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

Pages

RSS

Sam, I would like to know of these scriptures... do you have a link or document or something as a resource on this?  Thx. 

Hey James KA Smith... I remember reading your article in 2008 or 2009 and contacting you back then, because the few "reformed charismatics" seemed to be fairly isolated, and so was thankful that i wasn't the only one, or so it seemed... 

just curious what you have experienced in the last 3 years since you wrote that article, but maybe I'll just have to get a copy of the thinking in tongues book.

One of the things that's on my heart, that when i re-read the dancing article, i was reminded of, is "high praise".   For some reason, which I have yet to discover the why of it, the niv omitted the adjective "high" which I understand was a very specific Hebrew word "rowmemah" in Ps. 149:6.   There are a few other instances where it seems the intensity was decreased in this translation, ie.  Jude 3 contend for the faith, vs. earnestly contend found in the NKJV... 

As someone pointed out, I think it was in one of these replies, we have been practically "binitarian' therefore minimizing"/quenching the Spirit.  I hope that finally, after 40  years of not embracing the Holy Spirit, even though we had confessionally refuted cessationism in 1973 (Thank God! we did at least do that), I hope and pray that  "now is the time of God's favor..."

Rich, rich, rich discussions... somehow missed this one last month =), but that 's ok... It was immensely encouraging to read it now!   Wonderful stuff!! 

one comment on hearing the "Voice" within.  a year or so ago, I was driving out in the county, and passed a farm, that I knew the family that lived there like 25-30 years ago.  As i drove past, i thought about them, but then I kept thinking about them, which made me think, "LORD, do you want me to pray for them?"  Well, I thought, if it's the LORD, or if it's me, it doesn't matter, because prayer is almost always a good thing, and definitely lines up with scripture, and in this situation it definitely won't hurt.  So I spent a few minutes praying for that family, it was very vague because i hadn't seen them in over 20 years.  and then forgot about it when I got to my destination.

The very next day, I ran into one of the daughters that I had gone to school with.  and then had the opportunity to pray with her.   Hmmm... somehow God was preparing me to meet her the very next day...  haven't seen any of the family since.

Love the additional insight of "listening" with other believers...  That is so what we're missing... because we haven't been "taught" how to hear, how to discern, how to test and how to confirm.

Love the addition of experience.  I often share with people, that the Holy Spirit is an experience. 

Love the comment about our emotions.  King David was the most emotional guy there was, and the only person in the Bible called a man "after God's heart"!   brings up our fear of "emotionalism" which is something we need to better understand the difference between experienceing our emotions and "emotionalism.  Fervency is ok in at sporting events and concerts, but not in worship =( 

Looking forward to and praying for the day, when we are more enthusiastic about worshipping the Sovereign, the Almighty, the  LORD of Hosts, and our high praises ring out, and the sound will be "heard a long way off" (Ezra 3:13)

 

 

 

 

 

Richard, I fully identify with what you are saying.  On the one hand you feel obligated to read the stuff.   On the other hand, its like the local hardware store advertising flyer... should you read it if you don't feel like it?   If you are busy with other things?   If you don't recall any need for hardware items?  

There is a lot of struggle with this as well in the rural churches in Iowa, South Dakota and Minnesota. For many, there is the feeling of being ignored and their views not even being heard. When I receive items from the denomination, I take it as information, pass on to my elders these items and let them decide.

Here's my experience the last several years:  YES, to sermon series.  And they seem to be WELL received.  I don't think they need to be only several weeks long...I think people like sinking their teeth into topics/books a bit.  But then you can be flexible in allowing for variety/breaking a series up as you go.  In the last number of years I've done some of the following that seemed to go well from my perspective, and on these I also received good feedback from leadership and the congregation:  24 sermons going through Ephesians (this one spread over mornings and evenings), 16 sermon series on Joshua (mornings only, following senior pastor transition at church), just finished 22 sermon series on 2 Corinthians in the mornings from January through August (allowing for flexibility through Lent/Easter as well as guests in the summer), a 6 part morning series on Ruth, 4 part evening on Jonah, 5 or 6 part TULIP series on the Canons of Dort during the evenings.  Future plans that I'm excited about:  Prayer series for the AM going through the Lord's Prayer using Lord's Days 45-52 as the guide), plus tagging on at least two sermons on Jesus' HIgh Priestly Prayer.  Daniel for the mornings, including doing a number of "End Times" sermons to cover the last chapters (people just seem to always desire more End Times' stuff, no matter how much I think I've covered it--and we Reformed leaders DO have some great stuff to teach here and offer!!  Let's give it to them!  Also, a 10 part morning "Faith Foundations" morning series that covered our mission statement-stuff (our church's name is Faith).

the sermon series at our church tend to be as long as season of the church year we're looking at: fall series, advent, lent, summer, and few in between, so some are much longer series than others, which is kind of nice for variety.

There are also two of us here and I think the variety in style helps during longer series.   For example, last fall our other pastor preached on the stories about David and I preached (once or twice a month) on a psalm of David.  

We've really enjoyed preaching through series together because it's more interesting and gets better depth to have someone else to collaborate with.

