Earlier this fall, Angela Reitsma Bick, editor of the Christian Courier, sat down with CRCNA Canadian Ministries Director, Darren Roorda, to interview him about some key tenants of the Reformed faith and their relevance today. Here is a summary of their conversation:
Christian Courier: Kids are used to reward systems in school and at home. How does faith formation within the Reformed community help us all understand that good works don’t correlate to salvation?
Darren Roorda: Where I see the best local church experience is where I see them remembering the third part of our Heidelberg Catechism structure — guilt, grace, gratitude. All of our life — every response, every action, every job, every relationship — is one that is attached to gratitude. Gratitude is a response to something already received; it’s not “I must do in order to achieve.” Otherwise, there’d be another part of the catechism: “this is what you must do to achieve eternal life.” We already know the guilt and the grace, and the rest of our life is meant to be lived out in gratitude. I see this in so many churches.
CC: On Sunday the sermon text might be read from PowerPoint, an iPad or a hardcover Bible. What place does Scripture have in our churches in 2017?
DR: This fall I’ve been spending a lot of time working on a “new Reformation piece” — again, based on the desire to get the word of God into the hands of local people, not just priests and bishops. As Reformed believers and Christians, it’s always been evident that we’re a people of the Book. Long after other churches took Bibles out of the pews, you could walk into a Christian Reformed church (CRC) and there would always be Bibles there. We’ve always wanted people to have access. But even our denomination follows the culture: we are increasingly Biblically illiterate. That’s why I’m really happy about the development of the Bridge App, launching across Canada this fall. It will have devotional content, access to our creeds and confessions, and so much more. In this Reformational year, it’s been a joy to work on a pretty significant “Gutenburg Press-like” tool that will again put the Word of God in its various forms into the hands of the people we want to reach.
CC: Aid agencies of the Christian Reformed Church are well respected around the world, particularly within the development community. Speaking of mission, how does an organization like World Renew differ from the Red Cross?
DR: A few years ago, when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was rolling out, and 15 groups were asked to speak during the commitments portion of the event, they only wanted one Protestant entity — we were requested to do that. This has to do with your previous question about Sola Scriptura: it’s because we take seriously the Scriptural thrust of what mercy and justice look like. We develop ministry that is Biblical first and fits a healthy Reformed framework, and that becomes our driver. You may not see on every World Renew placard the name of Jesus, but that doesn’t mean they don’t take the relationship to Jesus seriously and how that needs to be expressed to Christian and to non-Christian in a way that develops godly love in every facet. That’s not the Red Cross’s first conversation. So it is important that we not take our eyes off what remains fundamental and primary, and end up producing a more humanitarian response rather than a biblically humanitarian response.
CC: Churches with Dutch roots sing Ere Zij God at New Year’s. Do you see examples of giving glory to God year-round in your work with the CRC in Canada?
DR: Absolutely. My experience as a kid from Southern Ontario in the CRC was typically linked to this Dutchness. Now I wish people could see how non-Dutch we are. We have Chinese churches, multi-ethnic churches, Korean churches; I am quite proud of the increasing cultural and racial diversity that is growing within the CRC. We have to stop thinking of the CRC as a Dutch church.
However, that song is one of those beautiful traditional carryovers from the past.
Do I see glory to God being lived out across Canada? Absolutely. I see it in CRC members who run companies and give generously; I see it in local churches that keep the word of God central; I see it in the desire of local churches to involve their community; I see it in our urban Aboriginal ministry centres across Canada ... I see it all the time. It’s one of the few things that ties together the diversity that exists within our churches across Canada. People who don’t even know Jesus yet but have a sense of the divine can appreciate this natural impulse of Reformed believers to want to give credit and glory to the God who created them.
Another way I see this is our natural inclination to integrate godly, all-encompassing justice. Canadian CRC people have this bent toward social justice, and it’s because they have this understanding that our Lord is Lord over all creation and all people.
CC: Are there any John Calvins or Martin Luthers in Canada today? Do you see anyone in a prophetic role?
DR: Not any one in particular, but many. I do see people who are applying and integrating what they understand as biblical Christian living into their spheres of influence. I watch the staff of the ministries of the CRC fine-tuning the expressions of faith in their sphere. As well, I’m doing some partner visits — reaching out to those that have some level of attachment or tradition with the CRC. Places like Beginnings Family Services, Christian Labour Association of Canada, Gleaners, Redeemer, Kings — there is a way in which all of these entities and their founders and now their continued leaders are the Martin Luthers, John Calvins and John the Baptists of the day. They’re a voice in the wilderness, a voice facing the secular system and saying “Things should be different.” And there is a healthy difference. I’m impressed by meeting their directors and their leaders, and seeing what they’re doing.
A lot of John Calvin and Martin Luther activity is also done ecumenically — Christians thinking and working and responding together, whether through the local church or nationally — that’s Lutheran and Calvinist behaviour. It looks for unity and integration at a real grassroots level.