Life Changes

Reposting to remind people - we are packing the truck this week, and leaving Monday!
Also check out comments...

As if 4 children 5 and under weren't enough adjustment...

I have accepted a call to pastor Covenant Heritage Reformed Fellowship, in Newport News, Virginia, soon to be a part of the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches. We will be moving some time in late September, probably.

We have been at North Blendon Reformed Church, part of the Reformed Church in America in which I was born and raised, for nearly 3 years - too short, it would seem, but God has called us to Virginia.

Please pray for us as we are leaving virtually all of our family and friends behind in West Michigan. Neither Sara or I have lived elsewhere for an extended time.

There are theological and lifestyle differences between the two denominations and congregations, and I may post a series on those as time allows in the busy months ahead!


  1. Steve, it is sad to see you going to another denomination as the RCA needs all the strong conservative ministers it can find. You will be missed, but at least I will keep up to date with you blogging. Maybe you will make it out to the Banner next year so we can meet in person.

  2. Congratulations!

    Blessings, RogueMonk

  3. Steve,

    From one RCA expatriate to another, let me tell you that it is good not to have to wage the sorts of battles you have been waging.

    There are always battles to be fought in ministry, to be sure. But, it is a blessed relief to be devoted to real spiritual battles, and not having to fight the forces of unbelief and compromise.

    There are things you will miss (I preached at Eastmanville URC a few weeks ago, and LOVED the service, the singing, the psalms, etc. I miss that most), to be sure.

    For me, leaving family behind is the toughest part of ministry. I long to be closer, but I don't ever see it happening. It is part of the cost, I guess.

    I pray God will bless you, and, if you get to the Blue Ridge of VA, look us up!

  4. Wow, Ken, Eastmanville is just 5 minutes away from our house! We missed you!

    Your comment about battles: this was central to the decision. What kind of battles do we want to fight? What ministry issues do we want to deal with?

  5. I know it will be difficult to leave family behind. I don't have that same sense of continuity because my extended family is scattered to the four winds and I served in the US Navy for 12 years. But I understand and can sympathize.

    And don't worry. We'll get the website updated ASAP. We don't want people thinking we're STILL looking for a pastor. ;-)

  6. Steve, I have a query.

    The church that you are moving to, is a church that at first glance I'm not sure I would want to attend. Why? They don't encourage women bible studies. Women are basically to only learn from their hubbies or the regular church service, while the men are encouraged to learn more through two monthly meetings.

    Their reasoning is that women and children should be taught at home by their husbands/fathers. the line I refer to is "but we do not place a strong emphasis on "women's meetings" since the women are having daily Bible study with the husbands and their children, and are involved in the regular worship services of the church. "

    So what happens in a situation where:
    1. woman attends whose husband is not a believer
    2. woman attends whose husband is not a good teacher but tries to be
    3. woman attends whose husband simply doesn't 'do' family worship

    How is this woman's needs to grow deeper in fellowship with the Lord supposed to happen? I know that a lot can happen attending morning worship. And for many women that is sufficient. But how about those who just need or want more? where do they go?

    it wouldn't be easy for the women in positions two and three to say...frankly my hubbie doesn't do family worship, or he's really not a good teacher. How would a woman show respect for her hubbie in that situation? It would not be easy for a woman to say in a home visit that this is an area of struggle/difficulty.

    Don't misunderstand me, I do think it is good for a church to encourage headship and leadership principles are per biblical standards. I just wonder what a woman would do if they are aren't exercised as they aught to be in the home.

  7. Good questions, Annette.

    The reason women's Bible studies are not encouraged is the belief that a woman's primary spiritual nurture should come from her husband. This is not to discourage woman to woman friendships - don't forget Titus 2. But in our feminized church today, it's the women who are seeking while the men are drifting. If women are going to find leadership, they find it among other women. This is what we're rejecting.

    The 3 situations you list are real, and the church is delinquent if it doesn't address those situations, but they are exceptions to the rule.

    The Church ought not set up classes catering to pastoral exceptions. While this has an appearance of addressing the problem, it is actually inadequate (much like government programs that "solve" a "crisis"). The women in these 3 situations DO need nurture from other women or elders, but to program that in official Bible studies sets up the expectation in most women's minds that your husband can't meet this need in your life. We're saying, he should be able to, and if he can't, we'll address it in less conspicuous ways.

