Participant Preparatory Work

(1–1.5 hours)

Throughout this section, we will begin to prepare our hearts and minds for our time together in conversation. The following work should be done on your own before gathering with your classis, region, consistory, or community. Begin with the following exercises. You should expect to take at least 1-1.5 hours.

What you will need:

Your Bible
A pad of paper or journal
Writing utensil

Read

Read the following passage from 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 (ESV).

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Respond

Now take your journal or pad of paper and respond to the following questions. Begin by writing down anything that may have stood out to you in this passage. If you have read this passage before, what words or images did you notice differently today?

1. How might God be inviting you to pray today?
2. How might God be inviting you to pray for yourself?
3. How might God be inviting you to pray for your church or your local community?
4. How might God be inviting you to pray for the Reformed Church in America?

Pray

As the Spirit leads you, pray in the ways you’ve outlined above.

Read

Before you attend your Listening Together workshop, please read the following paper by Dennis Voskuil, titled “History of Conflicts in the RCA.” The contents of this paper will be one large point of discussion during the in-person gathering. It is important that you read through the paper intentionally and with attentiveness. If you jot down any notes or reactions you have as you read, please bring those notes with you to the discussion.

Reflect

Now begin to work through the following questions. Jot down your answers on your notepad.

1. What is the purpose of a denomination? Does a denomination matter? If so, what makes it matter?
2. If someone were to ask you what the RCA is, what would you say? Briefly describe the denomination.
3. What are your current thoughts and feelings about the Reformed Church in America as a denomination?
4. What is your best hope for the RCA? What is your worst fear for the RCA?
5. What does it mean for people who are very different from one another, and sometimes seriously conflicted, to be members of “one body”?
6. What could the future of the denomination look like? Be creative! If you could completely reimagine our structures and organizations, what would you do? Consider this question from at least two denominational ministry perspectives.

Pray again

As you close in prayer, take time to remember the multiple Listening Together discussions happening across the denomination. Praise God for the gift of the Holy Spirit and ask for the Spirit to guide and direct the future of the RCA.