The stories ARE out there. Here is a CRC pastor who leads the council in a lengthy time of prayer and discernment, lots of silent listening. When folks report out what they heard from God, there is a surprising degree of similarity and clarity about how to go forward in obedience.
In Africa there is a planning team – made up of CRC agency and partner reps. They designed their work to include plenty of listening to each other, to people on the field, and to the Holy Spirit. It turned out to be an energizing and affirming experience, developing clarity and wisdom about perception and direction.
Recently there was a conference of mostly CRC and RCA folk dedicated to learning how to listen and get in step with the Spirit, and what the Spirit is saying to the churches. 150 people learned and sang and prayed and discerned. The stories are out there.
In the Christian Reformed Church the Holy Spirit is unfreezing our rigorous rational organizational scientific ways of being together in congregations and in meetings, in projects and in institutions. God knows this is a strength of ours; we’ve used these gifts from him to great effect over decades and generations, and we have a systematic theological heritage for which I thank God. BUT…. We got out of balance.
In the last 50 years we’ve gotten increasingly uncomfortable with this imbalance, and we’ve responded to this holy discomfort with greater creativity and flexibility. There are increasing numbers of places in the denomination where we see attempts to break open and step out. But our culture still constrains us. And as we lose members and face financial challenges, we may more and more long for security, not change.
We don’t quite know how, we are afraid, and we are prone to criticize those who push the edges. We haven’t built a safe learning community for change agents among us. We haven’t developed a new leadership style, a new norm for ecclesiastical assemblies, new skills for handling differences, a new tolerance and competence for collaborative approaches.
The classis is one place where experimentation is going on, and it’s ripe for lots more. We’ve got models, and we can develop more. Classis is just about the right size for experiments in collaborative leadership, multi-congregational initiatives, developing the body as a community of discernment.
At the Prayer Summit one of the things we will do is learn and pray about inter-classical prayer networks. The Holy Spirit will be at work. Will you listen and pray with us as we become a listening and obeying church? And will you use this space on the Network to share the stories?