Blog

We're just starting this Network project and I'm the so-called "Guide" for this page. I guess that makes some sense. I've been engaged in this calling for more than 30 years. (Yikes!) But for all the topics that we cover, I'd like your help. For example, what books are you reading that help with any part of our calling and task?

January 23, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article
The Unnecessary Pastor: Rediscovering the Call by Marva Dawn and Eugene Peterson, edited by Peter Santucci. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company & Regent College Publishing, 2000. 256 pages.              Books spun from conferences often make better insulation for pastors’ studies than they...
January 20, 2010 0 1 comments
Blog

In the city where I live, there are four Christian Reformed congregations, several other more conservative Reformed congregations, plus a host of mainline and community churches. Over the last few years, our youth groups have seen a fluctuating attendance. We don't always know who are "members".

January 20, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

As you start your role, you are called to first understand the current situation and develop relationships with those involved in areas of ministry where you will be serving.

January 20, 2010 0 2 comments
Blog

How do you and your congregation decide when to say “yes” to out-of-ordinary requests for baptism? Recently a family who live in another country requested our elders to baptize their eight-month old baby.

January 20, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Policy or Guidelines

A registered Retirement Savings Plan (RSP) is an investment account designed primarily for saving toward your retirement years. As a retirement savings vehicle, regulated by the Canadian government, RSPs have special tax benefits.

January 18, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

How do you determine the balance between too much or too little organization? Leaders need to understand their mission and clearly see that the structure and organization assists in accomplishing ministry. 

January 14, 2010 0 1 comments
Resource, Article

OK, you're going to do those visits, because that's what you are called to do. But you are uneasy, scared. This brief guide is intended to be an introductory checklist for pastors, pastoral care workers, elders or deacons when you visit families or individuals. Maybe you want to consider this an...

January 13, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Today more ministers live in their own houses than ever before. But not all. Local situations vary. But where pastors live in church-owned housing, consistories do well to think about their retirement days.

January 11, 2010 0 0 comments
Blog

I have never written a blogpost before and had to be told what it was. I'm still not sure. But what I am sure about is that I believe this idea of "Network" is a pretty good one. So I'll learn what it takes to be a guide for this "Pastors" section. I won't be alone, I hope. I am looking forward to other colleagues, interested persons, perhaps aspiring pastors to help make this little website helpful, informative and participatory for our callings as pastors.

January 9, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenges of Postmodernism by Douglas Groothuis. Downers Grove, Illinois & Leicester, England, InterVarsity Press, 2000. 303 pages. 

Throughout this witty book Douglas Groothuis articulates and evaluates that disjointed movement called...

January 9, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

In all areas of life—from home repair to healthcare—prevention simply makes good sense. Why not put a little effort today into prevention if it means we can avoid big problems—and expensive cures—in the future?

January 9, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article
I don't know about anyone else, but as I try to read a book by someone about whom I know nothing, I constantly ask, "Who is this person?” and, "What does s/he REALLY do?"   As I approach cynical dotage, ever fewer writers of "religion/spirituality" books make it past those barrier questions. That...
January 8, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

"Worship Wars" have flared in many North America churches for fifteen years or so. Worship committees, council members, pastors and musicians have tangled about what fits in worship and what doesn't. Styles and content of songs, choices of instruments, to dance liturgically or not, to preach in...

January 8, 2010 0 1 comments
Resource, Article

It’s coffee time, Friday morning but Sunday’s comin’—though not like Tony Campolo exultantly preached. Friday is sermon crunch day.

So the preacher flails through her Bible from one lectionary passage to another. Commentaries and articles cascade around the room. It looks like the Taliban...

January 8, 2010 0 15 comments
Resource, Article

Being a pastor is difficult. It goes without saying that pastors must do everything possible to equip and sustain themselves for effective ministry. This article focuses on what congregations can do to sustain pastoral excellence. Specifically, what are some healthy congregational practices that...

January 7, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

This training tool focuses on leadership in the local church. Biblical, theological, and practical information is presented in a user-friendly format. Case studies are used throughout. Four ways in which the material can be used are given complete with worksheets, questions etc.

January 7, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

Written by pastors and their spouses, this tool is full of practical information for both pastoral couples and church councils. Topics such as expectations, burnout, relationships, and balance are presented in an honest, down-to-earth style. Each chapter is followed by actions for both the pastoral couple and the council.

January 7, 2010 1 0 comments
Resource, Report

This benchmark survey was undertaken to provide a basis for comparison with the results of a second survey to be conducted at the conclusion of the grant period. The results of the two surveys will facilitate evaluation of the SPE program when the current Lilly Endowment Inc. grant period concludes in 2007. 

January 7, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

Two questions to start: How do I write an introduction to something that is not really a book but an online document about significant issues facing Christian congregations—members, pastors, boards, councils, leaders, and even broader assemblies? and Who might turn up as readers of this virtual document that is fishing for browsers?

January 7, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Bulletin, Insert or Cover

A bulletin insert to promote the work of Sustaining Pastoral Excellence.

January 7, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Policy or Guidelines

After reviewing a variety of sabbatical policies from Christian Reformed Churches, the attached document offers suggestions to churches that are considering adopting a policy for their pastor. 

January 7, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Churches and pastors together must meet on the dance floor of change and be completely honest with each other there. The change process, big or small, in any church is a dance between the congregation and the pastor.

January 7, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

This very practical tool walks pastors, their spouses, and church councils through the season all pastors experience as they retire from ministry. 

January 7, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Website

Leadership Journal offers a constant stream of conversation with both longer and shorter articles. You'll find opportunity to read and respond to regular contributions by Gordon MacDonald, John Ortberg and other less-known, but no less worthy writers.

December 22, 2009 0 0 comments

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Nice letter of empathy, Rod. I ditto your prayer for this woman and the thousands and millions in similar or worse circumstances.

Karl: I'm quite sure there are lots of CRC folk who are a lot of salt in their neighborhoods.  Probably don't hear about it much just because CRC folk tend not to trumpet that sort of thing about themselves.  Doing that sort of this is one of the cultural strengths of those in the CRC from that "old Dutch" stock.  Not trying to be "racist" (or culturalist), but the Dutch tradition includes an unsual amount of industriousness, high production (have enough to share), and a willingness to share, not to mention exposure to "not one square inch" thinking.  But they also tend to be quiet, certainly not showy about it.

I do love the title, "Don't Invite Them to Church."  An obvious corollary to "not one square inch" I think.  I suspect I'd be happy to "exchange in other ways" and I suspect Bev would too, right Bev.  :-)

George,

Thanks for the data.  I was reflecting on the incredible increase in the stats of Pastors and Churches that have gone through an Article 17.  I have a hunch that a few cultural things are happening:  first of all the Baby Boomers are now in council:  the generation that has less denominational loyalty, less respect for "titles and positions of authority", and so we tend to be quicker to publically criticise and move to "remove" those we are not seeing eye to eye with.  We are the ones who prefer to be called Pastor, rather than Rev. and certainly not "Dominae".  We want to meet the congregation as friend and colleague, and at the very same time, place ourselves either at the very same plain or even see ourselves as "less than" members of the congregation.  Perhaps I am exagerating things a bit, but if it isn't true of the pastor himself, it may often be true that the perishioner sees us that way.  We are certainly not "beyond rebuke".  It can be a good thing in the sense that a Pastor will not last if he doesn't make the effort to do his job.  Slothfulness or disfunctionality probably isn't going to be tollerated like it was in the past. 

All I have said is based on a hunch, I wonder if research might have been done that verifies the hypothesis.

