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Youth and young adults have to begin to see that they are NOT the church of the future, they are the church of NOW. They need ownership in the ministries they will be asked to lead.

November 16, 2015 1 0 comments
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Words have power. Just because they come to us electronically doesn't lessen their power. What would happen if we had to take responsibility for the damage we cause with our words?

November 11, 2015 1 2 comments
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Check out these two amazing resources for re-aligning you and your family's comings and goings to the rhythms of God's grace this Advent season and beyond. 

November 10, 2015 0 1 comments
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I was blessed to know 3 of my grandparents growing up and all of them left a faith impression on me. I think one of the coziest places to hear God’s stories must be on the lap of a grandparent.

November 5, 2015 1 0 comments
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Groundwork is a half hour radio and podcast Bible-teaching program. The Habakkuk series features 5 episodes that explore Habakkuk's deepest questions about God and the Bible. 

November 3, 2015 0 0 comments
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Bruce Feiler, in his article for the New York Times, writes: "The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.”

October 30, 2015 5 0 comments
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A line I often hear (and maybe you do, too) is: “If that’s what God is like, I don’t think I could believe in him.” Why are we so quick to re-write God when we find something we object to?

October 29, 2015 3 3 comments
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The Sticky Faith curriculum contains tangible examples of ways to engage parents in ministry and help them understand their roles as the primary spiritual influence in their children's lives. 

October 26, 2015 0 0 comments
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Syd Hielema reflects on our baptismal vows, defining this simple liturgical act as the cornerstone of our congregations’ way of walking with children and teens. 

October 26, 2015 2 0 comments
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Recent findings agree that parents continue to be one of the strongest influences on a young person’s faith formation. This webinar explores how to both support and mine this most important youth ministry resource.

October 20, 2015 1 1 comments
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My pastor always begins the celebration of communion at our church with a warning: “We’re going to do something really weird now. It's important, and it's Biblical, but it's also pretty strange.”

October 20, 2015 1 0 comments
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Ron deVries serves as a Regional Catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries in Alberta. In this interview, he shares a few of the big issues he has noticed in youth ministry today. . . 

October 19, 2015 0 0 comments
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As we share some of the plans Faith Formation Ministries has in place for 2016 and beyond, we'd love to hear YOUR input and ideas! 

 

October 19, 2015 0 1 comments
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Mark 6:14, "Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe..." Why did Jesus rebuke them for these things? 

October 16, 2015 0 0 comments
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In a recent interview with Complex magazine, Canadian pop singer Justin Bieber shared some of his thoughts on God, Christians, and going to church. How can, or should, we respond?

October 15, 2015 3 9 comments
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Kids aren’t the only ones who like things the same; adults also often choose to sit in the same church pew each week. God knows we're wired this way and so He gave us rituals to build faith. 

October 15, 2015 1 0 comments
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My experience in the past 30 years with youth-curriculum has been extremely disappointing. Many materials do not engage the students. But, good news, the “So What” Bible Study is different. 

October 13, 2015 0 0 comments
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We have given many contradictory views on manhood—be rough and tumble but kind and compassionate, be strong and fierce, but able to cry, and on and on. Is this hindering men in their faith?

October 5, 2015 1 18 comments
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As summer turns to fall, we'll take a look back at the first few months of Faith Formation Ministries' work. Next week, we'll preview what's to come. 

October 2, 2015 0 0 comments
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Is it possible, given our preference of heart-knowledge over head-knowledge, that we, too, are at risk of abandoning our long and strong tradition of intellectual exploration?

September 30, 2015 0 3 comments
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Laura Keeley is Co-director of Children's Ministries at Fourteenth Street CRC in Holland, Michigan, and serves as a Regional Catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries in Michigan. 

September 29, 2015 0 1 comments
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This week we are heading south of the Canadian border to introduce you to Jill Friend, who serves as a Regional Catalyzer in Iowa.

September 23, 2015 1 1 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar examines a number of teaching resources and curriculum that many of the Canadian Youth Ministry Champions have used or are using for their youth groups. 

September 15, 2015 0 0 comments
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“People around me in church…they are probably OK with the Lord…“ And you think you are not? “Sometimes I don’t really know…"

September 15, 2015 2 1 comments
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Thinking about Thanksgiving? Wondering about ways to worship with all ages? Check out one of the things for which I’m thankful—the Worshipping with Children blog.

September 14, 2015 0 0 comments

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Thanks Harriette for your post on doubts that some Christians may have on their faith journey.  It’s my guess that this questioning pastor, who relayed the story of the street preacher and the heckler, didn’t have serious doubts about his faith but was only looking for something (anything) to confirm his already grounded faith.  If he was serious about his doubts he would look beyond this one example of this heckler who got what he prayed for to the thousands who didn’t receive what they prayer for.  Thousands pray for the healing of a husband, wife, or child, thousands pray for the just outcome of a war, thousands have prayed for the healing of a broken marriage, and on and on, without receiving what they have sincerely prayed for.  And yet Jesus teaches that we can pray for whatever we want and we will receive it.  Does this one example really exemplify a loving God answering what we pray for?  This pastor really wasn’t very objective in pitting the one example of answered prayer against the thousands of examples of unanswered prayer.  And that is even if this one example is even verifiable or just a good story.  Your post is suggesting that Christians should be more gullible when grabbing for straws.  Thanks, anyway, for a good attempt.

Thanks for sharing this! It is a good challenge to many of us.

