Recently my classis celebrated a joint meeting of CRC Classis Central CA and RCA Classis Central CA with a joint educational day and reports from chief executives of the denominations and seminaries. It was a fantastic event.
The CRC's article on the event featured a photo the two executive directors which tends to focus on the denominational level rather than the classical level. In all fairness it's not easy to take a picture of a classis. Both Rev. Devries and Rev. Boot spoke about how this project is helping both denominations move closer together, and this I celebrate, but I think it's also important to see how in many ways classis is a better initial level in which to pursue practical collaboration and unity.
The idea of the joint classis meeting came up rather spontaneously from the stated clerk of the RCA classis who is on our Kingdom Enterprise Zone team. He simply asked "could we have a joint meeting of classis?" We knew there would be come complications and expenses but we figured it was an idea worth exploring. We established a joint committee. They sent invitations to the various special guests all of which accepted. Even though much of the program benefited from these visitors and their presentations a lot of the real work was helping the CRC and the RCA leaders to get to know each other and to create a space where we can work together.
The Kingdom Enterprize Zone project began in four regions: Wyoming Michigan, Florida, Tucson-Phoenix Arizona, and San Francisco-Sacramento California. Classis is the ideal level to engage in programs like these. If we didn't have a classis we would have had to invent it to do this work. A classis is the right size to bring missional impact to a city or a region. Classes already know how to help individual churches collaborate. Classes already know how to run leadership training programs. Classes already know how leverage broader communal assets to help local churches plant new churches. Classes have all the skill sets required.
Part of the genius of the Kingdom Enterprize Zone program was to not focus on structural mergers but rather missional collaboration. We knew that if we started the conversation with the RCA at this level the conversation could very quickly fall into the "problem trap". We knew that being together is better than being alone. We knew that both groups had strengths and opportunities where the other had areas of challenge and need and that perhaps working together could yield greater kingdom impact.
As is the case in any new venture trying something new will reveal unforseen challenges. Both denominations have their own challenges to face. Working together at the classical level, however, can help keep our view of the challenges at a workable size. The groups are small enough that people are knowable. The distances are short enough that a car trip can get us there. The finances aren't so huge that partners can't be found. It's a good place to begin.
Is there an RCA classis near you that you can approach and begin to talk about relating with? Part of the fun of this project has been seeing relationships begin spontaneously in areas where there are no Kingdom Enterprize Zones. All you need to begin is a bit of willingness and a desire to see some of these historical divisions healed.