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Thanks, Dr. DeMoor, for your helpful input. I remember being challenged to attempt the Article 7 route to ministry and being shut down by Synodical deputies because there was 'no need' for more Ministers of the Word. That requirement was subsequently removed.

The fun part for me was that after being encouraged to attempt the Article 7 route, I was asked to send a letter outlining my qualifications to my church council. I objected to having to write in a letter to a church council that I possessed qualities of humility since the mere writing of such a letter would disqualify me from the position. :)

As a denomination we only fully honor those with formal theological training via seminary. No other form of education--self, street, mentoring--is as fully recognized. It is obviously because those other forms of education are tough to evaluate or critique and are often a bit 'holely'.

I liked when I became an evangelist. It suits me. Having planted a church and having helped build it to the place where it owns its own building and leads many to relationship with Christ and to deep healing of brokenness, I am content that I am doing what God has called me to do. I might do it better had I gone to Calvin Seminary at that time, but that was not a path open to a middle aged guy who was highly ADD and had classroom specific learning disabilities.

As more and more churches are planted out of local initiative using leaders gleaned from the harvest, it will be fascinating to see how we deal with formal education vis a vis education in its other forms. God used both a fisherman, Peter, and a university trained theologian, Paul, to build his kingdom. One suspects he continues to use both the formally and informally trained to serve him and his church.


When I was sixteen my father died and dear friends of my mother, Pete and Ruth, became like a second set of parents to my siblings and me. They generously cared for a widow and four orphaned kids. They taught me to always try to give in such a way that the recipient would not know who the giver was so that all glory would go to God. They were always giving behind the scenes to help hurting and struggling people. Pete passed away years ago and Ruth went to be with Jesus late last year. As Covid19 struck our Village Church community we were confronted with all kinds of needs as people were laid off or had their income dramatically cut. We had the privilege of helping people pay rent or helping them with purchasing food supplies or to meet other financial needs. We opened the mail the day after receiving some rather disconcerting news that would seriously test our capacity to provide for each other and discovered that the church had received a sizable bequest from Pete and Ruth's estate. I laughed with joy that these lovely saints were still being generous and quietly giving to help struggling people from beyond the grave. It was so encouraging to see God work through his saints to care for his people in their time of trouble. I still tear up when I think about it. 

In the end, resolved conflict mostly comes about because of our willingness to submit to the other person. Submission isn’t about agreement, of course. Submission comes about when we strongly disagree and choose to set aside our demand for how things must be for the sake of the other and for unity. It is beyond difficult because everything in us wants our own way or to be at least seen as being right. Scripture reminds us that the strong act for the sake of and on behalf of the weak (eating vegetables instead of meat) which quickly removes the power dynamic. Winning is no longer the goal, but love. Giving up our demands disarms Satan. 


Seeking common ground is good, but rarely succeeds. Getting everyone in a room and, after hearing all the other side’s objections and expectations, and after challenging the false beliefs surrounding what each side believes, it is good, in my experience, to ask if either side is willing to break covenant over the matter or whether one side is willing to submit to the other side’s way even while completely disagreeing with it. 


I’ve chosen to submit to things with which I vehemently disagreed and have never regretted it. I find it frees me from the demand to be right and to judge my neighbor. It has built bridges instead of walls and has encouraged the ‘other side’ to follow in kind in the next dispute. 

Thank you for this. Slowing down, finding rest, taking Sabbath, being fallow, and following Jesus into the mountains to pray and spend time with the Father is sometimes the hardest thing to do. 

We just finished up preaching a sermon each week on each book of the Bible from Genesis through Esther. We intend to continue the summer series of seeing the Bible as a cohesive book over the next few summers. We have a good number of folks who are new to faith and often don’t see the ‘big picture’ of Scripture. It is brutally difficult to take an entire book and break it down into a 30-40 minute sermon. We began the year preaching through Daniel followed by a Lenten series on suffering and loss. We did a brief series on Jesus as prophet, priest, and king followed by the Books of the Bible series. Next we’re launching off into the gospel of Luke and ending the year with a short series on ‘family’. 

