Blog

For most churches, the thought of not having a "coffee" gathering time after worship would be unthinkable. And yet, how often do we ask how effective this time is in forming the faith of all who attend? 

June 29, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

I wonder if we in the CRC are called to be somewhere along that seven-mile stretch of uncertainty concerning homosexuality; I believe that I am. 

June 28, 2016 0 34 comments
Blog

No matter what we experience, no matter how bad or pitiable or shocking, it seems to me that believers always know that God himself stands somehow between us and sheer, unbearable horror.

June 27, 2016 0 0 comments
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By now we’re starting to adapt to the rhythm of life in Nicaragua and I think I speak for several of us when I say that the days seem to be slipping through our fingers and we want to stay longer.  

June 24, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

Carlos and Sharla Martinez (Directors of FIT) explained to us the adoption process, what the families involved go through, and what their role is in supporting families as they welcome new children into their lives.

June 23, 2016 0 0 comments
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Today’s agenda was dominated by three events: a presentation by Alcides (Paola’s dad), a stunning trip to Volcan Masaya, and a trip to the University of Nicaragua.

June 23, 2016 0 0 comments
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Mondays are a bore. But this was not the case at all today! I'm still reflecting on our visit to Tesoros de Dios (a school for children with Disabilities), House of Hope, and a fair wage coffee company. 

June 22, 2016 0 0 comments
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I think I want black and white answers to the questions that can plague me. But as I get older, as I do ministry and hear stories from God’s children around this world, I have a different perspective. 

June 21, 2016 0 2 comments
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Before we came to Nicaragua, we prayed that God would reveal Himself and the work He was doing there. I think I can speak for the group when I say that God exceeded our expectations. 

June 21, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

I don’t think that any of us knew that the moment we stepped outside the airport in Nicaragua, we would fall in love. And I’m not talking about falling in love with another person, or even the country of Nicaragua. 

June 20, 2016 0 0 comments
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Recently I had a conversation with someone who, upon hearing me describe all the work that goes into creating pedagogically, theologically sound children’s ministry curriculum said, “I had no idea. You should tell people that!” And so I am.

June 17, 2016 0 1 comments
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I was struck dumb, my mind racing. What had I done or said to evoke such a question? I don’t remember how the conversation concluded. But I do remember its impact on me.

June 14, 2016 0 0 comments
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For most of the morning, half of the youth group had been planting cannabis, aka marijuana. The leaders from both churches were mortified and the experience taught everyone an important lesson. 

June 13, 2016 0 0 comments
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Short-term mission trips are difficult. They can also be rich and rewarding, with the potential for long-term impact. To equip your team, check out the new, free, downloadable resource called Changed for Life. 

June 7, 2016 0 5 comments
Discussion Topic

The Banner recently published a question about infant baptism versus dedication. The response pointed to Synod 2012's call to "refrain from rituals of infant or child dedication." Your thoughts? 

June 2, 2016 0 9 comments
Blog

During our morning worship, anyone could offer to read a Psalm and describe how the passage had significantly shaped his or her life. Imagine the impact of these testimonies on the community. 

June 2, 2016 0 1 comments
Blog

Since the release of the God Loves Me storybooks last October, grandparents have been sharing stories about the impact of the books. If you’d like your heart warmed today, read on.

May 31, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

I know from experience how difficult it is to prepare and deliver those kinds of sermons.  I’d suggest three approaches for preachers and their support communities to strengthen such intergenerational preaching.

May 20, 2016 0 0 comments
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In a very different and much more subtle way, the court also experienced a different story of faith formation: the formation of the grieving community. It’s not my place to describe what they are going through, but I am deeply struck by two things...

May 19, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

What does a life­-giving, ministry strengthening debrief look like? A good debrief is where iron can sharpen iron for the sake of ministry effectiveness. An effective debrief...

May 19, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Curriculum

Some of the best conversations with children at church happen when I join them at the activity table. There’s something about sitting side-by-side as we draw, color, cut or paste that sparks conversation. 

May 12, 2016 0 0 comments
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Two years ago I heard a young woman say, “I long to be part of a church that smells like Jesus.” Her longing forced me to stand in front of the mirror of self-reflection. 

