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My wife and I were watching the show two nights after it aired. We were quite surprised by the first mention and then even more surprised by the second. And in the second they seemed to get the theology quite straight. Could one of the writers be of CRC background?

The second occasion, the character says something about we taking Scripture as authoritative when asked about a Leviticus text about homoxexual acts. That is a good representation of our view of Scripture. The character is then thrown a question about the next passage and stoning and again she responds with an answer that feels CRCish.

The first occasion is interesting.  The character of the lawyer asks her if she is a Christian and I believe her answer was "Yes, I am Christian Reformed."  Isn't that like us to see our identity as Christian Reformed before Christian.  At least that was what I picked up in my formative years in the CRC in the late 60s, 70s and 80s. Now that may not be true for all of us, as I hope it is not true for me today, but I suspect that part of the CRC culture has been that individuals define themselves first as Christian Reformed before they do as Christian.

Case in point:  I remember well while working on my M.Div. at CTS I was doing some hospital visit de-briefs with the chaplain at Holland Hospital who happened to be RCA. He challenged me re. pastoral identity that I need to see myself first and foremost "A minister of the word in church of Jesus Christ" and not "a minister of the word in the CRCNA." Notice that he did not say not to think of myself as the later, but the later must follow the former.  Somewhere in the last 22 years of ordination I have grown to the point of agreeing with him.

How about you? What do you think?

Thank you Dannell for sharing this. At CrossPoint you have done what most churches have not. You have created a unified and clear description and path of discipleship. It is very easy to understand and to understand where to go at Crosspoint to grow in one's next step with Jesus.

I would love to write a case study of CrossPoint some day. Have you all taken Reveal? It would be a helpful, statistically valid analysis of CrossPoint and to give a base to compare against fin the future to show amount of improvement--something for others interested in effective discipleship in the local congregation to see.

I realize that from one blog post I may not understand the whole picture. If I understand it correctly, I would challenge you to think more about the loving God with one's "mind" piece. I appreciate that you do not simply define mind as what one memorizes cognitively. Yet, loving with one's mind is more than becoming like Christ. It also contains the cognitive element. Various studies have shown that at least core theological beliefs such as God as a personal God and the authority of Scripture are an important part of a disciple's growth.

While you do not spell it out completely I expect that you would define "discipleship" as the act of growing greater/deeper one's love for God. If that is your definition of discipleship, I am not sure one can say worship and service each IS discipleship. They are each actions which are a result of one's growing deeper in love with Jesus--the result of discipleship. For some people service and/or worship are strong tools for growing as lovers of God. but not for everyone. We are each shaped differently and service for example is not as strong a discipler for some as it is for others.

All-in-all though this model is clear and easy for people to apply. Keep working it! Thank you for sharing.

Re Talks too much:

I have found that what helps is to have a covenant that we read at the beginning of each meeting, just like recovery groups like AA and Alanon do. I find that small group members begin to self-police behavior since this is fresh in their mind each meeting. Someone might say, "oops I am talking too much, sorry about that." The covenant point I most like to use to keep people from overtalking is: "I will listen for God in each person’s reflections and stories, encouraging whenever I see the opportunity—prioritizing listening over talking"

Of course it is pretty difficult to implement this covenant if problems in a group have already developed--it will look like a back handed way to say something to a heavy talker.

The best time to start this with a small group is at the first meeting and then read the covenant at the beginning of every session together.

It works!

Re: Quiet Quint

I find splitting a group into smaller groups of three (triads) for the application portion of a study really works to get a more quiet person to talk some. Do this regularly and keep the triads with the same people and Quiet Quint will begin to trust the other two. It is easier to trust two, than ten and two of one's own gender--or at least I find it so.

I know of Shy Sally who never said a word in the small group of men and women but when the group moved into triads, she talked freely each time with the other women in her triad. It appears that she found it less intimidating.

I had an exceptionally shy man in one group I led. He was in my triad. It still was hard for him to talk in the triad--a man of very few words--but he did talk some and got very vulnerable with our other triad partner and me. One thing he told us was: "I learn best by listening. I hate it when small group leaders feel they have to get me to talk. I love listening to everyone else. I wish small groups would let me just listen." As a group leader I no longer spend time in the group wondering to myself how I can get him to talk. I now realize I can best serve him by allowing him to listen, guilt-free.

This is what works for me.

"as I imagine the proportion of comments to this blog post as opposed to the one previous will amply attest." So do you think this will get more or less responses than your previous blog ; )?

"we are getting awfully distracted by many things."  This is so true.  On a related note, we as a denomination need to make the same choices as you and I do in my home and congregations do. There is so much we would love to attend to--especially with our broadsweeping view of the reformation. But if we want to attend to more and more and more, more so than we have the energy or income to do well, we get spread so thin we are not effective at any of it.  I and many others in local ministry have had our salaries frozen since 2008--that is one of the sacrifices to make it through difficult times. In those same days we as a denomination seem to have added one good thing after another, after another. And we are told that ministry shares are declining. Hmm. What do we call it if our income is declining, yet we keep projecting more responsibility and new projects?

I do hope we do not drive ourselves into a hole that we implode financially as has happened with Faith Alive.  The seeds for Faith Alive's demise were laid with decisions made back in the 80s--not just with changes in the publishing world the last five years.

What this overture does call us to is making hard decisions about what is core to us as a denomination for task and what may be discretionary. Something has to give somewhere or we may kill ourselves as a denomination.

Posted in: Long Goodbye

I am sure you used the phrase for literary affect, brother but there is no shame on you in Christ.  Jesus Christ has taken away all shame and we can be glad for it :-)

Thank you Nathan for your concise summary. It is my experience that triads & quads and I expect focused huddles of 5-7 as well, are very helpful to move the many folk who are stuck at the good friends with Jesus stage of spiritual growth to the close friends of Jesus stage--moving the gospel more deeply to the heart, as well as the head.  Is that yours as well?

Posted in: Enough is Enough

"In my opinion, any planning effort, such as improving pastor/congregation relations or accepting recommendations from consultants, or even goals to increase the size of the fellowship, is a waste of time unless it is institutionalized into the structure of the church where a small standing committee has long term ownership and reports regularly to the then current Council." Edward, I think you are right on this. I have connected with a number of churches wanting change that will last a decade plus. Part of the solution I believe is something like you are suggesting.

Another helpful piece is someone outside the congregation who the congregation gives permission to prod them every couple years. When the immediacy of the problem wheres off we all tend to let our focus drift.

Posted in: Enough is Enough

I appreciate the concern expressed in Reg's solution which the council gave, but that solution does not fit with Scripture (Matthew 18) or Church Order (in CRC polity there is no such thing as an elders meeting with the pastor present. The closest thing we have is consistory which is made up of the elders and the pastor.  The difference is that the pastor is a part of the consistory in equal standing to anyone else in the room.)  I have also seen that remedy leading to elders making decisions behind a closed door based on a complaint they are told about, creating even more problems. I believe a better scenario would be if a person complained to an elder about the pastor's preaching, for that elder to arrange a meet of that person with the pastor with the elder there to help that person express the criticism without watering it down or abusing the pastor.  

Thank you Louis and Karl for your affirmation of this work. I recently heard an elderly sage in the area of church health say something like this. "Increasingly most all of the challenges which congregations face are adaptive challenges (the nature of the challenge and the solution is not fully clear). Meanwhile the answers touted are still by-and-large tactical solutions (plug and play). Technical solutions rarely succeed at adequately addressing adaptive challenges. We need to look for adaptive solutions to the adaptive challenges congregations face." May we all tilt our heads and perk our ears more to sense the direction the wind of the Spirit is blowing!

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