Ken

Love it!  Those are very fun confirmations =).  I just get a huge kick out of imagining how He divinely positioned and timed both of those "events" to coincide with your "needs" right then in an obvious way that there was no doubt it was God.    I mean who goes around carrying a spare pie =)  hahahaha....  and no one has ever offered salt to me!  I'm still chuckling =)

Thank you so much for sharing.    These testimonies help build our faith and encourage us to take whatever the next step of faith might be!  It is freeing to know that the God of the universe cares whether we have salt and a pie or not =)...  ah, He knows every hair of our head, goes before us and behind us- yes, so freeing...  Thank You LORD!    We don't understand it, but He works in sync with our free will when we choose to be obedient to what He's putting on our hearts. Janet, bless your heart, for being obedient.  May you continue to grow closer to Him and experience (and testify of) His goodness multiplied times over as you walk in step with Him!

Hi Bev,

Last Lent I wondered what really was too important to me and would be good to give up for Lent.  I decided that I liked shopping...finding bargains, resale, etc.  I found too much of my mental energy was involved in hunting for a buy. So I didn't buy anything except gas and medical co-pays for all of Lent.  My husband paid the electric and other bills so we didn't get our power shut off :)   It was truely freeing not to have to look through the flyers in the Sunday paper or stop to pick up specials at stores.  We never ran out of anything we really needed.  The only staple we ran out of was salt.  When I went to visit my Dad in another state the first words he asked me were if I needed some salt.  He had gotten some packets with an appliance he bought.  That is the only time anyone has ever offered me salt.  Another time I voluneered to make pie for a party and my crust burnt.  Being unable to go to the store to get another crust I just figured God was telling me we really didn't need pie.   Right after that  walked outside and met a friend who out of the blue asked if I wanted a pie they had just bought...it was gourmet...so much better than mine would have been.  It took a few weeks to feel the freedom from shopping but it freed me up for more important things.     

 I see that I had added a paragraph while the networks' "spam" protector was down time, and then my first one ended up going through...  so here's the last paragraph =)  sorry, my computer started doing strange things...

John:   

I think it's great you are thinking of ways to increase time with Him. He will totally honor that. One of my hopes for our denomination, is that we will start a similar 24/7 prayer movement/relay like we do in our county, similar to the Moravians (see link for some info on the Moravians)

http://www.thewellumc.com/templates/System/details.asp?id=39121&PID=623515 

 

with 1000 churches in the crc that have a lot of "well-churched" fairly mature members, we should be able to get every day covered at least once. So John, I would love for you to pray into that "movement" with me.

 

Thanks John... now I pray when i have to do what i call my "Miss Martha" work.  I've had times when i don't want to leave the "secret place", but i have to get the work done, and I'm thinking it's going to take me 10-15 hours to do this project and then it only takes me 3-5!  I've thought another project would take me 3-5 hours and it only takes 1-2, and another time when I thought it would take 1-2 hours and it only took 20-30 minutes.   I've experienced the LORD helping me get some of my "Miss Martha" work done!   Those are all testimonies in themselves.   I love "driving" berry harvester on "auto steer" at 1 mile an hour in the warm summer sunshine with the smell of raspberries, eating them to my heart's content... that's probably my favorite God time!  and getting some work done too!

John, I was more afraid not to pray.  I was thinking about it after I posted yesterday, about why I pursued prayer, what prompted my pursuit in the first place.  And I was reminded that the Holy Spirit used 2 nightmares and a testimony of prayer over about a year's time (2005-2006) to compel me.  After the first nightmare i remember thinking there was no human way out of that situation, it was impossible to escape, and a while later upon reflection, I realized the only way out was Jesus Christ.  In the nightmare I was in a dungeon of hell like Peter describes in 2 Peter 2.  As soon as I read that passage some time after my nightmare, I knew that's where I was in my nightmare.  

The testimony of prayer was the second significant "event", it was about a casino in California that became a Kingdom church because the community prayed.  The reason that came up was because a casino was coming to our area, and someone shared that testimony with several of us.  We're still praying it into a house of prayer for all nations =) 

the 3rd event, was another nightmare, and this one was a "hell on earth" situation, I remember waking up, and I asked God, what do we need to do so that this never happens.  and i "got" one word... PRAY!   That very day I went to the first Moms in touch prayer group at our kids' school, and have been pursuing prayer ever since.   That was the same day as the shooting at the Amish school in Pennsylvania, which I don't remember hearing about until later, but was in some ways similar to my nightmare, so those 3 all were within hours of each other. 

Not saying I understand how dreams and visions work... but those were significant "events" that prompted me to pursue prayer.  And those were just the beginning.  There have been many other confirmations as I started pursuing prayer, that further/continue to encourage me as well.

I know God always has our best interest in mind, because He's God.  One phrase that I use is that it's always for His glory and our good.  Our good is secondary to His glory, but because He's God, it's an easy thing for Him to make both happen at the same time.  When I pray with the healing prayer ministry, that is my assurance to people if they don't experience the healing they are expecting... that God is not answering our prayer in that way at this time because He has something better for them.

George, my only experience with Art 17 was in a very difficult situation in a church where I was a (lay) member; I think your question is excellent.   I want to encourage us to have a good dialog in response.  

I have a strong hunch that Pete is onto something very important in these lines:  we do not know how to have open, honest, loving, direct-feedback conversations about how ministry is going" and "when things don't go as hoped or expected, we resort to some of our most un-Christlike behaviours."

I have that hunch based on four decades of working for denominational agencies, and seven decades of membership in the CRC.  We are just not good at dealing with our passionately held differences, and that's a shame.  Art 17 is a tool that's available to us to help in extreme situations (as well as to help people who are going back to school etc).  

I wonder if Pete's quote can be taken to say that all too often there is brokenness that remains unhealed.

Oh yes, clergy taxes -- the bane of the profession.  While there are lots of tax claims we are eligible for, they are also IRS audit detectors.  I recently got together with our deacons and we watched a webinar by the Clergy Advantage people of clergysupport.com about the church setting up a Pastor's Accountable Expense Plan.  It's a great plan which helps pastors get the full benefit of every tax dollar not only a percentage.  Our deacons are going to make a proposal to our council that we adopt this.  Under this plan the pastor is responsible with their spending to the church not the IRS.  That way you don't have to put any business expense on your taxes, your takehome looks right and probably less (for tax purposes).  The plan covers ever expense out of your pocket from the regular tax claim clergy can make for people in their home to potlucks and coffees.  It makes a ton of sense and I recommend every church watch it.  

I also have some techy tips for pastors about how to keep track of all your receipts, mileage and expenditures.  I use Evernote and Expensify to track everything and it works like a charm.  In fact I just went out for coffee today and took a picture of the reciept with my phone in Evernote which is synced with my Expensify so when I have to pull everything up I even have a visual record with no paper.

posted in: Ministers and Taxes

That's beautiful, Bev!   I would add that the Miss Martha's can also pray, even while they are busy cleaning, cooking, helping.  It would be interesting for us to set some goals:  for every minute spent on a computer game, spend one minute in dedicated prayer....   for every minute spent watching the news, spend one minute in prayer....  

Have you ever been afraid to pray?   Sometimes I find that the answer to prayer is scary!   God actually listens, and answers!   And it makes me wonder:  what am I praying for, is it really what God wants....  

I'm glad you get to see it that way, John!

