Blog

Do you know what your church's personality is?  What is the main emphasis of your ministry?  Are all Christian Reformed Churches the same?

April 6, 2013 0 0 comments
Q&A

Was supprised when a search for Member transfer forms came up blank?  How do I get one online?

April 5, 2013 0 1 comments
Blog

Do we really assign Deacons, Elders, and Pastors their Biblical roles?  How well do our members know what the function of each office really is?

March 18, 2013 0 3 comments
Blog

Why is it important to be part of a denomination? How well are we teaching Church History in our local churches?

March 2, 2013 0 2 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar was recorded on: Wed, 02/20/2013 So your congregation is moving forward on welcoming children and all baptized members to the Lord's Supper. Here’s your chance to get them answered by our panelists, and to hear the questions that other churches are asking.

February 20, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

How should the church approach the "Gun Issue"?  How does social media shape our minds as to our approach to owning and using guns and the outbreak of violence"? 

February 6, 2013 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

At 12:00 p.m. ET on February 13, Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock and Chaplain Herman Keizer will present, "Helping Veterans Suffering Moral Injury after War."  They'll discuss the definition and causes of moral injury, how it differs from post-traumatic stress disorder and what’s involved in the...

February 6, 2013 0 0 comments
Q&A

Further to the Church Order, has anyone formulated a policy or guideline to determine under what conditions a couple can be married in your church? Question came up in a Consistory meeting, thinking about past marriages between believers and non-believers who subsequently disappeared. What about...

January 17, 2013 0 1 comments
Q&A

Does the person who is chosen to complete the term of an elder who resigns need to be installed if he has served as an elder before?

January 11, 2013 0 3 comments
Q&A

Around this time each year our council receives the financial results for the church year, and we also recieve statistics on the annual giving of our members (without names). We then have a recurring discussion from the year before noting certain patterns and how many "zeros" there are.  The...

January 10, 2013 0 6 comments
Blog

You have any idea how a visitor views your church?  Do we take for granted we are doing everything well?

December 8, 2012 0 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar was recorded on: Wed, 12/05/2012 Now you are ordained by the church to provide spiritual oversight to the body of Christ. What does that involve? Together we will explore the nature of spiritual leadership in the church.

December 5, 2012 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

At 3:00 p.m. ET/12 noon PT on Wednesday December 5, 2012, Rev. Andrew Beunk, Lead Pastor at the New Westminster CRC in Burnaby, B.C. will present a webinar titled: "Called to Be An Elder? Now What?" This webinar will explore the nature of spiritual leadership in the church. For complete details...

November 28, 2012 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

In the midst of polarizing debates about homosexuality, how can we navigate diverse perspectives, extend hospitality, encourage faithful discipleship and promote unity and integrity in our churches? This webinar will reflect on the stories of gay Christians and encourage transformational...

November 21, 2012 0 0 comments
Blog

Do small churches have enough programs for their members?  Better question:  Can small churches have enough programs for their members?

November 20, 2012 0 0 comments
Blog

What are we hiding?  How well are we communicating who we are as the Christian Reformed Church of North America?

November 14, 2012 0 5 comments
Blog

Have you ever heard someone say, "Church is boring?"  How do you explain that the church is about more than entertainment?

November 1, 2012 0 5 comments
Blog

Are you quick to complain but slow to give thanks?  What are your plans for Thanksgiving Day?

October 24, 2012 0 1 comments
Q&A

Is there information on line which would be helpful when thinking about a ministry to inactives?

October 23, 2012 0 1 comments
Q&A

We currently serve both wine and grape juice, giving parishioners a choice.  But we also have several AA groups that use our facility during the week, and know that they have an open invitation to worship with us. There are a couple of members who have strong objection to switching to all grape...

October 16, 2012 0 11 comments
Blog

Do we know how to pray?  What petitions of the Lord's Prayer do we include in our congregational/Pastoral prayers?

October 15, 2012 0 0 comments
Q&A

I was a member of a congregation that elected a man to become an Elder without knowing his true background. According to the information in 1Tim 3, this man does not come near to the Biblical requirements of an Elder let alone the church standards.

The Bible also says we shall not gossip....

October 13, 2012 0 1 comments
Blog

What comes first the chicken or the egg?  What comes first what we do or what we say we will do?

September 29, 2012 0 13 comments
Blog

We are created equal.  We are not created equal.  Which is it? I would suggest that as individuals we are not all equal.

