Nearly six months ago, you received a copy of the CRC’s Annual Ministry Report tucked into the center pages of the Banner.
Our annual report is a modest affair, roughly the shape of a standard church bulletin. The reports I receive from other Christian organizations are often much more extensive, usually for two reasons.
First, they’re filled with photographs that seek to capture and display the essence of the organization. But there’s another reason. Many times they include a list of contributors, often filling page after page.
Yes, our annual report is rather brief. We include some photographs that show our agencies and ministries at work across North America and around the world. But the names of our contributors aren’t listed.
Consider, though, what we could publish.
It would require hundreds of pictures to show you all of the places that your church is at work through its denominational agencies and ministries, helping to create and sustain healthy churches and transforming lives and communities.
And if we listed everyone who financially supports those ministries, the list would include almost a quarter-million names. That’s the impact of Ministry Shares, through which each of our members is able to contribute to all of those ministries.
But you know, what I’ve just described still isn’t the sum total of the CRC’s work. Think about another way of assembling the ministry report.
We could begin by including pages for every congregation, showing the impact it is having in its community: the exciting things its youth ministries are accomplishing; its care for its elderly members and people with disabilities; its worship services; its potlucks; its commitments to missions projects in Africa or Central America or to medical ministries in Eastern Europe.
Just for fun, if each of our churches were given 10 pages to report their ministries, we’d have to begin by setting aside 11,000 pages just for Christian Reformed congregations.
Next we’d allocate space for World Renew, World Missions, Home Missions, Back to God Ministries International, Race Relations, Disability Concerns, Safe Church, Chaplaincy, Canadian Ministries—the list goes on. This would require many additional pages. Moreover, these ministries often partner with community-based groups and ministries, and we’d want to include them as well. The memberships of the Reformed denominations we might call our descendants in Nigeria, alone, would more than double the number of pages needed.
And we’re not done yet. There are a host of ministries allied with the Christian Reformed Church that are very much part of us: Friendship Ministries, GEMS, Cadets, Youth Unlimited, Timothy Leadership Training Institute, Partners Worldwide, and more. We would need to include them, as well as our affiliated colleges.
Should we also list financial contributors? If so, remember: we’re talking about hundreds of thousands.
It’s clear that our impact—your impact—can only begin to be captured in a few dozen pages.
So the next time you’re in a conversation about the Christian Reformed Church, don’t think too narrowly. Instead, think about how incredibly broad and engaged we, the Christian Reformed Church, truly are. It’s what’s going on in your congregation and your community. And it’s what you’re doing by extension in North America and around the globe.
One final thought: the church isn’t what we are doing. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit, and that’s something that can’t be adequately captured in any annual report. The account of Pentecost in Acts 2 gives us a splendid description of the church—the church we are supposed to be:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. . . . they broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. —Acts 2:42-47
To God be the glory!