Please tell me why clergy should get some kind of special entitlement for housing? I think it is one of the most ridiculous perks ever devised by the legislature. There is absolutely no reason why clergy should get this. And I am one.

December 5, 2013 0 5 comments

I know some of you haven't taken Greek, and that it's been a while for some of the rest of us, but as I was preparing for a sermon series in the New Year regarding reconciliation, I got to thinking about Greek imperatives. Maybe some of you experts out there can help me. Can you tell us anything about the relative strength of an imperative in Greek?

December 5, 2013 0 7 comments

A church recently expressed interest in having me lead preach and perhaps some other duties for a period of 3-5 mos.  What the going rate?

December 3, 2013 0 1 comments

December is ‘Fallow Month’ or at least it is at the Village Church in Tucson. In the early years of our church plant, when we first implemented Fallow Month, it was because we sensed that the stresses of the season had worn our people to a frazzle and that, instead of being a time of joy and grace, it had become something to get through and survive...

December 3, 2013 0 1 comments

You might be surprised that laziness and overworking can essentially be the same thing. Laziness doesn’t necessarily mean (although it can be) sitting around and doing nothing. Laziness is often doing many things without prayerfully examining if these are the best ways to use our time. In ministry, it’s easy for us to be busy doing the wrong things...

November 27, 2013 0 2 comments
Discussion Topic
The following was recently shared by Rev. Scott Hoezee, Director of the Center for Excellence in Preaching. Greetings: As we come to the last Sunday this year before Advent begins on December 1, I am pleased to announce that our Advent and Christmas Resources page is up and ready for your perusal...
November 25, 2013 0 1 comments

Preaching fresh, inspiring messages at Christmas can be a real challenge. As I thought about this, I determined that one of the main problems we face is what I call the Christmas mythology. We’ve all been told the stories of the birth of Jesus and we think we know the stories. But we rarely ask if something different may have been happening over two thousand years ago...

November 19, 2013 0 2 comments

In small-town and rural America, you not only serve your congregation, you serve the whole county you're in and sometimes beyond. Because rural people are so tied together and families are scattered here and there, every pastor ends up pastoring everybody...

November 12, 2013 0 3 comments

I received a request to write about the qualities of the ideal Senior Pastor or “1st Chair.” That request led me to consult with some Associate Pastors from whom I received great insight, the kind I wish I would have received while serving as a Senior Pastor. Here is the beginning of a list of essential qualities, as determined  by Associate Pastors, for the ideal Senior Pastor...

November 6, 2013 0 5 comments
Discussion Topic

Many churches have one or more chaplains who call it their “home.” Other churches do not, but are filled with individuals who may have had, or may someday experience, the need for a chaplain’s pastoral care while serving in the military, recovering in a hospital, residing in a long-term care...

November 5, 2013 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

It’s a small thing to do for a large sacrifice that they made (and may still be making) for us. Please take time on this Veterans Day / Remembrance Day (Nov. 11) or on the Sunday before it ( Nov 10) to say thank you to those...

November 5, 2013 0 0 comments

As a pastor, I’ve ministered to a variety of people who run the gamut of mental and behavioral health. I’ve worked with people who deal with depression. I've worked with people who are bi-polar and aren't medicated. I myself am ADHD and know the effects it has on day-to-day life. So how do we minister to those who deal with mental/behavioral health issues?...

October 29, 2013 0 4 comments

It's so easy to remain busy keeping the programs going, preparing for next week, meeting with the "urgent" needs of parishioners, and trying to find personal space amidst all the chaos, that working toward balance seems impossible. I think the real reason why this balance appears to be so difficult is because it does not match the expectations of many pastors or...

October 24, 2013 0 6 comments

I wonder what it would look like to be a church without a budget. Or what if we were a church without a pastor? I wonder if helping each other discover the gifts that God entrusted to us would take on a new urgency. I wonder what worship might look like, or how we would extend care for each other, or who would step up to teach the creeds and confessions, or lead a Bible study...

