The classical appointment might be an endangered species. If you are unfamiliar with the term because this practice, also known as classical pulpit supply, has already gone extinct in your area, a classical appointment was one way churches in a region helped each other. When a congregation was without a pastor, neighboring congregations were appointed to send their pastor to bring the word in that congregation.
The classical appointment, however, might be going the way of the dodo. Classis Chatham has received an overture asking that the appointment be made for one service on a Sunday, not two. Other classes have already made this move and have further restricted the number of appointments a congregation is entitled to. Some classes may have done away with the practice entirely.
In some ways, this makes sense. Many areas (though not all) have an abundance of commissioned pastors, retired pastors, people with classical licenses to exhort, and others who can be called upon to preach. In addition, the availability of recorded sermons and sermon pod-casts, means that in many areas (though not all) churches very rarely have to resort to a “reading sermon.” This is underscored by Ken Benjamins’ report that the Living Word committee is recommending that its service be discontinued (The Reading Sermon). Furthermore, church order changes allowing the sacraments to be administered by an elder approved by classis further reduce a church’s dependence on classical appointments. All this suggests that it may be time to put the classical appointment to bed. There is no reason to continue a practice if the need no longer exists.
There is one argument I have less sympathy for, however. This is the assertion that a church’s ministry is so singular that it ought to be excused from the practice. Sometimes the argument is made by churches. Sometimes it is made by pastors. I agree that there is a broader variety among Christian Reformed congregations than there once was. I also agree that Christian Reformed pastors are no longer interchangeable parts (if they ever really were). But, is any ministry really so unique that it cannot benefit from a different voice from time to time? Are our ministries so fragile that we cannot be away from them even for a Sunday?
The classical appointment reflected the idea that for all of our differences and peculiarities as preachers and as congregations (no interchangeable parts) we were still part of a body that was greater than ourselves. This sense will be further weakened if the classical appointment goes extinct.