One of the five desired futures expressed in our denominational ministry plan, Our Journey 2020, focuses on collaboration: “Our churches and ministries will work hand in hand with each other, and with partners in our own communities and around the world, to faithfully fulfill Jesus’ command to make disciples of all people.”
There have been times in the history of the Christian Reformed Church in North America where collaboration was not evident in our ministries. Think back to 1984, for example, when “after several fruitless attempts by previous synods to find solutions to persistent problems between CRWM and CRWRC, the synod of 1982 appointed a five-member ad hoccommittee”(1984 Acts of Synod, p. 658).
The findings of that committee pointed to “ineffective and often frustrating on-field relations, differing management models, tensions between the personnel of both agencies, disagreements between the two agencies, and significant differences of opinion” (1984 Acts of Synod, p. 659).
Another example happened in 2011 when synod appointed a task force to provide advice to the Board of Trustees and/or synod regarding short-, medium-, and long-term measures that would improve the culture, structure, and leadership within the CRC. The task force provided a series of yearly reports thereafter, where the repeated call was for the CRC to become a more “collaborative denomination.”
Collaboration doesn’t seem to be deep in our DNA. But ought it not to be? First Corinthians 12:12-14 explains, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” The passage goes on, “But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other” (1 Cor. 12:24-25).
Whether at home or abroad, at the denominational level or within your local congregation, Scripture is clear about how life in the body of Christ ought to work—out of concern for each other and with no division, the many differing gifts contributing to the work of the kingdom.
The good news is that we, as a denomination, are becoming more and more like the body of Christ. True, we’re not there yet (and won’t be this side of heaven). But we have daily evidence of the many parts working together as one body. One of the best examples is something denominational staff have been calling the Connections project.
Begun initially as a three-year pilot project in 12 classes, the goal of this project is to bring denominational resources to the churches in ways that are responsive and easily accessed. You can read a great example of the Connections project at work here.
The ideas learned during the initial phase of the Connections project will soon be rolled out across the entire denomination. Stay tuned in the coming months as Syd Hielema takes the reins of this effort to fundamentally shift the posture of our body-life together. More and more, you and I will be experiencing life together hand-in-hand.