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State of the Church is Weak but Hopeful, King Reports

There is a strong temptation to make ‘survival’ of our viewpoints and our churches our focus.
—Zachary King, general secretary
Steven Herppich

In his state of the church address, general secretary Zachary King noted that the Christian Reformed Church is weak—and that in that weakness, the church looks to God for strength.

The CRC is weak because of declining membership, church closures, difficult separations, and divisive issues, he observed.

“The church has always been weak in some way, yet God has always been strong, and therefore we have hope,” he said. He compared the CRC’s situation in a changing culture to Israel’s exile in Babylon, a time of “massive disruption” when God told the Israelites to “build houses and settle down, plant gardens …” and to “seek the prosperity of the city to which I have carried you in exile” (from Jer. 29:5-7).

“In moments of weakness, disruption, and vulnerability, God strengthens his people to follow him into mission and ministry,” King said. 

King structured his address by the CRC’s four milestones of Our Journey 2025: prayer and spiritual disciplines, intergenerational ministry, diversity, and sharing the gospel.

King said average Sunday attendance at CRC churches has declined from 77% of the recorded membership before the COVID-19 pandemic to 66% in 2023. Yet, he added, “I am increasingly hearing reports of deepening practices of prayer and reflection. … Furthermore, personal devotions and prayer seem to be strong among our members and have been growing.” These trends—which are also evident in the denominational offices—are the most hopeful signs he has seen in the denomination, he said.

The CRC is weak in the area of evangelism, King noted, adding: “There is a strong temptation to make ‘survival’ of our viewpoints and our churches our focus. Yet our purity, our holiness, our theological convictions, even our very existence is secondary to God’s fulfillment of his mission through us.”

The Israelites in exile “learned about living faithfully as a religious minority,” King said. “They became the foundation for a new kingdom movement inaugurated by Jesus Christ.”

King closed by sharing Romans 8:24-25: “Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

“The state of the church is hopeful,” King concluded. “God is strengthening our churches to follow him in mission and ministry.”

Synod 2023 is meeting June 9-15 at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich. Find daily coverage from The Banner news team at Visit for the synod schedule, webcast, recordings, photos, committee reports, and liveblog. Synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church.

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