I do sermon series much like Richard DeRuiter. It took about thrity weeks to get through the book of 1 Thessalonians. I heard no complaints and people were appreciattve to go in depth through a book. I did a series in Ruth that took eight weeks. I always preach in series and each sermon is expository. I did a ten week sermon series on prayer, each on a different passage. This long series was received well.  For our evening services this year I took topic suggestions from the congregation. This has gone very well also.

It is interesting that Mark Driscoll, in a church that targets 20s-30s group, many single, preaches expository sermons one hour in length. It took two years to go through the book of Luke this way. I am not sure if he is still in it.

If people are hungry and thristy for the word then expository preaching lexio continua style seems to still capture many people's attention.

Perhaps the sermon series length is more of our fear than the congregation's fear.

Bless your heart for being honest and still manage to be gracious as well.  I would have ranted a whole lot more!  Guess I need a lot more sanctification =/ 

Yes, what you share resonates (I'm on the west coast as well)....disconnect...resentment...frustration.    so that's all I'll say before I say things I probably shouldn't...  God's working on me to honor the crc as part of His Bride. and some days I really struggle for various reasons...

fyi, Rich, Dennis Fuqua will be in B'ham for a 4 hour pastors prayer summit on Monday, Oct. 3 from 8-12 if you are interested/available...

http://lowpc.org/summit 

 

 

Mark...

What I liked about doing sermons based upon the congregations suggestions is that I had a grade school boy suggest the beheading of John the Baptist. I jumped on that one and not only made a young kid happy but was told later that no one really had heard a sermon on that one before. It went really well.

Hey Josh.....

I'll answer 2 questions I heard you pose.......yes, I do use series (religiously?). We put quite a bit into each series (set design, video production, graphic design, website design, etc.) so doing anything less than 5 weeks gets my creative team ticked due to the pure workload requirements. Also, our people tend to show up every 2-3 weeks, so most only get 3-5 messages out of the series, anyway.......I usually go 5-7.  I'd say 7 is where I/they lose interest. I also alternate between topical and book-driven series (Ruth, Jude, Amos, etc.).

In reference to letting the congregation pick, they LOVE what we're doing right now. We're calling at "interactive" series - we've lined the sanctuary with whiteboards and I have voluntarily committed to only speaking on the questions they pose with answers from Scripture. Its led us into lots of discussions of sometimes-difficult topics like the problem of evil and homosexuality, etc.

I would defintely say that series are the way to go.....

A couple of years ago, I did 30 sermons on the Minor Prophets.  I've preached through the Catechism twice, the Belgic once, and now I'm going in great detail through the Sermon on the Mount.  These were all PM services, where I am able to go in greater depth, and in a bit more detail, just based on the audience.

 

In the morning, I usually do series as well (I almost never do sermons apart from a series/theme of some sort).  Am series would be things like "HOw does the gospel change me?"  Or, as we are doing now, we're using the misison statement of our church to guide the preaching.

 

I usually don't let the congregation pick series.  I often will talk with the elders about their perception of the needs of the church.  I'm not rigid on this point, but I think that it's one of my tasks as a shepherd to discern needs of teh church (along with the elders).

I've learned that when I go longer than 5 weeks I not only run out of material but I also lose people's attention. I've tried hard to keep them at a certain spacing and giving where I'm going. I did a three part series on Habakkuk last year and did a 5 part series on the book of Acts. I even try to break up the Catechism in the evening to 5 or so weeks. This Sumer I did do a series called favorite stories of Jesus and had the congregation give their favorite stories and then I picked the top 5 and did a series from those. That was fun. They also enjoyed the Favorite Stories of the Old Testament I did back in Janurary.

That brings another question: How often do you let the congregation pick sermons/sermon topics. I was a bit amazed at some of the suggestions people gave. It really showed their interst and pastoral needs.

Hi Josh,

I'm just finishing an 18 part series on 1Peter. Most folks have liked going in depth like that, though I suspect I'm not hearing all the opinions. I've enjoyed it and it has forced me to deal with some things I might not otherwise. I strongly perfer to do series, like these, though when circumstances demand, I'm fine with take a break for a Sunday to deal with something else. Once or twice I took a break for an entire Advent.

I rarely do topical series, though I did one last year on the fruit of the Spirit that was enjoyable.

A good word, John S.   Good to bring us back to who God really is.   And yes, you can experience that fear... in faith and trust. 

Sorry for taking so long to reply.

I've greatly apprecaited the blog list that the CRC's been posting on their google reader and on the newsletter. I'm just wondering if there are more pastors or even elders, deacons, church leaders who keep a blog who aren't on the list.

By the way, I'm working on switching my blog over to wordpress now. www.spiritualmusclehead.wordpress.com

Thanks Sam for the article.  It has helped me in my discussions with area pastors as we together try to work out our faith with fear and trembling.  I love the gifts of the Spirit and seek to experience all I can in God.  

Grace and Peace.

My church did this on Sunday and it was GREAT! Over 150 people of all ages participated.

