The Church’s Not-So-Secret Secret Agents

Vantage Point

Something that has long puzzled me is the Christian Reformed Church’s relationship with its chaplains. As I have considered this, I’ve started referring to chaplains of the CRC as the “not-so-secret secret agents” of the church.

Chaplains are certainly agents of the church. They’re called by the church to carry out a specialized ministry that’s badly needed in a hurting world. They’re like secret agents because they operate out of the limelight and most CRC folk are unaware of their ministry. However, they are also not-so-secret secret agents because everywhere they go they demonstrate God’s grace and testify to the hope they have in Christ.

I am involved in a more visible type of chaplaincy—military ministry. People in the CRC know what military chaplains do. I frequently see articles in The Banner about our ministry. Even Newsweek recently ran a cover story on military chaplains. We are grateful for the interest, support, and prayers of the church.

However, when we speak of CRC chaplaincy ministries, military chaplains are only a small part of the story. Agents of the CRC include industrial chaplains, hospice chaplains, chaplains in long-term care facilities, hospital chaplains, pastoral counselors, chaplains who minister to people with cognitive impairments, and chaplains who work in prison ministry. Much of what they do is behind closed doors and in places the average church member does not visit often.

Your chaplains have a conference once a year, usually the days right before synod meets. I enjoy these conferences, not only for what we learn from the speakers who teach and inspire us, but more important, for what we learn about each other and each other’s ministries.

The CRC is blessed with a large corps of gifted, passionate, compassionate chaplains who minister on behalf of Christ to thousands and thousands of people in the name of Jesus. Right now we have 90 chaplains who serve Christ and his kingdom full time and another 19 chaplains who serve part time. More than 400 ordained Christian Reformed ministers have served as chaplains at some point in their ministry.

Your chaplains remind people—many of whom have forgotten where the love of God has gone—that God is present even in the darkest of times and places.

Many of you have chaplains attending your church. Ask them about the work they do as your agents. It’s time the secret got out.

About the Author

Rev. Thomas Walcott is a Navy chaplain on assignment in Iraq. His family is in Spain, where he had previously been assigned. Walcott’s calling church is Baymeadows Community CRC in Jacksonville, Fla. He is a member of Brookfield (Wis.) CRC.