May 4, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

For many years, I struggled to teach myself how to play guitar. After getting stuck, I took more lessons and my learning picked up. This is much like discipleship in the church today. 

April 27, 2016 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Is there a sermon that completely opened your eyes to see things in a new way? Or, is there a sermon that spoke deeply into a struggle you've faced most of your life? I'd love to hear about it!

April 27, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

As I thought about what to write, my mind turned to the time I thought I was going to die. After my diagnosis, I bought the book Dying Well, which described 5 things dying people need to say. 

April 26, 2016 0 0 comments

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Great Treasure chest full of valuable information......Thanks Again, Leslie!!!!

Thanks Staci and Tim.  I appreciate your openness and willingness to share.  No doubt, in my mind Staci, you raise some important questions and concerns in regard to the gospel.  And you put those concerns into a format that is easy to understand.  Both you and Tim, probably hit onto something, by suggesting the building of  relationships and letting love lead the way for Christian witness.  But that still doesn’t remove the offense of the gospel, Christ is the only hope.  We are still saying to the world - whatever you may have thought or whatever other religions teach, ours is the only way to find acceptance with God.  Whether building a relationship or showing love, our message is still the same, no other name than Christ.  Our way is the only way.  It’s not Christians who are always offensive, but the message, especially when it rubs up against other religions or other opinions.  I wonder, I know some wonderful people who are not Christian. Christians aren’t the only caring and nice people.  Does their niceness, love, or the building of a relationship make their message of God’s love (a different message from ours), change the way Christians think?  Christians say, don’t be deceived, only our message is the true message.  Don’t be fooled by their kindness.  By the same token, do you really think our kindness is really going to convince any thoughtful person?  Bottom line, Christianity is still offensive to the world. That’s the nature of the gospel.  And the church is still full of closed minded people, even if they’re nice.  I doubt that Christianity will ever win any popularity contests, especially in more advanced cultures.

Thanks for the post, Staci. 

You raise an important question when you ask: How do we work towards removing the cultural stigma attached to the word "Christian"? I really like the "Love Wins" approach of Bob Goff, where we as Christians need to show the love of Christ in fun and creative ways to the world around us. There is a little saying that comes to mind: People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. If we would be less judgmental and more loving, perhaps the Bieb's and others would be more open to the gospel. One last thought that might apply to this question. Chuck Colson often used a quote attributed to Francis of Assisi: "Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words."
 
Thanks again for challenging us to think about these things.

Hi Roger: 

Thanks for sharing! Really good point about how Christians can come across as offensive when we proclaim that there is no other name/no other way to get to God than through Jesus. For a tolerant "live and let live" society, this is problematic. I think part of the challenge is finding ways to build relationships first (hopefully removing some of the collective stigma of Christians) and through these relationships, share the gospel and pray for the message to be received (with the help of the Holy Spirit). Thanks for also mentioning the parables. Important to look at how Jesus responds! 

Thanks again!
Staci

 

Thanks Staci for a refreshing article.  I like your use of Justin Bieber to get to the heart of what many in our society are thinking about God and Christianity.  I don’t want to put words in Justin’s mouth or interpret him wrongly, but you are asking what we (your readers) think or what is our opinion in regard to his comments.

I think that secular society (including Bieber), as well as other religious societies, are offended by Christianity because Christians have and have had throughout history the attitude of, “we are right and you are wrong.”  Christianity has always proclaimed there is no other name under heaven, or no other way in the world by which to please God than by Jesus.  Whereas, we think we are very gracious and loving by presenting the good news of Jesus, the world thinks that Christians are summarily dismissing what they believe.  We go to foreign mission fields and tell Muslims, Hindus, or Jews that their religion will not get them to heaven, and we tell Americans and Canadians that the good they do doesn’t count with God.  But of course that is a Christian view and not one shared by the world.  Secular societies and other religions believe that the good a person does counts with God.  So, the Christian attitude and message of, we are right and you are wrong, makes Christianity very offensive to most the world.

And to Bieber and to much of society, they think the church is disposable because the church is full of hypocrites who think they are right and everyone else is wrong about a loving God who sends everyone to hell except those who believe like us (Christians).

