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I choose to post this on the Global Mission site because this is where I tried to nudge conversation a year and a half ago (see the blog: Concept of a Global World Missions Agency). At first it went nowhere, then veered off. There would be a logic to posting this on the Synod page, because of to whom this Open Letter is addressed. But as a lifetime missionary pastor who was never to Synod, and because this topic is (re)born out of a response to CRWRC's survey about a possible name change*, and the history that the question has in the denomination/agencies, I choose this site. The issue is at the same time old and new; my hope is that a constructive "conversation" (last year's appearance was "in house") can now take place both here online and with/in the Task Force and its "listening sessions." Pray with all that ensuing decisions will lead to the necessary, concrete steps to getting the CRCNA's world-wide witness "together again."


Synodical Task Force on Structure and Culture

September, 2011

            The Bible speaks of both Moses and Jesus as “powerful in word and deed.” While our gracious God has used the Christian Reformed Church in many wonderful ways in both “word and deed,” I contend that we have been weak and off-balance in meeting the challenge of being fully faithful to the Word and the world. Half a century ago Word and Deed became separated organizationally and functionally in the CRCNA, and our holistic witness has been severely compromised in many places ever since.

            Will the CRCNA reflect the Biblical “prophets’ power” alluded to (Acts 7:22, Luke 24:19), or will we continue to reflect the divisions and divisiveness that so plague and debilitate the Church’s witness to the world? 

            Simply put, for nearly 50 years we have let “deed” be too divorced from the word, and vice versa. And the word that for well over half a century had been closely and integrally accompanied by the deed has later on in many places lacked the compelling evidence of a holistic witness. 

            You as a newly appointed Synodical Task Force “to conduct a review of the organization, culture and leadership within the CRCNA” are at a most opportune time for recommending getting “word and deed” explicitly together by restructuring CRWM and CRWRC, two principal CRCNA faces to the world, into a world-class organization. If other agencies such as Home Missions and the Back to God Hour are also included in this, so much the better, as long as an organizational structure that is not so centralized as to be unworkable is developed.


  • We must be faithful to Scripture, and our holistic missiological heritage.
  • Now with the extensive survey circulated by CRWRC seeking suggestions about a possible name change, this is the time for an explicit and definitive decision on this crucial question.
  • World Missions is working with “partnership initiatives”; what better than to fully “partner” as CRCNA agencies under one administration.
  • Home Missions is under new leadership and studying its future.
  • The Back to God Hour International leadership also would seem to be at a turning point.
  • “Leadership” decisions will be made over the next year; this is crucial as we rethink by whom and how we are organized for mission. 
  • In the light of funding difficulties, and out of principle, redundancies must be eliminated, and proportionately more workers deployed on the front lines. 
  • These realignments must take place to really be “Christ-centered, church-based.”

            Please consider the above in the light of this Scripture: “... what Christ has accomplished through me (Paul) ... by what I have said and done.” (Romans 15:18, NIV)   When will this be said of the CRCNA everywhere where agencies of the same denomination fail to work together?  Like charity, transformation begins at home.

Fraternally, (signed) Rev. Lou Wagenveld, D. Min.    

* The name I submitted to the survey means to communicate a lot: CHRISTIAN REFORMED GLOBAL MINISTRIES


Do I sense correctly that there are those in CRC who do not see Word and Deed as coequal? To reach the world for Christ, we must not see either Word or Deed as the driving force, but both working together to win people to Christ. One without the other is not what the Bible teaches us to do.

Wendy Hammond on September 20, 2011

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

That's a good question, knowlton. One I've been mulling over ever since Lou posted this :-) When I think of our CRC churches, what is emphasized, word or deed? Keeping the status quo or reaching out to the lost in their own neighborhood?

