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 this article, Paul.
Sounds to me like previous responders may be on the older side of life. I'm on the younger or middle side at age 41, but resonate very much with the article and the responders' comments. I wonder whether Evert is on to something - I'm less the visionary type and get plenty of bruises and, on the whole, feel optimistic about God's church and about being a pastor in it. I'm about to start preaching on the Sermon on the Mount and the article and responses remind me of Jesus' opening blessings.
"I fully agree with your assessment: /He works/, and happily /He/ uses Alpha
as an effective tool."
Agree! But God uses Alpha for exactly what? To regenerate people? To convert regenerate people? Or to invite converted people into the Church?
An excellent book along these lines is Andrew Purves' The Crucifixion of Ministry: Surrendering our Ambitions To the Service of Christ. He makes the point that our ambitions, however noble, may be in the way of what Jesus the true pastor of our church may want us to do.
Thank you for passing on your testimony re. Alpha.
I fully agree with your assessment: He works, and happily He uses Alpha as an effective tool.
Thanks be to God!
And what a blessing to be part of the ministry of making disciples!
I pray the Lord will continue to use bless Alpha to reach people for Christ in your community.
--Leon H. Johnston
When my pastor friend retired last June, I asked him about his view of the church. He replied that he loved the body of Christ more dearly than ever, but hated the church more. I got it. I'm only a few years from retirement and have been reflecting on the church, its relevance and so forth. For the last three years I've been a hospital chaplain. So after 34 years in the pulpit, I now sit in the pew.
I've been reflecting on Paul Vanderklay's article and have this observation to share. I think the men and women who went into ministry to shepherd God's people, to be a pastor who cares for the flock and suffers with the people will probably leave ministry feeling quite sanguine about it. Yes, they'll have their bruises and their brokeness, but as lovers of people, they will be loved in return and will reflect on years of caring with satisfaction.
In contrast, those who entered the ministry to lead the people of God in accomlishing the mission of God, who were vision and goal driven, who like myself wanted to see the world change through the local church will be much more disillusioned and broken. We entered ministry thinking that God's people wanted to see lives and communities transformed and were willing to do it. We beleived that the right combination of team work, expertese and accountability would mobilize the church into the community of God which impacts our societies. We loved and cared for our people, but our priorities lay elsewhere.
We missed a key point: Congregations have two overwhelming core values. They want comfort and control. Shepherds and chaplains of congregations do two things well: they comfort and gladly surrender control. In contrast, pastoral,transformational leaders thrive on planned change, which is uncomfortable. And transformational leaders develop and implement mission/goal activities, which usually means the control of the process is given to leaders and committees/task forces. With a lack of comfortableness and a lack of control, congregations will often punish those pastors who take that away.
Since the 70's we've come through a lot of changes. We've come through the personal renewal process, the churrch growth and church health movements, the worship wars,the female ordination wars,the evolution vs creation disputes,and are currently in the spiritual formation trend. They've left a lot of people scarred and injured. Many pastors are hurting and will retire bitter and cynical because they sought to lead into God's mission and were not able to do so. God have mercy on them as they heal and nurture their wounded spirits. And along with Paul Vanderkly I rejoice with those who had the capacity to shepherd their people, to be there with with the hurting having no agendas except to walk with anyone in any situation of life.
Such a conflicted feeling isn't it? Between wanting the best for them, and . . . . .wanting the best for them,
Rod, Brother i'm sitting here with tears in my eyes. Thank you for sharing. I hope you have a wonderful New Year.
If, as stated elsewhere, a majority of leadership is struggling with serious issues of sin, people in the pew will become disheartened, disinterested, disengaged and the membership will go into decline.....just as certainly as night follows day.
The story is told of a well respected theologian who was asked: if you were able to summarize the doctrines of Scripture into one sentence, what woud that be? His answer was "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so".
2 Tim 2:11 says: "Here is a trustworhty saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him. If we endure we will also reign with him". That cannot be said of any other person. It can only be said of Christ. It cannot be said of CS Lewis, John Calvin, Luther, Whitefield, Wesley or a host of other legendary saints....only Christ. Put Jesus Christ first.....everything and everyone else second.
Preach it; live it....and watch the Holy Spirit go to work in your church.
