Resource, Article

I know from experience how difficult it is to prepare and deliver those kinds of sermons.  I’d suggest three approaches for preachers and their support communities to strengthen such intergenerational preaching.

May 20, 2016 2 0 comments
Blog

In a very different and much more subtle way, the court also experienced a different story of faith formation: the formation of the grieving community. It’s not my place to describe what they are going through, but I am deeply struck by two things...

May 19, 2016 4 0 comments
Resource, Article

What does a life­-giving, ministry strengthening debrief look like? A good debrief is where iron can sharpen iron for the sake of ministry effectiveness. An effective debrief...

May 19, 2016 2 0 comments
Resource, Curriculum

Some of the best conversations with children at church happen when I join them at the activity table. There’s something about sitting side-by-side as we draw, color, cut or paste that sparks conversation. 

May 12, 2016 1 0 comments
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Two years ago I heard a young woman say, “I long to be part of a church that smells like Jesus.” Her longing forced me to stand in front of the mirror of self-reflection. 

May 4, 2016 2 0 comments
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For many years, I struggled to teach myself how to play guitar. After getting stuck, I took more lessons and my learning picked up. This is much like discipleship in the church today. 

April 27, 2016 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Is there a sermon that completely opened your eyes to see things in a new way? Or, is there a sermon that spoke deeply into a struggle you've faced most of your life? I'd love to hear about it!

April 27, 2016 1 0 comments
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As I thought about what to write, my mind turned to the time I thought I was going to die. After my diagnosis, I bought the book Dying Well, which described 5 things dying people need to say. 

April 26, 2016 1 0 comments
Blog

A couple’s religious beliefs, or one partner’s lack thereof, should be looked at before tying the knot. A plan for dealing with differences should be agreed upon. But, the plan needs to be kept flexible. 

April 20, 2016 0 0 comments
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Time has become the most valuable commodity in our culture and its scarcity is one of our leading stressors. And ultimately we are too busy for God. What's one to do? Here's my modest proposal. 

April 20, 2016 6 2 comments
Blog

Likely you have heard someone suggest that a certain point of view is correct because they make an appeal such as "I have a friend who..." Sometimes the word 'friend' is substituted by a family member, or a person featured in a video, or a person in a book. Of course the personal connection...

April 18, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

Sometimes I wonder how often we truly have a clear vision and mission in our own lives. How many times do we just go day to day lacking a mindfulness of why we're doing what we're doing?

April 18, 2016 1 1 comments
Blog

Years ago a friend told me that he'd asked his 16 year old daughter what she considered to be the safest place in the world. Her thoughtful response revealed clues about congregational culture. 

April 14, 2016 2 3 comments
Blog

A good fisherman does his homework. He knows the conditions of the water, researches the latest equipment, and talks to other anglers. I wondered, could these same principles apply to ministry? 

April 5, 2016 2 0 comments
Discussion Topic

A recent article in Forbes magazine reported that Americans now spend more money on Easter candy than they do on Halloween candy. Have you noticed an increase in Easter consumerism?

April 5, 2016 2 4 comments
Blog

This event was not just about River. It was about a church family celebrating the gift of life and joy of being together. It was one more step toward fulfilling the baptismal vows we made one week earlier. 

April 4, 2016 1 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Looking for books to help grow the faith of children? We've compiled a list of our go-to books that are definitely worth checking out. Do you know a book we should check out? Let us know!

April 1, 2016 0 3 comments
Blog

I was recently in Cleveland, OH, where my son is a pastor at a west side inner city church. We were outside, with a small bonfire going, beginning our festival of lights service. While we sang "This Little Light of Mine" a couple came walking to the bus stop and decided to join us. "We've just...

March 30, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

In many ways, the nursery epitomizes what the church is about: Knowing each other. Living life together. Chasing each other when necessary. And allowing no one to forget God loves them.

March 29, 2016 5 0 comments
Blog

After the webinar about mental health and ministry, we came up with a group of resources that ministry leaders have found helpful in dealing with mental health issues in our churches.

March 28, 2016 1 10 comments
Blog

This story-sharing opportunity is guaranteed to be a memorable, meaningful experience, both for the elders whose stories need to be heard and the youth who hear them.

March 24, 2016 3 2 comments
Blog

If someone asked you to share your testimony in a worship service, what would you say? The average CRC member might react like this...