September 17, 2012 0 2 comments
Blog

What is the bottom line?  My wife and I just purchased a new car and that was the question that we asked ourselves as well as the dealer who sold us the car.  With that question fresh on my mind, I thought about it in a larger context; namely life.  

August 25, 2012 0 0 comments

Pages

RSS

I wrote a response to the conversation from which this posting grew. http://paulvanderklay.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/addressing-our-angst/

posted in: Angst

Trying to tease out sin from culture is like trying to tease out sin from me. The weeds are sown among the wheat. 

Culture is like folding a map. You can't fold the paper map without folding the paper in specific places. Once it is folded it will always be pre-conditioned to fold it there again. Having been folded there will impact whose spot on the map is under the fold. 

God made us to be culture making. In our rebellion all or culture making will be tainted. 

God cannot communicate much to us (general revelation) apart from culture. Once he decides to employ language we're into it. We can understand almost nothing apart from culture. We cannot understand God's perceptions or intent apart from culture. Fighting culture would be like fighting movement. Once you intend to start you're already there. 

posted in: Angst

Is the bible ahead of culture, or behind it?   Is it man's perception or God's perception we should be focussing on?   Can we distinguish between harmless cultural change, and cultural rebellion? 

posted in: Angst

Paul wrote: "I’d argue that the presence of the entire framework through which we’ve interpreted the value of the Gospel has changed and in many ways we need to work to understand the gospel anew within our present cultural-values framework."

I second that. Resoundingly. We are percieved as museums, even if these are living re-enactment museums that let us feel like we are active. Let's find new ways of bringing a Reformational Gospel into our culture... if we can keep up with it.

posted in: Angst

Paul, you mentioned Paul Douthat's comment on the sexual ethic.  Unfortunately, he doesn't relate it to a christian perspective.  I guess I would say that from a christian perspective, the bible says much more about sexual morality, than it does about pot or gambling, and therefore it would seem right that sexual morality is a huge issue for christians.   Always has been, always will be.   When the christian ethic is also cultural, there seems to be less angst, but when the christian ethic is counter-cultural, some angst is natural, yes? 

posted in: Angst

Thank you for sharing this beautiful picture of service and community within your church family.

posted in: No Janitor

In reply to Greg, I want to say that I completely agree with you.   Perhaps you will allow me to reword or say it different with regard to one thing.  You used the phrase "correct doctrine without a gospel center".  While I agree with the sense of what you said, I think it is essentially not possible to have correct doctrine without a gospel center.  Correct doctrine must be centered on the gospel of salvation by Christ and in Christ.  However, I think you are also hinting perhaps at the fact that it is not enough merely to believe, since the devils believe and tremble.  It is necessary to accept God's gift in faith, and rejoice in it, in trust and obedience. 

Thanks brother. These ideas have been germinating and marinating in my mind and heart for a few years, especially as we planted a church in a liberal-conservative mix of an urban city. The gospel is the answer for all!

Peace.

Amen Ryan!  I do not know you, but it is so good to know someone else is tracking along the same path!  The gospel is central to all.  It leads us to authentic humility because we recognize our fallenness as well as the incredible love of God for us in Christ making us His children.  

In answer to John, this message is what holds together those three streams.  Without continual repentance and faith we can fall into dead orthodoxy if we emphasize correct doctrine without a gospel center.  Without continual repentance and faith we can fall into old-school Protestant liberalism is we emphasize social action without a gospel center.  Furthermore, the gospel propels us outward to share the good news on equal footing with the lost (we all need repentance and faith!), which frees us from the danger of inward-focused pietism.

I thank you for such a clear article!  I found it very encouraging.

Thanks for the encouragemnt. I think, finding the balalce between the different streams of Reformed faith (piety, transformational, etc.) is the key of a robut gospel centric theology. 

Your article was really pertinent, Ryan.  Well written too.  

I was recently involved in a conversation where three aspects or emphases of christian perspective often found in the crc were mentioned.  These included doctrinalism (having your beliefs right), pietism (living right before God), and transformationalism (changing the world, or Christ changing the world's institutions and relationships).   What we need to understand as Christians is how these three aspects fit together.   We need to start with good doctrine.  For example, if we say that we can earn our own way to heaven by our good works, then our living right and our transformation of education and work and the government will be in vain.  After we have our doctrine right, then we can understand the purpose of true piety, which is to repent and bring  glory to God.   In addition, as book of James says, faith without works is dead.   Doctrine needs not just to be believed, but to be lived.  The transforming of society or of institutions (Christian schools, labor associations, christian farmers federation, etc.)  is an extension of the transformation of our own selves.   We cannot sidestep our own personal morality by focussing our attention on outward institutions.   Conversely, we cannot be truly pious personally, if we ignore God's claims on all aspects of our life, which includes how we educate our children, how we do our work, and how we impliment laws in society.   All three of these aspects of our faith life are equally important in the life of each Christ follower.   Transformation of belief, leads to transformation of our life, leads to transformation of the world around us. 