October 22, 2013 0 9 comments

About a month after the injury I showed my face on Sunday morning long enough to preach. That experience marked a turning point. Though I didn't realize it at the time, it was my first experience of letting go of certain aspects of the 'mechanics' of preaching and discerning instead how to be a vessel of the Holy Spirit in the moment. Our work as preachers is a transformative agent for others, but lest we forget, it is even more so one for us...

October 22, 2013 0 0 comments

This last Sunday I preached at Stephenville CRC because their pastor is on vacation. This church did not know me at all to begin with, but because I am an ordained Minister of the Word in the CRC, this church in Stephenville trusted me to come and declare God's Word to them and how it should convict them of sin, change their lives, and give them hope. Wow!...

October 15, 2013 0 0 comments

I said, “Hi!”  She smiled and said, “Fine, thank you.”  I had a millisecond of mental short circuiting but then realized that she answered a question I did not ask.  To my chagrin, I realized that I had just encountered one more perpetrator of “flippant greeting disorder.”  It’s not an official diagnosis but I believe our culture needs to be healed of it...

October 15, 2013 0 6 comments

“How will you flourish in your forties?” My mentor asked me this question last year, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  And with my fortieth birthday only days away, it’s on my mind a lot.  I’ve thought of this question in terms of my personal life, but also in terms of my pastoral life. I know the two are intricately related, but...

October 8, 2013 0 0 comments

With the rise of the Millennial generation and the coming of what looks like a long economic downturn, thinkers in the field of church planning are beginning to write about the future of the local church and what it will soon look like. There’s not agreement on all predictions, but one thing has common agreement: the day of the mega-church model...

October 8, 2013 0 0 comments

Have you “exegeted” your church? “Hunh? Don’t we exegete the Bible?!” you may say. Yes, that’s what we do; we exegete the Bible. But I’ve learned over my lifetime, that we all have our own theologies on several levels. We say we “believe” certain things--that’s one level of theology. We live out certain beliefs--that’s another level of theology. And we are surrounded...

October 1, 2013 0 1 comments

There is a need to mentor those who are up and coming in leadership. Those who are still in the church and wanting to know their place in the world and in God’s world. We want to know why young adults and post-high are leaving the church. Why aren’t we mentoring them? Why aren’t we taking time to teach them what it means to be men and women of God?...

September 26, 2013 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic

Recently, I was at St. Francis Retreat Center in DeWitt, Michigan, sitting around a table with others representing various denominations; Methodist, Lutheran, and others. We were gathered to design a healthy boundary training workshop for pastors as part of an SPE (Sustaining Pastoral Excellence...

September 25, 2013 0 2 comments

I just read When God Shows Up: A Pastor’s Journey. The bulk of the book is about the author's ministry, and in particular, a church conflict during the turbulent 70s and 80s, when the charismatic movement affected many established churches. It's a story of excited believers and disappointed ones, of emotional agony and painful misunderstanding, of people...

September 25, 2013 0 4 comments

Life has seasons and rhythms. In a garden, there are times of planting, growth, harvest … and also time for the ground to lie fallow. Trying to fight these rhythms is foolish. It is like trying to surf between waves, instead of waiting to ride the waves. By the end of the day you’ve worn yourself out, and you wouldn’t have ridden the board much either...

September 19, 2013 0 3 comments

Last month I asked for your help in co-teaching the Leadership in Ministry course at Calvin Seminary. Thank you for the great insights and questions that were provided. As we continue the conversation, what book would you recommend that our students dive into as part of their surveying the literature and gaining their bearings for their journey as servant leaders?

September 17, 2013 0 9 comments



Remember too that ordained clergy, if they live in a parsonage, have to pay social security taxes on the rental value of their homes--and they pay it at the individual level (i.e., 14% or something like that). If they get a housing allowance where they can purchase their own home, same thing. So neither a parsonage nor a housing allowance is a "free ride" for them. Especially those who live in a parsonage, who pay social security on the rental value of their home, end up retired with a mortgage or paying rent for an apartment for the first time in their lives.

