Congregations participating in Ridder Church Renewal find the work of change challenging but worthwhile.
By David Wulkan
Transformation seems like such an innocent word, doesn’t it? It seems less jarring to me than a word like “change.” But of course transformation means change. It also means things like renewal, restoration, and growth. For me, transformation has brought together two other words: “hard” and “glorious.”
Through the Ridder Church Renewal process, whose fundamental assertion is that personal transformation leads to congregational transformation for the sake of God’s mission, I have learned that transformation is both hard and glorious.
Before I began this journey, I assumed that transformation for me would mean tweaking a few things or fine-tuning my spiritual life. I was not expecting an overhaul. It began with a growing awareness that I was not very present to God or others. I lived in a kind of an intellectual bubble, experiencing most things through my mind. When I began to look at this more closely, the Spirit revealed that there was a deeper reality: I was not very connected to God and others. So I adopted some spiritual disciplines designed to help me with this.
Over time, I began to feel more connected, but then I discovered that there was yet another layer underneath all this. And what I discovered was hard. I came face to face with my emotional immaturity. Specifically, I came to realize that I could not make deep connections with others because I had never learned how to feel my emotions. Even writing those words feels distinctly odd to me. So I prayed, journaled, shared, and discovered that I still had some deep emotional pain from my childhood that I had never faced. It was hard.
But it was also glorious. Why? Because I am not alone in this process. My wife, my Faithwalking peers and coaches, my spiritual director, my Ridder team, and my congregation have been with me. The power of this process is that we take this journey together, practicing authenticity and integrity and watching the Holy Spirit do his work of transformation in all of us.
Other pastors have discovered this too. Ron Opmeer, pastor of Bethel Reformed Church in Abbotsford, British Colombia, says, “I recently received great support from my local team and Ridder mentors as I changed some of my parenting perspectives. Living in authentic community is powerful.” Stan Seagren, pastor of Westdale Reformed Church in Hamilton, Ontario, says, “I have gained a community to help me … and go with me on mission.” Hear the passion of Doug Smith, pastor of Emmanuel Community Church in Edmonton, Alberta: “God is working in the hearts of our Ridder team and we are committed to seeing this shouted to our entire church.” Now that’s glorious!
The Ridder Church Renewal process does not hand us a manual for transformation. There is no diagram of Twelve Easy Steps to Transformation. There’s no magic pill or secret prayer. Instead, it is a very defined and demanding process with information to learn, skills to master, and disciplines to develop. Pete Burrill, pastor of Emmanuel Reformed Church in Woodstock, Ontario, says, “We are getting tools to help us with creative thinking and even to have some tough conversations within the congregation.”
In other words, the process is clear and rigorous but what that journey will look like for you remains unclear. That is, until you start walking.
The Ridder Church Renewal process is an enticing invitation to step out in faith, to sit patiently in the presence of our risen Savior and ask him, “Yes, Lord?” And as he reveals each person’s and each congregation’s unique journey of transformation, as he unfolds our unique mission, by God’s grace the question turns into a statement of commitment and trust: “Yes, Lord!”
Editor’s note: If you or your church are interested in Ridder Church Renewal, email Andy Bossardet, coordinator for equipping thriving congregations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Wulkan is pastor of Christ Community Church in St. Albert, Alberta.