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Take a look at the existing Network Discussion Forums before deciding to post here.  The idea is to have this be a place for...

March 17, 2011 0 0 comments
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We desire to reach communities that have no idea what “the law” is. Do they really need to hear the law to see their sin? Doesn't it make more sense to meet Jesus, Christ crucified, and let him reveal their sin?

March 15, 2017 2 0 comments
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While the article centers on some of the tensions and debates at the school, I think that many of the topics explored are also at play in our wider denominational landscape.

March 2, 2017 2 1 comments
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When did the Sabbath day start? Was it on the 7th day of the creation week? At Mount Sinai? Time of Abraham?

February 20, 2017 0 1 comments
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Do you have photos of your church living out its mission as a family of believers? Share them with your wider Christian Reformed Church family! 

January 12, 2017 0 0 comments
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Want to make sure you never miss a single issue of The Banner? Use this link to update your address or subscribe to receive The Banner

December 27, 2016 1 0 comments
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During our last U.S. presidential campaign and election I was frustrated by the lies and contradictions that surfaced that were neither challenged, investigated, or held accountable for.

November 22, 2016 0 0 comments
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Even as a cynical observer, I’ll admit the 2016 Cubs’ season has been very impressive. And one reason they’ve nearly won me over is because they’ve been showing how good they are instead of telling me.

October 25, 2016 2 0 comments
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When we consider the words of James 3:17, the question that each Christian must ask is no longer “Where is God in the US presidential election?” but “Where is God in my life as I participate in the US election?”

October 24, 2016 0 4 comments
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Senator Clinton’s and Mr. Trump’s toxic behavior towards one another is highly contagious. It’s impacting us more than we realize. All of this makes me think about the essential role of Christian community.

October 19, 2016 3 3 comments
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Stories are powerful. Even simple stories have the ability to engage us on many levels, not just our heads but our hearts. What is your story? Where has God placed you, and what journey are you on?

September 26, 2016 0 0 comments
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Stephanie Williams, M.D., chief of the blood and marrow transplant program at Spectrum Health in Chicago, talks about what it means to her to be part of the CRC. Do you have a story about what it means to you to be Christian Reformed?

September 21, 2016 0 0 comments
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I've noticed that people like me and congregations like mine have chosen one of three types of relationships with their denominations. The third group (the newest kid on the block) may not be readily apparent to most.

September 19, 2016 0 2 comments
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This may come as a surprise to some, but a denomination is not a church. The denomination needs to embrace and affirm its true identity and sole purpose: to support the ministry of local congregations. 

August 29, 2016 1 59 comments
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Most pastors will acknowledge that the relationship between their congregations and their denominations is tethered by but a thread. One wonders if there's a future for denominations, and if so, what's the way forward?

August 23, 2016 2 7 comments
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A warm welcome to newly appointed editor of The Banner, Shiao Chong! We are curious. . . If you were the newly appointed editor of The Banner, what would be the headline or topic of your next editorial?

August 4, 2016 4 27 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

Ed Shaw's book Same-Sex Attraction and the Church is a crucial resource for the CRC's ongoing conversation on sexuality. Here is my review of Shaw's book:

For far too long in this country it has seemed possible to enjoy both the Christian life and the American dream. Christians have...

July 7, 2016 0 0 comments
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Instead of dire predictions of storms and divisions, let’s put our heads together and talk, form relationships, and learn how to love one another, as God in Christ has loved us.

June 24, 2016 1 0 comments
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Many Christians have a favorite scripture or "life verse" that inspires their vision and mission in the world. Are there hymns and contemporary Christian songs that do the same?

April 13, 2016 1 8 comments
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Hans Fiene, a Lutheran pastor looks behind the scenes at the motivation for social activism by the church.

April 1, 2016 0 1 comments
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There are some Christian scholars who support the idea of government help for the poor.  

March 18, 2016 1 0 comments
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What is it that drives people to do something out of the goodness of their heart with no expectation of reward?

March 9, 2016 0 0 comments
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Christian Reformed Home Missions wants to hear YOUR stories of transformation! Our theme for this Easter Sunday is Easter Changes Everything. 

March 8, 2016 0 0 comments
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"If you advocate for that position then you are condemning those people to a life of loneliness. That would be cruel and unloving." Just how should one respond to this statement?

