When Classes Collaborate
When denomination is "too big", and one classis is "too small", can inter-classical partnerships fit "just right"?
Is classis just a long, pastor dominated business meeting that happens two or three times a year, or is classis a indispensable missional tool through which churches are planted and revitalized and other gospel-movement-supporting institutions can be built? I think we have not yet begun to develop the potential not only of the individual classis but of what networked and partnering classes can accomplish.
Example 1: Back in April the CRC put out a press release about a new joint CRC/RCA project of church planting. A joint CRC/RCA structure was erected to create four Kingdom Enterprise Zones in the USA. What the press release didn’t mention was the role that classis would play in these zones. I am the leader of the Zone currently being developed in California and I see this not only as an experiment in collaboration between the CRC and the RCA but also between classes. In July representatives of three classes met together to celebrate, play and plan for collaboration not only between the CRC and RCA but also between 3 classes. Without the three classis, Central CA RCA, Central CA CRC, City Classis RCA this project would not get off the ground. Because these classes were already collaborating we don’t have to start from scratch.
Example 2: A number of years ago Christian Reformed Home Mission was trying to figure out how it could promote church planting and church renewal in a less centralized fashion. Centralization can afford focus and efficiency but it also limits. Home Missions decided to create “Regional Ministry Teams” to increase the capacity of the organization. These teams were created, and funded by CRHM as a sort of ministry deployment system.
After they were created other agencies saw the value of them and wanted to explore using these structures to promote some of their own work. It became apparent very quickly that this wouldn’t work. The Regional Ministry Teams, as in some robot-apocalypse movie, had become self-aware. They didn’t serve Synod or an agency, they increasingly represent classical collaboration. Seeds may travel by air, but it is in soil that they root and from which they grow and multiply. Regional Teams are still working to figure out what and who they are, but they are rooted in classes.
This is not a new dynamic. Classes probably throughout existence of our ecclesiastical structure have collaborated to pursue mutually beneficial projects. We might in fact see the denomination itself as a grand classical collaboration project. Classis is sometimes viewed as a sort of forgotten middle child, but it is really a foundational structure the value of which I don’t think we have fully explored.
I know that there are many, many more examples of inter-classical missional partnerships out there. Use the comment system here to tell your story. What ministry have inter-classical partnerships afforded in your area?