Q&A 81 which is used in this artical is very similar to the things we ask someone making public proffession of faith.  Our profession of faith is an examination of ourselves and people of very different intellectual abilities are able to do this basic step, it should remain a requirement bfor partaking.   We are not excluding children when they are not allowed to take communion, I think we are preparing them , our children should be right next to us watching and asking questions.

posted in: Invited (part 2)

A little tangential to this, but a question: What resources have you found helpful in teaching the covenantal infant baptism perspective to those who are not familiar with it?  

So far one of the most helpful I have found is the DVD from Third Millenium Ministries "Why Do We Baptize Our Children?", but I am sure that there's more out there.  

posted in: Invited

Some Christians sincerely believe baptized infants automatically become members of the family of God and are saved. They believe God’s covenant promise to Abraham “to be your God and the God of your descendants…”clearly says so.  However, Scripture says although Jews are direct, physical descendants of Abraham, only those who accept Christ as Lord and Savior belong to God’s spiritual Israel and as such  are children of the promise. Our children do not gain an automatic claim to salvation through family blood ties, as in the case of claiming a parent’s nationality.

The Roman centurion Cornelius and his household were all saved and when the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved, they replied, “believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved, you and your household.” Salvation is gained according to individual faith not as a family, hence in both cases the apostles were saying all in those families who accept Christ are saved.

God’s covenant promise to Abraham is, “for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:39) Note that the promise is for all “the Lord will call.” And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.(Romans 8:30).

In I Cor. 7:14 Paul says where only one parent is a believer, the children are holy; “for the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.”  Being holy means “set apart” in a Christian environment where they  hear  about Jesus and the gospel message of salvation. 

 

 

posted in: Invited

Sorry...the one line should say "Hence it is necessary to remind even children *of the covenant* constantly of the necessity of regeneration and conversion."  

See also a few pages earlier where he talks about how various Reformed theologians have distinguished between the covenant as a legal relationship and as a communion of life.  

posted in: Invited

See Berkhof's Systematic Theology, p. 288, under the heading "The Dual Aspect of the Covenant", esp such phrases as "God's promise to continue his covenant and bringit to full realizationin the children of believers does not mean that he will endow every last one of them with saving faith.  and if some of them continue in unbelief, we shall have to bear in mind what Paul says in Romans 9, they are not all Israel who are of Israel, the children of belieers are not all children of promise.  Hence it is necessary to remind even children constantly of the necessity of regeneration and conversion.  The mere fact that one is in the covenant does not carry with it the assurance of salvaiton.  When children of believers grow up and come to years of discretion it is of course incumbent uponthem to accept their covenant responsibilities voluntarily by a true confession of faith.  Failure to do this is strictly speaking, a denial of their covenant relationship."

So there is some variation within the tradition concerning how to understand this question, which has contributed to the debate of children at the table.  

posted in: Invited

I appreciate the conversation here. I'd like to respond in particular to something Joe Serge writes, about the baptismal ritual making children members of the family of God. He's absolutely right that the baptism ceremony itself does not make one a child of God – it symbolizes an existing reality. We often use the langauge of "sign" and "seal." But I'm trying to process the assertion that children are not part of the family until they are born again. We hold that children of believers are holy (see 1Cor 7); we comfort grieving parents who lost a little one that they are now with Jesus. This suggests to me that children are indeed part of the family before affirming the faith for themselves. But that leaves us with some tension: What's the point of being born again, as Joe correctly emphasizes, if we're already part of God's covenant family? Or: If there is a point when a child needs to consciously decide that s/he is part of God's family (be born again), how do we know when precisely that has happened or should happen? These are questions I've wondered about.

posted in: Invited

Don, thanks for your comments! I agree that there are differences between Baptism, the Lord's Supper and the preaching of the word.

posted in: Invited

I appreciate the points you make but I still do have some reservations.  There is definitely a difference between baptism and the Lord's Supper.  Sometimes I think we impose a sacramental theology on the ordinances of Christ.  (We first define sacraments and then make the Lord's Supper and Baptism fit the definition).  In baptism God acts exclusively. He takes us into his covenant.  From that moment on the relationship is two fold:  God - Us.  And that obligates us to respond in faith.  But God acts first and alone in baptism.  The Lord's Supper, however, is communion with God.  We both act:  God speaks to us, and we respond believingly.  Christ gives himself in bread and wine and we take and eat. That is a major difference between the Lord's Supper and the Baptism of covenant children.  In baptism they do not act.  In the Lord's Supper they do.  And we do not commune with God by just eating the bread and drinking the cup, but only when we do so in faith.  Which is why I believe a profession of faith is necessary for participation in the Lord's Supper.  

