“It was the most fun Classis I’ve ever attended.”
An unusual word to describe a gathering of delegates, pastors, elders, and deacons. What ‘fun’ things happened in those hours from 4:00-9:00 p.m.?

January 5, 2015 0 3 comments

What makes the classis structure so valuable? Here's a few of the things I've come to notice and like about classis.

December 25, 2014 0 1 comments

In the last couple of weeks I have seen “Like us on Facebook” on the signs of two different churches and a truck dealership. Am I just old, or is there something odd about that?

December 16, 2014 0 0 comments

In “Why Staff?” I suggested that unclear expectations may be one reason many classical staff positions seem to be falling by the wayside. Another reason might rest in the nature of the positions; they cannot help but function as consultants.

December 9, 2014 0 2 comments

Classes that once had interim pastors, youth ministry consultants, or ministry coordinators, either no longer have these positions or have left them vacant. Perhaps we weren't clear about our expectations for these positions.

December 2, 2014 0 0 comments

The persistence of questions about the purpose of classis suggests that we are still not sure what the role of classis is.

October 26, 2014 0 1 comments

Not long ago a smaller church in our classis closed. I thought it represented a failure of imagination.

October 15, 2014 0 3 comments

When I first started attending classes, meetings were always in a church sanctuary. That is rarely the case anymore.

October 7, 2014 0 0 comments

The region some call Cascadia reminds us that national identities are not the only factors that affect ministry in North America.

September 8, 2014 0 0 comments

A fellow pastor mused about leaving the Christian Reformed Church as a classis. As I reflected on this, I came to see that my connection to Classis was different from my relationship with other ecclesiastical bodies.

September 2, 2014 0 1 comments

“How do we encourage people to serve as elders and deacons?” This is one of the more frequent responses to the church article 41 questions on the credentials for classis. That makes me wonder whether we are asking the right question.

August 11, 2014 0 1 comments
Resource, Article

A journey wall is a congregation wide experience in which a congregation posts their memories of positive and challenging experiences with the church, puts their story into chapters and then looks for repeated patterns across the life of the church.

July 14, 2014 0 0 comments

Sometimes I wonder whether When Helping Hurts hurts helping.

June 30, 2014 0 6 comments

A pastor I know once visited a church he’d served some years before. During the visit a member of that church had apologized for the way he’d acted while my colleague was his pastor.

June 16, 2014 0 5 comments

The succession plan outlined in the Board of Trustees (BOT) supplement to the Agenda for Synod indicates that both the previous interim Executive Director and deputy Executive Director will continue on in other roles until March of 2015. Does any other organization work this way?

June 9, 2014 0 5 comments

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with a friend who is a pastor. Our conversation drifted towards preaching and how much our own preaching had changed over the years when he said, “When I look at some of my first sermons I just want to throw them away.”

May 27, 2014 0 1 comments

The previous article gave an overview of my work the last eighteen months as a coach/consultant to churches of Classis Central Plains. I prefer to think of it as a “guide alongside.”

May 20, 2014 0 0 comments

A while back I was at a classis leadership event and noticed that most of the presenters were not “home grown”. It got me wondering whether something ought to be done about it.

May 13, 2014 0 1 comments

What can a coach bring to a classis and its congregations? This blog describes the role of a coach for congregational health and mission in Classis Central Plains.

May 2, 2014 0 3 comments

Last week I attended a Next Step in Congregational Faith Formation workshop. Though not quite what I’d expected it was more than I thought it would be.

April 30, 2014 0 0 comments

A commentator suggested that for younger Quebecers sovereignty is not the burning issue it had been for a previous generation. Could the same be said about the CRC?

April 15, 2014 0 2 comments

In a classical discussion the people arguing against a proposed classical staff position pointed out that churches already have lots of resources available to them. Now, there is one less resource for congregations to access.

April 1, 2014 0 2 comments

A phone call asking what to do with “papers” raises questions about the nature of church membership a highly mobile society where people move from country to country and church to church.

March 18, 2014 0 1 comments

One of the recommendations in last year’s Diakonia: Remixed report was that the Christian Reformed Church allow for longer, more flexible terms of service for elders and deacons. I recently discovered that the Presbyterian Church in Canada had taken a step in the opposite direction.

