Jump to navigation
This is a public forum to share ideas, ask questions, and reflect on being a pastor in the CRC.
Sorry, there are currently no posts in this topic.
Thanks for an interesting post on Paul's pastoral sense and strategy.
It's an interesting thesis: Paul learned gradually that local pastors have more influence than out-of-town experts and therefore shifted his strategy from writing letters to churches to writing letters to local pastors.
It's an interesting thesis, which I will explore with my students the next time I teach NT Survey.
But I think it breaks down at a couple of points.
-Paul's letters to Philippi and Thessalonica seem to have been well-received and accomplished their purpose. So maybe the contrast is not so much letter vs. personal presence as Corinth vs. Macedonia.
-It seems clear that Titus was able to turn the situation around in Corinth. This was likely due to his exceptional ability, more than the force of personal presence. Paul's personal presence in Corinth did not always accomplish his goals, any more than his letters did.
-having served in several locations as a local pastor, and on several occasions as the out-of-town expert (including writing "pastoral letters" from afar), I do not think there is a clear pattern of local pastors having more influence. I have seen it work sometimes one way, sometimes the other.
Maybe the take-away point is: vary your strategy. Which is, I guess, just what you say Paul was doing.
Thanks for writing,
Thanks Larry! Your words and example may well be used by the Lord to set other pastors free from this debilitating and dangerous disease! Ken Van De Griend
Good read that encourages us. I think Sacramento is blessed to have you as a pastor in its midst.
Good article. It used to be in the southern part of the Netherlands, which is mostly Catholic, that you would see piles of rocks in the very middle of a farmers field. Farmers would on purpose place a pile of rocks that were sort of "in the way" when they worked the land with tractors or harvest machinery. It was said that as they had to make their way around these piles of rocks, it would remind them to pray and to thank the Lord of the Harvest. As a protestant girl growing up in the Netherlands, I was told that this was superstitious but I am not so sure - it is good to have reminders to pray, to be thankful and to submit daily to our God. If that is through a pile of rocks, a painting, a cross or whatever - that reminder is very helpful. Enjoy Tiffany Falls and the rocks that point to the Rock.
Thanks! I can't believe 3 years later I am looking for the same resources again :) If anyone else is interested the group is now called Compass and their website is under review at the moment. For Canadians I strongly recommend the Canadian Council of Christian Charities www.CCCC.org Their is a fee based on the size of your church. I have used it in connection with another charity and it was invaluable.
Preaching should be about bringing the truth, repentance, salvation, and renewal into daily life. It is not about saying something "nice". Without condemning sin, there is no need for a Saviour. Whether obedience is presented from a positive or negative perspective, the implication of disobedience is the same. And certainly Peter condemned Annanias and Sapphira as deceivers and liars with dire consequences. Paul certainly told the Corinthians (I Cor 5) to cast out the sexually immoral person (and to forgive based on repentance). Revelations makes several judgements about the churches. But, be careful. Every elder, every christian needs to be careful about judging, because everyone can and will be judged. Judge with compassion and forgiveness. But do not think you are more compassionate or forgiving than the apostle Peter or Paul. Or more compassionate than Jesus, who condemned hypocrisy and impure hearts. Who told many parables about bearing fruit, or of using talents or minas given by God, who explained what would happen to the weeds, to the bad fish, and to the seed that fell on hard ground or was swallowed by weeds.
Warnings about sin, or about false teaching, are love gifts to God's people, to keep them close to God.
"Preaching should mostly be about saying something nice, but not at the cost of saying nothing at all in case the soundness of the faith is threatened." Really? Someone should speak to Paul Washer, David Wilkerson or Leonard Ravenhill.
I can't imagine any minister would disagree that sermon preparation is only one part of ministry. That would be a pretty tough position to defend.
As Joshua Benton has correctly described of Jesus, "He took time to pray, he took time to connect with The Father, he took time to rest."
