Tom De Vries, the General Secretary of our denomination met with several regional leaders in early December at New Brunswick Seminary to discuss questions the current state of the church and to listen to the voices in our region. Susan and I were there. We were happy that Tom came afterwards for a tour through the construction site of Dina’s Dwellings.
During his visit, Tom introduced a good amount of new vocabulary. He said the church needs to move on
- from program to process,
- from loyalty to validation
- from an institution to a people in mission, characterized by
- sacrificial service,
- authentic relationships
- and spiritual transformation.
All of it, he said, is part of our denominational program “Transformed & Transforming”.
His words fell on good ground. The more I listened, the more I felt affirmed that we should support our denomination in its efforts to reorient itself. After all, the Reformed Church in America is not some alien body over against a local church like ours but a function of all our local congregations together. Supporting the denomination means to support ourselves.
I have pondered about Tom’s visit since. It was not so clear to me at first, but eventually I realized that I was perhaps missing something. And it was this: While most of our discussion required strategic thinking, problem solving and visioning skills, it never made a direct appeal to my heart.
And that’s just it! We hardly ever talk about our love for the wider church, the Reformed Church in America. We may presuppose our love or assume that we have it, but we don’t talk about it. And why not? Would it be theologically incorrect, or is talking about a feeling like this not part of how we express ourselves? I do not know. But the consequences seem clear: Without expressing love for the Church, we cannot expect others to find it in their hearts and to develop it.
I love the Church, because Christ loved me first. The Church is his body in our time. The Reformed Church in America is, of course, only a small part of the worldwide Church. But it is the part through which I belong. It is also something that requires our commitment and care and future generations who continue to love it. May God’s Spirit provide us in this New Year with language and opportunity to express these things in our time so that others may feel drawn in as well!
Wishing you all a blessed New Year,