Louis Tamminga, May 1, 2014

Thanks again, John, for laying out your thoughts in further detail. You burned the mid-night oil.

How shall we proceed from here on? 

These columns are meant to think together through various issues that concern the well-being of our churches. So we seek your input. It would be fine if you would wish to address only parts of John's essay. Should the church in the future wish to deal with these proposals and needs, we realize that the pathway through the ecclesiastical structures is cumbersome and time consuming. But progress will only be made when office bearers and thoughtful members have already discussed them at various levels. So, again, let's talk. We owe it to the church and to John.

A word of caution

This NETWORK is meant to help church leaders in doing their ministerial work. There are so many parts and issues in this work. They all deserve discussion. Share your problems and experiences with us all. This must not become a one-issue platform.

Thanks, Louis for your refreshing openness.    This is a big topic, but I will try to be brief as possible.  I have thought about this issue for some time since about  30 years ago when asked by a non-member visitor whether he could participate.   Many other circumstances and situations have added to this thinking, including those baptized as adults but not members, those baptized as infants but not adult professing members, those with reduced mental capacity, etc.  In addition I had to make decisions on whether to participate in non-reformed churches. Also I noted that in one reformed church only a small part of the membership actually participated in communion, and that I was restricted from participating in another particular reformed church as a visitor because I was from a different denomination.

I think  profession of faith has always been an issue of formal church adult membership primarily.   It sometimes happens years after someone knows they are a Christian.   It is not a gateway to faith in Christ, but a commitment to local and denominational precepts.  There is no reason to think that making such a profession of faith is tied to a recognition of a faith relationship to God or to the body of Christ, since if this was so, for many children, it would be done much earlier, and for some people, it should not be done until much later.

 I see too often that profession of faith is not taken seriously.  The elders who examine do not understand the significance, and the one who professes faith does not renounce sin in any reasonable fashion.   It should be noted that simply saying you renounce sin does not prove that you really do.   In the same way, professing that scripture is your guide and rule for life and for worship, is not the same as actually doing so.   Members who do not renounce sin, who refuse to put on the robe of righteousness/obedience, and who think scripture is out of date, cause problems when they influence others to do the same under the presumed authority of their membership.  

We generally consider those who make profession of faith as full members and able to participate in congregational meetings, voting, and eligibility for office.   Then we have also in the past added in the ability to participate in communion, and baptism of their children. 

I think we should separate these two items.  In order to participate in communion, faith ought to be evident, but in general this should be left up to the participant with the general warning that if you do not believe and trust in Christ, that you should refrain from participating.  If you believe and trust and follow, then you are considered part of the body of Christ, and thus communion is fitting, since it is participation in the body and blood of our Lord and Saviour.

If someone is participating when it is obvious that there is no repentance, no renewal, no reflection of Christ, then that is opportunity for the elders to talk and visit and witness.   This opportunity is a gift from God, not to be neglected.

Membership as an adult is somewhat different, because now distinctions are being made between various confessions of faith, various assumptions about renouncing sin, and various governance assumptions.   If we have a significant number of people making profession of faith who do not agree with some of the confessions, then they can easily vote in favor of not promoting infant baptism, or inviting various speakers from any denomination to preach, denying the authority of the elders, or denying the power of scripture over their lives.   Membership ought to be clearer.  It is not a form of acceptance by the congregation, but a form of commitment to a set of standards by the believer/member. 

We ask elders to sign the form or covenant of officebearers, in order to establish what their commitment is.  However, by making membership conditions relatively insignificant, there is a side effect on signing of this elder’s form such that it is also not taken so seriously, and thus we have officebearers directly contradicting their agreement both in their understanding of the confessions and scripture and in their daily walk of life.   We have seen this in council rooms, congregational meetings and in the banner.   If this is not taken seriously, then how can we have the temerity to suggest that it is necessary to make a formal membership profession in order to partake of communion?

A contrast was made for me in the difference between two churches (not crc) in my region, and how they handled church membership.   One church had 10,000 members on their books and had seating for only 2000 people in their building and the church usually half empty.   Rarely 10% of their membership would attend on a weekly basis.   Another church had seating for 1500, with only 250 adult members, where attendance was usually four times the membership, and 80% full.   The second includes a statement of faith, as well as a statement of conduct relevant to today’s temptations to which a member must sign agreement.   One treated membership as a mystical panacea that covered their sins, while the other treated membership as a commitment with high standards.  So the question for me is, which does the crc prefer to be?

We should also make clear that if membership is not contingent on following all of the proscribed confessions, articles, synodical statements, forms for baptism, installation, ordination, etc., then in which instances is there room for divergent perspectives and beliefs?  For example, if there is room in the crc for members who wish to be rebaptized, or for those who prefer believer baptism, or for those who speak in tongues, then we should make this clear.  If there is room for members who deny that God created man good, then perhaps we should make that clear.  If there is room for members who advocate sexual immorality, then we should make that clear.   The lack of clarity in a simple document on some of these high profile issues causes problems for members, for those considering membership, for elders, and for any understanding of membership, acceptance and discipline.

In my view, the potential complexities of a membership decision should not be the condition for approving or denying communion in the form of the Lord’s supper.

April 29, 2014

Louis Tamminga

 

​Thanks, John, for your contribution of April 22, today just one week ago. I have pondered on your remarks many hours. Many readers of NETWORK will have too. The fact that I did not read any responses probably demonstrates that others too could not come up with answers. Unable to formulate a helpful response I took comfort in the fact that NETWORK was designed to draw many readers into discussing the observations and questions of fellow-readers.  So, dear participants, what would you say to John and us all? 

