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A framework of scriptural leadership competencies and their contemporary equivalents based on an exegesis of 1 Timothy 3 by Matthew Kutz, the Administrative Director for the Foundation Stone Christian Center, Northwood, OH.

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Whether you're a first-timer or have years of experience, The Elder's Handbook will help you carry out your ministry with compassion, grace, and effectiveness.

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Synod 1910 made some imaginative recommendations to the local church regarding missions. And today, more than a century later, we may take a lesson.

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Personally knowing our members gives us insight into the most important question.

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May 27, 2014 0 3 comments
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I wish I had more of it: enthusiasm. It's an interesting word. The '-thu' part is derived from the Greek 'theos' -- God. And “en” is the simple 'in'. So, more of God in us. En-Theos! Enthusiasm!

May 21, 2014 0 0 comments
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Many times the desire to live faithfully is defeated by the habits we have unconsciously embraced. This webinar will explore the way habits have power over the church organization and suggest some key habits that are faithful to our tradition and transformative to the church culture.

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How will the CRC's new Five Streams vision impact your congregation?

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This helpful process will keep you focused on serving the person you are visiting.

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Friendships never stand alone. Friendship is a special room in the bigger house of relationships.

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Of all the hardships people suffer, loneliness presses hardest. How will you care for lonely people during this season of Lent?

March 31, 2014 0 3 comments
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"...  no office-bearer shall lord it over another office-bearer." -- Article 85 of the CRC Church Order. Elders and Deacons belong together, their offices complement each other, their  tasks, though distinct, have the same purpose: building the Church of Christ.

February 19, 2014 0 3 comments
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When you become an elder (or a deacon or a minister) you will experience a change at least in one respect: you will become more aware of the need to be discreet.

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I would like to offer a roundtable on this topic in the Chicagoland area. 

February 14, 2014 0 2 comments
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Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you a stranger and invited you in ...? “When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you …?” (from Matthew 25) 

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Here is a truism...: Pastors and elders must regularly discuss both the quality of the worship services and the pastors' sermons.  

January 28, 2014 0 2 comments
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Greetings Everyone! I am wondering if anyone knows if there is some sort of records or database regarding how many churches in the CRC have made the transition from a traditional Council structure to a model where Elders and Deacons are split into administrative and pastoral type roles? (...

January 23, 2014 0 2 comments
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For churches who are interested in helpful guidelines and a process to use in handling conflict in your congregation, Pastor-Church Relations would like to suggest the following documents: Agreeing and Disagreeing in Love and a sample template.  Please free feel to tailor each document to your...
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Thanks so much for your good words, Leon!

You yourself will be the beneficiary of what you propose.

Hurrah for Southern Alberta!

Louis 

(sorry for the delay of my response...)

 

 

 

Louis Tamminga, May 1, 2014

Thanks again, John, for laying out your thoughts in further detail. You burned the mid-night oil.

How shall we proceed from here on? 

These columns are meant to think together through various issues that concern the well-being of our churches. So we seek your input. It would be fine if you would wish to address only parts of John's essay. Should the church in the future wish to deal with these proposals and needs, we realize that the pathway through the ecclesiastical structures is cumbersome and time consuming. But progress will only be made when office bearers and thoughtful members have already discussed them at various levels. So, again, let's talk. We owe it to the church and to John.

A word of caution

This NETWORK is meant to help church leaders in doing their ministerial work. There are so many parts and issues in this work. They all deserve discussion. Share your problems and experiences with us all. This must not become a one-issue platform.

Thanks, Louis for your refreshing openness.    This is a big topic, but I will try to be brief as possible.  I have thought about this issue for some time since about  30 years ago when asked by a non-member visitor whether he could participate.   Many other circumstances and situations have added to this thinking, including those baptized as adults but not members, those baptized as infants but not adult professing members, those with reduced mental capacity, etc.  In addition I had to make decisions on whether to participate in non-reformed churches. Also I noted that in one reformed church only a small part of the membership actually participated in communion, and that I was restricted from participating in another particular reformed church as a visitor because I was from a different denomination.

I think  profession of faith has always been an issue of formal church adult membership primarily.   It sometimes happens years after someone knows they are a Christian.   It is not a gateway to faith in Christ, but a commitment to local and denominational precepts.  There is no reason to think that making such a profession of faith is tied to a recognition of a faith relationship to God or to the body of Christ, since if this was so, for many children, it would be done much earlier, and for some people, it should not be done until much later.

 I see too often that profession of faith is not taken seriously.  The elders who examine do not understand the significance, and the one who professes faith does not renounce sin in any reasonable fashion.   It should be noted that simply saying you renounce sin does not prove that you really do.   In the same way, professing that scripture is your guide and rule for life and for worship, is not the same as actually doing so.   Members who do not renounce sin, who refuse to put on the robe of righteousness/obedience, and who think scripture is out of date, cause problems when they influence others to do the same under the presumed authority of their membership.  

We generally consider those who make profession of faith as full members and able to participate in congregational meetings, voting, and eligibility for office.   Then we have also in the past added in the ability to participate in communion, and baptism of their children. 

I think we should separate these two items.  In order to participate in communion, faith ought to be evident, but in general this should be left up to the participant with the general warning that if you do not believe and trust in Christ, that you should refrain from participating.  If you believe and trust and follow, then you are considered part of the body of Christ, and thus communion is fitting, since it is participation in the body and blood of our Lord and Saviour.

If someone is participating when it is obvious that there is no repentance, no renewal, no reflection of Christ, then that is opportunity for the elders to talk and visit and witness.   This opportunity is a gift from God, not to be neglected.