Thanks for reminding us of our fathers and fatherhood. I too told my kids not to consider ministry unless they could do nothing else. It is a huge challenge and it sure helps if you know that the Lord has called you to do only this. We all enjoyed being missionaries for CRWM and CRHM for 35 years. The kids have all been missionaries and church leaders. They too have enjoyed the challenges. Their challenges as "faith" missionaries have many times been greater than ours; we had the full support of the CRC behind us financially, administratively and in prayer. They lived in Haiti many times in chaos before, during and after the earthquake. Some were evacuated again like they were as children. They are qualified by their experiences as MKs for service in the Kingdom of God. It's great seeing them grown and with children of their own to disciple now. Usually the best discipleship happens at home. Hopefully we will continue to lead by example until the Lord calls us home too. Thank you Dad and thank you Father! Wayne
Thanks for sharing. This is awesome info. Im a new, upcoming salesforce admin and I am trying to learn all I can. I want to build a "practice app" for a "pretend" church. I typed in "salesforce church" on Google and this page came up. Very good information. Thanks!!
Bev, you are bringing up touchy subjects, and an area which has a lot of shades in it. I think it is good you courageously bring it up. If what you say about 60 to 80% of spiritual leaders struggling with this issue is true, then how do we deal with this issue? I think it goes further than just accessing stuff on the internet, although that is the most pernicious. What was salacious and covered in brown paper fifty years ago, is now plastered on billboards along the highway, it seems. Stuff on the internet comes up uninvited, and for some, it is like giving candy to a baby, or alcohol to an alcoholic.
Perhaps it is all part of a larger picture, which tolerates shacking up, premarital sex, easy divorce, immodest dress, R rated and PG rated movies. The more that this permeates the church, the harder it is to fight against porn as well. It seems if 60% of leaders are struggling with this probably at a variety of levels, then we need to find ways of combating this problem in a generic way. We have a safe church committee for protection of young children, and protection of churches from liability. But perhaps we should have a specific group or committee or program developing and promoting safeguards for internet viewing, prayer for combatting this vile sin, and materials explaining the whys of it, and also the ways of conquering it, perhaps like the AA twelve step program.
RE: CO supplement to Article 84 (this is what I meant to refer to in my previous reply, but I simply said CO article 84)... it seems to me from researching this a while back, the office bearer can be given a 2nd chance unless the "sexual misconduct" is against a minor (1.a.) than it's one strike they are out. But if there is more than one incident of "sexual misconduct" or one incident of "sexual misconduct" AND one incident of ungodly behavior (1.d.), then the door for reinstatement is closed. (any experts on CO, such as Henry DeMoor, feel free to correct or affirm my understanding of this =)
One of the questions I have, and the CO is not clear to me (again CO experts please clarify!), is... what if there are several known incidents of "ungodly behavior" (so there is an indication of a pattern), but not any known "sexual misconduct"? I think with exhibitionism/voyeurism/prostitution we already know that if caught, this will result in a public criminal charge, that will most likely follow the officebearer for the rest of their life through complete background checks. So, what about the ungodly conduct (such as looking at/engaging in porn) that does not result in a criminal charge, but where there have been several incidents for the same officebearer? Does the CO equate "engaging" as in "habitually" viewing", viewing and physically "reacting/responding/etc" or any "intentional" viewing? If there is any information on this anywhere, it would be helpful to know.
Supplement, Article 84
Regulations for Reinstatement of Office Bearers Guilty of Sexual Misconduct
When reinstatement is requested by a former officebearer who confessed to or was determined to be guilty of sexual misconduct leading up to suspension and deposition from office:
1. Reinstatement to office shall be denied to individuals who:
a. Confessed to or are determined to be guilty of sexual misconduct against a minor.
b. Confessed to or are determined to be guilty of sexual misconduct against more than one victim in a single church or community.
c. Confessed to or are determined to be guilty of sexual misconduct in more than one community or church.
d. Confessed to or are determined to be guilty of sexual misconduct and other related ungodly conduct.
Examples of related ungodly conduct include but are not limited to engaging in adult or child pornography, engaging a prostitute for sexual contact, exhibitionistic or voyeuristic behavior, attending a nudist camp, sexual addiction, and so forth.
2. Councils and classes shall not reinstate a former officebearer suspended or deposed for sexual misconduct or ungodly conduct not covered in items 1, a-d without receiving the advice of legal counsel concerning the church’s liability and the advice of a Christian licensed psychologist concerning the likelihood of an officebearer’s reoffending.
