One of the greatest joys in my work is the opportunity to visit churches across North America and meet the folks who are the heart and face of the Christian Reformed Church. In the few years that I have served the church as executive director, I have traveled from Florida to Nova Scotia to British Columbia to New Mexico and beyond. From rural towns to suburbia to inner cities, I have seen the church in all her struggles and in all her glory.
In every place I stop, I discover men and women of all ages and backgrounds enthusiastically engaged in their congregations. These folks are committed to bringing the power of the gospel and the love of Christ into their churches and communities. I wish that every person in the CRC could have the opportunity to engage the church in the way that I do.
In my journeys I have talked with a wide variety of those who call the CRC “home.” I have learned that I never know what to expect and that I cannot judge a person’s heart or passion by outward appearances. Any stereotypes I’ve had about people have been quickly washed away.
In my recent travels I encountered a delightful senior citizen. Though we did not have the opportunity to talk at length, she had taken the time to write down her thoughts about the Christian Reformed Church and about her congregation. She has been a member of her church for more than 50 years.
Reflecting on her experiences, she described the changes she had seen and shared her personal journey. That journey has taken her from traditional psalm singing to praise and worship songs; from a council of men in black suits to men and women in casual dress; from red Psalters to blue to gray, to projected words on a screen; from Dutch ethnicity to many ethnicities.
As her story unfolded, her passion and commitment became evident. She shared her story not to bemoan those changes but to celebrate them. She was pleased with what she had seen and experienced. She had a sense of pride that her church not only was willing to change but has welcomed change.
She then proceeded to offer the broader church and its leaders some very practical advice, which she summarized in one word: adjust.
Since reading her note, I have been reflecting on her words. One definition of adjust is the ability to adapt to a new environment or conditions. How appropriate. We live in a world of constant and ever-increasing change. A great part of our lives is little more than a blur. It becomes more and more challenging just to keep up with the latest technology. This is certainly not the world of 40 years ago. If we are to survive, adjusting will be a part of our daily existence.
So it is with the church. Jesus calls us to be salt and light. To be salt and light is more than just adding flavor and brightening our world. It is also to preserve and expose. In a world that is increasingly hostile to the gospel, it would seem we are called to adjust, to bend and flex in ways that engage our world with the unchanging truth of Jesus.
As I reflect, I wonder. Can we find new and creative ways to make disciples and transform the world? Is it possible to adjust our customs and habits in ways that bring hope and healing to a broken world? Are there methods that transcend the boundaries of our culture and redeem God’s creation?
Those are not easy questions, nor are they quickly answered. But I believe that we, as the Christian Reformed Church, can adjust to the present-day reality. In so doing, we will be changed. We will become all things to all people for the sake of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:22)—always faithful to the truth of our Lord and always ready to adjust.
About the Author
Jerry Dykstra served as the executive director of the Christian
Reformed Church in North America from 2006-2011.