    Now, don't misunderstand. The 3 situations you list should get more-than-average pastoral attention from elders. But that attention is personal, case-by-case and relational. This is far better than a women's class that attracts all the most needy who are then fed by the teacher. Such a class sets up problems, especially when the teacher starts getting nominated for elder, and ladies in the class are being unintentionally trained to look to strong women for leadership instead of bump-on-a-log men. Again, I'm not saying women shouldn't teach other women - Titus 2 anyone? Mature women who train younger women in godliness are a gift to the Body. But this can be done in a way that undermines the husband's leadership or in a way that affirms it.

    A woman in one of these 3 situations should discuss it with her husband. If he's not receptive (#1) the church should acknowledge that and some women can enfold and nurture her in intentional ways through friendship, informal discussion - also a regular elder visit to help her. If the husband IS receptive to the problem (#2 and maybe #3), the issue is training. Men's meetings should be practical enough that husbands have options to think through for how to use his family's time together.

    Sometimes men can try to confound the receptive distinction, to stay out of trouble. "I WANT to do better, but I just can't pray out loud in front of my family." They ACT receptive, but really are not. A refusal to try, is a lack of willingness to be a good husband.

    I also think at the beginning, when a woman sees what the guy should be doing, but he doesn't see it, but is receptive to doing it - there can be an initial, legitimate process where the wife leads her husband into leadership. "Honey, we need this. Would you please...?" This is okay as long as it doesn't become continual, nagging or overly directive. I think women are already trained in this in many ways. When Sara asks me for something, it is seldom a direct question. While she's feeding Zach, she'll say, "I have a big glass of water, and I forgot to bring it over before I sat down." Drives me crazy sometimes, but she is letting me meet her needs, and also giving me the responsibility and initiative in meeting that need. It's a beautiful thing!

    Is this helpful? I greatly appreciate your raising the question. I find many conservative evangelicals willing to uphold Scripture's teaching on male headship, even if they're a minority. But then they recoil when faced with some practical outworkings of living that submission. But then, that's true of submission in any area of life (job, government, etc.)

  8. Steve

    Thank you for taking the time to explain your reasoning behind what your new church will be doing.

    I haven't thought everything through as ... I"m starting to get into vacation mode and getting things ready but these are the thoughts ever so briefly on my brain...

    I still think that you are putting a lot of onus on the woman to speak up. Perhaps you have a different understanding of many women than I do, but I do know that many women would be hesitate, if after approaching their husband, to go to the church and say hey...this is a problem for me. I would be... and I have a hubbie who's for the most part a very good hubbie and head of household BUT won't engage in bible study with me. PRIMARILY I think because we learn differently. He learns best by reading different commentaries and studying the verse and doing a lot of internal mental work. I, on the other hand, need that engagement back and forth---it somehow helps me to think the passage through more clearly. So I can't and don't fault him for this.

    I have learned to appreciate his.... so, study it more, as it does force me to look at things more. But I dislike that when I have questions that's all he says...is go study it more. I like to engage in conversation with others it, helps me to think new thoughts and to get feedback and to .. what can I say...I"m a woman...I like to engage in conversation and have that back and forth stuff. I don't get that with him on a one-to-one level.

    SO... I have found a women's bible study where I can get that. You are telling me that in your church I wouldn't be allowed to have that on a weekly basis BECAUSE my hubbie should do that with me.

    Hmm... leaves me between a rock and hard place doesn't it? At least that's how it feels. Maybe it's that your new church doesn't want to set that kind of thing up formally, BUT informally you wouldn't discourage small group discussion????

    I don't know Steve...part of my reaction to this is coming from a church where... if I disagreed with what was taught on the pulpit... I was either ignored or "patted on the head" and told there there dear..you just misunderstood WHEN I know I hadn't because I had a copy of the sermon, and had asked other people what they thought they heard.... and therefore I had put together a sound scriptural arguement as to why what was taught was WRONG. blatently wrong.

