“I want to serve in a way that helps the church serve God better.”
That’s how Dr. Steven Timmermans summed up his calling to serve the Christian Reformed Church in North America as its new executive director when he was the featured speaker at a “town hall” meeting for Calvin Theological Seminary students.
He went on to speak to students directly about the process of call. There is an internal or vertical dimension to call as well as an external or horizontal dimension, he said. We need to listen to our friends and family around us as well as the voice of God within us.
“The ‘call thing’ is God acting and using those around you to help you discern. There is always some anxiety, but that’s OK.”
President Jul Medenblik, the lead questioner, quipped that this was the second time he was given this assignment with Timmermans—the first being as a member of the presidential search committee for Trinity Christian College when Timmermans was selected.
Medenblik addressed the fact that Timmermans is the first nonordained ministerial leader of the CRC. Timmermans explained that the theme of his vocational life has been learning and developing in work communities, from Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, to preparing teachers for special education, to several leadership positions in Christian higher education.
As the denominational leader, he expects to help churches, agencies, and their leaders learn and develop in the various intersecting work communities of the CRC.
Some of the questions touched on the future of denominations and church health trends in the CRC.
Recalling recent headlines about a major independent church in crisis, now experiencing a free-fall in attendance, Timmermans affirmed the value of interdependence and accountability that denominations provide and ensure. “It’s a very faithful way to live out God’s call.”
As for church membership trends in the CRC, he noted that the number of churches is holding, in part due to church plants. With society rapidly changing, the challenge for churches is finding ways for God’s Word to penetrate society through us, he said. “We need to say focused on this end goal.”
When it was noted that the seminary student body is now equally divided between members of the CRC and those who come from a variety of other church traditions, Timmermans encouraged the seminary not to minimize the Christian Reformed identity that comes from creeds, confessions, and testimonies, but to promote and celebrate them. “Our World Belongs to God” is a beautiful introduction to Reformed theology lived out in the church, he said.
Timmermans also commented on the five directional statements in the CRC’s Strategic Plan and Adaptive Change report, which prompted some lively questions from the students.
One student wondered why mention of being “missional” was absent. The wisdom Timmermans left these future pastor-leaders was that each generation needs to tinker with structures. You “tinker to own it,” he said, and your generation needs to tinker, then own the structures for the future. “That’s the fun challenge before you.”
“Challenge and fun in the same sentence is great!” said President Medenblik, and then led the town hall community in prayer for Steve Timmermans and his calling to serve the CRC.