Maybe Jesus has already responded to Bieber in stories like the one of the sheep and goats on judgment day.  The sheep who make it to heaven are those who have done good (as you have done it unto one of the least of these, you have done unto me) and the goats who go to hell are those who have not done good (as you have not done it...).  Maybe Jesus is saying, take stock of your life and do good. Or maybe Jesus might have already responded to Bieber by retelling the story of the good Samaritan (who represents the unbeliever) who does what is loving for the injured man, unlike those others who clung to their faith.  Again do good, regardless of what you believe.  Or he might retell the story of the house built on the rock, which is a house of good deeds.  I have a feeling that people in our society might appreciate Jesus’ example and much of his teaching without appreciating the hypocrisy of most Christians (my way or no way).

Of course, we, as Christians, have a different perception of society’s take on us.  But the world doesn’t see it, do they?  Thanks Staci.

Thanks so much, Shannon! This interview was so interesting to me because it seems like a HUGE opportunity to start conversations with people in our lives (and social circles) on the misconceptions about Christians and church. So cool that you are talking about this with your kids!

And I found a passage to go with it: Ephesians 2:19-22. I'll let you know how it goes!

This is a great piece. It touches on issues that a lot of young people today have with the Church, and gets people thinking about why its important. My kids are tweens and teens, and we talked about Bieber's "taco" comment once already. I think I will use this for our family's devotions one night this weekend. Thanks for writing it, Staci!

Joshua and Bonnie - It might be helpful to note that John's wife Stasi Eldredge‎ wrote a sequel to Wild at Heart, call Captivating, in which she described her understanding of the nature of a woman in God's creation. Neither of these were meant to demean the other, but to push back against the egalitarian movement to erase any gender differences. Rather to see and celebrate the complimentary differences in design and role.

I think that you misunderstand my sentiments. I am not saying anything about "soft" men. I'm all for men, being all that they are created to be in Christ - wild and free to truly follow where the Holy Spirit leads. I'm also all for women having that same freedom to be all that they are created to be in Christ. That's where my problem with "Wild at Heart" lies. It's less about what it says to men then about the way it limits women. 

In my comment I said to focus on Jesus, I meant Jesus as he is revealed in Scripture - I don't see meek and mild there at all.

Bonnie.. I appreciate your reflections on how Wild at Heart has been received by those you've spoken with. I can see that you are passionate about this. Every book will always have its plusses and minuses. I see that gender roles and stereotypes are very important to you. The concept of what is healthy and unhealthy in a book needs to also be seen through the lens of how it is interpreted and implemented. Wild at Heart and other books in this vein attempt to engage this discussion of gender roles which has evolved over the years. A different point of view might be offensive and demeaning to those who hold an opposing view. Wild at Heart and other books were written because the opposing point of view was seen also as demeaning and detrimental to the faith development of men.

A question might be brought up: How can we affirm our genders given to us by God in such away that it allows strong faith formation while not derogating the other gender?

You had mentioned a book in an earlier response, what other books might you suggest which counter the arguments seen offensive in Wild at Heart yet also affirm and assist men in growing in their faith?

Ron...Thank you for bringing up Wild at Heart. I have found that book helpful in many ways save for his stance on ADHD (being ADHD myself, I think he's totally wrong and ignorant of what it is, though the book was written when ADHD still was being debated). This blog post came about as part of my research in a doctoral class I'm taking right now on the book of Judges. I am working on a Bible Study on what it means to be a man of God (and what it doesn't). There are a plethora of books out there that struggle with what it means to be a man of God, with Wild at Heart being but one of them. I believe it is a counter argument against some thoughts in gender studies that attempt to create what Robert Bly refers to as "soft males" in Iron John. Bly is not insulting men who go this direction but he states that there has been something lost over the years. In my research, I have come to find that the majority of books written since the mid 1990's on being a man of God quotes Bly, either positively or negatively, but still they quote him. What I took away from Wild at Heart is that it is okay to be a guy.

Bonnie... Thank you for your insights. As you point out, yes, there are cultural influences in how we see gender roles in the church. I agree that there has been an abuse of power over the years by men. With this being a 700 or so word blog post, there is limitation. Parts that were cut from this blog did attempt to balance some of the gender roles in our church today. Yet we have to be careful in pushing various cultural concepts of gender roles onto the church. Just as years gone by the machismo of male authority was pushed into the leading of the church, today there are struggles with pushing newer thoughts of gender roles into the church as well. We need to be careful and discerning as the pendulum swings.