When should a person profess their faith?  That is another question.  I have no problem with young children professing their faith and particpating on the basis of that profession at communion, but it is far from a cure-all for the loss of our youth or their spiritual formation.  Our Lutheran and Catholic neighbors having been doing that for centuries and they loose their youth even more rapidly than we loose ours.  I have seen the same thing happen among the Reformed in the Netherlands. And it becomes no less a formalistic thing than the old custom where it was almost a graduation from catechism.  Parents feel pressured to have their children conform to others.  And when you hold youth to the life style required by the Lord's Supper you get as answer:  it wasn't my choice, or  eveyone was doing it, I was just going along, or it was my parent's decision.  The Lord's Supper clearly does not automatically form faith.

I don't have the solution.  But there does have to come a moment where faith is conscious choice and not just "because that is the way I was raised."  Without that faith, you may be handed the body and blood of Christ, but all you eat are bread and wine.  A meaningful participation where a person's faith is strengthened happens only when there is an understanding of who Christ is and what he has done, what is being said through the Lord's Supper to us, and my believingly accepting it.

This is also a difference with the preaching of the Word.  You can hear the Word and not believe.  The Lord's Supper, however, requires faith for a real participation in the "sacrament."  So I would not have a problem requiring my children to attend worship and listening to the Word —I expect God to use that means to create faith.  But I would not require my children to consider taking communion until there is evidence that they have faith and that they have "come out" with that faith.
 

posted in: Invited

there has to be some level of understanding to participate, I am not sure how a young child examines himself carefully.

posted in: Invited

Since we believe our heavenly Father wants to spiritually nourish His children why then, many in the CRC are satisfied to partake of the Lord's Supper no more than six times a year? And by the way, it's one thing to say baptism brings infants of believers into the covenant family but quite another to suggest the baptismal ritual makestem members of the family of God. They're not. They must be born again.   

posted in: Invited

Stan and Monica, I am inclined to agree with you on this issue.  I tend towards letting parents decide on whether their children ought to participate, and that some level of understanding and committment makes sense.   If a child is totally rebellious towards God, then parents ought to have the wisdom to discourage or forbid their child to participate, but otherwise a parent ought to give permission if the child loves the Lord.  Whether an infant who cannot yet talk or understand should participate should be left up to parents, and charity to all in this decision.  

The scripture passage about discerning the body of Christ is sometimes better grasped by young children, than it is by some older confessing members, since it really means to care about the entire body of Christ, the people of God.  Some older confessing members seem to care more about themselves and their own family, than they do about the family of God, and about Jesus himself, who died for us, and expects obedience from us, and consideration and respect for one another, regardless of wealth, position, and age. 

The implications of this for profession of faith is that profession of faith time is usually not when one joins the body of Christ.  Our present practice of formal Profession of faith is not the initial or perhaps not even the most significant profession of one's faith.  Perhaps it ought to be seen as a profession of membership, an agreement to certain confessions, to a certain church body,  and to scriptural moral behaviours and lifestyle.  It also puts one under a special potential for discipline under membership, as compared to a general christian admonition to and from other christians which exists outside of formal "membership".  I am thinking on paper here a bit, as a way of opening this thought more fully. 

I have thought for some time that the way we do profession of faith is very deadening.   It ought to be a time of sharing and rejoicing, but instead it is often a ritual, form-reading, and a time of inhibition, reducing our profession to something read by someone else who is not making the profession.  Often there is doubt about the full committment of those making the profession, due to the lack of involvement, as well as the ritualistic ceremonialism of the event.   Why not have the new members agree to the profession in the council room, after discussion, and then make a real verbal, extended, detailed committment in front of the congregation? 

