“I have come to realize that the health of an institution is more about relationships than it is about governance or structure.” —Debra Brown, President of Governance Solutions
The other day when I cut out early from a speaking engagement, a faithful friend and Christian Reformed pastor followed me to the car. Standing with me in the parking lot, he said, “In my several years of ministry as a pastor, I have often wondered (and recently spoken out loud) about a time in the future when the Christian Reformed Church will no longer exist and we will instead do ministry in a post-denominational world.”
My heart sank. “Stop saying that!” I passionately interrupted.
My friend continued, “But today as you described the initiatives and relationships of ‘the denomination’ with my setting in the local church, I heard for the first time a word of encouragement that makes me believe differently.”
We hugged. I said, “Thank God,” and we said our goodbyes. I love that pastor, and I am glad he is beginning to really believe that the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) staff love him and his church.
Herein lies the central thrust of ministry that is part of the CRCNA in recent years: the hard work of relationships. As a denomination, we’ve been working on orienting ourselves, churches, ministries, initiatives, and governance in ways that are meant to appropriately restore the relationships of all parts of our Christian Reformed Church.
For example, even while reducing staff overall, the CRCNA is about to kick off a major program to better serve the people of local congregations. Internally we are calling this initiative “One Click, One Call.” That’s because this two-part system includes a newly created a web space (one click) and a phone-in space (one call) that is meant to serve all church leaders and laity in finding the plethora of resources to address their local and specific ministry challenges. Never before has the CRC had such a simple and centralized location for help!
Both of these tools have been created with a relational emphasis in mind. They are designed to foster healthy relationships between local churches and the ministries who desire to serve them.
This is just one example. There are many more initiatives happening across our denomination than space allows to describe them in this brief column. Each has been built to serve local churches and foster healthy relationships within churches, classes (regional groups of churches), and the denomination as a whole.
Truth be told, many CRCNA staff have been saying “I love you” to local churches for some time. Recently, however, it has begun to be felt. As with any relationship, when a person wishes to prove their love to another, it takes some time before the receiving partner believes it and a healthy relationship ensures. Trust takes time to earn.
The hope is that eventually the loved person also reciprocates. That’s where you as a reader come in. Perhaps we can all start by taking notice of the differences and simply lean into the opportunities this new relationship provides.
I suspect it will make the relationship—and your local church—even better. And perhaps we can all say thank you for the work Christ is continuing to do in the CRC. That seems fitting with the concluding relational component of the Heidelberg Catechism framework anyway: Gratitude.