Installation Service

So on October 6th, I will be installed as a church planter at Grace Christian Reformed Church in Burke, VA. Two weeks later, our parent church- First Reformed Church of Cary- will commission me. Everything is about to get all official! A number of feelings swirl through my mind as I approach these dates.

First off, I was never installed as a ‘resident church planter’ back on March 1st. That means that up to this point I am sort of still installed as a pastor at Immanuel CRC in Hamilton, ON. Of course, we said our formal good-bye back in February. My work there ended although relationships and partnerships continue. Still, I have been existing as a bit of a ministry nomad. My wife will be the first one to tell you that I have been working very hard, but there has been no official out-of-the-gate-right-of-passage event yet.

So I wonder where I have been over the last few months. It’s been a mix of ministry preparation, church plant education, personal and family care, geographical orientation, financial partnership building, and relationship fostering time. We also went on vacation for a couple of weeks. I started with an exciting and ambitious residency plan, and now next week the installation service makes things real.

Coming up to the starting blocks has been hard though. The last couple of weeks have been overwhelming and scary. My mind changed in September. I shifted from resident learner to church plant foot soldier. Nagging fears have grown along with bouts of doubts. I doubt my gifts and abilities despite what has been affirmed over the last several months. Church planting takes patience, and I can be impatient. It takes people, and we do not have people. It takes blah, blah, blah…

I could continue ‘blahing’ away, of course, but that’s no fun. In fact, as someone wise has told me recently, it is quite okay to feel overwhelmed right now. It’s an overwhelming thing. We’re committed to this. I believe in it. So many wonderful and divine events, conversations, and things have happened to confirm that this is what we need to be doing. Still, it weighs on the heart.

One therapeutic process I have been going through is building the website for our new church. We have a name, vision statement, mission statement, value statements. That all will be revealed soon enough. There’s a game plan, business strategy, church planting strategy, etc. Many of the theoretical pieces are in place, and putting together the website has allowed me to piece all of it together in a package that is neat, concise, and consistent. Crafting this website has helped solidify many different elements of what makes up the Church and what that looks like in our new church in southwest Wake County.

The most therapeutic thing, of course, is continuing to rely on God’s strength for this journey ahead. God is control here. God is control. I have to remind myself of that all the time throughout the day as I imagine all of us do. God is there. The Spirit is working. Jesus is alive!

In what ways have you processed through feelings of being overwhelmed? What has been your therapeutic process that got you through to the other side?

Center Church Part III

Many Christian thinkers have reflecting on the world missional recently. Definitions differ, of course, but most would say that to be missional means that your are on mission with God. God is a missionary God, and He sends out a missionary people. Missional folks preach the Gospel by serving, blessing, and being involved in the community glocally. Some missional thinkers stress justice issues, where others stress the importance of evangelizing. Both perspectives are correct because both are part of God’s mission to reconcile all things under the authority of Jesus. Extreme missional thinkers are weak on stressing the importance of Gospel proclamation, where extreme Gospel proclamation folks are weak on stressing the importance on justice issues. The good thing is that both are actively trying to convey God’s redemptive story in this world. A balanced definition of missional, I think, is simple: Being missional means participating in God’s ministry of reconciliation out of gratitude for Jesus saving us and adopting us as his followers. Jesus is the King, so we must live like the King and adopt his Kingdom ethic. The missional movement is a missionary movement one way or another because the direction of movement is towards the unchurched. The goal is that others will come to know their need for a Savior-King too.

So now to the question: Are you missional?

Tim Keller quotes Alan Kreider who, “observes how the early church grew 40 percent per decade for nearly three centuries.” (
Center Church, pg.284). Alan writes:

The early Christians did not engage in public preaching; it was too dangerous. There are practically no evangelists or missionaries who names we know… The early Christian had no mission boards. They did not write treatises about evangelism… After Nero’s persecution in the mid-first century, the churches in the Roman Empire closed their worship services to visitors. Deacons stood at the churches’ doors, serving as bouncers, checking to see that no unbaptized person, no ‘lying informer,’ could come in… And yet the church was growing. Officially it was a superstition. Prominent people scorned it. Neighbors discriminated against the Christians in countless petty ways… It was hard to be a Christian… And still the church grew. Why? (quote from Alan Kreider’s They Alone Know the Right Way to Life: The Early Church and Evangelism, pg. 169-70).