Note: In Church Order Article 84 and its Supplement, the expression sexual misconduct is defined as: The sexual exploitation of a parishioner, minor or adult, regardless of age or consent, for the purposes of sexual gratification and maintaining control over the person. The expression determined abuser is defined as: An officebearer who either confesses to or is adjudicated to be guilty of sexual misconduct by a court of competent jurisdiction or an ecclesiastical assembly.
(Acts of Synod 2004, pp. 611-12)
Wonderful Rodney, absolutely delightful, just like your mom. :)
Thank you, Friends, for the thoughtful comments on my admittedly unpleasant blog. Your observations are helpfully provocative and appropriate for this difficult discussion. I, though now have an addition—really correction—to make. The examples I noted show that there were rules and careful processes to re-store and ordain once again Christian Reformed officebearers. I can name at least five Christian Reformed colleagues, living and late, who followed that rigorous process of submission and discipline. After years that included repentance, forgiveness, regular spiritual direction and peer accountability, they re-entered ministry and served faithfully, albeit imperfectly like all of us forgiven sinners.
You’ll notice, however, that above I said “were rules and processes.” Those changed in 2004. Perhaps I should have looked in my apparently not well-enough-used Church Order and Its Supplements--2013. A colleague phoned me after reading my original blog, recalling that he had been on a synod advisory committee in 2004 in which this very situation was at issue. In brief, at that point, supplements to Article 84 of the Church Order were added, forbidding re-entry to church office for office bearers who had been deposed because of sexual offenses.
I had probably known that nine years ago, but had forgotten. In one case I recalled, the pastor was deposed after sexual offenses. He then entered lay status with no anticipation of entering ecclesiastical office of any kind again, lay or clergy. That is, he submitted to punitive discipline--deposition--but not to the restorative spiritual discipline and rebuilding necessary to re-enter ministry.
Although some say time heals all wounds, more than 20 years later a local the church ordained a deposed pastor as elder in 2006, two years after Synod’s decision. Victims’ wounds hadn’t properly healed, but were rather cruelly scraped open.
I personally believe that a boundary once broken can be re-crossed after a careful, even long process of remorse, repentance, equitable restitution for victims by the offender, penitential time, forgiveness given and gratefully and graciously received. Our broader church community has decided such a process is not wise or prudent.
I understand and accept that. As Gospel believers we often live with tensions that appear contradictory. They are more readily called glorious, gracious, mysterious paradoxes of Grace and justice, in this case forgiveness, but not re-entranc into ministry. Our Lord Jesus declared truly at the end of his homily not to worry because “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34). I firmly believe that he could also have added “and enough Grace as well,” even though full Grace might have to await eternity.
A great story, Rod. It warmed my heart and gave me a fresh appreciation of my mother. You relate very ordinary events in your mother's life but in doing so we see how very extraordinary they really are. It is a beautiful tribute to your mother. We come to appreciate deeply the gift she has been for so many people. Your story helped all of us to see the gift she is and to treasure her with you. In these years of inevitable loss, may the beauty of the gift she has been remain strong for her and all of you. Thanks again. Harvey
Helps me realize what Ruth's Mom is going through as well, letting go and looking on the horizon for heaven.
Reminds me that God's common grace is very much alive.
God Bless you all,
Vern Vander Zee
Thanks Joel. pvk
Hey brother,. This was great! I hope you and your mom have a wonderful Christmas
These current Network posts are an encouragement to me. Rod Hugen wrote about his mother, who sounds very much like my mother, and you wrote about your father, who sounds a lot like my father. His relationship to God, his dependence on God and his trust in God were deep and constant. His optimism about the future had everything to do with who he believed God to be and what God's purposes are and he considered it a really big privilege to be able to join God in what he was doing. My dad died on New Years Day three years ago. I join you in thanking God for such fathers as we were blessed with.
Thanks, Rod, for sharing this touching story about your Mom. She sounds a lot like my Mom. I learned, from an early age, the importance of relationships from my Mom. At 84, she is still teaching me about the value of relationships. We are blessed, aren't we, by our mothers' influence in our lives?
