Duncan Christian Reformed Church

The CRC and You

What is this church you call Christian Reformed?

The Christian Reformed Church in North America is a group of nearly a thousand Protestant churches in the United States and Canada. Members of our churches confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

We are a small denomination when compared with Protestant giants such as the Methodist Church, the Southern Baptist Church, and the Presbyterian Church, but our congregations can be found in cities and towns from British Columbia to Nova Scotia, from California to New Jersey. We often call ourselves "the CRC" for short.

You may have noticed our denominational emblem-a cross in a triangle-on church signs or in church bulletins. The triangle represents the Trinity, our belief in the one God we know as three persons-the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The cross symbolizes our belief in Jesus Christ's sacrificial death on the cross for our salvation.

The CRC has its family roots in the Reformation of the sixteenth century. Along with the other Protestant churches that emerged out of the Reformation, we believe that we cannot earn our salvation through good works. We also believe-together with John Calvin, one of the leaders of the Reformation-that the Scriptures are the guide by which we evaluate our practices as Christians. So we call ourselves not only "Protestant" and "Reformed" but also "Calvinist."

Nearly 200 years ago, Dutch Calvinists left the Netherlands and came to the United States and Canada. Some came to escape persecution, others in the hope of finding a better life. The CRC was born from these believers.

Perhaps your ancestors were already here when the first white people came. Or maybe your ancestors were brought from Africa as slaves. But some of you can probably identify with these frightened, confused Dutch immigrants. Unfamiliar with the English language and uncomfortable with North American manners and customs, the immigrants at first clung together, more Dutch than American or Canadian. Eventually, while holding on to many of their ethnic traditions and customs, the immigrants became Americans and Canadians, and the CRC became a North American church.

As years went by, people from other ethnic groups became members of the CRC. Because of this, we are becoming an inclusive church-a church that joyfully embraces people of different races, nationalities, and cultures. We have become a church where people of Asian, Hispanic, African, European, and North American descent together worship the one true God. Regardless of our backgrounds, we're enriched by the presence of so much diversity in the CRC.

What makes the CRC distinctive?

1. We are trying to be an inclusive church. By this we mean that we welcome and embrace people of different gifts, races, tongues, and traditions as members of our congregations. We want to reflect the church of Revelation 7:9-10, a church in which "there were so many people that no one could count them. They were from every nation, tribe, people, and language of the earth. They were all standing before the throne and before the Lamb . . . . They were shouting in a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb' (The Everyday Bible).

2. We are a family-centered church. We believe in the importance of the family unit. We encourage worship as families. And we believe that the church is the family of God, a spiritual family. We are a family made up of many different people. Some are old, some are young, some are single, some are married, some are men, and some are women. We come together as natural families and as singles to form this spiritual family of God.

We are family because God has called us to be family. We believe God has established a covenant with us, promising to be our God and to love us as a family. The church shows its oneness in the Lord's Supper. This sacrament is our communion with Christ and with each other. We come to the table of the Lord as a family of believers who join together to celebrate Christ's immeasurable love, revealed in his sacrifice for our sins.

3. The Word of God is central to our worship. For this reason the focal point in our churches is the open Bible on the pulpit, and the focal point in our worship together is the sermon. We gather together on the Lord's Day, Sunday, to hear God's Word preached.

The sermon is an exposition, or careful explanation, of God's Word. Because we think it is important to hear God's Word preached faithfully and in all of its fullness, the CRC carefully educates and screens the ministers we call to our pulpits.

4. The songs and hymns we sing are based on Scripture. The Word is so important to us that even the texts of the hymns we sing must be in agreement with Scripture. For a long time our ancestors only sang psalms in worship. Even today, many of the songs in our hymnbook, the Psalter Hymnal, are psalms, but we also enjoy a rich heritage of hymns and Bible songs.