Membership as an adult is somewhat different, because now distinctions are being made between various confessions of faith, various assumptions about renouncing sin, and various governance assumptions.   If we have a significant number of people making profession of faith who do not agree with some of the confessions, then they can easily vote in favor of not promoting infant baptism, or inviting various speakers from any denomination to preach, denying the authority of the elders, or denying the power of scripture over their lives.   Membership ought to be clearer.  It is not a form of acceptance by the congregation, but a form of commitment to a set of standards by the believer/member. 

We ask elders to sign the form or covenant of officebearers, in order to establish what their commitment is.  However, by making membership conditions relatively insignificant, there is a side effect on signing of this elder’s form such that it is also not taken so seriously, and thus we have officebearers directly contradicting their agreement both in their understanding of the confessions and scripture and in their daily walk of life.   We have seen this in council rooms, congregational meetings and in the banner.   If this is not taken seriously, then how can we have the temerity to suggest that it is necessary to make a formal membership profession in order to partake of communion?

A contrast was made for me in the difference between two churches (not crc) in my region, and how they handled church membership.   One church had 10,000 members on their books and had seating for only 2000 people in their building and the church usually half empty.   Rarely 10% of their membership would attend on a weekly basis.   Another church had seating for 1500, with only 250 adult members, where attendance was usually four times the membership, and 80% full.   The second includes a statement of faith, as well as a statement of conduct relevant to today’s temptations to which a member must sign agreement.   One treated membership as a mystical panacea that covered their sins, while the other treated membership as a commitment with high standards.  So the question for me is, which does the crc prefer to be?

We should also make clear that if membership is not contingent on following all of the proscribed confessions, articles, synodical statements, forms for baptism, installation, ordination, etc., then in which instances is there room for divergent perspectives and beliefs?  For example, if there is room in the crc for members who wish to be rebaptized, or for those who prefer believer baptism, or for those who speak in tongues, then we should make this clear.  If there is room for members who deny that God created man good, then perhaps we should make that clear.  If there is room for members who advocate sexual immorality, then we should make that clear.   The lack of clarity in a simple document on some of these high profile issues causes problems for members, for those considering membership, for elders, and for any understanding of membership, acceptance and discipline.

In my view, the potential complexities of a membership decision should not be the condition for approving or denying communion in the form of the Lord’s supper.

April 29, 2014

Louis Tamminga

 

​Thanks, John, for your contribution of April 22, today just one week ago. I have pondered on your remarks many hours. Many readers of NETWORK will have too. The fact that I did not read any responses probably demonstrates that others too could not come up with answers. Unable to formulate a helpful response I took comfort in the fact that NETWORK was designed to draw many readers into discussing the observations and questions of fellow-readers.  So, dear participants, what would you say to John and us all? 

And I may add: John, what would you say yourself in response to your questions? As you struggled with your thoughts, you will have envisioned some  answers. 

 

Thanks for your reply/comment.  First I would respond that in my experience it is indeed realistic that some children would examine the confessions and practices of the church, and begin to make statements about which they agree with, and which they do not.   These are usually children who are very committed and who examine scripture and love the Lord.  These children can range in age from 14 to 30.   They came to the faith from the time they could speak and read, and as we confess in our creeds, they belonged to God from before birth, as evidenced in their daily talk and walk.

Whether we agree with their confessional or practical disagreements or not, on what basis do we deny them communion?  They believe in Jesus as their divine Lord and Saviour, and follow Him in their daily lives.   What if the clause in profession of faith " “to confess the faith of the church as taught in the creeds and confessions of this church.”" causes them objections?  Or from the 1976 form, "Do you believe....that the confessions of this church faithfully reflect this revelation?"  What do we do then with temporary or permanent visitors from other places, or from other churches(with different doctrines)?   Should communion be tied to membership?

I have participated, as have my children, in communion in non-crc churches.  These include Alliance, Baptist, Church of God, Brethern, Luthern, and various community churches.  I do not believe that communion belongs to a denomination.    Only that communion ought to be practiced in a way to treat each other as the body of Christ, mostly by not being selfish (I Cor.14), since Christ was not selfish.  I have also seen some non-members exhibit more christian leadership and committment than some "professing" members.   Would we then deny the one and admit the other?

This is different than I thought when I was a child, but it is a real struggle.  When we see people making profession of faith who are not renouncing sin, how honest are we being?   The 2013 form and the 1989 form seem to place less emphasis on the confessions, but is there no expectation of membership with the profession of faith any longer?  Yet it seems to be a gateway to membership, voting, and eligibility for teaching and leadership, yes?  Which would at a minimum imply some level of agreement with confessions and practices?   And would imply some agreement on christian living?   Some other denominations separate this entirely, by making faith and communion separate from membership.  Membership then implies a whole 'nother level of committment.  Perhaps we could learn from this?

I appreciate the attempt to accommodate various less significant differences, within the ability to participate in communion.  I agree with that.  But what that leads to then is a problem with membership and committment.  I have seen difficulties with members not renouncing sin, or with members saying the Bible is out of date, or with making huge scriptural inaccuracies such as Mary  being raped when conceived with Jesus,  or Paul being homosexual.  Not to speak of those who question whether God really created us good.   I have difficulty in communion with people who do that, but even more importantly, such people are deemed qualified for leadership simply because they are members by virtue of their profession of faith?  How do we practice the Lord's Supper as the Lord himself did and the epistles instruct us, while at the same time making membership and leadership truly accountable?  In the past these two things have been so closely tied together, but are they still?

Sorry for my questions, and perhaps they are not easily answered.  The baggage of our history lingers on.

My thanks to John Zylstra for his thoughtful comment about “older children” participating in the Lord's Supper without having made Public Profession of Faith. John argues that many such children/young people may have problems with the three Confessions of Faith (the “Creeds”). John, in passing, refers to Christ's approval which is a bit tenuous, since Christ did not spell out participation in detail.

