A Compelling Vision for the Future
An urgent need to raise up gospel workers, the importance of good management in our overseas missions, a desire to see our churches grow, and a strong value in well-grounded theology. These were repeated discussion themes during our denomination’s national gathering.
Last week I got to watch on as delegates from around the country gathered in Launceston for the Synod of our denomination, the Christian Reformed Churches of Australia (CRCA). These Synods run every three years, and are the place to make decisions on a range of issues and opportunities facing our denomination.
I was encouraged by what I saw, and by the direction which our churches are going in, because I saw:
On most issues, delegates came well prepared and were focused on making real change to address real issues on the ground. Good proposals on youth ministry, on church planting, on relations with other denominations and plenty more concerns were actioned quickly. And the discussions which did happen were practically focused, on how each action could be the most useful to churches on the ground.
Action for more gospel workers
Did you know that 25% of the churches in our denomination do not have a pastor, due to a massive shortage of ordained ministers? There is also a significant need for trained ministry workers in all ministry areas- youth, women’s, pastoral care… the list goes on.
Over the last decade, it has become increasingly clear that there is a significant shortage of people trained to serve in ministry in our sphere of Christianity—not only in our denomination, but all across churches similar to ours. This is why I was grateful to witness the creation of a nationally funded internship program, to give people a way to get a taste of what ministry is like. The requirements for study toward ordained ministry were updated, to fit those who work in a church while studying, and examinations were made more efficient. Better support systems for students and ministers were introduced. A targeted strategy for raising up gospel workers was agreed upon, full of practical steps for churches. There is plenty more to do, but real action is being made.
Gracious discussion and Christ-centred community
There were some points at the Synod where strong opposing opinions were aired on important issues. And, just between us, I was expecting a bit of drama. But through every discussion, every person who spoke maintained a clear respect for the other people involved. There were no angry outbursts, and no underhanded personal attacks. Quite the opposite: disagreements often began with the recognition of good points raised previously, there was plenty of friendly banter, and at several points I saw people who had disagreed in big issues catching up at meal breaks like old friends- mostly, because they were old friends!
This all reflected a culture of respect, a culture which the Bible repeatedly tells us to strive for. There was plenty of formality in the proceedings, but also plenty of warmth. At every meal break the building was a hive of conversation, and table tennis games featuring people of all ages went all week.
A Strong Commitment to the Bible
A key distinctive of Reformed churches is a strong commitment to the Bible as the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of God. And this commitment was reflected in the discussions which were had at Synod. There were a couple of proposals which related to specific points of theology, especially around baptism and the Lord’s Supper. If I’m honest, these are the points where I was the most distracted—they took quite a while, as specific details and nuanced wording were worked out. But while I didn’t find the discussion all that gripping, the motivation for it was clear: biblical teaching is very highly valued, and making sure we get it as right as we can is a top priority in our churches.
Overall, while our denomination as plenty of issues, but I think we facing them and are going in a good direction. My take-home from our Synod was that there is a broad, strong desire among our churches to follow Jesus faithfully, to focus on reaching the lost in His name, and to raise up a generation of gospel workers who will lead the way in this. That’s a vision which I for one am on board with!