March 22, 2016 2 2 comments
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Connecting a team of six regional catalyzers with support staff in both Michigan and Ontario can be challenging. That's why we're grateful that Christine Dekker joined Faith Formation Ministries...

March 21, 2016 0 0 comments
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Many Christians, on both sides of the border, are looking at the current political climate in the United States with disbelief and wonder. How did we get here?

March 16, 2016 2 0 comments
Blog

Introducing Martin Contant, another FFM staff member with years of experience working in the CRCNA who's just begun working as the Coach for FFM’s Regional Catalyzers.

March 14, 2016 0 0 comments

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A great book in the same vein is Michael Horton's Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014).  We did it as a book club last summer and was refreshing - www.ordinarybook.com

 

posted in: Beige Spirituality

What good questions! I think we live in a culture that is starving for community and belonging. What a wonderful opportunity for the Church. Thanks for the article Shannon.

Thanks for this, Shannon!

Those are great questions, Mavis! I think similar situations are found in congregations across both the U.S. and Canada.

Congregations can't be expected to serve people like they are consumers and the church is a business. And people definitely place a lot of expectations on pastors to do the work that elders and others in the church are also called to do. So, how do we as congregations cultivate the kinds of communities where people know they belong and are needed, where everyone feels called and equipped to serve?

Last fall, Bob and Laura Keeley wrote an article about what they call the "Building Blocks of Faith." In it, they assert that people have four basic needs from their congregations: to find belonging, to know and understand God, a sense of calling and equipping, and hope. Many churches have used these four building blocks to look at the different groups in their churches to see how they are doing in each of these areas (for example, do senior citizens in our congregation feel called and equipped for ministry? do children find a sense of hope here? do youth feel like they belong?). It's a really interesting way to look at our ministries, and to help us figure out where there are gaps. 

But as you point out, the burden does not all rest on the Church here. People need to commit to being part of church communities, in times when people disappoint them and maybe even infuriate them, because we recognize that we all belong to one body--the body of Christ--where we can't easily write each other off.

Syd Hielema and Mike Johnson, from Faith Formation Ministries, lead great workshops on how we can cultivate church cultures where people feel safe to express their vulnerabilities and needs, and are empowered to serve in ministry.   

Good questions. Would love to hear some ideas.

I've been thinking a lot about something similar: people who have attended our church regularly for quite some time, and then stopped.

We connect with them, visit, call, and ask what can we do, what did we do, etc. The reasons vary but 2 common reasons are:

-- Not enough for their kids. (We're a small church and there are quite a few young children in grade school, but no high schoolers and just a couple in junior high.)

-- Something along the lines of "I suffered.....something such as a sickness, a loss of a loved one, and so on...and the church never contacted me." In nearly all cases, friends within the church family did contact them and often helped them in a substantial way, but it seems if it wasn't the pastor or some other official type of contact, they're hurt and they stop coming.

Any thoughts or ideas?

When I was young, we were taught "sticks and stones . . . ." Facebook" posts should only disturb children. No one knows the difference between "public" and "private" these days. On public bulletin boards, "What goes around, comes around."  

Very powerful. I've been thinking about the outrage I try to quickly scroll past on FB, what it says about the people who post it and where faith intersects through it all. Thanks. ~Stanley

My calendar is also full of my own tasks and events that make time fly by! I like the idea of using this seasons calendar to re-align my time & priorities to focus on God's handiwork in everything. 

This quote "What happens if you eliminate anything from the Bible that offends your sensibility and crosses your will? If you pick and choose what you want to believe and reject the rest,..." begs the question: don't we do that all the time? Of course, we use sophisticated theological and hermeneutical gymnastics to rationalize it (especially the way we dissect the Old Testament) and it all comes out sounding plausible, unless we are willing to ask the tough questions, read and consider those passages that we have buried. So to pretend we don't pick and choose is patently false.

posted in: When God Offends

Sorry Ken, for calling you Doug.  My bad.

