“We Need You to Be You”
On Sunday night, synod delegates came together to discuss the RCA’s future as a multiethnic church. In the evening plenary session, they heard general secretary Tom De Vries describe his vision for the denomination, as well as a talk on Christianity and society by Soong-Chan Rah, Milton B. Engebretson professor of church growth and evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary.
“How we live together in the RCA is critical—how we view the family life together is important,” De Vries told delegates. “This family called the RCA needs you. We need you to change the house. We need you to be you; to bring who God created you to be into the house.
“Don’t accept our liturgies and our hymns. Write your own. We want to live a large and integrated life together. The RCA will be better as a mosaic…that’s what it means to be the body of Christ.”
Rah spoke on the way the church has historically engaged with the world, moving from the “city on a hill” evangelistic outlook of nineteenth-century Christianity to the de-Europeanization of American Christianity today. While churches are “off-the charts segregated,” Rah said, public schools in the same communities tend to be, on average, six times more diverse. He challenged delegates to reconsider the “run away and hide” strategy that Christians have often used to deal with culture, and instead consider the theological value of redemption that comes with responding to the communities around them.
“The fastest-growing denominations are most diverse,” Rah said. “The ones that embrace this are able to survive. If Christian institutions are going to survive the next 30 years, there has to be an intentional engagement with diversity.”
Following Rah’s talk, delegates spent time in small groups, discussing the ways their churches and communities have been shaped by changing societal demographics, and sharing ideas on what the church’s response to such changes should be. They also had time for a Q&A with Rah.