And maybe I could throw this in the hopper. Clergy have the same numberof years of education as lawyers and doctors, and they have the same demands on their time. But I don't think their compensation is comparable in the least.

Hi, Daniel: I don't think the Greek language has any grammatical differentiation between "types" of imperatives: a verb is an imperative or it is not--I have never heard of strong or weak, urgent vs. common sense, command vs. good advice.  In the case of Mt. 18, you have to believe that Jesus is sketching flat out what life in the kingdom looks like and so whenever Jesus says something like that, it's not take-it-or-leave-it good advice or common sense but rather what you simply MUST do as a citizen of God's kingdom community.   My main concern with the imperative mood of late has centered on how we read the imperatives of the Gospels and particularly the imperatives in Paul and the other epistles.   There is far too much "good advice" preaching these days as well as a kind of nascent legalism that turns the Gospel from the Good News that it's all God and all Grace to the bad news that it's still mostly up to us to live the right way or else!   For Jesus but also for Paul, I take the imperatives not as saying "Become what you are not by behaving better so that God will love you and maybe save you on your merits."    Rather, Paul's imperatives are always post-baptism and so are a call to "Be who you are!"   That keeps the focus on God's Grace above all land keeps our Christian living as what (in good old Reformed fashion) it properly is: Gratitude.  

answer: in recognition of the public good they and their congregations perform.  If it weren't for pastors and churches helping the poor and needy, where would society be?  Who speaks at the senior's homes, has an open door for anyone from the community, listens to people in trouble, prays at the veterans memorial service, performs funerals for anyone who asks?  A pastor.   They perform a valuable social service usually at no cost and society recognizes this by giving them a tax break.  It is not ridiculous at all.

I think most congregations, ( finance committees), take that perk into consideration when working out compensation for pastors. Then there is the "entitlement issue" that comes with entrenched tax codes that naturally develope over time.

The real losers, if there are any, are the taxpayers 


Thank you, Jim.  Frankly, your posting almost leaves me (literally) speechless because my heart is so full. Yes the pressues on pastors (and other public leaders as well) are enormous.  And yes we only sometimes do a decent job of responding and following up when leaders fall.   God help us all.  The enormity of this challenge facing the church is daunting, and it's growing right along side the increasing demands on pastors in a time of big change in the Church.  Are we attending to preventative measures with urgency?  Are we committed to a healing process for all involved?   Can trust be restored?  You suggest there are limits to the extent we should assume the answer is Yes.  Jim, on the one hand I want to say that OF COURSE complete restoration is possible - even to the extent of return to public leadership.  On the other hand I feel the force of your cautionary word.  I know that even though a person can be forgiven, healed, restored, yet it makes sense to avoid situations that are filled with temptation.  Until I read this, I had always just assumed that full restoration always included at least the possibility of return to public leadership.  In fact you even leave open the option of "reinstatement as clergy".   So where you ended up surprised me.   But the bigger thing about your posting is this - how will the church deal in more Christ-like ways with leaders (not only clergy) who sin in public ways that betray their families and congregations and their Savior?  That seems like a terribly urgent question.

I think it is the same reason farmers and dairymen get subsidies as well as large oil companies.  They simply could not make a profit without it.


Tradition, Hal!  TRADITION!. 

You ask an interesting question, David. In summary, you are right that context plays a huge role in determining the force of an imperative. Look at the Lord's Prayer, which has a series of third person imperatives and then some second person imperatives. We do not "command" God to give us our daily bread, yet the imperative is used; we ask, plead, petition, pray.

But I think we can detect, in at least some contexts, clear clues. When a relationship is clearly an authority relationship, the command element is usually strong (father to children, as in parable of the two sons in Matt 21:28-30; God to us, as in the Great Commission). Now in Matthew 18, the speaker is Jesus, and the context has a couple of "truly I tell you" statements (18:18, 19). That would tend to suggest that Jesus in this section is not just giving relationship advice in 18:15-17; this is what he, as our Lord, expects us to do. 

Tthe Office of Pastor-Church Relations is available for conversation regarding this kind of question.  Please contact Jeanne Kallemeyn at jkallemeyn@crcna.org for more information.