After the morning service we all walked over to the nearby park for a picnic, and then divided up into groups:
- praying (a prayerwalk around the neighborhood)
- visiting (at a facility for seniors)
- painting and yard cleanup (at our church's new community house)
- creating (duct tape wallets (!) and coloring lunch bags for a local shelter)
- picking up trash (in the neighborhood school playground)

The week before, our pastor gave 'permission' for everyone to show up to church in clothes suitable for painting/cleaning/etc. The worship service was very meaningful and challenging, with a message that tied right into the afternoon of service. 

Thanks to ServiceLink for initiating this. Our church found it so great that we're wondering about doing it again next year.

 

Thank-you, Bruce, for this challenge!

The article by Alan Hirsch is a good one.  Thought provoking and well written. 

Mike,  Thanks for dedicating your efforts to the start of The Network!  We will miss you! 

I really believe that The Network is the beginning of what will become a tremendous kingdom building tool!  As a newly birthed tool The Network is providing a place for leaders to share ideas and connect with each other.  As The Network continues to develop, it will bring ever more powerful technology to the churches.  This is a place for agencies, colleges and Church leaders to provide tools, research, encouragement, leadership training and cutting edge resources to strengthen the church.   The Network structure is a step forward for the denomination and will cost effectively develop into the hub of much more than simple conversation with each other.  

As an example, I know that our small church struggles to train our new Elders and Deacons each year.  I would bet that we are not alone!  If it were possible for our deacons to attend a live practical, training webinar (or the archived version stored at the Network) led by a veteran deacon leader with the gifts of teaching and encouragement, what a blessing it would be for our church.  Certainly the cultural context would need to be “localized”, but being able to cost effectively pull together ministry leaders with similar gifts, passion and mandates to serve, will enable our churches to become even more effective in their communities.  There are great things happening in our churches around the country.  The Network can be the tool that allows for the sharing and even perhaps “mentoring” of programs from church to church.  It can be a a great support and connector for ministry leaders that are currently isolated either by geography or ministry specialty (for example – churches that minister to an urban population in a classis that is mostly suburban or rural).  The Network can enable them to connect and share through webinars, workshops or question and answer times.  This will make for healthier churches and more effective ministry. 

The network, when combined with the denominations data management capability will make targeted and effective leadership development a real possibility.  There are lots of “mastermind” groups such as this operating in the business world….let’s take some of this cutting edge technology to the church and build the kingdom! 

As the effective resources and tools grow, so will the word of mouth endorsements.  When you can combine these strong word of mouth endorsements with a well coordinated awareness building campaign (throughout the various classis meetings, agency mailings, Faith Alive, magazines etc.) the Network will continue to grow and will empower more leaders to make a difference in the kingdom.   

Thanks, everyone, for such a respectful and lively discussion.  Since I started working for both the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church of America,  I have been actively trying to clarify my understanding of the "Reformed Charismatic" perspective.  I know it is dangerous to get too preoccupied with labels.  But the label helps me to articulate and clarify the concept.   Since relocating from the Philippines to West Michigan ten years ago,  I have bemoaned the loss of a worship style and ministry that fully embraced both the "Sprit Within" and "Spirit Upon"  qualities.  This dialogue has helped me greatly by putting into words the things I have been struggling with inside.  Blessings to all!   Amy

Michael and others at the Network - it's no secret I'm a big fan of the Network, and I will add my thanks to the others already offered for the terrific work to build and create this site. I think you've done great work towards meeting your two stated objectives.

Every week, when I get the email with "what's new on the Network" I always find at least 2-3 articles or posts to read that help me with my ministry or that I can share with someone else. Greater even than a helpful tip is the idea that I'm not alone out here, there are plenty of other people thinking about ministry and challenging themselves and others to think about it and do it better all the time. I've posted questions and received helpful advice and I've been able to help others by sharing what we do or have learned at our church. More than once I've printed an article or sent a link to someone at my church to read. Although many at my church have signed up and some read articles regularly, I do know many are still hesitant to post.

I think the suggestions made are good ones when it comes to continuing to encourage participation and greater integration with other social sites (Mavis, I will be considering your suggestion to link to the network more often on our church Facebook page!). To that, I would add a suggestion that the agencies and ministries of (or affiliated with) the denomination get more involved in using the network as a means of distributing information. For example, the World Hunger Sunday materials were just made available and samples were mailed to our church. CRWRC could also post about this in the Deacons forum. Another example, our church recently received word that Youth Unlimited is hosting a Youth Worker Retreat on the West Coast (http://youthunlimited.org/retreats/westcoastusa.html) and this information could be posted in the Youth Ministry Forum. (I did just peek to see if these had been posted and didn't see them, but my apologies if I overlooked them in error!)

I would encourage the BOT to continue to support this effort, and I hope they will. I think as others have pointed out, it is still a very "young" initiative at 18 months, but I believe in it's potential to be a valuable resource for many who love and serve the church.