Keller reflects further:
“This striking way of laying out the early church’s social situation forces us to realize that the church must have grown because it was
attractive. Kreider writes, ‘People were fascinated by it, drawn to it as to a magnet.’ He goes on to make a strong historical case that Christian’s lives- their concern for the weak and the poor, their integrity in the face of persecution, their economic sharing, their sacrificial love even for their enemies, and the high quality of their common life together- attracted nonbelievers to the gospel. Once nonbelievers were attracted to the community by the lives of Christians, they became open to talking about the gospel truths that were the source of this kind of life.” pg.285

Keller then reflects on our situation today:
“Why is there so little relational integrity among believers? The answer is largely - though not wholly- motivational. People who are in the blend-in mode often lack courage. They are (rightly) concerned about losing influence, being persecuted behind-the-scenes ways, or being penalized professionally. On the other hand, those who are in the bubble mode are unwilling to make the emotional, social or even financial and physical investment in the people around them.” pg. 285

I have had to do some serious soul searching in discovering my missional identity here in southwest Wake County. It takes time, effort, and intentionality. It takes being motivated in
every single conversation. That’s hard to do because it is easy to check out. Our Culture of Comforts invites us to check out. The early church’s ability to attract others through all it went through is a powerful testimony to the Spirit’s power. Today we need to pray for the motivation to escape the comforts and bubbles in order to discover God’s intended purpose to draw people and His whole creation under the authority of His son.

Today, Heather, the boys, and I had lunch with missionaries in Cary who work for Trans World Radio. It was a pleasure to get to know these fellow Canucks! They showed us a powerful video that puts on display the glory of the Gospel that transcends culture. As you watch, pray that the Holy Spirit will use Romans 8 to move you in God’s direction of mission. Enjoy!

TWR: Speaking Hope to the World from TWR on Vimeo.

Soutwest Wake County

Back in April, I wrote the following in the blog entitled South Raleigh/Apex/Fuquay-Varina:
Holly Springs borders Apex, South Raleigh and Fuquay-Varina and we are observing rapid growth!  For example, let’s take Apex.  Apex, to the north of Holly Springs, experienced a 306.8% population jump from 1990 to 2000!  That is quite the growth. Fuquay-Varina, a town to the immediate south of Holly Springs had just over 4000 people in 1990.  Today it has over 18,000 people.  The southern part of Raleigh has grown by 106% since 1990.

Connected to all this is the town of Cary as well where I currently use office space at First Reformed Church of Cary. In 1990, Cary had a population of 45,500. Today it has more than 140,000. The more time we spend time in Southwest Wake County, the more it is clear how interdependent they are with one another. For example, the kids I coach at Holly Springs Sonshine Gymnastics are from all over neighbouring towns. Sure there are kids from Holly Springs, but there are also kids from all over Southwest Wake County. For those reading from Ontario, it would be similar to Dundas, Waterdown, and Ancaster, Ontario- without a huge wall of rock dividing them. It’s one big web. In fact, the city limits are not even defined yet. There’s talk right now between the towns of Apex and Holly Springs that would create a massive change for both towns. Currently Apex ‘owns’ everything south of Highway 1, however, the moment you drive south of Highway 1, you feel more connected to Holly Springs. The reason why Apex is open to the idea of lending land to Holly Spring is because Holly Springs has a huge water supply that Apex could tap into being that they are short on water. Holly Springs is a fitting name indeed.

This growing web creates a huge community. The one thing that is increasingly becoming clear is that we need to take advantage of the current gifts God is giving us in Southwest Wake County. I have a fantastic office to use in Cary, and God has placed me in that office for a reason. I also have a fantastic job coaching gymnastics 8 hours a week in Holly Springs. I am meeting parents and kids from all over the place. The hope is that these connections will eventually translate into a thriving worship community where people come and experience the joy of salvation we have in Jesus Christ.