And I may add: John, what would you say yourself in response to your questions? As you struggled with your thoughts, you will have envisioned some  answers. 

 

Thanks for your reply/comment.  First I would respond that in my experience it is indeed realistic that some children would examine the confessions and practices of the church, and begin to make statements about which they agree with, and which they do not.   These are usually children who are very committed and who examine scripture and love the Lord.  These children can range in age from 14 to 30.   They came to the faith from the time they could speak and read, and as we confess in our creeds, they belonged to God from before birth, as evidenced in their daily talk and walk.

Whether we agree with their confessional or practical disagreements or not, on what basis do we deny them communion?  They believe in Jesus as their divine Lord and Saviour, and follow Him in their daily lives.   What if the clause in profession of faith " “to confess the faith of the church as taught in the creeds and confessions of this church.”" causes them objections?  Or from the 1976 form, "Do you believe....that the confessions of this church faithfully reflect this revelation?"  What do we do then with temporary or permanent visitors from other places, or from other churches(with different doctrines)?   Should communion be tied to membership?

I have participated, as have my children, in communion in non-crc churches.  These include Alliance, Baptist, Church of God, Brethern, Luthern, and various community churches.  I do not believe that communion belongs to a denomination.    Only that communion ought to be practiced in a way to treat each other as the body of Christ, mostly by not being selfish (I Cor.14), since Christ was not selfish.  I have also seen some non-members exhibit more christian leadership and committment than some "professing" members.   Would we then deny the one and admit the other?

This is different than I thought when I was a child, but it is a real struggle.  When we see people making profession of faith who are not renouncing sin, how honest are we being?   The 2013 form and the 1989 form seem to place less emphasis on the confessions, but is there no expectation of membership with the profession of faith any longer?  Yet it seems to be a gateway to membership, voting, and eligibility for teaching and leadership, yes?  Which would at a minimum imply some level of agreement with confessions and practices?   And would imply some agreement on christian living?   Some other denominations separate this entirely, by making faith and communion separate from membership.  Membership then implies a whole 'nother level of committment.  Perhaps we could learn from this?

I appreciate the attempt to accommodate various less significant differences, within the ability to participate in communion.  I agree with that.  But what that leads to then is a problem with membership and committment.  I have seen difficulties with members not renouncing sin, or with members saying the Bible is out of date, or with making huge scriptural inaccuracies such as Mary  being raped when conceived with Jesus,  or Paul being homosexual.  Not to speak of those who question whether God really created us good.   I have difficulty in communion with people who do that, but even more importantly, such people are deemed qualified for leadership simply because they are members by virtue of their profession of faith?  How do we practice the Lord's Supper as the Lord himself did and the epistles instruct us, while at the same time making membership and leadership truly accountable?  In the past these two things have been so closely tied together, but are they still?

Sorry for my questions, and perhaps they are not easily answered.  The baggage of our history lingers on.

My thanks to John Zylstra for his thoughtful comment about “older children” participating in the Lord's Supper without having made Public Profession of Faith. John argues that many such children/young people may have problems with the three Confessions of Faith (the “Creeds”). John, in passing, refers to Christ's approval which is a bit tenuous, since Christ did not spell out participation in detail.

Thinking about John’s proposal brings up immediately one implication: churches following this path will then have another – a third - class of members: regular participants in the Lord's Supper, but not “Professed Members”.

The problem John introduces is real and it is not new. Let me suggest a solution which I think is more profitable.

It is hardly realistic to think that "older children,” who consider profession of faith,  will turn to the Creeds and then check whether they agree with the contents. By far the majority of church members came to the faith through Bible reading, the Christian life at home, the ministry of  the church, and a variety of Christian contacts. The Holy Spirit used these and other means to instill faith in the hearts of the members (mostly) from young age on. Thus they became members of a church-fellowship that confessed the Word of God as the source and basis of faith.

But the denomination also confessed that the thrust of God's Word was summed up in the Creeds.  As a community of believers we believe those to be true (though not at the same level as the Scriptures). They form splendid study materials,  keep us connected with previous generations, form a helpful defense of the faith, and Pastors preach sermons that do not contradict the creeds.

Does that mean that I must agree with each phrase in the Creeds? Not really.

What can I do in case of disagreement? We realize, of course, that many strategic doctrines of salvation are spelled out clearly in the Bible. But there is plenty left for believers to disagree about.  For instance “infant baptism”. But would that seriously hamper me from joining a church in which I have been nurtured spiritually from my youth on?  I think not. Here, I think, is the way young people may follow. They will speak with their minister, or elder, or trusted guide and together consider the matter.  Should this not lead to clarity, the young member should be assured that his/her (confessed) membership remains fully assured in spite of the confessional wrinkle.  I may stand next to him/her in the Lord's Supper circle, both assured in Christ's salvation, but with a different view of one implication  of holy baptism. The 'solution' I propose is pastoral, it is the assurance that we look in a glass darkly but our hope is in Christ in whom we are one in spite of our differences.