Thinking about John’s proposal brings up immediately one implication: churches following this path will then have another – a third - class of members: regular participants in the Lord's Supper, but not “Professed Members”.

The problem John introduces is real and it is not new. Let me suggest a solution which I think is more profitable.

It is hardly realistic to think that "older children,” who consider profession of faith,  will turn to the Creeds and then check whether they agree with the contents. By far the majority of church members came to the faith through Bible reading, the Christian life at home, the ministry of  the church, and a variety of Christian contacts. The Holy Spirit used these and other means to instill faith in the hearts of the members (mostly) from young age on. Thus they became members of a church-fellowship that confessed the Word of God as the source and basis of faith.

But the denomination also confessed that the thrust of God's Word was summed up in the Creeds.  As a community of believers we believe those to be true (though not at the same level as the Scriptures). They form splendid study materials,  keep us connected with previous generations, form a helpful defense of the faith, and Pastors preach sermons that do not contradict the creeds.

Does that mean that I must agree with each phrase in the Creeds? Not really.

What can I do in case of disagreement? We realize, of course, that many strategic doctrines of salvation are spelled out clearly in the Bible. But there is plenty left for believers to disagree about.  For instance “infant baptism”. But would that seriously hamper me from joining a church in which I have been nurtured spiritually from my youth on?  I think not. Here, I think, is the way young people may follow. They will speak with their minister, or elder, or trusted guide and together consider the matter.  Should this not lead to clarity, the young member should be assured that his/her (confessed) membership remains fully assured in spite of the confessional wrinkle.  I may stand next to him/her in the Lord's Supper circle, both assured in Christ's salvation, but with a different view of one implication  of holy baptism. The 'solution' I propose is pastoral, it is the assurance that we look in a glass darkly but our hope is in Christ in whom we are one in spite of our differences.

Synod itself at one time gave a  bit of pastoral advice in reply to a question of a local church, how to deal with a charismatic member who had accepted adult baptism in another fellowship. Synod's reply: ask that member whether she still  values her membership in your congregations and whether she is prepared to continue to accept the responsibilities going with regular membership.  (Synod 1973, Acts page 73)

Although it is true that participating in communion ought to be a sign of faith, and not a sign of peer approval, the direct connection to making a formal membership profession of faith in a particular denomination is not required by scripture.  Of course we would ask and expect only believers to participate.  On the other hand, if someone says that they have not read the belgic confession and thus cannot yet make profession of faith in any reformed church, or they agree with most of the confessions, but not with the mandatory requirement for infant baptism and thus cannot in good conscience say that they agree entirely with what is taught on that point, should they therefore be denied participation in the body of Christ?  Did Jesus do such?  Would we deny christians from ORC, or from NRC, or from Baptist or Pentacostal, or Alliance churches to participate in this remembrance of the body of Christ?  even though they have not entered the hallowed "gateway"?  If the crc finds a way to distinguish between profession of faith, and a membership committment, then perhaps you might have a point.  The two are not the same.  

The church needs to be extremely cautious when taking a stand on contentious issues because it can be highly destructive. In 2012 we took a corporate stand on Global warming.

Now, we have liberal Democrats insisting that pastors preach on the topic. And when they do, conservative Republicans are squirming in the pews because they believe most of it is based on a hoax to make Al Gore richer. But during the sermon there is no format to voice an objection. So alienation is the result.

By raising the profile of Global Warming in our churches, we have shattered the intimacy of conversations between Christians because we do not want to offend each other. We are walking on egg shells rather than enjoying the communion of the saints. In such an atmosphere of tension, we only talk to those who agree with us and avoid interacting with any others. Doing church becomes something to be avoided rather than embraced.

And finally, when a significant portion of the membership finds itself in disagreement with the stand of the denomination, the support of Ministry Shares becomes a lower priority. In some cases it may be a deliberate effort to starve our Denominational Offices, but more likely it is hard to support something one feels is wrong and so begins the effort to find other Kingdom causes. And our support of Missionaries drops to 10%.

This has been the cost to the CRCNA as a result of the vote in 2012 so far and it continues to reek havoc within our congregations. Yet we persist.

Why not focus on those things we have in common, like our love for our Lord and our passion to witness to that love. 

Bonnie and Larry and Bill are making good points.   Sphere sovereignty does not mean that one sphere does not interract or influence another.  Sphere sovereignty means that the church does not run or operate the state, and that the state does not appoint preachers or elders, and that neither the church nor the state should operate business nor daily education.   At that level, private citizens, perhaps influenced by their church and their education, would operate the state, their business, and their schools.  It is impossible to avoid interaction, since the state will have to decide whether to tax churches or exempt them.  The state will at minimum have to facilitate education if private citizens are not doing it adequately.  

But it is true that scripture does speak to poverty, justice, fairness, and if the church speaks the gospel, it is difficult to see why it would exclude some issues from its purview.  (Should the church be in the business of deciding on appropriate tradeoffs politically? ie. trading abortion for healthcare?)  On the other hand, the tendency of the church is often to latch on to issues which society finds popular.  In that case, scripture is merely being used as a cover or justification for involvement.  Women in office and environmental issues are particularly relevant here.  Was greenpeace the result of scriptural preaching or something else?   Were all the scriptural advocacy for women in office not relevant for 1900 years?  

While the church could speak on many issues, it should recognize that in the eyes of the world, its opinion on these issues will not often bring people to Christ, especially if it has the same position as the world.   It will merely lull people to placidity, since they will not be challenged by the gospel.  While Jesus did say to give to Ceasar what is ceasar's and to God what is God's, it was not until denying Ceasar what he thought was his, that the gospel took on real significance.  

Louis Tamminga

April17, 2014

I appreciate Smitty's appeal to James 5:14 and Gal. 6:2. The first text bids the sick to call the elders to pray over them and anoint them with oil.  The second tells believers to carry each other's burdens. Let's heed these invitations to the letter. Yes, there will be situations where it is proper to cry with the suffering and laugh with them too. 