How do we change those 5 minutes/day?

by praying  =)... we pray for prayer... that a Spirit of prayer will be poured out in our congregations, in our denominations... we pray that God will help us become men & women of prayer.   We pray that our churches will become houses of prayer (Is. 56:7; Matt 21:13), that we will be a church devoted to prayer (Col 4:2; Acts 1:14, 2:42, 6:4 =) there it is again!  We pray that the Holy Spirit will convict us of prayerlessness where necessary, and help us to make the commitment to implement the change needed for us to become prayer warriors. 

 Some will tell me, but you have the gift of prayer.  Prayer is not a gift, it's a command!  I pursued prayer - read books on prayer and researched people who prayed like Praying Hyde, Count Zinzendorf & the Moravians, Rees Howells, Hudson Taylor, George Mueller, etc. , went to conferences on prayer, joined prayer groups, went to prayer gatherings - even if they were of the charismatic or pentecostal stream, and the Holy Spirit graciously and generously taught me a lot through many different ways/people, and through it God has mostly "converted" me from a Miss Martha to a Miss Mary.

The LORD often wakes me up in the early AM as well, and that is a significant part of my personal time with Him.  I love this time because it is undisturbed (we have 3 kids ages 11 and under).   I have wrestled through many things with Him in those early morning hours.   He has used that time to give insight, significantly change the direction I'm going which gave me more time to spend in prayer, as well as enjoy sweet time with Him in the secret place (Ps. 91:1 NKJV). 

Our church participates in 24/7 prayer in the county, where 30+ churches each take one day of the month and commit to covering those 24 hours in prayer through having the people in their congregation sign up for a time on that day.  We have .5 hour time slots, but many of the churches do a full hour for each person.  One of the churches in our area has 200+ people praying an hour each week.  All the churches can focus on the same requests specifically for our county, if they so choose.

 

How do we change those five minutes a day?   As you get older, you may have an advantage in prayer time, when we don't sleep so soundly anymore.   I've found on nights when it is difficult to sleep, or if I wake up too early, then it is an excellent time to pray undisturbed.   I end up praying for people and things that I have not thought of for some time.   And usually then fall asleep eventually, more peacefully.   So I consider God gracious in granting me less sleep, to bring me closer to Him.   

I am reminded of Acts 6:4, which is applicable for the church's spiritual leaders (elders, which includes the pastor).  Those are the 2 most important callings of our leaders.   and if other "duties" are taking time away from these 2 primary callings, then some evaluating and assessment probably needs to take place.   So I echo the focus on accountability of the devotional and prayer life for the spiritual leaders.  One survey (not recent, I found the results in the praying church sourcebook, but i have heard of these "confessions" from spiritual leaders in the last year or so as well)  showed that of 2000 presbyterian and reformed pastors, 95% spent less than 5 minutes a day in prayer =(.  makes me wonder (the charismatics were a little better with an average of 18 minutes per day).  Another statistic Dan Henderson (pastor, author, speaker, etal) mentioned was that of the time a pastor spent in ministry of the Word and prayer, 95% of that time was focused on ministry of the Word, and only about 5% on prayer.

Keith, perhaps we think of it incorrectly to think of a pastor's report to elders vs an elder's report to pastors.   Each must report to all the rest, whether there is a pastor present or not.   But the report and evaluation is primarily for the purpose of making sure the outcomes and goals are being met with regard to the purpose and vision and objectives of the church as a whole.   It should not been seen as primarily a way to assess or grade an individual's performance. 

Other than that, I agree with all your comments. 

Doug, again, thanks for sharing!  Like Karl shared, your post(s) continues to triggers thoughts =) for me as well!   I'm chuckling as I think of Ps. 37:4 - Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart in connection with you (a farm boy)  having the "opportunity" to buy a tractor and then using it for Kingdom purposes =).   I get a kick out of God's sense of humor =) and giving us a win-win opportunity.   I know how much fun I have driving tractor in our berry field after being in the professional "field" for about 20 years.    Oh, LORD, open the  eyes of our hearts to see how You want us to use the abundant blessings/talents you have given us for Your Kingdom purposes.

Another testimony that I was reminded of was, how the LORD has given my husband jobs where the people he is working for pay him almost immediately.  We have a construction business, and since 2008 (and before too, but it has been much more obvious since then), we  have seen God do amazing things with lining up work for him, and bringing clients that pay within minutes of getting the bill.  Every person we have worked for since last summer has paid in less than 2 weeks, and usually in less than 2 days, and several times the same day!  Since 2008, when construction businesses took a significant hit, he has been without work for only 1 hour (which was our fault).  We have not advertised, it has all been "word of mouth" so to say.  We have seen God's incredible provision and have experienced the wealth God tells us about in Prov. 3:13-18 through living Prov. 3:5-6.  Having said that, I think the next several months we are going to be tested again, on whether we will continue to trust in God with all our heart, or be tempted to lean on our own understanding.    As many of you might be experiencing yourself, cash flow has been a bit more difficult over the last several years, and we have been at the end of our liquid resources several times, after several years of decreased profitability .  Last fall, when we are at a similar place with cash flow concerns, (as I was re-reading this, I just caught the connection, that was about when we had a significant cash flow concern and it was about since that point everyone (construction related) began paying us in less than 2 weeks, thank You LORD! - hindsight is amazing =), anyway, when we were at a similar place with cash flow concerns last Sept., i remember telling God, "I can make cash flow happen 7 different ways" and so we went through my list, and each one was in some way leaning on our own understanding.   So, I shared this with another believer and the question was, how do you know that God doesn't want you to use any of those ways?  I replied, because each of the reasons He "gave" me trumped mine, and His made more sense in a super rational way.  But, as I walked away from that conversation, I prayed, "LORD, if these thoughts are really from You, please confirm it in some way."  That was about 4:30 in the afternoon.  At 6:30 I received a call from my husband.  His parents had just blessed us with a sizable gift to help with the kids' tuition!  That was our confirmation.   in 2 hours!

So, here we are again, about 14 mos later, looking at a cash flow concern.  Somehow God has helped us get through these last 14 mos, and we are going to trust Him to do so again, but my mind is already thinking, well if He doesn't, we can always do "my cash flow plan"....  Arghhh!!!  I think the LORD is helping me remember how He has come through again, and again, (and I haven't even shared some of the best ones with you yet!) to give us the courage to continue to trust Him with all our hearts! 

ok, the other concept that I keep going back to from Doug's post, is that he went against all advice.  Because of several other "conversations" I had in the last month and the concept of intentionally seeking the Holy Spirit's guidance being something the LORD is putting on my heart over the last several months, I went to Acts to read about Paul's "decision" to go to Jerusalem.   I had been thinking about this story for several reasons,, and thought  Paul had to be very compelled to go against prophetic warnings, knowing he would be arrested and possibly killed.  So Saturday, I read several chapters of Acts in the NKJV, and the phrase "Paul purposed in the Spirit" (Acts 19:21) caught my attention.  This phrase " happened' to catch my attention in a segment of an online sermon i "happened" to come across about 4 weeks ago.  That is the only time I recall every having heard this phrase before.  I mentioned it  yesterday  to a believer who has been a part of the crc for 60+ years, and they didn't remember ever hearing it before.  Another version stated he was "determined in the Spirit" and one was "compelled" by the Spirit.  So, not sure how that ties in with "stuff", but I always find it interesting how the LORD will use someone's thoughts to trigger other thoughts that He wants us to possibly pursue =).  A rabbit trail or the Spirit?  So I would love to hear anyones' thoughts on intentionally seeking the Spirit's guidance or what "purposed in the Spirit" might look like for today!   As well as more testimonies and insights on how Acts 2:42-47 looks like for us today!

 

I would hope that those monthly pastor's reports to elders are accompanied by similar monthly elders' reports to pastors. In other words, mutual accountability should be a significant element of any meetings of elders.