In some cases, we could also have people make a witness to the church prior to their being ready to become formal papered members.   Those who have some minor disagreement with confessions of faith, or who are heavily struggling with unchristian lifestyles, could still make a profession of faith of where they are at, sharing their joy in Christ and progress in life with the body of christ in church.   Then the membership profession would not become the only possible testimony by default, and perhaps it would be taken more seriously.   Just thinking here. 

posted in: Invited

I wonder if "our keeping it special" is missing the fact that Sacraments are not just "signs" but also "seals."  Do people see the Lord's Supper as something more than just my remembering?   It's also a "means of grace" - meaning that God is working through the Sacrament, whether it's "special" or not.   I think this is often missed in our churches.

 

posted in: Hungry

Our church celebrates the Lord's Supper once a month and it's something I look forward to.  I also appreciate the how on many occasions serving the Lord's Supper is connected to the rest of the worship service in specific ways.  

posted in: Hungry

Hurray!  Thank you for making this strong case for frequent--I'd like to say weekly--celebration of the Lord's Supper. 

posted in: Hungry

I personally follow all these things for praying, it makes me comfortable and i intenally feels complete after praying and my happiness becomes more. I think thanking for everything to God is like being connected to God. 

I don't think this things really matters if you have faith and you can prove it to the community so it's not a big deal or any tough job to join as a member. 

Wondering out loud....  would it be useful for us to have a way of people testifying to their core beliefs in common with Christians, as a way of acknowledging that they belong to God?  Children born in the covenant of believers would identify and feel a belonging even before they make an official profession of faith, but those who come in thru evangelism might not have a way of making their faith and committment known unless and until they understand the confessions they would need to agree to, and have dealt with life issues in a way that is in harmony with their faith.   Yet they believe and are progressing and working on their discipleship.   It would seem that a different type of profession/confession would be very useful in the lifepath of new believers or even young baptized members.   In some cases, individuals may have difficulties with certain small aspects of the confessions, or difficulties with lifestyle that would prevent a formal official profession of faith;  yet they believe and are children of God.   And it is no answer to suggest that they find a different denomination or church, particularly since there is no guarantee that they will find one that there may not be a sticking point with. 

Perhaps these individuals cannot be office bearers for now... but we ought to find a way to acknowledge their participation in the body of Christ.   And  we should not create another form, but rather facilitate a process where they are able to make their own testimony.   (Even most weddings have personal vows individually written;  surely we should do no less for a profession of faith, regardless whether it is an initial "core" profession, or a later "membership" profession). 

Very wise words, Al, that you have given here!  

Thanks Al. In addition to mediation I think consensus building workshops and polarity management are a couple of other effective tools that are underutitilzed in the CRC.

A most frequently used model for making difficult decisions is voting. This might be the only workable option in some situations but we should also be realistic about the consequences of a vote. It creates winners loosers and sets up conditions that will probably fuel ongoing conflict.     

I agree, Al. When I was in college I spent a semester in LA where I had an internship with West Angeles Community Mediation Center. I took a 30 hour mediation training course and have found it helpful in personal relationship. I've often wondered how mediation could be more fully applied to church life and dissagreements. The principles involved in seeking win-win solutions, common ground, compromise, and reconciliation all amount to loving your neighbor as yourself and seek his or her best while resolving conflict. Training in mediation could greatly benefit pastors, elders, and congregations.

#1 I disagree with anything Ron Knol says ;)

#2 Disregard #1. Ron has been a very wise counselor in difficult times. And all pro bono.

#3 Here is a great resource: http://www.mennoniteusa.org/resource-center/resources/agreeing-and-disagreeing-in-love/

Daniel, your comment on "learning to truly listen" is 100% correct!  When I practiced law, I often would "listen" with the sole intent of providing a rebuttal or contrary opinion.  More recently I served on the Restorative Justice Task Force of our classis and was invited to join in on a "Listening Circle" where, one by one, each person expressed their opinion... but nobody was invited (or allowed) to respond directly to that person's opinion.   It truly was "listening" since your mind was freed up from the "How do I respond to that?" conundrum.  I found it to be quite rewarding!  I would suggest that, when honourably expressed disagreements still result in personal tension or strife (and that can happen despite the best intentions), a listening circle may restore peace in the valley again..   I wish I had learned of it earlier in my life.

My next "Blog" will be on mediation.  I am trained in both General and Family Mediation and firmly believe that part of Pastor Counseling Courses should include a course on Mediation as it applies to both the church in general and counseling of family conflicts as well.

Our church is currently working on becoming a "conflict friendly" church. We're working on this with the good people at the Shalem Mental Health Network, using their program "FaithCARE" (Communities Affirming Restorative Experiences). Their motto for this program is "Conflict is inevitable. The response is up to us.", and they have been very helpful to us as we seek to grow in this area. 