AS I'm scrolling thru the posts, I see one from Midland Park, NJ....Godwin Ave. I grew up on Wyckoff Ave, went to elementary school @ Midland Park, CRC, and am still friends with Pastor Tim Brinkerhoff from that church. But now am contemplating 9/11 from outside the country, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Being the Board President of Northwest Christian at the time I especially remember how many friends we knew that were "stuck" in the city...children who's parents couldn't contact their kids and the utter chaos for at least 12 hrs, and up 2 days. And even in all that trauma, what seemed like mayhem to us, I was assured that God had a purpose and a plan and knew exactly what he was doing; although, we were unable to see it, knowing that we didn't need to "fix it" because someone bigger than us was already was standing by and at the helm. Praise be to Him the one we serve who holds our destinies in the palm of His hand.

Many years ago, I attended Synod and was surprised at how the interaction of delegates outside of the formal sessions (around the firepit, so to speak) led to a wonderful exchange of wisdom.  The senior pastors could advise the rookies, the new elders received help from the old-timers, etc.  Synod itself was invaluable but so was the "networking".  If we network, we get to learn by other's mistakes and successes instead of being limited to learning solely from our own experience.  There is no sin in synergism and this Network is a prime example of synergism.   No, we won't always agree but, as one of my business partners told me, if the 3 of us always agree, 2 are unnecessary (a good tip for Council meetings as well).  I wish more people were made aware of this CRC asset and I think those of us that are aware should champion the cause.  I (and my wife) are sincerely hoping there are countless other contributors who can smarten me up even further.

My opinion is biased since I was an early contributor and have now become a guide. But it was because I thought the network was such a great idea that I supported it so early. I think you've done an excellent job and created a quality site.

I, too, wish I could get more of my church members to join in. We have quite a few people on Facebook, so maybe we can figure out more ways to bring this there -- where they are. I could try to remember to share articles on FB more. I know you already highlight articles there. We'll have to keep finding ways to reach out and grow, but I think it's already done a terrific job.

I love sharing ideas and hearing things that other churches are doing. This site goes a long way towards helping all of us involved in our churches to connect and gain insight from each other. I hope and pray that the Board will see the that the Network is another method of spreading God's good news.

I have found The Network very helpful, mostly from a church adminstration and/or church finance perspective.  I am somewhat disappointed with the number of people who do not use it (both in our local church and denomination wide).  I would like a broader perspective.

I think the various "guides" have done an admirable job.  There has been much thought and time spent from some very dedicated persons.  My thanks to them!

I certainly agree that there are abuses within the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement that take full advantage of the ecclesiastical weaknesses present in the movement. Some of these abuses seem so outrageous as to be caricatures of themselves!

Sadly, I've known church leaders within our own movement who have been grossly immoral as well, using whatever means the could of hiding their sin and remaining in it. I’ve seen it in North America and on the mission field in Latin America. In fact I’m not aware of any movement not susceptible to abuse of power, greed, pride, and whatever other sin one might imagine (and worse!).

However, I’ve also known fine, upstanding, humble, generous and thoroughly Christ centered Pentecostal leaders as well. Some of them are quite envious of both our Reformed polity and ecclesiology.

I would submit, along with my brother Neil, that Reformed theology along with the CRC’s polity and ecclesiology is the best environment in which to exercise all the gifts of the Spirit found in the Scriptures. Further, rejecting the teaching of a portion of Scripture is simply and totally outside of Reformed hermeneutics and commitment to the authority of Scripture over us.

I would also submit that PRMI’s helpful distinction between the Spirit ‘within’ and the Spirit ‘upon’ is helpful here. Just as Samson had the Spirit upon him from time to time, his moral failures display a lack of the Spirit within him, sanctifying his character. To me, he exposes the lie of assuming that when God blesses a ministry, He approves of the minister's life-style. But a right emphasis on the Spirit within (so strongly represented in the Reformed tradition that Calvin was called the theologian of the Holy Spirit), along with a readiness to cooperate with the Spirit upon us, is just what we need to be faithful to the Bible’s full counsel in the area of spiritual gifts and empowerment.

Thank you, David. I resonate with your concern with American Evangelicalism's strong tendency towards individualism and the need to balance it against Scripture's testimony to the communal nature of our faith. I also appreciate the Anglican touchstone of Scripture, reason and tradition as a tool towards achieving that balance (and as a tool to check the voice within). As you note, "the long-term received wisdom of our tradition" plays an especially important role in keeping individualism in check.  

Your commment, however, reminded me of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral which adds experience to Scripture, reason, and tradition. It seems to me that finding a way to factor experience (both personal and corporate, of Christians like us and Christians unlike us) into the equation is essential to a conversation among Reformed folk about the Holy Spirit. And to have this conversation with the additional help of Scripture, reason and tradition seems like a good way to go.

I think we are all well aware of these lamentable aberrations and definitely have no intention of going down the prosperity gospel road. I, like you, Allejandro, am deeply grieved by and  reject the implicit "superiority" that comes from that bad and unbiblical theology of subsequentalism which is often called the second blessing theology characteristic of classic pentecostal theology. If one follows the internet discussions, it is interesting to find that the most sustained critics of Word Faith cults, prosperity gospelers, latter rain folks, the Toxic Broadcasting Network (TBN) etc., are the classic Pentecostals.