Synod itself at one time gave a  bit of pastoral advice in reply to a question of a local church, how to deal with a charismatic member who had accepted adult baptism in another fellowship. Synod's reply: ask that member whether she still  values her membership in your congregations and whether she is prepared to continue to accept the responsibilities going with regular membership.  (Synod 1973, Acts page 73)

Although it is true that participating in communion ought to be a sign of faith, and not a sign of peer approval, the direct connection to making a formal membership profession of faith in a particular denomination is not required by scripture.  Of course we would ask and expect only believers to participate.  On the other hand, if someone says that they have not read the belgic confession and thus cannot yet make profession of faith in any reformed church, or they agree with most of the confessions, but not with the mandatory requirement for infant baptism and thus cannot in good conscience say that they agree entirely with what is taught on that point, should they therefore be denied participation in the body of Christ?  Did Jesus do such?  Would we deny christians from ORC, or from NRC, or from Baptist or Pentacostal, or Alliance churches to participate in this remembrance of the body of Christ?  even though they have not entered the hallowed "gateway"?  If the crc finds a way to distinguish between profession of faith, and a membership committment, then perhaps you might have a point.  The two are not the same.  

Comment by Louis Tamminga:

This discussion  began with a distinction that was made: "older children" might not feel free to make public profession of faith (as yet...) but might still want to participate in the Lord's Supper. 

I submit that such a distinction is not valid. 

The CRC Synod of 1988 formulated some clear biblical in-sights re. the relationship between the Lord's Supper and faith-commitment. Here are some quotes: "The Bible makes clear that participation in the Lord's Supper is the result of status in the covenant ..."   (Thus Synod implied that the church is warranted in admitting covenant children to the Lord's Supper.). But Synod was careful to maintain the link between faith and participation in the Supper: "Our confessions teach the necessity of faith for participation in the Lord's Supper." It added: "The Heidelberg Catechism explains that participants in the sacrament accept with believing heart the entire suffering and death of Christ."(Q&A 76). For the "older children" accepting  the elements of bread and wine, is concomitant to making profession of faith. The Consistory will want to follow the normal route: making profession of faith a gate to the holy communion.

(for a detailed study, see pages 260-316 Acts of Synod 1988)

 

 

 

My go-to suggestion would be Shaped by God, edited by Bob Keeley (http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Products/151126/shaped-by-god.aspx). It's an excellent resource with chapters on all sorts of topics by different authors. 

I ran into George Brown (G.W. and Eddie Haworth Professor Emeritus of Christian Education at Western Theological Seminary) a few weeks ago and he recommended these two newer titles on faith formation:

Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down Across Generations by Vern Bengtson

Faith Forward by Melvin Bray

Let us know what you decide on, we'd love to hear your thoughts! 

 

 

I think these are really great comments. The one about Classis Holland especially!

I put together a list of resources on our church website: http://www.fcvcrc.org/worship/children-lords-supper.cfm

My thinking on this has changed over the years.  I used to think only crc professing members should participate.  Then I realized that believing in Jesus as Lord and Saviour was more important;  how could we exclude other believers for non-membership?  But I thought that for baptized children they should still make membership profession first, because they lacked discernment.  Then I realized that some children had more discernment than some professing members.  The discernment in I Corinthians 11 refers to caring for others in the body of Christ, not some greater esoteric knowledge of magnificent theological and confessional insights.  And I realized that the apostles at the time of the Lord's Supper were all deniers and abandoned Jesus only a day later.  And even Judas was included in this last supper.  So it makes no sense for the way we restrict this. 

I have often participated in communion at many evangelical churches in several denominations, because I have no ability nor reason to think that they are not sincere spirit filled christians.  The extreme of crc not allowing rca to participate, or prc not permitting visiting orc to participate highlights the absurdity of our claims to make this sacrament dependant on an official membership.  This sacrament does not belong to a denomination, and we should acknowledge that.  The warning that scripture gives, should be the one we give, and the invitation scripture gives, we should give, and we should leave it at that, unless someone lives in  very serious moral disobedience, where mockery is obvious.     Even then, we should be cautious, given that Jesus did not prevent Judas.  We know that people can be Christ-followers without being official crc members.   And this opens the way for older "non-professing" but living-as-christ-follower christians to participate joyfully.

The decision as to whether or not to admit one to partake in the Lord's Supper used to be a lot simpler...

As per the minutes of the meeting of Classis Holland in April 25, 1849:

Admission to Communion - Whether any shall be admitted to the Lord's Supper who are unknown to the minister and consistory.

Answer - Yes, and even if they are known to be wicked and yet approach the communion table.  Such a person is to be asked what induces him to come.  If he confesses his sin and his faith in Jesus, and expresses a purpose to serve the Lord, he is to be admitted.

I am hoping this question will uncover how other CRC churches are dealing with this topic.

Thnaks to Josh and Derek for e-mails. A number of years ago we had similar situation in our church. :

 

1. Several high school youth who were very involved in our hi school group desired to make professuion of faith.. Most were baptized members from other denominational churches.

2. We talked with the parents and also at least one church leader from their "home" church concerning their desire to proceed with POF at our church.

3. These students went thru our POF mentoring process, made POF and ultimately joined our church.

 

I think the key to this proces working as well as it did,  was due to time taken to pray,  listen/talk with student's home church leaders and family members.  All involved understood that this was the work of the Holy Spiit leading them in their journey.

  We have been all blessed.

 

 

Arnie

Thanks for the question Josh. I reached out to Howard Vanderwell at Calvin Seminary to ask for his advice. Here's what he offered for consideration: 

1. In which of these congregations does he intend to remain affiliated, either, or both?  How he answers that might provide insight into which is his "primary membership".

2. Normally baptism and profession of faith are combined as a unit in the same congregation, so it's rather unusual to have one here and another there.

3. Possibility #1 is that he "transfers" his baptism record to the new congregation (yours) at the time of making POF there. Then they are together there which is the usual way.