posted in: When God Offends

Thanks Doug for your article on being offended by God.  I don’t know what you were thinking when you wrote this article but I think it reflects some pretty narrow thinking.  Tell me Doug, are you at all offended by or object to the Muslim concept of God?  Of course they don’t believe in a Triune God.  How about the Mormon religion in which the angel, Moroni, gave the twelve golden plates from God to Joseph Smith to be translated into English?  Do you object to such a revelation of God?  How about the Hindu religion and their belief in a multitude of Gods which are manifestations of the one big God?  Do you object to that or are you offended at all by their religion?  Those religions and hundreds of other religions could ask you the same question you ask of others.  Those other religions, like Christianity, are supported by their own infallible Scriptures which they claim have been inspired or given by God.  What makes you think that our Bible is any more God’s word than their Scriptures?  And yet I imagine you take offense at those religions and doubt their veracity.  So why would anyone other than a Christian believe what is taught by Christians or within the Christian religion?  Christianity is just one of many, many religions in the world.  Why would you think that the world would possibly believe the Christian concept of God or Christianity any more than any other religion?

But bringing this closer to home, there is very little agreement among Christians as to Christian teaching.  There are many hundreds of Christian denominations.  Christians may agree on some very basic fundamentals, but otherwise there is very little agreement.  Just ask a Catholic, a Baptist, a Pentecostal, and a Reformed person what they believe about Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, or what will happen at the end of time.  Already there is a multitude of things to be offended by or to object to.  Our own Canons of Dort were written in opposition to Arminian beliefs.  Reformed Christians were greatly offended by Arminius and his followers.  Our own Reformed confessions call the Baptists and Catholics offensive names.  We have a long history of objecting to the beliefs of other Christians.  Are you saying they were wrong in their objections or at taking offense?  So whose Christianity or whose Bible is a person supposed to agree with wholeheartedly, Doug?

posted in: When God Offends

Hi Michael! Thanks so much for your thoughts -- you raise some interesting points. Understanding sin as TOTAL depravity and need of God is indeed different than just realizing we are imperfect. I completely agree that our understanding of sin influences our need of Jesus (and a savior in general).

Re: your last question "Is being liked really the obstacle for the gospel...", I might be missing part of your explanation. What I more wonder is "what is it about Christians/the church that are turning people away?" I'm not sure it's the gospel but instead I wonder if it has more to do with the behavior of the followers.  

Thanks again for your thoughts! Really appreciate the additional questions to consider. 

I love the statement, “Like I said, you don’t need to go to church to be a Christian. If you go to Taco Bell, that doesn’t make you a taco.” Partially because it’s true and partially because I really love tacos.

But the rest of it is cause for deep thought. I wonder if Justin really means what you mean, Staci, about ‘imperfection.’ Does Justin really mean sinful – like, ‘I deserve to die’ sinful [Lev. 4]? ‘I can’t ever make life right between me and God’ sinful?  I know that’s what Christians read into ‘imperfect’  – and thanks to our teachers for connecting that for us – but I’m not sure that’s how Justin, or even most unbelievers, take it.

If not, then the idea of needing Jesus alone to be both sin offering and Lord for us kinda flies by the hearts of the people we’re speaking with and showing love to in our neighborhoods, And if Jesus isn’t essential to life itself, then certainly the Church isn’t worth putting up with. We’ll still come off as ‘holier than thou’ because we insist that, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” [John 3.18] Not that the Church is essentially more acceptable to God than the rest of the world, but we’ve been made acceptable by our faith and trust in Jesus’ resurrection for that moral unacceptability. Most people I talk to either get it and don’t think I stink, or they’re really offended and can’t stand the smell of my faith.

But isn’t that what Paul affirms in 2 Corinthians 2.15-16? “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” Now, maybe Paul just didn’t love people, but I wouldn’t bet money on it. Which makes me ask another question: Is being liked really the obstacle for the gospel, or is it more of an obstacle for our own egos?

I am so glad to see all of these projects or avenues.  So much of this has been needed and so few have time to put towards them.  Thank you especially for working on the profession of faith toolkit and the evaluation of curriculum.  Your focus on regions should also help.  I hope that you are finding ways to get other voices included in these discussions because the more we share the better we are.

Great Treasure chest full of valuable information......Thanks Again, Leslie!!!!