All in all, please pray that God will continue to open doors and opportunities in Southwest Wake County to connect with more and more people. We are not sure where this is all going to lead- other than the hope that it will lead to a congregation, of course. Still, we daily pray for guidance and direction.

During this time of clarity, there are also significant questions regarding where this plant is sprouting. As we continue to seek clarity, please continue to pray for us. God is opening doors to connect with folks, but it’s slow and now that the residency is over there is a sense of urgency that did not exist in August. Please pray that we will have the patience to wait on Him for ongoing/daily direction.

2013-10-14. Holly Springs

2013-10-14. Cary

2013-10-14. Apex
Thank you, Google Maps.


My wife used to called me ‘CRC Boy’. It was an endearing tongue-in-cheek title that captured a big part of my identity. I have always been surrounded by Christian Reformed Churches (CRC). I attended one the first 19 years of my life. I visited many others going to youth services or visiting other friends and family. In college, I attended many different expressions of them. I interned at one in British Columbia now called Cornerstone CRC. Of course, I pastored at Immanuel CRC for 6.5 years in Hamilton. Hamilton is also a CRC hotbed. Many Dutch immigrants passed through Hamilton on their way to start other CRC churches across Ontario. My grandparents, for example, got started in the Hamilton community decades ago before they started farming in Blyth, Ontario. In addition to being connected to CRC churches, I have also been heavily influenced by Christian schools. I have attended three different Christian school institutions that have the name ‘Calvin’ in it. Much of my reality up to this point in life has been connected with people who understand and know not only me personally, but me corporately. The CRC and Christian school community is what I have known.

Now I live in Raleigh where this is absolutely no concept of the CRC. Seriously, when I say to people that I am a part of the Christian Reformed Church, they do not really know what to say. Some people have their guard up, wondering whether or not I am trying to start a cult. Rather than convince them that one of the ‘C’ in CRC does
not stand for ‘cult’, I try to align myself with the Presbyterians. “We believe the same sorts of things the Presbyterian churches believe,” I say, “except the CRC originates from The Netherlands as opposed to Scotland or England.” People still look at me suspiciously.

There are pros and cons that go with being in a CRC island. I am getting to know people from the Presbyterian Church of America, Presbyterian Church of the United States of America, the United Methodist Church, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and plenty of different forms of Baptists. It’s been fun to get to know some of their own denominational idiosyncrasies. However, it can feel a little lonely knowing that the closest CRC church from here is about 3.5 hours east. Terra Ceia is the only established CRC church in the state of North Carolina. Virginia has some CRCs, and the further north one goes towards New Jersey, the CRC per capita increases. I am attended classis in a couple of weeks in New Jersey, and I will be flying there.

At the same time, God is planting CRC seeds in this region. This coming Sunday a collegue named Sam Boldenow will be preaching at Terra Ceia CRC. I will be evaluating that sermon for classis because Sam is being called to be a CRC campus pastor/church planter at North Carolina State University. This is all very exciting having another ordained CRC brother here in town. Of course, First Reformed Church of Cary is nearby as well. It’s all very curious what God is doing, but I look forward to seeing where the Spirit will blow and how the CRC can reach out and bless this region of the country. I say this because the point of this blog is not to give praise to a denomination, but to celebrate the different expressions of the Body of Christ that can build each other up when we do things in collaboration. People who know me- especially my work with TrueCity over the years in Hamilton- know that I am one who likes to make the circle wider. When that happens, it’s invigorating and inspiriting to see how God is powerfully at work in Christians across denominational divides. Moving to an area as a stranger means leaning on brothers and sisters who have the same faith, who believe in the same Lord, and who have the same Spirit working inside of them.

Do you feel the diversity of the Body of Christ? How have you learned from other denominations and how can you grow to experience the support and love from other brothers and sisters in Jesus?

2013-09-07. Protestant_branches.svg
Picture courtesy of Wikipedia

This simplistic picture represents a small percentage of the splintering that has existed in the Protestantism. My hope is that these lines will come closer together without compromising robust theology grounded on Gospel of Jesus Christ.