The outreach we speak about in this article is mission work. It is hard work. It taxes our patience. It tries our commitment. And it stirs in us the deepest sense of helplessness.

Having said this, we quickly add that it is right and beautiful for every congregation to do it.

There are two reasons for this.

First, it is the response of faith to obey the com­mandment of our Lord. Two passages from the Bible come to mind. Matthew 28:18-20: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teach­ing them to observe all things whatsoever I have com­manded you; and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Then we also have John 10:16: “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” The words of these texts were directed to the disciples, who represented the New Testament church that was about to be instituted.

Second, there are blessings assured us in the way of obedience in doing this work. There is no greater description of this than our Lord gave to the church of Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7-13). We quote a small part: “I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee . . . . Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God.”

Little wonder, then, that one of our forefathers wrote these words in 1880, quoted in the book Christian Reformed Tradition, by J. H. Kromminga:

Also with a view to our own church there is certainly great reason to support missions. If that church is to avoid death by stagnation, she must exercise and devel­op her fellowship with God and with Jesus as Mediator in the work of love, and that work finds a fitting place on the mission field.

A church which does not love missions, but works for itself alone, and shuts itself up within itself, is in danger that it will wither and die for want of vitality, by which it is spiritually crippled, and for want of that fresh air which is enjoyed only where love works out­ward as well as inward.

The point of focus here is upon the local congrega­tion working towards the organization of a new congre­gation within a reasonable distance. The suggestion has been made that it ought to be within a hundred miles. It ought to be apparent that such a work involves the entire congregation. The elders have to oversee this project. The church extension or evangelism committee has to do most of the leg work. The pastor and mature members of the congregation may be called upon to help lead a Bible study. There may be need for some to support the mission effort by attending some of the activities of the mission outreach. For this reason we write this article in the Standard Bearer, rather than address it to the Evangelism Committees. We desire every member of our churches and each congregation to consider this work.

The question may arise whether this is the work of the local church, or whether it ought rather to be the work of the denominational Domestic Mission Com­mittee. The answer is that it belongs to both. It is the calling of the local church to do this work and the call­ing of the DMC to render its assistance. If this work is a great distance from any one of our congregations, then the DMC is to take the leadership on behalf of the churches and from the very beginning call a mission­ary to do this work. The Christian Reformed Church struggled with the question of the relationship between the local congregation and the denominational mission committee for many years. We also struggled with this same question in our history. In 1912 the CRC wrote a Mission Order, which assigned mission work to the lo­cal congregation, even work among the heathen. Only years after that did they leave this position and central­ize their work in the Board of Missions, the Executive Committee, an Executive Director, and almost entirely left out the local church. In 1912, the years of their strength, which, as I indicated before, is also our history, they included in their Mission Order,

Article 2, Each church is obliged by the missionary command of the Lord to fulfill its duty by sending out or helping to send out a minister or ministers of the Word among the heathen, and has within itself every­ thing that is necessary for this purpose, and is bound to the regulations of this Order, unless the synod makes exceptions in particular matters.

Our own synod made a significant decision in 1965 when it adopted the so-called New Mission Policy. Remember, this is almost 50 years ago, and it said,

There is, however, a rather close connection be­tween these two items (local church and mission committee)—a relation which exists even at such times as we do not have a missionary. For not only is it true that the Mission Committee should aid local churches in church extension work (and such cooperation would by no means be excluded in case we again had a missionary); but it is also true that the local churches should aid and cooperate with the Mission Committee in the work of home missions; and especially in the discovery and preparation of possible fields of labor in the general areas in which our churches are located, the local churches can be of assistance.

Synod criticized the haphazard way in which mis­sionaries were sent to areas where little preparatory work was done. Once a missionary arrived, there was very little effort to coordinate radio ministry, the print­ed page, and today we would add, the Internet. The DMC wants to take this approach by working with the local congregations. The Constitution of the DMC requires that the DMC find possible fields and work closely with the local church, so they can function as a calling church and assist in the organization of a new congregation when the group is ready. We propose to work together from the very start.

There are plenty of precedents for this involvement of the local church.