5. We believe that all of life is governed by our faith. Our faith helps us make the important decisions of life not only on Sunday but every day of the week. Things like whom we marry, for whom we vote, how we do our work, how we study this world in our schools-all of these things should be influenced by our faith and understanding of God's Word. The apostle Paul says it beautifully:

"Continue to think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected. And do what you learned and received from me. Do what I told you and what you saw me do. And the God who gives peace will be with you" (Phil. 4:8-9 eb). We also have creeds and confessions that help us understand and verbalize our faith. These creeds unite us with other denominations who hold similar interpretations of the Bible.

6. We believe that the local church has original authority. The pastor and elders of each congregation form what is called the consistory, which oversees the doctrine and life of members of the congregation. Sometimes the elders meet with the deacons in what we call the council. The deacons administer the local church's ministry of mercy, caring for people's physical and material needs.

Each council sends delegates to a larger governing body called classis. This is a group of representatives from about 20 churches in a geographic area who meet two or three times a year to discuss matters of common interest and to rule on problems that have arisen in individual congregations.

Each classis, in turn, selects four delegates-two elders and two pastors-to send to the denomination's major representative assembly, called synod. Synod meets once a year to decide matters that affect all of the denomination. The regulations that govern the worship and activities of our denomination are printed in a book called the church order. Synod has the authority to make changes in these rules as well as to make decisions about such matters as which creeds to adopt, which candidates should be approved to serve as ministers within the denomination, which programs and agencies the church should support, and other areas that affect our life together.

The decisions of classis and synod are binding on the local church-not because they are seen as divine revelation, but because they are decisions we have reached together through prayer and careful study of God's Word.

7. We believe in the priesthood of all believers. By that we mean that all Christians are God's servants, wherever God has placed them. Whether we work in the classroom, the factory, the farm, or the church, whether we attend school or stay at home, we use the gifts of ministry that God has given us for the good of the church. "But you are a chosen people. You are the King's priests. You are a holy nation. You are a nation that belongs to God alone. God chose you to tell about the wonderful things he has done. He called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Pet. 2:9 eb).

8. We have a strong commitment to Christian education. Because of our concern for family and our belief that our faith is important in all areas of our lives, we offer many programs to help families grow spiritually. We want all members to be informed Christians, who can read the Bible intelligently and act on its teachings.

We do this through the local church, in our church school classes and youth groups. We promote Christian schools and colleges so that parents have the opportunity of providing our children and young people with a Christian education. And we support a seminary for the training of our ministers.

Why should I become a member?

God wants you - and all Christians - to become part of a local church. We in the CRC believe that it is difficult to live as a Christian outside of a local body of believers. Apart from the church we can be easily turned aside by false teachers or discouraged when things go wrong. In the local church, we have brothers and sisters who care about us. They become our spiritual family to comfort us, to laugh with us, to worship and to pray with us.

The apostle Paul wrote to an early church about how important it is to be part of a congregation. He emphasized the importance of growing up into Christ, of maturing in our faith: "Then we will no longer be babies. We will not be tossed about like a ship that the waves carry one way and then another. We will not be influenced by every new teaching we hear from men who are trying to fool us. Those men make plans and try any kind of trick to fool people into following the wrong path. No! We will speak the truth with love. We will grow up in every way to be like Christ, who is the head. The whole body depends on Christ. And all the parts of the body are joined and held together. Each part of the body does its own work. And this makes the whole body grow and be strong with love" (Eph. 4:14-16 eb).

God also wants you to serve the church with the gifts you have been given. The Bible tells us "Christ gave . . . gifts to prepare God's holy people for the work of serving. He gave those gifts to make the body of Christ stronger" (Eph. 4:12 eb). You may be called to be an elder or a deacon or a church schoolteacher or to serve in the church's evangelism program. God may even be calling you to volunteer for short-term work on a mission field or to become a trained minister. Whatever you do, God has a place for you in the church. The important thing is to pray that God will show you what to do-and then to willingly respond to God's call.

What can the CRC do to help me be all God wants me to be?

First, the church offers a place where you, together with other Christians, can worship God. We are assemblies of believers, each with its own style of worship. We come together to worship and offer praise. Together we seek God's guidance, love, and wisdom.