Thanks so much for sharing the story of your mom Rod. It resonates with what a few of my friends and family are experiencing. May God give us the grace and patience to walk alongside our aging family members in these changing situations. Your mom sounds like a wonderful lady!
Bonnie's comments that the healthiest churches have least tolerance for bad behaviour is a good one. Her comments about having lower standards than other professions, while well intended, seems to miss the main point of not tolerating bad behaviour. It is not because of a professional title, or occupation, but because of the main purpose of officebearers such as pastors elders and deacons, to teach, lead, exemplify the grace of Christ and the obedience that comes with it. Since everyone struggles with sin, we all need to encourage each other (mutual accountability) and this encouragement can be positive, as well as negative encouragement (not tolerating sin). What is the point of having a pastor preaching the gospel while he denies it in his life, in his visible witness? Same applies to an elder. That doesn't mean that elders and pastors are perfect, and we need to live in an attitude of forgiveness. But grace comes with repentance and change and newness of life. In some cases, if the personal struggle is too long and too big, then that would be a clear sign that God has another calling in mind for the individual. If the offense is against a vulnerable person based on position of trust, then probably that also is quickly a sign that God has another calling in mind.
The fear of not being forgiven ought to be greater than the fear of changing an occupation. The fear of idolators, adulterers, fornicators, homsex practicers, not entering heaven, ought to be greater than the fear of losing prestige or position with mere men. Grace requires repentance. By not addressing these issues, we may be condemning some pastors, elders, deacons or even any self-professed christian to hell. Jesus said there will be those who say, "Lord, Lord, didn't we do miracles and heal and cast out demons?" And God will say, "I never knew you". why? because they were not obedient, and worshipped other idols, of self, or sex, or other things. This is much more serious than comparing standards to some of the professions. "he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins: James 5.
Bonnie,Thanks so much for your well put addition to Jim's original statements. Our history verifies your questions and our continued ""protectionish" is often enough to our shame. Great closing on leaving "final redemption to eternity." We're due for a little more accountability and consequences for our behavior.
At a recent meeting of transitional pastors, the speaker, Susan Nienaber, said, "The healthiest churches have the least tolerance for bad behavior". The quote stuck with me as it seems to apply to some "messy" situations in which Safe Church involvement becomes necessary.
Of course the Lord has the power to forgive and to transform lives, and churches need to welcome sinners. But that doesn't mean that everyone has the right to become a pastor, Sunday school teacher, or other church leader. I would maiintain that certain behaviors would prevent someone from holding those sacred positions of trust and power in our churches.
As a licensed social worker in the state of Michigan, I'm required to adhere to a professional code of ethics. There are certain behaviors that would cause me to lose my license and never get it back. I'm also required to take 5 hours of continuing ethics education every 3 years. The ethical questions and dilemnas that arise are not always easy and it's good to consider these along with other professionals. We challenge one another and hold one another accountable. It helps us maintain healthy boundaries, which create a container for effective work. That's true for ministry too. Where do CRC pastors and church leaders go for ongoing ethical education? Who can they confide in, and consider ways to create and maintain healthy ministry boundaries? Who will hold them accountable in their day to day ministry?
Does it seem right to you that CRC pastors are held to a lower standard than other professions? It doesn't seem right to me.
At our church we just finished out 11th Alpha session since 2004. It always amazes me who God sends to these courses. Over the years many new people have become members of our church through Alpha. Being in a very large multi-cultural city, this past season we saw three students from China who have never before heard the gospel, a woman from a Hindu family who became a Christian a year ago, a Christian who is married to a Muslim, plus Christians from Guyana, India and Canada. With such a mixture of people it is wonderful to see a bond of belonging developing quite quickly. It is a challenge though to know where to begin when there is absolutely no biblical knowledge. Alpha is a great tool and the Holy Spirit uses this tool to bless our church community. Sometimes, and especially for the students from China, belonging to a loving group of people who care for them comes before believing. Praise God for the way He works.
Bill, maybe it would not be wrong to say that your power saw still works.... even though you know that it takes someone to operate it, and that it needs power to make it work. Just that analogy work for you?
Thank you for the feedback. I'm not quite sure how to answer your question, except to say that Alpha "works" as a tool for receiving and proclaiming the gospel. We had a few people with little or no faith grow spiritually during our Alpha course--thanks be to God! Happily, the Lord uses "tools" like Alpha to invite people into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus. And I'm very thankful for it. And I think one of the main reasons that Alpha is so effective is that it functions sort of like a modern-day, accessible catechism classis--which I suspect John Calvin would appreciate!