The truth is that you are both absolutely correct, Ron and Al: disagreements are not only inevitable, when carried on and dealt with effectively they can be a real benefit to all concerned. 

Of course, the key is learning how to deal with conflict effectively. There are several points, I think, that many of us need to learn in this area (we're discovering these as we walk along in the process of becoming a restorative congregation):

<ol>

<li>We need to learn how to truly <em>listen</em> to others. This means that we learn how to <em>not</em> be thinking of our response, or our next "point" in the argument as the other person is speaking, but that we really take the time to listen, and to reflect back to the other person(s) what we think we've heard so that we can be sure that we've heard them correctly.</li>

<li>We need to start from a perspective of being on the same "team" whenver possible. This is true in marriage, and it's true in the church too, I believe. Disagreements are far more effective in helping us if we all work from the same basis: that we're all on the same team. If I am on a team that is against your team, then I'll fight against you until we win. If you and I are on the same team against an outside problem, then we will work together till our common enemy is defeated.</li>

<li>We need to recognize that some of our societal structures are inherently adversarial and prone to emphasizing disagreements in an unhelpful way. Sometimes these structures are so unhelpful that they become exclusionary, especially to those who have a different cultural background to our own. For example, when we run all our meetings using "Robert's Rules", we are buying into an essentially western european adversarial/legal melieu. This framework is very difficult for people who come from a collaborative/consensus building culture to wrap their heads around, let alone for them to stick their necks out into what they feel is quite often a highly charged, risky, antagonistic setting.</li>

<li>We need to encourage transparency, humility, and vulnerability among all our people, but especially among our leadership. Not humility in the sense of false humility, or humility that immediately says "sorry" in order to avoid a confrontation, but humility that approaches the other with a willingness to walk alongside, and to learn, and to grow together.</li>

</ol>

If we can learn some of these key lessons, then I really believe that, though conflict will still be hard, uncomfortable, and something we'd rather avoid, we will learn to see the value in it, and we'll learn how to hear God's voice through it. Not only that, but we'll have healthier congregations, and a healthier witness of the Love of Christ to the world around us.

Blessings, all.

 

When I joined a law partnership many years ago, the senior partner gave me a note that read "If all 4 of us always agree, 3 of us are unnecessary".  I think this is a great rule to keep in mind when serving on Council, attending Classis or Synod, or any committee.  Disagreements (when honourably presented) can lead to discussions that can reinforce the primary opinion or revise it or prove it to be wrong (leading to a better solution, hopefully).   At the very least, you'll get a good idea, in advance, of what the possible objections to a majority decision may be.  At the very best, a disagreement can show you where you're wrong.  I've had many years of experience where another person's honourable presentation of an opposing opinion has led me to realize how wrong I was (and I'm not just referring to my wonderful marriage).

If nobody is disagreeing, one might even consider appointing somebody to present an opposing opinion.  In order to clarify and test their decisions, the Roman Catholic Church leaders used to appoint what was called a "devil's advocate" to provide the opposing arguments to the proposed canonization of a saint. 

And, when I find myself in an unending disagreement, I find myself quoting the words my father often used to end our numerous discussions.  "You could be right".

I gave copies of your post to my council. I pray they take it as help and with understanding. I'll find out tonight.

 

Thanks, Ron

I agree with your position on Mutual Censure and would Pray that church councils would also.

One of the complaints I hear from eldre delegates is that there is almost no time to discuss or debate issues, What they hear loud and clear is "We must finish in time." Theyare strong on asserting that synod is a rubber stamp of prior decisions.

I am an elder, well; I’m a “Commissioned Pastor”, but still an elder. I’ve tried to get to as many Classis meetings as I can. (At my last count over 25 in the past 20 years.) I’ve been an Elder representative at Synod. And, I can tell you first hand that yes, there is a definite prejudice in the treatment of elders at both the Classis level as well as at Synod in our church. Over and over again, I’ve witnessed Ministers of the Word stand up at these church assemblies and babble on over territory already discussed many, many times before and yet the chairs of those assemblies allow them their say. But, consistently, if an elder tried to do the same thing, the chairs of those church assemblies will try to cut them off. At Synod I was seated at a table were several ministers of the word voiced out loud that an elder who was expressing his view on a pertinent issue of the church that was being discussed on the floor of Synod should sit down and be quiet. I kid you not. It flabbergasted me. No one corrected them. On the other hand, I’ve been accused of being “disrespectful” of Ministers of the Word when I disagree with them on the floor of Classis or Synod. So yes, there is a definite intimidation factor at our church assemblies for the Elders who come and this needs to change.