I agree that in many ways Jesus did show a variety of aspects that are in need for men today. Yet focusing on just Jesus meek and mild does a disservice to men today in their faith development. I believe the role of anyone in power and privilege is to empower others as Jesus empowered his followers. God made us in His image, both male and female, yet, I believe, the pendulum has swung the other way (as Bly and many others both secular and Christian, philosophers and psychologists, since have pointed out) and placed a blueprint on masculinity that goes against how men are hardwired. Men process emotions, experiences, thoughts, and ideas different than women. And that is okay. One is not better than the other. To point to Jesus and show just one side of Him as how men ought to live their faith does a disservice to the Gospel message and the Second Person of the Trinity.

As much as Jesus is shown in the Gospels to be in touch with his emotions, He also acted out in anger such as cursing the fig tree or clearing the temple. He is depicted as a mighty warrior in Revelation. God Himself is not only depicted as a warrior in the Old Testament but refers to himself an describes Himself as such. As men are made in the image of God, we must not deny the masculinity in which men are hardwired with.

When men are not allowed to be men of faith they then are not equipped to fully empower and disciple younger men in the faith. Instead of helping form the faith of the next generation of Godly men the same roadblocks are passed along and then men become more lost. Men need to be allowed to be men in their faith for there is a masculine side to faith as there is a feminine.

I want to be clear, I am not pushing for a complimentarian view of gender roles. I am egalitarian in my view of gender. I also know that being wired differently is okay and should be accepted not forced to be what it is not. I believe that many fear taking steps backwards when discussing what masculinity means. I firmly believe that we do a disservice to men in their faith when we neglect that part of faith they are hardwired for in connection to God's ability to be a warrior, protector, fighter--as long as we fight for the right cause and empower others in doing so. To neglect this does not allow men to truly grow in their faith but instead hinders them and does not allow them to reach their full potential in which they were created for to serve with and along side women who are also made in the image of God.

Though there may be some good insights, there are many who believe that this book enforces gender stereotypes that may be unhealthy. I've spoken with many Christian women who find some of it offensive and demeaning.

 

John Eldridge has offered some good insights into this this in Wild at Heart.

Working as a campus pastor I encounter young men in various phases of formation. Many are eager to serve Christ and simply need to be trusted, challenged and mentored to do so. Our churches and schools do a wonderful work in instructing boys in the faith. I usually encounter them when they begin to question what they have learned. That's OK... after a period of discipleship, I take great joy when I witness a young man seize what it means to be seized of Christ.

Often, the key is not in the instructing but the listening to a young man's struggles or simply their zeal, then with gentle guidance, trusting that young man with a ministry task and watching the Spirit work in and through that young powerhouse!

Timothy was a teen when entrusted by Paul with sacred Kingdom work! Look what a great job Timothy did in following the Master! Guidance needed? Of course! ... Older men, do not be afraid to relinquish power, trusting that God has also called the younger man to follow in your footsteps. You know who he is,,,watch him go! Let him be the "apple" of God's eye. Empower him Take delight in him.

It is so difficult to separate cultural gender roles and expectations from what our Lord expects of us as men and women of God. That's where looking at the life of Jesus seems so valuable to me. He is true man (and God); we become more human, the people that God created us to be, when we become more Christlike, more like Jesus.

In Safe Church Ministry, we talk a lot about power, use and misuse of this gift that God has given each of us in different measures. We see Jesus, who had all power, not grasping it for his own benefit, but laying it down, dying on a cross for those he loves. Real men look like that. Giving themselves in love to others. We see Jesus sharing power, empowering all of us with his Holy Spirit. Real men share power, empowering others to be all they can be. Others feel loved and flourish in the company of a man of faith. 

Jesus also was not afraid to show his emotions, anger, weeping, joy, etc. A couple years ago now, safe church ministry hosted a lecture, presented by the Men's Resource Center related to the book "Mascupathy". A main premise in the book is that when boys are denied the opportunity to express their emotions, those emotions come out in other ways, often in violence against others. We are causing harm when we tell boys to "man up" and "don't cry". Perhaps it's not an accident that mass shootings have almost always been committed by men, or that men are far more likely to die violently than women. Real men are in touch with their feelings and can freely express them, the way Jesus did. Godly men don't let pent up emotions erupt in violence. 

