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I am relatively new to the CRC, but have been involved in evangelical churches all of my life as a lay leader. I read the Q and A’s with great interest. I also read them in the context of a decades-long decrease in the number of people who call the CRCNA their church home. The statements on church worship help to shed light for me on why such a decrease has been happening. I offer the following observations:

  1. The focus of what I read seems to be on looking backward on worship as it has been, rather than forward to what it can be.
  1. What may have worked well in the past (pre-1960’s) has not been effective since then. The presence of many former CRC church buildings in my community, may be testimony to that reality. Several congregations, even now, are on life-support.
  1. The numerous proscriptions on worship has a “law-feel” to it. It seems that the denomination’s zeal to protect forms of worship that have been prevalent in the past, has resulted in losing touch with how worship can be renewed or unleashed to be relevant to the needs of post-WW II generations of believers, like me (a Boomer) and my younger sisters and brothers.
  1. How the CRCNA looks at worship (as well as outreach, evangelism and other factors) will determine whether or not the denomination continues its slide into the abyss of irrelevancy. My hope is that better days are ahead. My fear is that they are not. The jury (all of us, as CRCNA-ers) is still deliberating.

Thank you for stimulating my thinking about worship. My prayer is that there will be increased openness to where the Holy Spirit might lead us as a denomination so that no one is left behind. May we be infected with a health discomfort level about worship, while seeing it as an adventure on which God is leading us.  


A very thought-provoking article, worthy of response. I agree with most of what is written, and can point to many instances in my time as a lay leader, when I (and the churches I attended) looked in the wrong direction in defining success. It is not that secular, or business-based, definitions are inappropriate, but that they are used as a substitute for Biblically-rooted definitions of "success"  Such definitions (faithfulness; "die to self"; suffering servants; "take up your cross", etc.) do not translate well in our society and even in our churches (or perhaps especially in our churches.)  We expect good results without the effort.

We laypersons need to be very careful in how we define success for our pastors. For a 300-member congregation, there can be 300 such definitions based upon different theories or personal experiences. As a result, it is so tempting to scapegoat the pastor, or a lay leader as "the problem." It is also so easy to feel incompetent or a failure when we compare our selves to other congregations. Such comparisons are a trap.

I wonder what we (the church) would look like if we undertook the task (perhaps the struggle) to define success in ministry from a Biblical perspective? My guess is that we might not like what we find and we would lapse back to doing what provides the illusions of success or stays within our respective comfort zones. Or, it would such a struggle free us from such illusions and propel us toward toward true discipleship and faithfulness, and the attendant discomforts and blessings. 

Thank you for you article!





First of all, I didn't know about the existence of this document until now. Secondly, if these standards were applied with any seriousness, most volunteers would be eliminated one way or another. It certainly would have eliminated me 5o years ago and probably many times since then. At no time during my tenure as a SS teacher have I received any supervision or been held accountable. for my performance. A Christmas present occasionally was about it. It was blindly assumed that I did a good job. 

The document begins with the sentence "Our church values it ministry volunteers." It then describes what volunteers should be doing for the church, with no mention of how the church will do its part in valuing its  ministry volunteers, supporting them to be faithful (successful) in their mission. As a result, the statement does not meet the definition of a covenant. The meaning of the word "Covenant" implies mutuality ("You do this and I will do that.") This must be a two-way street. It is the church's responsibility to help volunteers like me succeed. By not preparing us, or holding us accountable for what we do, the mission of serving Jesus Christ is cheapened and the witness of the church weakened.   

The question is what to do with the statement (e.g. continue ignoring it, bring it back to life as is, or revise it), I suggest a fourth option:  start over and use the experiences of past years as a guide to making it a new, living document, rather than one that has good sounding words, but which holds little value or meaning. The future of youth involvement in the church as adults may hang in the balance.

Thank you for sharing the document, Fred, and your encouragement for Fred to post it, Staci.


I am a member of the Reopening Team at Shawnee Park CRC in Grand Rapids. Two resources that we are making use of are the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College ( They have written articles and a have a series of webinars on the topic. Also Ed Stetzer (, director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton, has written on the topic. A third resource is the evangelical periodical Christianity Today (   


This sounds like an overgeneralization to me. While I hold the words of clergy in high esteem, I cannot accept at face value that when the pastor speaks, God speaks to me. God may speak to each of us in different ways. I must use discernment when listening to the pastor, lest I be led in accepting what the pastor says is automatically God's voice to me. God may be speaking something different to me, perhaps even contrary to what the pastor may have said. As Christians, especially those of us who are laypersons, we still need to use our brains, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and other Christian brothers and sisters  in interpreting, and responding to what comes out of the pastor's mouth. The priesthood of all believers is not invalidated by the role of clergy. 


