I finally managed to get my kitchen stool glued back together again—and it’s as good as new.
If you missed my column a few months ago, I mentioned that I have an old bar stool that my father made many years ago. The glue had let go and the stool was useless, though none of the pieces were broken.
At the time I wondered aloud what “glue” holds the Christian Reformed Church together and whether it is still holding. A number of you took time to reply. I received suggestions ranging from the three forms of unity to Christian schools. Some mentioned ethnic roots while others named our ministries.
Honestly, I was not looking for an answer as much as I was hoping to start a conversation—and apparently I’ve done that. Everywhere I travel, people are asking about the vision and identity of the CRC. They are genuinely interested in and concerned about the future of the church. They wonder if we will survive another 25 years.
They ask hard questions and wonder if the time and effort they put into the CRC is really worth it. They want to know if we really do have a kingdom vision and a global perspective. Are we building God’s kingdom? Are we having an impact for Jesus?
I do what I can to help them see what God is doing, but despite my best efforts there are those who receive my words with skepticism and doubt. I am not surprised, because for years I was one of them. I was a doubting Thomas when it came to our denomination—our bureaucracy, as I called it.
Since then I have seen what God is doing. I have personally experienced the transformed lives and communities around the world. I have encountered Jesus in the CRC.
At the same time I—dare I say we?—are not naïve. Some have suggested that perhaps the time has come to let the CRC disintegrate. After all, it’s a new day, a new millennium, and we don’t really need a denomination, do we?
Some people think about the CRC as if it were my old bar stool: Maybe we can find new uses for the pieces that are still strong and unbroken, they say. Maybe we’re not sure we want the pieces to stay together. Keeping them together means we have to invest time, energy, and even money—too much money—into the CRC. At least so goes the argument.
If the CRC would be stronger and more effective as individual pieces or as a confederation of churches, then by all means let the glue disintegrate. But I believe we are far more than simply a group of congregations linked by common interests and needs. We are more than the sum of our parts. We share a mission, a unified purpose.
There are many people we might ask about the future of the CRC. Perhaps we ought to ask the tsunami victims who now live in homes built with the help of CRWRC. Maybe we should talk with the hundreds of thousands of people in Nigeria who name Jesus Christ as Lord because World Missions helped our congregations to call and send missionaries? Maybe we should seek out the hundreds of pastors like me, who developed a deep love for the Scriptures and for interpreting and applying them faithfully while also honing our pastoral gifts at Calvin Theological Seminary.
Being the Christian Reformed Church is time consuming. It’s hard work, and it’s expensive. No one ever said it would be easy, but it is worthwhile. God is doing great things in us and through us. Let the fruit of the Spirit speak for itself.
Back to my bar stool for a moment. Before I fixed it, I considered using its oak pieces as kindling. I just didn’t have the heart. After all, the stool was repairable and my father had put far more time, energy, and skill into crafting it than I would in putting it back together. So I took the time and energy to clean and sand the pieces and carefully glue them.
My stool is old, and it still bears the wear and scratches of 30 years of use and abuse, but it serves my family well, and now another generation gathers around the counter in fellowship and love. It really doesn’t get much better than that.