process still places emphasis on "elder supervision and approval".

I mentioned in an earlier comment I was not completely against the word "untameable" but I still maintain it is not the best word to describe God. However to each his own interpretation of the word as used in the song. 

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Very interesting and excellent comments.  We have a worship leadership team that reviews new songs we'd like to sing. Regardless of how catchy and easy to sing the song may be, if the lyrics are questionable as to our reformed theology, we may choose not to sing it.  But others we may choose to sing even if they don't speak about God.  But we agree to always include a caviat before the song that puts it into biblical perspective.  For example, the song Breathe, we usually read a psalm or other passage or say something that reflects our need to fully depend on God and his Word.

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Re:  August's comment and Al's response:  I think that spiritual leadership includes keeping an eye on the songs, particularly on the wordings of the songs, but also on how and when they are sung, and on who is leading the singing.  A song leader must also exhibit spiritual leadership;  they should not be living lifestyles that contradict either the songs, or the spiritual message that is presented every Sunday.   However, there is not just one way of monitoring or evaluating the songs.  In our worship we have a number of songs chosen by a song leader or praise team, and a number of songs chosen by the preacher.   We also usually have a couple songs early on after the children's story, which is just before the main service, which are sometimes favorites selected by the children.   Usually this works out okay, but sometimes they select songs which are questionable.  Sometimes they are sung, sometimes the leader will divert to a different song.   For example, some very young children will sometimes ask for "Twinkle, Twinkle little star", which to me is a bit, well... infantile..   but then they are very young children, after all.   But Twinkle, twinkle little star can end with the line, "God has placed you where you are."   Which brings it into a worship context.   The problem is that if we revert to the older familiar "How I wonder what you are", then we have missed the point, and are missing an opportunity. 

I would suggest that children's songs can be as much of a minefield as anything, partly because we want to humor the children, partly because we don't seem to expect as much from them.  But every incident and every song is an opportunity for teaching, and if we miss that, then we are inadvertently hurting our children.   And children can learn good songs just as easily as they learn bad songs and ditties.   So maybe we should start there. 

As a side note, we have a twelve year old girl who plays the drums and cymbals in accompaniement along with the piano and the singing, for almost every praise song and congregational hymn that we sing.   She has a knack for making it blend and fit, and it is neat to see and hear. 

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At our church, ALL songs are selected by our liturgy team, NOT our PW team.  This liturgy team consists of our lead pastor, our Director of Worship, one worship team member, and various members of the congregation. 

Song ideas are discussed with their relevance to that particular worship service's theme.  And while our Director of Worship will have a lot of input regarding songs, our pastor always has the final say.

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1. You state that Article 52 gives the elders the responsibility to make sure synodically approved songs are used in worship services. Does this also apply to the synodical endorsement of new hymnals? When Synod approved of the new hymnal this summer, did each delegate to Synod read and study every song in the hymnal? Or did they rely on the expertise of the committee assigned the task of putting this hymnal together? When church councils assign people to be a part of the worship committee, do the elders still need to go over every song the committee approves? While it is the committee's responsibility to report to the council, should it not have the support of the elders and shouldn't it be trusted to use appropriate material without having to worry that everything they do will be second guessed? If the council does it's work properly, they will make sure that there are people on the committee who have some musical experience and knowledge of appropriate songs. I know in our church, the worship committee is made up of an elder, who chairs the committee, the pastor, the music director and the praise leader, among others.

2. In regards to Chris Tomlin's song, Indescribable, this is a beautiful song of worship which honors the creativity of our Creator. Taken in this context, the description, untameable, is most definitely appropriate. God's ability to create this world along with all the galaxies and all the atoms that make up everything that exists cannot be tamed. He is indescribable, uncontainable, all powerful and untamable, as Chris Tomlin writes. When we are reminded of how awesome our God is in the words of this song, we can't help but be reminded of Psalm 95:1-7. I belive Chris Tomlin saves the best for last. In the first part of the song we are reminded of God's handiwork around us. In order to accomplish what He did, He has to be a big and powerful God. Yet, in spite of His greatness, we are reminded, "You see the depths of my heart and You love me the same." Praise the Lord!

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Thank you for your response and information.