For 36 years, since "coming out" of pentecostalism and embracing the Reformed faith, I have found the Reformed faith, its theological integrity, its ecclesiology that eschews "annointed leader" syndrome and power abuses in the church is far and away the most capable for embracing the positive features of charismatic pneumatology without giving way to its imbalances, excesses and errors.  So, why would we deny the one the benefit of the other?  For 27 years I saw people burned out on Pentecostal excesses join our church precisely because our theology provided theological integrity and ecclesial saftey without requiring them to deny spritual giftings the knew from Scripture and practice were legitimate.  

The mere fact of imablances and unsavory character says nothing about the legitimacy of gifts, the many ways of the Spirit's leading, etc.  

I don't claim to be enamored of taking a "Reformed Charismatic" label to distinguish myself from any regenerated Christian who has by Scripture's teaching the fulness of the Spirit and the capacity to be used in any way the Spirit in His sovereignty deems proper.  I believe every regenerated Christian (the only kind there is) is "charismatic" to the degree that charis means grace.  The Reformed emphasis on sovereignty and grace as opposed to man-centered and Arminian teachings is the greatest antidote to abuses of spiritual gifts.  So, good enough, let's forgo the label and avoid any hint of occasioning division or elitism, but let's be done with ignoring legitmate, biblically supported giftings and biblically illustrated ways in which the Spirit leads not just individuals but the church corporately in exercising all the charimata as the Sovereign apportions them for the common good.  Does this suggestion help allay fears and promote confidence that the Reformed theological tradition is equal to the task of incorporation, evaluation, balance and providing proper accountability?

SIncerely in his grace & peace, Neil

I have been a salesforce.com administrator for 4 years and I am seriously considering trying to implement salesforce.com for our church.  I think I could get it to manage just about every process we have.  Have you actually implemented it or are you just speculating?  I would like to see some real-world examples of what other churches have done.

BTW-  The Chatter feature would be HUGE for communication between ministry leaders (think Sunday School) and volunteers to communicate schedules, whether a sub is needed, etc.  Just give all volunteers a Chatter account (perhaps even a very limited salesforce.com account) and then everyone can communicate.

I was overwhelmed by so many comments in favor of a so-called "Reformed Charismatic" label. For me, as a convert to Reformed Christianity, who flirted with Charismatic Evangelicalism for a while, I cannot disagree more with such stream. I apologize for being so blunt by I think we are being too naïve about the Charismatic movement and its benefits for our tradition. Yes, we need to change. But, that's what we have been trying to do since the Reformation (ecclesia reformata semper reformada…) and even before that.

The amount of heresy, arbitrary interpretations, lack of accountability, moral failures, prosperity gospel, abuse of power, apostles and prophets, latter-rain superiority, plain money-making schemes, and many other evils are more patent in the Charismatic movement than in any other segment of the Church. I can boldly say this because many, many years ago I had the "privilege" of working in a Charismatic television station, and had the chance to see first hand the lives of people who claim to be superior to other Christians who lack the fullness of the Spirit and its supernatural gifts. I've seen people who would make Bishop Earl Paulk look like a kindergartener as far as moral failures. I could go on and on, but for the sake of sanity, I am done. Please, take another look at things before jumping into a bandwagon that might look like one of those cinnamon rolls at the pastry shop, so delicious, so enticing, so sweet, so jummy, and so bad for your health.

Hi Josh,

I think you've been to my blog before: 4thpoint.wordpress.com. Here's the list of blogs that the weekly "For CRC Pastors" e-newsletter follows.

Peace,
Stan

I think the Network is a good idea, too. I've read and saved a fair bit of helpful material from the insightful and gifted people who populate this corner of the internet. I am thankful for Michael and his time and talents!

For me, the "something missing" is how the Network doesn't integrate into my existing communication and social media tools. I almost wish it were something like "crcnetwork.facebook [or twitter or whatever].com" – a unique area in something I'm already using. The Network would not regularly be on my radar without the reminder emails or the "headlines" in the CRC weekly newsletter, which feel more old-school than I think the Network is trying to be.

I look forward to seeing how the Network continues to develop and bless our church(es)!
Stan

(Quick intro: I'm from an Anglican background, with early conservative evangelical roots (almost Calvinistic in some respects), later broadening both towards the charismatic side of things (although never having spoken in tongues) and the "high" Anglo-Catholic respect for corporate liturgy.  Quite a mongrel mixture.)

A couple of points which might assist thinking:

1) Evangelical traditions can lead us to an implicit individualism.  (Emphasis on "me and my individual salvation".  "You (singular) must use your (singular) gifts".  Both OK, but both only show part of the whole.)  We often lose sight that it is the church, corporate, which is the bride of Christ.  While the gospels are full of individual encounters, there is also a strong strand of the community of faith being built up, leading to the Upper Room (corporate), Gethsemane (still corporate), the crucifixion ("woman, behold your son"), and various resurrection appearances.  And Paul's letters to the churches are packed full of the corporate.  (As, of course is the brilliant book of James (I disagree with Luther's "book of straw" slur!) and the letters to the seven churches of Revelation.)