February 25, 2014 0 2 comments

I can hardly remember seeing or hearing a church visit report that was anything less than glowing.  Does this reflect the questions visitors ask?  Do we only find what we are looking for?

February 18, 2014 0 0 comments



The proposed change to Church Order Article 12-a is much more nuanced than simply adding "diaconal outreach" to the job description of the minister. Please interpret the change in the context of the ground that was provided. Though not mentioned in the ground, a valid interpretation of the change would be that promoting the work of diaconal outreach would be more applicable than engaging in that activity.

Ground: According to Article 30 of the Belgic Confession, ministers of the Word are called to common tasks with elders and deacons in equipping the church. Likewise, the second half of Church Order Article 12-a is intended to give an illustrative list of those tasks that the minister is called to do with other  officebearers. Making reference in the article to elders alone is confusing, since some of the tasks belong to other officebearers as well, such as supervising fellow officebearers (see Church Order Art. 82-84 and Supplement, Art. 82-84) and exercising pastoral care (see Art. 65). The proposed language removes this confusion by making a generic reference to other officebearers and including diaconal outreach in the tasks that the minister does in common with other officebearers.

Thanks, Norman. I agree.  It is time to focus.  Let's hope that vital conversations about pastoral theology continue to take place and that clarity emerges about the core functions of the pastoral ministry. 

Thanks for sharing this, Norman.  I know that the authors' intention was not "if you can't do missions perfectly, then stay home."  But it can come across that way, especially for some of the participants.  As our methods for engaging in short-term missions continues to mature, you have expressed an important part of that conversation.  The group I am involved with has encouraged past participants to read When Helping Hurts, and we are in the process of incorporating the books and videos of Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions and When Helping Hurts: The Small Group Experience into our orientation process. But each person is different, each team is different, and each host community is unique.  So one of the the things we have also brought into our 'best practices' is to, at the first opportunity to meet with the host community, ask that our time together be covered by grace and a spirit of forgiveness.  We explain that we are not on this mission trip because we are 'model Christians', but that we are sinners seeking to serve our Saviour.  Through some of those conversations we have discovered to what extent the host communities can also feel pressured, and that they too can feel as though they have been placed high on a pedestal.  Several communities have let out a collective sigh of relief as we together agreed that neither party is perfect, but let's do our best at learning about each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thanks for sharing this most encouraging post! Hopefully you'll receive inquiries about what GR East is up to. :)

posted in: Best Classis Ever

Hey, thanks, Carl!  This is encouraging AND fun to read!

posted in: Best Classis Ever

You raise a good point. I have long thought classes need more staff support, but I'm not sure we quite know what form that support should take. pvk

Sounds wonderful. Happy to hear some reporting in different ways to do classis! Keep it up! pvk

posted in: Best Classis Ever

Bill.  It's true dead seeds do not sprout.  Some seeds die without producing a plant.  But perhaps your simple statement misses the essence of what is happening.  A seed that wants to remain alive only as a seed, will never produce a plant.  It must get rid of the mantle and essence of the seed, in order to become a plant.  In the process of germinating, the seed disintegrates(dies).  Even a seed potato must empty itself in order to become a potato plant.  It must die to self, and live to what it can produce.  This too is scientific reality.  

It is a surprise to me that church visitors can poke their noses into a church without being invited by the council.  It would likely be a great offense to do so.   Be that as it may, church visitors in my experience often seem to lack the experience or training or motivation they need to be objective servants to a church in which they have no basic authority or involvement.  In my experience, when situations are relatively smooth, and they come to assist with visioning or something like that, they can be of some help.  But in volatile situations they seem to have their own prejudices and assumptions which do not allow them to be as helpful as they should be.   In my experience, there was a lack of real listening by the visitors, a carelessness about the welfare of the church, and a lack of verification as to whether what they heard was real or merely a perception.  There appeared to be a lack of desire for reconciliation on the part of the church visitors as well.   They had access, but misused it.  They made insulting recommendations because of the lack of verification, and did not use discernment.   In the end, this led to people leaving the church, and to a lack of reconciliation.  It seems that the church visitors made the situation worse.   I say this  to bring awareness to the need for special skills in volatile situations.  Skills in mediation ought not to be taken for granted and assumed, but need to be learned and practiced.  They also need to be able to step outside of their own frame of reference and realize that not all churches are the same, and do not all have the same culture or background or "history", and do not fit into neat little categories.  I'm sure that some church visitors do better than others, but the dangers of this ought not to be underestimated.  