Jesus was not afraid to honor others in counter-cultural ways and in so doing he spoke truth to power. He lifted up a child as the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, he honored lepers, prostitutes, and tax gatherers by spending time with them. He called out pharisees for their hypocrisy. Jesus was no respecter of persons; he valued each and every one. Real men honor others, regardless of their status. 

That's enough for now.

Bill...thank you for your response. One of the reasons behind this blog post is trying to define what a man of God is. As stated in the post, there are many different views that are out there about being a man of God. Yet with these mixed messages, we leave the faith formation of men in the cold. The emphasis in this post then is how can we help men grow in the faith outside of "I'll know it when I see it"? Leaving it just to "I'll know it when it I see it" does not give direction to help men grow in the faith. The purpose of this blog post is to begin helping giving direction in faith formation in men. 

Identifying "men of God" Is something simiar to what a Supreme Court justice said about identfiyng pornography, "I can't define it but I know it when I see it." For example, Gandhi, MLK . . . . 

Greetings Jeff:

   May I be a bit presumptuous and give a stab at the questions you ask?

 a. To be passionate about something actually requires propositional knowledge. That is to say the more in-depth knowledge that I have of the ways, likes, attitudes, of my wife, the more I can be passionate about her. That is to say my heart can be warmed by what I know of her in an intimate way. In a similar way, the more we know of Christ--and this is not just individually, but also corporately, the more passionate we can be about Him. This is what I would define as heart-knowledge.

b. A cultural trend. Well, I think that the critical thinking apparatus has been dumbed down without teaching in logic, rhetoric, critical analysis, but more on "well how do you feel about that?" That later question is everywhere these days. But I think this is where myticism can walk right in the door, and to my mind it is not only Pentacostalism---since some of the sharpest and most analytical minds I know are Pentacostals--but also the effects of a therapeutic Gospel which responds to "how can we make these people feel good?" rather than a Gospel which asks "how can we help these people to think rightly and feel accordingly."

 

Shalom.

 

 

 

John,

 

This is a good and healthy discussion to have. Two questions come to mind right away:

1. How would you define "heart-knowledge"?

2. To what extent is this anti-intellectualism part of a broader cultural trend?  Is it really an infiltration from Pentecostalism or is it just a reflection of where the culture is heading?  

Greetings John:

     I think you have latched on to something.  Where do you think ideas such as Lectio Divina recently popularized by those involved in Youth ministiries, spiritual directors who help to get in touch with inner feelings, and the widespread popularity of Richard Foster's the Celebration of Discipline come from?

   I would say these are a pendulum swing towards mysticism that is likely a reaction against hyper-intellectualism. But the pendulum has swung way too far, in my opinion. Without a critical thought, supposedly thinking, reading, analyzing Christian Reformed folk ditch their critical thinking and testing of the spirits capacity and jump on to what is clearly Roman Catholic/Quaker/Buddhist mysticism.

   It would appear that we continue to need "theology on fire." Nothing more and nothing less, or as even the motto of Calvin Seminary states, reflecting John Calvin "My heart I offer to you Lord: Promptly and Sincerely."

Shalom

 

Thanks, Laura, for using your gifts for ministry in another important way!  You continue to be aware of God's calling in your life and serve Him where He calls.  May God continue to bless you as you bless the CRC!

Thank you, Jill, for serving in our Faith Formation Ministries! Blessings to you and your work! ~Stanley

Amen! Thank you for just tellin' it like it is. You'd think Christians would get this better than non-Christians because we believe in a God who created and then rested. But instead, it seems like our love for the Lord and ministry makes us work even harder!

Appreciated Henry.

Nonetheless, if a 16+/- old person is a person awarded "eligible voting" rights in a society, i.e. church they are still entitled to serve on the board/council regardless of whether the council asks or not. If their name were to be put forward, to cut it off the nomination list based on their age would be an infringement of their legal rights under the Constitution & Bylaws.

Moreover, they may be required as an "eligible voting" member to vote on financial, legal matters, etc. put before the membership, i.e. the congregation when they still under guardianship raising questions about whether their vote is legally binding.

