In February, there was a special breakfast with Wes Granberg-Michelson organized by the denominational offices. These were held as a personal farewell and heads-up about the status of the RCA. I found our General Secretary’s story quite personal and moving; moreover, I appreciated the honesty and humble manner with how he presented it.
Here are four lessons that he shared with us as his own personal sense of vision for the RCA churches.
- It is time to change the way we do things. This has to do with our form of governing – particularly the manner in which we make decisions. Over the years while serving as our General Secretary, Wes moved toward a method of discernment through prayer and facilitating discussion. And he has sought to implement this process even with larger groups.
- It is time to really move on developing new congregations. This has been a vision that Wes has strongly set forth for many years now. And, although there seem to be a bit fewer ‘organized’ churches, still over 250 new churches have been started since 2003. These new churches look and feel different than the ‘older’, or better said, ‘more established’ churches. Yet, this decision to move into developing new churches has changed our outlook across the denomination. More and more classes are looking at new church starts. It has created a momentum.
- It is time to relinquish our best efforts to God’s grace. As many of our churches are struggling with finances, we have to begin to really look at our structures and how they may or may not be meeting our call of expressing Christ in our society today. Do we have to do away with assessments? Do we have to reorganize our classical structures or our synods for that matter? How do we deal with our large empty church buildings? Wes brought up several examples of classes and synods doing things ‘differently’ across the USA.
- It is time to embrace multicultural brothers and sisters in Christ. Across the denomination the faces of RCA members are slowly changing (mostly on the East coast, though), and it is time for us to better welcome these new voices and perspectives. We need to be ‘the church’ in new ways—both respecting our tradition as well as integrating the new perspectives. This will bring about change, but, hopefully, change that inspires us to new mission and ministry.
I am sure that you may find some of this information online at www.rca.org. Our denomination is certainly in a transition, especially as we look at the candidate for the General Secretary position. By the way, Tom DeVries has just been announced as the GSC’s candidate. Certainly we will see more change in our future.
May some of Wes’ lessons help to guide us at First Reformed Church as we will be addressing some of these lessons as well.