Evangelism in the Church Order: Christian Reformed Church

In an effort to encourage pastors and church leaders to support and engage in public evangelistic efforts, I am sharing and commenting on how the church government supports this activity. My own denomination is the Christian Reformed Church of North America, so I start here. These are notes from the 2017 Church Order and other related documents.

First, here’s a summary. The church (local), classis (regional), and synod (global) all have a responsibility in evangelism and outreach. This is best summarized in Article 73 saying, In joyful obedience to the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, the church is called to bear witness to Jesus Christ and his kingdom through word and deed.  All is a cooperative operation of word (Elders) and deed (Deacons).

The primary responsibility in evangelism and outreach is with the Elders, which includes pastoral leadership in Ministry of the Word, but diaconal benevolence work is also part of this commission.

There is a clear responsibility of the pastor, or minister of the Word. The minister of the Word is distinguished as one who has received seminary training, has been examined and ordained for this key role. In similar fashion, there is outlined the role of the Commissioned Pastor, which can be a temporary position in an unorganized church or a secondary position in the presence of the minister of the Word, but focused on a particular area of ministry, such as youth or outreach.

For the pastor, Article 12 lays out the responsibilities for the minister, with other officebearers., [they] shall…engage in and promote the work of evangelism and diaconal outreach. For the commissioned pastor, it is similar, indicating in Article 23 and 24, that these areas of ministry include ministries such as education and evangelism. Regarding skill qualifications, they lead the church of Jesus Christ to fulfill the New Testament purposes of outreach. Their task is to bear witness to Christ through… evangelism so that unbelievers may be called to faith.

I like the simple statement regarding Outreach – The commissioned pastor is able personally to share (witness); to defend (apologetics) the faith; and to lead the church in reaching out to the lost, in receiving them, and in developing new churches.

In the CRC, the pastor is considered one of the Elders, and is accountable to them. Yet, the Elders are to lead the church, serving for a limited time. It gives an evangelistic responsibility as well to the Elders in article 25, the elders, with the minister(s)... shall participate in and promote evangelism and shall defend the faith. I love how, in all of these situations it uses strong indicators of the responsibility, such as must and shall. Also, in the formulation for the installation of offices (1982), it says of the elder they must ... stimulate witness to all people among other things.

You will also notice in these articles and statements, that evangelism and outreach is not limited to the pastor and elders, but others in the church also are to do this. Consider that they lead the church in these things, or they engage in and promote evangelism. They are to lead by example, by doing, by teaching and edification with an expectation that the people in the congregation of the church are fulfilling the call of the church to the Great Commission.

These activities all happen within the context of an organized church. Yet, article 38 regarding unorganized, affiliated, or union churches should have similar responsibilities in outreach.

There is responsibility beyond the context of the local church into the other levels, regionally, nationally, and globally. Articles 73-76 explain these additional responsibilities. The denomination carries these out in the form of Home Missions and World Missions organizations globally as well as similar committees at the classis, regional, level. In Article 74, Each church shall proclaim the gospel to its community and to extend to all the invitation to experience new life in Christ through repentance and faith. It also encourages the council to develop a vision and provide training and leadership to equip the church to fulfill its unique evangelistic and diaconal calling.

There are many ways which our church order stresses our responsibilities for evangelism and outreach. How well are we holding to these words to bear witness to Christ and defend the faith in our regular practices. Even more so, we must be faithful to the Word of God, and the responsibility and faithfulness God gives us there.

Additional Information

2017 CRC Church Order


Author: Jon Neifert
Posted on November 04 2018