I've served as an elder for several terms and in several different churches. Mutual censure or accountability needs to be the halmark of every gathering of pastoral elders. We tend to hold both elders and pastors accountable for pastoral care. When elders regularly neglect their pastoral visiting, they're admonished. That also applies to pastors. And when one of a pastor's tasks is to provide pastoral care and to visit, then he or she is held accountable for the number and quantity of visits made.

How is a pastor growing spiritually? That question is perfectly valid, especially as elders reflect on how they are growing spirituallty.

In other words, I don't think that pastors should be held to a higher standard than elders ... aside from the fact that pastors should be able to accomplish a lot more pastoral visits since that is their full time vocation, while most elders tend to hold down full time jobs away from the church.

Oversight of the church's various programs, committees and ministries should be the shared responsibility of all the elders. There is generally no need for a minister to sit on a wide range of committees or boards, aside from Worship. Even there, I know of pastors who act as 'consultant' to Worship Committee, popping in now and then to those meetings.

Doug, your story is encouraging and uplifting.   I also attended Dordt for a couple years, Philosophy/English, prior to your stay there.   It was a great way to begin the educational journey that ended at secular university.   It provided a lot of analytical tools. 

Your story shows the possibilities of urban living, of making an impact, instead of just being impacted upon.   Of letting God use you, rather than us using God for our own purposes.  In my case, I haven't done anything near what you have done.   We live in a rural area, and people are quite self-sufficient, where the municipality even plows out rural driveways in winter for free (after the roads are cleared).   Other than ocassionally taking my snow blower to the local outdoor ice-rink, and taking my 80 inch mower to the church lot (2.5 acres), we have not done a lot.   We did put a new roof on a low-income neighbor's house recently with donated labor, but that's all I can recall.   Okay, I just remembered that I use my snow-blower to clean out a neighbor's drive last winter so that the water truck could bring in water.   And this fall, I sprayed another neigbor's garden since she had surgery and could not keep the thistle controlled last summer.   Can you imagine Canada Thistle about seven feet tall?  

Sometimes it seems easier to just do things yourself.   But I am thinking more lately about how we might make an impact by actually employing people, especially people who do not always have highly employable resumes, or accomodating schedules and personalities.   I'm finding this a much more complicated and tricky endeavor;  I really appreciate the business people who seem to do this so easily and automatically.   I wish I had learned to do this.   Employment is in many ways the best way of helping some people, but is often more difficult than just doing things for them.   And then maybe for us to find ways of making employment more holistic, so that people do not just get paid some low wage for providing a certain number of hours of work, but rather that we can become interested in their whole life, giving some guidance and extra assistance where it is needed (and presumably appreciated). 

Doug, I can't tell you all the thoughts that are wandering through my mind after reading this series of posts.  Thanks so much.  What you are saying is a story that is very dear to my heart - God's people committing to neighbors, neighborhoods, for the sake of the Gospel.  I love your story.  I love it that you decided to stay, and figured out how to use your resources for the sake of the neighborhood.  I love it that you invested - in many ways.  I love it that you love "stuff" so much, have so much fun with it, and get such a kick out of using it to express your deep inner Dooyeweerd.

I'm wondering if you and Bev would be wiling to share some of this exchange in other ways?   It would be a great story to accompany the Faith Alive book Don't Invite Them to Church.   Makes me wonder if there are others who've committed to neighborhoods as you have, and especially whether there are congregations who have committed to support members who've made this kind of commitment.  

I have a hunch your story resonates with many of the CRC church planters who are working in the city of Seattle too!  

Again, thanks for telling your story, and thanks for being "there" for your neighbors for Jesus' sake!

Bev:  Some background on 10 years ago and 7/8/2008.  I'm a Dordt grad, philsophy/history major.  Kuyper's "not one square inch" resonated with me--changed my life and my thinking really.  Moving out of the area would be good for the family in many ways, but the idea of moving out of an area because the people weren't good enough really bothered me.  What about "not one square inch"?  The other thing that had happened some years earlier--not my doing--was that a "neighborhood association" our house was a part of had gone defunct, but it owned some "parkette" land behind our house.  Evenutally, the association, having gone defunct, didn't pay taxes and the property was sold at the courthouse steps.  The economy was bad at that time and I ended up the only bidder.  $1800 expanded my lot size from a "normal" size to over an acre.  Again, I had nothing to do with that, but then when decided we needed a bigger house, the option of building on our current lot, and staying on the East end of the city, was a possibility just because we had the larger lot size.

So at that point, we had a decision to make.  We didn't have the excuse of "needing a larger house" because we could make that happen where we were.  Ultimately, I just couldn't make the decision to move out of the neighborhood.  People doing that had been what made neighborhood deteriorate in the first place.  If "not one square inch" really did mean something, how could we decide to move?

Of course, an additional benefit of the increased lot size was I had room for equipment. :-)  You can just see this coming--one thing leads (or we are led) to another.  We bought our first rental because a longtime neighbor (elderly woman) that we had helped take care of over the years was getting getting to the point of needing to go to a care facility.  To make a very long story really short, we helped her sell it to a couple of guys who were in the "fix and flip" business so she could move to a care home.  They in turn renovated her old house so well (and the house was so close to house anyway--almost literally in our back yard), that we bought it from them.  We then rented to college kids from the local Christian college (Corban).  OK, so the rental was across the street from the neighborhood park and surrounded by a meth house and other likely drug dealing houses.  And the county (owner of the park) had pretty much just given up on the park because of the deteriorating neighborhood.  Because we now owned a house on a different street that was across the park, we just became more acutely aware of how bad things were (we were on a court, somewhat isolated).

And all of this coincided in time with my kids growing older and leaving the house (for college and beyond).  I was no longer coaching baseball (I had at the Christian high school for seven years), and so I had some time on my hands.  At a point, just observing what was going on around our rental--especially the public park which seemed the embarrassing and telling public icon for the neighborhood degregation--I just got angry, literally, and once again remembered "one square inch."

With a door opened that wide, how could I not walk through it?  Besides, I grew up on a farm and I knew how this kind of stuff was done.  So I bought my Kubota (B2920) and a 3-pt hitch finish mower (Woods) and, with the county's permission, mowed the foot-tall grass (and weeds).  It took more than one pass.  Looked a bit like a hay field after that but it was a start.  I remember it was July 8, 2008, just because it seemed like the beginning of something and I remembered the date.  That was the start and then we couldn't stop with lots of park improvements.

One of the unexpected delights of this has been getting to know a lot of the park neighborhood kids.  The first were Jordan (a girl) an her brother Nicholas.  Then others.  The kids thought I owned the park. :-)  Obviously, it's taken a lot of time -- probably 1000 hours or so over the last 3+ years, but that's been a blessing too.  I got exercise, needed at my age with my job (and no longer coaching).  Couldn't get it in a better way.  Another delight is I've gotten to know the neighbors by our house more, and the neighbors to our rental, in large part because, well,  I had equipment to share and had the need.  A few of the neighbors are Christian, but I usually find out after a while.  Most aren't.  I don't push.  I'm a Calvinist, believing I need to be faithful and God will take care of the rest.  So far, he's done pretty well, over decades of time, plotting and scheming in ways I hadn't even recognized until after the fact--to open a very wide door.

As to our house, which is bigger but then the kids left, we now have three international students (boys) from the local Christian high school to fill that space, one Japanese, one Chinese, one Vietnamese.  Who would have thunk?  Of course, they have a big back yard, nice park close by.  Hmmm.  That seems to have worked out too.  And again, we are richer for all of it, as are our neighbors and our new boys.

