Q. Please define the role of evangelists in our denomination. May they take on full-time work in another field in order to support their families and still continue to preach? May they baptize people? If so, is it appropriate for them to baptize their own children?
A. In the past an evangelist worked in a "chapel," not a church. Typically the evangelist had a Bible school education rather than a seminary degree, and worked under the supervision of a supporting church. The ministers and elders of the supporting church administered the sacraments. Gradually the evangelist was permitted to do some of these “official” acts of ministry.
Today, evangelists are part of a group of people identified as “ministry associates.” Their tasks and the regulations that govern their ministry are explained in Church Order Articles 23 & 24 and in the supplements to those articles (see http://www.crcna.org/).
Church Order Article 15 states that a minister (this would also be true of a ministry associate) may “obtain primary or supplementary income by means of other employment.” The time spent in ministerial and nonministerial tasks is approved by the council/governing board that supervises the ministry associate and by classis and may not exceed an average of 60 hours per week.
Ministry associates who serve as pastors have all the privileges and responsibilities that ministers of the Word do, but they operate within the context of a local, specialized call. Thus, they may administer the sacraments and may baptize their own children if they choose to do so.
George Vander Weit
Q. I am a wife and mother and am active in my church. I realize that the Christian life is about service, but I’m depressed and irritable when I have no time for myself. Am I ever allowed to put my own interests before those of others?
A. The answer is yes—and not only allowed, but mandated by God, since God calls us to “love others as ourselves.” When giving of ourselves we often fall into the trap of being guided by two mistaken beliefs: (1) that other people’s needs are more important than our own, and (2) that helping means taking responsibility for someone else’s life or behavior.
We need to pay attention to what motivates us to give of ourselves—is it guilt or is it passion? If we feel passionate about something (the responsibilities we have taken on) we will have the energy needed to do it, even for the mundane aspects of our tasks. If we are motivated by guilt, however, it is time to check whether we are acting from one or both of the above mentioned mistaken beliefs. We might have to practice saying “no” and spend some time doing activities that express “loving ourselves” in order to regain health, energy, and a positive outlook.
In the end, Jesus invites us to give him our burdens every day. He reminds us the world (also our children, spouses, churches) belong to him, not to us. Instead of being burdened he invites us to a “light” yoke as his helpers, and he invites us to trust in his provision as we seek to serve him.
Q. I want to learn more about the Bible’s history and context. Can you give any recommendations for accessible works that get into these areas of biblical study?
A. Many, many people have studied the Bible’s history, context, language, and culture and have devoted their lives to it.
As far as reading recommendations, I heartily recommend NT Wright’s Following Jesus or Brian McLaren’s The Secret Message of Jesus for very accessible readings on the gospels. If you’re looking for something a bit more in-depth, read anything by Brad Young or Kenneth Bailey on the Jewish and Near Eastern background to the New Testament.
For books on Paul, I would recommend Wright’s Paul in Fresh Perspective, Crossan and Reed’s In Search of Paul, and Krister Stendahl’s Paul Among Jews and Gentiles.
As with anything you read, you may not agree with all of the authors’ theological perspectives and assumptions, but these have been helpful resources to me, despite my disagreement with some conclusions the authors draw.