Q: In a previous Banner you said that anyone appointed by a consistory may lead a worship service, but does it follow that “anyone” is allowed to preach a sermon? If that’s true, why do we insist on approved, Reformed “reading sermons”? Also, isn’t the sermon one of the “official acts of the ministry”?
A: Church Order Article 53b says, “Persons licensed to exhort and anyone appointed by the consistory to read a sermon may conduct worship services. They shall, however, refrain from all official acts of the ministry.” Thus, “anyone” appointed by the consistory is permitted to preach.
The consistory is responsible for the content of that preaching, and booklets of Reformed sermons are available for congregations that frequently have reading services. Some consistories rely on the testimonies of others instead of pre-approving a sermon to be delivered by a guest preacher. For example, Richard Van Houten, a member of a neighboring Christian Reformed church and general secretary of the Reformed Ecumenical Council, preached in our congregation to kick off our mission emphasis week. Though he preaches in many countries, he is not licensed.
Our elders authorized him to preach here but did not ask to see his sermon before he delivered it.
The “official acts of the ministry” are the following:
- The administration of the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper)
- The pronouncement of the salutation (greeting) at the beginning of the service
- The pronouncement of the benediction at the end of the service
- The installation of officebearers
- Receiving people into membership via public profession of faith
- Excluding people from membership via excommunication.
A good case could be made that the last three are appropriate acts for an elder because these are actions of the consistory, but no one has asked (overtured) synod to declare that. In cases of need, Church Order Article 55 permits an elder or deacon to administer the sacraments if that person receives the approval of classis. One would expect that any elder or deacon authorized to administer the sacraments would also be able to do the last three “official acts” too.
—George Vander Weit
George Vander Weit is pastor of Fuller Avenue Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Q: I’m engaged but am having second thoughts about my intended. Is that normal? What kinds of issues would make me seriously reconsider my relationship?
A: It’s normal to develop some anxiety and doubt just before taking such a big step of commitment as marriage. If your anxiety and doubt appear to be building rather than of a fleeting nature, it might be wiser to postpone the wedding. Your misgivings will either increase or disappear as your love for your fiancé becomes stronger or weaker over time.
Ask yourself the following questions to help you decide whether to stay the course: Are we attracted sexually to each other? Do we enjoy spending a lot of time together, and can we talk openly about what we feel and experience? Do we trust each other and respect each other’s differences? Do we agree on the basics—faith, children, lifestyle?
To get at serious issues that might be related to your doubts, ask yourself, Do we fight and argue about many things? Does either of us have an addiction to gambling, pornography, alcohol, or drugs? Is either of us jealous when our friends or family want to spend some time with us alone? Do we want to control aspects of each other’s lives such as what we wear, how we spend our money, and so forth?
In the end, a good marriage can be built only by two people mature enough to be equally willing to change in order to become a closer fit to the other. If only one of you is doing the adapting, second thoughts might be alerting you to slow down and reconsider whether this is the right time or the right person to spend the rest of your life with in a marriage.
Judy Cook is a family therapist and clinical director of Salem Christian Counseling Services, Hamilton, Ontario .
Q: How can I possibly serve God if I’m unemployed or retired?
A: One way of serving God is through volunteer service to others. Remember the words of the apostle Paul: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:4-5). Given your interests and talents, you can be of service to God in whatever state you find yourself. Often unemployed or retired people become depressed because they lose sight of the purpose of their lives. One way of regaining purpose in your life and overcoming depression is through volunteer service to others. So ask around in your family, in your church, in your community, in hospitals, in nursing homes, in prisons, and you will find more than enough ways to serve God by serving others.
Rev. Rick Williams is pastor of Pullman Christian Reformed Church, Chicago.