In terms of the future, I figure I have at least ten good years left in me.  Am planning for more park improvements--now with other neighbors involved as well--and some coordinated neighborhood improvements.  We'll see what happens.  :-)

Hey Ken... good to see you back on here...  thanks for pointing us back to the basics of loving God 1st, and then neighbors.  Amen, Amen!

I loved Doug's comment that he was "richer" for staying, and obviously not referring to his portfolio value, but richer in relational love for his neighbors and richer in experience (I'm thinking in trusting God and His ways is part of that), and in being obedient to God's call for his family.  That's God's economy.   It's eternal treasure.

I think what Doug shared is one way Acts 2:42-47 looks in today's culture.

I also had to think about going against everyone's advice some more.   I got a kick out of it because it is going against conventional "wisdom", and it made sense in a higher than the heavens God way (Is.55).  But it was also interesting and unusual because generally (but not always) the Holy Spirit will confirm significant decisions like that through other (generally Spirit led, but not always the case) people.  So as I'm studying guidance by the Holy Spirit, and His ways of confirmation, I will admit that that is unusual, and I'm glad you felt compelled enough to follow through.  I am curious about the process of your decision 10 years ago as well.  that fascinates me!  That helps me understand how the Holy Spirit "prompts"/guides us in many different ways.  I know what I've experienced, but i enjoy hearing and learn from listening to the "process" others went through as well.  Again, the 2008 timing is very interesting to me as well!

I know each of these specific testimonies are not what everyone or even many are called to, but I hope that by sharing them, it will inspire other believers to take that step of faith, whatever it might look like in their life that the Spirit is putting on their heart at this time, and these stories and God's goodness through them, will encourage whomever it might be, to possibly be a little more (do i dare say) "radical" about their faith and lifestyle.  =).   To go beyond human wisdom, man's understanding (Prov. 3:5-6) and walk in step with His Spirit, to follow that prompting that you are pretty sure is from the LORD!

 

 

Doug I am glad you are such a giving Christian man. But most people don't think like you or incapable of thinking like you. God gave you a gift but don't be mistaken into thinking that God gives the same gifts to everyone. They can still be saved but on different walk. The un Christian people need our relational love not our judgement. I think that is Bibical paraphrase. God is a God of absolutes. None of us measure up or deserve Grace. We have got to get back to the Gospel in the way we think. The Gospel is Christ's fufilllment of the old testement and His self declaration of defining the :"New Covenant". Love God first and your neighbor as your self. That thought has to be governing parameters of our thoughts. Helping a neighborhood is great. Degrading any of God's children is not. Remember we have only God's truthes and rightousness. He does need our help he occasionally asks.

Thanks for sharing that Doug!  That is so encouraging and a beautiful picture of God's economy, using our blessings to bless others  =) !   I love that you went against all the advice  =) and stayed.   I can just imagine the advice, as we've heard probably heard some of the same.  We too live in what some consider one of the less "prestigious" areas of town, but God has used that to help us look at where we live and our neighbors from a different perspective, as well as to help out where we can.   One of the scriptures the LORD put on my heart for our neighborhood was that we are to please our neighbors, not police them (Rom 15:2). 

I totally agree, that as the neighbors see others putting effort into making their places nicer, that encourages/inspires them and others to put more effort into keeping their places nicer as well.  This is one of the positve sides of "keeping up with the Jones".  But it also sounds like you are building beautiful relationships with your neighbors.

I find it very interesting that it was July 2008 when you started... just curious, why then, and why you remember it to the day? 

I'll share another fun story, but I want everyone else to share too!  These are powerful testimonies.

Early this year, I started mentoring a gal I had connected with via the prayer center and the healing prayer ministry i pray with.  In March, when she came over, she shared that the roommate situation where she was living wasn't healthy or safe.  The roommates were messing with witchcraft.  So we invited her to live with us and stay in our guest room...  but in order to move her (& stuff) in, we needed to do something with the king size bed in the room.  We thought about storing it, but then decided we would post it for free on Craig's list.  It never made it on there!  Another family from her church helped our friend move in, and for whatever reason, felt prompted to ask them if they needed a king size bed, and they responded, Yes, they did!.  I remember thinking even as I was asking, what is the likelihood they would happen to need a king size bed?  What a crazy question to ask!  But they did, and it was a cool story of why they needed at that point in time =).  So, I believe it was the Holy Spirit prompting me to ask, even as my rationale was not in sync with my mouth!  It was also a fun confirmation that she was suppose to live with us.

So our friend still lives with us, became a part time intercessory missionary at the prayer center as well as works with disabled adults, and by staying with us, she doesn't have to raise near as much support for living expenses.

I think Bev Sterk has a great idea, and appreciate her sharing how she decided to live economically in a way that derives from her faith.  I suspect each of have different "economic" lives, and different strategies for living "faithfully." Here are some of the things I've done.

The most important/fundamental decision I've ever made about living faithfully "in an economic way" is to not move.  We live now where we moved to 30 years ago.  I'm an attorney.  All attorneys in my City live in the South area of the City, or the West.  A few in the North.  I live in the East.  Decades ago, the East end was middle class or a bit lower, but over time, many of the middle class moved (South, West or maybe North) and lower class or Hispanic immigrants (legal and illegal) moved in.  When we decided (about 10 years ago) to either upgrade our house or move, we decided against all the advice anyone gave me.  We stayed. 

Fast forward to today.  I've spent quite a bit of money on lots of stuff.  Kubota tractor, loader, tiller, etc.  Two John Deere rider mowers, two push mowers, a Dodge RAM pickup with a Cummins engine and a heavy duty dump trailer, a chipper, blower, hand tillers, edgers, hand tools, ladders, you name it.  Maybe $40,000 worth of this sort of "stuff" -- no, closer to $60,000.  We also bought two rental houses near our house (yep, East end).  One we bought at the peak of the market (aargh).

Our immediate neighborhood was really degrading.  Owner/occupants not keeping things up, let alone Landlords that were becoming slum lords.  The 4 acre neighborhood park belonged to gangs, literally.  All fences grafitti'd all the time. Everything in disrepair.  Grass never mowed.  Weeds all over.  Literally, no one came to the park except Hispanic gangs.  Mothers wouldn't let their children go there and they didn't go there either.

Beginning July 8, 2008, I decided to adopt the park -- and started buying stuff.  My wife and I decided to start with the park because it was public space, thinking its restoration would be the biggest bang for our buck in terms of the neighborhood.  Today, the grass is always mowed.  The weeds gone.  There is no graffiti on any of the fences.  Horseshoe pits are restored.  Basketball court is restored.  Bushes are trimmed, and front areas weeded and kept with a compost cover.  Kids play there -- all the time.  Adults take walks and walk their dogs there.  A big Pacific Islander group regularly has volleyball and food parties there.  Neighbors have picnics.

We decided then to help neighbors too, whether owners and renters -- neighbors who don't have tractors, tillers, mowers, blowers, trucks with dump trailers, edgers etc..  I've mowed perhaps 10 neighbor's yards this summer (older people, people who don't have mowers, tenants who hadn't thought of mowing because their neighbors don't either, etc.)  My wife and I have redone front and back lawns for about four places beside our own.  I have a pending renovation request from another neighbor for next spring.  Lots of other stuff.

Other neighbors are now improving their places on their own.  I like to think its because of what they see going on around them, and I think I'm right.  One of my rentals was surrounded by neighbors who sold drugs just four years ago.  Now, none.

