April showers, May flowers, June synods. That might sound strange, but for those of us directly involved in denominational ministries synod marks the beginning of summer. This year 188 elders and pastors from across North America will gather June 13-20 on the beautiful campus of Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill., to worship, fellowship, work, and eat together.
Half of these men and women are pastors, called by God to serve and lead local churches as they engage their communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The rest are men and women who serve God in other vocations. Leaving family and friends at home, many will come from far away to serve God and the denomination in a unique and special way.
For a week they serve the Christian Reformed Church by setting directions and future plans. For a week they are “synodians,” to coin a term. While synodians have a special task and calling, they are just like you and me. They have the same struggles, the same fears, the same hopes, the same disappointments.
They come from small churches, medium churches, and large churches. They worship in traditional, contemporary, and blended styles. Some speak English; others Korean, Spanish, Navajo, Cantonese, or other languages. They are as diverse as the churches and members they serve. When they gather, they bring all this diversity to the table, along with their desire to advance the kingdom of God.
One may wonder how a gathering of leaders conducting the business of the church advances the kingdom of God. After all, aren’t those who teach and preach, those who bring healing and relief, those who do the work—aren’t they the ones who ultimately make a difference? Wouldn’t the church be better served if we just let those folks do what God has called them to do? Why have synods at all? Why spend the time, energy, and money to hold this weeklong gathering?
There was a time when I asked the same questions. I wondered if there was a more efficient way, a more effective way. But let me suggest that we need Synod to keep us accountable to one another.
We need our best hearts and minds reviewing, critiquing, and affirming the work we do together. We need men and women with a passion for the gospel of grace to help us remain faithful to the great commission and to living out the great commandment.
Just as we need and honor relief workers, missionaries, and pastors, we need and honor the delegates who will serve the church at Synod 2009.
When I say we, I do not mean just the denominational ministries and agencies. I mean all of us. We need to think about how we address the Belhar Confession, how we respond to Third Wave Pentecostalism, how we gather and use the financial resources so generously provided by churches and individuals across our continent.
We need to find methods and structures that will guide and direct us in the future. We need to come to terms with the financial realities faced by our churches and by our denomination. We need to ask the tough questions and listen to the tough answers. We need to pray and work for the coming of the kingdom.
We need our “synodians.” We need these elders and ministers who have been called by God to serve in this special way. I encourage you to pray for them. Pray for discernment, for servant hearts, for wisdom, for grace, for love. And pray for the presence of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and lives of these men and women as they seek to be God’s agents of transformation in a world so desperately in need of Jesus and his message of hope.
P.S. Synod proceedings will be webcast on the CRCNA’s website (www.crcna.org). I invite you watch and listen. On Monday evening I will present a “state of the church” address. I hope you can join us.