The mission labors of the Protestant Reformed Churches are worthy of heartiest support and earnest prayers.
Mission work stands at the heart of the church’s labors. Doing missions is obedience to Jesus Christ’s last words to His church. It is nothing less than obedience to divine commission. About this, the apostle Paul once said to king Agrippa, “I was not disobedient to the divine vision.” The PRC must not fail to carry out this mandate.
That missions consumes from one quarter to one third of the entire budget of synod—recently that was a half million dollars for the year—is no little indicator of need for support and prayers. Of the over $800 per family per year in the synodical budget, as much as $300 and more has gone to support missions.
The cause of missions demands as much support and interest as the seminary of the churches. Missions is nothing without the seminary; without training—thorough training—missionaries cannot serve. But the seminary “cumbereth the ground” (Luke 13:7) if it does not have as a fundamental goal to provide preachers for the congregations and for missions.
Missions requires a high place on the agenda of the synod and the local consistory meetings. It is no afterthought of consistories. And this is not only because the church visitors will inquire about the matter every year. Christ is pleased with consistories that think of missions. Christ wills that consistories not allow missions to get crowded out by other matters. “Church Picnic,” “Consistory Social,” and even “Building Committee Report” must not take precedence over “Evangelism Committee.”
Failure to be zealous in missions, either congregationally or denominationally, will soon lead to the church’s ruin under God’s judgment for disobedience.
The Protestant Reformed Churches are presently busy in missions. Their missionaries receive support, prayers, attention, and visits. The calling churches spend themselves in their oversight of their missionary. The mission committees (both domestic and foreign) give countless hours of work every month in obedience to Jesus’ call, with hope of Jesus’ promise in Matthew 24:14: “…then shall the end come.”
But the hearty support and earnest prayer for missions should be intelligent. That is, the support should not be blind funding of the mission cause, and should be more than vague prayers for God to “bless the missionaries.”Intelligent support of missions in the churches will make it possible for us:
1) to offer thanks for what measure of faithfulness God has given us in missions;
2) to avoid drifting into the foolish ways, means, and goals of much of modern mission work;
3) to grow in our obedience and correct any errors that are too easily committed in the work of missions.
In this editorial I remind our readers what the Lord of the church has given us the privilege to do in missions recently.
For the past twelve years Rev. Thomas Miersma has been working as the PRC’s “Western Home Missionary.” Currently in Spokane, Washington, with his wife, Jan, and three sons, Rev. Miersma is working toward the establishment of a congregation. Loveland, CO, PRC is the calling church, working with the supervision of the PRC’s Domestic Mission Committee (DMC).
Rev. Angus Stewart has been in Ballymena, Northern Ireland since 2001. Rev. Stewart is a native of Northern Ireland, while his wife, Mary, is from the States. The Covenant Protestant Reformed Fellowship there is bringing to the PRC synod this summer a proposal for organization. The fellowship has flourished by God’s blessing of Rev. Stewart’s work, which follows eight years of labor by Rev. Ronald Hanko. Hudsonville, MI, PRC is the calling church. Although Northern Ireland is across the sea, the missions performed there are under the supervision of the Domestic Mission Committee.
In the Philippines, Rev. Audred Spriensma has worked since 2002 with a number of groups that showed interest in the PRC and that asked us to “come over and help.” He and his wife, Alva, and daughter Jessica live in that (sometimes dangerous) distant island nation, with the hope that the Lord will also soon bless the work in the organization of congregations. Doon, IA, PRC is the calling church. The Foreign Mission Committee oversees the work for synod.
Rev. Wilbur Bruinsma recently accepted the call to serve as the PRC’s eastern home missionary, stationed in Pittsburgh, PA. Ordained in 1978, Rev. Bruinsma is no stranger to missions, since he served in Jamaica for five years in the 1980s. Rev. Bruinsma moves to Pittsburgh following eight years of work there by Missionary/Pastor Jai Mahtani. Southwest, GR, MI, PRC is Rev. Bruinsma’s calling church.
Could the Young People’s Societies (or other societies) consider a project to make a world map, pinpointing the home-location of each missionary and the various places he travels in his work? Then the saints could come together regularly to discuss the work of missions, praying for the Lord to prosper the work in specific ways. Praying for laborers in the harvest may bring the same result that it did when the disciples prayed for laborers—the disciples themselves were called.
Faithful missionaries are martyrs—in both senses of the word martyr. A martyr is first awitness of Jesus Christ. A martyr also gives his life in his witness of Christ. Although these men and their families may not end their earthly life at the hands of persecutors, they give their lives for the cause of Christ in missions. They crucify personal desires and open themselves up to the possibility of great disappointments. Leaving family and friends, they do not “count their earthly lives dear to themselves.” Sometimes they ask their wife and children to travel with them across the country like gypsies for a year. Even so, they “finish their course with joy … to testify of the gospel of the grace of God” (seeActs 20:24).