4. The other possibility is to receive a statement by him, if necessary verified by the other congregation, that his is in fact baptized, and then the profession of faith can proceed without an adult baptism. A statement that there is a baptism in his past is usually sufficient. Your congregation/Elders can then acknowledge his baptism at _____, and proceed with his POF.  But some churches are very careless in keeping record of such things.  If  he  has not been baptized, then his POF should be turned into an adult baptism.  

I hope this helps. It does seems like a decision that should be made by your council since they know the situation best. You could always reach out to your classis for guidance on the issue as well. 

 

 

I will add my input on this because I do think it's an important one. I will speak with regards to my experience, and perhaps this is reflective of other young adults.

Does size matter? It certainly changes how social interaction happens, and this is applied in all types of settings. I immediately think of class sizes at college. Small is focused, communicative, personal. Large tends to be generic, less personal, and less-focused. Now, I know this doesn't apply in all situations, and context matters. So how has this played out in the church in my experience?

I have attended large congregations where I could show up and walk out without saying a word to another soul. I have similarly been to small congregations who were so focused on their conversations with their long-time friends that they neglected my presence in the room. The opposite is true too- for showing up and being welcomed by large and small congregations alike.

I have attended a church my whole life that is medium in size where the aspect of authentic relationships is key. It's great that I can show up at a place I can call home, where I can be involved, while still drawing on the gifts from many members.

The word I like to use is intentional. If you act and say with intention, you will reap the benefits of it, instead of happening upon the optimal outcome by chance. Smaller churches are provided with this flexibility where large churches cannot do this as easily (although able). It is my hope that both large and small churches can execute with intention in their ministry.

Size doesn't matter. A willingness to engage the younger generation is at the heart of this issue. I've been to small churches and just the opposite is true. I don't think the issue is as cut and dry as this makes it to be.

I serve a medium size church that is one of the few growing... and we can find places and opportunities for younger people to find their voice, but we're willing to engage.

I think you're right on George, but another reason Peterson might have said that is that smaller churches do not allow a new believer to disappear into the woodwork.  The smaller church needs its members to be active in carrying on the ministry of the church.  Larger churches can become comfortable places where one's faith is not exercised and stretched.

Agreed! We recently moved our family from a large church to a smaller one. My husband and I, after 6 years of not being able to use our gifts, are now using our gifts in service on a weekly basis. But the more interesting fact is that our three teenagers are thriving now in a small youth group where they didn't in the large one with all the"glitz". After the first over night youth retreat, our oldest came back and said, "I know everyone's name now". The once shy, uninvolved teen is now at every youth event- where eveyone knows his name too. 

Another thing about a small church is the opportunity to serve.  You don't have to have an awesome voice to sing in the choir and if you're willing, you'll be asked to fill in for a Sunday School teacher or nursery worker after a few months.  There's nothing like being involved to help a person, young or old, feel like they belong in a church family.

Randy,

Thanks for your thoughts on this common matter. I'd be even more appreciative if you'd take those thoughts and work them into an article for the BANNER. Something similar to what Kuyvenhoven did on a Baptism article years ago would be in Q&A form to make it easily digestible.    We need more emphasis on the covenantal aspect of baptism, and get away from the adult or infant terminology. You've got a good grasp of it....expand it, share it, the CRCNA needs it as it continues to deal with the faith formation of its youth, and do some catch up with its non-informed others.... Thanks!

I would baptize the child, not as an infant or adult baptism, but more accurately, as covenantal baptism. When we were evangelized into the church, my mother was baptized and made profession of faith, and I was baptized at age 11 ,and my sister at age 6. My pastor (John Rozeboom) explained what baptism was about in an "age and ability appropriate way" (as we have been saying lately with our focus on faith formation and the issue of children and the Lord's Supper). Was it "infant baptism" or "believer's baptism"? Neither term is really fitting; it was covenantal baptism. I was baptized because my single mom, the head of our household, was baptized, just like Lydia and her househould, or the Philippian Jailor (poor guy has no name!) and his household (Acts 16).

Also, it is quite appropriate to say that a person is baptized into Christianity, though more appropriately, that one is baptized into the church. This is not a statement about God's eternal decree of election; it is a recognition that this person, at whatever age it occurs, is now breathing the air of the confessional community (credit to Henry DeMoor for that phrase, I believe). There is a well-known remark of CS Lewis on this topic: "Don't bother at all about the question of a person being 'made a Christian' by baptism. It is only the usual trouble about words being used in more than one sense. Thus we might say a man 'became a soldier' the moment he joined the army. But his instructors might say six months later 'I think we have made a solider out of him.' "

In addition, we do not baptize because we presume that a child is elect, though Abraham Kuyper championed that view, and it was common in the CRC beginning about a century ago and through maybe the 1950's - 60's. The "Liberated" Reformed Churches (Canadian Reformed and American Reformed) still think we teach that perspective (presumptive regeneration). But this perspective has rightly fallen by the wayside. We do not baptize on the basis of a presumption. We baptize on the basis of God's claim and God's promise. We baptize because we recognize that God's covenant promises come to an individual through a community; we baptize because God's claim on a child's allegiance will come to that child through the influence of at least one believing parent (I Cor. 7:14).

We may speak of infant baptism and believers' baptism however, if we're referring to the water ritual, neither bestow salvation. The baptism of infants and small children brings them into the spiritually-nurturing, covenant community of believers but doesn't bring salvation. Only saving faith in Christ's finished work transforms a sinner into a saved, beloved child of God. No one is baptized into Christianity. Hence, Christian parents baptize infants or little children presuming they are among God' s elect and that when they're older they will commit their lives to Christ and are born again. 