When I have found myself faced with conflictual situations - personally, professionally, or within the congregation - I have been tempted to flee to the poles. One pole is temporary paralysis or feeling intimidated. This can result in saying or doing nothing, out of fear. At the other pole I may want to jump in and solve the issues so everyone can be apparently at peace again. Worse yet is taking sides, a tactic that creates a win/lose dynamic. What I might do only later is to seek the middle ground by being quiet, listening and asking questions that seek clarity from each party to the conflict. Stopping to pray for myself in such situations is just as important as prayer for the parties. Not when all human efforts fail (as they will), but at the outset, when the Holy Spirit may be active, and when I am more likely to have a listening heart. Blessings and peace to you in that critical role.   

WOW!! Piousness, one of the altars we worship at, is not all it's cracked up to be. In fact, it can serve as something that divides us from those we serve, or serve with. Not only that, it can convey the message that I am better than you. Sounds like someone I know of who is currently prominent in (un)civil discourse in the U.S. Thank you for this provocative piece.  

Recently, our congregation went through some challenges that the Council addressed over several months. Until then, I as a member of Council, had not seen or known about those roles. (My background is in another denomination.) As our Council navigated the challenges, suddenly the church visitors and regional pastor appeared at Council meetings.  In my mind, this raises the question of how active these roles are in non-crisis situations. We, as congregations, need to be hearing about our strengths and weaknesses on a continuing basis from external sources.

I am interested in learning to what extent the classis structure exists on paper, as opposed to how it really works (or doesn't) as an active relationship between congregation and classis. The reality of the decades-long shrinkage (in members and congregations) of the CRC suggests that something may not be working as effectively as possible in addressing congregational vitality well before the question of survival or crisis resolution is paramount.

I welcome other perspectives on this issue. Thank you for raising it. 



I have not heard of this overture, but I am pleased that is has been submitted. I would suggest the the following be considered:  "cluster"; "district"; and "huddle.

This is part of a larger issue regarding words used historically in the CRC.  Others include "contracta: and "consistory". As one who is relatively new to the CRC, all of the words tend to connote a sense of mystery and exclusion regarding the organization of the CRC. Such words are not very invitational to people who may be considering the CRC or one of its congregations. Such perceptual barriers need to be eliminated if the CRC is to slow the decades-long slide in membership.  This is only one of the issues that pertain to this trend.  

Thank you for this post; it was encouraging. I have led, and participated on, committees in churches for 45 years. I have been bored to tears, and inspired beyond measure. There is something wrong when we see committee work as a necessary "evil" in the life of the congregation. 

The committee that I currently lead recently made two changes that are helping us to see our work differently:

1.  I see our committee as really a form of a small group, where the individual needs of the members need not be ignored. In fact, they need to be acknowledged openly and prayed for and celebrated, and:

2.  We realized that the role of prayer in the committee meeting was being trivialized. The prayer to open our meetings was treated more like a call to order than communication with the Creator of the universe. We have begun dedicating the last half hour (or more) of a two-hour meeting to praying together. The benefits (blessings, actually) of doing that are many...

  -- Greater unity among committee members is achieved;

  -- Seeking and experiencing the moving of the Holy Spirit in not only our areas of responsibility, but for the congregation as a whole;

  -- It turns the table from asking God to bless our work and agenda to seeking the Lord's will for the ministries for which we are responsible.   

Making these changes has just begun, but it is having the impact of changing what is thought of necessary "business" to an attitude of "adventure" of our common ministry, and what God is doing.

I am interested in what others experiences are in re-imagining what the business of the church can look like when we let God lead the way.







Thank you for providing both challenge and affirmation for the role of prayer in meetings. We are attempting to do just that in our Education and Discipleship Committee meetings (Shawnee Park CRC.  Grand Rapids). We, too, have been stuck in the routine of "perfunctory" prayer / devotions at the beginning of meetings. As a result we are misguided in the arrogance of seeking God's ratification for what we are doing. The comment of a neighboring pastor (that prayer needs to undergird everything we) do led our committee to reconsider the role of prayer in our meetings. We are instituting the following:

1.  Prayer is being given a more prominent role on the agenda at meetings, in addition to the prayer / devotions at the beginning of each meeting. It is now becoming standard for us to join together in 20 - 30 minutes (or more) of prayer to conclude our time together. 

2.  The focus is on listening to the "still small voice" of the Holy Spirit. We often miss that voice in our focus on seeking God's approval of our plans; and

3.  We are endeavoring to align and submit what we are doing to God's will as we discern together what that might be in God's timeframe.  

Your words of encouragement will help us to frame what we are doing, and can do, as part of the adventure of serving Jesus in the church and community, as opposed to the rigid same-old, same-old structure.

The results of the approach to prayer that you have suggested may or may not be what we desire, but the results will place God back in charge of the Church's mission. Now that is both scary and exciting. 




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