The Bible itself is the best source. One example is the missionary activity of the apostle Paul. Most of us are familiar with the outreach in the province of Galatia, where the churches in Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe were organized (Acts 14:20-23). Later, mention is made of the province of Macedonia, where churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea were formed (Acts 16:11-17). The same is true for the province of Asia, where the congregation of Ephesus was instituted (Acts 19). These local congregations were the springboard from which the gospel went into the entire area and many churches were organized. For this reason we read in Titus 1:5, “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.” Churches were established beyond the reach of certain key cities, and that was done by the lo­cal congregation. Finally, we read in Romans 15:19, 23, 24 how Paul gloried in the mighty work of the Holy Spirit: “Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you; whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you.” The distance from Jerusalem to Il­lyricum covered all the territory between Jerusalem and Rome, and Paul did not cover all this territory himself. The churches that were established in the key cities did outreach.

Many of our own congregations participated in the organization of new congregations within a certain dis­tance. Quite exceptional was the work done by Lynden when they approved their pastor flying to Edmonton, Canada to hold a Bible Study there bi-weekly and visit among interested people. The DMC was called upon when the work progressed to the stage of possible or­ganization. Once Edmonton was organized, they did a similar work in Lacombe, which was closer by. South Holland did much the same with their work in NW Chicago, which led to the calling of a missionary and eventually the organization of Bethel Church. Hull, Doon, Edgerton participated in the work in Sioux Falls under the guidance of the DMC. Many of our churches participated in the organization of daughter congregations.

The main difference in today’s work is that it includes, and possibly focuses mainly upon, the un­churched and secular. The principle of working with the Jews first and then the Gentiles can be translated into today’s scene as working with people who have some connection with Christianity, and even more pointedly, with the Reformed faith. The day of finding groups of displaced Reformed believers extending to us a Macedonian call seems past. There still are some out there, but our focus cannot be exclusively upon them. It must be broader and include others, in fact anyone in whom Christ works an interest. We must not limit our Lord’s work; the gathering of the church in outreach will include anyone who responds to the call of the gos­pel. Ultimately, we can plan all we like, but only Christ will direct us towards those whom He wills to call. We must be open to include some we deem most unlikely and follow the direction of our Lord. The conversion of unbelievers is the supreme goal of mission work.

If you are reading this article as a member of your local church extension committee or evangelism committee, you might ask, where do we start?

Two words of caution bear at this point.

First, we must continue to focus on the important role the preaching of the gospel has in outreach. We may begin with a Bible Study in a new area and with the Lord’s blessing form a mission group of interested people. Ultimately, however, the goal is to have a mis­sionary present and, with his presence on the Lord’s Day, begin to conduct worship services. We propose to put forth more effort to draw together a group of people before introducing the preaching of the gospel in a formal worship service. How long this till take, and exactly what methods are employed to reach the goal, will depend entirely on how the Lord is pleased to bless our efforts.

Second, we must not deceive ourselves into thinking that if we use a method that is systematic and faithful to the Bible, then it is guaranteed that we will organize more churches than in the past. We are living in the last days. No one can possibly dispute this, and the Bible does not hold out the prospect of tremendous growth. We are not Postmillennialists, who hold an empty dream. We do know that the instruction that our Lord gave His church is not time-conditioned. He did not say, go make disciples all through history with the exception of the last days. Obedience requires us to do it. But we are not dreamers, and we know that this is very difficult work, especially in the last days. Yet, our Lord promises to be with us always, even to the end of the world. What more do we need for mission outreach?

We would like to work with the local evangelism committees and suggest that you consider this as your work. We have a PowerPoint presentation that we can use to explain our working together. We have a docu­ment that Missionary Bruinsma helped us to prepare that outlines our projected plans. For the churches in the Michigan area, we would like to meet with you in person, if you so desire. If you are too far from us to meet in person, we can arrange some ways to work together. Rev. Bruinsma will explain more details in another Standard Bearer article to follow and give us some information about how he is implementing this in the Pittsburgh area.

Mission outreach without prayer is empty and for­mal. May God guide all of us to have a heart for missions and to consider an outreach ministry with a view to establishing a new congregation.

Our prayers join yours. To Him be the glory.