Mark Hilbelink on September 20, 2011

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I like Wendy's line of thinking here. Maybe the issue is more systemic than we want to give it credit for. Could it be that the unfortunate division of word and deed at a denominational level is indicative of the division of word and deed in many CRC congregations. While I think this is a necessary discussion at the CRWRC level, I think its simply pointing out the lack of smoke instead of trying to do the hard work of igniting our local congregations towards missional word/deed ministry that impacts our communities.  Healthy denominational ministries with balanced word/deed dynamics flow out of healthy congregations with balanced word/deed dynamics. Many of our churches are pretty good at talking and putting money in plates but not at seeking the shalom of their cities - that's the bigger issue.

Besides the concern to unite word and deed, we need to ask, "What kind of word? What kind of deed? And for whom?" Do we prioritize the kind of words and deeds that are directed toward non-Christians in order to lead them to Christ, or do we mainly stick with words and deeds directed toward those who are already believers? A ministry might be "holistic" in the sense that it combines word and deed, yet it might choose words that mainly edify the already-saved and deeds that mainly bless fellow believers. Even if such a word-and-deed ministry were considered holistic, it would not have the missionary intent and impact of Paul's word-and-deed mission to unreached peoples and unsaved persons. Denominational mission agencies, whatever organizational shape they take and whatever their philosophy of "word and deed," must place high priority on reaching those who do not yet know Christ.

David raises some very good points.  What is word and deed ministry?   The Word says that true religion is to look after the orphans and widows (the poor), those who are less fortunate.   But why is this?  It is because we are to "love those of the household of faith", and to "love our neighbor as ourself".   Jesus asked us to even love our enemies.   How do we know that we love God? 

"11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters,[b] if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. " 

Changing administration will not necessarily improve the connecttion between word and deed.   It might, but it is mostly about an attitude.   The same attitude that causes us to share material possessions also causes us to share the good news of salvation.   Jesus even asked us to use our worldly possessions and goods to reap treasures in heaven.... how?  by opening doors to the gospel of Christ, by leading others to the love of God.   Be wise as serpents.... but for the good of our neighbor.   And for the honor of God's name. 

That attitude will cause those in home missions to talk to those in the Back to God hour.   That attitude will cause those in CRWRC to talk to those in foreign missions and home missions, and vice versa.   Pick up the phone.   Have a video conference.   Cooperate.   Seek better solutions.   Seek the welfare of the other agency or group, to help them achieve their task.   In so doing, you will achieve your own vision.  Because ultimately everyone has the same vision.  Bringing people to the love of Christ. 


It seems to me,  that while the Word and Deed has relevance to this discussion,  it actually pushes us to answer the wrong questions when it comes to organizational unity and the CRCs mission efforts.  It is important that we seek to ask the right questions before we can find the right answers.  A preliminary run on the right questions:

1)     How do we most effectively mobilize our resources (people, time, money, relationships with our partners) to most effectively assist our partners to fulfill the Mission of God  in their part of the world?

2)     What organizational structure would most effectively administer our efforts to reach the lost, and bring shalom into their world?

3)     What principles should we adopt to guide us and help us evaluate our effectiveness?

If these questions are rightly framed,  then we can seek the right answers.

80-90% of our efforts should focus on nurturing church planting.  All of our diaconal/deed efforts should be focused on coming along side our partners in this church planting effort.  It is true that “true religion is to look after orphans and the widows”.   But creating new communities of believers—new churches is the most effective way to accomplish that end.  My wife and children seed $30/month to support a child in Yezelem Minch a community children support program.  We have also raise  $80/month to support a church planter  in Ethiopia.  That church presently has 120 members and has planted two daughter churches.  As a community of believers they help 20-30 children.  Dollar for dollar the  impact both on lost people who need to know Jesus, and on the “looking after orphans and widows” is  far greater than our support of one child.