Thank you, Verlyn!

May I also shamelessly (no, shamefully, actually) suggest:

1. a book: http://worship.calvin.edu/resources/publications/proclaiming-the-christm...

2. an article: http://www.reformedworship.org/article/september-2004/what-i-have-preach...

Dave Vroege, Halifax

Thanks John. I know productivity is an economic term, but I think it captures the idea I was trying to express. Thanks for the reminder of obedience, because that is the way we show our love for Jesus. 

Ryan, this morning I was reading from the passage in Matthew 7:21 that says there are many who will say "Lord, Lord" and yet will not enter heaven.   They prophesied, cast out demons, and performed miracles, and yet God will say, "why were you not obedient?  Get away from me!"  

Productivity is an economic term, but obedience is what God is asking for.   God makes us productive when we are obedient, not by the number of sermons, services, songs, miracles, conversions, healings, visits.   Our productivity will never replace our disobedience or our lack of repentance. 

However, I appreciate your practical suggestions about patience, hope, trusting in Jesus daily, sabbath, and focus, are very useful in the right context. 

Thank you for posting this, Jonathan! I liked that the page you referenced also links to the resources for Music and Visual arts on the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship website.

Hello Joshua,

Thank you for writing about mentoring.  I agree: mentoring is very important. I also have a mentor, and he's been a great support and blessing to me.  And I've been thinking more about mentoring others.  In fact, I attended the Global Leadership Summit this year (Calgary, AB site), and that was my big "take away": that mentoring the younger generation is crucial to local church health. Now I'm trying to figure out how to do that well.  One thing we've found as a church is that running Alpha has helped us to identify and mentor younger leaders.  I confess this is not what we set out to accomplish through Alpha, but it's been one of the blessed results.  Now to continue mentoring those young leaders when Alpha is done. . . That is the challenge and blessing.

Thank you,


The bullet points here are great, and I hope they are used well. That being said, let's not put too much pressure on ourselves to improve upon the incarnation, no matter how impressive the spin may sound. I've heard the Christmas story for more than 4 decades, and if anything it gets more wondrous every year to me. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who feels this way. Keep up the good exegesis and homiletics, friends!

Right on, George!

I well remember being the featured speaker at the high school athletic banquet about three months into my first pastorate.

A few weeks later I spoke to their grandmothers at the hospital auxilary.

In between I was at the hospital because a person I had never met was dying and he asked the nurse to "call a pastor".

In a rural/small town ministry a pastor is truly a pastor to everyone in the area, and there is something very rewarding about that.


Thank you for your post and great reminders!  Having served in one place for 15 years - in a rural context in the upper midwest in a community of 500 people - my heart resonantes with your findings.  With jovialness and lament, we often are reminded that "everybody knows everything about everyone" in a such a context.  But there is a unique foundation and faithfulness here you won't find anywhere else.  While it has its quirks, it has tremendous strengths.  I strongly concur - if you don't know this, try this.  

Thank you, Dean, for your gracious words.

If I had to introduce Sam Hamstra to an audience, I would say; "At this time I would introduce to you [audience] the Reverend Sam Hamstra, or Dr. Sam Hamstra."

If I had to tell someone about  Rev.Sam Hamstra, I would use the word "Pastor" Sam Hamstra. To me, he was a "Pastor!" When a parishoner like me gets to know the "Pastor", Sam Hamstra is when my son, Don Koldenhoven was near the end of his life at the age of 35, and Pastor Sam was there with our family, Pastor Sam held Don in his arms and said the 23 Psalm and shortly after Don died from his cancer. My point is, the title Reverend has no meaning at at time like that! " Pastor" has meaning in times of need!

I also refer to Pastor Sam as "Coach" Sam, since we did coach high school baseball together. The title of a person's name is proper for introductions and references, but how a person knows a minister of the Word to me is a personal one! "First Chair" , Chairman, President are all titles. I believe that the highest honor you can address a minister of the Word is,"Pastor!"

