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Hi Michael,

CRCNA has not, as far as I am aware, formally approved (or disavowed) any pre-marriage or marriage or family programs of this nature. 

That being said, my wife and I have used The Marriage Course that you referenced and found it to be solid. We still use it as a resource. The best way to look at their program is that it is Biblically consistent (i.e. not contrary to scripture.) Their videos in the past have had a scripture read at the end of each lesson. However, they do not misuse the Bible as a textbook for marriage preparation, which I appreciate. They also do this to avoid over saturating their teaching with scripture references and thus alienating non-Christians or seekers from their materials. This allows The Marriage Course to be used as a first contact point with non-Christians. If you are looking for a program that primarily answers the question, "What does the Bible say about marriage?", you'd be better off looking at another program.  

Henry Dekker,

I am one of the pastors at a medium large congregation. I will add my two cents regarding practicalities to Henry DeMoor's comments (which are spot on).

Communication is very important. We currently use email to send the minutes of all committees, including the Pastoral Elders, Deacons, and an Executive Board, to all 'full' Council members. This is a gentle and regular reminder to all officebearers that they are accountable for all of the work of the congregation, not just their 'spiritual' work as you indicated concern about (though I would argue it's all spiritual...). Occasional reminders that any officebearer is welcome to attend an executive board meeting should a particular issue of concern be raised might be a good idea too.  

I would also add a concern about "lording it over" other officebearers. It is imperative that the Pastoral Elders, Deacons, and Executive be equal, parallel entities who are all accountable to the Full Council (the three together). If your executive "Council" has greater authority than the Pastoral Elders or Deacons (and especially the 'full' Council), that would be a significant issue of concern (and a violation of CO Art. 35 a).

This, however, doesn't need to require more, longer meetings. With good communication of all activities occurring in the congregation to all officebearers, each officebearer can digest these activities on their own time. When there are 'full' Council meetings (3 or 4 a year), it is only a matter of approving previous minutes and discussing any matters arising from those minutes. A complete re-hashing/re-decisioning process shouldn't be necessary except in only the rarest of situations. Hopefully this will help the officebearers focus on their particular duties while still being fully invested in the whole ministry of the congregation of which they govern on the Lord's behalf.

I hope this helps!

I would suggest you look at the Faith Formation materials, particularly the emphasis on children coming to the Lord's Table with age-appropriate faith. The situation before you could be solved with the same logic. The grade 2 child can and should be able to articulate faith in Jesus at a grade 2 level (more or less what you wrote in the post). That is what you are looking for. I would suggest very simple faith questions based on the Adult Baptism or Profession of Faith forms followed by baptism. Then he can make full Profession of Faith later when he is ready. 

The other option is to just baptize him as you would an infant purely because of the faith of the mother. I would see this as perfectly ok too.

What would make it most meaningful for the child?

From the introduction of the Church Order: "The Church Order is a document that shows how the congregations of the Christian Reformed Church in North America have decided to live together and to organize themselves. It is a tool for effective leadership, in that leaders need to know the regulations and parameters of the organization in which they are working so that they can apply them in a variety of situations.

     "More than a contractual set of regulations or simply guidelines, the Church Order is really a record of our covenanting together with this denominational fellowship. ..." (Italics mine.) 

Church Order is clear that each church should have a 'Council' made up of all officebearers, (i.e. Ministers of the Word, Commissioned Pastors, Elders, and Deacon) and must be elected by the congregation. It is not 100% clear to me whether the Administrative Council you described fits as equal to 'Council' in the Church Order. It may if some are Elders and some are Deacons. It is also ok to promote volunteering through "Pastoral Care Visitors" and those seeking to do stewardship, justice, and works of compassion (the work Deacons oversee.) However, to call volunteers 'Deacons' is not accurate or appropriate given Church Order. It is confusing at best and may possibly cause significant issues down the road. 
If you wish to get better clarification, I'd suggest asking for a Church Visit from another church in your classis (regional grouping of churches.) This request can be processed through the Stated Clerk of classis. Another CRC church will send a Minister and an Elder from another congregation for encouragement and support. They can help your congregation discern if this set-up conforms to CRC practice (i.e. Church Order) and what can work best for your congregation and its setting.    

It's probably also worth wondering what your congregation's status is. Is it "organized?" Or is it "emerging" (i.e. a church plant)? "Emerging" congregations are overseen by the Council of an "organized" congregation, and therefore the leadership of the emerging congregation may for a time look different than Church Order. 


In addition to Henry DeMoor's comments, I'd add that it is very important to keep the big picture in mind. In other words, what are your church's mission and values?

Any church would like to be run well and with the membership working together in order to work on God's calling for your congregation. This has to be kept in mind as both a goal and the way to function. To attempt an "end-around" injures working together, so it would be unwise to do it. Given your congregation's situation, I'd talk with the pastor first and probably Council via letter to mention your concerns. Don't use the Church Order as a hammer. Rather use it and your relationships in the congregation as the way to maintain and strengthen your congregations' working together, both internally and with other CRC congregations. Keep God's calling for you, your congregation, and all God's people in mind.

