As Christian Reformed Churches in Australia we have been led by God’s Spirit to adopt in 2006 this vision: to be “A Church Reforming to Reach the Lost for Christ.”
Pause for a moment – reflect on this. What does this mean? To be a church reforming to reach the lost for Christ is not something novel, some radical new idea dreamt by a synodical advisory committee. This vision is rooted in our identity as Christian Reformed churches. We have roots which go way, way back – back to the early Christ followers we read about in the New Testament. These early Christians were committed to their missional calling as God's people. Like their forefather Abraham, they understood their purpose in the world to be a blessing to their neighbours and nation: "...all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:3) The early church understood this purpose to mean engaging in gospel work, calling and leading unbelievers to new life in Christ. (see Acts 3:25; Galatians 3:8) As the missionary and church planter Paul put it: "I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do this all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." (1 Corinthians 9:22-23)
Our roots also go back to the Reformers – people like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Knox. The church's missional purpose was reemphasized in the Protestant Reformation – the concept that the church is always reforming – ecclesia semper reformanda. The Reformers underscored the importance of the church being confessional. The church needs to claim and reclaim its identity to the historic Christian faith taught and witnessed to in the Bible. And we keep doing this – calling ourselves time and time again back to the Bible, back to the Scriptures, back to the Word of God – each time asking ourselves – are we being true to the Truth? Do we keep ourselves to the holy Scriptures which are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Is the gospel at the heart of all that we are and all that we do?
To be a church reforming is a vision to claim and reclaim our identity to the historic Christian faith – to be a church shaped by the Bible and Biblical priorities. This means that to be a church reforming is more than simply being confessional; it is to be missional! The church is not only always reforming; it is always forming – ecclesia semper formanda. The church is always engaging its context and continuously recontextualizing its ministry. The church is always asking, what needs to change in us and around us so that we will engage the world and reach the lost for Christ?
Reforming and forming! These paired ideas are basic to the vision adopted by our churches in 2006. There is a dynamic and healthy tension between change and continuity as well as between mission and confession. By the leading of the Holy Spirit, as a denomination and as churches we are always forming even as we seek to engage in reforming. There needs to be a balance between the two. We invite change even as we seek to maintain continuity. It is only by and through the Holy Spirit that we are able to maintain this tension and engage in both of these things simultaneously – reforming and forming – being confessional and missional. And as we live out our denominational vision we will more and more realise our missional purpose summarized in our mission: “To multiply Bible-based Christian fellowships and congregations which equip and nurture their members and grow throughout Australia and beyond.”
Recommended Reading: The Ministry of the Missional Church, Craig Van Gelder, Baker Books, 2007