The Village Church meets on Sunday evenings at 5:00 and we serve a complete buffet dinner immediately after the worship time. People sign up to cook and are given a budget and our expectations regarding providing vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free, and other options. First time cooks consult with people who have done it many times, since most folks don’t have a lot of experience cooking for 130-150 people. We designed our kitchen around a long serving bar that allows us to quickly feed a lot of people. We have indoor and outdoor eating areas and we also encourage people to move couches and chairs around and eat in our sanctuary. We have coffee and tea available as well as a refrigerator full of sodas and water that we encourage folks to take advantage of before and after the service. Eating together each week has been a powerful community building time and a great way to get to know guests. It’s also fun to see the amazing kinds of delicious meals people can prepare on a budget of $1.75 a person. 

The Village declares December to be 'Fallow Month' and it is when we close down all meetings and gatherings except for Sunday worship services which we also scale back. We invite people to use the time to spend with family and friends and most of all with God. It is a rich and restful time for all and rejuvenates us for the new year. We have a small candlelight service where we read Scripture and sing carols the Sunday before Christmas. It is a wonderful tradition. 

We use it throughout the year to take candid shots of various events, worship services, and other activities and then compile them into a video that we show at our annual 'Belonging Service' where we celebrate our membership in the church. The video is always a highlight as we celebrate our lives together. Anyone can post pictures, but we do have to pull some down because we have folks whose identities ought not be shared publicly. 

When i was ordained it was as an Evangelist, not a Ministry Associate, and I was sent to Tucson for the purpose of planting a church. A dozen years later God has provided a self sustaining church that also owns its own building in the heart of Tucson. Numerous people have come to Christ and many others have found healing and renewal in our small community. I came to this joyous task of ministry later in life and could not afford a seminary education which I would now love to have.

At my ordination I was told that my office was equal in honor, differing only in task to that of Minister of the World. Years later I can't imagine what I do that is different from someone who has received an advanced degree. I preach, teach, evangelize, lead worship, counsel, and run the business and administrative elements required to purchase and maintain a building and to do the ministry itself. That said, I am sure that those with seminary education are often better equipped and more capable in the various tasks. I also have the privilege of serving the denomination as president of the Board of Home Missions as well as serving on the Regional Home Mission's Team, the Home Missions Committee of Classis Arizona and directing a church planting effort here in Tucson called the Tucson Cluster. I am indeed privileged to serve in these areas. I am honored to be able to do so. I would gladly do these thing without title or recognition which seems odd to say when I am posting these things here. My point is not to draw credit or glory as all of that belongs to God. My point is that the church is called to honor those who work hard among them. Ministry Associates that I know do work hard and the church has most often failed to honor them in the way that it says it will when it ordains them. There work is often ignored. A man I know labored for many years as an Evangelist and did marvelous work and when he died there was no mention of him in the Banner or any recognition beyond the folks that he faithfully ministered to. Comments I hear include being regularly told that I should apply for article 7 status so that I can be a 'real pastor'. My response has been to say that I love being an evangelist and have no desire to grow up to be a 'real pastor'. I have been told that I preach well for someone who is 'only a Ministry Associate'. I have been told that I am not eligible for such things as Lily Grant sabbaticals or to be part of certain peer groups that are designated for only those who have graduated from an approved seminary.  And, of course, if the other pension plan is so much better, why aren't we inviting all new seminary grads to be a part of it? One reason is that it is called the Unordained Workers Plan, if I recall correctly. Or have we renamed it? Anyway, when i was ordained as an Evangelist I was invited to join the unordained plan specifically created for the unordained. I found that wonderfully amusing. All said, I understand the rules and I wish to highly honor the theologians among us who have completed that wonderful training. Scripture, however, does not invite us to honor those who are formally educated among us, but only those who work hard. Those I know who graduate from seminaries do work hard and build the Kingdom and should be richly honored for doing so, so that their work is not additionally burdened by the cares of this world.

The easy way to solve the problem, I think, is to stop telling people they will be equal in honor. We can set up a two tier system that allows those with advanced degrees to be differently honored than those who fail to acheive that certification. That way we can honor those who lead worship, minister to youth and children, provide counseling ministries and all the other tasks that have been lumped under the Ministry Associate banner in lesser, but good ways. My longing is simply that our words match our actions. If we are going to equally honor than we should do so. If we don't want to do that, then let's create a different system and apologize to those we have wronged.

