Q Why is it that sometimes God gives us several talents but then doesn’t give us much opportunity to use them vocationally and/or in a volunteer capacity? At the most we are given menial labor and a poor wage.
A It sounds as if you see only darkness around you and are in despair. Perhaps you need to speak to a trained counselor who can assist you in addressing particular issues in your life and career.
I frequently discuss 1 Corinthians 10:13 with people going through difficult times. It assures us that God will “provide a way out” so that we will be able to endure any trial that enters our lives. Though not written for that purpose, this passage can also encourage you to use your talents. The God who gifted you will surely provide a way for you to use those gifts.
If you have the time to volunteer, check out local government or community organizations for information, and then select the opportunities that best fit your gifts. Serve well for the sake of your Savior, others, and yourself.
—George Vander Weit
Q Last month our congregation discussed the synodical decision to separate a formal profession of faith from admission to the communion table. We understand why it’s a wise decision, but still find ourselves confused. How do we invite children to the table? And how might we strengthen the practice of profession of faith?
Too many younger members perceived the Lord's table as something that required on "entrance ticket."
A Synod’s decision is based on the following convictions: (1) The Lord’s table is a means of grace, a gift for God’s people. Too many younger members perceived it as something that required an “entrance ticket”—a formal public profession of faith. (2) Scripture does not mandate a formal profession as required for admission to the table. (3) Scripture does teach that it is good for believers to publicly declare their faith.
So the decision seeks to do three things: (1) strengthen the welcome to the table, especially for younger members; (2) strengthen formal public profession of faith; and (3) call on each individual congregation to work out the details concerning how this might be done. We’re glad your congregation is discussing this; we all need to talk about it.
Formal profession of faith involves three dimensions: receiving the grace of Jesus Christ, accepting Scripture and its reflection in the confessions, and committing to participating in the life of the church. We will continue to discuss the details of just what is a requirement for coming to the table, but certainly it does not require more than the first of these dimensions: receiving the grace of Jesus (which can be done in different ways at almost any age).
Churches can extend the welcome to the table in many different ways involving parents, Sunday school classes, officebearers, and/or worship leaders. Similarly, the three dimensions of a formal public profession of faith can also be strengthened in many different ways.
Dozens of CRC congregations are developing resources related to these questions; these are being compiled at the website crcna.org/faithformation.
Q It is my understanding that Mormonism is a cult, but well-known Mormons like the Osmonds and Mitt Romney don’t seem very cult-like, and in fact seem pretty normal. What about this group makes them a cult? And is Mormonism the same as Latter Day Saints?
A Very normal, moral, and mission-minded people belong to cults. The word cult indicates that a group has departed in some ways from historic Christianity and its confessions. In his book The Four Major Cults (Eerdmans, 1989), the late Calvin Seminary professor Anthony Hoekema identifies the distinctive traits of cults as follows: “an extra-Scriptural source of authority, the denial of justification by grace, the devaluation of Christ, the group as the exclusive community of the saved and the group’s central role in eschatology” (the branch of theology that deals with issues such as death, resurrection, judgment, and immortality) (pp. 377-378).
For example, the ultimate source of authority for Mormonism is found not in the Bible but in three sacred books compiled mainly by its founder, Joseph Smith: the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. The Book of Mormon is the best-known and is subtitled “another testament of Jesus Christ.” It is said to have been translated from gold plates on which the prophet Mormon recorded God’s dealings with people who lived in the Americas between approximately 600 b.c. and a.d. 400. Smith claimed that he found the buried plates in New York with the assistance of the angel Moroni.
Stuff to Know when Cults Come Knocking (Faith Alive Christian Resources, FaithAliveResources.org) says, “Followers of the Mormon Church usually prefer the name Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or simply Latter-day Saints. Since the days of founder Joseph Smith, there have been more than a hundred Mormon splinter groups. Until 2000, the largest of these groups called themselves the Reorganized Church of Latter-day Saints. Now they refer to themselves as the Community of Christ.”
—George Vander Weit