Part of the ideology of the “Missional Church” movement in the RCA is historically inaccurate and unfair.
The ideology proposes language that the RCA has heretofore had something like a “settler” mentality, or whatever, and that now the RCA has to move to a “missional” mentality.
Well, it’s typical of ideology to make caricatures of history.
Yesterday I happened to be looking through the Historical Directory, 2000 edition. I happened to be visiting my parents, and we were trying to remember some facts about some old RCA names, like Howard Schade and Richard Vanden Berg.
In passing, I noticed how many new congregations had been started in Brooklyn between the years 1824 and 1977. Thirty-five of them. Yes, 35 new congregations in 150 years. That’s more than one new congregation every 5 years, on the average.
By one classis, the South Classis of Long Island, now the Classis of Brooklyn.
So it’s just not fair to propagandize revolutionary change in the RCA on the basis of advocating some new “missional” mentality to replace an old “settler” mentality. Those “settlers” certainly believed in New Church Development.
Yes, a great number of those congregations exist no more, though some do, and two of them are very strong. But we all know that from new church starts, that the survival ratio is low.
Yes, there is no question that we need to examine the realities of declining numbers and we need to envision revitalization. But we also need leadership that is more honest with the realities. Not just for the sake of integrity, but also for the practical requirements of success.
By the way, those two old lions of the RCA, Richard Vanden Berg and Howard Schade, were secretaries, successively, of the Board of Domestic / North American Missions. My father told me how hard they worked in support of inner-city churches, how much they encouraged them and advocated for them, and found them money to support their salaries.
These secretaries did not answer to any Chief Executive. They answered to their Boards, and they were committed to the ministries they supported. They were free to advocate for their ministries before the assemblies (because of the distinction between governance from program), and they did so. That, I submit, is good missional thinking and pratice.
Daniel Meeter, VDM