What I fail to see is how these texts and this laudable approach relate to the Pope's advice to his priests to get out of their churches and "getting messy" in this broken world, and that  "all of us need to get messy in our broken world."

We as elders have our districts and among the members will be some who are confined to beds of illness. We must visit them. We will not just come waltzing in and hug and laugh as we see fit. Rather, we visit with grace, sensitivity and courtesy  We will come at a time that suits their routine,. And when making calls in the neighborhood such preparations will even more be a necessity. 

If I must one day keep to my bed because of illness, I would hope that my elder would honor me that way.

posted in: Making a Sick Visit

I'm wondering if it is so easy to discern what ecclesiastical matters are and are not.  Karl mention s racial relations for example.  Certainly this could not mean that the church does not have the expertise to declare apartheid a sin which we did.  It might mean that the church could not declare the KKK an association to which a Christian might belong or could it since we seem to know that Christians may not belong to lodges.  It seems that a sermon on racial relations is demanded by the scriptures. How would love the Lord your God with all your heart mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself not speak to racial relations as well as other relations.  Justice is also difficult.  The Bible is clear that God hates injustice.  The church surely could not advocate injustice. Amos was convinced that "skimping the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales" was wrong no matter what sphere we might be talking about.  He felt compelled to say in the name of God "let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream."  Granted we do not know exactly what he meant by justice here but if we ever found such a thing it would be incombent on the church to speak out against it regardless of sphere sovereignty.  The law of God transcends spheres. How else could we be in the politics of abortion? What about fair wages?  The Bible says God is for it and that people who failed to pay the workmen who mowed their fields are in danger of God's judgment.  The CRCNA would be derelict if it did not say at least this much.  Right? I do fear that sphere sovereignty can be a barrier to speaking out on moral and ethical issues.  It provides cover for the church and its leaders. It does function as a useful tool in making decisions that are not clearly supported by scripture and the creeds.

I'd like to affirm what is expressed in this article that to continue this discussion is a matter of importance! As Jesus was sent into the world, so are we, his followers and representatives. His life is a good example of engagement with the culture around him, rendering both unto Caesar and unto God, each his due. I've thought about this question as it relates to Safe Church Ministry. There are those who would say that we need not be concerned about abuse which takes place outside our church walls, or abuse that doesn't involve a church leader in a situation of legal liability. What concern is that of ours? Isn't having a safe church policy enough? My answer is no. I would say that our churches are filled with people who have been hurt by abuse (one study states that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men have suffered interpersonal violence in their lives - that's a lot of people. They are wounded; they are in our churches). We are the very body of Christ. When one part is wounded, the whole body suffers. We are not what we could be because of it. It seems right to me that the church not only offer support and healing to those who are wounded, but also stand with those who are working toward an end to all abuse, abuse that is hurting our church, and all of us. It's interesting to consider the civil rights movement or the anti-slavery movement. These were fraught with conflict in the church, both sides using the Bible to either uphold the status quo, or call the world (the world, not just the church) to a new understanding. These movements were championed by people of Christian faith; that makes perfect sense to me.

Louis Tamminga

"But what will I say ?"

Some fine advice here. Thoughtful, empathetic presence goes such a long way. Loving gestures too!

But a helpful pastoral visit also needs more.

The sick and lonely will invariably struggle with burdensome questions. Both spiritual and material.

The visitor should not hesitate to inquire carefully and lovingly about the things of the heart. If the patient is not of a mind to reveal any, he/she will so indicate. But it may lead to a setting of listening to concerns the patient is willing, or eager even, to reveal. Without trying to give solutions, the visitor will listen, speak a word of encouragement and conclude the visit with voicing  these needs in prayer to God.

 

 

 

It would be interesting to know if there is such a thing as "new ways".  The only answer is faith, he says, but that is quite general and might be misunderstood.  There are many faiths, and even the devils believe (and tremble).   The real only answer is Christ as the son of God, his death and resurrection.  (Probably that's what Timmermans meant by "faith", but many others could misunderstand).

To speak in new ways... what does that mean?  like the pacifists who refused to fight in the army?  like the hutterites who isolated themselves?  like the sphere sovereignty people who want to separate church and state and education and business from each other?  Like the social gospel people who wanted to be good samaritans without being christ followers?  Like the soul winners who ignored poverty?  or like the soul winners who ignored personal christian morality?

Whether new or not, perhaps the church should concentrate on not compromising, and follow the example of Daniel and his friends at the expected expense of their life.  The deacon Stephen who preached an unpleasant message and died for it.   Like Peter and Paul and early christians who would not offer sacrifice to Ceasar.   Like those who would obey God rather than men.  And the church grew greatly at that time.   Maybe not new, but in this day and age, maybe it is new.

We have christian schools in Alberta that have been there since the 1950s.  But as time went on, they began to yearn for the provincial dollar, believing they had a right to it.  I think they do have a right to it, but how easy will it be to maintain christian education once governments impose their value system on the christian school under the threat of removing funding?  It will be interesting to see whether the school retains both its funding and  its right to speak against homosex, or premarital sex, or adultery, as the state maintains the supposed human rights to equal treatment for all.   Likewise the compromises that churches engage in have a great danger of killing them slowly as they attempt to honor Christ without sacrifice.

The Church should be relevant by loving God and being a good neighbor.  The. Church as no other public leadership roll unless asked to comment/testify as a qualified witness. The members of the church should participate as private citizens as led by the Holy Spirit. That is what "separation of Church and State" should mean.

Comment by Louis Tamminga:

This discussion  began with a distinction that was made: "older children" might not feel free to make public profession of faith (as yet...) but might still want to participate in the Lord's Supper. 

