Synod of 2013 considered an ambitious report regarding the well-being and mission of the Christian Reformed Church. It was clear by then that the CRC needs to grow in vision, that local churches need to experience revival, that the 1000+ congregations should cooperate more, and that denominational agencies should relate and communicate more closely with local churches and with each other.
Synod of 2014 which will meet in June in Pella, Iowa, will consider two more study reports: one on the offices of Elder and Deacon, and one on Structure and Culture. These reports are written in a spirit of concern: the leadership of the CRC is eager to encourage and equip the CRC membership to be strong in the faith and be living witnesses of the Master.
This brief article cannot begin to summarize these voluminous writings, but I was intrigued by a reference to a fascinating document that originated in the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) –a denomination similar in size to the CRC and also concerned about growing in faithfulness to Christ. The name of the document: Five Smooth Stones.
The five “Stones” referred to individual ministry proposals the ECC adopted with a view to designing a structure that inspires leadership and promotes effective congregational faithfulness. Last year the CRC's Study Committee laid out a similar design around a mantra of Five Streams, modeled after the Five Smooth Stones. Here is a summary of each “Stream,”
- Faith formation: CRC churches and leadership working together to equip believers to grow in faith and be faithful disciples in the kingdom.
- Servant leadership: identifying, training and recruiting leaders in the kingdom. Inspiring leadership is essential.
- Global missions: we are witnesses of Christ, to the end of the earth. The denomination strengthens and encourages local congregations to be part of God’s mission.
- Loving mercy, doing justice, and walking humbly with God: we think of the oppressed, the brokenhearted, and the disadvantaged. Therefore we seek to act justly and love mercy.
- Gospel proclamation and worship: we proclaim the saving message of Jesus and worship him in all that we do. Faith is strengthened by hearing the Word.
In June the Synod will reflect further on this vision. It will especially consider how the offices of the church can function effectively toward realizing them. For example, a proposal will be consider regarding how the office of deacon can contribute more toward realizing the above goals. The hope is that these “Five Streams” will strengthen and catalyze ministry in each of our congregations.
Perhaps you wonder whether study committees spell out and Synod discusses at length will actually touch your life. Have you seen synodical and classical action taking visible shape in your local church?