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Back to the bigger question--not just whether "untameable" is appropriate--but WHO gets to decide that for our churches?  What are the lines of communication, trust, learning and decision-making?  I asked some of these questions a year ago in a similar blog--if you have time you can find it here .

Have Elders in our current churches abdicated their leadership roles in making these choices?  Have worship leaders/musicians been left to select their own music without guidance?  Have professional worship leaders wrested control of worship services from the Elders?  What connection do musicians have with preachers?  with Elders? on topics of planning and praying together?  Whether Elders or non-Elder worship leaders are making the choices, do they all have criteria or guidelines that help them make those choices?  

Pre-deterimined criteria can help both Elders and musicians select worship songs while avoiding personal biases.  These guidelines are especially helpful if the Elders are expected to be involved in worship decisions.  Typically one-third of the Consistory is new every year.  If there are no existing criteria for worship planning and song selection, then the worship style/structure/content will shift every year based on personal preference of the Elders.   If there are no established guidelines for song selection, the default principle becomes 'personal preference' and then--look out!--we start to defend our personal preference as more biblical/theological/missional/appropriate/reformed/pure/righteous... (whatever word will help us get our way without 'fessing up that we just personally like our song better). 

As both a preacher and a worship leader and musician, I appreciate prayerful interest and the investment of ideas and support from other Worship Planners and Elders in the difficult process of worship planning, rather than critique after-the-fact.  There are always things that can be improved on, and we who do this kind of work regularly are often reminded that something could have been better--better song choice, better sound technology, better musical style, etc.  It is more helpful when we work together, mutually respecting gifts and responsibilities, using agreed-upon criteria to plan and lead worship with our congregations.

Here are some very practical helps from the Calvin Institutes of Christian Worship's site:

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I am just pointing out what the church order states.  I don't think you need to know music to check out the words of a song.

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In our church, the music leaders are responsible enough to choose songs - or alternatively to change words if necessary.

Fortunately they are all approachable for positive comments.. This saves the consistory from continually discussing hymns and songs in their meetings and avoids the time taken to draft directives to the music leaders. Consistory members are chosen for their spiritual leadership - not their musical knowledge.

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I am a bit surprised that we did not receive more comments on "consistory supervision" of music, words, worship service in general.  They seem to delegate without oversight.

One last try at "untameable".  It means to me no control - God is controled by his own righteousness in which he wants us to be righteous as he is righteous.  Love our neighbor as he loves us, etc.

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To elaborate a wee bit more.... when someone says that untameable infers that it should be tameable, I think we are getting words and inferences mixed up.  Untameable does not infer that it should be tameable.  The word "Untamed" might infer that, or might suggest that taming is still possible.  "Untameable" is different than untamed, and  means that no matter how much you might try, no matter what the circumstances, God (or some animals or some people) are not controllable by others.  It says nothing at all about whether they "should" be controllable. 

As people, we often think or act as if God follows our lead.  If we pray the right prayers, sing the right songs, read the bible and the right books, then God will give us the life we desire, and the eternity we desire.   That is poor theology.  Our confessions express the exact opposite, that God chooses us before we ever choose Him.  That God's ways are greater than our ways, and His knowledge and understanding are far greater than ours.  

As human beings, we know we can tame many animals, we know we can control even ant colonies and bee colonies, and capture animals such as giraffs, snakes, frogs.   We can cut down forests, drain land, plant crops, re-route rivers, move mountains, explore the moon, maybe even change climate.  We have a lot of control, and can apparently tame or control most of this earth in some ways.   But we cannot do that with God, because God is greater than us.   Therefore God is untameable, uncontrollable by us. 

That doesn't mean that God does not keep his promises.  God is still faithful and true.  But God is our Lord and Master, which means that ultimately God is the initiator, not us. 

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I agree with that response. 

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I think it is possible to question the judgment of others in picking songs.  The Hymnal has a history of scrutiny and approval by way of Synodical decisions.  I am not certain each individual has the collective theological wisdom to scrutinize songss as well as the collective mind of the entire body (CRC).  I know I don't.  However the bigger issue is the role of consistories in giving leadership to our worship services and I am not sure that much time is spent in consistory meetings on the issue of worship.