Regardless of how he used certain private moments, it's easy to picture those moments of Jesus' life as being free from interruption.
While I have times where I do receive people who appear and phone calls that spontaneously arrive. My only point is that I need pockets of time that are free from interruption from time to time, too. Whether it is for another step forward in preparing the sermon or for going to bed for the night. In the case of emergencies, there are even exceptions to guarding those important moments.
Guarding certain pockets of time within reason is a necessary part of ministry for me. It enables me to see certain commitments to the ministry through to completion. I wouldn't dream of walking out of a board meeting to go work on my sermon; I wouldn't interrupt pastoral counseling with a grieving family to start making phone calls or to receive another parishioner who suddenly appears (again, unless it was an even more urgent emergency). Why should assembling the gift of a good Sunday sermon warrant any less care?
The author of the article indicates that interruptions are an important reality in ministry. I completely agree.
But, never guarding certain pockets of time from interruption would not work for me. It would be chaotic. It could open the door to not being dependable. It would be rude and disrespectful to parishioners who need and deserve a moment with a fully engaged pastor.
I appreciate both of your observations and reflections on this post. I agree that preaching the Word is very important to faith formation and it is central to worship. I also agree that careful preparation is needed to faithfully preaching God's Word. It is something exciting and also terrifying to do each Sunday (for some, twice a Sunday). It is a great responsibility to correctly and faithfully preach His word. Yet ministry isn't about just that. It is part of it but not the only part of it. Reading through the Gospels, yes, Jesus took time away from people. He didn't take time to prepare his sermon on the mount though. He took time to pray, he took time to connect with The Father, he took time to rest. Reading through the Gospels, Jesus was about people. He was about the sinners, the tax collectors, those on the fringes. He even calls the pharisees to repentance and invites them into the kingdom.
I find that the word "balance" is tossed around as an excuse to hide away rather than engage; to evade rather than encounter. Reading the Gospels, Jesus lived rhythm not balance. He lived in a rhythm of doing God's work and then rest and prayer (for example, he went to pray before and after important events in the book of Mark). He had a rhythm of work and rest. You're welcome to check out my blog where I look more into this subject of work and rhythm here http://spiritualmusclehead.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/coffee-rest-and-work/ here http://spiritualmusclehead.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/sweet-hour-of-prayer/ here http://spiritualmusclehead.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/the-art-of-not-doing/ here http://spiritualmusclehead.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/the-art-of-silence/ and here http://spiritualmusclehead.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/be-still-2/
Rhythm is important to doing ministry. God created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th, not because he had to because he was tired but because he knew rhythm. Jesus lived this rhythm, not balance. Engaging people helps me engage God's word. If I do not know what someone is going through, how I can faithfully speak God's word to them, allowing the Spirit to move in their hearts?
Thank you again for your comments and observations and thoughts. May God bless you in doing his kingdom work
It's interesting that scripture tells us Jesus would slip away from the crowds to the mountains to pray. Not even his disciples were around. It would seem that during those moments Jesus was not interrupted. Perhaps the Savior valued balance. Like Doug Bouws has indicated, I find it important to engage people when they appear, guarding their time with me from interruption. And its necessary to have stretches of concentrated time to prepare for Sundays. I find it necessary and rewarding to have this type of balance.
I've been going to the library for years to get sermon work done. I make little or no progress at the office. I set aside time to be interrupted (when i'm at home/at the office), and time when I can focus and think without being interrupted. If I didn't my sermons would never get finished. You can accomplish ministry by engaging people when they are appear or you can accomplish ministry by being able to think clearly and write a good sermon. I think both are important.
Thanks, Ken. Good stuff.
- Dave Vroege, Halifax
The links to the talks are not working. I would love to listen to these talks, do you have alternative links?
A resource you might be interested in is Key Ministry's blog, Church4EveryChild, written by Dr. Steve Grcevich. He regularly writes about how the church can include families and individuals impacted by mental illness.