Thanks Staci and Tim.  I appreciate your openness and willingness to share.  No doubt, in my mind Staci, you raise some important questions and concerns in regard to the gospel.  And you put those concerns into a format that is easy to understand.  Both you and Tim, probably hit onto something, by suggesting the building of  relationships and letting love lead the way for Christian witness.  But that still doesn’t remove the offense of the gospel, Christ is the only hope.  We are still saying to the world - whatever you may have thought or whatever other religions teach, ours is the only way to find acceptance with God.  Whether building a relationship or showing love, our message is still the same, no other name than Christ.  Our way is the only way.  It’s not Christians who are always offensive, but the message, especially when it rubs up against other religions or other opinions.  I wonder, I know some wonderful people who are not Christian. Christians aren’t the only caring and nice people.  Does their niceness, love, or the building of a relationship make their message of God’s love (a different message from ours), change the way Christians think?  Christians say, don’t be deceived, only our message is the true message.  Don’t be fooled by their kindness.  By the same token, do you really think our kindness is really going to convince any thoughtful person?  Bottom line, Christianity is still offensive to the world. That’s the nature of the gospel.  And the church is still full of closed minded people, even if they’re nice.  I doubt that Christianity will ever win any popularity contests, especially in more advanced cultures.

Thanks for the post, Staci. 

You raise an important question when you ask: How do we work towards removing the cultural stigma attached to the word "Christian"? I really like the "Love Wins" approach of Bob Goff, where we as Christians need to show the love of Christ in fun and creative ways to the world around us. There is a little saying that comes to mind: People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. If we would be less judgmental and more loving, perhaps the Bieb's and others would be more open to the gospel. One last thought that might apply to this question. Chuck Colson often used a quote attributed to Francis of Assisi: "Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words."
 
Thanks again for challenging us to think about these things.

Hi Roger: 

Thanks for sharing! Really good point about how Christians can come across as offensive when we proclaim that there is no other name/no other way to get to God than through Jesus. For a tolerant "live and let live" society, this is problematic. I think part of the challenge is finding ways to build relationships first (hopefully removing some of the collective stigma of Christians) and through these relationships, share the gospel and pray for the message to be received (with the help of the Holy Spirit). Thanks for also mentioning the parables. Important to look at how Jesus responds! 

Thanks again!
Staci

 

Thanks Staci for a refreshing article.  I like your use of Justin Bieber to get to the heart of what many in our society are thinking about God and Christianity.  I don’t want to put words in Justin’s mouth or interpret him wrongly, but you are asking what we (your readers) think or what is our opinion in regard to his comments.

I think that secular society (including Bieber), as well as other religious societies, are offended by Christianity because Christians have and have had throughout history the attitude of, “we are right and you are wrong.”  Christianity has always proclaimed there is no other name under heaven, or no other way in the world by which to please God than by Jesus.  Whereas, we think we are very gracious and loving by presenting the good news of Jesus, the world thinks that Christians are summarily dismissing what they believe.  We go to foreign mission fields and tell Muslims, Hindus, or Jews that their religion will not get them to heaven, and we tell Americans and Canadians that the good they do doesn’t count with God.  But of course that is a Christian view and not one shared by the world.  Secular societies and other religions believe that the good a person does counts with God.  So, the Christian attitude and message of, we are right and you are wrong, makes Christianity very offensive to most the world.

And to Bieber and to much of society, they think the church is disposable because the church is full of hypocrites who think they are right and everyone else is wrong about a loving God who sends everyone to hell except those who believe like us (Christians).

Maybe Jesus has already responded to Bieber in stories like the one of the sheep and goats on judgment day.  The sheep who make it to heaven are those who have done good (as you have done it unto one of the least of these, you have done unto me) and the goats who go to hell are those who have not done good (as you have not done it...).  Maybe Jesus is saying, take stock of your life and do good. Or maybe Jesus might have already responded to Bieber by retelling the story of the good Samaritan (who represents the unbeliever) who does what is loving for the injured man, unlike those others who clung to their faith.  Again do good, regardless of what you believe.  Or he might retell the story of the house built on the rock, which is a house of good deeds.  I have a feeling that people in our society might appreciate Jesus’ example and much of his teaching without appreciating the hypocrisy of most Christians (my way or no way).

Of course, we, as Christians, have a different perception of society’s take on us.  But the world doesn’t see it, do they?  Thanks Staci.

Thanks so much, Shannon! This interview was so interesting to me because it seems like a HUGE opportunity to start conversations with people in our lives (and social circles) on the misconceptions about Christians and church. So cool that you are talking about this with your kids!

And I found a passage to go with it: Ephesians 2:19-22. I'll let you know how it goes!

