The issue of people leaving the church has an impact on many denominations, and ours is no exception. At its height, the CRCNA had around 300,000 members, but since the secession of many conservatives leaving and joining theUnited Reformed Churches, the CRC has been steadily losing members. In the last 25 years alone, the CRC has lost about 20 percent of its membership. And it seems that this pattern is unlikely to change for our denomination anytime soon.
As I reflect upon people leaving the church and the membership decline in my local Christian Reformed congregation, it makes me wonder: Why do I remain in my church even though there are many things I dislike about it? In a society that promotes no-fault divorce and doing whatever makes you happy, why not also apply this attitude to spirituality and church membership?
Like many Dutch-Canadian kids, I was born, baptized, and professed my faith in the CRC, and I attended the local Christian schools. With my blonde hair and blue eyes, I was pretty much the poster child for traditional Dutch Protestantism.
But like many young people entering high school, I began a quest of spiritual wandering. I began asking more questions about what it meant to be Christian, to be Reformed, and to be a church. In response to my questioning I thought about joining a number of different denominations. Around this time, I also began feeling a call to the ministry.
Even though I had no idea what denomination I would seek to be ordained in, I was determined never to be one of those “hyper-Calvinists” who believed that God was sovereign and could actually send anyone he wanted to hell. I spoke to my pastor about the call to ministry, and he encouraged me to read Putting Amazing Back Into Grace: Embracing the Heart of the Gospel by Michael Horton. Immediately after reading the book, I was completely convinced that Calvinism was, as Benjamin Warfield wrote, “just religion in its purity.”
After my “born-again conversion” back to Reformed theology, I began critiquing my denomination in an effort to determine how “pure” it was. I saw that the CRC was moving away from what many perceived as traditional theology. Many CRC churches no longer practiced catechism preaching. They began accepting women in office and admitting children at the Lord’s Supper. All of these things concerned me, and once again I began thinking about leaving my home denomination.
But I refuse to abandon the CRC. Why?
I’m still here because of two people. First, my pastor. As I sat in his office voicing my concerns about making profession of faith in the “liberal” CRC, he said, “The other Reformed denominations may be doctrinally sound, but if you join a church that has no problems, then that church does not need you.” The second person who influenced my decision to stay is Jessica Driesenga, program coordinator forCalvin Seminary’s Facing Your Future program in which high school students explore a call to ministry. She taught me to “shout where Scripture shouts and whisper where Scripture whispers.”
I realized from these conversations that yes, there are things I dislike about my own denomination. Yes, I am still a committed conservative. And yes, I do have concerns about the future of the CRC. But many of the “liberal” influences my denomination adheres to are issues that are really only worth whispering about. I have decided that I would rather be shouting that Jesus is Lord of every square inch with the Christian Reformed Church than shouting about one or two particular issues in another denomination.