The Rev. Chris DeVos joined WTS on January 19 as the new Associate Director of Journey for Ridder Church Renewal.
Chris grew up in Grand Rapids, MI, where his family was deeply involved in both an RCA and a CRC church. While attending Calvin Theological Seminary, he sensed a call to pastoral ministry with the need to bring renewal to the church. He spent six years in campus ministry at the University of Colorado before answering a call to a CRC church in Dunwoody, GA. There he spent seven rich years learning what it meant to be a pastor before sensing another call to Kingston, Ontario. Finally, in 2003, Chris moved to Holland to lead Pillar Church, where he participated in Ridder Church Renewal. Chris brings the unique perspective of working in both CRC and RCA churches in the US and Canada, as well as being a pastor who has gone through the Ridder process.
What is Ridder Church Renewal?
Ridder Church Renewal is really more of a movement than a program. It is a process of transformation for pastors and churches, geared toward those who want a more vibrant mission and life as a congregation. We work primarily with pastors and leadership teams of six people. We teach pastors and leaders to take responsibility for their own growth.
It’s as if you hadn’t been eating a great diet for a while, and you begin to ask, “Why do I eat as I do? What do I mean by health and how do I reach it?”
We start out with Faithwalking, digging deep into the hidden assumptions within the personal lives of the pastor and church leaders. Out of personal transformation comes corporate renewal. The entire process is spread out over five years with training and teaching.
What interested you in leading this?
Ridder has made such a big impact on my life and in the life of Pillar Church. To be a part of that with other churches excited me. Even the congregation, although they didn’t want me to go, could see that this was really a good fit for my gifts, passions and experiences.
What impact has Ridder made on you?
The situation of the church right now in North America means that churches have to wrestle with change. Pastors need to learn to be a less-anxious presence in the midst of hard conversations about change and mission. The Ridder process has developed me to be much more capable in that way and much more honest. I’ve had people say to me at Pillar, “You’re a different person than you were when you came here.”
Have you witnessed other renewal?
Every one of the churches involved with Ridder is gaining clarity on what it means to be in mission for God with integrity, authenticity, love, and courage. In the first two and a half years we see a lot of transformation in the lives of pastors. As the process continues, churches help their members see how God is calling them to their own ministries in their community.
Why is Ridder is catching on so fast?
It is the testimony of churches and pastors saying that it has made a deeper difference than just a program. It’s not a quick fix. Ridder focuses on being more genuine and faithful to the gospel.
How many churches are involved?
There are 56 RCA and CRC churches. A year from now there will probably be 120. The churches are located across the U.S. and Canada. They belong to several RCA synods—Great Lakes, Wisconsin, Albany, Mid-America and New York. A number of CRC classes are also represented. We hope to expand into a Pacific NW region and to Iowa, the Dakotas, and Minnesota.
What are your dreams for Ridder?
My dreams all center on what would help pastors and churches grow in their capacity to be in God’s mission in the world. The more we can facilitate that, the better. My main work is to steward this movement as it grows.
We’re exploring ways to craft an even deeper collaboration between Ridder and the academic life of the seminary. I’d love to see more involvement with our faculty, as well as a Doctor of Ministry track for pastors engaged in Ridder.
As our work expands, I want to see more and more pastors and leaders take up the challenge to learn, live, and act in ways that are required of us to be more faithful and fruitful in mission today. I’m committed to doing that in my own life.
Visit ridder.westernsem.edu to learn more