This is a great piece. It touches on issues that a lot of young people today have with the Church, and gets people thinking about why its important. My kids are tweens and teens, and we talked about Bieber's "taco" comment once already. I think I will use this for our family's devotions one night this weekend. Thanks for writing it, Staci!

Joshua and Bonnie - It might be helpful to note that John's wife Stasi Eldredge‎ wrote a sequel to Wild at Heart, call Captivating, in which she described her understanding of the nature of a woman in God's creation. Neither of these were meant to demean the other, but to push back against the egalitarian movement to erase any gender differences. Rather to see and celebrate the complimentary differences in design and role.

I think that you misunderstand my sentiments. I am not saying anything about "soft" men. I'm all for men, being all that they are created to be in Christ - wild and free to truly follow where the Holy Spirit leads. I'm also all for women having that same freedom to be all that they are created to be in Christ. That's where my problem with "Wild at Heart" lies. It's less about what it says to men then about the way it limits women. 

In my comment I said to focus on Jesus, I meant Jesus as he is revealed in Scripture - I don't see meek and mild there at all.

Bonnie.. I appreciate your reflections on how Wild at Heart has been received by those you've spoken with. I can see that you are passionate about this. Every book will always have its plusses and minuses. I see that gender roles and stereotypes are very important to you. The concept of what is healthy and unhealthy in a book needs to also be seen through the lens of how it is interpreted and implemented. Wild at Heart and other books in this vein attempt to engage this discussion of gender roles which has evolved over the years. A different point of view might be offensive and demeaning to those who hold an opposing view. Wild at Heart and other books were written because the opposing point of view was seen also as demeaning and detrimental to the faith development of men.

A question might be brought up: How can we affirm our genders given to us by God in such away that it allows strong faith formation while not derogating the other gender?

You had mentioned a book in an earlier response, what other books might you suggest which counter the arguments seen offensive in Wild at Heart yet also affirm and assist men in growing in their faith?

Ron...Thank you for bringing up Wild at Heart. I have found that book helpful in many ways save for his stance on ADHD (being ADHD myself, I think he's totally wrong and ignorant of what it is, though the book was written when ADHD still was being debated). This blog post came about as part of my research in a doctoral class I'm taking right now on the book of Judges. I am working on a Bible Study on what it means to be a man of God (and what it doesn't). There are a plethora of books out there that struggle with what it means to be a man of God, with Wild at Heart being but one of them. I believe it is a counter argument against some thoughts in gender studies that attempt to create what Robert Bly refers to as "soft males" in Iron John. Bly is not insulting men who go this direction but he states that there has been something lost over the years. In my research, I have come to find that the majority of books written since the mid 1990's on being a man of God quotes Bly, either positively or negatively, but still they quote him. What I took away from Wild at Heart is that it is okay to be a guy.

Bonnie... Thank you for your insights. As you point out, yes, there are cultural influences in how we see gender roles in the church. I agree that there has been an abuse of power over the years by men. With this being a 700 or so word blog post, there is limitation. Parts that were cut from this blog did attempt to balance some of the gender roles in our church today. Yet we have to be careful in pushing various cultural concepts of gender roles onto the church. Just as years gone by the machismo of male authority was pushed into the leading of the church, today there are struggles with pushing newer thoughts of gender roles into the church as well. We need to be careful and discerning as the pendulum swings.

I agree that in many ways Jesus did show a variety of aspects that are in need for men today. Yet focusing on just Jesus meek and mild does a disservice to men today in their faith development. I believe the role of anyone in power and privilege is to empower others as Jesus empowered his followers. God made us in His image, both male and female, yet, I believe, the pendulum has swung the other way (as Bly and many others both secular and Christian, philosophers and psychologists, since have pointed out) and placed a blueprint on masculinity that goes against how men are hardwired. Men process emotions, experiences, thoughts, and ideas different than women. And that is okay. One is not better than the other. To point to Jesus and show just one side of Him as how men ought to live their faith does a disservice to the Gospel message and the Second Person of the Trinity.

As much as Jesus is shown in the Gospels to be in touch with his emotions, He also acted out in anger such as cursing the fig tree or clearing the temple. He is depicted as a mighty warrior in Revelation. God Himself is not only depicted as a warrior in the Old Testament but refers to himself an describes Himself as such. As men are made in the image of God, we must not deny the masculinity in which men are hardwired with.