Dean Koldenhoven    Palos Heights, IL  Member PHCRC



I think this is the best one yet! Without close relationships in our congregation and community, people will start just staying home and watching their favorite pastor online!! In a small church, if someone did this, they would get a phone call that afternoon checking to see if they were ill.  In a large church, no one would notice their absence.  

Well said, John.

If this is a problem now, then how did we deal in the past with the idea that there was a chair of council?   A chair who would sometimes have to make decisions that not every other council member could agree with?   Would it not seem that a senior pastor, if asked to designate tasks, for example, would do so in a way not to lord it over, but to make the pastorate an organized place to work, just as council would not be seen to lord it over a pastor for whom they might reorder the job description? 

I agree - a rule change would be helpful here. Apparently, the Church Order Our Church Order was not written with staff ministry in mind.


Your mentioning gift mixes brings in a whole other aspect of leadership formation that I have a divided mind about.  On the other hand, we are supposed to lead from our strengths.  At the same time, leadership growth, it seems, requires that we "play against type".  Roy Oswalt, of Alban Institute, talks about how his research findings showed that one of the marks of vital long term pastorates was "minding your growing edge"...that is, leaning the hardest into the area that you are the weakest at, and devoting good effort at improving at that.  How do we balance the two?

I certainly resonate with this conversation as well. I wonder what role modelling or mentoring plays into the formation of our own pastoral identity. 

As I've engaged with another pastor in my city, we've shared a bit about how our vision for what church can look like was deeply shaped by one or two other pastors who served as mentors for us. My friend commented that he has come to realize that his expectation of what makes for a healthy size church (budget, # of members, scope of programs, ministry staff, etc) is quite closely related to what he saw modelled by one of his mentors. It seems to me that to a certain extent our understanding of the appropriate balance (or imbalance) of the pastoral-visionary roles will also be impacted by the way our mentors carried those roles.

For myself, I have a particular pastor who served as a mentor for quite some time. Though I don't connect often with him these days (we're living in different countries at the moment), I still keep an eye and an ear out to watch how he is leading within his community. It's not that I simply strive to replicate whatever he is doing, but that I am attentive to his approach to leadership.

One of the key things, I've learned from him is the idea of knowing my own gift mix, personality quirks, strengths, etc. and the need to build teams of people (both staff and lay leadership) that flourish in areas I don't. I reecognize that my gift/personality mix is weighted more toward the visionary, big-picture approach to leadership. I can do the detailed admin work and I can extend personal pastoral care, but I am not as strong in those areas. In that vein, one of the more significant I have needed to learn is that it's not healthy, effective, or beneficial for me to attempt to provide all things pastoral to our congregation myself. For the good of the people I am serving and for my own well-being in ministry, I need to make room and invite others into significant leadership capacities where they will be able to utlize their gifts in providing the full range or scope of "pastoral leadership" that the congregation needs.    

I thank you all for the comments.  I think each comments looks at the question from different angles, and each perspective is important.

Since I wrote this post, I have continued to think about the question of pastor/visionary leader.  I think most of us as pastors are not well balanced with both traits.  God has formed us in certain ways.  We have different personalities, gift mixes, and abilities.  As I would tell my Council members as they travelled to Classis meetings, notice how their is a pastor for every situation.  We are so different and it shows that there are different ministry contexts for each pastoral type.

Or is there?

This past weekend, I met with the denominations Strategic Planning folks who are looking for feedback from those outside of the denominational offices.  They shared that in a CRCNA Pastoral Excellence Survey from 2011 CRC pastors described themselves as having the following top three leadership skills: Listening and encouraging, Communication, and maintaining an non-anxious presence.  The same survey shared the lowest pastoral leadership skills as: Stategic Planning, Conflict management, and motivating people to perform at their full potential.

On the surface, these two skills sets/gifting could be seen as dividing between being a Pastor and being a visionary leader.  I know one can be a visionary leader with any gift mix!  Please do not take offense.  That is not my intention.  

