It’s a strange text. There is no river running through Jerusalem. Why, then, would the psalmist write: “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God” (Ps. 46:4)? It must be a picture of the blessings that flow to and through wherever God is.
With this in mind, the Task Force Reviewing Structure and Culture chose the metaphor of a river to describe who we are. The Christian Reformed Church in North America is like that river. Flowing water depicts the blessings we receive from God and the blessings we become for one another and others. Not simply a stream, but five of them converging into a river that marks the presence and blessings of God.
Synod 2013 agreed and endorsed these five streams as identifying our denominational ministry priorities. They are our answer to the important question “Who are you?”
One of these streams is faith formation. “As a community of believers we seek to introduce and nurture faith in Jesus Christ. We believe the church must work together to challenge and equip each believer to grow in their faith as they seek to be faithful disciples in the kingdom of God.” We must provide ways for all of us, from the youngest to the oldest, and for all whom we meet, to allow Christ to be formed in us, as the apostle Paul put it (Gal. 4:19). This is who we are: disciple makers.
Another of the streams that identify us is servant leadership. “We seek to identify, recruit, and train leaders to be servants of the kingdom of God. We believe the life-long equipping of all leaders is essential for the flourishing of churches and ministries.” We will do all we can to serve one another in love, as Paul put it (Gal. 5:13). We are people who seek not to be served but to serve.
Global mission is another of our streams. “We are a missional community with a kingdom vision. Therefore we seek to be witnesses and agents of the kingdom ‘to the ends of the earth.’ Our primary objective is to start and strengthen local churches, both in North America and around the world.”Our mission is to reach the world, from our doorstep to the other side of the globe, with the claims of Christ over us and everything else. With the Spirit’s power, we are his witnesses from wherever we are all the way to “the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). We are people on a mission.
Another of our streams is loving mercy and doing justice. “We hear the cries of the oppressed, forsaken, and disadvantaged. Our hearts are broken by the things that break the heart of God. Therefore we seek ‘to act justly and to love mercy’ as we walk humbly with our God.” We do not just hear but we respond to the brokenness of disobedience and disaster and disease. We engage in and support ministries of mercy and endorse justice for all. This is part of our identity: we are advocates of mercy and justice.
The other stream that keeps the river flowing is gospel proclamation and worship. “Faith comes through hearing God’s Word. We seek to proclaim the saving message of Jesus Christ and worship him in all we do.”We will not always be found in church, but we will be there regularly, surrendering to his majesty and seeking his guidance. The rest of the time we will worship with our lives, offering our bodies as living sacrifices,our“spiritual act of worship” (Rom. 12:1). We are those who listen to and live for God.
These are our priorities. These streams identify who we are and form the basis for all we say and do. Let this river flow, I say—over us, through us, and to the world in which we live. It will make us all glad.