None of this would have happened if: (1) we hadn't decided to stay living in an neighborhood that was becoming the bad side of town; (2) spent a lot of money on a lot of stuff; (3) spent a lot of time not watching TV or going out for dinner.

I really don't like the idea of "caring for the poor" by advocating for government to tax rich people and give that money (what's left of it at least) to "the poor."  Being "poor" is just a lot more complicated than "being poor."  To me, when goverment "takes care of the poor," it actually accomplishes very little that is good and does quite a bit that is bad.  It keeps people dependent and reinforces bad habits.  I'd rather tax myself (buy stuff) and use that with my own time, living there, looking my neighbors in the face and talking with them.  And they're not just poor.  Some are but others are elderly, divorced, or just don't have a clue.  Again, it's more complicated than government can deal with.  And my life is richer for it.  Not a bad return for buying a lot of stuff.

If there is anything I'd like to see our denomination encourage, as a "social justice" matter, is living with other people, without regard to wealth or class, and to be salt in ways that will become pretty obvious because you live there.

John: Your distinction between spending and investing is right on the money (pun intended).  I tend to refer to those as "consumption spending" and "produc tion spending."  Each category needs to be analyzed by different criteria. 

When we engage in production spending, we really are being the makers of stuff, in which case we need to analyze whether we should encourage others to buy what we are producing (is this good for society or not so good, are other people producing this or not), how much we should be willing to risk (sometimes, we produce what people won't buy, for good or for bad), whether we are producing in ways that create jobs, or not, and for whom, etc.

When we engage in consumptive spending, we need to focus more on the beneficiaries of the spending (if we only spend for ourselves personally, we may be merely selfish gluttons), realize when we are being wasteful (already have that, why more?), and realize we are casting votes for producers to produce more of that good/service (if we buy pizzas, we are voting for more production of pizzas; if we by music by an artist, we are voting for that artist to do more).

Since 2008, I've been praying into "God's economy", which i think will look a lot different than what we are seeing in our culture, even our "Church" culture.  I encourage you all to pray asking Him to show you His ecomony.  I think it would be amazing to share insights rec'd through the Holy Spirit and put the pieces together that He might give to different people in His body, for what He intended for His economy.  I believe one of the scriptural insights is Malachi 3:10-12.  Our family has experienced this many times over, where we have been gifted with far more than we need!   We're not buying it!   "stuff"/food just pours in from people/friends/family giving and we do not have enough room to hold it (which is another discussion).

An interesting "fast" that I had several years ago, was a buying fast, where for an extended time,  i would only buy basics, food, gifts for others and 1 book/month that would feed the soul (now for some of us, the book realm might be where we need to fast =).  Only my husband knew about the "fast" at the time.

Anyway, the second day of the fast, my sister brought me 2 bags of her clothes, that she didn't fit in.   I'm still wearing them, even though some have holes now, so i call them my holy pants, because they represent a shift in our family's spending and giving.

Then a few days later, a sister in law brought 4 bags of kids clothes.  I saw these "gifts" as confirmations of the fast.  There were other confirmations as well, and i would have to go find my journal, because I don't remember them all.

Ok, I'll  share some ideas from an email we rec'd, encouraging us to think about how we can "invest" our $ a little more locally over this Christmas giving season, with tomorrow being support local, small business day. 

Give gift certificates for: hair cuts, lawn mowing, house cleaning, vehicle detailing, or oil change, golfing, gym membership, locally owned restaurants or coffe shops, computer repairs, local theatre or bands, local high school sports, plays or other activities, locally grown flower baskets,  local garden businesses and landscapers.  these are just a few ideas that will support business right in our communities. 

Add your own thoughts.  I'm sure we could have some very creative Spirit led ideas.  One suggestion I will share would be to hire a house cleaner for someone (maybe your wife =).  I know a lot of moms, that this is the extra they make so they can keep their kids at Christian school.  (i see this idea is mentioned in the email)  and one more thought, support your grandkids with Christian school tuition =)... now that's investing. 

I am not anti-walmart, God has giving me some beautiful insights/epiphanies there, so I'm not sure what that means about His economic view on Walmart ;), but He has had me in tears with thoughts He has shared while I was shopping there - and that's an entire discussion again. 

I believe we (America -  including Canada) are blessed so we can bless others.  I think that was one of the concepts we had mostly missed prior to 2008.  so with tithing/contributions at about an average of  2-3% of income, somewhere i read this was true for Christians as well, we have some work to do =).  So I encourage us all to think about how we are investing our resources for Kingdom purposes.

This is reminding me also of the book "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan, and he challenges us/Americans to live the Acts 2:42-47 way.   So what would that look like for us today?  Is it possible?  Is that part of God's economic plan for us still? =)  

I encourage you all to share some stories/testimonies of how God has worked in your life when you did "economic"/financial things God's way, instead of leaning on our own understanding.  I will share some more of ours, if you share some of yours!

Doug, you have made some very good points which made me think.  Dollars as votes is an interesting and valid concept, for example.   I agree with your summary of things we do badly and things we do well. 

I would just like to add one concept, and that is to discover the difference between spending and investing.   Buying things for oneself to simply consume and enjoy (although yes we can share these things with our neighbors), compared to investing in innovation and employment opportunities.   Both aspects have an influence on what is produced (due to dollar votes), but in one case you can be pro-active, having a greater influence on the outcome.   Buying siding for your house is different than investing in a company that produces siding, and buying movies is different than investing in a Christian movie company.  

I particularly like your point that spending can be too much when it is irresponsible and beyond your means.   If you spend so much on consumer goods that you have nothing left for retirement, that is probably not a good way to balance your financial life. 

Ken:  I agree that "wealth ... for narsisistic reasons" is a strong pull away from God, but the narcissism is the pull, wealth only the temptation.  Similar temptations can be found in health, or intelligence, or children, or many other gifts/abilities that one may have.  I listed "selfishness" as one of the "bad things."  "Selfishness" basically equals "narsisistic reasons."

But economic wealth, per se, is not a "bad thing" as evidenced scripturally by the accounts of Abraham (a very rich man, called blessed by God, who handled his wealth as a steward) and Jacob (whose flocks increased quite directly at the hand of God).

Again, dollars are just economic votes, and people with more votes or less votes are both required by God to cast them (which means, literally, spend them) responsibly.  I don't know how the parable of the talents could be more pointed.  Which means merely avoiding the spending of money does not necessarily equal "good."  Indeed, the servant in the parable was extremely tight-fisted (typical Dutch frugality) and was condemned for it.

I realize this could be a thinking paradigm shift for a lot of CRCers especially who are prone to whip themselves for having money, or are moving to the "simple living" philosophy.  I just believe those perspectives are, in some ways at least, very wrong.  I recall the servant who hid his talents was surprised to discover what the Lord had wanted from him.

Doug,

   Wealth and consumerism for narsisistic reasons is a strong pull away from God. It is unfortunate they we in our fallen nature can rationalize that spending money that will fill the wealthy persons till faster than average working mans seems inefficient and I question where you scripturaly can support your ideas. That being said I to am a hypocrite. Lord forgive me!

Phil: I do think I understand the point, but I wanted to suggest that the perspective CRCers typically have about spending money on stuff we literally "don't need" is actually wrong.  We feel guilty when we shouldn't, and we often do so just because that's the message we constantly hear from others (CRCers especially but other "anti-materialism" folk as well).  It's ends up a sort of self-deprecating, I-need-to-confess perspective that happens to be wrong.

Yes, we do BADLY when we:

    - Spend more than we have on non-essential stuff so that we run out of money for essential stuff and so become someone else's burden.  And indeed that is a problem that Americans have generally (credit card addition), but not so much within the CRC.