In the time of the great world wars, when the church’s sons were fighting in other countries, efforts were organized to write letters to “our boys.” Missionaries are soldiers too, on the front lines, waging a more important battle. They are isolated. Few other soldiers are beside them, laying down their lives with them. They could use letters. Regular letters. Letters from all over the denomination. What better project for a Sunday afternoon than this, to keep us from the temptations of reading the newspaper or doing homework. Some Bible study groups have organized such efforts, to the encouragement of the missionaries. Could others?
The PRC missionaries labor in the right way, too. We should not take this for granted. It is rare, today, that a missionary has as his modus operandi the simple preaching of the gospel, publicly and “from house to house.” But this is the work of the PRC missionary. Every PRC missionary. He preaches.
Recently, Missionary Thomas Miersma visited Michigan to confer with the Domestic Mission Committee. While he was in the area, he spoke to the seminary students about the fundamental principles of mission work. In a fascinating hour for all the students, Missionary Miersma illustrated the principles with anecdotes from his own missions experience. What came across loud and clear was this simple truth: God gathers, defends, and preserves His church by means of preaching. Christ “blows his trumpet” on the mission field, gathering His people to meet Him, directing them on their way to the land of promise, giving them weapons to fight the foes. By preaching! Preaching the Reformed faith. Preaching the whole counsel of God. Preaching Christ crucified, risen, exalted at God’s right hand, head of the church.
In the next editorial I will point out the rarity of this. We may be thankful that the Lord gives us missionaries whose determination is to preach.
The PRC missionaries do it right. They preach.
When the preaching bears fruit of gathering God’s elect, a church is organized with a membership under the rule of elders.
This organized church, then, does not become an instrument for another goal—building the kingdom. This is the new thinking in missions: the church is merely an instrument to build thekingdom. But the church is God’s kingdom. That is the old thinking in missions. Next time I will also show that. But what a blessing that the Lord still gives our missionaries, consistories, and denominational committees the will and ability to carry out His commission to gather the elect and organize churches.
Our missionaries do a marvelous job of informing the churches of their work with regular newsletters. In addition to all their other work—some of it “busy-work”—they write reports to their calling consistory and newsletters for the churches. These are appreciated and beneficial for the churches’ intelligent support of missions.
Because we ourselves have heard the word “with joy of the Holy Spirit” (I Thess. 1:6), let us rally behind the missionaries and the cause of missions. Let us “strengthen what remains” by God’s grace among us. Let us, as officebearers and members of the churches, do all that strength and wisdom allow us to do, that thisgreat cause may flourish among us till the Lord returns.
Michigan area bulletins report that a committee of First PRC Grand Rapids is sponsoring a Mission Awareness Day this June. Sectionals will promote understanding of the mission work in the PRC. Days like this have a history in the PRC. Twenty years ago, at synod’s request the Mission Committee organized a “Rally” to promote the cause of missions. In two different areas of the country, all the congregations in an area were invited to attend speeches about missions. For four evenings running there were speeches, prayers, and singing, all of which ended in an all-day “field day” (see 1983 Acts of Synod, pp. 29, 30, 91). This was not the first rally. Let June’s not be the last. And what about the other areas of the country?
Calling churches invite neighboring congregations to hear the news of their missionary when he “comes to town” on furlough. This ought to continue. The PRC membership ought to fill the sanctuaries at these meetings—with parents and children. Could the mission committees send representatives to these meetings to show support of the work and call the members to fervent support of the missionary and his family?
Then, the mission committees could volunteer their members with prepared presentations to visit churches on a Sunday evening, during a Bible Study evening, or to Young People’s meetings, or Mass meetings, to explain the workings of the committee, their relationship to the calling churches, and the particular work of one or two missionaries.
But let our support of missions be primarily from the local congregations—from the ministers and members of the local churches. Let us not forget to pray for missions and the missionaries, regularly. More than during a “Mission Emphasis Week.” Missions need prayers weekly—in the catechism classes, in the congregational prayers, in the homes during family devotions. Let families read the missionary newsletters during one evening’s family worship in the week. Afterwards, the children can be reminded to pray for that missionary family and field.
If the churches pray for strength and wisdom to support the cause of missions, God will give what they ask, as it is asked in harmony with His will. But He will not give what we do not ask (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 45). Let us ask!
Missionaries, we pray for you, that utterance may be given unto you, that you may open your mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which you are ambassadors: that therein you may speak boldly, as you ought to speak. We know, and want to know, “how you do.” The beloved brethren and faithful ministers have made known unto us most of your things. Peace be to thee, brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (see Eph. 6:19-23).