 I have helped churches in Ethiopia plant over 100 churches, and the multiplier effect will increase that to 300 in a few years.  Mission India has a similar record in India.  I am echoing here Lou’s primary concern—that deed ministry be focused always  as an adjunct to gospel/church planting ministry.  I think this is Dave Feddes concern as well.  The apostles work in the NT was never focused on isolated deed ministry to the poor.  It was always focused on the primary task of preaching the gospel, planting churches, and raising up leaders (which included diaconal ministry workers—so they could keep their focus on the real source of transformational power—the gospel).

Finally,  I support the concept of CHRISTIAN REFORMED GLOBAL MINISTRIES, but only if its mandate is to develop guiding principles that are used to launch multiple organizations that mobilize the resources provided by the CRCNA community.  As Rich DeRuiter indicate—“uniting word and deed is a great idea. Merging these two agencies is not. Something essential is bound to be lost.”

We all know that our mission agencies have certain levels of dysfunction: Sometimes they are in grown,  lacking vision, committed to dependency relationships, and to employing staff or supporting partners even when they are un-fruitful.  Or in the case of CRWRC unable to utilize within their paradigm the very people who could help the poor the most—business people.  Fortunately they were flexible enough to start a new agency—Partners World wide.  By nurturing the development of this new organization

Let me give one more illustration.  In 2007 a CRWM staff member accompanied me to Ethiopia.  I introduced him to denominational leaders that represented 42,000,000 believers.  Our goal was to begin partnering with them to equip and send church planters.  Our organization was small—but our potential was huge.  All we were asking for was the backing of CRWM to raise support among CRC churches in Minnesota—they already supported our vision, but wanted CRWMs stamp of approval.  They chose not to support our efforts at that time and instead sent a professor to an AoG Bible College in Uganda.  I assume that the cost of the ex-pat missionary approached $80-100,000 annual support.  With the same money using the internet and a few trips to Ethiopia we could have planted 500 churches.  Which by now would have multiplied into 1500 churches. 

With the internet, tele-communications, cheap air-travel, net-books, digital video graph Missions can be entirely transformed.  We can, working with CRC churches and pastors in the U.S. develop “missionary swat “ teams that connect and develop church planting partnerships, and diaconal ministry support that will complete the great commission in the 10-40 window.   If CHRISTIAN REFORMED GLOBAL MINISTRIES becomes a heavy, top down, denominational agency it would hinder the advance of the gospel.  But if it was focused simply on guiding a flat organization with multiple “missionary swat teams” focused on doing the main thing—preaching the gospel, equipping leaders for ministry, and developing their capacity to minister to orphans and widows.  Well. . . .

Dan, I really appreciate your comments and perspective.   It should become a starting point for discussions about CRWM and CRWRC.  

Thanks, John.

I need to say that Dr. Becker was helpful, when he encouraged me to form an organization for the work in Ethiopia.  He and even took a long walk to discuss our church planting efforts.

If anyone wonders where "Lou" has been, he's been prayerfully watching the comments on this site, and for the meeting of the Synodical Task Force which met this week.  Joel Boot informed me that they saw the "open letter" and will be talking about it again in their November conference call meeting.  I hope they also see all your comments, as John says, Dan's points and perspective "should become a starting point for discussions about CRWM and CRWRC."  Lets hope they are reading this also.

But for the sake of clarification, I want to ask Dan and Rich whom he quotes: "uniting word and deed is a great idea. Merging these two agencies is not. Something essential is bound to be lost.”  What might that "essence" be, and what is lost on me that I don't understand the logic of that sequence?

I don't know what Dan is going to say to respond, but my thoughts are that a lack of innovation and independance from various angles and opportunities to carry out different approaches will stunt and inhibit the ability of people to try different things, in essence, will stop them or hinder them from being able to follow the leading of the spirit.   As Dan's example showed happened as a result of a stamp of approval or lack of it from CRWM.   If the idea of concentrating 90% of funding on church planting is valid, it should be encouraged, persuaded, and agreed to rather than hierarchically forced, and then the spirit will lead people in that direction to serve and minister and support that type of service.  But I'm sure they will have more well-thought responses.


