Guest post by Janelle Dykxhoorn
Diversity is a big word in my world right now. I’ve come to realize that, professionally-speaking, we work with a very diverse group of people who display a large diversity in skill sets and abilities. I get that and I appreciate that. What I didn’t realize is the extent to which diversity exists in the Christian Reformed Church (CRC). The church is full of just as many or even a larger diversity of people. Of course, I understand that the church is filled with a diverse group of people but I assumed that local CRC churches were like the typical one that I grew up in.
My family is of Dutch descent and is considered a fairly normal-sized family — two parents, and four children. We all attended Christian schools including post-secondary, though not necessarily Redeemer, Calvin, or Dordt. We went to church twice on Sunday, and had special Sunday clothes. We knew when to stand and when to sit in church and we knew the Apostles Creed and the Lord’s Prayer from an early age. We could sing Ere Zij God in Dutch even though we did not know what we were actually saying. We ate Mentos or King peppermints at every service and were used to hearing the rustle of candy wrappers just before the sermon started. Some pastors even paused for it. We attended Sunday School and Catechism and went on SERVE or other church mission trips … I could continue but I think you get the point.
Please know that I am not belittling this type of church and I am grateful that it is my background. Many of the churches I’ve attended as I moved around for school and work have been similar churches and I still love going to my parents’ church when I’m visiting them. I have enjoyed attending churches of other denominations but have always found myself drawn back to what I knew as the CRC.
This summer, I was exposed to a CRC that is very different than the ‘norm’ I had come to expect and I found myself challenged to redefine ‘normal’ as it applies to the church.
This church is typical in as much as it has a service on Sunday morning and activities happening all through the week, they sing a variety of songs and practice for them during the week. They have a pastor who gives a message and they collect an offering. They have elders and deacons and host or participate in CRC activities such as SERVE and Facing Your Future (FYF). They have a variety of age groups represented and tend to sit and stand in a fairly normal pattern every Sunday. This is where the similarity ends and diversity in churches becomes apparent.
In this church, small groups are stressed as more important than Sunday attendance. In this church, it is not obvious who the elders and deacons are as everyone seems to come in together. The sermon is generally introduced by a video. In this church, there is no telling who may share the message or part of their testimony. In this church, it’s okay to drink coffee during the service and some will leave early if they become bored. In this church, there may or may not be a spoken blessing at the end of the service. In this church, there is no set apart youth/young adult program.
The fact that churches within one denomination can be so different is a blessing and a wonderful experience, though at the time I found it confusing and unsettling. As I reflect on my experience last summer, I am coming to realize that all the things I mentioned above are superficial and non-salvation issues. What is important in a church is that the Word of God is central and that the church is doing what they can to fulfill God’s calling by meeting people where they are. Jesus walked and talked with regular, ordinary people where they were at, in both their physical lives as well as their spiritual lives. We need to be a unified church body following Jesus’ example. How we do that is far less important than that we just do it.
In what ways have you seen diversity in CRC churches?
This post originally appeared on the YALT Momentum blog.
Janelle Dykxhoorn (@jcdykxho) is a teacher in at Sarnia Christian School in Sarnia, ON and a member of Redeemer CRC. She is a graduate of Canadian Mennonite University and now volunteers with several churches and Youth Unlimited.