I had this situation some years ago.  In the end I asked some questions of the mother and some of the seven year old boy.  And he was baptized.  But, this didn't count as profession of faith. 

I would suggest you look at the Faith Formation materials, particularly the emphasis on children coming to the Lord's Table with age-appropriate faith. The situation before you could be solved with the same logic. The grade 2 child can and should be able to articulate faith in Jesus at a grade 2 level (more or less what you wrote in the post). That is what you are looking for. I would suggest very simple faith questions based on the Adult Baptism or Profession of Faith forms followed by baptism. Then he can make full Profession of Faith later when he is ready. 

The other option is to just baptize him as you would an infant purely because of the faith of the mother. I would see this as perfectly ok too.

What would make it most meaningful for the child?

To my own surprise, I've revisited what I wrote about Sarah several times, rereading it, and pondering this experience in my heart.  Thank you to those of you who've responded in writing; your response to our experience is a  blessing and a comfort.  Oh how much I would have loved to get to know Annie and Dylan and Holly, and all the rest of the saints --children of  fellow believers who went before us - to greater glory as Brother John says.   Yes, I shed a lot of  tears for all the loss, and I still do, and I guess I'll go on shedding tears in my life too.  We all will, and we'll hold on to the promises together too.  And we'll comfort each other, and by God's grace and Spirit we'll live lives that are empowered and joyful now with the power of the resurrection. 

It's been a little over two years now since we said goodbye to our 21-year old daughter, Holly.  Holly passed away on September 9, 2011 - only 2 and half months after battling a rare, very aggressive spinal cord tumor that caused her to become paralyzed just a couple of weeks after the onset of back pain.  

Both my husband and I have experienced that same deep sadness - not only on those "anniversaries", but other times, too, when we are suddenly blindsided by grief.  All of the hopes and dreams we had for Holly graduating college and getting married, evaporated the day she left us to go to heaven.  Still, we cling tightly to the hope that we will see her again one day - her body healed--no more surgery, no more radiation treatments, no more wheelchair.  

During Holly's illness, we witnessed the body of Christ through Neland Church members...through neighbors and friends....and people in the Grand Rapids community, who transformed our home into a wheel-chair accessible place for her after her treatment.  And, after Holly left us for heaven, God still brings people alongside us on our grief journey.  One of those people is Ruth Boven - pastor at Neland Church.  She was a constant visitor to Holly and also uplifted my husband and I through some of our most difficult days in the hospital and multiple trips to the emergency room....and when a cure was not evident, Ruth reminded us, that we still can lean on that resurrection hope and have faith that we wiill see our precious girl again.  

We have also found that blessing others, who have been touched by cancer,  has been a balm to our grief.  A group of us from Neland Church have cooked some of the community dinners for the residents of Hope Lodge - the facility where our daughter stayed during cancer treatment.  We've also sponsored a team through Relay for Life the last two years - another way we can honor Holly and be an encouragement to others.  We still miss our daughter terribly - we know that there will always be that "hole", but believe that God is using this tragic and untimely loss to bless others.

 

 

 

Karl, thank you for speaking from your heart.  This essay was a gift to us all.

A profound testimony, Karl.  We are grateful for your sharing it with us.  Carl K

Thank you Karl and others for sharing your stories and thoughts.

Thanks for this great testimony of pain, loss, hope, and just that bit of godly wondering.

Thanks, Karl, for this reflection. Grief is so painful; it persists. It is right for us to grieve and to be honest about it. And we are blessed when we hear the testimony of people like you. The hope of the resurrection doesn't take away grief, but it surely puts it in a very different light.  God continue to bless you and yours. Harvey 

Thank you for sharing this Karl.  Blessings.

Karl, our son, Dylan, was only 3 1/2 weeks old when he passed away. Our grief is different because mostly we wonder what might have been. Thanks for sharing your story. It's good to read your testimony of God's sustaining grace. I would guess that many of us parents are on this journey. 

Thanks Karl!

Ruth and I have the same kind of anniversary in 5 days.  This year is will be 18 years since Annie moved to greater glory.  The hole her absence left is still huge - but as you testify - God continues to add new and precious experiences of life around the hole.  There's more than the hole - yet nothing ever replaces all the ways Sarah and Annie imacted our lives when they were still with us.  Six months after Annie died, we gathered to remember what would have been her 13th birthday and to celebrate her much too short life.  I remember the first words of a prayer our friend Heidi Hofman offered at our 'would have been her' birthday gathering and grieving.  Since Annie'd death - 2 of Heidi's own sisters have gone to glory as well.  Heidi's started her prayer this way: 'God - we don't know which planets or stars Annie may be exploring today - but do please remind her that we love her and miss her a lot.'  Those prayer words so blessed me.  They remiind me of something John Calvin himself taught - that our resurrection begins with our death.  

So, I wonder what planet or stars Sarah and Annie may be exploring today.  I picture Annie calling my dad over to look at something she discovered in the 'resurrection world' that is already her home.  It's not complete yet - the resurrection world.  It's waiting for us - we who still serve in this world filled with foretastes of our eternal home.  

Thanks for sharing some of the foretastes God provided you and Liz through Sarah.

