Blog

A couple’s religious beliefs, or one partner’s lack thereof, should be looked at before tying the knot. A plan for dealing with differences should be agreed upon. But, the plan needs to be kept flexible. 

April 20, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

Time has become the most valuable commodity in our culture and its scarcity is one of our leading stressors. And ultimately we are too busy for God. What's one to do? Here's my modest proposal. 

April 20, 2016 0 2 comments
Blog

Likely you have heard someone suggest that a certain point of view is correct because they make an appeal such as "I have a friend who..." Sometimes the word 'friend' is substituted by a family member, or a person featured in a video, or a person in a book. Of course the personal connection...

April 18, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

Sometimes I wonder how often we truly have a clear vision and mission in our own lives. How many times do we just go day to day lacking a mindfulness of why we're doing what we're doing?

April 18, 2016 0 1 comments
Blog

Years ago a friend told me that he'd asked his 16 year old daughter what she considered to be the safest place in the world. Her thoughtful response revealed clues about congregational culture. 

April 14, 2016 0 3 comments
Blog

A good fisherman does his homework. He knows the conditions of the water, researches the latest equipment, and talks to other anglers. I wondered, could these same principles apply to ministry? 

April 5, 2016 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

A recent article in Forbes magazine reported that Americans now spend more money on Easter candy than they do on Halloween candy. Have you noticed an increase in Easter consumerism?

April 5, 2016 0 4 comments
Blog

This event was not just about River. It was about a church family celebrating the gift of life and joy of being together. It was one more step toward fulfilling the baptismal vows we made one week earlier. 

April 4, 2016 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Looking for books to help grow the faith of children? We've compiled a list of our go-to books that are definitely worth checking out. Do you know a book we should check out? Let us know!

April 1, 2016 0 3 comments
Blog

I was recently in Cleveland, OH, where my son is a pastor at a west side inner city church. We were outside, with a small bonfire going, beginning our festival of lights service. While we sang "This Little Light of Mine" a couple came walking to the bus stop and decided to join us. "We've just...

March 30, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

In many ways, the nursery epitomizes what the church is about: Knowing each other. Living life together. Chasing each other when necessary. And allowing no one to forget God loves them.

March 29, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

After the webinar about mental health and ministry, we came up with a group of resources that ministry leaders have found helpful in dealing with mental health issues in our churches.

March 28, 2016 0 10 comments
Blog

This story-sharing opportunity is guaranteed to be a memorable, meaningful experience, both for the elders whose stories need to be heard and the youth who hear them.

March 24, 2016 0 2 comments
Blog

If someone asked you to share your testimony in a worship service, what would you say? The average CRC member might react like this...

March 22, 2016 0 2 comments
Blog

Connecting a team of six regional catalyzers with support staff in both Michigan and Ontario can be challenging. That's why we're grateful that Christine Dekker joined Faith Formation Ministries...

March 21, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

Many Christians, on both sides of the border, are looking at the current political climate in the United States with disbelief and wonder. How did we get here?

March 16, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

Introducing Martin Contant, another FFM staff member with years of experience working in the CRCNA who's just begun working as the Coach for FFM’s Regional Catalyzers.

March 14, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

I believe that ministry leaders would greatly benefit from taking the occasional field trip to neighbouring churches both within and outside their denominational tribe.

March 10, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

For our next installation in the series introducing the staff of Faith Formation Ministries, we would like to introduce you to Sandy Swartzentruber, Creative Resource Developer.

March 9, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

The Building Blocks project, based on work done by Bob and Laura Keeley, is one of the recent and exciting initiatives being promoted by Faith Formation Ministries in the CRC.

March 7, 2016 0 4 comments
Blog

Today, we continue our series introducing the staff of Faith Formation Ministries. Now it's time to get to know Communications Strategist, Paola.

March 1, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Workshop or Training

How do you disciple a new believer? Jesus recognized that the people He encountered were at different stages of growth and development, and He worked to challenge each of them to the next level. 

February 23, 2016 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Telling faith stories is a powerful way to share what God is doing in our community, our churches, and our homes. Has your church developed any unique storytelling traditions or practices that other churches could adapt? 

February 23, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

In our series introducing you to the staff of Faith Formation Ministries, I would like you to meet Karen De Boer, Creative Resource Developer, from Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. 

February 22, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar provides guidelines to help congregations minister to high school students preparing for graduation and offer helpful tips on how to care for students once they are in college or at a university.