Thanks for shedding light on this import topic!
Thank you for this blog post. I like your angle. We too "vacate" a bit during the summer, as we love to go camping and visit family. But like you suggest, I'm trying to take more "Sabbath" during my vacation. Slowing things down, reading more, spending more time in quiet. We also spend considerable time in our backyard, working in the garden, but also spending time in solitude and silence, in God's creation. But as much as we enjoy staying home during summer holiday time, we've also learned to get a way a bit, as you'll know that when a pastor is home, he is "on-call."
May the Lord bless our Summer-Sabbath breaks!
I once had a wise spiritual director say words to me that I will never forget and that have helped guide my life ever since: She said, "Consider the things that bring you life; consider the things that bring you death; and don't do violence to yourself." Work for me includes both those things that bring life, and those that bring death; and I can tell when the balance gets shifted and I need to make some changes. The Lord has created us with a need for Sabbath, for rest, for the renewing and refreshing of our souls. This blog is thought-provoking for me. What brings life to my soul? A vacation-day or a holy-day?
This article touches on something I heard recently. John MacArthur (Masters Seminary) made this statement. "There are two large global movements currently in place. One is the Charismatic and the other is Reformed." I wonder why we seem to be in wane here in N.America and yet globally we see a growing influence of Reformed minded. Any thoughts on this obserevation?
Thanks Jeff. Those resources are added to my togettoread list.
Appreciate it. Thanks Kim.
The book "Studying Congregations:A New Handbook" by Nancy Ammerman may be helpful to you, especially the chapter by Robert Schreiter that speaks about surfacing the "implicit theology" of a congregation. My first thought is that this is the kind of question that lends itself to a qualitative method, not a quantitative "check this box" type. "Ethnography as a Pastoral Practice" by Mary Clark Moschella may also be helpful.
Thanks for the suggestion. We've made the change.
To those who run the network. I would have liked to have this posted under the topic of "Transitional Ministry" or, fitting what we call it in the CRC, "Specialized Transitional Ministry." If that can be done then my intent will have been fully achieved.
August, thanks for your comment.
I agree with you that "a Christian Reformed Church Building is just that - a building which needs resources for the upkeep. Since the local congregation is in charge of the building they can set rules - who to share the building with and how much to charge." I agree that congregations are under no obligation to do otherwise except, I would add, the obligation by which all Christian congregations live: to love God and neighbor as they have been loved. I agree that there are no arbitrary rules by which a church must act except, I would add, the commandment to love God and neighbor as guided by the Word and Spirit.
I regret that you received the impression that I was suggesting a mandate to guide all congregations renting space to other congregations. The relationship between two congregations which prompted my first post was not meant to provide an example of a relationship guided by rules. Rather, just the opposite. It was provided as an alternative to the typical rule-guided relationships between congregations which own property and those to whom they rent their property.
A Christian Reformed Church Building is just that - a building which needs resources for the upkeep. Since the local congregation is in charge of the building they can set rules - who to share the building with and how much to charge.
The "Kingdom of God" encompasses the whole universe and is not limited to a wood and stone structure that is used to worship GOD by a very small group of people.
It is so "unreformed" in my way of thinking to force a structure made by man to some arbitrary rules that are labeled "God's rules". Its the type of thinking that seems to justify paying a very small wage to people working for a church.
That a church MUST share their resources for no charge because they are Christian, while businesses owned by Christians are allowed to charge in order to earn a profit because the businesses are not part of God's Kingdom comes from some Kingdom model that is totally foreign to Reformed way of thinking.
The whole notion of "landlord-tenant" is inappropriate with regard to church facilities. The facilities are not like someone's house or factory or some other real-estate. The facilities belong to the kingdom and the council is to exercise stewardship over those assets. Rent money doesn't become available to the kingdom once it has been collected by the 'landlord'. The money in all our pockets belongs to the lord...if the members of the other congregation use those same 'rent' dollars on other kingdom-expanding causes...the kingdom does advance. I fail to see the stewardship problem in this arrangement.