Second, the church is a community where you can experience fellowship with other believers. In the worship services, in Bible classes, in get-togethers with other believers, we learn about what we call the communion of the saints (the Christian fellowship of believers) and about God's guidance, love, and wisdom.

Third, the church is a community where you will learn to pray. Without prayer, we can accomplish nothing. With prayer, we grow spiritually, and the church grows spiritually too. It is through this community of prayer that Christians learn to care for one another.

Fourth, the church is a community in which the ministers, elders, and deacons will provide you with spiritual and physical care. As a member of the CRC, you will be visited by elders or the pastor and sometimes by deacons. They will counsel you, share God's Word with you, and pray with you in your home. We are committed to helping one another to grow in Christ. As the apostle Paul tells us, "We must become like a mature person-we must grow until we become like Christ and have all his perfection" (Eph. 4:13 eb).

How can the CRC help me nurture my children in the faith?
Since we are a family, children are important to us. In the sacrament of baptism, we as Christian parents present our children to God. We recognize that our children are a part of God's covenant family.

When we promise at our children's baptisms to raise them in the faith, we are not alone. The other members of our church family also take a vow, promising to help instruct our children in the Christian faith and to encourage their development as believers. The church offers many opportunities for our children to grow in the faith: doctrinal instruction and Bible teaching in church school classes; youth activities such as Cadets, GEMS, and Young People's groups; and other programs that are unique to individual congregations.

We already mentioned the added opportunities for learning provided by Christian schools, colleges, and our seminary. The educational program of the CRC makes us a strong church with a biblical foundation on which to grow.

What other ministries does the CRC have?

Although all of the church's ministries are done in the name of the local churches, for practical reasons a central board often administers them. It would be difficult for most local churches to independently support a missionary, for example, or to help another community when natural disasters strike. But together, as a denomination, a group of churches, we can do more.

Most of these ministries are carried out through denominational agencies. By pooling our resources, we gain a unity of strength so that even the smallest congregations can contribute to these ministries and also share in their supervision and control.

The Back to God Hour is our church's electronic media ministry. God's message of salvation travels to all corners of the earth in nine languages via radio, the World Wide Web, telephones, e-mail, television, and the printed page.

Christian Reformed Home Missions supports and encourages the planting of new churches with emphasis placed on planting churches in a wide variety of ethnic, high need, and other communities. This ministry also assists classes with providing leadership training for future pastors to become evangelists. Grants are available for many Christian Reformed churches to add staff or other outreach programming. Consulting services are offered for churches wishing to improve their spiritual health and expand outreach ministry, as well as assisting with developing small groups and a variety of materials for programs like Coffee Break/Story Hour and Men's Life. Home Missions also provides funding assistance to 24 campus ministries across Canada and the United States.

Christian Reformed World Missions takes the gospel message out to the far reaches of the earth. More than 300 CRC missionaries live and work in 30 countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. As a denomination, we seek to reach people for Christ in our backyards through Home Missions, and throughout the larger world through World Missions.

The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee or CRWRC takes seriously Jesus' love for the poor and afflicted. When we help the poor and afflicted, Jesus taught, it is as if we were helping him: "I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink . . . . I was without clothes, and you gave me something to wear" (Matt. 25:35-36 eb). CRWRC is like the long arm of the deacons, carrying out their ministry of mercy on a larger scale. CRWRC equips local deacons to do their work, brings relief in times of disaster, and establishes long-term self-help projects in the United States, Canada, and 30 other countries.

Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary are the CRC's educational ministries. Calvin College, a four-year liberal arts college, seeks to engage students in a vigorous Christian education that equips them for life from a biblical perspective. Calvin Seminary educates our ministers and also trains people as evangelists, church planters, youth pastors and others who specialize in ministry not requiring ordination.

Faith Alive Christian Resources (formerly CRC Publications) produces the educational materials used in the church education programs of the local churches, as well as many other resources and study materials for the church's life, work, and worship. More than half the material published is sold to other denominations. World Literature Ministries coordinates the publishing and distribution of biblical Christian literature in several other major languages.

