Notice the title of the article, “What are we doing?” Missions is the work of the church. In the year 2001, we had three home missionaries, working in three different declared fields with church plants: Northern Ireland, the eastern United States, and the Western United States. The calling of the church was to pray for our missionaries and, of course, financially support the work with their offerings.
In the year of our Lord, 2019, we have one home missionary, with no declared field of labor, except of course, the whole of the United States and Canada. Are we doing anything? Is it the case that eighteen years ago the PRC was considerably more involved with domestic mission work than we are today? Have we lost our mission-mindedness?
First of all, the Domestic Mission Committee (DMC) does not jump in today and start a church plant immediately when we receive a call to “come over and help us.” When we received these requests in the past year, the DMC sent their home missionary and others to investigate whether it was feasible to begin a church plant in those areas.
Second, the DMC, with diminished requests “to come over and help us,” is working with a new approach to establish a definite field of labor. In this model, our congregations are more involved in starting evangelistic Bible studies in their communities and their outlying areas. To date, we have or have had nine of our congregations busy establishing these outreach Bible studies in various areas along with teaching men in correctional facilities. Our congregations are developing contacts that they can pursue or refer to our missionary to labor with.
Is this not the labor of home missions? The congregations are doing the work of missions, not only praying for and financially supporting the work of paid missionaries. The PRC, I believe, is becoming more evangelistic and energetic in this labor. Mission work is a very important calling from Christ to His church, for He said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations.” (Matt. 28:19). In the Canons of Dordt we have a beautiful statement: “And that men may be brought to believe, God mercifully sends the messengers of these most joyful tidings, to whom He will and at what time He pleaseth; by whose ministry men are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified” (Canons I, Art. 3). Again, in the Canons, we read, “Moreover, the promise of the gospel is, that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified, shall not perish, but have everlasting life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel” (Canons II, Art. 5).
How important this work is, especially for rather isolated churches! The apostle Paul on his missionary travels preached, and the Holy Spirit established churches that were geographically close to one another: Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. These churches could encourage and labor together as the churches of Asia Minor. In the Philippines, our missionaries labor not only with the first church that was organized, but with pastors and churches that are near the first congregation, so that we now have a federation of churches laboring together. How important this work is for small churches that have been dependent upon synodical subsidy for many years. It is easy for an organized church, whether large or small, to be content with their church life, not bothering to go and seek to save the lost in the communities around them. It is through missions that the Lord is pleased to add to His church such as should be saved.
You might ask, “Why have Bible studies in our areas when we already have Bible studies within our churches? Why go out into the communities when others can come to our worship services?” There are a number of reasons. First, one cannot expect those who have little or no church affiliation to travel long distances to come to our churches. It just will not happen. Second, these community members would not feel comfortable in many of our church societies or services. Many of them know little of our Reformed terminology or even Bible history that we take for granted and use. Third, they do not know anyone else that goes to our church and who often huddle in small groups afterwards. These people from the neighborhood are often intimidated.
The church and her members must obey Jesus’ command to “Go!” As we live in different neighborhoods, work in the world’s workplaces, shop in their stores, and eat in their restaurants, we must be friendly, approachable, caring about and listening to our fellow human beings and their life situations. As the Canons teach, “As to others, who have not yet been called, it is our duty to pray for them to God, who calls the things that are not, as if they were. But we are in no wise to conduct ourselves towards them with haughtiness, as if we had made ourselves to differ” (Canons III/IV, Art. 15). One way to reach those in our communities is to set up Bible studies and personally invite folks to join us in seeking the truth from the Scriptures.
And we might then ask, what is our missionary doing? Your missionary seeks to encourage and inspire our churches in this work by preaching ‘mission sermons’ and doing mission presentations. The missionary is also available to help the churches set up these Bible studies and pick material to be used. We are also writing material or tracts that will be more easily understood by those with a limited knowledge of the Bible. Just finished is a series of nine tracts on the subject of the person of Jesus Christ. It is entitled, “Who is Jesus?” And when contacts come in to the missionary and the DMC, the New Fields Committee does investigative work to determine if this is where the Lord is opening up a door for us to labor. The missionary then goes to such contacts and begins a Bible study there.
May the Lord Jesus be pleased to continue to cause His church to love the truth that we have been given and to love our neighbors as ourselves, to seek and to save the lost. This is our work in home missions.