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Al-I have many thoughts re: this topic. I'd like to talk offline if you are willing.

My main concern is that there is an overall lack of leadership and seriouls guidence between Elders and worship/praise teams (whatever they may be called at the local churches).  I share a very similar concern about the worship music that has made the way into "mainstream" worship and, in my humble opoion, made hymns something young children will never learn.  Hymns (though not exclusively) have deep and power lyrics, while some (perhaps many) of the newer worship songs seem to simply repeat lines over and over.

That is just the surface of my thoughs on this matter.  At current, I have served as a Deacon for just over 2 years and am serving as deacon chair for the next year. 

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I take "untameable" to mean "wildly imaginative"!  I LOVE thinking of God in that light!

If we're going to question praise songs, we should also question our hymnbook.  My congregation recently sang "God of Our Fathers".  I questioned the line "Let true religion in our hearts increase."  Really?  Religion?  Or do we mean faith? 

One can find criticisms for many songs.  However, I feel that as a true aspect of worship, each song SHOULD feel personal for each member.  If one feels that to think of God as being "wildly imaginative" helps to blossom their faith, that's wonderful.  If one feels that "religion" IS very important, then that song speaks to them.

If we examine each song with a fine-toothed comb we could cause brothers and sisters to stumble as well as give ourselves a LOT of extra work.  I say let our unique songs lead unique individuals!

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One more thought ... are there data that demonstrate a correlation between good supervision and longevity in ministry?  If we can show a correlation between these two, we could move the supervision discussion from  "it sounds like a worthwhile idea" to "we must develop our supervisory capacity" for the good of the pastors and the churches.

I remember at CTS that we would frequently do pastoral case conferences.  This was a good model in which peers mentored each other and supervision occurred in a group setting.  Groups of pastors, with a seasoned pastor as leader, could fulfill this supervisory role very well, and it would fit well in our polity; something like a modified CPE on a Classis level.

...Enough from the good idea fairy.


           I really appreciate this forum, the contributors and the  discussion.  As one of the CRC’s full-time military chaplains, it is easy to lose touch with the discussions that are happening in the church, and this site helps bridge the gap for me. 

            Regarding this issue of supervision, I have spent most of my 14 years as a pastor under some type of supervision, starting with internship during CTS, followed by several years of mentoring and supervision under a senior pastor in of our CRC congregations.  My current calling to chaplaincy also has a robust supervisory element – I am supervised by a senior chaplain as well as reporting directly (daily, in fact) to the commanding officer of my military unit. 

     When I graduated from CTS in 1998, several friends, classmates and family members expressed surprise at my decision to accept a call to a church where I would be in a supervised staff position.  Many told me that I needed to "get in the pastoral saddle" and become a solo pastor for in order to develop my own pastoral identity.  Now, 14 years later I am very glad that I decided to begin full-time minsitry in a supervised position; good supervision has been a major part of my development as a pastor and also saved me and others from the pain of many mistakes I would have made. While I do not doubt that many of my seminary classmates who went to solo pastorates also developed a healthy pastoral identity, supervision was and continues to be a part of my pastoral development.

      In my experience, successful supervisory relationships require 1) a pastor who welcomes and seeks supervision, and 2) an institution which structurally or organically empowers or encourages healthy supervision.  Is it fair to say that a pastor who wants supervision needs to seek it out?  (In some geographically isolated areas, finding good supervisors might be difficult.)  Why has ministry supervision been such a positive experience for me?  Because it was not imposed on me; I wanted it -  not just for myself but for the good of the people I serve.  Perhaps one of the qualities we should look for in our ministerial candidates is a desire for supervision and a track record of seeking out mentors, spiritual directors or others who help our ongoing pastoral development.  We should take extra caution when examining candidates who are opposed to supervision or avoid it.

     I do not think that a denominationally driven supervisory structure is the answer.   Several of my Navy Chaplain Corps colleagues have very dysfunctional relationships with their bishops or appointed supervisors.  A pastor who wants and seeks supervision is key.

