Ministry Formation: A short History

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We have all heard about Ministry Formation, but why was this work begun, and what is it seeking to do now?

In 2003, Synod established the Ministry Formation Workgroup. This committee got to work with developing ways that local churches can better engage in the work of developing leaders and engaging in mission in their local communities.

In 2006 this work was expanded as Synod appointed a Mission Training Coordinator (Rev Jack de Vries) to spearhead this work. Jack worked hard with the Ministry Formation Workgroup to promote the Four Fold Task, adopted in 2006. The Four Fold Task had the basic mission statement “The Christian Reformed Churches of Australia are churches reforming to reach the lost for Christ.” We call this a ‘mission statement’ because it outlines the core task that we are working toward. This mission was divided into four main tasks:

Pray: To call upon God for such an outpouring of his Spirit that his people will be assured of his love through his Word, seek to please the Saviour in all things, manifest the godly life and be filled with prayerful and sacrificial compassion for the lost in all the world

Multiply: To enable local churches to expand numerically, equip and nurture their members, and become the mother-churches of as many fellowships and congregations as possible; and also to take further initiatives to create fellowships by penetrating structures of society with the gospel.

Train: To multiply the number of well-trained persons (ordained, non-ordained, full time, part time, voluntary) lovingly dedicated to the creation and development of such fellowships and congregations by proclaiming the gospel

Align: To reform continually the life of the denomination (including our church ethos, customs, church order, use of resources, denominational committees, support staff and agencies) to encourage and enable the fulfilment of the fundamental aim

Synod 2009 affirmed these core tasks, and embarked on some restructuring work that would enable local churches to pursue these tasks more effectively.

Both before and after Synod 2009, however, some thought the Four Fold Task was too narrowly focused around mission work, and that it did not give enough emphasis to important tasks like pastoral care and preaching. For reasons like these, Synod 2012 modified the tasks to include aspects of church health – which obviously includes aspects like preaching and pastoral care. The hope is that these decisions will see local churches with growing emphases on matters of

Discipleship: growing disciples is an all of life process. Whether we are talking about children, youth, young adults, middle aged or young people, we are to encouraged them and develop them as disciples of Jesus. The overall goal is to move people toward maturity in Christ (see Col 1:28). We will be working hard to help local churches find effective ways to encourage people of all ages to grow in their faith, to be positively engaged in their local church, and to develop their determination to express the Kingdom in their daily lives.

Leader training: a specific work group has been developed to provide resources to help local churches train and develop elders, deacons, and other leaders. Obviously, a decision at Synod cannot make things happen at the local level. These resources need to be embraced and fully implemented in local churches.

Growing and developing healthy churches: in addition to the core tasks of faithful preaching, proper administration of the sacraments, and faithful application of church discipline, there are many resources local churches can use to help them assess how they are going and find ways to become more healthy.

In the same way that no person can ever say that they have ‘made it’ and that they don’t have to grow any more. Local churches, too, can never say ‘we’ve arrived’ or ‘we’re doing everything perfectly. Church health, then, will only ever be relative.

With a view to assist local churches in this work, Synod agreed to establish Church Health Networks in every Classis. Jack de Vries will work with Classes to help local churches do the sort of things that will lead them to greater health.

So Synod 2012 has made a good move: the denomination has a more simple structure which, Lord willing, will help members move more effectively toward maturity, which will help train elders and other leaders, and which will result in the sort of growth that honours Christ our Saviour.

CRCA Structure 2009

2009 Structure

CRCA Structure 2012

2012 Structure

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:18–20, NIV)

– Dave Groenenboom