CRC Global Ministries:

It seems to me that there are two critical issues (the priority of WORD over DEED and Effectiveness)  when we attempt to answer the questions about structure outlined in a previous entry:

1)     How do we most effectively mobilize our resources (people, time, money, relationships with our partners) to most effectively assist our partners to fulfill the Mission of God  in their part of the world?

2)     What organizational structure would most effectively administer our efforts to reach the lost, and bring shalom into their world?

3)      What principles should we adopt to guide us and help us evaluate our effectiveness?

Issue #1   what is the Church’s Mission in the world:

Its instructive that Jesus is the WORD, not the DEED.  But He is also the WORD made flesh,  dwelling among us(DEED).  In the great commission he sent his disciples into all the world to make disciples—WORD  (preach the gospel), and to baptize, teaching them (WORD) to do all that he had commanded—which included loving their neighbors (DEED).  When the apostles went out they placed a clear priority on Preaching the word.  A significant part of their method was raising up leaders who would preach, disciple, and gather the church.  DEED ministry followed these efforts as  Jesus incarnated the gospel of Love.  DEED ministry rarely led the mission, but it accompanied the work of the church.

John Rozeboom and Hank DeRooy once said to me when I first pastored in Salt Lake City.  “The main thing, is to make sure the main thing remains the main thing”.  While they never told me what the main thing was I always knew it was to preach the word, to make disciples, and to train leaders—they assumed I would put the emphasis on the sylable.

This is huge spiritual warfare issue.  Most pastors have  heard people express a willingness to lead good lives, and let their neighbors see the gospel of the kingdom through their good deeds.   But we know they rarely speak the WORD.  No one ever entered the kingdom of heaven without embracing the WORD.  The WORD is transformational—the light we are not to hide under a bushel basket.  People are born again, only when the WORD enters their heart like a sperm entering an ovum that brings new life—re-generation.    People need to hear the WORD before they can follow Jesus.

But WORDs without DEEDs are dead.  The works:  the love for people in poverty must follow our WORDs, our church planting, our disciple making and our equipping of leaders  must be integrated with works of kindness and mercy.

One of the Guiding Principles for restructuring our ministries must be (as it was for the Apostles), the PRIORITY OF PREACHING THE GOSPEL (and the requisite church planting, disciple making, and leadership development).   80-90% of our efforts, and resources must be placed in this basket, if we are truly living under the authority of Jesus and bringing the gospel of His kingdom into the world.


Whence Lou’s concern, and a desire to integrate Word and Deed under one agency.    Here I’m guessing

 As a missionary in Nigeria, did he  always have the full forces of CRWRC resources available to him and the churches he was nurturing?  in a way that brought those resources to bear on his and other CRC missionaries work?   Did CRWRC staff  find that working with other partners in their mission field more productive (and easier), than working only with CRWM staff?  

It is also true that CRWRC has been more effective in raising funds from the CRCNA community than has CRWM.   Has their leadership was more visionary, more PR capable, or tech savvy?  Or is it that church planting, and preaching the gospel has less panache  than buying a goat for the poor African family?    CRWRC has been able to attract more gifted college grads who want to do development work.   They have been able to articulate the need for our resources more effectively.  As result DEED ministry supercedes the  WORD ministry in the hearts of God’s people. 

A wise missionary once told me that there four changes that you can bring to a mission field:

1)      Immediate aid—(for hunger and health needs)

2)      Developmental aid—(teach a man to fish and….)

3)      Address structural evil (rule of law, corruption and basic economic transformation)

4)      Heart Change (the gospel, disciplemaking, church planting, equipping leaders)

He went on to say that if you are successful in bringing change in first 3 areas but neglect the 4th the other changes will decay.  If you only address #4, the others will follow from the hearts and lives of the new believers.


Guiding Principle #1:  The priority bringing the WORD to a lost world, Helping people see and hear Jesus---Church planting, Disciple making, leadership development. (everything else will flow out of a transformed community of believers, whom we can assist with our resources)

Guiding Principle #2: The integration of DEED ministry through and with our Partners.  All of our resources should flow in conjunction with the WORD ministries of our partners.

