Learning Together: Church Renewal Learning Laboratory

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Calvin Theological Seminary (CTS) is called to serve the church as the church serves the mission of God. I have used this statement to indicate a certain posture and relationship between the church and seminary. Formed by the church, our focus is to prepare leaders of the church for their ministry and in their context.

I come from the world of church planting. In addition to my role as founding pastor of a church plant (New Life Church in New Lenox, IL), I also served as the Christian Reformed Home Missions Church Planting Point Team Leader for four years.

In the past, the world of church planting was sometimes placed in opposition to “regular” churches. I disagree with that characterization and do not find this analysis to be helpful or true.

As a result of being a church pastor in the same church for sixteen years, I have come to the conclusion that the DNA of church planting is in alignment with the DNA of church renewal. In my journeys as President of Calvin Seminary, I have seen all kinds of churches in all kinds of contexts, but a central feature of a “healthy” church is the same – they know, love, and serve the community where God has placed them.

These churches not only know they belong to God, but they are also mindful of why they exist; not for themselves, but for the world – to fulfill the mission of God in the world that He so loves.

A few years ago, the Institute for Global Church Planting and Renewal of Calvin Seminary began a pilot project called the Church Renewal Learning Laboratory. This laboratory provides a learning environment where students, church pastors, and other church leaders come together to talk about their current ministry and seek to raise the evangelistic atmosphere, temperature, and practices of their church.

Under the leadership of the Project Director, Rev. Keith Doornbos, the group is learning some of the elements that are part of the process of church renewal. In a cohort based system that focuses on both the pastoral leader and lay leaders, we have seen coaching and training over a two year period, bringing hope by focusing on what God can do through a community of faith.

We are still in the pilot phase as the journey is just beginning. We have been blessed in partnering with others, such as coaches through Christian Reformed Home Missions.

If you would like to learn more, I invite you to contact Rev. Keith Doornbos (kdoornbos@calvinseminary.edu) and/or Professor Carl Bosma (cbosma@calvinseminary.edu), who serves as Director of the Institute for Global Church Planting and Renewal.

A recent quote from a participant says, “The Church Renewal Learning Laboratory is like having the whole church gain a Doctor in Ministry rather than just the pastor.”

May we continue to learn from each other as we see God at work in renewing the church!

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