Interesting topic, thanks Sam. Good food for thought. I believe our church 'rents' space to AA where they hold their meetings in our basement while one day per week we let local homeschoolers hold their music lessons in our sanctuary. Not sure if the home schooling group pays us or not. Where would one draw some kind of line involving who pays and who doesn't? It could be argued that AA does as much to 'advance the kingdom' as some churches while the home schoolers are all predominately from Christian families.
My question relates to our understanding of kingdom, stewardship and space. I simply wonder if Christ affirms of one congregation renting space to another. My concern is that instead of wrestling with that issue we begin with the assumption that the landlord-tenant relationship is the way to go unless we can be shown otherwise. I would love it if we began with the assumption that we share space as partners in ministry. Then see what comes out of such a conversation.
As far as multiple congregations in the same area, I am sure you would agree that it is not always possible for every for every Christian in one geographic area to worship in one space at one time. We would have too many people speaking too many different languages. We will have to wait for heaven to enjoy that privilege.
Still, I grant that in some settings the possibility for organizational unity exists but is not pursued - and that practice should be challenged.
Even sharing the copier? Wow!
I thought I would share this up-date. The folks sharing kingdom space with us are growing rapidly. They started worshipping in our upper room auditorium. They rapidly out-grew that space and moved downstairs to our fellowship room. For a number of weeks now this group has seen 'standing room' crowds and asked to use the sanctuary. The photos from Sunday morning show an almost full house. We couldn't be happier for these dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Their youth group is thriving as is their couples club. God is obviously blessing this group and we rejoice accordingly.
What does the statement mean: "What does Christ think of such an arrangement?"
Certainly the fact that there are two different congregations in the same geographic area must be challenged!
We were supposed to be 'one' to convince the World about the Way!
How many have we become?
My church doesn't list all the staff salaries including the pastor on the budget sheet but if someone wants a breakdown of the salaries, they are welcome to request more information from the leadership. This gives leadership an opportunity to address and educate the inquiring person on the process of review prior to setting compensation and benefits.
It must be a "Central Valley thing." I understand that Visalia CRC has been doing the same thing? They even share the church copier....how stewardly is that?
Our church adopted this policy many years ago. As one of the employees of the church, it was an extremely uncomfortable matter that everyone in the church knew what my salary was. It came to a head at one congregational meeting when someone stood up and offered to do the job for a lower amount. Now only Council members, the Personnel Committee, and the Salary committee, know what each person is paid. I think most church employees are acutely aware that their salaries are paid for by member contributions, and therefore work very hard to earn both the dollar value and respect of those on whose behalf they carry out their particular roles of kingdom service. As far as I can determine there is no added benefit to congregational members knowing the individual amounts of staff salaries.
Lambert, thank you for the details regarding your practice of sharing space with another Christian congregation. I hope and pray the relationship continues to be blessed.
What exactly are the 'biblical stewardship' and civil - legislative issues being alluded to in this post? If a local congregation of Jesus Christ decides it wants to share facilities with other brothers and sisters in Christ, is it not free to do so? By the way, how many local congregations in the CRC are bound by the Safe Church guidelines? What exactly is the legally binding relationship between local congregations and the CRCNA in Michigan?
Our relationship with this group of folk is simply our strategy to advance the cause of Christ for the Spanish population in Kings County. Our insurance underwriter is fine with these arrangements. We have enjoyed 4 years of mutual joy and encouragement in advancing the cause of Christ here in Hanford and look forward many more years together as faithful stewards of the resources entrusted to our care.
As I've indicated in previous posts, I can understand the desire to further Kingdom work.
What I don't understand is the avoidance to engage in the notion that these congregations operate within civil and legislation frameworks as two distinct corporate entities.