Blessings,

John

 

Peter,

The premise of nouthetic counseling is that we simply need to find the appropriate Biblical solution and trust the power of the Holy Spirit to effect the sort of change that is required for us to transform / conform our thinking and behaving more closely with scriptural principles for living. www.gotquestions.org/nouthetic-counseling.html

Inherent in this approach is the idea that psychology is a secular endeavor and therefore has little to offer by way of healing. By such logic medicine too can be called a secular endeavor.  Should we forsake its advances and rely strictly on the Biblical approach of laying on of hands?  Do not get me wrong here Peter, I have gone to a sick person who has asked me to pray for them and lay hands on them but they also went for treatment. If they go for medicinal treatment are they demonstrating a lack of faith?

In the same way a counselor can search the scriptures and ask for the Holy Spirit’s power for a client but they should be trained in psychology as well. Clients come for help with a whole range of life experiences that may effect the expected outcome of counseling.  Having some knowledge and training in cognitive and behavioral issues or in family systems can be very important in understanding the client and his or her problem(s). One issue with Nouthetic Counseling is that Biblical solutions are often applied with little regard to differences in gender, cultural backgrounds, disabilities, age, etc…

Jesus tells Nicodemus that people refuse to come to the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. James tells us to confess our sins to one another so that we can be healed and John tells us that perfect loves drives out fear. Clearly, sharing our sin with each other is important. Accountability is a Biblical Principle and counseling is a wonderful ministry to enable such. A few things to consider are;

1.       THAT we hide our real / true SELF from one another is evil.

2.       WHAT we hide is one thing. Revealing this about our self is just the beginning.

3.       HOW we hide is another. Most of us are blind as to how we do this. When a client comes for counseling they demonstrate how they hide by how they talk, by idiosyncratic behaviors, by what they say and what they do not say, all of which needs to be dealt with gracefully and mercifully knowing full well that the counselor has their own ways of hiding.

4.       WHY we hide WHAT we hide and WHY we hide HOW we hide is also very important. The WHY gives credence to gender, cultural, familial and a host of other differences, the differences that God uses to create and recreate us.

5.       WHO we reveal our self to needs to be a righteous person, by which I mean a humble believer, a vulnerable believer, a non-judgmental believer, a person who knows that standing before the almighty with chocolate on our face is not about justice but about mercy. Exposing the self is for the experience of having our Father wipe our face clean with a wash cloth in one hand and a cookie in the other.

Finding a good counselor is not always easy. A good place to begin is to look at their track record.

Rev. K. VanderVeen, B.A Psych; M.A. (counseling). 

Thanks Rebecca, I will definitely look into the SHAPE curriculum.

I went through a Network class about 10 years ago, and liked it. It wasn't a DVD curriculum then, local church members led the class.

We are currently using the SHAPE curriculum, which was developed at Saddleback church and is free to use and share. This was recommended to me by another CRC in our area. I teach this class 1-2 times per year, and it has been well-received by those who have attended, although interest in the class is not as high as we'd like.

I'm always interested in hearing other ideas, too, so will look forward to seeing what others have to add to this discussion.

I received an email asking about research on the faith development of those who were raised in a tradition that practiced infant communion. At this point I've not located any qualitative research in this area. In addition it would be difficult to separate this one variable from the others. I do think the current research by Smith et al as well as Mayo, Mayo and Savage on the roles of adults in young people's lives provides some insight into the issue.

 

Hi Jeff, the best list of churches I can locate who allow for/practice infant communion is on the Paedocommunion.com web site. In regards to the research question, I am unsure of any research that directly tackles this question. The research on children and God generally follows a biological/developmental model rather than a socialization of model of learning.  This area is ripe for research. I'll do some more digging to to see if those researching in the area of children's ministry can provide any leads.   dg

Darwin,

What are some denominations that have historically practiced infant communion?  Are there any studies that show its effect/improvement upon the process of faith formation?

Bruce, 

If you are looking for doctrine/pre-profession of faith type stuff, also check out Deep Down Faith or Quest of Faith (found at www.faithaliveresources.org/youth).  Both are great resources for digging into Reformed faith for mentor/mentee groups. 

Derek 

There is a great booklet available from Faith Alive called "So You've Been Asked to be Mentor".  I give it to all our adults who serve as Profession of Faith and leadership mentors to our youth.

Good books on mentoring include: "Mentoring Millennials" by Daniel Egeler and "Spiritual Mentoring" by Keith Anderson and Randy Reese

Love this thread, albeit a short one. Would love to carry on further conversations of how to do this well. We at CCRC are heading towards what looks like a frutiful path of multigenerational Community Care Groups and as a part of that we are asking ourselves discipleship questions.... For the most part, we have developed a hearty excitement for what is around the corner and all our generations are speaking about how they can see benefits in this kind of approach. If anyone has resources or ideas, pass them on. Let's get concrete! 

posted in: Best way to mentor?

Mentoring provides blessing for both the mentor and the mentee.  In answer to your question about whose responsibility it is to maintain the relationship, many mentoring/coaching resources recommend that the initiative must be with the mentee.  While I agree with this in leadership development, I believe that walking alongside our youth might require a slightly different approach.  

In my opinion, the most natural kind of relationship would involve initiative that comes from both parties.  As a mentor, especially within a church family, we have the opportunity to invest in someone spontaneously and freely.  Particularly in the case of youth mentees, it would be wonderful if the mentor would bless and pour into a life through encouragement, cards, prayer, invitations etc. unsolicited.  I believe a mentor in these situations can be proactive, rather than simply waiting for youth to initiate.  