March 2, 2016 0 0 comments
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A Bangladeshi once described one of his countrymen as "having his feet in two boats." With this word picture he was showing the effect of trying to juggle two divergent opinions by trying to serve two masters at the same time (Matt. 6:24) and the likelihood of capsizing. This same picture could...

February 20, 2016 0 0 comments

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 I have mixed feelings about having the CRC associated with a woman who didn't do her homework prior to her being interviewed by the Senate for her qualifications as Secretary of Education.  I can admit she would have preferences, but that does NOT excuse her ignorance of rhe public school system in her own country and its strengths and weaknesses. 

Today I heard something about the USA supreme court redefining marriage.  And in the process, innocent Christians are being persecuted, fined and prosecuted for exercising their religious freedom.  Are the democrats doing anything to reverse that?  To protect these issues of conscience?  Are they speaking out against it?  Are they promoting judges who take a more reasonable view of the US constitution?  

If not, are Democrats still a viable option for Christians?  Shouldn't they support politicians who at least honor God with their lips, rather than deny his claims to His very face?  

And compare their stand on abortion, the murder, desecreation and genocide of innocent preborn human beings.  Does not this also call into question any support by Christians of a Democrat party that promotes and funds institutions such as PLanned Parenthood, whose main business and funding stream is for abortion?  

I believe the bible tells us that The Sabbath Day started in the garden of Eden. The Sabbath day was the seventh day of creation week. The Sabbath was instituted  before man sinned. Thus, the Sabbath day was made for all man and not just for the Jews. Adam and Eve where the first humans to observe the Sabbath day that God blessed and sanctified.

In his entire campaign, Trump vilified his opponents, some of whom later refused to vote for him in the Presidential election.  (ie. the Bush family).  Many Rep were talking of voting against their party.  In the end, Trump convinced most that he wanted to unite the party, that bygones are bygones, and he even appointed some of his most vociferous opponents to cabinet posts.  You forget that if both parties simply spout the same lines, there is no reason to have two or three parties at all.  It remains to be seen if Trump's vision will work out, but many christians were convinced that with all its foibles, it was still a better option than the alternative.  

In all of this we are forgetting a few things.  Trump appealed to people on a whole bunch of populist ideas and concerns.  He fought his campaign not on the basis of California liberalism, but on mid-west conservatism.  But for years, politicians have been ignoring the plight of the unborn who are murdered at will.  It is a more significant issue than terrorism since the number of human beings, black, white, hispanic, who are destroyed by abortion is vastly greater than any other deliberate cause of death.  So if judges are appointed who can respect life, who can put limits to this carnage, then christians and muslims and other decent human beings ought to support that.  And Trump's withdrawal of support for Planned Parenthood alone would give him a tremendous amount of room to make mistakes in other areas.  In addition, although Trump's personal life is by no means ideal with his divorces etc.,  nevertheless if he supports traditional marriage and family values, especially in his later life, or at least politically, then that is a very important consideration.  

He has stated a very definitive support for legal hispanic immigrants, as well as for blacks and other minorities.  His own wife is an immigrant, which speaks as loudly as any thing he has said.  It is possible that if a convincing argument is made regarding harmlessness of vetted immigrants that he will reduce or reverse his strong stance on that issue.  But remember that he is a politician trying to keep his promises made on the campaign trail, not a politican who was intentionally lying the whole time.  

He will have difficulty with the health care issue also, but that is a whole 'nuther matter.  

 1. I don't see why the CRCNA would be immune to high-handed sin where other denominations aren't.  I haven't noticed that human nature was any different in our denomination than elsewhere.  

I remember reading in Philip Yancey's book Grace Notes about his meeting with a friend of his in a coffee shop because the other man was planning to leave his wife and family to marry another woman whom he found more exciting, and as this friend asked Yancey if he could be forgiven for this sin he was knowingly planning to commit, Yancey asked him if he would WANT to be forgiven knowing it would involve repentance.  Is there ANY man or woman in the CRCNA above lusting for someone else to the point of planning to divorce their present spouse and abandon their kids?

I wonder if that option was considered?

