Classis: Its Place in the CRC’s Renewal

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Classis, the meeting we love to loath. As an agency we are expected to report to Classes, but we’re often asked to please keep it short so Classis can get out as soon as possible. This mixed message makes me wonder whether or not the role of the Classis is still relevant. Classes serve an important role when it comes to issues like credentialing leaders, matters of discipline, and general matters of church polity. Yet, at a denominational level I find that there is something missing when it comes to working effectively together as a ministry system. I think that what is missing is connectivity, and Classis has the potential to provide it. .

For more than twenty years, the Classis Renewal Ministry Team has been working to flesh out this potential by helping Classes look at their critical ministry-planning function. Classes have responded with mixed success: many have developed a ministry council that brings diaconal and home mission functions together; some have increased connectivity so that there are high levels of mutual care and concern. But, as a denomination, we continue to fall short of the flourishing we long for. What is still needed?

Here are some thoughts:

  1. Invite relevant agencies of the CRC into a prayer and planning retreat. Make this an event where we pray and discern together where God is moving, and how He wants to build on what He is already doing.
  2. As part of this retreat, ask explore how to coordinate effectively so that energy evident at national and international levels connects effectively with exciting areas of ministry at the local and regional/Classis level.
  3. Come together as Classes and CRC agencies at national events in refreshing ways, to pray together, learn from each other, and inspire each other for the sake of God’s kingdom purposes.

Classis is the key link that connects ministry between the local and national levels. If it does not fulfill this role, then alternative structures will begin to fill the void. This defuses the natural energy of ministry and disconnects governance from it. Classis can fix that.

Start the conversation: What is needed to help classes reach their full potential?

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Andy, good words on a critical topic, lively classes. Thanks, man! As a ministry staff guy in an urban church ministry (Oakdale Park, Grand Rapids, MI), I am having to push with our lead pastor, Pastor Emmett Harrison, to get women and men in Oakdale leadership to be delegated to classis meetings (Grand Rapids East), value the experience for congregational impact, and pitch in on classis work. Your post adds fuel.

Here's hope, Brother: two friends, a deacon and an elder having had recent positive experiences attending Classis East said, "This is good! I'm signing up to repeat attending for a year." (Our classis encourages repeat delegates to avoid perpetual novices at classis.) My own testimony: many of Classis East's meetings are real uppers for persons in the everyday grind of ministry. Keys I see at East: 1) gifted, experienced cl. leaders, in the saddle for at least a year, and classis committees who do their work well, in advance, 2) creative agenda/schedule  -- a mix of usual business, discussing/approving cl. min. team proposals and interacting with panels of ministry leaders (like church planters, chaplains), Inspiring!, 3) hard stuff -- head-ache inducing overtures, 4) discipline in cl's mission: Be a community of congregations to encourage, equip, challenge each other to be vibrant, missional, 5) regular evaluation of how we are doing after Cl East renewed and reorganized two years ago (see Classis GR East website for recent eval. format), 6) sturdy spiritual reflection and ample praying, 7) good food and coffee, 8) the meeting schedule is primed and timed so beginning, middle and end are quality and we quit on time. Classis heaven? Nope -- Cl. East is still challenged to be with and consistently help the mission of local churches; it's hard to be one and many at the same time. But headed there.

Like you, Andy, I was a classis renewal drum beater for decades at CRHM -- with you, Thea L., Elizabeth G-K, Frank E, Dave S, Lori W, Duane VdB, George VdW, and Al Hoks et al. Now I'm seeing classis renewal from the results end and I'm very high on it. Please encourage your Classis Renewal mates. Keep truckin'!

John Rozeboom, Oakdale Park Church administrative pastor, [email protected]