Imagine how blessed we would be if more of us would just choose to be a mentor to someone else in our church settings.  Perhaps a young mom, or a young family needs to be encouraged in the challenges of parenting, in the absence of extended family that is far away.  Perhaps a young urban professional needs a seasoned, Christian business man to walk along side him, just to offer support and a listening ear.  Or maybe a young teacher in your midst would welcome the support of a mature person or a family home.  

The blessing of mentoring - an opportunity waiting to be embraced!

posted in: Best way to mentor?

A couple of years ago, the Youth Group leaders at our church asked willing adults in the congregation to volunteer if they were able to team up with a member of the youth group.  Pairs were matched after which it was up to the individuals to pursue the relationship.  Continuation and "success" has been varied, but it has provided positive communication and fellowship between the generations.  The biggest question seems to be where the impetus and responsibility to start and maintain the relationship should come from:  the mentor or the mentee?  Presently, this is under discussion.  As someone who participates(d) in this program, I must say I was blessed and enriched.

posted in: Best way to mentor?

At our last Elders meeting, the topic of baptized children taking communion, without having made profession of faith, was a lengthy agenda item.  We talked about the issues of understanding and appropriate age, help and guidance for parents in discerning readiness for their child, how involved the Elder should be in "approving" a child's understanding of communion. 

We are concerned about profession of faith becoming less important and how to guard against that.  Our desire is to gather information from other CRC churches who already are including young children (or considering it) at the Lord's Table.  How have you informed and educated your congregations?  What criteria has worked for your families?

Thanks for any input.

I was looking for something specific concerning the Holy spirit and came across this RC Church handout 

I would love to see a similar CRC Baptism handout specific for parents and Children

Handout: Romans Chapter 7

BIBLICAL EVENTS WHICH PREFIGURE BAPTISM BY THE HOLY SPIRIT

Christ himself died once and for all for sins, the upright for the sake of the guilty, to lead us to God. In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life, and, in the spirit, he went to preach to the spirits in prison. They refused to believer long ago, while God patiently waited to receive them, in Noah’s time when the ark was being built. In it only a few, that is eight souls, were saved through water. It is the baptism corresponding to this water which saves you now…

 

 

1 Peter 3:18-21

 

Biblical events that prefigured our baptism in Christ:

SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

EVENT

 

 

 

Genesis 1:1-2

 

1. Creation: when the Holy Sprit brought life and order to the waters of chaos.

 

Genesis 6:9-18

1 Peter 3:20-21

 

2. Noah and his family were saved from the waters of the flood that cleansed the earth of sin, which St. Peter tells us prefigures our baptism in 1 Peter 3: 20-21.

 

Exodus 14:1

1 Corinthians 10:1-2

 

3. The children of Israel, fleeing from the Egyptians, passed through the waters of the Red Sea—passing from the old life of slavery into their new life as God’s Covenant people; which St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2 is a form of baptism.

 

Exodus 30:17-21

Numbers 19:11-13

 

4. The water purification rites of the Old Covenant:

-When the priests cleansed themselves with the water from the laver so that they were ritually cleansed and able to enter the Holy Place of the desert Tabernacle and later the Temple in Jerusalem.

-The ritual purification for coming in contact with the dead.

 

2 Kings 5:1-19

 

5. When the prophet Elisha told the Syrian general Naaman to dip himself 7 times in the waters of the Jordan River to be healed.

 

Ezekiel 36:24-27

 

6. Ezekiel’s prophecy that Yahweh will pour clean water over His people and they will be cleansed and filled with a new heart and a new spirit when God places His very spirit within them.

 

Joshua 3:14-17

 

7. The crossing of the Jordan River when God parted the waters and the priests stood midway across the River with the Ark of the Covenant as the children of Israel passed through the waters of the Jordan, leaving their old lives behind to become citizens of the Promised Land.

 

Mathew 3:4-5; Mark 1:4-5; Luke 3:3-4; John 1:31

 

8. The baptism of John the Baptist which called the faithful of Israel into the baptismal waters of repentance in preparation for the coming of the Messiah’s ministry proclaiming the Kingdom of God.

 

later than 120AD records:

Regarding baptism. Baptize as follows: after first explaining all these points, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, in running water. But if you have no running water, baptize in other water; and if you cannot in cold, then in warm. But if you have neither, pour water on the head three times in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Before the baptism, let the baptizer and the candidate for baptism fast, as well as any others that are able. Require the candidate to fast one or two days previously." [ Didache, 7. 1-4 ].

Please notice that no where in these instructions is it permitted to baptize without water!

 Jesus taught that no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born through "water and the Spirit." In Titus 3:4-8 St. Paul instructs St. Titus: "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior for humanity were revealed, it was not because of any upright actions we had done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own faithful love that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our Savior; so that, justified by his grace, we should become heirs in hope of eternal life. This is doctrine that you can rely on." Paul’s statement reaffirms Jesus’ instruction to Nicodemus in John 3:3-3-6: "In all truth [amen, amen] I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above. […]. In all truth [amen, amen] I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born through water and the Spirit; what is born of human nature is human, what is born of the Spirit is spirit."

A profession of faith does not replace water baptism as the spiritual rebirth into the family of God [see John 3:5 and for more information see the study on the Gospel of St. John chapter 3]. Faith is the first step in the process of salvation and baptism is the second step in what is a life long journey toward eternal salvation.

The necessity of water in the Sacrament of Baptism: CCC # 694; 1213-17; 1228; 1238-39; Infant baptism = CCC# 1252

Michal Hunt © 2006

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