February 16, 2016 0 0 comments

Pages

RSS

Upon re-reading the question I would like to add the following:

 

And a man went up to New York from McBain and upon arriving in that great city he entered into a famous 5 star restaurant. It being Tuesday he ordered what he always ordered back in McBain on Tuesday: a hamburger with fries.

A teacher of the law happened to see him ordering the hamburger with fries at the 5 star restaurant, and said unto the man: Do you not know what great delicacies are available here for the asking, prepared by the great masters of culinary art?

And the man replied: If they are anything like the liver and onions they serve at the diner back in McBain, I’ll pass. Besides, it’s Tuesday, and on Tuesday I always eat a hamburger with fries.

 

This is, of course, a familiar predicament to a significant number of Christians who move to different parts of the country at one time in their lives or another. They will not always find a CRC there. When that happens, what are the options?

 

Some elect to drive great distances on Sunday to be able to attend the nearest CRC. While there is a certain comfort in maintaining familiar traditions and upholding teachings that are consistent with things we learned in our family of origin, there is also a price. Undoubtedly, the opportunity to fully engage in the life of the congregation will be greatly hindered by the physical distance from where most of the other church people live. No joining a midweek Bible study. No serving on committees or task forces that require regular physical contact. Hopefully, the CRC pastor appreciates his Reformed heritage, or else you would do a lot of driving for something you could find a lot closer.

 

I am familiar with at least one couple who elected to worship closer to home, and join a different denomination, in fact, one where adult baptism was a requirement for full membership. The husband had been CRC all his life, and an elder many times. He did not take the transition lightly. I remember him telling me that he could relate a bit to Ruth when she told Naomi: “Your people will be my people, and your way of serving God will be my way” (TPV) He saw his re-baptism as a symbolic gesture to respond graciously to the warm welcome he and his wife had received in the new non-CRC church. He eventually served on the elder board in the new church as well, and was able to engage other members in fascinating conversations about theological differences they never would have had otherwise.

 

A key issue is what you value most about your church membership. If you need the regular face time with real live people who share your love for the Lord and can encourage you on your journey with God, you may be able to get past some theological differences, especially if there still is significant agreement on the things that matter. John Calvin himself distinguished between essential and nonessential points of doctrine.

 

If, on the other hand, your faith is particularly nurtured by your study of the finer points of Reformed theology, it may be harder for you to listen to a pastor preach weekly from a non-Reformed perspective. If your Reformed world-and-life view has taught you to see Christ, and Christians, as agents of God transforming culture, you would be less comfortable being told from the pulpit that Christians must separate themselves from culture and live as far away from the temptations of this evil world as possible, as is the view of many Anabaptist congregations.

 

I trust you are aware that these days you can have the best of both worlds. Worship and fellowship with Christians who love Jesus, close to your home. And study God’s word to your hearts content with fellow Reformed believers on the internet. When opportunities arise to compare notes with non-Reformed fellow worshipers at your non-CRC church, you may be able to contribute new insights for their understanding of their faith, even as you may be able to see some things in ways you never saw them before. And God will smile on both of you!

 

Elizabeth Drescher says that "social media is the landscape of communication."

We can grow in faith through social media in the same way that we grow through school, work, and family. 

Thanks for sharing this, Libby! This article about the church allowing kids to use social media was really interesting. I especially liked this line: Today’s youth are online – this is where they form relationships, tell their stories and live a significant portion of their lives, including their faith lives. It's a great idea to meet youth where they already are! 

Interesting question Bill. I'm not sure I get the sales pitch angle you are getting at since we aren't "selling" anything in an effort to make money. 

And yes, the "real" work of forming faith is done by God (see, for example Eph 2:8). However we are called to nurture faith in each other as covenant communities who promise at each person’s baptism to “love, encourage, and support . . . by teaching the gospel of God’s love, by being an example of Christian faith and character, and by giving the strong support of God’s family in fellowship, prayer, and service.” These relational and communal acts of faith formation are part of the discipleship process... things that occur as we look for ways to invest in each other’s lives and live into our identity in Christ together. Our lives are constantly being shaped by God, and part of our responsibility as lifelong disciples is to be looking for ways to be used by the Spirit to help others be “formed, transformed, and conformed to the image of Christ,” as Holly Allen writes. That may be by teaching Sunday School, mentoring a teenager, helping parents nurture faith in their kids, leading an adult bible study, hosting a missional community, serving together, etc. 