Norm Visser brings up a topic to which many can relate: Classis meetings are generally not exciting (though they  can be and have been),

But picture their absence. Regional churches would then miss the main link that binds them together. We should also realize that classes play an important part in our church-life. Articles 75 and 76 of the Church Order spell out the tasks of classes, in brief: assisting the member churches of classes in their evangelistic programs and in their ministry of mercy. To that end every classis has a home missions committee and a diaconal committee. As long ago as 1937, Synod stated, "Our churches and our people are urged to unite strongly in their devotion to such missionary endeavors which are conducted by our churches..." (p. 99).

Classical meetings are also suitable settings for local churches to share their blessings, problems and needs. Local council members may ask themselves whether there are local needs in which classical prayers and assistance would be profitable. These last few years there have been several classes that have devoted part of their meeting-agenda to prayer and meditation focusing on the well-being of the member churches. Classes have also undertaken a variety of other ministries which would be beyond the capacity of an individual church..

Classical delegates should be afforded time and opportunity to report on the meetings of classes to the membership of local churches. Many churches already do this.

With all the talent invested in our ministers, elders, and deacons, much could and should be done to make our classical meetings more worthwhile, functional, and hence more exciting.

(One additional thought... Leadership of classical meetings is very important. Not every minister/elder/deacon is gifted for that function. Classes would do well to follow the example of synod; elect a chairman for each classical session, rather than just ministers taking turns.)

Louis Tamminga

posted in: What for (Again)?

A picture is worth a 1,000 words. Classis with the percentage of churches under 100 members. I stopped at 33% so could get at least one Canadian Classis in there. Draw your own conclusion to what this means for costs.  Room for what Norm suggests?

In total there are 324 churches with under 100 members = 30% of the churches in the CRCNA.

Country Classis            #churches   <100mem       %
USA      Pacific Hanmi               50               43        86%
USA      Southeast US               22               15        68%
USA      Yellowstone                  11                 7        64%
USA      Columbia                       20               12       60%
USA      Red Mesa                      20               12       60%
USA      Greater Los Angeles     37               21       57%
USA      Hackensack                   34               19      56%
USA      Lake Erie                       23               12       52%
USA      California South             28               14       50%
USA      Arizona                          10                 5       50%
USA      Pacific Northwest           45               20      44%
USA     Central California            33               13      39%
USA     Atlantic North East          21                 8      38%
USA     Northern Illinois               22                 8      36%

As long as a small church depends exclusively on an imported pastor for its survival, it will lack imagination in desperate times.   A pastor will not keep a church together, whose men cannot be spiritual leaders on their own (with God's help).   Elders who are afraid to preach, or visit, or lead, or pastor, will lead to a pastor serving 2 or three or four churches, until they die one by one.  Unless by some special grace, God imports a whole bunch of believers into that church from somewhere else.


It seems that we're in a time of flux when it comes to church planting; older models of "birthing" a new church and bringing it to full independence within a few years do not seem to be working as well in our current economic realities.  Multisite seems to be a model that is gaining ground nationally.  How friendly do you think our church order is to a mutlsite model?  Would we consider this one church in several locations, or a group of believers that *chooses* not to constitute a council?


Norman;   Could it be that the feeling of malaise that comes over many members when the word "Classis" is mentioned has it origins in the growing detachment Christians appear to have toward "Christendom" along with  its requisite structure?

Blaise Pascal* said "We know the truth not only through our reason but also through our heart.  It is through the latter that we know first principles, and reason, which has nothing to do with it, tries in vain to refute them."   Could it be that  'first principles' betimes get overlooked not just in Classis but in congregations too?

Malcolm Muggeridge addressed the subject of  Christendom in two lectures he gave at the University of Waterloo (UW) in Ontario in October of 1978.  (The Pascal Lectures).   His topic was "The End of Christendom", (but not of Christ). As he explained, " Christendom is something quite different from Christianity,(the former)  being the administrative or power structure, based on the Christian religion and constructed by men,  It's founder was Emperor Constantine whereas the founder of Christianity was of course Christ".