Have a Blessed Season of Advent and Merry Christmas!
Back when I was a dispensational baptist I knew exactly what "Alpha still works" meant and implied. Since I read "The Institutes" cover to cover and "got reformed" I no longer know. How does the concept of "Alpha still works" apply to the teaching of John Calvin? The Holy Spirit retroactively applies the Alpha text to a specific person before God created the universe? God regenerated (past tense) a person because God knew the person would attend an Alfa meeting?
The distinction between a specific command and a general command is a valid one, Daniel. When Jesus tells the blind man to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam (John 9:7), this is a specific command to a specific situation; Jesus is not directly commanding us to do the same (though I believe he is, indirectly, informing us that through him we can gain sight--not just physical but also spiritual). But when he says, "Love one another as I have loved you" (John 15:12), he is definitely giving an instruction to us as his followers.
All of this tells me that there is room for a thorough, yet accessible, analysis of the imperatives in the NT. Perhaps in my role at Zondervan I can suggest that to a potential author. (Right now a book is being written on all the questions in the NT, and it will indeed be an intriguing and engaging book.) One thing seems certain: the situation in which an imperative is spoken (including the historical situation, the social situation, and the rhetorical situation) all play a role in determining the nuance we must understand in each imperative (whether second or third person) that we encounter.
Wow, thanks Jim for being bold and brave bringing this up... I've been warned (and have experienced) that I won't make friends when I talk about stuff like this, so hopefully you will fare better =)
In the last 2 years, I've been very intentionally researching one specific sexual sin in the Church, and that is porn... I have attached an article that I think we might find quite disturbing with the information shared (encourage you to read comments as well)...
I have found statistics that the % of those in the church (primarily men) struggling with it, was 40% in 2002; 50% in 2008 and 60% in 2012, but the estimate of spiritual leaders, based on anecdotal evidence, is even higher with 80% and 90% being suggested by numerous leaders (Including in the article linked to below). I know synod 2012 endorsed the overture to take an active stance against porn, and, well, we'll wait and see what that might look like... because it is a huge, huge issue in the Church.
the following quote breaks my heart, and unfortunately, this verifies what I along with several other women that I know have experienced regarding ungodly conduct by leaders in the Church.... cover it up, keep it quiet, minimize it, circle the wagons, shut it down pretty much at all costs for a number of reasons... and the spiritual leaders doing the inappropriate behavior end up staying in leadership (at least in the situations I'm personally aware of). Maybe a few here and there are quietly asked to leave once their secret sin is discovered, but it's very rarely a public rebuke (generally only when it's a crime and the police are involved) even though I TIm. 5:20 states that is what is needed so other leaders can take warning (which is ironically humorous that I'm being the one warned that I won't make friends when I talk about it)...
BOQ...Many of those crimes were covered up by bishops or other denominational judicatories, sadly the very individuals or bodies responsible for safeguarding against such behaviour. EOQ
what we have found is that those in power protect each other at the expense of the weak/victims, and that abuse thrives in a culture of shame and silence. the exact opposite of what the Church is called to do. we have found that even though the Church is called to a higher standard than the world, we are not even up to the world's standard on holding spiritual leaders accountable for ungodly conduct, in the situations i'm aware of. To have any level of accountability has been a battle, and at this point it seems the victims are losing.
here's the link to what our church order has to say about reinstating office bearers in article 84 ... (page 99 or so - I hope the link works, it did for me a while back, but for some reason not today)
of course, this assumes the leader resigned, or was suspended or deposed in the first place.
anyway, that's the tip of the tip of that iceberg,,,
No matter how charitable and godly priests may seem to those unfamiliar with Catholic beliefs, the fact remains that priests embrace and teaching a different gospel. This includes the forgiveness of sins through the confessional booth, praying for the dead; prayers to various long-dead saints and especially to Mary, the mother of Jesus, Catholics revere as Mother of God. Priests teach that that no one may assume to be saved and that to carelessly skip Sunday mass is a mortal sin that, unless pardon is obtained, paves the way to hell. Such are the faith errors of the Church of Rome that by God’s awesome grace I was enabled to walk away from and join the CRC.