            Here's the other side of the equation – how well do we train supervisors?  Do we have an adequate concept of what a good supervisor does?  Who she or he IS?  Do we have any institutional capacity builders for healthy supervision?  In the Navy Chaplain Corps, newly promoted chaplain officers attend a month-long supervisory course to learn how to properly supervise junior chaplains.  Continuing education for supervisors is an important piece of us to consider.  Expanded training at Classis to help churches understand the need for supervision and continuing education would also be helpful.

            Again, I appreciate this discussion forum and look forward to your responses.

Chaps out ...

The song "Indescribable", written by Chris Tomlin, available on the internet to read and/or listen to.  Untameable is kind of the opposite of "best buddy"...   Untameable is also the opposite of treating God like a pet.  It's theopposite of "tameable". 

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I sure would like to hear the other words to the song and try and put this into context. However more importantly we must acknowledge who God is. We should not be treating him or addressing him as our best buddy. He is God the Alpha and Omega. The Creator and must have the respect do him. We must speak of and to him reverently.

“Untamable” infers that we think God should be tamable.  Sorry I think this is a respect issue, and I don’t feel comfortable with this lyric.

Just my opinion but the interpretation of the lyric could be very confusing

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You're right. Too often Consistory empowers the worship committee to organize the service and there's little if any, diligent monitoring of praise song content. It is not unusual for praise songs  to reflect Arminian beliefs..

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Amen and amen, Paul. The degree of wobblyness just varies and the sooner we all recognize the need for a steadying, if not supervisory hand, the better ministry that we'll be able to do in Christ's name.

Yet to make it compulsory will require some means of enforcing that's meaningful, and our system has not been too amenable to such  until now. Until then, we've got to encourage those entering ministry to avoid the "lone wolf" approach. Seek  out a good friend, not  necessarily one from one's denomination. Not needed at all. I recall all too well, even after having served the church for 6 years in a non-ordained position, I was more than happy to have a Baptism colleague with him I could commisserate etc. but also sense a caring concern for how I was doing ministry. His name was Gordon Patch, and he "patched" me up several times as well as provided needed patches to cover my deficiencies, a wobby beginner.

I'm glad the wobbly church you serve gives you ample time to have these kinds of exchanges. Shalom!

In my experience with professional organizations, mentors are sometimes appointed for a time for new initiates into the professional organization, although this is not a hard and fast rule. But this only relates to the general conditions of qualifying as a member of the professional organization, not to the supervision of daily work. 

Supervisors of daily work and workers, almost always have the responsibility of providing and overseeing and changing workloads, of developing and managing evaluations and appraisals, as well as recommending salary changes or promotions or new job descriptions.   Ultimately supervisors have the ability to hire and fire, although they may require the approval of their own supervisor for these actions.  So I would be very, very careful about using that type of terminology.  It is the wrong term in this case. 

My warning is that we will lose the spiritual leadership of these positions and callings if we make too many analogies to careers and professional organizations.  It is quite different and important to realize that scripture itself is your best mentor and supervisor, and prayer and bible reading your best discussion with your supervisor.   Losing the scriptural focus in any group mentoring or personal leadership mentoring will run the risk of gaining smooth operations with a loss of spiritual impact. 

Always good to hear from you George, even though this text base medium. :) 

I'm a wobbly pastor of a wobbly church. Sometimes we wobble and we do fall down. I've been wobbling here with my church for almost 15 years we still wobble regularly. 

What I liked about Ken's piece was that it recognized the seriousness and the difficulty of ministry. Ministry is seriously difficult and we too often saunter blightly into it trusting in railings and floorboards that are less than solid. Ken knows this of course. Other disciplines have established serious mechanisms for accountability and support, many of which have been developed recently. There is no reason we can't avail ourselves of these learnings. 

Another voice in the back of my head knows many "solutions" despite all that they offer can provide no guarentees. Do these laudible structures always prevent malpractice or even simple mediocrite? I doubt it. I've seen enough in the counseling profession to have a bit of skepticism both in terms of what they hope to prevent overtly as well as the supposed outcomes they professions wish to provide. Both the counselor and the patient are complex broken human beings and we are helpless against much of what commonly assails us. We certify and credential with paper and systems and are still helpless before the brokenness that crushes us. We are all wobbly. Not looking wobbly doesn't necessarily mean much. :)