In his introductory remarks, John North who was then President of UW said:  "Most of the great universities of the West were founded with the conviction that theology is the queen of the disciplines, and that the key to man's wholeness is the pursuit of the truth through Jesus Christ.  Apart from that truth, it was believed,  all other expressions of truth are fragmentary and sterile"  .

If refocusing is required by either Classis or Congregations,  the Muggeridge lectures are well worth reviewing, at least in my opinion.  It is possible the two lectures could be retrieved in their entirety from the archives of the publisher, Wm B Erdmans (1980).


Ed Tigchelaar

*Pensee 110


posted in: Connection?

The organizational rules of the CRC do not encourage study and leadership. For example, in most Baptist-type congregations every elder (called deacons) is expected to be able to preach a sermon and every baptized member is expected to be able to give a testimony "for the hope that is within him."  Many CRC members are more familiar with the Catechism than with the Bible and the other two confessions.     

Bonnie, I agree with what you say about short-term missions. I recently wrote about that on the Global Missions blog--

I have not read the book, but from the general description of the content, it may be a necessary read for those interested in helping others, particularly in third world countries.   I served on the board of a large NGO for 12 years and witnessed first hand some of the uselessness of some of the projects.   It struck me at the time that something important in the relationship with the recipients and the stewardship of the 'helper' was seriously missing.   There is a danger in rushing in with a solution when the problem has first not been clearly defined.  The best projects were those wherein the recipients arrived at the correct solution on their own with the NGO acting as a sounding board.   If the project is successful, credit has to go to the recipients.

When Helping Hurts is a wonderful book; offering critical insights into what it means to answer the call to love our neighbors as ourselves. Treating people as whole people, the interconnectedness of issues and problems people face, the spiritual brokenness that is at the root, and being authentic in relationship. The book doesn't say never do short term missions - only that what we do needs to be considered carefully in light of a bigger picture.

I appreciate the concern expressed in Reg's solution which the council gave, but that solution does not fit with Scripture (Matthew 18) or Church Order (in CRC polity there is no such thing as an elders meeting with the pastor present. The closest thing we have is consistory which is made up of the elders and the pastor.  The difference is that the pastor is a part of the consistory in equal standing to anyone else in the room.)  I have also seen that remedy leading to elders making decisions behind a closed door based on a complaint they are told about, creating even more problems. I believe a better scenario would be if a person complained to an elder about the pastor's preaching, for that elder to arrange a meet of that person with the pastor with the elder there to help that person express the criticism without watering it down or abusing the pastor.  

posted in: Enough is Enough

"In my opinion, any planning effort, such as improving pastor/congregation relations or accepting recommendations from consultants, or even goals to increase the size of the fellowship, is a waste of time unless it is institutionalized into the structure of the church where a small standing committee has long term ownership and reports regularly to the then current Council." Edward, I think you are right on this. I have connected with a number of churches wanting change that will last a decade plus. Part of the solution I believe is something like you are suggesting.

Another helpful piece is someone outside the congregation who the congregation gives permission to prod them every couple years. When the immediacy of the problem wheres off we all tend to let our focus drift.

posted in: Enough is Enough

I would also like to encourage people to attend the online study of When Helping Hurts. It's important that people don't just read it and become paralyzed. Rather, to jump in and start implementing what's learned. We hope the study will do that.

You bring up some interesting points here, Norman, and I agree with you in a lot of ways. It's so important that our fear of doing something wrong doesn't paralyze us to do something at all. As sinful humans, everything we do is tainted by sin, and regardless of how many books we read, how much we plan, how prepared we are to do community development, our efforts will never be perfect. How awesome is it that even in our fallen state God still is working in our efforts! Still, I believe we need to be extremely careful before we "help" to ensure that we aren't hurting. I also believe that this often is a selfish response--we feel the need to do something to make ourselves feel better and our efforts are more for our own consciences than they are for the person who needs to be helped.  

I also don't think we can set out and try a bunch of things on our own, hoping that trial and error gets us to a good place, meanwhile doing a ton of harm (not that I think this is what you're suggesting, but I think it's often what we do when we "help" without really realizing it). We should come together as Christians and rejoice that God has given us all different gifts, some are gifted in strategy and research, as I believe Corbett and Fikkert are, and take their advice.

