Are We an Outward or an Inward Looking Church?
“We are outwardly focussed. We believe our community is a mission field. We do not exist for ourselves, but for the glory of God and our neighbours’ salvation.” That is a quote taken from the website of the Providence Canadian Reformed Church in Hamilton, Ontario. Do you agree with that statement? I believe that the last sentence is Biblical, but do our churches have this outward focus? Can we apply the other two sentences to our own congregations? To ourselves? We may believe that our community is a mission field, but can we honestly say that we are outwardly focussed? Are the Canadian Reformed Churches outward or inward looking? Can we remain confessionally Reformed and be outward focused?
Rev. Wes Bredenhof, pastor at Providence, and blogger at Yinkahdinay, is writing a series of articles under the title, Outward Looking Church: Current Craze or Christ’s Commission? I have certainly appreciated these articles, as it is no secret that I am one of the vocal proponents within the Canadian Reformed Churches for our need to become more outward looking, while remaining confessionally Reformed. I appreciate Pastor Bredenhof’s candor, his high view of scripture, and his outward focus.
With his grace-driven, gospel-sharing emphasis, Pastor Bredenhof will almost certainly upset two distinct groups of people in our federation of churches. Those who are comfortable with the status-quo and enjoy living in the bubble of our quiet corner of the Dutch reformed sub-culture, as well as those on the opposite end of the spectrum who want to dismantle the organs, burn the confessions and Genevan tunes, and hyper-contextualize ourselves to the society around us.
I fully support the view he presents and the argument he is making, and I rejoice that the predominately inward focus of our Churches in the past appears to be changing by God’s grace. We serve a faithful God!
We can be confessionally Reformed in the fullest sense, and be outward looking churches. You don’t have to choose between one and the other. There are Reformed missionaries who have the Three Forms of Unity, not only as their confessional basis, but also as a powerful missionary tool. Around the world in the most surprising places, there are Reformed churches who are not only NOT ashamed to sing the psalms (and even with Genevan melodies), but they delight in doing so. So let me lay my cards on the table at the outset: I am going to argue that not only can confessionally Reformed churches be outward looking and be healthy – they must be outward looking in order to be healthy. ~ Wes Bredenhof