I submit that such a distinction is not valid. 

The CRC Synod of 1988 formulated some clear biblical in-sights re. the relationship between the Lord's Supper and faith-commitment. Here are some quotes: "The Bible makes clear that participation in the Lord's Supper is the result of status in the covenant ..."   (Thus Synod implied that the church is warranted in admitting covenant children to the Lord's Supper.). But Synod was careful to maintain the link between faith and participation in the Supper: "Our confessions teach the necessity of faith for participation in the Lord's Supper." It added: "The Heidelberg Catechism explains that participants in the sacrament accept with believing heart the entire suffering and death of Christ."(Q&A 76). For the "older children" accepting  the elements of bread and wine, is concomitant to making profession of faith. The Consistory will want to follow the normal route: making profession of faith a gate to the holy communion.

(for a detailed study, see pages 260-316 Acts of Synod 1988)

 

 

 

Thanks for this write-up, it's refreshing to know & be reminded of the biblical mandate for church Elders. 

God Bless,

Rod

I am truly blessed, since my Council meetings have consistently met all of the above criteria.

Hello Rev. Tamminga,

Thank you for writing this essay.  I appreciated the reminder that loneliness shows no favoritism.  And that we all benefit from elder (or pastor) visits.  I feel increasingly called to make more of these visits as a pastor.  And in doing so, I hope to encourage a culture of visiting in my congregation.

Have a blessed Lenten journey,

Leon

It is time to get back to visit members in your district.

 

I think these are really great comments. The one about Classis Holland especially!

I put together a list of resources on our church website: http://www.fcvcrc.org/worship/children-lords-supper.cfm

I love the idea of being present. I often tell people that a listening ear is most often far more valuable to someone in crisis than words. Job 2:11-13 says, "When Job's three friends ... heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathaize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, becuse they saw how great his suffering was." This was an appropriate response. Note: they were much less helpful once they started talking.

My thinking on this has changed over the years.  I used to think only crc professing members should participate.  Then I realized that believing in Jesus as Lord and Saviour was more important;  how could we exclude other believers for non-membership?  But I thought that for baptized children they should still make membership profession first, because they lacked discernment.  Then I realized that some children had more discernment than some professing members.  The discernment in I Corinthians 11 refers to caring for others in the body of Christ, not some greater esoteric knowledge of magnificent theological and confessional insights.  And I realized that the apostles at the time of the Lord's Supper were all deniers and abandoned Jesus only a day later.  And even Judas was included in this last supper.  So it makes no sense for the way we restrict this. 

I have often participated in communion at many evangelical churches in several denominations, because I have no ability nor reason to think that they are not sincere spirit filled christians.  The extreme of crc not allowing rca to participate, or prc not permitting visiting orc to participate highlights the absurdity of our claims to make this sacrament dependant on an official membership.  This sacrament does not belong to a denomination, and we should acknowledge that.  The warning that scripture gives, should be the one we give, and the invitation scripture gives, we should give, and we should leave it at that, unless someone lives in  very serious moral disobedience, where mockery is obvious.     Even then, we should be cautious, given that Jesus did not prevent Judas.  We know that people can be Christ-followers without being official crc members.   And this opens the way for older "non-professing" but living-as-christ-follower christians to participate joyfully.

Thanks, John, for being blunt. We are concerned that many churches don't train the new elders, just like you said your church does not.   I will see what we come up with and then hopefully we can post some ideas here for you.  

 

I don't want to be blunt, but they don't.  I would love to hear what is happening in other congregations when new elders are installed and ordained into office.

The decision as to whether or not to admit one to partake in the Lord's Supper used to be a lot simpler...

As per the minutes of the meeting of Classis Holland in April 25, 1849:

Admission to Communion - Whether any shall be admitted to the Lord's Supper who are unknown to the minister and consistory.

Answer - Yes, and even if they are known to be wicked and yet approach the communion table.  Such a person is to be asked what induces him to come.  If he confesses his sin and his faith in Jesus, and expresses a purpose to serve the Lord, he is to be admitted.

It is not always those who leave who are schismatic. 

Elder Lubbert, the statement I made was not made to capture the attitude of the socio-cultural worldview we live beside.   It was meant to speak to christians who would like to understand their own place in the evangelizing, discipling.  I would not speak to non-christians this way;  they are not the problem.  It is christians who are the problem.  The words I used are easy enough to understand, unless christians have already stopped attending church.  In that case, those would not be reading this.  

The socio-cultural worldview beside us is much the same as always, outside of Christ.  I mean that it focusses on pleasure, money, self, education, nature, security, sex, sport, pensions, entertainment, as alternatives to God.  And when those things become too important to Christians then it chokes the word of God in their lives as well.  

I am hoping this question will uncover how other CRC churches are dealing with this topic.

Hi John...

You are right about trends globally in the North and South, though I wonder if it is not more helpful to stand outside the church box if we are called to evangelize and disciple people to the Lord?

Does the observation "Complacency, apathy, lack of passion, lukewarmness, lack of trial and testing, lack of real committment, and affluence have all combined to reduce the desire of many for a God who saves and rules. The thorns and thistles of the world are reducing the yield of the Word sown" really capture the socio-cultural worldview we find ourselves living along side. Also, do the people living within this worldview really understand us when we talk this way?

David Roozen in his research article below might take issue with the MCA numbers, though he does indicate the Pentecostal/Holiness churches are holding their own.

Roozen, David 2013-12-03 "Negative Numbers – The decline Narrative Reaches Evangelicals" The Christian Century 

Lubbert, I will try to respond to your question about Barna survey and how we relate or respond.  It would be interesting to combine the six categories you mention, or see how they interrelate.  For example, one fourth say faith is irrelevant.  Are they the same that say that church demonizes everything?  Are they the same that say church is too exclusive, or too judgemental?  Or are they all different groups?  Does one dissatisfaction lead to another?

