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Our Father will not leave us without blessings and corrections. We will need both.
—Scott DeVries

When it comes to choosing a restaurant with my family of six, no one gets exactly what they want. My middle daughter and I advocate for Japanese or Mexican food. My son lobbies for any place that serves an epic quantity of carbohydrates for his insatiable teenage-male appetite. My wife and youngest daughter agitate for “healthy options.” My oldest daughter just tries her best to tune out this whole conversation. Nevertheless, after all the drama, everyone usually leaves the restaurant full.

We are familiar with this lobbying approach in our local, state/provincial, and federal assemblies. We see it in our school boards, in shareholder meetings, and in our corporate boardrooms.

It seems that, since COVID, this lobbying approach is often the norm rather than the exception. The same process sometimes happens in our church councils, our classis meetings, and at synod.

As Christians, we sometimes default to this approach because of our strong convictions. However, when it comes to the church, our focus is less on our convictions and more about something else.

My friend and colleague Rev. Scott DeVries died from complications of cancer April 27 at age 47. For 16 months I had the privilege of supervising Scott in his work as the director of synodical services (the position responsible for organizing synod).

Scott taught me something about the governance of the church—or rather, God taught me something through Scott: God’s Holy Spirit is at work in our ecclesiastical governance no matter how broken we think that governance is. Why does God work through it? Is it because we Christian Reformedfolks are well educated, wise, or holy? No. God works through our governance because we belong to God.

In the last weeks of his life, I asked Scott to reflect on God’s work through synod. Here is a portion of what he wrote: “Our Father will not leave us without blessings and corrections. We will need both. And we will receive both from almost every decision we make and every action we take. We’ll need to report back to future synods what God has blessed and confirmed, and what God seems to be correcting. To be sure, not every challenge is a correction, nor is every perceived blessing truly a confirmation of our path. But so long as we look to our Father, our Lord, and the Spirit to continue guiding us, we can assemble again, reassess, and take another humble step forward this year.”

Scott lived convinced that God works through our ecclesiastical governance—even when we don’t get it right.

That makes a difference in our approach to governing the church. It doesn’t mean that we arrive at our councils, classis meetings, and synods as blank slates. We necessarily bring our convictions to the spiritual process of deliberation. It doesn’t mean that we won’t be passionate about our beliefs. God is also passionate about truth.

What does it mean? It means that above all, our church governance will be bathed in prayer and rooted in Scripture—Spirit and truth. Jesus said, “When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you in all the truth” (John 16:13).

It also means that we should exhibit the deepest humility, love, and respect for each other as demonstrated by Christ Jesus, our Lord (Phil. 2:1-11). How we make our decisions is as important as what decisions we make. Since God is indeed working through our church governance, we must come prepared to listen to God.

As I write this article a few weeks before synod, I recognize these are dangerous words. It’s certain some delegates will leave Synod 2024 deeply frustrated and hurt, perhaps questioning their future in our denomination. Many others will leave recognizing God’s presence in our midst despite difficult moments. As for me, I’ve learned a lesson from Scott DeVries: God works through our church governance.

James writes, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5). We’ve asked in faith. God will show up.

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