Welcome to my corner. It’s not really my corner. This spot is reserved each month for talking with you about the ministries of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC). I will be writing for the first few months, and then it will be the place for the new executive director or his designee to inform, to inspire, and to address the ministry challenges we face together as a denomination. But for now, welcome! I feel privileged to have your attention.
About a year ago the Board of Trustees of the CRC became convinced that we as a denomination need to place greater emphasis on assisting and encouraging the life and ministries of congregations. Synod 2004 endorsed the board’s intent to set that as a priority for the next five to 10 years.
It’s appropriate that this priority receive attention in this first issue of the every-household Banner. Not only is it important to state clearly what that decision means, but we need to be equally clear about what it does not mean.
The principle that has governed our denominational ministries for many years is that we do together what cannot be done as well by congregations individually.
Already in 1876 the denomination had established Calvin College and Seminary to train and equip future leaders for church and school. Establishing mission “committees” followed in the 1890s. What is now CRC Publications was initiated in the early 1900s. The Back to God Hour radio ministry began in 1939, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) in the 1960s, and a series of specialized ministry programs were established by synod in the 1970s to 1990s. All of these ministry efforts represent the historic commitment of congregations to serve the Lord “always and everywhere.”
It’s important to recognize and accept that the setting of a new priority, such as the one I referred to above, does not mean that the other ministries are less important or are being marginalized. In fact, to assume that focusing on the needs of congregations diminishes the work of other agencies and educational institutions is to miss the point of what is meant by assisting and encouraging the ministries of congregations.
It is the intent of the Board of Trustees that all of the denominational agencies should focus their programming in such a way that assisting and encouraging congregations is part and parcel of what they do.
There may have been a tendency in the past to assume that congregations exist to support the work of the denominational ministries. To the degree that such an assumption has taken root, this priority is intended to be corrective. Rather, the denomination carries out its ministry programs as an extension of all of our congregations. A healthy and vibrant spiritual vision in a thousand congregations is essential not just for their vitality but also for the health of all of the ministries in which we are engaged together.
We have an honorable history of being a mission-focused denomination. Currently about two-thirds of the denominational budget of more than $50 million is spent on mission outreach. Some adjustment in the allocation of funds will be needed, at least for a time, to implement the new priority. This may cause some stress, but the urgency of assisting and encouraging the ministries of local congregations requires it.
It is our fervent prayer and hope that the new priority will help the whole Christian Reformed Church become the vibrant spiritual community we—and God—want it to be.