 

Thanks, Lubbert, for the caution.  I do respectfully want to offer my opinion that there is a huge difference between being eligible for service as council/board members and actually being nominated to serve in that capacity.  I have huge doubts about a council actually asking a 16-year-old to serve.  I think ecclesiastical law needs to follow civil law, as the newly adopted version of Article 27 of the Church Order says, but there are also ways in which ecclesiastical law is our supreme guide.  Typically, civil law stays out of ecclesiastical matters and only guides us in financial matters so that we comply with regulations pertaining to charitable organizations.

 

 

Great blog, Josh! Thanks for sharing your thoughts (and the great suggestion at the end) on this important topic.

Henry's observation "So that leaves it to the Church Order and local council to decide ecclesiastically rather than the more legal route of Articles of Incorporation.  Typically provinces and states allow congregations to decide this matter in its own way without dictating any particular voting age" is more than a little problematic.

Members who have "voting rights" would also be able serve as council/board members who can enter into legal contracts, hire employees, etc. which individuals under the age of majority, i.e. under guardianship cannot do. 

As such, civil law overrides ecclesiastical law. Or to put it another way, ecclesiastical law needs to follow civil law. In the same way Church Order, Article 27 requires council members to comply with the law, e.g. "Although full consideration shall be given to the judgment expressed by the congregation, the authority for making and carrying out final decisions remains with the council as the governing body of the church, except in those matters stipulated otherwise in the articles of incorporation or by law."

Regarding the matter of Articles of Incorporation (Constitution) versus Bylaws, the province of British Columbia has recently brought into force a new Societies Act which will require all NGO's, e.g. churches to revise their Constitution & Bylaws. Most matters that were formerly included in the Constitution will be required to move into the Bylaws.  

 

Bill,

I have run into many congregations that have only filed Articles of Incorporation and not Bylaws.  In fact, quite a number of them have never even adopted Bylaws for themselves, let alone file them along with the Articles.  So if there are none on record in the church office or in the possession of the clerk, don't be surprised.

 

Henry,
Thanks for the detailed history and explanation.  

I do have a copy of the Articles of Incorporation filed in 1957 (no mention of what constitutes membership) but I do not have any Bylaws, and the state of California only has Articles of Incorporation.  My next step is to see if any of our members know where there might be a copy of the Bylaws.

Historically, churches in the Reformed tradition including ours have always held the position that approval for and making a profession of faith gave persons the right to "adult membership" and therefore also to vote at congregational meetings.  We call them "confessing members" (Article 59-b, CO) who have "the right to vote" (Article 59-c).  Synod currently leaves it up to the local congregations to determine "the appropriate age at which a confessing member shall receive such privileges and responsibilities" (Supplement, Article 59-c).  If no age is mentioned in any congregational decisions or by-laws, the age of 18 doesn't apply.  A person could make a profession at age 16, for example.
The only reason why for a time the CRCNA had a provision in the Church Order that actually mentioned the age of 18 was due to synodical decisions on children at the Lord's Supper.  For a time, synod decided that our members could make an "early profession of faith" and be admitted to the Lord's table -- the typical age was somewhere between 9 and 12.  They would then meet with council again, somewhere around their 18th birthday, be interviewed regarding their understanding of privileges and responsibilities of confessing membership, and be granted the right to vote.  Sometimes this was done in the council room, sometimes it was celebrated in public worship and those who had shared communion with us could then be officially welcomed before the congregation and its Lord.  Synod later decided that "all baptized members who come with age- and ability-appropriate faith in Jesus Christ are welcome to the Lord's Supper ..." (Article 59-a).  It then went on to say that "baptized members shall be encouraged to make a public profession of faith ..." (Article 59-b).  What that means in practice is that the age for making profession was once again moved to "somewhere around 18" without any definitiveness about that number, just like it had been the case for centuries.  So now, in my congregation, children are prepared for participation in the Lord's Supper in their children's worship centers -- at the time where they no longer leave half-way through the service, usually at age 7 or thereabouts -- and thereafter take communion with us.  Then, at around the time of high school graduation, the church prepares them and encourages them to make public profession of faith (which they now haven't done at a younger age).
So with regard to the right to vote at congregational meetings, we're right back where we started centuries ago. [☺]   Though now they can have communion based only upon their baptism and some initial instruction.
The only caveat to all this is that churches not only need to follow the Church Order but they also adopt their own Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws.  Synod has a model for that (Supplement, Article 32-d), but what is legally operative is what the individual congregation has adopted and filed(hopefully it follows synod's model).  It is possible that a given congregation might spell out an age where a person is granted the right to vote.  It is not likely, but it is possible, and that should be investigated.  The congregation could always change that again, but one must go by what's on file currently in the province or state in which the church is located.  The model Articles say in Article VII only that a congregational vote is obtained "at a meeting of the members present and entitled to vote."  So that leaves it to the Church Order and local council to decide ecclesiastically rather than the more legal route of Articles of Incorporation.  Typically provinces and states allow congregations to decide this matter in its own way without dictating any particular voting age.  That is, of course, unlike the voting age in the political sense.
 