Isn't it interesting that bible teaching is unclear and God is absent from church for about 20% of the people of 18-29 years old. 

One fifth say that abstinence is insufficient.... or they don't want to abbstain (in clearer language), and they feel judged for being sexually active outside of marriage.   Hmmnn.   They feel judged, rather than being re-born and forgiven.  Why is that?

So what have we missed?   I think we have not presented the gospel to our children.  We have not witnessed.  We have not put christian living into the context of Christ's redeeming love.  We have performed all the heresies that the reformers so vigorously fought against.  So we have some people emphasizing works righteousness.  We have other people sinning so that grace may abound.  We have as Jude says, turned the grace of God into a license for immorality.  We have substituted environment or social "goodness" for the Christ.   And many other things.  The youth are people and human like everyone else.   They are not some pariah from another planet.  They should be engaged as people, and not estranged as aliens.  They have the ability and heart to be soldiers of Christ. 

How is it even possible that God is absent from their church experience?   Any elder, preacher, deacon, evangelist should be crying tears at hearing such a sad thing.  And ashamed that they say that Bible teaching is unclear (making faith irrelevant).

The youth say that "just say no" is insufficient in a techno-porn world.   That's their judgement.  They are willing to judge, but not to be judged.   It is their own actions that judge themselves.  If we as Christians apologize for saying that, then it is no wonder that they feel that faith is irrelevant.

Make Christ first in your life, and your children will be blessed.

 

John

 

Isolationism. One-fourth of 18- to 29-year-olds say church demonizes everything outside church, including the music, movies, culture, and technology that define their generation.

Shallowness. One-third call church boring, about one-fourth say faith is irrelevant and Bible teaching is unclear. One-fifth say God is absent from their church experience.

Anti-science. Up to one-third say the church is out of step on scientific developments and debate.

Sex. The church is perceived as simplistic and judgmental. For a fifth or more, a "just say no" philosophy is insufficient in a techno-porno world. Young Christian singles are as sexually active as their non-churched friends, and many say they feel judged.

Exclusivity. Three in 10 young people feel the church is too exclusive in this pluralistic and multi-cultural age. And the same number feel forced to choose between their faith and their friends.

Doubters. The church is not a safe place to express doubts say over one-third of young people, and one-fourth have serious doubts they'd like to discuss.

What have we missed in both discipleship and the great commission?

Thanks for your remarks.  In your original column you inserted a statement "at no time should elders feel superior to deacons".  Interesting statement.  I would add that at no time should an elder feel superior to anyone.  At no time should a preacher feel superior, and at no time should an evangelist or deacon feel superior.  I wonder if you agree that the church order gives the appearance of superiority to preachers, compared to elders and deacons.   The number of articles devoted to preachers/pastors/ministers for how they are qualified, how they are disqualified, when they are retired, and when not retired, how they are examined, and what they may and may not do, compared to the one article that combines the offices of elder and deacon as a sort of after thought.   We make excuses for this, and rationalize it away, but in fact it is a symptom of how we live as church.  It certainly counters the explicit statement in the church order which states that no office bearer should lord it over another, and all offices are equal in honor.

Your excellent scriptural examples of deacons baptizing and preaching certainly also calls into question the generalized restrictions on elders and deacons with regard to preaching and sacraments.  The apostle Peter appealed to elders as a fellow elder, and not as a "superior" apostolic office holder, even though he had the credentials of living and walking with Jesus.  We can pretty well assume that all elders shared the gospel and preached the good news, and probably most deacons did as well.  And likely baptized new believers also.  And the church grew mightily.

Perhaps you could enlighten for me whether scripture says more about immoral living in the body of believers, or about who can baptize or preach.   And which of the two do we as a church adhere more strictly to?

March 6, 2014.

 

Thanks for your comment, John.

Your point is well taken. When councils are small, there will be overlap, all for the good. It demonstrates that the three offices have some  in-built similarities. And the office of evangelist embodies all three.

Not surprising, since they serve the one congregation and represent the one Lord and Master, the great office-bearer, Prophet, Priest, and King. Paul the Apostle served as a Deacon when he brought gifts to the needy congregation of Jerusalem from  believers in Macedonia and Achaia (Romans 15). Philip and Stephen, both Deacons (Acts 6), served also as Evangelists. Philip baptized the governent official from Ethiopia (Acts 8) and  Stephen preached to the Sanhedrin (Acts 7).. Officebearers are called "Shepherds" in Acts 20:228 & 1 Peter 5:2.

However, when you read the Forms for the Ordination/Installation of Ministers, Elders, and Deacons, you will see that each of the three offices does have its own specific thrust.

Blessings on your work!

Lou 

Not all churches have lost members. "The Christian and Missionary Alliance has experienced steady and significant growth since its inception. In 1925, there were just 25,000 members in 392 churches.[9] Membership reached 50,000 members in 1950 and by 1976 had reached 150,000.[9] In 2006, there were 417,008 members in 2,010 congregations.[9] ….[10] As of January 1, 2011, there was recorded more than 2,000 U.S. churches with a combined membership of more than 430,000 regularly gather to celebrate Jesus in multiple languages, according to the C&MA website." But you are right, elder Lubbert, that most churches have declining membership, and some, like the Rom Cath that seem to have high membership still, have very low attendance and participation rates. In North America and Europe. On the other hand, in Asia and Africa, memberships and participation is generally growing. Complacency, apathy, lack of passion, lukewarmness, lack of trial and testing, lack of real committment, and affluence have all combined to reduce the desire of many for a God who saves and rules. The thorns and thistles of the world are reducing the yield of the Word sown. In many cases, the churches fertilize the weeds as much as the crop.

This is not just a CRCNA issue, but a North America wide phenomena that is sweeping through ALL churches and has been documented since at least 2005 in research studies.