The only response I would make, John, to your passionate defense of 'poor Joe' is, I've served 25 years as an Air force chaplain and during that time I've served directly under and/or with numerous Catholic Priests. I've gotten to know several of them well as friends and colleagues. I am certain the priests I know do not believe in a different gospel. Secondly, I would ask if you would demand to rebaptize someone who requested membership in the CRC knowing that their baptism was done by a priest in a Catholic Church? Or, should their baptism be recognized as lawful in the eyes of Christ and the church? And finally, are you familiar with the Vatican II documents? They can serve to update your views of what you mention as the official teachings of the Catholic Church.
Curious I am, as to why this is more anabaptist than reformed. Could you explain?
John, I appreciate the idea of finding these celebration moments in worship that allow for testimony. We have a cultural context that thrives on storytelling, which creates a unique opportunity for us to celebrate the ways that our stories can tell part of God's story. Our elders and our youth discipleship team have been talking about "rites of passage" this year - where are those communal transition moments during which we can emphasize personal stories of God's grace at work among us. Profession of Faith would certainly be one of those.
I think it is unwise (and more anabaptist than reformed) to say that a person who has fallen is unsuitable to ever serve again in the same or a different capacity. If that were the case, Jesus made a mistake reinstating Peter as lead apostle. To say nothing of David who according to OT law should have been executed but was able to continue in his office. Each case needs to be evaluated individually, rather than following rigid harsh rules.
Chris, I will add one after thought in terms of sharing throughout at least one event during the rest of the year. When young people or older people make profession of faith, do not read the form in church. Simply indicate that it was read in the council meeting, and that they agreed to it. Instead, have each one give their personal testimony of why they chose at this time to publicly acknowledge their faith, and what their faith means to them, and what difference it will make in their life. This would add beauty, joy and grace to our communal worship in a way that we usually do not see.
And for those not yet ready to make a formal "profession for membership", encourage some to make a personal testimony from time to time to share the growth in their knowledge and walk with God. (using discretion) From the heart. This brings beauty and joy and witness in contrast to the stilted, formalized procedures and formalities, which leave doubt, a lack of edification, or a lack of connection with the observers.
Chris, I thought I would check on CS Lewis perspective on joy. For him, apparently joy was intense longing. Perhaps that makes sense. When we are really joyful, we have a longing for something better than we normally experience, which we sometimes see some glimpses in out-of-the-ordinary events. Apparently, when he became a Christian, he no longer looked for joy, or it was no longer an issue for him, since his relationship with God replaced the feelings he had in looking for something he was missing.
I think we need to distinguish between embracing joy, and rejoicing in Christ. Embracing Christ. Whether "joyful", pleasant, or unpleasant, Christ is Lord of our lives. The joy He gives allows Paul and Silas to sing in prison, but, they were in prison. The joy of God's grace allowed the reformers to publish bibles at the risk of their lives, and some paid with their lives. Joy should not be our focus. We could get joy from possessions, health, drugs, music, family. Christ should be our focus. That will give us the joy that lasts thru tinsel and terror, thru trial and error.
Yes, we should celebrate Christ's victories through us by testifying and sharing. We should rejoice in His victory in our singing, in our prayers. Even we should use some christian humor to highlight God's greatness contrasted to our not-greatness. In our church, singing is a joyful event, usually. Piano, violins, guitars, drums all add to the harmony of God's impact on our lives. Potlucks, visiting, children's witness put smiles on our faces. As Piper puts it, "God is most glorified in us when we are satisfied in Him." Seek God's joy, and the rest will follow.
John & Joe, I recognize that both of you are expressing concern about my reference to Pope Francis and his recent exhortation. Let me invite you, if you are willing, to give some thought to the questions that I am raising in this post rather than simply critiquing the source that I used as a springboard.
From your perspectives, what are some tangible ways that our Reformed communities can celebrate with joy throughout the year? Our tradition has had a tendency to be characterized more by our concerns for what is not yet right than by our attention to celebrating what God has already done in and through Jesus Christ. But in Advent and Christmas, we seem to pull out all the stops in order to celebrate the joy of our salvation through church gatherings, worship services, etc. Practically speaking, what might it look like for our churches to be joyful throughout the year? From where you sit, how might a more joyful character among our churches impact our evangelistic witness among our neighbors, cities, etc.?