What I find interesting from the survey is that the CRC culture must promote and encourage those with the top three pastoral leadership skills.  What does that mean for how congregations view pastors?  What does that mean for our established churches as they look for visionary leadership to help them reach a new generation?  What does this mean for our self understanding as we go about the task of being a pastor?

Again, I have more questions than answers.  

Thanks for the post. I appreciate you brought up an important and relevant issue in terms of pastoral identity. I also appreciate both comments of Jeff and Leon.  I believe both pastoral heart and visionary leadership arise from the intimate union with Christ. That's inseparable from loving Him and His church. In my experience as pastor and missionary, I found earning people's trust and respect by loving them who they are and where they are in their relationship with Christ is extremely important. That takes time and genuine efforts (especially deep listening to people and praying with/for them). A common mistake is to skip or hurry that trust building process. Once there is trust and respect, on that we can build the visionary leadership more effectively (and smoothly). As John Maxwell put it, "People buy into the leader, then the vision." In our cross-cultural mission setting, we identify "trusting relationship" and "a common vision" as two essential elements to build a team or a network of people with various backgrounds. I think it applies to the church setting as well. 


Hi Greg,

Thanks for writing this blog.  I resonate with it.  It is certainly challenging to be pastoral and visionary.  Not sure how to strike a balance here, or if that's even the right approach.  But I do find that spending daily time with the Lord in solitude and silence essential to nourishing my soul and becoming more visionary.  The challenge I have is carving out time for the longer monthly or annual retreat(s), that would allow greater soul refreshment and visioning to occur. 

Again, thank you kindly for writing the article.


Loving boundries are so very important. We always need to remember that bounries also have a gate, to let certain things in and keep other things out. With proper boundries we can effectively love and minister to those with mental health issues. Thank you for sharing your story.

Mark...It's so great that we have these rescources. Wish I had added them in, but was trying to keep it around 600 words. I will keep these in mind for future ministry though.

Hi Joshua, thanks for writing this and for your pastoral heart. Your advice is right on, especially the part about boundaries with love. With a father who dealt with bipolar for 82 years (now passed away) and a daughter now dealing with it I am thankful for open and honest conversation.

Joshua, thanks for this great advice. CRC Disability Concerns has a page of suggested resources for ministry with people who are dealing with mental health issues including sermons, additional ideas/resources for pastoral care, and a link to Stories of Grace and Truth - poems, brief memoirs, and artwork by people who have been affected by mental health issues.

I think you're onto something, Jon. The rate and volume of change in our cultural milieu ought to encourage us to continually ask questions about what kinds of leadership roles are needed in order for God's people to faithfully embody the Good News of Jesus Christ here and now. I think the OT prophets already offered a strong and at times blunt critique of Israel's fascination with the Temple-based identity (See Jeremiah 7 for one example) and in response called God's people to a much broader embodiment of the Gospel (Isaiah 58). Our contemporary distortion of God's gifts (staff, buildings, budgets) so that our joy is found in their abundance and our discernment of God's will is determined primarily (if not solely) by our assessment of their apparent abundance or their absence is not new. The challenge is can we see these gifts in the light of a passage like Ephesians 4 as resources that God blesses the body of Christ with in order to equip each member can do it's part?    

Hans & Greg,

your use of Woodward here is a helpful way to spring board into a leadership conversation. We may need to do some creative applications of the offices of elder and deacon to encourage a shift in emphasis from being focused primarily on decision making to a model that is geared more toward equipping others to become disciples of Jesus who make more disciples of Jesus.

Some assumptions come with these type of conversations: leaders serve the community of God's people by equipping them for ministry (diakonia) and that the Good News stretches from the beginning to the end of scripture - a God who creates and has created us to participate in cultivating life throughout creation all the way to the full flourishing of creation in Rev 22. So often we stop at the notion of being saved from our sins without asking what we have been saved into (new life in Jesus Christ). That new life is much richer and broader than we typically assume because God's salvation and reconciliation is much more expansive than we have understood. (Rom 8 - creation's groaning - and Col 1:15ff "reconcilling all things" comes to mind). 