I surely hope that When Helping Hurts does not hurt helping, but I also think it could curb a lot of negative efforts and that is a good thing. We hope and pray that we do not have to learn from our mistakes at the expense of others, and even though we know as sinners we will never do things perfectly, I think the ideas laid out in When Helping Hurts are good steps towards renewal.

That person may be permanently banned from leadership positions, but I doubt in a few years that such a ban will be remembered.

In my experience, one of the reasons it is so hard to modify a congregational culture or to carry through on any commitment is the rotating tenure of the office bearers. A well intentioned commitment, for example to improve pastor/congregation relations, may enjoy majority support in year one, but in year two, only two thirds remember the need or the urgency. In year three, only one third remembers and in year four, only the pastor remembers what the thinking was. Especially with Council officers changing every year, our churches have little institutional memory. And when the pastor leaves, that memory too is gone.

Over more years than I care to remember, I have participated in goal setting and long term planning with increasing skepticism as plan after plan has been forgotten or superseded. In my opinion, any planning effort, such as improving pastor/congregation relations or accepting recommendations from consultants, or even goals to increase the size of the fellowship, is a waste of time unless it is institutionalized into the structure of the church where a small standing committee has long term ownership and reports regularly to the then current Council.

Perhaps we need to look at a role such as Executive Director in each church to give some stability and institutional memory.

posted in: Enough is Enough

I would dare say there is high likelihood that those who make a pastor's life miserable are not alone; very possible their parent(s) and even grand parent(s) demonstrated a similar pattern in the history of the church. If this is the case, the congregation should own this and deal with it. Many years ago I consulted with a congregation that exposed this pattern. They knew this but felt helpless in dealing with this individual, who also did all what it took to railroad the consultancy process. My advice was simple & direct; deal with this sore and if you don't as a church you will never become what the rest would hope for. My time with the church seemed unfruitful as we never accomplished what we set out to do. It was a decade plus later that I bumped into a congregation member at Synod who sought me out to share that the church finally dealt with that sore. This small church finally got the guts to show this man the door; a really tough thing to do (or is it?). The report was the church had drastically changed for the better and they atribulted the consultancy process to reveal and help them see that. Go figure!!!

On a possible similar note, I believe that the "thorn in the flesh" that Paul speaks about is this very dynamic that Visser blogs about. Consider it!!!!!


posted in: Enough is Enough

We had a summer student a few years ago, and when he left he sent a letter to council. In the letter he shared how, at different times, different members had come to ask him to preach on a topic or preach a certain way. He found this troubling as the members where often making contradictory requests. Council decided that members, if they had a pastoral concerns, they would approach their elder and the topic would be reviewed at the elders meeting with the pastor present.


posted in: Enough is Enough

In my career spanning 40 years I moved 12 times. Some pretty senior jobs too. The longest overlap was 5 days. That is a simple answer to Norms first question.

posted in: Long Goodbye

Agreed. Having the previous interim Executive Director and deputy Executive Director still in place sends conflicting messages to staff as to who is in charge. 

posted in: Long Goodbye

You make some excellent points.  I question the transition time-line from the perspective of financial management.

posted in: Long Goodbye


posted in: Long Goodbye

There is much wisdom here, Norm. 

posted in: Long Goodbye

I love the idea of continuing in sermon evaluation after the initial tests are passed. The purpose for those evaluations could simply be to chart progress and spot areas for growth. 

posted in: Sermon Critics

This article touches on something I heard recently. John MacArthur (Masters Seminary) made this statement. "There are two large global movements currently in place. One is the Charismatic and the other is Reformed." I wonder why we seem to be in wane here in N.America and yet globally we see a growing influence of Reformed minded. Any thoughts on this obserevation? 

posted in: Supply Management

Thank you Louis and Karl for your affirmation of this work. I recently heard an elderly sage in the area of church health say something like this. "Increasingly most all of the challenges which congregations face are adaptive challenges (the nature of the challenge and the solution is not fully clear). Meanwhile the answers touted are still by-and-large tactical solutions (plug and play). Technical solutions rarely succeed at adequately addressing adaptive challenges. We need to look for adaptive solutions to the adaptive challenges congregations face." May we all tilt our heads and perk our ears more to sense the direction the wind of the Spirit is blowing!