2) Denominations such as Anglicanism have a touchstone of "scripture, tradition and reason".  Scripture: already discussed above.  Tradition: the received wisdom of the church down the centuries, and so a useful long timebase guard against being blown too far off course by today's possibly fleeting fads and fancies.  (Also, for instance, while the doctrine of the Trinity is not "up front obvious" from scripture, nevertheless our combined Orthodox/Catholic/Protestant "tradition" has developed and accepted it.)  Reason: the recognition that our capacity to think and interpret is a valid part of our discipleship.  (St. Paul was no slouch in academic fields!)  And it also appears to me that all three (scripture, tradition, reason) bear the hallmarks of individuals working in community.

Trusting everything "except the voice within me" (your "holy self-suspicion") actually sounds reassuring to me!  On the one hand, we are open to the possibility of God speaking to us directly because of his grace (undeserved gift, etc.).  On the other hand we are aware of the weakness of our own human nature: "The heart is deceitful above all things", etc.  (Here comes the "scripture, tradition, reason".)  We test it against scripture; we measure it up against the long-term received wisdom of our tradition (denomination, etc.); we employ the gift of thinking about all this (reason) as we try to work it out.  (Here comes the community.)  Additionally we recognise that although the experience might be personal, we are still part of the wider community, the church, and the church helps us explore the charismatic gifts and experiences through their discernment of scripture, tradition and reason.

We trust, through the baptismal convenant into his church, that God is at work "within" us always (we are still in our state of sin, yet simultaneously in the saving grace of the Son through the Spirit).  We can also trust that he can, from time to time, be "upon" us.  And we can be sure that, because he gives us each very different gifts, that our own experiences of the "upon-ness", which he gives to us, will be very different from each other, yet this all works together for the good of the church, and of the church's mission into the world around us...

(Quick intro: I'm from an Anglican background, with early conservative evangelical roots (almost Calvinistic in some respects), later broadening both towards the charismatic side of things (although never having spoken in tongues) and the "high" Anglo-Catholic respect for corporate liturgy.  Quite a mongrel mixture.)

A couple of points which might assist thinking:

1) Evangelical traditions can lead us to an implicit individualism.  (Emphasis on "me and my individual salvation".  "You (singular) must use your (singular) gifts".  Both OK, but both only show part of the whole.)  We often lose sight that it is the church, corporate, which is the bride of Christ.  While the gospels are full of individual encounters, there is also a strong strand of the community of faith being built up, leading to the Upper Room (corporate), Gethsemane (still corporate), the crucifixion ("woman, behold your son"), and various resurrection appearances.  And Paul's letters to the churches are packed full of the corporate.  (As, of course is the brilliant book of James (I disagree with Luther's "book of straw" slur!) and the letters to the seven churches of Revelation.)

2) Denominations such as Anglicanism have a touchstone of "scripture, tradition and reason".  Scripture: already discussed above.  Tradition: the received wisdom of the church down the centuries, and so a useful long timebase guard against being blown too far off course by today's possibly fleeting fads and fancies.  (Also, for instance, while the doctrine of the Trinity is not "up front obvious" from scripture, nevertheless our combined Orthodox/Catholic/Protestant "tradition" has developed and accepted it.)  Reason: the recognition that our capacity to think and interpret is a valid part of our discipleship.  (St. Paul was no slouch in academic fields!)  And it also appears to me that all three (scripture, tradition, reason) bear the hallmarks of individuals working in community.

Trusting everything "except the voice within me" (your "holy self-suspicion") actually sounds reassuring to me!  On the one hand, we are open to the possibility of God speaking to us directly because of his grace (undeserved gift, etc.).  On the other hand we are aware of the weakness of our own human nature: "The heart is deceitful above all things", etc.  (Here comes the "scripture, tradition, reason".)  We test it against scripture; we measure it up against the long-term received wisdom of our tradition (denomination, etc.); we employ the gift of thinking about all this (reason) as we try to work it out.  (Here comes the community.)  Additionally we recognise that although the experience might be personal, we are still part of the wider community, the church, and the church helps us explore the charismatic gifts and experiences through their discernment of scripture, tradition and reason.

We trust, through the baptismal convenant into his church, that God is at work "within" us always (we are still in our state of sin, yet simultaneously in the saving grace of the Son through the Spirit).  We can also trust that he can, from time to time, be "upon" us.  And we can be sure that, because he gives us each very different gifts, that our own experiences of the "upon-ness", which he gives to us, will be very different from each other, yet this all works together for the good of the church, and of the church's mission into the world around us...

I think the network is an ambitious undertaking and I'm very impressed at what you've been able to accomplish so far. I think many people who have never attempted to develop any online tools probably have little idea how difficult this undertaking really is and in my opinion what you've managed to do has so far exceded my expectations of what I thought you could do. I think it is a strategically important goal and like many ministry undertakings requires determination, support and prayer. 

I have been impressed by the quality of some of what has been generated in this effort. There are wise and godly servants of the church and you have managed to gleen some of what they have to offer. Penetrating the din of information is a challenge that multi-billion dollar media companies work at every day. We just imagine "write good CRC stuff and people will find it." That's simply not true. Your task is not unlike that of starting a church, because you are really developing a community or at least trying to support one. 