Framing the matter as purely a monetary / power imbalance ignores both the biblical stewardship relationship between the parties, as well as the civil / legal issues that arise when two parties jointly agree to share in the use of a facility. What Hanford CRC has offered the other church meeting in it's space may "feel good" but may also be problematic in the eyes of the civil authorities, as well as, other parties such as insurance companies, e.g. what binds the other church to abide by CRCNA Safe Church policy.
The article above does not provide a lot of detail on the Hanford CRC relationship, however, the Brian Tebben example is more helpful and moves in the right direction. Harry Boessenkool also alludes to the complexity of legal constraints that exist in Canada, and probably also the United States, on providing services and facilities on the same equity terms to both church members and non-church members.
Not sure I was influenced by the philosopher Foucault. Maybe his writings have seeped into my psyche through someone else since I haven't read him. I will have to check into that.
I do see a recurring thread, however, in some of the comments thus far: an assumption that a church charging another church or ministry rent for the use of space is normative and, hence, exceptions to that norm unusual.
If that be the case, I want to lift up the Hanford (CA) CRC as a model worthy of emulation. By treating the ministry of another congregation on their campus in the same fashion they treat ministries like GEMS, Cadets, and Coffee Break, they provide an admirable model for other congregations. Wouldn't you agree?
Thanks Len, for your enthusiastic support of the weekly celebration of the Lord's Supper.
Of course, in our survey we did not take a particular position on frequency but we did ask the question. Of the Protestant congregations surveyed 20% celebrate the Lord's Supper each week, 67% once a month, 10% less than once per month, and 3% two to three times a month.
I don't know if those stats confirm your assertion of a movement of including the Lord's Supper every week.Perhaps there are other surveys to which we may compare this data?
My reaction to the survey is a resounding "duh." Since reformation churches have been experiencing the "centrality of the sermon" for centuries, it's no wonder that the people on the pew think it's the main event.
The real issue is what we left behind in this historical evolution. What we left behind is the dual foci of word and sacrament that goes all the way back to the New Testament and early church (and was advocated by Calvin himself).
Today there is a remarkable movement across the board, from Reformed to Pentecostal, of balancing the Word with the Eucharist every Lord's Day. For example, check out the number of CRC and RCA church plants that have instituted weekly Eucharist from the start. If you attend a church that has rediscovered this ancient practice, you will realize that the sermon is enriched, embodied, and affirmed when the congregation gathers at the table to receive Christ in the bread and wine.
As Dutch theologian Von Alman put it: ending the service without the Supper is like ending a sentence with a colon rather than a period. Something important and climactic is missing.
There is a Foucaultian post-modern tendency to view relationships with suspicion when it comes to the matter of power.
Though I can understand that "power" might be an issue, nonetheless a landlord / tenant relationship is usually premised on a contractual relationship with obligations and responsibilities similar to the concept of a covenantal relationship. Secondly, that contractual relationship is regulated by legislation and civil authorities where recourse for remedies can be pursued even though it may not always work effectively.
Moreover, quite apart from the state ensuring that the interests of the respective parties being protected there are also other matters which need to be addressed that are raised by Harry Bossenkool and Brian Tebben.
There is another facet of the landlord-tenant relationship and that is power. Doesn't it seem that the one receiving money (landlord) is in a position of power over the one handing over money? And how do we harmonize that position of power with our unity in Christ?
This is an interesting discussion. Let's assume the renter is a new emerging CRC or church plant (the initial article did not specify a CRC just a "Christian church" and that can be a pretty loose definition!) The rent could be put in a special fund to pay for a new facility at a new location once the emerging or church plant grows. If the church is not affiliated with the CRC a formal rental agreement would still be needed to cover off all the legal issues (and there are many nowadays). The rent fee can often be only a minor part of a lease agreement.