Regarding announcement  (Oct 16, 2016) of combining OSJ with Race Relations.  With retirements and leaders leaving these Departments the church simply posts another job for a combined department leader, but leaving the functions in place.  This is a missed opportunity to privatize these two functions. For those willing to support lobbying governments they should be willing to put organizations in place to do that and fund them. The church can no longer afford this cost that should never have been in the church in the first place.

 

This is a very helpful piece.  I wish I had read it weeks ago!  Thanks.  I certainly resonate with the idea that the campaign is creating stress in me!  Being more aware of that helps; I had never heard of the research about being affected by the negatives of leaders.  I guess it makes sense that if we can be inspired by leaders, we can also be "de-spired".  May I really have the mind of Christ in coming days and months.... and years. 

 Ron

I am not sure I understand what you are trying to say. The question is not . Who is the final Judge. There is no question who is Lords of lords and King of kings.

However, we were created in Gods image and in Christ we are new creatures.. We are the hands and feet of Christ to do His work here on earth. I believe this includes our responsibility as for who we  will vote.  As  Abraham Kuyper taught us, There is no square inch in the whole domain of our human existence  over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry,Mine! A difficult principle to live by, especially this year in the election of a new president.But that is our caller as ambassadors of Christ. Whether we are preachers, teachers, farmers, retired sar any other station in life. This our calling, to represent Christ where ever we live or whatever we do here on this earth.

 On second thought, I think I do know you and I can't believe we disagree with each other.

 

Excellent thoughts!

We don't exactly have a choice between Buhari and Goodluck, but we know who Axelrod will be voting for (and maybe advising) in our own election.

In the end "God is the ruler, yet" and even though, "Indeed, Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen." (Acts 4:27,28)

 

This may seem strange but I find this election to be less divisive in terms of the electorate, or at least the part of the electorate I live with.

To date, I have seen no (zero) lawn signs for either presidential candidate  (which is an extreme aberration), and I've seen only a couple of bumper stickers.  And and when I talk with people, almost no one is voting FOR the candidate they I tend to vote for, but AGAINST the other one.

And to the extent, again at least where I am from, that I see more common ground in the presidential race than I have ever before, I'm a bit encouraged.  At least we can somewhat agree about what a good candidate is not. :-)

 

Yes, confessing your sins and your fallibility is a good thing.  God loves the sinner, but his children become saints through Christ, as revealed in their obedience to God.  

It is great to read a discussion about our present day election and especially the election of our next president of the USA. No doubt those who do the writing are far more educated than this person. However, one does not need a PHD or any other qualification behind her or his name, to understand the clear teaching of the Bible. The Bible plainly says :"You shall nor murder"

One of the candidate for president, promote abortion and even partial birth abortion.. That to me is plain murder. Our Church has a clear stand on the abortion issue. Only when the life of the mother is at stake is abortion allowed, However, life truly must be at stake.

How can any Christian support a candidate or party that supports the killing of an unborn baby. Yes, it may be just one issue. But the issue is important enough not to vote for candidates who openly support killing those babies who are created by our Good in His image.

Thank you for this insightful post Joshua.  The problem you cite is one of the reason I promote more limited government at more centralized levels and more expanded government at less centralized levels.

Bottom line is that is is far more difficult to be so polarized and so hyper-strident when political decisions are made at the local level, where you can see the people you disagree with face to face, and when you realize they are neighbors or folks in the town or city near you.  And the opposite is true when the candidate are iconic figure from a far away place that you will never talk to, or if you do, in any way that goes beneath the superficial.

There is another reason decentralized government is good.  The more centralized governmental power is, the more it is vulnerable to corruption.  Big power structures want  to (need to in their opinion), and can, control a centralized government more than decentralized governmentS.

I can only hope that the race now underway of having the federal government become more pervasive and state/local governments become less and less meaningful (a perspective held by both primary candidates, even if more perhaps by one of them and that party) will expose itself as a bad mistake and that we will learn from that.

 

 

 

  Timely post and one that deals with my family and church member relations.  We have made party loyalty more important than our unity in Christ. Statements like"I cannot see how a Christian could vote for Trump or Clinton" are too abundant and thoughtful and caring dialogue are too rare.