Guiding Principle #3: Our organizational structure should be shaped for Effectiveness with our Partners  (more on effectiveness in another post)

Dan et al.  This note from El Salvador where I´m spending ten fascinating days again visitng a place where "at the end of last century" we spent five years very existencially living these questions.  The focus of my visit now is talking through a ¨Word and Deed Project" with the small CRC of ES churches.  But I want to respond anecdotally yet pointedly to your wondering about "in Nigeria" (it was Argentina) "did he always have the full force of the resources of CRWRC available to him and the churches he was nurturing?!

Precisely, NO!  It was already by then becoming evident that the agencies were not always on the some page.  I stand to be corrected, by my memory says that three times our Argentine Field Council formally requested a survey visit  by CRWRC to coordinate with needs we missionaries were encountering there, and for which we had neither training nor budget.  One of the reasons we were given from afar for never coming was that "Argentina is a bread basket county"!  Is it lost on any readers now, that not so many years ago Argentina formally went backrupt?!  And to her eternal credit, Catalina Griffeon from the Netherlands spent 30 years practically on her own among the poorest of the poor indigenous in the Chaco region; her earthly credit came from the Argentine government in the form of a Congressonal medal last year.  How wonderful if someone like her and our missionaries related to that ministry could have received a recognition in name of the CRCNA and not just as an individual.   

So lets keep the conversation going.  I´m told we have lots of readers... accompany the Synodical Taks Force on Structure and Culture (hey, if you want to experience a complex one, join me sometime here on a visit to ES!) in their task, and share your perspective on the issues under consideration and discussion.   Yes, HERE! Go for it!  WHO?!  You in the woodwork!

Thanks, Fonse, for the question about our meetings (assuming you meant the ones in El Salvador, from where I returned Monday 17th.  We made progress on the agreement, but the overarching concern were the rains.  Can yo believe 4 to 5 FEETover twleve days.  Floods, mudslides, washed out roads and bridges; a terrible mess and loss. Over 30 drowned or covered by slides.

So the money broiught for the project it was decided to spend it immediately ; a thousand dollars to each church.  On Sat. i got a report from Huizucar (brough food to another church housing 42 people; brough a hot meal to the municipal shelter in the town for 56 people.  So little for such a huge need.  I am helping them to make contacts with CRWRC Canada; just relayed the applicaton forms to the church.  But staff didn't make it sound very hopeful; with so little attention being given to those floods by the news media, it is hard to raise the money.   We are hoping it will come through.

So yes, I note that things have slowed down, and with my being away I'm not sure where things might stand; I did get an indication today that existing funds might not be available, and fundraising is not going well, surely due to the little or nothingof this in the news outlets.

My intention is to find out soon whether the Committee is continuing talks, and when there might be a "listening session."

Has anyone heard about that?      -Lou

Your update is appreciated Lou. Globally great needs arise everywhere and funds available are too often spread too thin.

I will keep praying for the people affected by natural disasters, floods, quakes, landslides, disease, poverty.

Fronse, you say: "...great needs arise everywhere and funds available are too often spread too thin."  How experientially true; having just come back and trying to raise funds to help, I ran into two things: 1) 100 plus deaths in a region are not enough to get the Central American disaster on the evening news, which impedes then a sympathetic giving from donors.  And more importantly for the topic of this thread,  2) another specific evidence of the lack of a good word and deed coordination of our agencies.  The CRWM regional director told me that they don't have any funds for disaster relief, but was sure that CRWRC would be wise in its response.  Well, two hours ago the Canadian office infomred me that they had already sent money  - (since I just returned and was even the first to inform about that disaster, I thought the El Salvador CRCs would be first in line)  - to an NGO, a technically good but liberation theology, Roman Catholic, community based organization, and there would be no more money left for the churches!!  Of course there is more to the story, but that would go beyond the import of this site.