Many churches offer other services in their facilities. How do we define when rent should be charged? Are all funeral services to be free no matter who asks, or marriages if the couple is simply looking for a place with a nice organ or other unique feature? The legal issues regarding the latter are already pretty involved.
Maybe we need a discussion on how a church can protect itself from the use of their building by (unacceptable - however defined) third parties.
I think this article addresses something important but then mischarecterizes churches who 'rent" space to sister congregations. Should a church only be in a Landlord-tenant relationship with another church in which the only thing that happens between them is a writing and cashing of a rental check? No, that would not be a good situation and as Christians we are called to more than that. But does that mean that the only other true "Christian" option is to let another congregation "share" the building without anything being given by them? Our church shares our building with an immigrant African congregation. We do not call it a rental situation. We know that our facilities are from God and we are happy to share them with another congregation. We do have a contract with them about usage and about rental fees. But we also worship together at times, have our councils meet together for times of prayer ,and we hold Vacation bible school together. We see them as our brothers and sisters .And they are happy to contribute to keeping the buildings maintained and the utilities on. We share the buildings so we share some of the costs. I think situations like ours are a bit more complex and probably much more common that the article lets on.
Though I can understand Hamstra and Sikkema's point about furthering the kingdom, I feel they have both missed the point on "stewardship" by focusing purely on the monetary aspect of the transaction. Both congregations in the relationship are involved in tilling the fields of the Lord and contributing to the upkeep of his flock. The landlord church may or may not need the rent, nontheless the hope would be that whatever is collected would go to furthering the Kingdom. Secondly, the tenant church may or may not be able to pay rent, nonetheless we are called to give of our gifts to further the the Kingdom. Should the landlord church decide to forgo the rent to further the Kingdom, that is also a gift.
Once again a very useful suggestion. We need to be careful to encourage pastors to do continuing education, while at the same time not be strapped financially to do so. The costs, as you indicate so gently, should not be part of the taxable compensation package. Accountability will encourage both pastor and those in the congregation responsible. Thanks for your good encouragement.
This sounds like an interesting course! I'll be interested in reading what you share.
In response to Larry: I don't think rehearsing and remembering the story or the cross is exactly a way to live in the thrall of the devil or to do an end-run on the victory of Easter. What do we do each time we come to the Lord's Table but remember: "This is my body . . . my blood." We do remember the cross--we never put it behind us. It is the locus of our salvation that leads us with gratitude to Easter and beyond. And anyway, I don't think the rhythms of the Christian Year per se keep us down or away from Easter. In fact, if you want to see something that really whallops one with a sense of sin and penitence, few things do this as well as the very serious Preparatory Form for the Lord's Supper that the CRCNA traditionally used the week before the sacrament. Just sayin' . . .
I wonder how often Jesus and his disciples shared laughs together. I wonder whether Jesus' sense of humor was more slapstick, or droll, or punny, or ??? I wonder whether they teased each other. If they did, I expect Peter gave and took more of it than anyone: "Hey, Peter, think you can walk all way way across this puddle without sinking?"
Yes Scott I can identify. I grew up in the CRC of the 1950's and 60's in Leota MN. I never heard about the liturgical year until way after Seminary. I had a hard time accepting it mainly becasue I did not think it proper to relive the history of redemption in our personal lives. "It is finished" seemed to me to mean enough with the sin problem. The cross is behind us. I still have trouble with this business of repeating the story of redemption to be honest. Why can we not live in the power of the resurrection every Sunday and every day? Is this not a waste of time? A tyrranical hold of the evil one to keep us in the defeat of our sin rather than in the once for all victory of our Lord? Is this not pretending that we live in Romans 7 and have not yet moved on to Romans 8? I do not think our Pentecostal brothers and sisters practice this, I doubt whether more conservative Reformation churches do such as the Protestant Reformed, URC, or even PCA? Also Advent has been turned into a mini-lenten season. Sometimes I long for the good ole Leota days when we liturically sinned with a passion.