Leadership that is bent toward equipping God's people for ministry as a community of disciples in all arenas of life looks a lot different than leadership that is focused primarily on decisions about sustainability of budget, staff, and buildings.

Chris et al, you share some healthy challenges for both congregations and pastors.  After reading your comments and the comments of the others, I think that the discussion comes down to two things, namely the identity/role of the pastor and of the congregation in the milieu of todays' society. 

Congregations often have expectations of pastors and of themselves based on traditional perspectives of 15 or 20 years ago; yet the world around us, both in our congregations, our neighbourhoods and in the world at large is considerably different than it was 20 years ago. 

I am becoming increasingly convinced that one of the main roles of a pastor is to help shepherd the members of the congregation to shift their expectations and understanding of what it means to be a Christian from that of a church-building focussed view, to a more wholistic view, wherein our Christian beliefs inform and are lived out in every facet of our lives.  In a sense, this progression reflects the movement from the Old Testament view which was focussed on the Tabernacle as the place to experience God, to the New Testament view that contains Christs' calling to live out the Good News in all areas of our lives.

In asking the question as to how would we respond if we did not have a budget, building etc to be the focus our lives,
I think that have the potential to emphasize the daily living out our faith in every area of life, not simply at church.


Wow - challenging musings for church leaders and organizations.  Thanks for sharing it!


Good thoughts and questions.  I think that the key passage in Hayford's quote is "I have found, although difficult at times, it's possible to do both."  The best place to be in other words, is to live in the tension between the two and not try to "simplify" things by choosing to be either/or.  Circumstances usually force a pastor to wear both hats, simply because many pastors are GPs who are the only full time employed person on a church staff and don't have the ability to specialize.  True, some pastors lean too far in the direction of being a pastoral presence.  But I have also seen some who lean too far in the other direction, and for whom the congregation becomes a means to an end.

It seems to me that a quality that connects both the pastor/visitor and the "visionary" leader is the capacity of listening.  The older I get the more cautious I am of the Barna style "pastor goes into the desert and gets a vision that everyone should fall behind" model, and more open to the idea that the Holy Spirit is truly working through the entire people of God and that it is the pastors task to be listening (through visitation?) for where the Spirit is already at work.  If we take it seriously that Jesus is the real pastor of our church, this will always be taking place somewhere...but we have to be faithful to lead by listening.


Hans, re Woodward, good to think about. I think the gifts would be spread across both offices. So you would have elders and deacons with a variety of gifts - apostle, prophet, teacher, pastor and evangelists. However one would expect that elders would have more pastors, teachers, some apostles (which are generally rarer). Deacons would have more prophets and pastors. Some would be evangelists (again a rarer gift I think). The gifts are biblical and the offices are biblical so the matter may be more our job to identify them clearly and use them more fully.

interesting conversation.  Can we say  - all Christian are given gifts for the sake of the Church/Kingdom.  But, God also calls certain people into roles (at least 5 of them spelled out in Ephesians 4).  

Can we imagine the office of elder being a category that includes pastors and teachers in a congregation? 

Can we imagine the office of deacon as a category for ensuring that the roles of apostles, prophets and evangelists are identified in the diaconate?

J. R. Woodward has inspired me to contemplate the importance of these 5 roles




Thanks, Greg. I fully agree that there is a place for pastors/clergy within our churches. However, my sense is that we often fail to first seriously ask what roles the people in the church ought to be. We are quite content to talk about the pastor's role, but hesitant to talk about the role of the "ordinary" member in the pew. As a result, I think we often fail to understand what the pastor is called to do: equip the body of Christ to do acts of service (Eph. 4). Similar things could be said about financial resources and buildings. Until we understand the calling of God on the people of God, we are limited in terms of how to understand the role of pastoral/ministry staff, buildings, and financial resources. Instead of cultivating, supplementing, or encouraging the body of Christ to minister (diakonia), they (and "the church") too easily are conceived as existing only for ministering to the body of Christ. We need permission to first ask what is the role (or the mission) of the people of God, apart from and before asking what the roles of pastors, buildings, and money are.  