    - Spend on things that society shouldn't produce.  Easy examples: porn, gambling, prostitution, etc.

    - Keep all that we have to ourselves, but this is true whether we spend a lot or a little.  If I have a garden tiller and my neighbor doesn't, I do well to offer to share it.  If I have books I've read, I do well to offer them to others (that one for you).  If I just have tons of money (maybe milk prices have been really good), I do well to buy a new piano the church needs, or chem lab equipment the school needs, or playground equipment for the neighborhood park, or kitchen equipment for the local UGM, or the tuition that pays for students who otherwise couldn't go to Christian School, etc.  If I have a large house (and kids are out), I do well to provide housing to church visitors, or international students, or use the space for neighborhood gatherings, etc.

    - Do NOT spend money we can afford to spend.  What!?!?!?!  That's actually selfish, whatever we might intend it to be.  What is money after all, except for economic votes.  What is the good of not using those votes.  Those dollars are literally "talents" God gave us to use wisely.  OK, if you decide your children are better vote casters then you, then fine, hoard the votes and give them to your kids when you die, but before you do that, at least teach your kids that dollars are just votes for them to use as talents given in the parable.

But we do WELL when we:

    - Spend money to produce good and useful thing for society (could be food, education, cars, tools, information, or a billion other things).  Using money to produce good stuff is doing good, that is, using the talents God gave us.  By the way, some people refer to this as "capitalism," which gets a bad name too, but that's another post.

     - Are mindful that if you don't spend your money, others are denied opportunity to use your money to provide for their themselves and their families.  Money being economic votes, we do well when we give some votes to others so they can vote as well for their needs.  For this reason, I encourage people to shop at businesses owned by local people instead of Walmart.  Walmart doesn't really need the votes.  On the other hand, if the local people make bad products or charge outrageous prices, I won't necessarily cast my votes in their favor.

      - Realize we are stewards, receivers of talents in the form of economic votes.  And this means, in a way that the parable of the talents taught, that simply not spending money is not good.  This is a bit confusing to CRCers taught to spend minimally, but I suspect the parable of the talents is confusing to them as well, at least if they are honest  about it.

I'm part of a downtown association.  Most are retailers who serve the community with their businesses, and are good people who do good things for their schools, neighborhoods, churches, etc.  Black Friday spending can make a lot of difference them.  Way too often, we equate spending money buying stuff from them as serving the idol god "Consumerism."  Just ain't so, and I'd like for us to consider adjusting our thinking on that.

By the way, the denomination sponsors a "simple life" push via the Office of Social Justice.  Lots of "anti-consumerism" talk, some also wrong headed because it isn't thought through.

Thanks for your thoughts Doug.  I think I was trying to make the point that the "stuff" is secondary; I truly appreciate the computer I'm tapping away on.  My ipod is an important spiritual renewal tool.  The point is my sick heart (our culture's sick heart) which I don't think we honestly see it.  It's the air we breathe so we hardly recognize it, which makes it all the more dangerous.  But I do wonder, could a practice of  not buying the "stuff," not visiting the mall, could that be a way to chasten and tame the consumer demon?

I think you make some good points Phil, but at the same time your post is a bit hyperbolic when it equates "buying stuff" with an "alternate religion" (consumerism).  A few thoughts:

   1) In this country and many others, our efficiency in producing "truly necessary" goods and services has increased to the point where not so many people can produce all of it for themselves and everyone else.

   2) So if #1 is true (and it is), how can the economic cycle be "broadened" so that more people than just those producing "truly necessary" goods and services are involved in the economic cycle?  Option one is to have government take some necessary good and services from those producing them and simply give them to those who aren't.  Option two is that other people produce NOT "truly necessary" goods and services and exchange them for the necessary goods and services from others.  I'd go for the second option.  In fact, I sure hope that people who have enough money to buy NOT "truly necessary" goods and services don't stop buying them just because they think so is bad.  If enough people do that (stop bying), a lot of other people will have to find another way to get the truly necessary goods they need (in other words, they'll lose their jobs).

   3)  Speaking of goods and services that are NOT "truly necessary," we are exchanging thoughts via a software system, running over some pretty complex hardware, connected via an pretty complex national network, to computers in our homes and offices.  Lots and lots of money to build all of this, and none of this is even close to "truly necessary" but yet good stuff.  I noticed you did bemoan these things.  (I don't either, BTW).

   4) Speaking further of that NOT "truly necessary," you recommend us to the Avett Brothers, who apparently are engaged in providing NOT "truly necessary" goods and serviceds, just as are the authors and publishers of all the books you get (which I personally don't think is bad).  And then you tell us the Avett Brothers are playing your Ipod!?!??  Your having that doesn't bother me but you?

I guess I'm just not that negative about making, selling, or buying lots and lots of NOT "truly necessary" stuff.  Doing that is not, per se, worshipping the idol god "Consumerism."  I do agree wanting the stuff too much is a problem.  Even more, I think good old fashion selfishness is a problem.  Some people buy things for their EXCLUSIVE use.  I really love those people who become materially rich in an honest way and then choose to buy lots of things (and so keep jobs from disappearing), but then share what they bought with others.  And actuallly, I see a lot of that from people in my church, locally and otherwise.  And for that I think we can be thankful.

By the way, I think you could solve your too-many-books problem by simply giving them to other people who would appreciate them when you are done.  That way, the folks putting those books don't lose their jobs, and you haven't been, truly speaking, worshipping at the alter of Consumerism.

Thanks Phil ~ you articulated precisely the ambiguity I felt deep inside when my wife proposed that we hit the stores for a few things tomorrow.  The problem is indeed not the stuff, but the wanting of it that runs so deep in me.  

...Lord, I know that YOU told me and YOU are right in reminding me that my life does not consist (or improve) with an abundance of possessions, but everything in my flesh still cries against this truth.  "My heart & flesh cry out"  - but they cry different things.  My heart cries out to be a man of integrity and simplicity... loving you & others more... but my flesh cries out for the next great app, the perfect docking solution for our collection of iGadgets, and for an answer TODAY to where we're going to be living 7 months from now.

I believe, help my unbelief.  Amen.

And here is the video link from the Avett Brothers

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2MxfhP48q8

Another sizeable denomination that emphasizes historic Reformed theology is the Presbyterian Church in America.  You can find their churches using this link

Hi Jan,

As you may already know, TULIP is associated with Reformed theology. If you would like to find a church with those beliefs, here are a couple of links that can help:

Find a Christian Reformed Church (CRC)

Find a Reformed Church in America (RCA) Church

..or you can also look for churches in the "Presbyterian" tradition. If you want to read a bit more about a Reformed worldview, you can see this section on the CRC's 'Reformed accent'.

I hope these links help you find a church home. In fact, many will have Thanksgiving services tomorrow. Maybe call ahead or check their website for times, and then join other Christians in worship tomorrow morning!

I feel as though I am a fish out of water. Recently, learned about TULIP and so far, after only studying up to the "L", I am convinced I am where God would have me. No one seems to see the Scriptures as I do. I live in Western New York. Any suggestions?

I think a denominational resource like this is absolutely necessary.  It is fundamental infrastructure. 

This resource may be an instrument of changing things in the denomination--in fact I'm hoping for that--and if it does, it will be because it will makes it a bit harder for a small groups of people to have a disproportionate amount of influence in denominational affairs.  But, that is only if CRC members use it (and I think they increasingly will).

It's also just a great resource generally for CRC members, continent wide, to more easily and effectively exchange ideas and resources.

I would rather that the national Belhar tour (push) have been a national Network tour.  Would have been more constructive.

