Change. How do you feel about change? Does it energize you? Make you uncomfortable? Or both?
Often our desire for change, even genuine desire, is offset by our tendency to keep things the same. College students may begin a semester vowing to study more and improve their grades, only to find that the vow to change has fallen victim to the old, familiar patterns of procrastination.
Others may seek to change eating habits or physical activity, knowing that their health depends upon it. But soon they are back on the couch with chips and wings.
The Christian Reformed Church experiences the same dynamic. We want to change, but it’s easy to slide back into comfortable patterns and habits. This happens in our pews and projects; in our assemblies and agencies.
This spring, new opportunities for change are unfolding before us, offering new ways of being church together.
One such opportunity comes via the task force appointed by synod to study our denominational culture and structure. After listening to and engaging many people in discussion, the task force is bringing to Synod 2015 a proposal that would change much of the behind-the-scenes work performed by the various boards that oversee your shared ministries.
Currently we have five boards overseeing those ministries. Back to God Ministries International, Home Missions, World Missions, and World Renew each have their own boards, in addition to the Board of Trustees, which acts on behalf of synod. And that’s not including Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary, which are not part of the proposal.
Could we minister more effectively if this complex and often cumbersome system of boards were changed? Many—including the task force—believe so. The proposal coming to synod would leave out the World Renew board because of that agency’s special requirements, including the need to qualify for government grants. But it suggests combining the other four boards into one.
Keep in mind that this proposal is about how the agencies are governed; not about the work they do. Check the Agenda for Synod 2015 for a detailed explanation and rationale. But consider with me this question: Will we approve and embrace this change, or will we succumb to the temptation of the comfortable and familiar?
Another effort at change has been developing momentum apart from the work of the task force on structure and culture. In February, the boards of Home Missions and World Missions decided to explore the possibility of bringing HM and WM together into a mission agency with both a local and global vision and mandate.
Will we accept this change, or will the comfort and certainty of the way we’ve always done things keep us from changing?
Resistance to change comes from within, through our personal tendencies and our institutional habits. The power to step forward in faith, however, comes not from within ourselves but through Christ.
A half-dozen years ago, my wife and I were wrestling with whether to adopt two orphaned siblings. After some initial enthusiasm, we began sliding back into our comfort zones as we focused on our four biological children, our jobs, and our fairly predictable lives.
But then, just after we had decided to stop pursuing the adoption, the sermon in church the next day was based on Matthew 14, the account of Jesus inviting Peter to get out of the boat and walk with him on the water.
The question asked of us was: What is keeping us from stepping out of the boat? We knew then what we needed to do and we proceeded with the adoption of two Ethiopian brothers. God’s love and mercy have blessed us every day thereafter.
What about the CRC? Will we remain in our “boat,” carefully structured around separate agencies and ministries and a culture of autonomy? Or will we step out of the boat and, in humility, faith, and prayer, work to build a new culture that better fulfills God’s call to service in the world of today and tomorrow?
I believe it’s time to get out of the boat.