Perhaps for the sake of clarity we should put two streams together. Both the "what is the purpose of a denomination (focusing on agencies, services and the like) and the Same sex marriage debate as seen in the recent decisions of Synod 2016 http://www.thebanner.org/news/2016/09/clarifying-synod-2016-s-decisions-on-pastoral-advice-regarding-same-sex-marriage 

The attempt to re-organize the Sy-board (Synodical board model turned half organism half modern business-style institution) usually gets all excited about the word "leadership" but when it comes to dealing with the hot social issue of the day, one that will likely split the church or at least irritate it with many leaders from both sides seeing it as an existential threat, on this issue Sy-board leadership must keep mum. We will not hear an ED, or agency director or anyone with an office at 2850 say much on this issue besides dutifully carry the water of Synod. Part of that is of course their job, but it illuminates the contradictions within the system. 

In a sense this model of Sy-board says "it doesn't really matter what you believe (on this issue) we want to be a service agency, responding to market forces and delivering 'solution' to help your local (consumer) church grow according to the metrics that are important to you."

In other words the "hope of the world" has little to do with the outcome of the LGBTQ culture war. 

I recommend considering Jerry Muller's book "The Mind and the Market". Voltaire in his hatred of "religious enthusiasm" was tremendously impressed with emerging capitalism. Here the Roman Catholic, the Lutheran, the Quaker, the Calvinist, the Jew and the Muslim could find peace and unity together in the market place while Europe was tearing itself apart over sectarian conflicts. 

"Voltaire’s defense of the market in the Letters and later in his Philosophical Dictionary was political rather than economic. Market activity was valued not because it made society wealthier, but because the pursuit of economic self-interest was less dangerous than the pursuit of other goals, above all religious zealotry."

Muller, Jerry Z.. The Mind and the Market: Capitalism in Western Thought (p. 23). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

The irony here is that one side says "God won't bless a church that sanctions sin" while the other says "Unless the church gets with the times by calling traditional Christian sexual ethics bigotry people won't give it a second look" while in a sense the church management people come in with Voltaire and say "it doesn't matter what you believe, with better services and resources you will grow..."

Are we all living in the same world? Yet the last thing we'll do is put these conversations together even though they do reside in the same world in every Synod, Classis and local church. 

Will "benchmarks" be theology blind? 

This gets into both Lambert's point and Bill Harris' point. 

 

Thanks, Doug, for the suggestion.  I don't know first hand, but such experiences may have played a role in the development of groups like ECO and LCMC.

I'm going suggest there is a "fourth group" in addition to the three indicated in this article, it being a local church that fully maintains its association with its denomination but increasingly finding that the denomination hurts the local church's ministry.

That's my local CRC church.  We've had good families come to and join our local church (even become an office bearer), only to leave some years later  because the "mission" of the denomination, as revealed in denominational paper and e-publications is perceived as significantly at odds with what they thought (correctly) the local church represented.

In a very real way, the "doing more together" can become "doing what some want to do, institutionally using ministry share funds, even if what those 'some' want to do is not a church ("eccessisatical") thing."

 

Just an FYI that Part 3 of this series has just been posted. 

 

Hi Bev! Just an FYI that Part 3 has just been posted. 

So what is the annual OSJ budget?

It also includes people who are volunteering for free.

Eric, you are correct that if you go back that far it is a multiplication. I do think that you need to take into account that the "staff" listed includes fellows and part timers and interns. 

When I refer to some discussions not being appropriate for an online format, I am referring to the big picture things like "should we get rid of OSJ." Clearly we are not going to be able to address that in a forum like this. I did not mean it to be derogatory, just a matter of fact. Someone had questioned why no one from the denomination responds to Doug's comments on various articles throughout the Banner, Network, etc. 

I'd be happy to very specifically respond to that question Kris, but only if Staci says its OK.  My response to similar questions in similar threads have gotten me in trouble.

Part of my answer (which I hope doesn't get me in trouble already), is that you are asking the wrong question.  The denomination engaging in political lobbying isn't OK even if OSJ's (or even Synod's) understanding about Biblical justice is fully correct (not that I think OSJ's is).  Just as the denomination should not be opening dairy operations across the country (because it isn't the self-described task of the denomination, and wisely/properly so, to be in the dairy business), so the denomination, via OSJ or otherwise, should not be engaging in the political lobbying of governments about specific legislation or political postures, in behalf of CRC members; nor the lobbying of CRC members as to specific legislation or political postures.  The OSJ/denomination doing so stands the CRC church order on its head, making the denomination that which directs the congregations (whether they want it or not, like it or not, object to it or not), instead of the other way around.