When men are not allowed to be men of faith they then are not equipped to fully empower and disciple younger men in the faith. Instead of helping form the faith of the next generation of Godly men the same roadblocks are passed along and then men become more lost. Men need to be allowed to be men in their faith for there is a masculine side to faith as there is a feminine.

I want to be clear, I am not pushing for a complimentarian view of gender roles. I am egalitarian in my view of gender. I also know that being wired differently is okay and should be accepted not forced to be what it is not. I believe that many fear taking steps backwards when discussing what masculinity means. I firmly believe that we do a disservice to men in their faith when we neglect that part of faith they are hardwired for in connection to God's ability to be a warrior, protector, fighter--as long as we fight for the right cause and empower others in doing so. To neglect this does not allow men to truly grow in their faith but instead hinders them and does not allow them to reach their full potential in which they were created for to serve with and along side women who are also made in the image of God.

Though there may be some good insights, there are many who believe that this book enforces gender stereotypes that may be unhealthy. I've spoken with many Christian women who find some of it offensive and demeaning.

 

John Eldridge has offered some good insights into this this in Wild at Heart.

Working as a campus pastor I encounter young men in various phases of formation. Many are eager to serve Christ and simply need to be trusted, challenged and mentored to do so. Our churches and schools do a wonderful work in instructing boys in the faith. I usually encounter them when they begin to question what they have learned. That's OK... after a period of discipleship, I take great joy when I witness a young man seize what it means to be seized of Christ.

Often, the key is not in the instructing but the listening to a young man's struggles or simply their zeal, then with gentle guidance, trusting that young man with a ministry task and watching the Spirit work in and through that young powerhouse!

Timothy was a teen when entrusted by Paul with sacred Kingdom work! Look what a great job Timothy did in following the Master! Guidance needed? Of course! ... Older men, do not be afraid to relinquish power, trusting that God has also called the younger man to follow in your footsteps. You know who he is,,,watch him go! Let him be the "apple" of God's eye. Empower him Take delight in him.

It is so difficult to separate cultural gender roles and expectations from what our Lord expects of us as men and women of God. That's where looking at the life of Jesus seems so valuable to me. He is true man (and God); we become more human, the people that God created us to be, when we become more Christlike, more like Jesus.

In Safe Church Ministry, we talk a lot about power, use and misuse of this gift that God has given each of us in different measures. We see Jesus, who had all power, not grasping it for his own benefit, but laying it down, dying on a cross for those he loves. Real men look like that. Giving themselves in love to others. We see Jesus sharing power, empowering all of us with his Holy Spirit. Real men share power, empowering others to be all they can be. Others feel loved and flourish in the company of a man of faith. 

Jesus also was not afraid to show his emotions, anger, weeping, joy, etc. A couple years ago now, safe church ministry hosted a lecture, presented by the Men's Resource Center related to the book "Mascupathy". A main premise in the book is that when boys are denied the opportunity to express their emotions, those emotions come out in other ways, often in violence against others. We are causing harm when we tell boys to "man up" and "don't cry". Perhaps it's not an accident that mass shootings have almost always been committed by men, or that men are far more likely to die violently than women. Real men are in touch with their feelings and can freely express them, the way Jesus did. Godly men don't let pent up emotions erupt in violence. 

Jesus was not afraid to honor others in counter-cultural ways and in so doing he spoke truth to power. He lifted up a child as the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, he honored lepers, prostitutes, and tax gatherers by spending time with them. He called out pharisees for their hypocrisy. Jesus was no respecter of persons; he valued each and every one. Real men honor others, regardless of their status. 

That's enough for now.

Bill...thank you for your response. One of the reasons behind this blog post is trying to define what a man of God is. As stated in the post, there are many different views that are out there about being a man of God. Yet with these mixed messages, we leave the faith formation of men in the cold. The emphasis in this post then is how can we help men grow in the faith outside of "I'll know it when I see it"? Leaving it just to "I'll know it when it I see it" does not give direction to help men grow in the faith. The purpose of this blog post is to begin helping giving direction in faith formation in men. 

Identifying "men of God" Is something simiar to what a Supreme Court justice said about identfiyng pornography, "I can't define it but I know it when I see it." For example, Gandhi, MLK . . . . 