So we help leaders in congregations who are charged with helping people of all ages grow in their faith (in all the ways that happens). Does that help? 

 

 

Exactly what does "faith formation" mean? In this century, how is it different from a sales pitch? Isn't it the Holy Spirit that "does" "faith formation?"

Thanks, Derek!

That "new website" mentioned above is live! Check us out over at http://www.crcna.org/FaithFormation

I was in Marketing & Design before seminary, and I’ll a give you credit on the boy band/Church allegory –not on “transparency” but on “authenticity.” 1D makes NKOTB look cheap today because 1D can SING. True, kids today are mostly ‘over’ the hype of ‘80s/‘90s pre-programmed bands, but that doesn’t keep some promoters from still using the tactic to sell music & culture. It’s the genuine rooted musicianship of 1D that sells their music, and that will always connect with people more deeply than the plastic coating some groups (and congregations) adopt.

More important than Facebook posts and hashtags, the Church needs to operate in the joy of our calling as reconciled sinners telling other sinners about our Reconciler. Everything else the Church tries to do to “sell” herself and her Lord to the popular culture is costumes and fancy dancing.

Since the crc has lost a sizeable number of members since 1992, it would seem strange to pat its self on the back for its pride.  The incompleteness of some evangelical theology for evangelicals will not help the crc for the incompleteness of its obedience.  You can't make yourself look better by making someone else look worse.  It is easy to say that one is more scriptural, if you yourself revise an understanding of scripture into incomprehensibility, or into relativity, or into irrelevance.  The eternal issues of whether God chooses us or we choose Him cannot be legitimized by excuses for disobedience, nor will a correct theoretical understanding of the trinity compensate for a lack of faith and trust in the God who redeems and commands. 

I wish the article contained some Biblical references to support the position. We know that God placed us in the world to influence the world and not to become like it (John 17:14-16).  But when we begin to adopt to the system and practice of the world, we have compromised, weakened and perhaps corrupted our influence.  In the language of Jesus, we have lost our saltiness (Matthew 5:13).  The bottomline is: As Christians, our faith and practice should be directed by Scripture alone; otherwise we have deviated from "Sola Scriptura" and fallen prey to the trap of "relevance."        

posted in: Redeeming Halloween

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mario. And no insult to vet's is intended--thank you for serving our country!

posted in: Redeeming Halloween

Thank you for how you shared your thoughts on this and how you can use this to share the light of Jesus. I know for myself, my wife and i battled over it for years as our children grew. At our previous church and our current church they have provided alternative options for different reasons, the first being safety and for my current church more of an outreach that brings people onto our campus that typically wouldn't come. We provide information about our church and its programs like Cadet's, Gem's and youth programs along with a great evening of trunk or treats, bouncers and food court. (food court-local cub scout fund raiser) We us this to open ourselves to our local community and share the love of Jesus and invite them to an event that will last for eternity. Great post, i did feel a bit insulted as you would lump Veteran's Day with Halloween as i am a US Army Veteran, blessings to you and may you continue to shine the Light in your community for Jesus.

posted in: Redeeming Halloween

I was so relieved to see at the end of the article, the awareness of the coincidence (not) with Reformation Day.  On almost the cusp now of the 500th Anniversary of that historic happening, we should redouble efforts to both educate the next generation and also figure out how we are going to engage our Roman Catholic neighbors constructively.  

 

posted in: Redeeming Halloween

Thanks, Shannon! This is really helpful.

posted in: Redeeming Halloween

Being a drummer, this caught my attention.  Great talk!  Good insight about ritual.  (Though very little (none?) drumming language or imagery!)

Dave Vroege, Halifax

Hey Joshua,  Thanks for your short article in regard to the pressure of raising kids.  It's certainly not an easy task.  My mother in law once said, you never know if you've done it right until they are grown up.  Of course, doing our best as parents doesn't insure success.  Many a parent can attest to that.  I think the best a parent can do is not pressuring our kids (to read their Bibles) but to simply set the example for them by our own lives.  That is perhaps hardest for a minister, as he is expected to study the Bible daily in his role of being a minister.  If he doesn't (and it happens) how can it be expected of others to follow his lead or instruction.  Does your wife also study her Bible daily, as an example.  The reality is, that even ministers and their spouses, tire of Bible study at times.  How can we expect any more of our children?  Be patient and enjoy your children at each stage of their lives.  And trust God.

posted in: Pressure?

Hi Karen,

Thank you for the guidance.  This litany will do nicely!

Peace to you!

