February 28, 2004
What an amazing mission field! The 9,000 members of our 33 Reformed Churches of classis are planted in vibrant and changing communities between two ever-expanding cities. We are Christ’s ambassadors in this crossroads region, placed here by God to be living demonstrations of the way of Jesus, and to welcome new friends into God’s reign.
Population and cultural movements are daily presenting us with new challenges. Sometimes our consistories feel like they are isolated and alone in the midst of these changes. They write in their annual reports to classis: “we want to grow,” “we want to impact our community,” ”we need more space,” “we need new ideas,” “we need help!” How do we help? They also write: “We did a good thing,” “we had a successful program,” “this project was great,” “it worked!” Their expertise does not easily reach the others who need it. Hmmm.
Approximately two years ago some of our classis’ committees recognized that they were dreaming new dreams for our life together, but they were doing so in isolation. They needed to dream together for the health of the whole classis. As a result, three classis committees (or representatives thereof) began to meet together: Mission, Structure and Planning; Evangelism and Church Growth; and Congregational Care, as the “Strategic Planning Ad Hoc Committee.”
This “ad hoc” committee named three focal points of need that were being identified in their classis committees:
Since then the Committees have been trying to understand what sort of “action” the classis could really “do” to address these stated needs. A Theological Statement (below) was developed, to provide a ground for the emerging goals. All the consistories of classis have had opportunity to provide their insights and concerns. The Classis has gathered in Cluster groups at their regular meetings to test the Theological Statement and the three areas of need.
What follows is obviously just a beginning. There are three broad goals, more like “targets” than a map. The Classis and its clusters and committees will need to fill in the details as we go along. The Theological Statement and Goals call us to say, “We aim to be a classis of Collaborative, Revitalizing, and New Churches -- in order to witness more faithfully and effectively in this region to the reign of the crucified Lord.”
THEOLOGICAL STATEMENT and GOALS
The Classis of Delaware-Raritan is a covenantal community
called by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit
to be the very presence of Jesus Christ in the world.
(adapted from RCA Mission Statement)
God has called us into covenantal community. God called Abraham to begin the process of redeeming a fallen world through the church (Genesis 12). God called Abraham into a covenantal community. God pledges Godself to this community and we, in turn, pledge ourselves to God. They did it in circumcision; we do it around the baptismal font. We love because God first loved us.
The Classis finds her identity not in her work but in her Lord who “through his Spirit and Word… [has] gather[ed]…for Himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith” (Heidelberg Catechism Q and A 54). We are not individual churches but each gifted parts of Christ’s church. We are the corporate bishop called by the Good Shepherd to pastor the reformed flock together. “Each church is accountable to all and all to Christ” (RCA Mission Statement).
To regularly meet in clusters at our classis meetings for the express purpose of identifying strengths, needs and potential areas of collaboration among congregations.
The Holy Spirit empowers us. We are dependent upon the Word and the Spirit for our identity and mission. The Spirit was poured out upon the New Testament Church at Pentecost so that a great harvest was gathered into the church (Acts 2). The Spirit has been poured out upon the churches of our Classis since 1719. In our Prayers of Intercession we wait together, like those saints before, for a new outpouring today.
We do not find the Spirit’s power in “lording it over” nor in “living and let live.” We find the Spirit’s power in servant leadership that connects and guides. So in the words of Alan Janssen we deny “all superiority of one Minister of Christ over another; and… [we consider] independent, unconnected congregations,…unsafe and inconvenient.” Our focus, though, is not only upon the existing flock but also upon the lost lamb. We move boldly into mission using the gifts God has given us as we announce the very reign of God in our region.
The Congregational Care Committee of the Classis will help, support and affirm churches in revitalization and growing in spiritually healthy ways. The committee will engage churches in the process through the tools of NCD, conflict resolution and Alpha. The committee will inform and educate the churches of the classis, making sure the churches are aware of these tools, and directing them to personnel who can assist in using these tools.
To be the very presence of Jesus Christ in the world. Jesus continues his ministry in the world through us. Imperfect though we be, like the Corinthian church, we are called the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12). Each of our churches manifests different gifts that the whole body needs to minister to the whole world. As a presence of Christ we present Jesus in word and deed. At the Lord’s Table we experience Jesus’ presence which transforms us into His presence in the world. As Cyril of Jerusalem said, “what happens to the bread and wine happens also to us.” As Christ’s presence we make available the very transformation for which the world longs so that the Reformed witness transforms not only the church but also the world.
To have the Evangelism and Church Growth Committee of Classis engage willing congregations to start a new church by Pentecost 2007 in order to reach the unchurched.
After we have discerned the Spirit’s leading in
the Strategic Plan, where do we go from here?
At each Classis Meeting there will be a focus on one aspect of our Strategic Plan’s implementation process. Therefore in one year one meeting would focus on the Revitalization Goal, another on the Collaboration Goal, the other on the New Church Start Goal. The purpose of this focus would be to engage the Classis in conversation and prayer around the implementation of each of these goals.
The Mission, Structure and Planning Committee will oversee this Action Plan process while maintaining accountability to the Executive Committee.
The Strategic Planning Ad-Hoc Committee recommends that the Classis adopt the Theological Statement and Goals; and the Action Plan.