Big Changes Ahead for Deacons in the CRC


I recently wrote a post for the CRC’s Network blog addressing some of the changes ahead for deacons following this year’s historic decision by Synod.

Instead of functioning largely as “lone rangers”, the approved changes invite deacons to equip and provide opportunities for members of the congregation to participate in diaconal work. . . .  Read more at: What Changes for Deacons? | The Network

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My Favorite Rendition of Cohen’s Hallelujah

I think this rendition of the Leonard Cohen song, Hallelujah, as sung byKarin Bergquist of Over the Rhine to be truly inspirational.

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LENT 2015: A reflection for the anniversary of the death of Archbishop Romero


by Jean Stokan and Scott Wright

Romero mural

Today we commemorate the life of one of our contemporary witnesses, Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was murdered at the altar while celebrating the Eucharist. Like the martyrs of the early church, Archbishop Romero gave his life out of love rather than worship and serve false gods. Romero’s life bore witness to the truth that sets one free to lay down one’s life out of love for enemies and friends alike, as his own words and life testify:

We believe in Jesus who came to bring life in its fullest and we believe in a living God who gives life to humankind and wants all to live in truth. These radical truths of the faith become truths–radical truths–when the Church inserts herself in the midst of the life and death of the people. It is there that the Church is presented–as it is presented to…

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My Review of Pastrix on Goodreads

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & SaintI loved reading this book! I felt like I was sitting in a coffee shop with the author as she honestly told me me about who she is, her journey from addiction to recovery and what led her to become a Lutheran pastor of a very unconventional congregation in Denver. Rarely have I read something from a Christian author that is as transparent, vulnerable and authentic as Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber. Her story is a refreshing gift for anyone with or willing to have an open mind to not only what she has to share but the earthy yet authentic way she tells it. If you are familiar with 12 step recovery meetings and know how raw and real the sharing can get at times, and how God’s loving presence is at times palpable in the midst of such meetings, reading Pastrix is much like that. If you are easily offended by or have difficulty getting past the use of profanity and graphic language, this could be a challenging book for you to read. Even so I encourage you to make an honest effort to read this powerful testimony about God’s mercy and redemptive love to the very end. Whether you are a Christian, skeptic, agnostic, seeker, from another faith tradition or simply spiritual, I am fairly confident you will appreciate Nadia’s story of hope, love, acceptance and redemptive healing.

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Recommended Reading: Friendship at the Margins

I recently wrote the following and posted it on the Christian Reformed Church Network site. I decided to share it here because I think this book is a must read for anyone engaged in ministry with those on the margins of society . . . and too often viewed merely as prospective converts or simply as the needy who need us and what we have.

Friendship_at_the_MarginsWhen I began reading, Friendship at the Margins by Christopher L. Heuertz and Christine D. Pohl, I quickly realized that it would be a valuable resource for deacons and others engaged in “word and deed” ministries or missions with individuals on the margins of society. I have gained a much greater appreciation for the importance and priority of and need for developing genuine friendships with those we serve.


From the back cover:

In our anonymous and dehumanized world, the simple practice of friendship is radically countercultural. But sometimes Christians inadvertently marginalize and objectify the very ones they most want to serve.

Chris Heuertz, international director of Word Made Flesh, and theologian and ethicist Christine Pohl show how friendship is a Christian vocation that can bring reconciliation and healing to our broken world. They contend that unlikely friendships are at the center of an alternative paradigm for mission, where people are not objectified as potential converts but encountered in a relationship of mutuality and reciprocity.

When we befriend those on the margins of society by practicing hospitality and welcome, we create communities where righteousness and justice can be lived out. Heuertz and Pohl’s reflections offer fresh insight into Christian mission and what it means to be the church in the world today.

Visit the InterVarsity Press website to learn more about the book’s contents, read reviews and, if you choose, purchase at a 20% discount.

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Insights from When Helping Hurts – post #2

I am presently leading a study of this book with two CRC churches in Holland, MI for the next several weeks. I was happy to find that these posts from Wendy McCaig on her blog (

Wendy McCaig

I am currently blogging my way through the book “When Helping Hurts: How to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor and yourself.” As I shared in my first post, the author starts by asking foundational theological questions.  How you answer these questions will shape how you approach those who are materially poor.  I think the reason Christians are not more unified around caring for the poor comes down to our basic theological differences and how we answer these questions which I shared in the first post.

Why did Jesus come to earth? Like the authors, I believe Jesus answers that question in Luke 4:17-21, his first sermon, where Jesus reads the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight…

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When Helping Hurts Small Group Experience – Online!







I read the following post by Wendy Hammond  on the CRC Network blog about an online training opportunity. I’m re-posting it here in an attempt to make folks aware of an important learning opportunity for anyone who works with and/or truly cares about people in poverty.

“How we engage in poverty alleviation is just as important as what we do”

Join World Renew for our inaugural online course! Beginning on July 7, you are invited to explore how to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor and yourself, based on When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.

Find guidance and delve into group discussion about how to engage the poor in sustainable solutions to poverty…

1. What really is poverty and how can we truly combat it?

2. What can I do to help the poor?

3. Where do I begin?

4. How can I engage my church and my community in doing Christ’s work without doing harm to the poor?

Over six sessions, you will apply the principles from the book by watching an accompanying video and participating in an online forum discussion. You are welcome to go at your own pace.

Interested? Sign up by emailing Abigail Genzink,


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When Mercy Trumps Judgment

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Community for Communion

“We all need community but we also need to realize that in this world community is to bring us to a place where we are in full communion. That is possible only with God.” — Henri Nouwen (from an interview in October 1989 by David Hardin of the Chicago Sunday Evening Club)


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Do We Really Know Our Community???

Too often, well intended church members and leaders engage in community outreach operating on their own assumptions about the community in which they are located or want to serve. The truth is that we often know little, if anything, about “the community” we are in and/or want to serve. Our assumptions are too often part and parcel of our own cultural biases and uninformed opinions about people who we perceive as “needy” and in need of our help. Unfortunately, the kind of help that churches often provide is anything but (Read When Helping Hurts or Toxic Charity for more on this topic)

One of the first things we should do before we either begin or even to evaluate any type of community ministry is to educate ourselves about the community. “Community Study Guide” developed by Heidi Unruh of Baylor Univeristy is a user-friendly, practical manual that guides church leaders through the basics of conducting a community assessment for ministry. If you are in a position of ministry leadership at your church or engaged in some form of diaconal or community ministry, I strongly encourage you to review and consider using this resource. You can view and download by clicking on Community Study: A Guide to Understanding Your Church’s Context for Ministry.

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