Greetings Jeff:

   May I be a bit presumptuous and give a stab at the questions you ask?

 a. To be passionate about something actually requires propositional knowledge. That is to say the more in-depth knowledge that I have of the ways, likes, attitudes, of my wife, the more I can be passionate about her. That is to say my heart can be warmed by what I know of her in an intimate way. In a similar way, the more we know of Christ--and this is not just individually, but also corporately, the more passionate we can be about Him. This is what I would define as heart-knowledge.

b. A cultural trend. Well, I think that the critical thinking apparatus has been dumbed down without teaching in logic, rhetoric, critical analysis, but more on "well how do you feel about that?" That later question is everywhere these days. But I think this is where myticism can walk right in the door, and to my mind it is not only Pentacostalism---since some of the sharpest and most analytical minds I know are Pentacostals--but also the effects of a therapeutic Gospel which responds to "how can we make these people feel good?" rather than a Gospel which asks "how can we help these people to think rightly and feel accordingly."

 

Shalom.

 

 

 

John,

 

This is a good and healthy discussion to have. Two questions come to mind right away:

1. How would you define "heart-knowledge"?

2. To what extent is this anti-intellectualism part of a broader cultural trend?  Is it really an infiltration from Pentecostalism or is it just a reflection of where the culture is heading?  

Greetings John:

     I think you have latched on to something.  Where do you think ideas such as Lectio Divina recently popularized by those involved in Youth ministiries, spiritual directors who help to get in touch with inner feelings, and the widespread popularity of Richard Foster's the Celebration of Discipline come from?

   I would say these are a pendulum swing towards mysticism that is likely a reaction against hyper-intellectualism. But the pendulum has swung way too far, in my opinion. Without a critical thought, supposedly thinking, reading, analyzing Christian Reformed folk ditch their critical thinking and testing of the spirits capacity and jump on to what is clearly Roman Catholic/Quaker/Buddhist mysticism.

   It would appear that we continue to need "theology on fire." Nothing more and nothing less, or as even the motto of Calvin Seminary states, reflecting John Calvin "My heart I offer to you Lord: Promptly and Sincerely."

Shalom

 

Thanks, Laura, for using your gifts for ministry in another important way!  You continue to be aware of God's calling in your life and serve Him where He calls.  May God continue to bless you as you bless the CRC!

Thank you, Jill, for serving in our Faith Formation Ministries! Blessings to you and your work! ~Stanley

Amen! Thank you for just tellin' it like it is. You'd think Christians would get this better than non-Christians because we believe in a God who created and then rested. But instead, it seems like our love for the Lord and ministry makes us work even harder!

Appreciated Henry.

Nonetheless, if a 16+/- old person is a person awarded "eligible voting" rights in a society, i.e. church they are still entitled to serve on the board/council regardless of whether the council asks or not. If their name were to be put forward, to cut it off the nomination list based on their age would be an infringement of their legal rights under the Constitution & Bylaws.

Moreover, they may be required as an "eligible voting" member to vote on financial, legal matters, etc. put before the membership, i.e. the congregation when they still under guardianship raising questions about whether their vote is legally binding.

 

Thanks, Lubbert, for the caution.  I do respectfully want to offer my opinion that there is a huge difference between being eligible for service as council/board members and actually being nominated to serve in that capacity.  I have huge doubts about a council actually asking a 16-year-old to serve.  I think ecclesiastical law needs to follow civil law, as the newly adopted version of Article 27 of the Church Order says, but there are also ways in which ecclesiastical law is our supreme guide.  Typically, civil law stays out of ecclesiastical matters and only guides us in financial matters so that we comply with regulations pertaining to charitable organizations.

 

 

Great blog, Josh! Thanks for sharing your thoughts (and the great suggestion at the end) on this important topic.

Henry's observation "So that leaves it to the Church Order and local council to decide ecclesiastically rather than the more legal route of Articles of Incorporation.  Typically provinces and states allow congregations to decide this matter in its own way without dictating any particular voting age" is more than a little problematic.

Members who have "voting rights" would also be able serve as council/board members who can enter into legal contracts, hire employees, etc. which individuals under the age of majority, i.e. under guardianship cannot do. 

As such, civil law overrides ecclesiastical law. Or to put it another way, ecclesiastical law needs to follow civil law. In the same way Church Order, Article 27 requires council members to comply with the law, e.g. "Although full consideration shall be given to the judgment expressed by the congregation, the authority for making and carrying out final decisions remains with the council as the governing body of the church, except in those matters stipulated otherwise in the articles of incorporation or by law."