Thank you Pastor Tamminga. Now posted on my Facebook!

 

posted in: Never Quite Sure

Though one would want to solicit input from all members in the congregation, the question of voting vs professing membership probably boils down to what the church Constitution & Bylaws define as who has voting rights which is guided by civil law. Church Order, Articles 4-c and 37 perhaps also give some guidance inasmuch as they refer to "adult" and "entitled."

Sounds great Pete. Would you be willing to share your document? It would be fun to see a few membership class samples! 

Sounds great Pete. Would you be willing to share your document? It would be fun to see a few membership class samples! 

Something I designed years ago has served me well even with adaptations in different churches.   A four-week (4 hour) class entitled "Believing to Belonging"   Week #1 -" Believing"  Basic on faith.  Verses from Ephesians and Romans.  I also teach "the Bridge" and have them place themselves someplace around the great Chasm.  Week #2 - "Believing part B"   This week I go over Reformed thought and doctrines. I review the Creeds and Confessions.  Week #3 "Belonging part A -   What does it mean to belong to a denomination and what is the CRC?    Week #4 - "Belonging part B"   - I talk about our specific church... its dreams, vision, and ministries.  Practical stuff.      Each week we keep it highly relational and tell some stories and most participants ask a lot of questions.  NO lecture.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for your great ideas and experience!

 

Allow me to share our experience on the mission field in Mexico where we work with the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico. We constantly offer a new members class called "Inicios" or "Beginnings" at our 11 a.m. Sunday School hour. The class runs for four months so we offer it three times per year. 

 

The course starts with the big questions: What does it mean to be a Christian? Who is God? What is our problem? Who is Jesus? What does Jesus do? How to receive salvation? We teach on justification, sanctification, adoption. From there we move to some sessions on the denomination and some Reformed history. From there we move to our local church: our values, how to grow in grace, areas to serve, our ministries, meaning of sacraments, importance of covenant, etc. And we end with the membership questions to asked at one's public profession of faith.

 

The course neither guarantees membership nor obligates anyone. If, at the end of the course, people would like to make their public profession of faith and be baptized (if not baptized before), then they fill out a membership sheet, meet with the elders and then set a date. We have almost all new folks go through the same course: new believers and those from other churches, although the needs are different. Also covenant youth raised in the church take the course prior to their profession of faith.

Rev. Ben Meyer

Seymour CRC (Grand Rapids, MI)

Missionary to Guadalajara, Mexico with CRWM

Staci,

Thanks for the article on summer (self-created) busy stress. It fit me to a T also. Good thing Bible study starts up soon!   It has been a jam-packed summer -  swimming, a Whitecaps game, showers/weddings, sisters' outings, Girls Night Out, picnics and more. You're right about trying to pack it all in! Here's to a more restful fall with time for Bible study.  

Thanks again!

 

 

 

Thanks, Sam, this is a great topic and one that I hope people will comment on. When I revised our membership process a little while ago there was a dearth of materials about the topic. I found one very good book, called Membership Matters, I think, but not a whole lot else. 

My "working" process (always open to change) is based on CS Lewis' image of the Christian faith as a great house with many hallways and rooms. The first session is about belonging to Christ and is a presentation of the gospel. The second is about the biblical nature of the church and what it means biblically to be a member of a church. The third session is about the "hallway" of Reformed theology, history and practice and the last is about the "room" that is our own church. I also sometime show a video about infant baptism if this is a topic of discussion. I would love to hear what others do.