The Banner, the official magazine of the Christian Reformed Church, is published by CRC Publications. In The Banner you can read about what is happening all across the CRC. This periodical offers news articles as well as inspirational reading and educational articles.

The Loan Fund has served the Christian Reformed Church since 1983 by providing loans to CRC churches in the U.S. at low interest rates and offering investors higher rates of return.

The Denominational Office oversees the work of CRC agencies and provides funds for Synodical expenses and offices, the Board of Trustees, and general administration. It also serves the church by designing and implementing ministry programs in the following areas:

The ministry of Abuse Prevention offers education, training, resources and consultation services to raise awareness and combat the effects of various types of abuse that affect people of all age groups.

Chaplaincy Ministries facilitates the work of pastors in the United States and Canada who work in specialized ministries such as the military, hospitals, prisons, industry, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, and pastoral counseling centers. The committee encourages, supports, and helps equip chaplains to minister in a society teeming with need. Nearly 100 CRC chaplains are working full time in these specialized ministries.

The ministry of Disability Concerns is mandated by synod to help make it possible for people with various types of disabilities to participate fully in church life. This involves helping churches to remove barriers of architecture, communication and attitude. While these persons may have physical, mental, or emotional limitations, they are imagebearers of God who have much to contribute to the life of the church. We work to support them and their families and to include them in the church.

The Office of Pastor-Church Relations was founded by synod to enhance the ministry of local churches by providing pastors, elders, and deacons with pastoral and professional help. It has been effective in establishing a growing network of officebearers who minister to each other and in assisting churches without a pastor in their search for a pastor.

The ministry of Race Relations has a mandate to assist the denomination, congregations, and members of the church to recognize, challenge and eliminate racism within the body of believers and throughout the world.

The Office of Social Justice and Hunger Action works to develop a deeper understanding of and response to God's call to let justice flow like a river in our personal and communal lives as well as in the structures of our societies.

How can the CRC finance all of these ministries?

Such broad and widespread ministry is only possible through the prayers and financial gifts of God's people. Some of this support is gathered through what we call "denominational ministry shares" (formerly referred to as "quota"), an amount of money that the synod asks each adult member to contribute to the support of denominational ministry programs. This system allows each of us to participate in the many ministries of the CRC.

It is important to realize that these ministries require more money than the agencies receive through ministry shares. Direct gifts to the individual agencies provide the balance.

Many Christians decide what they can give to the church and its work by "tithing," using the biblical principle of offering one-tenth of their income to the Lord.

Is there a place for me in the CRC?

Yes, if what you have read about this church attracts you*

If belonging to a family is important to you . . .

If you believe God's Word is the important guide for our lives . . .

If you believe that the Reformed doctrines are a true interpretation of Scripture . . .

If you are committed to growing in your faith in Christ . . .

If you desire to serve God . . .then we will enrich each other.

We are reaching out to people around the world, working for reconciliation of all races through Christ's love. We are a family that wants to reflect God's diverse creation with persons of every nation, tribe, people, and language. We want to become like the many flowers of a garden, giving color and fragrance to the church and giving glory to our Maker. The apostle Paul puts it this way:

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in victory through Christ. God uses us to spread his knowledge everywhere like a sweet-smelling perfume. Our offering to God is this: We are the sweet smell of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are being lost" (2 Cor. 2:14-15 eb)

If you are interested in joining our church family, talk with our pastor. To arrange an appointment visit our office or telephone. (Monday to Friday, 9am to 12pm. Tuesday to Friday during July and August)

930 Trunk Road,
Duncan, British Columbia
V9L 2S1

Telephone: 250 748-2122

Denominational Offices
U.S. Office:
2850 Kalamazoo Ave. SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49560

Canadian Office:
P.O. Box 5070, STN LCD 1
3475 Mainway
Burlington, ON L7R 3Y8

Copyright © 1996-2008, Christian Reformed Church in North America. All rights reserved.