The questions you are asking about Church Order expectations for what metrics validate a church as being a church (financial sustainability, sufficient number of people to provide Council leadership, ordained pastor/commissioned pastor, etc) are important ones. As our contexts change - and change more rapidly - we will need to learn how to be more nimble with our leadership structures and expectations than we have traditionally been. But I don't think that means we need to abandon our Reformed ecclesiology and embrace a Brethern model. Quite the contrary, I see ample room for the development of missional communities, multi-sites, and other models of cultivating and extending missional engagement that allow us to shift our focus off of the gifts (staff/buildings/money) God lavishes upon us and onto the people of God and what they are called to do. 


Thanks for these thoughts Chris. How can we encourage the growth of the missional church in the CRC and with the church order? I think pastors have a role to play in the missional church but we are always working against expectations that they will do the ministry. Clergy will have some of the gifts (5 equipping gifts from Ephesians 4) but not all. This gives other leaders an opportunity to come around and use their gifts in a fuller way. The other complicating factor is the cost of paid staff in a small missional church that is seeking to replicate itself quickly. A stripped down mission oriented church (low budget, no or minimal paid staff and rented facility) seems to go against church order. How can we foster a Reformed missional movement without going the Brethren route?


The Plymouth Brethern, started in the middle 19th century, invented Dispensational Christianity, started colleges, financed the Scofield Bible,  and managed without paid pastors for 100 years. I attended DesMoines (WA) Gospel Chapel in the 1970's and half their budget went to foreign missions. I think they have been "corrupted" and some congregations have a paid staff.


West coast congregations are "open" churches, almost the same as Baptist churches. Closed congregations are in GB and on our east coast, known for not being friendly to strangers.






Vintage Ken Nydam!!!  I usually ask in reply, "Do you really want to know?"  If they affirm then I say, "I am blessed and thankful!" And then I ask in reply, "Would you like to know why? And they affirm I then give a testimony.  Keep up the good work, Ken!


I have struggled with the same "flippant greeting disorder." I have approached it by figuring out something to say that is truthful, spiritual, and makes an impression deeper than "Hello".  I use a short heartfelt alliterartive phrase in reply. Here are seven I use :" I am living in God's love... I am finding God faithful...I am trusting God's truth... I am growing in God's grace... I am rejoicing in Jesus... I am walking in God's wisdom... I am thankful for everything God gives me".  I use different phrases at different times to keep from being monotonous.  Believers will appreciate when they hear it, and unbelievers might be stimulated to think about what their life is about.  Try it!  And make up your own!

Thanks, Ken,

I agree wholeheartedly. This is part of s[peaking the truth in love. I have warned people that when they ask I will answer and when I ask I really mean it. I am ready to listen, or I don't ask. Let's speak the truth to each other.

I would say  that your "Hello" answer, as a pastor, was rude though it did let you move on but it didn't leave a very good impression.

I loved this story, and in part because of the great memories of my old '89 Camry. That is a great car! I love how God gives us pictures of his grace and love through experiences with ordinary things. Thanks for sharing this story!

posted in: A Small Redemption

I have felt the same uncomfortable feeling with the "How are you" greeting. Now I say "Hi, nice to see you".

Interesting, when I lived in New Jersey I found it was customary to say "How ya doin'?" when walking past someone on the sidewalk that you did not know. The appropriate, expected response was also "How ya doin'?"--I found it confusing at first, having grown up in midwest where people do not ask a question as they walk swiftly past someone. Soon though, I realized that it wasn't that people were being rude--quite the opposite! They were speaking up to acknowledge my presence. Though they didn't intend to have a conversation with me, neither did they want to walk past as thought I didn't exist. I wonder if that is also the intention behind some flippant greetings you've described. Maybe there is a genuine desire to make people feel valued despite the lack of an established relationship or the time that would allow for an extended conversation.

Missional discipleship.  Problem: getting them off the couch and the bleachers and into the classroom... or small group

living rooms.   Motivation?  from leadership - pastors and elders, maybe deacons also.

posted in: Exegete This!