"It is sad... that they chose to condemn" says you. Are you then condemning the poor Joe who was formerly a RCath and has knowledge of what he speaks? Are you wiser than he, that gives you the right to condemn him, or to condemn his statement? The RCath as an official whole, condemns protestants as heretics and members of false churches who might make it to heaven, by the skin of their non-RC teeth. Pope Francis, in one of the first statements he made, indicated that praying to Mary was his priority. There are evangelists of all stripes, and God can use them all. But given the name we bear as a denomination, "Reformed", it is ironic to use an example from someone who represents the antithesis for our name. We were not born from this church as much as carved out, cast out, and then reshaped. While it is true the RCath church is not what it was during the reformation, it is also true that Joe's statement should be respected and understood. I know other former Catholics who would say the same as Joe. Isn't it sad that you would condemn him?
The compassion and understanding that permeates your posting confirms you have seen a lot of pastoral failings in your 35 1/2 years of ministry. I am certain your family, colleagues and the angels in heaven rejoice that you (and many others) were able to stay true to your calling. However, ...your responsible behaviour is the expected and normal behaviour of every human being, no matter what his/her calling is.
We wish to believe that these failings of people who are in responsiblei positions are the exception but each day the papers report on people who have broken the law, broken a trust, swindled investors out of money or repeatedly made public promises on a variety of issues that turn out to be flat out lying. Unfortunately, this type of behaviour, both within and without the pulpit will continue until The Lord returns.
With respect to Mr. Ford, he was elected by the people of Toronto to do a job for them and he is doing it. Does he have personal failings? Yes. Is his personal behaviour appalling and disappointing? Yes...but not to all. Many people have said to me that they let their hair down every so often; why they ask, shouldn't the mayor do the same thing? Should he resign? The jury is still out on that one but as you indicate, no legal avenue exists to fire him.
In defense of Mr. Ford, I think his idol may be Mayor Hazel M, next door in Mississauga. She claimed two or three years ago that her City is debt free and has " $750,000,000 in the kitty". The City of Toronto on the other hand is a bloated beauracracy with significant debt. Ron Ford set about to reduce redundancy and reduce debt and thereby made a number of enemies who would love to see him go. That does not excuse his personal failings but it may explain why he is stil mayor and why his popularity with the people who elected him remains high.
Thank you for this, Rod. This is beautiful.
Dave Vroege, Halifax
I am not 100% sure I am following what you are trying to get at here but suffice it to say that as with all things, a big part of discipleship and of living for Jesus involves wisdom. It goes without saying that in the case of Mt. 18 only a fool would think this is a simple, black-and-white formula that is one-size fits all and/or that if this "procedure" were followed letter for letter the outcome would always be the same one way or the other. The Holy Spirit grants us also wisdom. I don't know that there is a valid differentiation between "literal command" and "command in principle," however, and I can see a lot of potential mayhem issuing from attempting to categorize the commands--if someone is rude to you and you remind him that Jesus commands us to love one another, you would not want this person to reply, "Well that's just a general principle not a literal imperative and so in this case I believe I don't need to love you because . . ."
I think all the commands are "literal" in the sense that they point to Christian practices we are all called to do. Does wisdom show us the nuances that differentiate the circumstances under which we carry these out? Yes. Also, wisdom might also be what leads to the insight that a certain situation--an abusive relationship or some such thing--is actually a sufficiently different and fraught situation that the circumstances Jesus envisioned in Mt. 18 really don't even apply here. This is a different scenario altogether. That wise approach can prevent people from manipulating Mt. 18 into a weapon with which to bludgeon someone EVERY time there is a dispute or argument or a perceive "sin" of one member against another. Maybe things happen that fall outside the boundaries of the kind of situation Jesus had in mind in Mt. 18 and so some other text applies.
Just thinking out loud here . . .