--Leon

Hi Leon, 

On the Dwell curriculum site there is a free downloadable Commissioning Litany that might be helpful. I love it because it involves children too!  Here's the link: http://dwell.faithaliveresources.org/_downloadables/_pdf/topics_for_coordinators/3_Commissioning_Litany.pdf

Karen De Boer, Discipleship and Faith Formation Ministries, CRCNA

 

 

Hello Jolanda,

Thank you for this article.  Just what I needed to hear as we begin another season of Sunday School in our local church!  I agree: the best gift we can give our students is a love for God's Word and a transformed self.

Say, we are having a Sunday School kick-off this Sunday.  Do you have any prayers and blessings for such an occasion?

Thank you kindly and God bless!

--Leon H. Johnston

Lacombe, AB

Long time ago Someone wrote that a congregation should be measured by the songs they sing, not the statement of faith. If that is true then most congregations are vacation bible school mentality at best.

An area that is worth watching is faith in the workplace, in which there are several good blogs going. For example the work section of The High Calling (http://www.thehighcalling.org/work) and the Theology of Work site (http://www.theologyofwork.org/) which is not strictly a blog, but publishes short and timely articles from the site in their Facebook page. I have also just published a new blog post in my own Faith@Work blog (http://faithatworkplace.blogspot.com).

Also, may I be cheeky enough to plug my upcoming CRC Webinar on the subject, called "Every Square Inch" at Work? This is a general area of faith formation in which the church, and especially CRC, could do far more to equip its members to live out God's Kingdom calling in their everyday occupations.

This is awesome, Shannon! Our church is hoping to launch some interest groups this season and my desire is to see these spaces be places where those who are older and younger can build lasting relationships that open up space for meaningful conversation and story sharing! 

Great post, Shannon! I think sometimes we try too hard to make intergenerational ministry happen. Yours is a great example of the organic nature of how God works in our midst when we aren't even trying to make things happen.

This isn't specifically for intergenerational trips, but our church recently sent it's high school youth group to Mexico on a mission trip. The youth director paired all of the students going with prayer partners, older folks in the church, many of whom were very generous in supporting the kids financially to go. She also had the kids in Wednesday evening children's ministries make cards for the youth going on the trip (6 weeks before they left). This got the younger kids interested in the trip, too. So when the youth director was thinking of a fund raiser, she put together a dinner at the church, that the youth sold tickets for. The price was a bit steep for many folks ($20/adult, $10/kid, and 5 and under free), but more than 100 people showed up, and it was an intergenerational group, from young families to seniors. Many people paid more than the ticket price to support the trip.

The meal for the dinner was prepared by a few of the boys in the youth group, interested in cooking and baking, under the shepherding of a man in the church who loves grilling. There were ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork sandwiches, homemade rolls, coleslaw, and macaroni and cheese. The rest of the youth group pitched in with set-up and tear-down and serving, and everyone pitched in to promote it. The whole church really took ownership of the fund raising. It was good to see!

One thing I found interesting about this study was that it pointed to the importance of the quality of the parent/child relationship in passing on our faith. It's important that we are intentional about talking with our kids about God but it may be even more important that our interactions with them be characterized by openness, affection, grace, and love--qualities that reflect God's heart for them too. It is nice to know that just loving our kids well helps them to love and admire the God we adore. 

This is great! Thanks for sharing.

posted in: Youth

Thanks for sharing this Louis. 

posted in: Youth

I read your post, Roger, and I'm glad you're keeping this interesting conversation alive! I agree that our society puts all the attention on us, and baptism is really about what God is doing, not what we are doing... But I don't think that alleviates the problem that Howard is describing. Memories shape us and help to form our faith, so I am deeply interested in helping my kids and our church find ways to acknowledge the meaning of baptism and remember and hold onto it in personal ways, faith shaping ways. Pointing to infant baptism as something GOD is doing is itself a hurdle that makes it different from infant dedication. Our ways of remembering our baptism should focus on that message of remembering God's work in our lives and God's faithfulness in our community and through the generations.  

I know this article is rather dated, so perhaps the comments that come in this late will never even be read.  But as I see it, infant baptism isn't the problem, but rather believer's baptism, or the idea of infant baptism being the only form of baptism that is done in a church (is the problem).  Because baptism, say in a Baptist church, is considered a sign of one's faith by which they have taken hold of Christ.  It is more of a sign of an individual's action and a sign of when they themselves came to faith in Christ.  Whereas in the Reformed tradition, baptism is a sign of God's action.  It's really about God and not about me.  But in our egotistical society, we tend to put ourselves at front and center and want markers of what we have done, so believer's baptism does more to feed that kind of mentality; it draws attention to me.  So in our Reformed tradition we have to be careful not to feed such a mentality and emphasis. Salvation is about God, not about me.  More could be said, but seeing as this will likely never be read, I'll leave it at that. 

