Church leader George Bullard posted this in his blog of June 28, 2016: “Look at your denomination and at those around you, and you will notice a lot of drifting and shifting. Drifting is generally unintentional and shifting is generally intentional.”
That’s an important distinction, because the Christian Reformed Church is intentionally shifting.
When we ask CRC members about what the denomination does, the international ministries are often what they think of first. But an intentional shift is underway—not to diminish the good work God blesses in places far away, but to focus locally as well.
The CRC’s new ministry plan, Our Journey 2020, represents an intentional knitting together of our varied resources in order to support and resource the ministries of congregations.
Three or four years ago, the Strategic Planning and Adaptive Change Taskforce listened to CRC church leaders and members across Canada and the United States. They discovered great commonality among the challenges churches voiced. From those challenges emerged the five “desired futures” that you will see named in the pages of Our Journey 2020.
I’d like to draw your attention to two important features of the plan.
First, it is based on the conviction that a primary task of this denomination is to support, serve, and enhance the ministries of congregations. In each of the desired futures, the role of congregations is central.
Second, by offering many different ways of connecting local goals with local and denominational resources, the plan is a sort of buffet where congregations can identify and select the things most relevant and helpful to their own ministry goals and challenges.
Let me back up many, many years, and tell you a true story that happened in a local congregation. The pastor and I and a few others were deeply engaged with a group of unchurched teens in our urban neighborhood. None of the teens had any biblical background; they were more interested in imitating the culture around them. Yet they kept coming to our gathering every Thursday night.
We needed resources: Bible study material, coaching. We turned to the CRC for resources, but we didn’t find much. Here’s the all-important question: would it be different today? Would Our Journey 2020 have made a difference?
Take a look through the special section in this issue of The Banner that describes Our Journey 2020. You will find goals such as: “Our congregations will explore their communities, learning from neighbors . . . , discover where God’s Spirit is moving . . . , discern how lay and ordained leaders can offer the good news of faith in Christ in ways that connect to the needs our neighbors express, and to their cultures.” I think if we made the same request today, we would find much more assistance.
I also think, however, that our church missed an opportunity back then. We as congregational leaders were on a quest, in ways of which the rest of the congregation was not always aware. We should have engaged the entire congregation as a first step. Today we would find resources like the Our Journey “Church and Community” video, which I encourage you to view. You can find it (and others) online at crcna.org/journey.
While these pages can’t spell out specific details, I believe that churches looking for ministry assistance today would be well served by the denomination. We’d quickly be connected to people in the denominational or regional offices who would link us to others who are also doing urban youth ministry and who would help us to identify the resource materials that we desperately needed.
So yes, we’re shifting—intentionally—believing that the desired futures of Our Journey 2020 are the desires that God has laid on all of our hearts, as we seek through the the power of the Holy Spirit to bring others to Christ—even right next door!
I hope and pray that Our Journey is also your journey, as together we seek to serve our Lord in faithful ministry.