Photo: Jim Triezenberg, Christian Reformed World Missions
Pastor Beth Fellinger offers a devotional message.
Photo by Jim Triezenberg, Christian Reformed World Missions

Pastor Beth Fellinger likened the process of joining Christian Reformed Home Missions and Christian Reformed World Missions into one agency for mission to climbing to the top of a mountain.

“People need to stop frequently to catch their breath,” said Fellinger, a Home Missions board member and the pastor of Destination, a CRC congregation in St. Thomas, ON, in a devotion she gave last week to a combined meeting of the boards of the two agencies.

Once they get used to the thin air, said Fellinger, the climbers keep moving up the mountain toward the peak, where — in the case of Home Missions and World Missions — they’ll be able see great vistas and opportunities.

“I’m encouraged and excited about the process and what we’re doing here together,” said Fellinger. “I believe God is calling us to do something not only to impact the people in this room, but to impact the entire world in which we say God’s grace is enough.”

Fellinger’s devotion came during a worship service that took place in the CRC’s Grand Rapids, Mich. office. Including communion supervised by the elders of Lamont CRC in West Michigan, the service was put together by Home Missions and World Missions staff.

“The service was a culmination of the board meetings and a perfect way to finish off and add a finishing touch to our time together,” said Lois Craven, director of advancement operations for World Missions.

During their meetings, the joint boards of the agencies endorsed a proposed organizational framework for the new agency.

An organizational design team, one of many sub-teams working on different aspects of joining the agencies, spent several months speaking to a wide range of people and conducting a survey in order to put together the document that gives a shape to the new agency.

Among other things, the proposed document says it is important to consider the roles and functions that a denominational mission agency could play in responding to the shifting nature of global and local mission work.

These include:

  • Catalyzing a shared Reformed vision of mission rooted in the CRC’s Kingdom theology.
  • Developing a rich context for mutual learning and innovation which builds on both the experiences of local congregations and ministry partners, and the previous decades of work of the agencies.
  • Networking congregations, classes, and other ministry partners around specific mission projects.
  • Accompanying congregations and classes through the assistance of embedding long-term incarnational mission leaders both in North America and globally.

“Between now and our board meetings in April, we will be working to refine this framework,” said Gary Bekker, director of World Missions.

“The important thing will be for us to listen well, to meditate on what we hear and to find a place for the wisdom and input of everybody on this process.”

Rev. Joseph Kamphuis, a World Missions board member and pastor of Chelwood CRC in Albuquerque, N.M., said he is pleased with the ways in which the process is unfolding.

“This is a monumental move for the the denomination and for the work of mission in the CRC,” said Kamphuis. “What we are doing is opening our ministry for the possibilities of the future.”

Today’s world is connected in many ways, ranging from the Internet and social media to options for transcontinental travel, that wasn’t available to mission workers in the past, he said.

Similarly, mission work in a local setting has changed as people from all over the world are moving into neighborhoods across North America and joining churches. “These are challenges, but we are going to meet them,” he said.

Rev. Joy Engelsman, a Home Missions board member who lives in Denver, Colo., said she especially appreciated taking part in the worship service that ended the board meetings.

“We’ve always been about the same mission and goals,” said Engelsman, who has also served on the World Missions board.

“We’ve gone about our work by pursuing different strategies. We have had different ways to connect. But now we are developing a unified voice that speaks about mission alongside and in cooperation with the church.”

Moses Chung, director of Home Missions, said he was encouraged by how positively the boards received the proposed organizational framework.

“It hasn’t been easy. There have been bumps in the road, which are to be expected. But I am especially encouraged that God has been in this whole process and the Holy Spirit is showing us the way.”