I'm a little surprised that our denomination doesn't have a simple "welcome to the CRC" type of video that could be shown to prospective members, at least not one that I've found. This wouldn't have to be a big DVD production, just a simple Internet video. I think it would fill a real gap.

 

 

Hi Joe, 

The best resource I can think of is one that was designed to be a two part workshop that a church would offer on the Lord's Supper. The reason it comes to mind for your situation is because the first workshop is all about baptism and the second workshop connects baptism to the Lord's Supper. It was designed to be something that families would attend together and which would be led by a pastor or elder or other congregational leader. It's called Taste and See and is sold in a downloadable format. Click here to read a sample.   It does require some gathering of supplies but what I love about it is that it's very hands-on and interactive. 

Another idea you might want to check out is Children at the Table which is a resource Tom Bomhof from Fleetwood CRC created as a way to teach children about the Lord's Supper. It's also a 2 part workshop and the first session touches on baptism. It's great too!

Finally, here's a link to "We Baptized Vivian!" an article which contains some ideas from other churches on ways to make baptism a special celebration. 

Hope that helps! 

Completely agree, Bonnie. It's so easy to do. Thanks for sharing!

 

A good reminder not to neglect those things that truly feed your soul and lead to peace

What if we viewed more events in the Christian life as commissioning services? What if, rather than scrapping the idea of commissioning people altogether, we emphasized in other events how we are being sent. We could incorporate acknowledging, blessing, and celebrating into baptism, profession of faith, graduation and regular celebrations of communion. 

Perhaps we don't stop commissioning elders and missionaries, pastors and mission teams but rather acknowledge the significance of these moments of sending. Significant parts of a significant life. 

 

Getting a package is such a tangible way to feel loved! I think it's really cool that churches are finding such unique ways to stay connected to college kids. I'm also going to check out SoulFeed; sounds like a really neat idea. 

Thanks for sharing!

One of the old time hymns of David has a line about going to the Temple to fulfill our vows. To me, it is a very important concept of faith formation. I get a good "gut feeling" when in a church even when the sanctuary is empty.

For me, theology is a kind of grounding.  When I think about the Heidelberg Catechism, it draws Scriptural truths together to show what the Ten Commandments, the Apostle's Creed and the Lord's Prayer mean for our everyday lives.  It keeps us focused on what church is about so that we don't just glide along with whatever culture throws at us.  

Theology is literally the study of God.  In many North American churches, the emphasis is on the individual and how he can find success and answers to prayer.  How can we worship One that we do not know?  How can we be a community of faith that builds each other up?  The answers come in our understanding of God and subsequently our understanding of who we are in relation to Him.

I've found that it has helped some people when I point out that theology (literally "God-Words") is simply the choices we make when trying to communicate about our God. We are well aware that the reality of God far surpasses our knowledge of Him. We ought to also be aware that our relational knowledge of God often surpasses our own ability to express that knowledge through words, art, or otherwise. So we do our best to make choices that will best reveal what we can of God to the person(s) we're communicating with. Over time Christians have learned some very insightful ways of speaking of very deep things about God. We should respect that while recognizing that sometimes words that mean one thing to me might mean something very different to another person - especially those raised in significantly different cultures or circumstances. Also, God has chosen not to give every person the exact same experience of Him. So, for instance, the irresistible grace of TULIP speaks closely to my experience of God - for someone to deny that simply makes no sense to me, I have experienced it to be true. Moreover, I know that many others have had a similar experience, and that people passionate about it have dug deeply into the Scriptures to see if God has revealed Himself as acting that way (and He has!). 

So, everyone has a theology. They have experiences and beliefs about God that they would talk about in a certain way - that is essentially what theology is. A wise person learns to broaden their own experiences of God by seeking out others as well, and their theology will grow. 

Sometimes I think we need to back down a little from trying to assess between denominations what is "right" language versus "wrong" language, and deal instead with "is this Scripturally appropriate language?" There are other Christian theologies I admit to being Scripturally appropriate even though they don't jive nearly as well with my own experience and may therefore be hard to conceptually reconcile with Reformed theology (which does fit my experience!). 

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