What is clear is that the two agencies continue to each have their own playbook, let alone be on the same page. 

Hi Gentlemen, I briefly scanned the posts and it felt like we lookoing at faith imduced actions in various ways. First we must remember that the true model of spreading the gospel is most effective when introduced relationaly via loving actions and words. With that in mind is there ideas on how to evagilize the western world. We are very ineffective in slowing the decline in our back yards. We have stop calling names and kill them with a love that is visable as peace and hope not judgment. I thimk if can stop our inner society from  ignoring God's wisdom and start with telling our parishiners that they have God's power. we could affect a greater change. I once picked up a prostitute paid her rate and took her to dinner where I explained that My belief in Jesus affected my thinking. We talked about her life while she she was crying none stop. I took her back to her hotel and said God loves you when your ready to talk to Him. I have know idea if it made a difference. I never saw her again near the stores I frequent. We newed to all take small steps around us like just talking to the old couple that walks by or say hi to bunch of kids even if they look intimidating. You can walk into a gang if you are genuine. Ask them about their tatoo's or where they are from. It is easy because God does the work if you show respect and kindness.

Rev. Albertus Van Raalte came here to escape the persucution. We should avoid the any concept of judgement because that is another form of persucution.


Above you see: "Changing administration will not necessarily improve the connecttion between word and deed.   It might, but it is mostly about an attitude....That attitude will cause those in home missions to talk to those in the Back to God hour.   That attitude will cause those in CRWRC to talk to those in foreign missions and home missions, and vice versa.   Pick up the phone...." etc.

But instead of picking up the phone and calling as you suggest, CRWRC is picking up its marbles and going to a different playground!  They for all intents and purposes a year ago right now by intentional default did not participate in the conversations that were suggested by denominatinal leadership precisely to that end.  In August the signal came loud and clear... we have our own ideas as to where we want to go. The "possible name change" survey was circulated to 10,000 people.

And now if any are paying attention - the Banner is mute on this - the survey results suggeststhat while they want to continue a relationship with the CRCNA it strikes me that might end up being pretty tenuous.  Does anyone out there have a handle on some of this?









Wendy Hammond on February 22, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Lou, CRWRC has no plans to leave the denomination. There is no way it actually could, if you read the bylaws. of the organization. I encourage you to talk directly with CRWRC leadership if you have questions.


It been a little while since I visited here again... what I quoted or implied was at most "tenuous."It isn't so easy to find information, but a conversation with a CRWRC functionary led me to believe that some significant change may be in the works.  So I read with interest the Banner online report of the February Board meeting, and now this from BOT:

  1. Discussed at length and eventually tabled until the May 2012 Board meeting a decision about whether to endorse a proposal by the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) to change its name to World Renew (see news story). A delegation of CRWRC board and staff members told the Board of Trustees that CRWRC’s name no longer accurately reflects much of the work that it does or its many partnerships outside the Christian Reformed Church. They said the new name would enable CRWRC to expand its mission by engaging more effectively with a broader range of people.
  2. Adopted recommendations formalizing a number of areas in the relationship between the denomination and CRWRC. These included recognizing the 14-member Joint Ministry Council as CRWRC’s governance entity and recommending that synod approve CRWRC’s request to submit single nominees for at-large positions on its board.

Can we trust that the BOT heard enough rumblings so that those "recommendations" will keep the agency in not only the CRCNA sphere, but tighten its planning and working relationship with other ministries/agencies?  Crunch time will be May.  Yes, I did see the "comments" after the Banner article.  Is there any other site/blog/forum where this is being discussed; clue me in, please. 

Wendy Hammond on March 15, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

[quote=Lou Wagenveld]

Yes, I did see the "comments" after the Banner article.  Is there any other site/blog/forum where this is being discussed; clue me in, please. 


I'm not aware of any, and I do try to keep up with the online discussions/forums.

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