I love this "try stuff together and learn as we go" approach.   Being intentional, and purposeful, and prayerful, about our continuing effort to be Jesus' body is rarely about following a package or kit.  It's about lively interaction, dialog, experimentation and evaluation, and learning to delight in listening for and following the Spirit.  Thanks to you, Mike, for your help with congregational health and renewal!


Louis Tamminga

Thank you, Norman, for these helpful lines! You have entered upon a strategic ministry. You did it with vision and trust. Our prayers accompany you and your fellow-workers.

Many church leaders across the denomination realize that your challenge is theirs.

The 2014 Yearbook that appeared just a few weeks ago reports that the total number of members of the CRC stands at 245.217.

The Yearbook of 2013 reported hat figure to stand at 248.258.

The reduction was a significant 3.041.

But we look at all figures in the light of the Gospel, its challenges, and its power. Keep writing, Norm.

May 3, 2014

I believe that ship has sailed some time ago.  Denominational loyalty is virtually irrelevant to young people today.  The comment about seeing what is said and what is done is so true.  This was already hinted at a long, long time ago in a short story by James Schaap.  If memory serves, it was about the worship wars going on in a church where the anger over opinions of right worship flared to the point where one person on the committee hollered, "If I had a dime, I'd quit this committee!"  Whereupon a young person who up until now had sat silently amidst the arguments, stood up and slapped a dime on the table and walked away.

posted in: Referenda

I believe that ship has sailed some time ago.  Denominational loyalty is virtually irrelevant to young people today.  The comment about seeing what is said and what is done is so true.  This was already hinted at a long, long time ago in a short story by James Schaap.  If memory serves, it was about the worship wars going on in a church where the anger over opinions of right worship flared to the point where one person on the committee hollered, "If I had a dime, I'd quit this committee!"  Whereupon a young person who up until now had sat silently amidst the arguments, stood up and slapped a dime on the table and walked away.

posted in: Referenda

Likewise, the same thing can be said for Elders.  The same principles apply to both.

posted in: Revolving Door

Thanks for this post Norm. No matter how we address the issue of terms and need for training for deacons, I think there is a growing consensus that the CRC in general and congregations in particular need to look at how we develop and sustain a more vital and effective diaconate.

Jack Kooyman, Deacon Guide for The Network

posted in: Revolving Door

Do most church councils know these resources exist?

Anyway, the verse chosen for the article title is an argument against the infalliablity of the Bible. Why? It probably represents the best biological science of that day, We now know that dead seeds don't sprout.


I agree that "membership papers" may be a thing of a past generation, but the fact is we still have them in the CRC Church Order.  Does anyone have a better approach?  What can be done in such a transient society where denominational ties are weakening and where moving to other communities seems inevitable?  I would doubt the CRC is ready to drop the concept of membership at this point.

posted in: Papers

Thank you for your summary of this book. Some CRC pastors are implementing the seven dynamics of being led by Holy Spirit. They are also facilitating the training.

There is a one day overview, of the 4 day workshop, in Guelph on March 22/14. I am asking a number of people from our church to attend. As one pastor said, "this must be a grassroots initiative and the leadership must be fully invested".

John A. Algera, in his book, "Signs & Wonders - page 97", states, "In reformed circles, an underemphasis on the work and power of Holy Spirit has tradionally existed, along with a fear of any manifestationof Holy Spirit that cannot be controlled or predicted".
As if we could control God.

John, Norman mentioned the Presbyterian Church of Canada. We don't have PCUSA up here. There are several PCA church plants though... to appease the conservative contemporary worship people who don't want to remain CRC nor are they willing to jump to the URC. The Presby Church of Canada operates a differently from the PCUSA and PCA.

Thanks for turning our attention to this challenge/ opportunity again, Norm!  I do believe more and more classes are being proactive about restoring this practice and strengthening it so it really counts for something.  I know of a few who are doing that, and I think some best practices are developing!  I hope we see some good dialog here about what can happen !

posted in: Valuing Visitors

Norman, you do not indicate whether the Presbyterian church was PCUSA or PCA.  I have heard of big differences between them.  That aside, calling a church vacant, when presumably there are several elders likely present, and there is a congregation present, seems presumptuous.  Precisecly because the church is not vacant, but merely has a pastoral vacancy, is why each church needs to determine its own need for a counselor or advisor.  The assumption that the only relationship or significance is between a pastor and a congregation is harmful, and does not recognize that there are significant relationships between various parts of the congregation, as well as between members and elders, and deacons, etc.  It is not as simple as you make it sound.  An overbearing counselor or interim moderator leads to an immature body of believers, never able to take on the tasks God has given them. 