As for me, I think I am willing to give my title back. Thirteen years ago it was a precious way for the broader church to recognize my passion to reach people for Christ and a huge encouragement to me that God had indeed called me to leave the business world and go plant a church. Now days, the people in my community mostly call me Rod or Pastor Rod. They do so with great respect and love. They honor me by taking care of my needs and by bringing gospel to their friends. I have never had to show my ordination card to conduct a wedding or visit someone in prison or in the hospital. The only place it seems the title matters is when I move outside my local community into the broader CRC community. Since the Ministry Associate title doesn't travel to other classes, it really doesn't matter even if I want to leave Tucson for somewhere else. And I don't want to leave. I love pastoring my community and helping others, both Ministers of the Word and Ministry Associates start new works here in Tucson where we are among the least churched cities in North America. Besides, you don't really need a title to share the gospel. :)

One of the continuing issues is how one balances the job they do with the desire for training and continuing education. I would be interested in filling the holes in my education but would also appreciate the opportunity to 'test out' of certain requirements. on a way toward whatever certification is being planned. Having planted a church that now owns its own building and is pretty much self supporting, I don't think that I need a complete education, just a filling in of holes. I currently have a hand in starting four new CRC churches and my two jobs require a good deal of time and energy and don't leave a lot of time for full fledged educational endeavors. I also, as a ministry associate, get paid far less than the average CRC pastor so cost quickly becomes an issue.

For me self-education has become the primary way that I can continue learning. I read constantly and would appreciate a listing of must read books and good websites that would be helpful for continuing training in the various aspects of ministry. There is a valuable place on the seminary website that offers advice on finding good commentaries and I appreciate refering to it when looking to purchase more commentaries.

There have to be low cost delivery systems for continuing education in a denomination that prides itself in having a highly educated clergy but since we don't actually honor ministry associates at the denominational level, I doubt there will be much action on your request there. The local classis and various leadership development networks is the place where we need to turn for help and encouragement, but that also can be a frustrating place to find help. Finding mentors among those who are doing what you wish to do is probably the best way to learn and develop skills. Mentoring has been a primary way in which I have learned to work to plant churches. I suspect there are folks who do what you want to do who you can also watch and learn from.

Originally the office of ministry associate was called the office of evangelist. It was a specialized task that came about to recognize the unique contributions of those who planted churches primarily in cultures where having a theologically trained seminary graduate was not tenable. We used it to promote work in the Navajo nation and in other places where no one seemed to want to go because of poverty and the conditions in the field. Eventually it became a tool with which to raise up leaders elsewhere but always with the missional bent. With the closing of the Article 7 door, it becomes the only way for those who are unable to become seminary trained to become pastors. Even then, and now, it is assumed that the evangelist only serves until a group is gathered and until they can hire a 'real' pastor. When we threw the blanket term of 'ministry associate' over all the various types of ministries--church planting, worship leader, youth pastor, care ministry coordinator, etc,--we effectively went to a two tier system. The only problem is that we have trouble just saying that out loud and then setting up systems locally to raise up, honor, and train those 'who work hard among us'. It also means that the mechanism to train people who aren't primarily involved in mission work is even further off the radar.

Perhaps some day things will change.



That we intend to do more to honor ministry associates in the future is not the same as honoring them now. :)

I feel very honored locally and in my classis. It is as it should be. If the calling is local then the honoring is local. We don't have a parade of ministry associates line up for Synod to applaud. We don't make a list of evangelists who have retired published at Synod. Full time evangelists who do everything their degreed counterparts do are seated as elders, not pastors. The only way to be recognized as a pastor is to complete a seminary education now that we have effectively closed the door to Article 7. Though I do all the same things my theologically trained counterparts do (and maybe a few more things such as starting a church from scratch), I would be encouraged to move aside for a degreed pastor should my church organize. I also would not be eligible to take a call to an established church as lead pastor. I am okay with all this. I don't care about receiving honor for myself. But I do long for us to richly honor those who work hard among us since God calls us to do that. I want what we say to match up with what we do. I don't want us to say to the next Ministry Associate that they are equal in honor, differing only in task unless that has become true.

Thanks David for all you do to encourage the work of Ministry Associates. I look forward to seeing the results of your labor.


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