 

Of course as Reformed believers we believe that “He who wants to be first should be last and he who wants to be master should be servant of all.” We believe this “De jur” but “De Facto” or in practice, it is another thing altogether. There is still a very strong “Domini” attitude in our church that prevents our Elders from airing their opinions in our church assemblies. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that this “Domini” attitude is a two way street. Nevertheless, this is the first thing that needs to change if we expect our Elders to be more of a real participant in these assemblies of our church. But, more importantly, I say this is the first thing to be changed because it is not a Reformed attitude. Our church order states in Article 85; “No church shall in any way lord it over another church, and no officebearer shall lord it over another officebearer.”

 

As some have said before in this discussion, most Elders may go to Classis or Synod two, three or four times in their lifetimes. This, probably more than anything else, compounds the intimidation problem as well and this too needs to change. We need to plug our Elders into the process of our church government in a more pro-active way. We need to hear them out. We need to include them as part of the process, yes, even to chair the church assembly, if need be. The present process now only disenfranchises them from feeling as if they are real participants. I’ve actually have heard it said that most of our church assemblies are simply union meetings for the pastors.

Thanks, Good Stuff!!!!

As a two time elder delegate to Synod, allow me to add my rules for an effective delegate.

1.  Attend classis meetings as much as possible so that you are familiar with the issues.  Some churches have a "Denominational Ministry" elder position in their church, who would be a regular at classis meetings.

2.  Be prepared.  Read the Synod Agenda, talk to as many people as possible about the issues, attend Classis.

3.  Do not be intimidated.  You have every right to be there, and your voice and thoughts are just as important as those who have a title of "Rev."

4.  Pick your battles.  You might not be a theologian, but chances are you are more informed about governance, committee structure, accountability,  ministry in your church.  Hopefully you were assigned to the right advisofry committee, and be able to contribute there in a smaller setting.

5.  Social life at Synod is important.  I have seen "networking" (old boys club) retiring for a social evening, leaving elders standing on the sidewalk wondering what to do that evening.  Work your way into that cliique.  "Hey, fellow delegates, what ar WE doing tonight?

6.  Don't worry about catching that early flight out.  God has asked you to be at Synod.  Complete the work.

7.  Have your fellow delegates assign you to report to the next classis meetingn.  Why leave it up to the clergy?  I attended one Sept Classis meeting where the chair (pastor) ruled no report was necessary, as all of you were briefed at the "Internos" (ministers retreat). What an insult ! This may have changed with recent electronic reporting, but summaries need to be reported to the entire Classis, including lay members, and it might as well be by you.

8. Soak in the experience, feel God's spirit at work.  And if your picture appears in the next Banner, cut it out and frame it.

9.  Blessings, and be proud that you can be humble at this important task.

 

Alex,   In the Presbyterian Church, once an elder, always an elder. I think there is some value to that. In some of the small churches that I have served, we have called upon former elders to help when needed. They have a lot of experience and wisdom that the Church can draw upon. 

Should elders be chairing classis meetings?  It should be a possibility.  I can remember at least once when a pastor, who had been a pastor for only a year, maybe two, ended up on the rotation for chairing classis, since it was the turn of his church.  He struggled, although he tried hard and did his best.  How many times had he previously attended classis, maybe three?  I know other pastors who were not too interested in the protocols and procedures of classis, and I know others who were too interested in the 'legal" details and niceties of procedure in order to achieve their results, or to reduce discussion.  

There is always assistance for the chair from others, such as the stated clerk, the previous chair, experienced people, etc.   The main issue is not just who chairs, but how involved the non-preaching elders can be.   I have found the elders more involved lately than they were thirty years ago.   But all of this starts at the local council.  It also starts with the idea that just because an elder is not on council, doesn't mean he doesn't have responsibilities for staying informed, and remaining to be a spiritual influence and leader in the church.   His term on council may be temporary, but his calling as a spiritual leader is not ended unless he is deposed or disciplined in some way. 

We should also realize that not all elders go to classis, while some go more often.   In some cases, some elders might even go once a year, since certain elders have more time, ability and desire than others.   So we should be careful about overgeneralizing.  

While elders will not know everyone's name, neither do the pastors, since they often don't know all the elders attending.  I highly recommend all classis meetings to produce a list of attenders to classis at the beginning of the meeting to be handed out with the agenda or any other meeting materials.  Name tags are good, but a list of attenders would be most helpful as well, since sometimes people are known by their names more than by their face. 