Again, I refer to the constraints of CO Article 28, as well as the CRC's general historical appreciation of the Kuyperian concept of institutional sphere sovereignty.  Both political lobbying and operating dairy farms are good things to do, and things we have to do with the understanding that all of life must be done with the recognition of the lordship of Jesus Christ.  The objection relates to who "we" are when these activities are undertaken.  

Staci -- may I specifically respond to Kris' specific question, or is that outside the topic of this thread?

 

I would love to hear from more churches on what I could do to help the congregation better fulfill its mission in the area of Biblical justice. National and local cooperation is critical if we are going to actually be effective in protecting the most vulnerable. The outspokenness or silence of the church in Florida has an real impact on the issues of poverty faced by members of my congregation in Holland, MI where I am a deacon. 

I'm curious to see an example of where OSJ is misunderstanding Biblical justice.

The OSJ started as a one person director in 1994 and expanded to an actual office in 2000.  As such, the office is quite young at 22 or 16 years old depending on how you define its beginning.  The OSJ website now lists a staff of 9 plus a fellow and another contract employee.  In common parlance, that represents a multiplication of staff. 

Given the forum that we are in, with the stated goal to "create...value by commenting, questioning, sharing, and helping each other", it seems sort of silly for you to say that it doesn't make sense to try to have a discussion in an online forum.  If that is the case, just shut the joint down.  The discussion you see here is not a series of sound bites, despite your derogatory description.  What you see is people seriously and honestly grappling with issues in depth. 

 

per the end of Sam's post: In Part 3,... BOQ... In Part 3, I will highlight a couple examples. Until then, let's talk about it.  EOQ

well, Sam, it's being talked about =) looks like lots of sharpening discussion going on and grateful for the insights and input shared here, it's a topic worthy of time and energy...    so curious what post #3 will stir up =)

Wendy, I am helped by the distinction between the church gathered (the local church) and the church scattered (individuals living in obedience to Christ in their homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, and world). In this scenario, the scattered Christians are attached to the Church gathered because they serve while under the spiritual authority or covering of the local church.  At this very moment, for example, we blog as scattered Christians.  If, God forbid, our blog got nasty, our local congregations would/should hold us accountable for our behavior. Granted, such action doesn't happen as often as, perhaps, it should. 

Darren, thank you for your contribution to this conversation.  You encouraged me to do "some double checking and write in such a way as to how you see your hopes and dreams being realized in the context of the CRCNA."  I found that suggestion interesting and. perhaps, telling. Here's what I mean: I am a pastor in the field, serving local congregations (from several denominations, including the CRCNA) where I am not seeing the denomination serve the mission of the local church. But I am to do research to be convinced that the denomination is, in fact, advancing the mission of the local church? 

I am reminded of a basic principle that love is determined by the beloved, not the lover. The wife who tells her husband, "I don't think you love me." And he offers a litany of things he does that he perceives as loving. The problem being that she doesn't perceive those same acts as loving. To remedy the problem, the husband must ask his wife, "How can I love you?"  In other  words, he must do far less communicating and far more listening -- and then respond accordingly. 

I wonder is that dynamic exists between congregations and their denominations. Could that explain the thread-like connection between the two? The denomination may think it is supporting the mission of the local church but the local congregation is not feeling that support. The denomination ramps up its communication to convince the congregation that it is supporting her, when the remedy is for the denomination to listen to its congregations. Perhaps it is time for denominational officials to sit down with each congregation and ask, "How can we help you better fulfill your mission?" (An opportunity that has never been afforded the congregations I have served.) And, then, respond accordingly.   

 

This is why online "conversations" are so difficult. Speaking past each other, not being able to clarify in real time.

- is ministry really attached to the congregation / church? What about being involved in local Christian ministries that aren't attached to a church?

- I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at when you talk about competition for resources. I don't think they are as scarce as you seem to think they are. Regardless, such a report does not exist. The denominational database is extremely outdated and such a report would be flawed at best. 