So good job on your start. I hope those who are evaluating this effort understand both the challenge and the importance of the undertaking. pvk

Sam,

I don't understand why Reformed Christians can't embrace their emotions as they express their faith. There are times I come to tears when partaking in the Lord's Supper or when singing His praises in worship. What I sense you doing is apologizing for what has been preceived as a lack of the "burning heart" in reformed Christians that Jesus' desciples experienced after they walked with Him on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24: "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road...?” We 24        ddddhy were their hearts burning? Because, "...He was explaining the Scriptures to us?”

 Jesus explained the problem quite clearly, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! " Perhaps we need to do just that, "believe in all that the prophets have spoken"  and stop picking and choosing what we wish to believe or what suits us. Perhaps the loss of belief in the innerrancy of the Scriptures is the problem! Perhaps the CRC should return to belonging to NAPARC (the National Association of Protestant and Reformed Congregations) and stop drifting towards Pentecostalism.

I like a lot about the network in many ways. I have printed off blogs for my elders and deacons for council meetings so that they might be up to date on a few items. On the other hand,  I am a bit unerved sometimes about the harshness some people respond to posts in the forums.

I will be honest, there is something missing and I just don't know what...if that makes sense at all.

In the end, keep it up though, keep evolving and be fluid in how the Network opperates. It takes time for a child to learn how walk, it will take time for the Network to become what it is supposed to become.

Thanks to a steady stream of comments, here's what I have learned in the past few days:

First, I have discovered some new friends as well as great resources for continued study.

Second, I have been reminded that I am a Euro-American Reformed Charismatic which means I am a white guy who has a lot to learn about the Holy Spirit from Reformed Charismatics throughout the world and from Charismatics and Pentecostals in America.

Third, in my initial blog I neglectedg the communal aspect of the Holy Spirit's work in our lives (so typically American!). Hence, I needed to add a point, one which affirms the role of the Spirit-filled church in the life of the Spirit-filled individual. 

Fourth, I still don't trust my spiritual ears for I fear I will hear what I want to hear. So, I still think it good to exercise a "holy self-suspicion" when "hearing" the word of the Lord. This exercise prompts me to test the voice within against the voice of the Scriptures for, as noted above, the Spirit who inspires the Scriptures is the same Spirit who speaks today. It also encourages me to test the voice within against the context of the Christian community (The same Spirit who speaks to me speaks to you; the same Spirit who speaks to me speaks to us).  

Fifth, since the Holy Spirit works in ways beyond my comprehension, I am sure I am not done learning about the Holy Spirit or experiencing the Spirit's blessing in my life, in the church, and in the world.   

I agree!  These last few posts have been superb and very illuminating.  I find that the "in" compared with "upon" distinction rings true not only with my experience individually, but also have seen the same happen corporately when the church has been gathered on occasion.  No amount of effort can manipulate this, but there have been times when pronouncing the benediction such a tangible sense of God's presence descended upon the congregation that we just sat in reverent silence and sort of "soaked" in the moment.  I even had at one point to just acknowledge and give words to what we were all sensing.  And then we concluded and fellowshipped around coffee and cookies in the lobby.   

Sounds like Nicaragua is a great place to visit and worship and serve!

Thanks for the testimony, Richard.  Also, thanks for your distinction between the Spirit who works within us and the Spirit who works upon us. It sure seems to describe my experience.   

Wow, a lively discussion!  As Jamie Smith pointed out many of those in officially Reformed or Presbyterian denominations overseas look quite charismatic to North American Reformed folk.  In addition, many of those who are in officially Pentecostal denominations are very open to the Reformed culture-shaping emphasis.  I got back on Thursday from a trip to Nicaragua where 30% of the population is Protestant and 80-90% of them are Pentecostal or Charismatic.  The Nicaraguan staff of the Nehemiah Center are actively engaging churches across this spectrum with the goal of discovering, encouraging, connecting and resourcing local leaders for community transformation.  It's an exciting ministry, sort of Gordon Fee meets Abraham Kuyper. 

Thanks for your thoughtful post, Sam.

I personally was never convinced of theological cessationism. However, I had a practical cessationism, in that I didn't opperate much in dependence on God working through me. Instead I thought it was my job to work for Him.

Didn't work and I got quite depressed.

Along the way, the Spirit made a massive appearance in my life at a revival event in Toronto (TACF - now Catch the Fire). It was totally unexpected, but had a wonderful transformation to my spiritual life, and my ministry.

After that event, I spent 3 months wondering if I could still, in good conscience, remain in the CRC. I studied the 1973 report (on neo-pentecostaliosm) again, along with everything that's said about the Holy Spirit in our confessions. I spoke with colleagues and friends and came to the conclusion that there was no need to leave the CRC at all, and that what had happened to me had been embraced by the CRC, with some caution, in that 73 report.

Several months later, in speaking with a Presbyterian friend, I learned about PRMI (Presbyterian Reformed Ministries International - prmi.org). This is an organization that is quite intentional about bringing together Reformed theology with an active Spirit-led and Spirit-empowered life. They have been very helpful to me theologically, and practically. You may have heard of them through one of their Dunamis events they sponsor across the US and Canada.