You are quite correct. The leadership of our denomination is pastor centric. There are several reasons.

In the three year term of an Elder, on average, he or she will attend a single session of Classis. During that period, the pastor will attend six. The Elder will not serve again for another 3-5 years if at all. With Classical attendance so infrequent, no Elder could possibly get up to speed rapidly enough to make a difference. Rarely will they even know the names of the churches or the pastors in their Classis. In my experience, at Classis, Elders are at best tolerated. Their contributions are limited to adding volume to the yea votes.

Now, if the odds of going to Classis are about once in six to eight years, What are the odds of an Elder being selected to go to Synod? Perhaps once in a lifetime? That is just not enough time or frequency to build the credibility needed to champion a cause.

Most Elders have a day job that puts food on the table. Unless they are retired, most simply cannot take time off for Classis or Synod. Pastors have a job where time for Classis or Synod is considered part of their responsibilities. They get paid to attend these meeting and related committee meetings.

If the odds of attending either Classis or Synod are this long, and the time available is limited, what Elder could possibly take a leadership role?

Among our Elders, we have any number of high level executives who are sharp, articulate and incisive leaders, capable of devising solutions to almost any issue or problem. But our organizational framework simply does not encourage or allow for the use of their talents.

Al, you are so right in wanting Elders more engaged in the work of the church. Do you want to double the size of our church? Do you want to build the impact of Christians on society? Do you want to increase the intensity of prayer among our members? Do you want the Lord's name lifted up in praise and celebration across the world? Just name the goal, we have the expertise to make it happen among our Elders.

But the solution is not Elders uniting to demand influence or or visibility. Rather, the solution is in challenging Elders to engage their experience and talents for the work of the Lord and then allowing an opportunity to explore the possibilities.  

 

 

Thank you Al for bringing up this discussion.  It carries more weight since you, a pastor, initiated it.  There perhaps was a time in the history of the church where the pastor was the most educated and most confident in leading.  That is why the president of Christian school boards in the "early" days was usually a pastor.  Of course, that is no longer the case.  Another factor is that many councils no longer have the pastor as the chair of the council.  I like the idea  of 50/50 pastors and non-pastors compose the excutive committee at both synod and classis.  After all, both are elders!

Many of the elders that served on the Councils of the churches I served kept well informed by reading such publications as "The Banner" etc.  Also, unless things have changed seminary did very little to help students prepare for administration tasks such as chairing meeting.  I have been a past chairmen (president) of organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, United Way, Catholic Social Services as a member who had a term limit.  Running a meeting and knowing everything about the organization are two different things that are necessarily related.

We as Elders serve for three year periods, then we are out - have nothing to do with the administration of the church. One day you are esteemed as an Elder, the next, (after your term is up) you are totally not involved with the running of the church. While I appreciate the idea of involving elders more in the synods, and classes, (s)he would not be as well informed as one (presumably a pastor) in the long run. Perhaps an elder should be appointed for life, then any educational courses often offered by the denomination would be more desireable.

Al, I think you make a good point. When the Evangelical Presbyterian Church left the PCUSA, they decided to have a 50-50 mix of pastors and elders represented at presbytery and at the general assembly. The leadership of every other meeting was conducted by an elder. They planned their new denomination that way to avoid some of the problems in their old denomination. I think there is value in doing that. 

 

Two comments Paul:  First, to your comment that the same few people might end up serving... remember that the same single pastor ends up serving, if this is not bad by itself, then why is it bad for other officebearers?   Second, scripture encourages us to eagerly desire the greater gifts of service... it is an honor to serve in this way.   If it is merely a duty or task that "must" be done or that we beg people to do, then we are giving the wrong impression of this God honoring task.  (this also applies to other roles and tasks, each of which are important, but office bearers, ie., elders and deacons, are significantly singled out).  Third, training ought to occur before they are asked.   This training ought to be part of our training as christians.  The task of elder is not to be a placeholder, or a name on a sheet, or to merely attend meetings.  The qualities of pastoral  leadership, teachership, and spiritual nearness to Jesus, will grow in these official roles, but ought to be there already well before.  In order for someone to be nominated for such an office/role, they probably should fulfill a prerequisite of teaching a bible study class, catechism class, sunday school, cadets, young people, etc.  How else will you know if they have the gift of teaching which scripture suggests?  These are just some thoughts for consideration, as I do fully understand the dilemna. 

Pages