One other note, because your congregation has existed for some time, the congregation's bylaws as filed with the civil government will have a say in how the leadership of the congregation is structured. Most CRCs state in their bylaws that the leadership structure will follow CRC Church Order or specifically state the same things as Church Order. The implications of this are that if the leadership isn't following its bylaws, the congregation is risking legal issues, not simply keeping the CRC covenant found in the Church Order. Don't freak out about this point, but the Pastor and Council should be aware of and concerned about taking this risk. 

Our system of church government is officebearer driven (sometimes called presbyterian), not strictly congregational nor hierarchical like the Roman Catholic Church. Thus if the majority of the officebearers in a congregation want to go away from CRC by not adhering to Church Order, there is little that can be done. But to be clear, to not try to follow CRC Church Order as a CRC congregation will eventually result in significant issues and possibly (probably) result in the congregation leaving the CRC. Of course, when this does happen it often results in the congregation splitting.

The legal aspect, however, is located strictly in the bylaws. As a legal entity, a society (i.e. church) must follow its bylaws. Failure to do so opens the board (i.e. council) to being successfully sued by a society member (i.e. church member) in a court of law. 

Again, one must keep our Christian mission and vision in mind. Are we to be divisive? Are we supposed to sue each other in civil court? If at all possible, no! We seek to resolve concerns and issues face-to-face by speaking the truth in love. This is as important if not more so than Church Order or bylaws.  

I think that it is important to keep in mind that "this unity" is the unity we have in Christ. No one can become part of Christ without their will being transformed. This is not constraint. It is the gift of God.

So how do we live this as a church? Do we demand conformity to "our" way of doing things (constraint), or do we accept all Christians as a blessing from God (church life as a gift of grace)?

This is really about finding our identity and unity in Christ and not in our cultural, ethnic, stylistic, or idealistic 'gifts.' I think this has something important to say to the CRC. We are constantly struggling with conservatives vs. liberals (as if we had political parties in the church). The Belhar Confession is really calling the CRC to ditch categorizing each other and look to our unity in Christ as what matters first. Then when we have the difficult conversations, we can listen to each other as gifts to the church and not blaming the other for the numerical decline of the denomination.   

I agree with what you have said, Aaron. And Synod 2012 will need to make some hard choices given the "fighting words" which have (and likely will be) spoken.

The reason I responded was because I feel that it is very important to deeply think about how we respond to such situations. We have slipped into picking sides a bit too quickly. We need to embrace our unity in Christ!

Whether the Belhar discusses this well enought to be a 4th form of unity is not that important to me. But the Belhar Confession does discuss these situations well enough that we should interact with it honestly. In other words, we shouldn't blame the Belhar Confession for our own misbehavior.   

Obviously, this depends on the context and mindset of each individual congregation and its pastor. This is one of the questions pastors disagree about regularly, even for themselves. And this has been reflected in the various answers already given.

My current congregation has a policy that the Revenue Administrator may contact the Pastor of Congregational Care and/or Co-Chair of Elders (Pastor of Care is the other co-chair) if the Revenue Administrator is concerned that a member is not giving faithfully (read 'giving $0'). The Pastor and/or Chair of Elders may also request to know if a certain person is giving faithfully (and thus receive an answer of "yes" or "no."). Note that in this set up, the Pastor nor the Chair of Elders never know the exact amount unless it is zero. They only know if the Revenue Administrator deems a person's giving as faithful or not. The Pastor of Care can then deem which of these need new follow-up. (For instance, a college student living in another city may not need follow-up and a stay-at-home mom whose husband abandoned her is already being cared for.) The Consistory or Council as a whole NEVER know those numbers, and I would advise against it. Only the Revenue Administrator knows numbers.

I would observe from your post that the concern the elders have is not individual giving, though it may seem like it. Their concern is with overall giving and "the pattern of zeros." The elders would be well served to look at the overall culture of the church and what they can do foster generousity, understanding of the giving process, and enthusiasm for the ministry of the church. The 'touchy' issues can be dealt one-on-one by those specially trained to do so.

One thought in regards to #3: Money received for activities within one's role as a pastor probably ought to be surrendered to the church. A pastor ought not be paid twice for work that he/she is already being paid for in the salary. I think that this would include weddings for non-members (as well as funerals, etc.).

There are a number of possible reasons a person will complain about repetition. Here's some thoughts, FWIW:

1) If they complained about repetition, they were already unengaged in worship before the repetition occurred.

2) If they complained about repetition, they likely also think the service is too long.

3) If repetition bothered them, they are likely looking for theological content instead of/at the expense of meditating and experiencing what the words mean for them today. This is ok to a point. The question is whether the worship leaders can lead the community into meditating when the repetition will occur. The thinkers will likely come along then.

4) If people are complaining about repetition, are the worship leaders making the repetition eventful. No musician/composer repeats just for the sake of repeating. The repetition must have a purpose, an effect. What effect is a given repetition meant to create in a worship service? Obviously this depends on the song, but if the musicians don't know what effect the repetitions are meant to have and only do the repeats because the music says so, there's a worship leadership problem that needs attending to. 

Make repeats eventful!

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