It was the year 1965. The synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches met in session on June 2 at the First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rap­ids. Was this a monumental meeting of synod? Prob­ably not. But at this synod an eleven-page “new policy” for domestic missions and church extension work was adopted (see Acts of Synod, 1965, pp. 105-115). In years following, this policy faded away into oblivion for one reason or another. But it was a good policy. This now forty-eight-year-old policy stated (p. 112):

It is not merely the labor of a missionary to sit back and wait for an assignment to a specific field. The day of fields spontaneously presenting themselves is largely over. Besides, even in the past fields did not arise spontaneously, but through propaganda labors. The mis­sionary must, in a sense, create his own field of labor. Not only should much propaganda effort be put forth with a view to uncovering potential fields of labor; but once a potential field arises, investigative and prepara­tory work should be carefully planned and patiently executed. This work of investigation should not be hastily and generally carried out in a week or two without any preparation and planning. Plans should be laid, ample time should be given to the work, specific aspects and goals should be set for investigation, and patient labor should be bestowed.

Forty-eight years ago it was stated: “the day of fields spontaneously presenting themselves is largely over.” A half a century ago our churches were already faced with the reality: “the missionary must, in a sense, create his own field of labor.” It can be granted that this was writ­ten at a time in the history of the Protestant Reformed Churches when there was a noticeable lull in her work of domestic missions. But that fact does not change the reality: the day of fields spontaneously presenting themselves is largely over. If that was true forty-eight years ago, how much more is it true now. The nation in which we live has as a whole rejected the gospel and the truth of God’s Word. There are few groups of people that are interested in the Reformed faith, much less what the Protestant Reformed Churches have to offer. There is an individual or two here and there, but the day of groups of Reformed believers asking for help to develop into a church is past. Domestic missions requires that we find and develop fields of labor.

The question is: how? That seems to be quite a daunting task! Where do we go to find a place to work? And if we find a place, then how do we discover individuals in that place and develop them into a vi­able group of believers that desire to be an organized church? These are questions that the Domestic Mis­sion Committee and I have been struggling with for some time already.

Here is a method we believe is biblical—and sim­ply makes sense. On his first missionary journey the apostle Paul traveled to a region in Asia Minor known as Galatia. In this area Paul established, not one, but a group of churches: Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Paul was not content to establish only one isolated church. On his second missionary journey Paul labored in Macedonia and there established, not one, but three churches: Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. On his third missionary journey Paul labored for a number of years in a region of Asia Minor known then as Asia. Using Ephesus as his base he (and oth­ers) established a large group of churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Philadelphia, Pergamos, Sardis, Laodicea, etc. We use Paul in his mission work to establish principles in doing our own work in missions. We would like to try to follow this model of Paul in establishing groups of churches in various places. (We are already doing it in our foreign work in the Philippines.) We would like to pursue domestic mission work in the areas of our isolated congregations. That is a task, of course, left up to the Domestic Mission Committee and our individual congregations to work out. Personally, I am interested in pursuing this method of labor in my own mission work in the Pittsburgh area.

We have an established work in the city of Pitts­burgh. But Pittsburgh is a large metropolitan area with its many boroughs and suburbs. In this large metropo­lis our tiny church plant in one small borough is but a speck of dust on the window of this city. We advertise on the radio, we have a presence on the Internet, we send out mailers, and put ads in papers, but how many people in this city even know we exist? Ninety-eight percent of the population of this city does not even know of our presence here. Instead of concentrating all our efforts into our Fellowship, therefore, we intend to be much broader in out outreach. We must go out into the highways and hedges and, as many as we find, bid to come to hear the gospel (Matt. 22:9, 10). To focus all our attention on one location in Pittsburgh and the majority of our labors on one small group of people is not fulfilling the mandate to preach the gospel indiscriminately to as many as possible. Using, then, the model of the apostle Paul we are presently trying something a little different in our mission work in our city.

Those who keep up a little on the labors in Pitts­burgh have probably wondered why several ministers were sent here to labor with me at the end of 2012. I needed some help. It is not that there has been some sudden breakthrough in a new area. There has been no new request for help from a group of people. But for some time now I have wanted to expand our labors into another area of Pittsburgh. Because of the work in the Fellowship, however, I was tied down and unable to do this. Southwest Protestant Reformed Church and the Domestic Mission Committee decided to lend me some help to give me time to explore outside of the immediate vicinity of the Fellowship. These men have now come and gone. Their labors were greatly appre­ciated for a number of reasons. The main reason was their willingness to help out in the Fellowship while I explored elsewhere. They also took an active interest in my exploration and helped out with their advice.

There are three different locations just outside of Pittsburgh proper that are of interest to our Fellowship. Each one is a thriving, vibrant community. They are centers of commerce and are growing (much like the cities in which Paul labored). Although it is the desire of the saints in our Fellowship to try to begin a work in all three of these places at one time, we recognize our limitations. A second missionary would be needed for this kind of work. So we had to choose one place. With the assistance of the visiting ministers, Cranberry Township, about a forty-minute drive north of our pres­ent location, was chosen.

Now, the question: how can contacts be found if there are not already some serious contacts in a particular area? How can the missionary create his own mission field? It would be valuable to evaluate what lies behind that question. But let’s assume it is simply this: how does one develop something out of nothing? Southwest Church, the Domestic Mission Committee, and I are trying to discover an answer to that question with our new labor in Cranberry Township. Obviously, as the Policy of 1965 pointed out, ample time must be spent there and patient labor must be bestowed. The missionary must become part of the community as much as possible. I now have spent some time in the community center there. It is a booming place with the hustle and bustle of people old and young alike. The library, the chamber of commerce, the senior and teen center, a preschool, a number of rooms to rent for meetings—all located under the same roof. I have spent time in the library, even taking a class there. I have spent time with seniors, joining in on a Bible study with a number of them. I am now renting a room there for a class that has begun mid-January. I also have fre­quented the community college in Cranberry, taking a class there on Power Point presentation. This all may seem peripheral, but it is needed in order to become acquainted with the community and to have people become acquainted with me. Now I am looking for various opportunities to speak to people as well

The most recent development is that of a commu­nity class on Old Testament history. Mailers were sent out to almost every address in Cranberry inviting the public to this class. We had 22 people register for the class. We are planning on more than 30 in attendance, including the members of our Fellowship who are tak­ing an active interest in this work. This class does not constitute a core group with which I am working in Cranberry. It is merely a community class. Most of these people are not looking for a new church home, but are simply interested in learning Old Testament history. But we deem this an excellent opportunity first of all to teach others this history from a Reformed, bib­lical perspective. It is also our hope that maybe a few might be interested in pursuing a study of Reformed doctrine. We wait on the Lord’s leading.

It is our prayer that perhaps by means of expanded labors to various areas around Pittsburgh we might be able to develop a number of mission groups and pos­sibly churches in the area. Perhaps this will determine how we carry on our mission work in the future. May God bless our efforts.