Looking at the numbers from the perspective of families is problematic when individuals who use to get married in their 20's today get married in their 30's, if at all. Moreover, those families also have fewer children today. My own research indicates that Yearbook membership numbers are out by approximately 25% - 30%, quite apart from the yearly drop in membership numbers.

Though the work of SPACT is helpful, I feel as if we are a community "inside a box" looking out, self referencing our analysis without really coming to grips with the socio-cultural changes occurring around us.

Individuals are disaffiliating from participation in institutional, community, and neighbourhood life. Though they may have personal reasons, there are broader philosophical changes afoot that consciously or unconsciously affect those decisions. Matters of the "common good" have been fractured into privatized relativistic worldviews making consensus in civic life ever more difficult.

Below are some references to articles on why "churches are losing members..." 

Angus Reid 2013-12 Poll – Christmas – Religion

Barna Group 2003-09-24 Twenty somethings Struggle to Find Their Place in Christian Churches

Barna Group 2011-07-26 [Part1] Examines Trends in 14 Religious Factors over 20 Years (1991 to 2011)

Barna Group 2011-07-27 [Part2] Describes Religious Changes Among Busters, Boomers, and Elders Since 1991

Barna Group 2011-09-28 Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church

Barna Group 2011-11-16 Five Myths about Young Adult Church Dropouts

Barna Group 2012-08-12 Christian Women Today – Parts 1 - 4

Barna Group 2013-05-09 Three Spiritual Journeys of Millennials

Barna Group 2013-09-17 Reasons Millennials Stay Connected to Church

Barna Group 2012-01-09 What People Experience in Churches

Beaty, Katelyn 2009-10 Lost In Transition. Christianity Today

Bellah, Robert 1986-02-20 Individualism & Commitment In American Life. Lecture, University of California

Chong, Shiao 2013-01-28 Relationship, Religion Or Both? Christian Courier

Coggins, Jim 2012-09-17 Why Canadian young people are leaving the church. Canadian Christianity

Dyck, Drew 2011-11-19 The Leavers – Young Doubters Exit The Church. Christianity Today

Evens, Rachel Held 2013 Why millennials are leaving the church. CNN Belief Blog

Greusel, David 2013-11-12 Yearning for community - or not. Think Christian

Kim, Steve Hemorrhaging Faith / A Brief Synopsis. Apologetics Canada

Kwon, Lillian 2011-04-22 Survey Reveals Decade – Long 'Erosion' of Traditional US Congregations - Hartford Institute

PEW 2010-02 Religion Among Millennials

PEW 2010-09-28 Religious Knowledge – Full Report

PEW 2011-03-09 For Millennials Parenthood Trumps Marriage

PEW 2011-12-14 Barely Half of U.S. Adults Are Married – A Record Low

PEW 2013-03-18 Decline Of Institutional Religion

PEW 2013-03 Lugo, Luis – The Decline Of Institutional Religion & Implications For American Civil Life

PEW 2013-06-27Canada’s Changing Religious Landscape | Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project

Pimblott, Kerry 2012-11-09 The Election and Why Millennials are Leaving the Church Margins. Blog marginalife

Postma, Gayla 2007-08 Where Did Our Young Adults Go – The Banner

Reimer, Sam Demographic Look At Evangelical Congregations 2010-08. EFC Church & Faith Trends

Roozen, David 2011 Decade Of Change In American Congregations 2000-2010 Faith Communities Today

Roozen, David 2013-12-03 Negative Numbers – The decline Narrative Reaches Evangelicals - The Christian Century

Smith, Christian 2005 Portraits Of Protestant Teens. National Study on Youth & Religion

Smith, Christian 2007-11&12 Getting a Life: The challenge of emerging adulthood. Books & Culture

Smith, Christian 2008 Religion & Spirituality On The Path Through Adolescence. National Study on Youth & Religion

State Of The Canadian Church 2008 Canadian Christianity

Thiessen, Joel 2010-12 Churches Are Not Necessarily The Problem. EFC Church & Faith Trends.pdf

Van Loon, Michelle 2013-08-08 Who Raised These Millennials Anyway? | Her.meneutics / Christianity Today

It moves us forward in this way: Those we are to disciple will see that there is passion and devotion and sacrifice which signifies how real God is to us. Those who are strangers may see that something new has happened and that God is real. Those who are aliens and spectators, who are somewhat attracted by hype or friendliness, will begin to see the passion behind the friendliness. People are people, and they need other people, passion and cause and purpose. Entertainment will also attract them, but it will not bring commitment. The love of God as reflected in us.... such is obedience and such also is the glue that binds hearts to Christ.

In our church, which is quite small, we have four serving office bearers who serve the dual role of elder and deacon, so that would be one example where the offices cooperate with each other. If you are both an elder and a deacon, then the one office will accompany the other. And if you are a pastoral elder, then you might even have three offices in one. Hmmnn.

Always bring the gospel. The emphasis should not be on the worship service itself, but on Christ.

I suggest  that we use James 5:14 and Gal 6:2 as guidelines...while I respect Pastor Lou's long service to the church and the Kingdom I find his approach sterile and to much "decently and in good order" Yes! Annointing is Biblical!... I'd rather that we cry with them, and hold them if possible, laugh with them when appropriate and hold their hands as they take their last breath...and no, I don't always write notes when I get home...While phoning for an appointment is a common courtesy it sometimes just doesn;t work and why would an elder delay making a sick/death call?  Perhap's we should listen to the new Pope's admonition to his priests - get out of your churches and "get messy"  maybe all of us need to "get messy" in our broken world try to bring healing from a Risen Savior

 

posted in: Making a Sick Visit

I must say that overall I am really impressed with this blog.It is easy to see that you are impassioned about your writing.

