The Council of Delegates, meeting June 16 and 17 on behalf of synod, approved a new ministry plan for the Christian Reformed Church in North America. 

Synod 2020 was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the program committee for Synod 2020 (officers of Synod 2019) combed through the Agenda for Synod 2020 and identified which items could not be deferred for a whole year. The COD, which governs the CRCNA when synod is not in session, held a special meeting to deal with these matters on behalf of synod and will report their decisions to Synod 2021. 

One of the matters that was deemed essential to deal with this year was a new ministry plan, called Our Journey 2025

“There’s something about a journey that’s exciting and invigorating. A promise of new horizons, new possibilities, new challenges. The Christian Reformed Church in North America is on such a journey,” said the overview document that the COD reviewed. 

The document goes on to explain, “It’s called Our Journey 2025. Our because we are on it together as CRC people from congregations across the United States and Canada. Journey because we are moving ahead in our shared mission to express the good news of God’s kingdom that transforms lives and communities worldwide, while also striving toward specific goals that our congregations and leaders have identified. And 2025 to remind us that this is just one stage of a journey that will see us living and growing together in new ways and in new places by the year 2025.”

This new ministry plan replaces Our Journey 2020 — a denomination-wide ministry plan that encouraged individuals, congregations, and ministries to improve in the areas of discipleship, leadership, collaboration, Reformed identity, and community engagement, while also continuing to preach the gospel and seek out people who are lost.

“We are pleased with the efforts and success stories that have been shared during Our Journey 2020,” said Colin Watson, whom the COD has now named interim executive director of the CRCNA. “Churches have begun to flow like streams into their communities, meeting their neighbors and becoming channels for the love of Christ. New leaders have been identified, trained, and mentored to help bear fruit in local congregations. And CRC members of all ages have been nurtured in their faith to grow more and more into the likeness of Christ.”

Our Journey 2025 picks up where the old ministry plan left off. While churches will continue the good work they have begun, the hope is that they will also begin to think about four specific areas of their ministry. 

These four areas are described as “milestones” in the material for Our Journey 2025 and were developed on the basis of feedback from conversations at classis meetings, national gatherings, and Inspire events. 

“These are not the only purposes God is calling us to, but we believe that a denomination-wide emphasis on these milestones for the next five years will help us all move forward in appropriate and healthy ways in obedience to the Word of God,” said the document.

The four milestones are as follows: “In our journey with God, with each other, with our neighbors, and for mission, we desire to be congregations/communities that

  • cultivate practices of prayer and spiritual discipline, transforming our lives and communities by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  •  listen to the voices of every generation, shaping us for ministry together.
  • grow in diversity and unity by seeking justice, reconciliation, and welcome, sharing our faith as we build relationships with and honor the cultures of our neighbors and newcomers.
  • share the gospel, live it missionally, and plant new churches in our neighborhoods as we discover how to connect with our local and global ministry contexts.”

The addition of church planting to this fourth milestone was a last-minute change. It was suggested by Resonate Global Mission and came to the special meeting of the COD after the COD had already adopted a previous version of the document. 

“This was considered a friendly amendment and was widely endorsed by everyone on the committee,” said Paul De Vries, chair of the COD.

Others weren’t quite sure. Bruce DeKam, delegate from Classis Northern Michigan, for example, wondered why church planting hadn’t been included earlier. 

“The language of this was already adopted for presentation to synod,” he said. “Trying to put something into it at a late hour opens it up to multiple changes. It should be presented as it was decided.”

Some delegates also wondered if the wording of this additional statement limited church planting to local churches’ immediate neighborhoods.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘What is your neighborhood?’” said DeKam. “I look around, and I don’t think we need to plant new churches in my neighborhood in Grand Rapids. We need to look outside of our neighborhoods and find areas where there might not be a Reformed influence.”

Don Draayer, delegate from Classis Lake Superior and chair of the advisory committee that processed this request, disagreed. 

“Our neighborhood isn’t just our confined and restricted space. It is much bigger than that,” he said. He also pointed out that the full phrase of this fourth milestone urges us all to connect with our global as well as local contexts. 

In the end, the new ministry plan was adopted with the church-planting language included. 

“This is substantial,” said Draayer. “We are saying that this is the journey we think God wants us all to be on for the next five years.”

More information about the plan will be distributed to churches in autumn 2020.

Kristen deRoo VanderBerg, CRC Communications