Wendy your first paragraph does not follow at all. All Christians belong to congregations/churches. The ministry they engage in is attached to that entity. Our conversation is precisely about that fact. The issue is that now we have administrative offices functioning as if they were a local congregation. They are not. The plan I'm speaking of is the Ministry Plan discussed at Synod this year. The administrators are shopping that thing around. The other plans I'm speaking of are the local church's plan...the point of this discussion is that these 2 things are competing for the attention and financial support of the same people. This is not a sustainable model. 

With regard to a violation of confidentiality: It is not a breach of confidentiality to simply inform each local congregation that, in addition to the ministry shares sent in via the deacons, the denomination also received x amount of total funds from a given local congregation...no names needed. The issue is this: such a document is warranted in terms of transparency. Also, such a document would inform the local church how many dollars are no longer available for local ministry. 

With respect to writing and marketing competitive plans for local churches, your comments in this regard illustrate the problem we're having of late. 

Amen on the need for more listening and fewer surveys.

 

 

Wendy: To the contrary, I believe our personal discussion was more "sound bite-ish" than this more considered considered, written-down-so-you-have-time-to-think, Network exchange.

Yes, you and I did have some discussion some years ago.  There was not nearly enough time (we had a church event going on), nor nearly enough audience (it was just you and me) to make that discussion as meaningful as a Network exchange.

BTW, I have no idea at present about "multiplication of staff" -- whoever mentioned that, it wasn't me.

Finally, World Renew's organizational model would be a great model for OSJ.  World Renew is a separate legal entity, with it own Board of Directors (Trustees) and it does not receive ministry shares.  Indeed, World Renew is even more "separated" from the institutional CRC than Calvin College.  World Renew does work that the entire CRC membership pretty much supports -- hence World Renew's ability to very successfully raise funds without ministry share assessments.  Why can't or shouldn't that model be used by OSJ, especially given Church Order Article 28?  If it did, then those of a political inclination matching OSJ's could give to that work and those who of a different inclination could give to Center for Public Justice (in Washington DC, also its own organization) or another organization that did work in line with their political inclinations.

Just trying to be constructive ...

Aside from being a huge breach of donor confidentiality, I think this is a rabbit trail. Most donors give to several causes. Inside and outside of the church. And they could give more. Seriously, how often do we see a disaster and a generous outpouring? If your church has a strong vision and community, the dollars will follow.

I agree that the local church is where ministry is supposed to happen. But are not all Christians supposed to do ministry? Therefore wouldn't it follow that the denominational office is also the church?

It's interesting that you say the administrators should help with ministry plans, that's what I thought they did! Isn't that what home missions does? Healthy church? SPE and SCE?

That said, I do believe there needs to be structural and cultural change. On the part of administration yes, but also on the part of churches. Membership numbers have declined in most denominations, it's not unique to the CRC. We need to find the growing churches in our denomination and find out what they are doing. We need to listen to our church planters when they tell us that things need to be different. We need to listen to our youth (and by youth I mean 20 somethings, not almost 40 somethings like me who are sadly called in to some of the denominational meetings to represent the "youth" voice!) And by listening, I don't mean sending out more surveys. I'm not sure what it is about the CRC that is so paper-driven. In some of the task forces I've been on I suggest that we ask churches and classes what they want, and I'm told that churches are sick of filling out surveys and that we've already surveyed them. This not just a denominational building thing. I work with churches and often ask what makes their church unique, what skills has God gifted them with, and I'm asked if I have a survey they can use to find out. 

How do we have these conversations?

And another thing with regard to supplanting or subordinating the ministry of the local church, it isn't simply a matter of 'ministry-shares'. Because ministry shares only account for a fraction of actual ministry costs, the local church membership is hit-up for additional "private" donations from deep-pocketed individuals. Those generous souls cannot donate dollars twice. When they given to ministry causes over and above ministry shares receipts, those same funds are no lost to the ministry plans and strategies of the local church. On top of that we have our missionaries being told to circle back to the local church for direct funding as a means of staying in touch with their supporters. How's that for irony? The very system designed to ensure that no missionary would have to do such a thing every 2-3 years, now must do that very thing because the administrators have consumed the lion's share of the ministry shares. This scenario supplants ministry at the local level.

Perhaps it would be worth our while to engage in a forensic audit of just exactly how much money is donated to denominational causes over and above ministry shares. Why aren't the local deacons given a complete report of exactly how much money was received from their members via private, meaning development director solicitation. That would be an eye-opening document...one that would induce a flood of questions and decisions. 