Great ideas!  For anyone in the Chicagoland area, Christian Service Ministries invites you to a free seminar led by Chaplains Corky DeBoer and Betty Vander Laan Feb. 27, 2014, 7:30-9:00 pm at Trinity Christian College.  "Tips on how to visit someone in a hospital or nursing home."  

 

posted in: Making a Sick Visit

What wise, clear-cut advice!  Thank you, Lou.

posted in: Making a Sick Visit

Thanks Richard for your input. Your position with Second  Byron CRC sounds very familiar, this closey resembles the approach we are trying to take here. We believe that being intentional about the use of gifts is very important, and that we are currently using way too many people to maintain an innefficient and inneffective structure. We are proposing to set up a Council where all Elders,Deacons, and Pastors meet quarterly. ( More if needed).  The Administration Team would meet monthly, or again, more as needed. The Pastoral Care Teams, along with appropriate Elders,Deacons, and Pastors would meet bi-monthly. Our hope and prayer is that the right people are put in the right place, and that the day to day business can be dealt with by a much smaller body. This will also significantly reduce the amount of meetings that Elders and Deacons need to attend, they would be freed up for the ministry work they are called to do. Like you, I would love to hear from anyone who has gone through this transition, I am sure it is not an easy one to make. Thanks again Richard, blessings in your work!

At Church of the Servant, where I am a member, we adopted this three-part council around 1991. The Admin committee met weekly for one hour, and ran rather smoothly. However, as the church grew, the number of pastoral elders and working deacons grew with it to meet growing demands, and the council grew to an unwieldy 40+ members. So a couple of years ago, we reverted to a two-part council, reduced its size, delegated some pastoral duties to appointed volunteers, and added a staff person to handle the administrative matters.

So, I wonder if the three-part system works better in mid-size churches (300-600 members). I also work for Second Byron CRC, with about 400 members, and we are  just recommending a shift to a three-part system. We want to assign a few elders and deacons, with a pastor, to an Administrative Committee, which would replace our current Executive Committee, and handle all the routine supervision--facilities, finances, and staff. We would reduce the number of council meetings to six from its current 11 or 12. We hope that this will allow council to focus on its main leadership roles in encouraging ministry, and reduce the micro-management that plagues so many church councils, including this one. 

As we start on this road, I would really like to hear from others who had positive or negative experience with such organizational patterns. I don't see this change as a panacea for all our problems, but so far I think it will be a positive step, if we can accompany it with a new focus on vision and relationship, rather than being stuck in a management mode.

Jim, thank you for your remarks.

My excuses for my late response.

More observation and research need yo be made. Has it been established that those who leave have a history of non-participation? Whatever the answer, congregations will profit from a ministry that focusses on creating an atmosphere of togetherness, congeniality, and participation. The second half of your comment actually establishes that ideal. It seems to me that a ministry thus designed and practised will contribute toward keeping more members with the church. And it will draw new member to the church. 

I wonder what theexperience of pastors around the continent has been.

Neil  Koning wrote a splendid article on Funeral Services. He makes several good points. Pondering on all this now, I remember how we at pastors' gettogether would discuss the difficult aspects of this pastoral task. Nell gives good advice. What I personally often struggled with was: to what extend do we use the pulpit at such services to preach the gospel? Neil stresses that the community can expected to be present. To some extend community  members can are, to some extend,  a captive audience.  Also, where do we place the emphasis ... commemorating the life and person of the deceased, or on the worship service itself? The Church Order says: "Funerals are not ecclesiastical but family affairs.." Then adds: " ... and they should be conducted accordingly."  So, what does that mean, exactly? Synods before and after added little light or guidance.

So, what think ye?

One pastor contacted me and suggested that the reason for member-loss is basically two-folf:

l. CRC members are not vigorous witnesses of the gospel; the CRC faces a spiritual malaise, and 2. the religious landscape in the US and Canada is such that established churches have lost their appeal because of deeper sociological reasons. The populations of these two nations diverge into two camps: those for whom religion has lost its appeal, and those who find a spiritual home in evangelical churches more expressive of the faith.

Perhaps some of the readers of NETWORK willwant to comment.

 

Church order would not have been followed in this scenario.  It was well before my time and the details are scarce.  I also wonder how it is that the family has attended another CRC for over seven years and the pastor and elders there never helped shepherd this family. Your last two sentences are exactly what would need to be done in this case.

Interesting that this question indicates indirectly that the family had been attending another CRC for two years when they were 'declared lapsed in 2009', which raises the question why they were not transferred in 2009 instead of lapsed.  Obviously there is information lacking in the question.  Presuming Article 67 B was followed, it would seem the family 'claim(ed) to be worshipping elsewhere' but would not say where and would not request transfer to the church they were attending.  Also they would have 'claim(ed) to be committed to the Christian Faith' and 'the consistory (was) not aware of any public sin requiring discipline'.  What took so long to be interested in the transfer is a mystery that might suggest the need for a discreet converstion between representatives of the two consistories for more clarification in my humble opinion.  Then a decision could be made about 'transferring' the statistical (membership) information as long as the receiving consistory does a 'readmission' since there is "no synodical guidelines ... defined for the readmission... some sort of reaffirmation of confession of faith seems appropriate as part of the readmission process." 2008 Manuel of CRC Government #2, p. 264

Lou, I hope this proves to be a broad discussion as it is an important subject. I want to lead off by saying that the people in the CRC typically don't appreciate how blessed they are by exceedingly well trained pastors. WARNING...when you comment on a pastor's message, you are commenting on the minister. Clarence remembered that critique, as we all do when someone says something indiscript about a message. Any such discussion needs to be as specific as possible and also objective rather than subjective in order to be helpful. One more point, I would say that for most pastors it takes about five years to develope the art of writing and presenting effective Sunday sermon (s).

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