Skip to main content

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

Sigh, I probably should have flagged this as inappropriate. :)

For the record, I am not nine feet tall. I'm only 6'8" which I have always believed is a normal height, though I have noticed that there are an enormous number of people who are well below average. This 'poem' was intended to be deadly serious and I am stunned that it produced any laughter at all at the Synod banquet. It was quite painful to be laughed at when one is trying to offer their best work and then find out that I also get mis-described by the communications folks of the CRC. It is beyond comprehension. I imagine this will give me something to process with my counselor in the days ahead...



I'm sure the picture was photo shopped. The CRC media folks have all kinds of tricks up their sleeves. Who could possibly be that tall? I do wish that the photo shoppers would have removed some of those pounds that the camera, umm, added...

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.


Thanks for this. I also wonder how many of the elder delegates are Ministry Associates? I come to Synod as an elder delegate, but the truth is that I have planted and pastored a church for ten years and would more naturally be sitting on the other side of the table except that I lack the formal education. This also seems to skew participation in Synod away from the perspective of elders which might normally be a bit more focused on the specific needs of the local church. I have attended Synod numerous times because my schedule is much more flexible than someone who has a nine to five job non church related job.

I so appreciate this conversation. I have gotten hooked by my own sinful demand for honor and respect and it is helpful to be reminded who we serve and to whom all honor and glory should go. As a denomination we clearly have not honored the office of Evangelist the way we honor Minister of the Word. Some steps have been taken to begin to remedy that, but we have a long way to go. For instance, the venue we are using to have this conversation still refers to Ministry Associates in the Discussion Forums section and the office is not mentioned at all under Networks although the other offices are featured there. Not to worry, however, since there are very few posts in the Ministry Associate section anyway. :)

I have lived through the title changes from Evangelist to Ministry Associate to Commissioned Pastor. I was sent to Tucson for the purpose of planting a church and being ordained as an Evangelist was a hugely significant moment in my life when I realized that my passion for church planting was not just an individual passion, but one blessed by the broader body. Titles do mean something when they are the mechanism we use to convey the church's recognition of a call from God. In times of great discouragement I have held on to that call that was affirmed by God's church and that  realization has often helped me stumble on.

When the title was changed to Ministry Associate I thought it became a less honoring title. It no longer felt like an office and felt more like a job description title. The office was further changed when we added all sorts of other tasks to the list, such as music director, youth leader, visitation pastor, etc. I think we have successfully gutted the actual Evangelist role of serving as church planters or ministers of evangelism in established congregations. Perhaps that was the desire.

When I was first listed as an Evangelist in the Yearbook (fifteen years ago in September!) the vast majority of the names listed near mine were ethnic minorities. I know that part of the reason for creating the office of Evangelist was to allow those serving the Navajo and Zuni nation churches to be able to preach, offer the sacraments, and bless those to whom no Calvin Seminary graduate was likely to go in Classis Red Mesa. I was regularly approached to go to seminary in those days and become a 'real pastor' or at least try the Article 7 route. It was made quite clear through words and actions that Evangelist was a secondary office. When I attempted the Article 7 path in those days I was told by Synodical deputies that while I might well be qualified, there was no need for more ministers in the CRC and that if I felt so called I should move to Grand Rapids and go to school. More recently I have been asked to test the process once again, but at age 60 I no longer have the inclination or the energy to do so. I do deeply love the role of the Evangelist. I love gathering the not yet gathered and watching them respond to the gospel. I love pouring into the lives of other chuch planters and evangelists and sharing a bit of what I've learned along the way while also continuing to serve the beautiful church God has gathered around me here in Tucson. I can't imagine a day coming when my co-pastor (also a Commissioned Pastor) or I will step away from the Village and turn it over to a Minister of the Word, but instead we will raise up leaders from within our community (something we are already doing) who will take our places. We will encourage them to continue their education and invite them to consider things like distance learning through Calvin as a legitimate and important way to further their training. The Village is a church of very young people who find relational credentials far more important than an educational certification from a distant group. The problem with saying this, of course, is that God might well upset the apple cart and call me elsewhere tomorrow. :)

We have a two tier system. We should acknowledge that and move on. We seem to believe by both our actions and our words that the primary way to raise up leaders is through formal classroom based theological training in approved institutions. There is very little room for any other path. Sometimes I think this only matters when I travel to Grand Rapids or attend a broader church meeting. Here in Tucson, I'm just Pastor Rod. Most days that is enough unless I get hung up on jealousy or some other sinful longing. The God of all grace has indeed been merciful to me in allowing me to see the constant evidence of his great love from a front row seat. Titles fade away, but that love never ends.

We want to hear from you.

Connect to The Network and add your own question, blog, resource, or job.

Add Your Post