BOQ...I mean, if a person is willing to lie to self, a spouse, a church council, a congregation and to God, why do we expect that person will be honest and transparent in an accountability group? EOQ

Oh wow, does that hit the nail on the head.... what I have found in researching porn issues, is that those with addictions are experts at lying, deceiving and manipulating...  unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, they go hand in hand...

I believe one of the ways the Church is meant to expose these "secret sins" is through prophetic revelation from the Holy Spirit.  Due to our cessationist history, we/crc are not very experienced in that for a number of reasons.  I would recommend reading "Surprised by the Voice of God" by Jack Deere a pastor trained in cessationism, who had his spiritual eyes and ears opened to the Spirit (so he's no longer cessationist).  In the first chapter he shares a testimony of how God gave him the word "pornography" (a word of knowledge) when he was meeting with a student, and through that the student confessed and the LORD used that to free the student from his sexual sins.

I look forward to when when the Church is walking more fully in the gifts of the Spirit, including the revelatory supernatural gifts, so the the Bride will be pure, without spot or wrinkle.

posted in: Accountability

The essay makes an indirect argument for a "confessional" priesthood. Protestant Christians do not have anyone to whom they can talk "off the record" and be assured the conversation will not cause legal or personal problems. the CRC has no tradition which would prevent an entire council and council minutes from being subpoena'd into court.  

posted in: Accountability

When I entered Calvin Seminary, the great majority of candidates accepted calls by August (many had multiple calls).  

After I graduated Calvin Seminary four years later (2005), the majority of candidates accepted calls by January of the following year. 

Today my impression is that candidates wait at least a year, more likely two to receive a call.  

Yeah, we need to revisit that two year "shelf life".   Our system was designed in the days of short vacancies, short pastorates and a lot of moving around.  As a pastor's kid, I can appreciate the benefit of slowing things down (at least let the kids graduate high school where they started!), but we need to adapt our culture of calling accordingly.  It may be the case that someone is called to preach for a season, but then another season comes.  If we can help our ministers in that discernment (and maybe networking/job placement), it will be a great help in reducing a pastor's anxiety (and that of clergy families too).    

posted in: Best Before

What happens to your ministry calling when you can't find a ministry job?

Perhaps you're looking in the wrong place. Not everybody who is ordained to the ministry belongs in the pulpit. The late Rev. Carl Tuyl used to say, 'We recycle ministers', when he referred to pastors who left the pulpit to become chaplains.

We seem to be missing the notion that we are all engaged in ministry, whatever the profession or occupation. When someone leaves a career in business to 'enter the ministry', it's seen as a step up; a noble gesture.  When a minister leaves the pulpit -- even after an Article 17 separation -- for a career in business, or agriculture, or teaching, it's seen as a demotion.

I think that we as a denomination need to re-examine the notion of 'call'. A medical doctor undoubtedly experiences the same sense of call as a minister does. Same with teachers, police officers, secretaries, entrepreneurs and actors.

I am most troubled by those men and women who feel a sense of call to the ministry but who don't really exhibit any special gifts, and their friends and church councils don't want to discourage their spiritual enthusiasm. I am wondering if Pastor Church Relations has any statistics on Article 17 separations that could be traced back to a lack of giftedness. 

How is that initial sense of call to the ministry affirmed ... even before one enrolls in college to pursue the theological track? And I wonder how many seminary graduates make it by the skin of their teeth, eager to spend the next 40 years in The Ministry?


posted in: Best Before

You raise important concerns, Norman. Personally, unless a person is truly unfit for service in the church (e.g., through moral issues or doctrinal ones), I do not get why there should be a limit to ordination. In some Reformed/Presbyterian churches, elders are ordained for life, though they may not be functioning as elders all the time. Why not pastors/preachers ordained for life? If they were at one time declared qualified to preach, that should remain.

posted in: Best Before