Thanks brothers. I appreciate your comments but want to call us back to my original request:  I'm looking for a word from those who have been there but have healed.  What did you find particularly helpful in the healing process.

I want this to be a positive sharing of how God's grace flowed.

 

George

Hi George and Ken!

I have a keen interest in this topic, an interest which was in place before I had my own personal experience with Article 17.

George it is impossible to answer your questions objectively. My main summary statement of the general subject would be "we do not now how to have open, honest, loving, direct-feedback conversations about how ministry is going" and "when things don't go as hoped or expected, we resort to some of our most un-Christlike behaviours." That's about all it would be fair for me to say now.

I can answer Ken's first question quite specifically, as the Pastor-Church Relations office has compiled some statistics on the use of Article 17a and b since 1980, based on the "Routes to Ordained CRC Ministry Study Report of 2000) and the Yearbook data. Here are the numbers:
                           1980 to 1989:   24 Art 17a,   7 Art 17c
                           1990 to 1999:   25 Art 17a, 13 Art 17c
                           2000 to 2009: 146 Art 17a, 26 Art 17c

The description says Art 16c's are included in the 17a stats.

In general, my sense is that the increasing number is actually a sign of health. It is a sign both ministers and congregations are admitting there are problems, rather than just sending a problem on to another church or a new pastor coming into a problem congregation.

I'm pleased now to be working as a Specialized Transitonal Minister who is being trained to come in to transition a congregation to a new phase of it's life and maybe clear out some of the things that create difficulties.

Pete - Who had a few good weeks on Ken's brother's "ranch" duing an unplanned wait to cross the border this summer.

First, I was wondering if there are statistics kept on the number of Pastors or churches who go through an article 17.  Second, I realize that not all article 17 applications are negative:  one pastor from our classis used article 17 to return to Seminary to work on a Doctorate: he wants to go into the teaching ministry, either at a college or at a Seminary some where.  He's a young guy.  But the majority of cases are not like his.  But I am interested to know if more pastors are going through article 17 in the last decade or two than in previous decades, and to what factors we might attribute an increase if there is one.  I wonder also if our way of doing things like calling pastors to a church for an indefinate amount of time, or without a regular review of the pastor's work and the congregation's vision/fit, contribute to "surprises". 

I also wonder whether or not unordained staff, like Youth Pastor's or Youth Leaders or Evangelists should be given any kind of opportunity for classical intervention when they are suddenly "terminated". 

Absolutely correct! Well put, Job's world view and subsequent outrage with suffering was most likely tailored by his youthful encounter with Christian teaching. I am actually amazed no one ever pointed this out to him. I mean, he grew up in the Civil Rights era where Christian outrage (MLK) at social injustice and suffering were on the news everyday! His outrage was actually one that Christianity would promote.  Also I love how you present an alternative Darwinian view of morality. Absolutely right on the nose! And the Karma thing, "what comes around, goes around", is a rather merciless way of looking at life. Thanks for the thoughts!

Awesome job, Paul. I was struck by the statement, "The horror young Steve Jobs experienced at seeing the suffering of African children did not prompt him to become a crusader for world justice or economic equity." How often don't we hear people saying, "Someone ought to do something!" without ever realizing that the someone might be them. For Steve, the "someone" was God.

I heard yesterday that his last words were, "Oh, my! Oh, my!" There doubtless is lots of speculation about what he saw (if anything) that caused this reaction. What if those words were expressions of shock as God came to him and said, "At a young age, I had you feel compassion for the poor. Why didn't you do something about it when you were rich?"

Re-reading your original comment/request, I gave it some more thought, David Koll.   And I thought you have provided an excellent synopsis of the difficulties of title. 

So to your proposition 1.:   I looked at scripture.  Typed in "Peter".   And I did not find a case where Peter was addressed as, pastor Peter or apostle Peter.   Sometimes, it was, "Peter, the apostle",  or "Peter, an apostle",  but even this was rare.   I doubt there was less respect because of this lack of title.   Nor would the formalized or reluctant use of it denote respect where it was not due.   I'm reminded where Jesus says to call no one father because God is our Father only.   Implying that title and honor belong to God alone.   

Proposition 2:   It would good to remember that the same difficulties that occur in the use of honorific titles apply to elders and deacons, and indeed to christian brethren.   How often do you hear people call each other "brother Dave" or "brother John" in the christian context?   Do we commonly refer to "elder Jack" or "deacon Jake" when we address each other?   So why would it be surprising that we do not address as often in conversation "pastor Dave" or "preacher Ron" or "servant John"?  

Proposition 3:    If you stop learning, pinch yourself, because you are probably dead.  

Go with the flow, (pun intended).  Church order is a guide and ought to be followed.  Of course, there will be exceptions.  When consultation with council can happen, great, if not then go with the plain reading of scripture.  

I'm thankful to God for having had the recent opportunity to baptise a new member of our church by immersion.  He came from a Mennonite church which teaches believers baptism.  He was not baptised in that church, so he professed his faith and was baptised in ours!  We held the baptism on the last Sunday of September around 1:30 in the afternoon in the McLeod river, north of Peers AB.  Thankfully, we were blessed by an unusually warm fall.  It is not unusual to have snow in September (we've had snow every month of the year).  Though the water was cold, the air was warm, and a majority of members came out to witness the baptism!  It was a great experience.

The Compensation Handbook for Church Staff does not have info on IT positions.  If you go to crcna.org and search "Church Finance and Administration Resources" you can look at one church sample wage scale that includes "Network Administrator."  Check under Employment Issues/Compensation. 

Do any of these resources have information about hours and compensation for Information Technology positions? (Computer help!)

Timely question: The context of our conversation surrounding baptism is regarding adult baptism. Our form and our tradition connect adult baptism to profession of faith. In many situations that may be appropriate but we have an opportunity with a new believer, who is attending our church regularly and witnessed an infant baptism, heard the teaching and asked, not unlike the Ethiopian, why shouldnt I be baptized? My sense is to separate the baptism from the profession of faith and to treat the new believer as a true 'babe in Christ" and then engage them in a discipleship process, walking alongside to an eventual profession of faith. Does that resonate with you?  Frank 

I really appreciate the network, and the opportunity to share and sharpen ideas/test thoughts that might be from the LORD, or whatever might be on your heart, with other believers that come from a similar perspective (mainly reformed)...

I have to laugh, last fall, about this time, I mentioned to a crc leader in the area, that I had some concerns about our denomination, and some of our position statements, etc.  The response was basically, no one locally cares (i'm in the pnw), and it won't make any difference at the denominational level.   So i thought, well LORD, I know I won't make a difference on my own, but I know You can, and You can use me if You want to.

When I first learned about the network in Febr. this year, I joined.    I have been blessed by the many thoughtful, honest posts, seeking God's way of doing His Church.  I have been encouraged by the expression of others, seeking better understanding of what it means to listen to and be led by the Holy Spirit.   I have seen answers to prayers, that i believe the LORD put on my heart about His Church, and seeing posts that start to bring up some of the concepts.  Other posts give insight on how to pray on behalf of His Bride, and some specifically for the crc denomination.

I too wish more people would share their thoughts here, and I encourage everyone to do so, because that helps the Body/Bride of Christ work together better for the common good, and we are much healthier.

 

 

 

 

 

 I know you this better than I probably do but, where did John the Baptist perform his baptisms on people? What litirgy did he follow? Jesus didnt have a problem with John doing this did he?  That is the way I see it. Your "tension" I believe is correct on this one. Thanks for the service to the Lord.

Thank you for these poignant and encouraging reflections! ~Stan

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