One very, very helpful distinction they make is between the Spirit within and the Spirit upon. It's helpful because it cuts through much of the confusion. The Spirit within is the indwelling Spirit who always remains and is at work on my sanctification and in producing the fruit of the Spirit in my life. The Spirit upon is the Spirit who empowers for ministry, unleashes His gifts, releases healing, etc. As we read through the Scriptures (particularly the gospels and Acts) the Spirit upon seems to come and, when the ministry is finished to 'lift.'

This distinction is helpful because it so closely parallels my personal experience, and probably yours. Sometimes, in ministry, we just seem to be 'in flow' with the Spirit. Words come out of our mouths and we're just a bit surprised at how smart we are -- exept we realize we are speaking out of our own league. God's Spirit is at work. This has happened to me in personal conversations, in counseling and in the pulpit. There is a powerful moment, and then it seems to pass. We can't repeat it, even if we try. The Spirit seems to have lifted.

Regarding hearing God speak to us, I think we, in the Reformed tradition have always believed that He does, not only through the Bible, and that second book of revelation, but also into the hearts of believers and into entire congregations. That's how our entire system and theology of 'calling' works.

As a Reformed Charismatic I cannot be a non-cessationist about all the gifts, except the gift of prophecy (and words of knowledge/wisdom, etc.). It's simiply theologically untennable, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us. In other words, we can't let our fear, nor misuse of the gift, disqualify the gift. In so doing we are taking authority over both the Scriptures that teach this gift and the Spirit who dispenses it. To do so would be even more outrageous than the misuses of the gift we have heard charicatured.

I understand the gift of prophecy in terms of 1Cor 14, where it is most fully explained. First, it is a gift, not an office (the office mentioned in Eph.4 is another matter entirely, IMHO), and as a gift comes to serve, not to exert authority. So no prophetic word uttered within this gift, should ever be taken as authoritative. Paul didn't think so, since he believed the whole church should discern whether what was said was really from God or not. The authority doesn't rest with the gift (nor with any gift). I teach folks to say "I hear the Lord say..." or "I think the Lord might be saying..." or "I just had this thought come to mind, and I wonder if it's the Lord..."  In other words, the gift of prophecy, as with all the gifts must be exercised in the context of humility and submission to the authority of the body and its officers.

Thanks for bringing up this topic. It's one that's very important to me.

You could expand this point, or add another: the Spirit who inspires Scripture is the same Spirit who continues to speak today.  So the canon of Scripture is a "canon" (measuring stick) for the Spirit's further guiding us into all truth.  

Following on the last few points, I am thinking I could add a #6 to my original blog!  As a Reformed Charismatic, I believe that both the invidual Christian (I Cor 6:19) and the local body of believers (I Cor 3:16) are temples of the Holy Spirit.  And since it is the same Spirit who works in both, there will be harmony between the work of the Spirit in the individual and the work of the Spirit in community. The Spirit-filled church, then, may play an essential role in the life of the Spirit-filled individual. Or, as James just noted, there is a "check-and balance in a charismatic, Spirit-filled community."

As I write I am reminded that, on several occasions during my pastoral ministy individual members of my congregations have come to me seeking an explanation to their initial experience of speaking in tongues, an experience that came upon each one while praying privately to the Lord.  On each occasion, the person called nervous and confused, seeking a meeting with me sooner than later. On each occasion, I had the opportunity to discuss this particular spiritual gift with the one who had received it.

Looking back over those conversations within the context of this one, I find that they illustrate one way in which the Spirit-filled individual may test the Spirit within the context of community.

And, I have to say, that those conversations (or "divine appointments" as my Pentecostal friends would say) are some of my most treasured memories as a pastor to God's people.   

Melissa, I sure appreciate your response. And as I re-read my blog I cringed a wee bit as well.

I am thinking, so as not to limit the work of the Holy Spirit in my own life, I need to find a way to get beyond the suspicion of the voice within me.  On one hand, I don't want to eliminate the suspicion. I find it healthy to ask myself "Is this hunch coming from the Lord or from something other than the Lord?" Perhaps the answer is through life in community? It is there that I can "test" the voice. It is there that I can share what I have heard with others so that they can confirm or challenge the message I have received. 

Thanks again!    

There is a communal check-and-balance in a charismatic, Spirit-filled community: "The spirit of the prophets are subject to the prophets" (1 Cor. 14:32).  This is nicely capture in Thomas Gillespie's book, The First Theologians: A Study in Early Christian Prophecy (Eerdmans).  

Sam,  Thanks for the great post!  I have to admit, I cringed just a wee bit when I read #5, and the last sentence about trusting a wide variety of sources "except the voice within me".  I understand the need for caution and absolutely agree that we should look for/expect affirmation and confirmation that comes from the Spirit in many ways.  However, I also know that we can learn to recognize God's voice in our lives, and grow in our discernment of his voice, among the others in our lives.  Even prophets, elders, mentors and sermons can be sinful, or off the mark.  Life in the Spirit is deep and mysterious, and I wouldn't want to put any box around how the Spirit moves, including saying "never through the voice in myself".  The evidence of a Spirit-filled life is always in the fruit.

Pages