    AND when I pushed for someone, anyone with whom I could have serious bible study with was asked why on earth would I want to do that? Sunday morning and mid-week should be more than enough for me. I felt so frustrated and so... ignored and stupid for wanting more. And I would just hate for a woman to have to feel like that in your church -- beacuse your church in many other ways sounds like a church I would like...scriptural, God-fearing, and biblical in it's leadership.

    So maybe this vacationing brain of mine is over-reacting....but I just wonder if you are throwing the baby out with the bathwater in an over-reaction to the potentials of abuse in women led FOR women bible studies.

  9. I understand the questions and the double takes concerning this particular issue. Please let me clarify one thing that will hopefully calm a few fears.

    The church's position is exactly what Steve explained. And part of that is the emphasis on informal ministry between individuals and families. In addition, we are not trying to control the lives of the congregants. So while we do not offer church-run women's Bible studies, we certainly do NOT forbid informal ministry between women. That would be dictatorial, and counter to our emphasis on encouraging such ministries.

    A lot of people will probably say, "how can you be sure this will work, that no one will be overlooked, that needs won't be properly met. Don't you need someone in the church in charge of all that?" The answer is both simple and difficult ...

    Committed and involved elders. Each and every one of us takes his shepherding duties seriously. Seriously enough to keep regular contact with all of our familes, to make frequent phone calls to heads of households, and to meet with husbands and wives and ask tough questions like "Tell me about your study time together, and are you BOTH satisfied with how it's going?"

    It's a simple answer, but it requires a LOT of work by the elders. But we are the shepherds of the congregation. The flock won't shepherd itself.

  10. Wow. As a pastor's wife, with a husband who fits Annette's husband's profile, I would concur with Annette about concerns for women of the church. Although most women I know would love to have their husbands pray and do Bible study with them, very few actually do. And the recommendation for women to speak to the elders is not at all a feasible possibility in my assessment.

    Adding to this mix is the information on domestic violence among believers. According to an article by Brenda Branson and Paula Silva in Christian Counseling Today (Vol. 13 No. 3), one in every four women in each church community is currently being abused by their partner, or has experienced abuse at some time in the past. A big part of the abuse is spiritual abuse.

    If the elders of a church are going to take oversight of women's spiritual lives through the headship of the husbands, I would like to see some kind of accountability by the elders directly for the men (on a consistent basis) to be providing an atmosphere in the home for positive spiritual nuture. Furthermore, it would be helpful for elders (in particular) but men (in general) to become aware of the issue of domestic abuse and what constitutes physical, verbal, emotional, and spiritual abuse. (Check out focusministries1.org for a wealth of information and resources on this topic.)

    Presently, I am working with a woman from our congregation who is verbally and spiritually abused. From all appearances, she and her huband have a perfect family. On the day she first called me to ask for my help I was shocked because I least expected it. This afternoon, I had lunch with a highly visible Christian woman in the Wheaton, IL area who confided in me that she has been verbally abused and spiritually neglected for most of her marriage (30 + years). Neither of these women are willing to go to their elders for fear of retribution from their husbands and for tarnishing their husbands' public persona.

    Steve, I am very sensitive to the "feminization" of the church and the lack of understanding (or dismissal) of male headship. However, hear Annette and me out. I think you know enough of each of us to realize that each desires God glorifying marriages and churches. Yet, as women, (who are thinkers and students of the Word) we are concerned for women in our congregations who are desiring deeper intimacy with God.


  11. Margie, I honestly share your concern, but these words of yours alleviate that concern: "If the elders of a church are going to take oversight of women's spiritual lives through the headship of the husbands, I would like to see some kind of accountability by the elders directly for the men (on a consistent basis) to be providing an atmosphere in the home for positive spiritual nuture."

    Believe it or not, I have discovered a church world where elders are actually committed to doing this. People and churches like this exist. I agree that if it's just lip service, then such a structure leaves a gaping pastoral hole where women are horribly vulnerable to abuse. The church is the first line of defense against this.

  12. See here for more reading on this, from a woman's perspective.


  13. Steve, kudos then to the men in your new congregation. I think it is SO cool when men take themselves and their positions within the church seriously...AND expect other men to do the same.

    May God's favour rest upon you and your new church. And may the women grow in the nuture of the Lord as well. :) My prayers will continue to be with you and yours.