Thank you for sharing this, Laura! I like the idea of honoring the small occasions in our family's life. Our oldest child recently graduated the eight grade, and her school doesn't have a ceremony or anything to mark it, but I have been wondering how our family might mark, even in a small way, this milestone in her life as she sets of for high school. I am eager to check this book out.

This book inspired me to start a new family tradition for Pentecost! I like the ideas involving kites and wind that the author suggested for Pentecost, but I've always noticed a certain flower that blooms in the spring that reminds me of a flame. So my family (which includes my husband and two-year-old daughter) planted an orange celosia plumosa flower as we talked about the Pentecost story. Then we sang a simple song that I learned through the Little Lamb's curriculum which is set to the tune of the Farmer in the Dell: 

The birthday of the church! 

The birthday of the church! 

We celebrate Pentecost, the birthday of the church!

The wind was very strong

The Holy Spirit came,

Disciples told of Jesus love and praised his holy name! 

We will probably outgrow that song as my kids grow up, but I hope to continue planting the flower each year! Now it sits in a pot near our deck reminding us of the important day when the Holy Spirit came in a new way. My daughter waters it while she plays with her water table and sings the Pentecost song! 

 

Thank you, Laura, for this lovely post on my book! If people are interested in checking it out, they can find it at Chalice Press or Amazon

Congratulations to you on your son's wedding; what a joyous occasion! 

 

 

Hi Chris,

Thank you for this blog post.  I like your angle.  We too "vacate" a bit during the summer, as we love to go camping and visit family.  But like you suggest, I'm trying to take more "Sabbath" during my vacation.  Slowing things down, reading more, spending more time in quiet.  We also spend considerable time in our backyard, working in the garden, but also spending time in solitude and silence, in God's creation.  But as much as we enjoy staying home during summer holiday time, we've also learned to get a way a bit, as you'll know that when a pastor is home, he is "on-call."

May the Lord bless our Summer-Sabbath breaks!

--Leon

I once had a wise spiritual director say words to me that I will never forget and that have helped guide my life ever since: She said, "Consider the things that bring you life; consider the things that bring you death; and don't do violence to yourself." Work for me includes both those things that bring life, and those that bring death; and I can tell when the balance gets shifted and I need to make some changes. The Lord has created us with a need for Sabbath, for rest, for the renewing and refreshing of our souls. This blog is thought-provoking for me. What brings life to my soul? A vacation-day or a holy-day?

Thanks Harriette for your post on doubts that some Christians may have on their faith journey.  It’s my guess that this questioning pastor, who relayed the story of the street preacher and the heckler, didn’t have serious doubts about his faith but was only looking for something (anything) to confirm his already grounded faith.  If he was serious about his doubts he would look beyond this one example of this heckler who got what he prayed for to the thousands who didn’t receive what they prayer for.  Thousands pray for the healing of a husband, wife, or child, thousands pray for the just outcome of a war, thousands have prayed for the healing of a broken marriage, and on and on, without receiving what they have sincerely prayed for.  And yet Jesus teaches that we can pray for whatever we want and we will receive it.  Does this one example really exemplify a loving God answering what we pray for?  This pastor really wasn’t very objective in pitting the one example of answered prayer against the thousands of examples of unanswered prayer.  And that is even if this one example is even verifiable or just a good story.  Your post is suggesting that Christians should be more gullible when grabbing for straws.  Thanks, anyway, for a good attempt.

Thanks for sharing this! It is a good challenge to many of us.

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.  

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)

 

 

 

My go-to suggestion would be Shaped by God, edited by Bob Keeley (http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Products/151126/shaped-by-god.aspx). It's an excellent resource with chapters on all sorts of topics by different authors. 

I ran into George Brown (G.W. and Eddie Haworth Professor Emeritus of Christian Education at Western Theological Seminary) a few weeks ago and he recommended these two newer titles on faith formation:

Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down Across Generations by Vern Bengtson

Faith Forward by Melvin Bray

Let us know what you decide on, we'd love to hear your thoughts! 

 

 

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

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.

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.

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

Pages