Regarding the matter of Articles of Incorporation (Constitution) versus Bylaws, the province of British Columbia has recently brought into force a new Societies Act which will require all NGO's, e.g. churches to revise their Constitution & Bylaws. Most matters that were formerly included in the Constitution will be required to move into the Bylaws.  

 

Bill,

I have run into many congregations that have only filed Articles of Incorporation and not Bylaws.  In fact, quite a number of them have never even adopted Bylaws for themselves, let alone file them along with the Articles.  So if there are none on record in the church office or in the possession of the clerk, don't be surprised.

 

Henry,
Thanks for the detailed history and explanation.  

I do have a copy of the Articles of Incorporation filed in 1957 (no mention of what constitutes membership) but I do not have any Bylaws, and the state of California only has Articles of Incorporation.  My next step is to see if any of our members know where there might be a copy of the Bylaws.

Historically, churches in the Reformed tradition including ours have always held the position that approval for and making a profession of faith gave persons the right to "adult membership" and therefore also to vote at congregational meetings.  We call them "confessing members" (Article 59-b, CO) who have "the right to vote" (Article 59-c).  Synod currently leaves it up to the local congregations to determine "the appropriate age at which a confessing member shall receive such privileges and responsibilities" (Supplement, Article 59-c).  If no age is mentioned in any congregational decisions or by-laws, the age of 18 doesn't apply.  A person could make a profession at age 16, for example.
The only reason why for a time the CRCNA had a provision in the Church Order that actually mentioned the age of 18 was due to synodical decisions on children at the Lord's Supper.  For a time, synod decided that our members could make an "early profession of faith" and be admitted to the Lord's table -- the typical age was somewhere between 9 and 12.  They would then meet with council again, somewhere around their 18th birthday, be interviewed regarding their understanding of privileges and responsibilities of confessing membership, and be granted the right to vote.  Sometimes this was done in the council room, sometimes it was celebrated in public worship and those who had shared communion with us could then be officially welcomed before the congregation and its Lord.  Synod later decided that "all baptized members who come with age- and ability-appropriate faith in Jesus Christ are welcome to the Lord's Supper ..." (Article 59-a).  It then went on to say that "baptized members shall be encouraged to make a public profession of faith ..." (Article 59-b).  What that means in practice is that the age for making profession was once again moved to "somewhere around 18" without any definitiveness about that number, just like it had been the case for centuries.  So now, in my congregation, children are prepared for participation in the Lord's Supper in their children's worship centers -- at the time where they no longer leave half-way through the service, usually at age 7 or thereabouts -- and thereafter take communion with us.  Then, at around the time of high school graduation, the church prepares them and encourages them to make public profession of faith (which they now haven't done at a younger age).
So with regard to the right to vote at congregational meetings, we're right back where we started centuries ago. [☺]   Though now they can have communion based only upon their baptism and some initial instruction.
The only caveat to all this is that churches not only need to follow the Church Order but they also adopt their own Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws.  Synod has a model for that (Supplement, Article 32-d), but what is legally operative is what the individual congregation has adopted and filed(hopefully it follows synod's model).  It is possible that a given congregation might spell out an age where a person is granted the right to vote.  It is not likely, but it is possible, and that should be investigated.  The congregation could always change that again, but one must go by what's on file currently in the province or state in which the church is located.  The model Articles say in Article VII only that a congregational vote is obtained "at a meeting of the members present and entitled to vote."  So that leaves it to the Church Order and local council to decide ecclesiastically rather than the more legal route of Articles of Incorporation.  Typically provinces and states allow congregations to decide this matter in its own way without dictating any particular voting age.  That is, of course, unlike the voting age in the political sense.
 

Thank you Pastor Tamminga. Now posted on my Facebook!

 

posted in: Never Quite Sure

Though one would want to solicit input from all members in the congregation, the question of voting vs professing membership probably boils down to what the church Constitution & Bylaws define as who has voting rights which is guided by civil law. Church Order, Articles 4-c and 37 perhaps also give some guidance inasmuch as they refer to "adult" and "entitled."

Sounds great Pete. Would you be willing to share your document? It would be fun to see a few membership class samples! 

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