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One of the best kept secrets about the CRC’s life as a denomination is that exciting changes are percolating at the classical level.

We take it for granted that agencies are thriving and doing effective work. We take it for granted that while many congregations are in crisis, there are many CRC congregations that are growing and engaging their neighbors with the call to Kingdom living. Our colleges are schools to be proud of; our ministry share system, though we may lament it, is still the envy of many denominations. But exciting change at the classical level? Have you heard any recent buzz about that?

Yes, the classis IS changing – in ways that both reflect and stimulate the health of the denomination and its congregations, AND increase its capacity to participate in the mission of God. Classes are becoming communities of worship, prayer, learning, encouragement, mission. Not all of them – yet. But the momentum is growing.

The Classis Renewal Ministry Team has developed a set of benchmarks that are “signs of renewal”. In today’s blog, I’m finishing up a list of what I call “conditions for change”. These come from the experiences of classes, and I think these are the marks of a classis that is beginning to change, the marks of Holy Spirit ferment in our structure. You can read more here.

8. Leadership change. It is a painful but inevitable truth that as the process proceeds and the vision crystallizes, and the culture transforms, some leaders will resist mightily, and then change or leave. This is painful and frightening. Face it. To deal with difference in love – that is perhaps the key. It is the skill our ecclesiastical culture lacks most desperately. If it were easy the Bible wouldn’t talk about it so much.

9. Delegation. As priorities change, and meetings take on new form, time management in the meetings becomes a new urgency. Making sure that what’s truly important gets air time, and resting assured that subcommittees have performed their work well so that recommendations need not be re-discussed on the floor at great length, these are the marks of a classis where trust and respect and accountability are high, and routine matters can be handled routinely, and the time of the plenary is dedicated to making the best use of time in worship, prayer, and strategic dialog and decision making.

10. Paid staff. There’s something about professionalism, intentionality, “skin in the game” that is represented by paid staff. Classical staff with clear responsibility and good accountability and high competence are important indicators of classis’ commitment to get beyond good intentions in the renewal process.

11. Good cooperation between denominational agencies and the classis. No surprises. No unilateral decisions. High commitment to working together in ways that genuinely enhance the congregations’ work. Willingness to take the time and effort to make excellent cooperation happen.

So that’s our list – what the Classis Renewal Ministry Team is learning about the conditions in a classis that result in healthy change. Sound familiar? Sound enviable? Sound unreal? What do you think? What’s your experience? Where are the signs of Holy ferment in your classis? How could you build on them? Or maybe you’re grieving brokenness in your classis right now. This is the place to share a story – what’s yours?


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