The Stories Are Out There

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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.  

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?

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Thanks for your post Karl.. always good to hear your thoughts...  looking forward to what God is going to do with us through His Spirit =)

Ha... I think I've heard somewhere the following concept labeled the "Spock syndrome"  = )...

BOQ  ...our rigorous rational organizational scientific ways of being together in congregations and in meetings, in projects and in institutions. EOQ

Every month, except during the summer, six or eight members of the Wheaton CRC tell of their personal spiritual experiences in a column called Insights and Encounters in the monthly newsletter. This sharing has resulted in a community of warmth and sharing where praying for and with each other is natural and based on a level of intimacy not often found elsewhere.

FYI These newsletters are posted on the web under http://www.WheatonCRC.org. Look under Resources and then Cross Connections for an inspirational read.  

If anyone is interested, we would be happy to share the letter used to solicit these stories. [email protected].

 

Community Builder

 

A Personal Story of Faith by Neil Molenaar

One morning during March, 1972, after I had accepted CRWRC’s job offer and attended my first CRWRC Board Meeting, I was having my morning devotional time. I also was taking a few moments to reflect on the decision I had made. I remember asking the Lord “Where will we find a home in Grand Rapids ?” Suddenly, and to my surprise, it seemed like a voice spoke, “There is a man whose wife has just passed away and needs to move and that will be your new home."  “OK, Lord," I said, "let’s go for it.”

About a week after I arrived in Grand Rapids, I started to check the Grand Rapids Press and its listing of homes for sale. Staff at the CRC denominational buildinggave me leads as well.  As I had time, I traveled to several neighborhoods located up to four miles from the denominational building where I had my office. Wherever I traveled, the voice that I had heard during my March devotional time repeatedly came back to me.

One Sunday, during the month of May, 1972, I was invited to have lunch with a family I had met at church. I told my hosts that I was in the process of locating and purchasing a home. During our conversation, they suggested that I contact a realtor friend of theirs. I accepted their suggestion, but in the back of my mind I was pondering whether God would work through a realtor in finding a home congruent with the March voice and instruction.  I remember sitting down with him to establish a list of criteria that we wanted in our new home. He proposed several that met our criteria.  We found some great homes, but I was unable to select any of them, as none involved a man whose wife had just passed away.

When we returned to the realtor’s office, we made a few changes to our criteria, and visited more houses for sale. Again none of these great homes involved a man whose wife had recently passed away. As we were about to return to his office, he said “Hey, there is one more listing that just came to my office this morning. Let’s take a look.”  As I walked with the realtor down the front lawn of this home, I asked him why this home was up for sale. He told me that the home owner’s wife had passed away during the month of March, 1972. Wow, this was approximately the same time that I had heard the voice during my March devotional time. Right on target, Lord! What could I do but let the realtor know that this was my choice for our new home. I called mywife Kay, who was still at our Washington home. She asked me to take her sister, who lived in Grand Rapids,  to view the home. If she considered it to be a good buy, my wife would accept her opinion and recommendation.

We purchased the home. It became a blessing for the entire family for the next eighteen years during our journey with CRWRC and DRS. It also introduced us to a great community of neighbors whom we came to love and continue to stay in touch with to this day. Whenever we have traveled back to Grand Rapids since 1990, we always take a few moments to drive by the home that, without a doubt in my mind, was orchestrated by the Lord. It was a great lesson that it is our responsibility to be faithful to the prompting of God’s Spirit.