One of the benefits of being a member of the CRC for six and a half decades is that I’ve experienced almost every corner of the denomination and preached in almost 100 different congregations in both the U.S. and Canada. These travels have allowed me—especially during the past three years—to experience the joy of “shrinking the denomination.”
Along the way, I’ve learned this:
There’s something in our CRC DNA binding us together that goes deeper than differing theological emphases, national preferences, ethnic diversity, varying contexts from urban to suburban to town to rural areas, differing worship styles, and the continuum from sturdy century-old congregations to rough and tumble church plants.
How do I know?
I know because I’ve experienced this bond through Faith Formation Ministries’ cohorts of congregations challenging each other to deeper faithfulness. An FFM cohort consists of teams from 12-20 CRC congregations and FFM coaches journeying together for 13 months around a particular aspect of faith formation.
At the end of this post is a screenshot of what a cohort video conference looks like.
One meeting included:
- a pastor in central Ontario
- a worship leader from Washington state
- an elder from Nova Scotia
- a pastor from South Dakota
- a young adult from Colorado
- a lay leader from Iowa
- a faith formation elder from British Columbia
- an 80+ (aged) lay leader from Michigan (and several more).
They’ve walked together on their cohort journey for just over a year. Here are a few of the things they’ve learned together:
- Though each team ministers in very different contexts, they have much in common, and these commonalities allow for significant partnership.
- Churches face many common challenges, and we need each other to reflect on wise ways to address these challenges.
- Faithfulness requires taking thoughtful risks and implementing Spirit-led experiments. Experiments are fundamentally learning activities, and each church can learn from and encourage the others.
- As churches gather together to carry out these common tasks, they discover that they have a deeper shared theology, history, and vocabulary than they had realized. In fact, there is rich fruit to be harvested from sharing congregational faith journeys with each other.
- The term “denomination” is not an abstraction. “Denomination” is us—congregational leaders all over North America engaged in a common mission of testifying to the grace and truth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Fifty years ago, Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase “global village” to describe our increasingly interconnected world. I confess that the phrase “shrunken denomination” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but I sure love the reality behind it.
Because ultimately it’s Jesus who shrinks the denomination, binding us in his name to go and make disciples in the various places he has planted us.