Staci: I am being as "constructive" (in my criticism) as I can, given what is.  Church Order Article 28 has meaning, even if the meaning is forgotten or ignored.  I'm not "undermining" the church but rather doing the opposite, encouraging "the church" to be what its rules provide for it and not otherwise.  And I think the language I use is both respectful and factual.

If I'm "undermining," this entire post by Sam Hamstra is undermining.  He and I are both trying very hard to be constructive.  Were I not intending to be constructive, I just wouldn't bother with any of this.  It takes my time and I have a very full occupational, family, neighborhood and church life.

Wendy, the denominational offices do not constitute the church of Jesus Christ. The local church is where the ministry is supposed to happen. The local church could use help in crafting ministry plans with stated goals and objectives that are then matched with appropriate budgets. Instead, we are left to work that out on our own....which we do. Then the 'administrators' show up with their ministry plan and ask us to sign to that as well. Now we've changed the original logic of the administrative offices . I realize we did that gradually, over a long time, but we did change! I think we need to get back to basics and make a whole series of moves that leave the local church in the best possible position to thrive. The current model doesn't. Our membership numbers in 1985 compared to 2015 tell a dramatic story. Our leaders are responsible for it. Change something. 

Me, too ... Still working on it, Wendy! 

But I will add that when I served as a pastor of a local CRCNA congregation, the denomination supplanted the ministry of my congregation, and the congregation would have loved to do more but couldn't because of ministry shares. Just two days ago, I received two personal phone calls from CRCNA pastors who, while thanking me for starting this conversation, shared the same experience.  

On a similar note, I find broad support from CRCNA pastors, including this one, for the work of World Renew. Your agency meets congregations in their context, walks alongside of them, and provides opportunities to extend their witness.  Keep up the good work.

 

I agree that the model needs to be re-imagined. However, I disagree that the denominational office is supplanting the ministry of the local church. I'm also wondering if you would prefer that there not be a plan at all? Or is it just calling it a ministry plan that bothers you? When I talk to pastors about their local and global ministry, they don't say "well, I'd love to do more, but we don't have any budget because we are paying our ministry shares." And they would be free to tell me that, because the organization for which I work does not receive any ministry shares.

I'm really curious to see the next installment in this series. Can't wait to read it Sam!

Staci: The whole point of this article is precisely about who is undermining whom. The ministry belongs to the local church. The administrative office personnel don't speak for the church. They're supposed to facilitate the ministry of the local church, not supplant it. Local churches in our current paradigm are essentially nothing more than a funding source for the agenda developed at 1700 28th. Street G.R. MI. The fact that there is a ministry plan originating from that address is precisely the nature of our problem. Our system is up-side-down. Too much money is moving in the wrong direction. The local church's own ministry is subordinated to national and international agenda. The current model is simply not sustainable. Sam is asking us to rethink and re-imagine our options while we still have critical mass. 

Thanks for engaging, Doug. As we go forward, just a reminder that per Comment Guidelines comments should refrain from 'undermining the church or its ministries. Constructive criticism is welcome." 

With regard to not responding to Doug's comments, it really doesn't make sense to try to have a "discussion" in an online forum. We have spoken in person (a few years ago though, eh?) These are complex issues that don't lend themselves to sound bites. 

I supervise one of the OSJ staff that is a shared World Renew / OSJ position, and I have not seen this multiplication of staff of which you speak. There are a number of interns, fellows, etc. but the overall budget has tightened considerably. 

Thank you, Eric, for your post.  In my initial post I noted that the fundamental purpose of most denominations has been "to do more together."  With your comment, and that of Doug, I more clearly see that such a purpose may produce denominational advocacy groups, such as the Office of Social Justice (CRCNA). Perhaps it is my own insecurities, but these groups feel patronizing and paternalistic to those of us in the trenches serving local congregations. Plus, and more importantly, the very existence of advocacy groups at a denominational level suggests that the prophetic function of the church lies with the denomination and not within the local church which has been gifted by the Spirit with the prophetic.     