Thanks Verlyn. I hear you about the authority relationship, and how that tends to make things a bit clearer. I'm afraid that then I start to wonder a bit about that though: Jesus had the clear intention of not just having an authority relationship with his disciples or his church. He made it very clear (and so did the other New Testament writers) that the spiritual reality was that God had made us, through Jesus, not only servants, sons and daughters and citizens of the kingdom (power relationships) but also that he was making us into friends, brothers and sisters, and co-heirs with Christ (equality). So, though there is a command and authority relationship, I can't help but wonder whether that had more to do with the (relative) spiritual immaturity of his disiciples and how growing up into the fullness of Christ might clarify His commands for us.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not suggesting that "mature" Christians can do away with Christ's commands, but rather that they can obey them more fully as they submit themselves to Him-- that they can apply the principles in light of the commands to LOVE in a way that fulfills the intent more fully thans simply blindly going through "steps".
What do you think?
Thanks, Scott, but how specific is the MUST? Must we do each step precisely as outlined? Wouldn't that be just blind obedience in a pharaseeitical way? Shouldn't we obey the principles which lie behind these commands, and modify the specifics for varying circumstances? For example, this system Jesus lays out for us works very well when the two "brothers" are not in some kind of power-relationship. What if one person is "in-charge" of the other in some way? An adult and a child? Elder, congregation member? Pastor, congregant? The person who has been sinned against may simply not be able to go directly to the person who sinned. What if the scenario involves abuse? We wouldn't recommend that a victim of abuse go directly to their "brother" to talk about things first, would we?
Thank you both for your comments. I really respect what you have to say, but I have a couple more questions for you, then. I think maybe that I was not clear enough in my first post: but your thoughts have helped me clarify in my own mind what I'm really asking, so maybe I'll be able to be clearer the second time around.
I think truly that I shouldn't have made it about advice vs. commands, but rather about literal commands vs. commands in principle. I'm not sure that's even the right phraseology--there's probably some latin term that would cover it nicely. But what I mean is this: when a command is given it can be given in such a way that the specific, literal interpretation is what is truly meant with the command, it can also be given in such a way that the principles that underly the command are the true command, and the details may be altered in different circumstances.
For example, when I tell my son, "Stop poking your sister with a stick", there's a lot of context there and a great deal of background stuff that I've tried to teach him about being merciful and kind, and gentle, and loving to his sisters. What I'm really saying is, "Be nice to your sister (and doing it by not poking your sister with a stick)." The details about poking your sister with a stick are not the main point really. It's a bit of a stretch, but I can imagine a scenario where it would be important and/or good for him to poke her with a stick (I have a good imagination).
However, there are some commands for which there is no underlying principle. For example, when Jesus says that the two greatest laws are to 'Love the Lord your God,... and to love your neighbour as yourself', He gets at the heart of the law, and all the other laws are subject to those two.
Therefore, if I read Mt. 18 correctly, there is a specific sequence of events that should be followed in the case of a Christ-follower sinning against another Christ-follower, HOWEVER, circumstances may dictate that the law of LOVE would teach us to modify the specifics to meet the higher principle involved.
I don't think I knew that's what I was proposing in the beginning, so I'm very greatful for your feedback. I'd be even more greatful if you had still more feedback for me.... what do you think?
Thanks Chris, I love the challenge for the church body as a community to be Christ among the world, in the neighborhood. The gospel story is OUR story encapsulating the true joy of the season. I find that it is pure joy to take our congregation on a regular basis into the world we live to see people come alive as the gospel is proclaimed in its various forms.
Just as an aside, I believe God can speak truth to all of us even through the pope. I also like what he said about capitalism. ;-)
Many thanks, Chris, for your perceptive application within the CRC context of the Pope's exhortation. The Holy Spirit infusing our congregations with joy-filled community, an evangelistically sensitive liturgy, and stories of God's grace transforming us and our neighbors from 'dead to alive in Christ' will profoundly impact the future of the CRC. It is sad that the two brothers previously posting choose to condemn rather than respectfully listening and learning from the church out of which we were born.
It's unfortunate you used Pope F as an example. I agree with Joe Serge that this is a poor example; there are many better examples. Going back to scripture, for example... the apostle Paul "I do/am all things in order to win others to Christ."
Thanks, Jim, for a well put argumentation that reflects what I've been thinking. I'm glad you put it "out there."
The joy of the Gospel is expressed by the believer not so much by the choice of praise songs,music and liturgy but rather in gratitude for Christ's saving work through Calvary's cross. Pope Francis doesn't get it. The Church of Rome teaches a different gospel. I know. I am a former Catholic. So please, let's not set our gaze on Rome for spiritual guidance but our Reformed doctrine.