Hi Doug,

I can vouch for the fact that you have been akin to the persistent widow in seeking an answer to broad questions about the proper sphere of activity of the church, particularly as it relates to Article 28 and the question of "ecclesiastical matters".  I have watched with great interest to see if anyone (much less any one of denominational employ) would answer your continual inquiries in the Banner comment section, on the Network, on the CRCNA website under various articles, etc.  I have yet to see anyone provide a convincing answer, and I don't even recall anyone attempting to answer.  I notice that Mr. Roorda has also not attempted a response.

I agree with you wholeheartedly in regards to the activity of the OSJ, who has adopted a predictably leftist slant in their choice of items to focus on, how they frame conversations, which facts they chose to present and which facts they chose not to mention or discuss, and which perspectives they deem worthy to present or reference.  Not to mention the fact that they often betray a serious misunderstanding of what Biblical justice is, and that justice and mercy are distinct from each other (they often conflate the two).  Despite the disconnect between the prevailing rhetoric and political pandering of the OSJ and that of many of the CRC rank and file members, the OSJ continues to multiply staff. 

This might sound crazy, but I think our denominational approach to renewal has been too direct. 

Growth, renewal, even revival are the result of prayer, preaching of the Word, repentance for sin and worship. That's not just my opinion, it's what happened in the Bible (Pentecost and it's Paul's "Ministry Plan" wherever he goes) and throughout history (the Reformation, the Methodist revival and the Great Awakenings). Following God's command to pray, preach, repent and worship doesn't guarantee revival, but it's safe to say real revival doesn't happen without believers who are passionately devoted to Christ through prayer, preaching, repentance and worship.

If the goal is denominational renewal, we'll never get there. If the goal is to become more zealous prayers, preachers, repenters and worshipers, God might respond and renew our denomination. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, "Aim for earth and you'll never get it. Aim for heaven and you'll get earth thrown in."

How about instead of another organizational shake-up or denominational report on sexuality we do some research on how much devotion our members have to prayer, preaching, real repentance (not the word-smithed kind you find in Mainline litanies) and worship? Based on that research, we might find we're doing well and the Lord just hasn't willed that we grow in the organizational sense. Or we might learn that these fundamental components of Christian life are missing. In that case our Ministry Plan will write itself.

Darren, I hope I did not suggest that "repair" was a judgment, and hence fair or unfair.  The reject, repair, reform triad is simply a typology that helps us interpret history. As types they do not describe reality, they simply approximate it.  And institutional responses can be a mix but seem to land in one of the three categories. For me, the primary indicator that one has taken the repair option is that efforts are made to repair or, as you put it, reform current structures. The reform option tends to operated from ground zero and builds up from there (ECO or ARC as examples). Again, they are simply typologies that help us understand the ecclesiastical landscape we live in.  While I have a preference, I meant no moral judgment to those who choose the reject option or the repair option.

Thanks much for taking the time to weigh in on this important conversation. 

Darren: You say, about OSJ:

"The question though is...are they orchestrating it in such a way that local churches and/or members can "do justice" in a way that reflects their personal faith and local church expression."

Respectfully, you must not pay much attention to what OSJ does.  OSJ takes political positions on very specific political issues and then lobbies for those issues, both with government officials, in the public square, and to (emphasis on "to") CRC members.  Frankly, and again respectfully, OSJ evangelizes for the political positions its taken much more zealously and directly than our foreign or home missionaries do for the Christian faith, and I'm not being hyperbolic in saying that.

Once again respectfully, there are few political positions -- on specific political issues -- that OSJ lobbies for where OSJ and I agree as to the political position.  But the bottom line is that the what OSJ says, not Doug Vande Griend or any other CRC member, is what the CRC says about this or that political issue/position.  Just today, another email blast went out from OSJ taking a specific position (framed as a prayer concern) about federal government action as to a proposed pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois.

Indeed, I would suggest that OSJ is at odds, politically speaking, with a super-majority of CRC members.  Still, appeals to the constraints of Church Order Article 28 go unanswered (that is, not even responded to).

To be clear, I am not pitching and never have pitched for the CRC to change it's political positions, but rather to take up, quoting CO Art. 28, "ecclesiastical matters only."  I want to be able to worship with those who disagree with my political (and economic, etc) thinking.  Having a big brother in Grand Rapids telling us who is right and who is wrong in our political (and economic, etc) positions (whatever the positions) is destructive toward that end.

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