Rev. Moore is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hull, Iowa.
We have been asked questions about our field in Ghana, and about our reason for requesting of Synod that we open this field in Ghana without a core group of believers being in place on the field.
The latter really has to do with the whole idea of how missions ought always to be carried out. In answer to that question, we note first of all that there are times when a group of believers in some location requests our churches to labor in their area. The members of this group may have come into contact with our churches and then desired to hear more of the truths which we hold precious and which we proclaim in our churches as we preach the Word. When we receive such a request we must investigate as to whether we are able to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to this area and preach the Word there.
In a sense, this request becomes a “Macedonian call.” It is such because, through the request from people interested in the truth as we proclaim it, the Spirit leads us to investigate and to bring the, Word to this area. However, it differs from the apostle Paul’s call to Macedonia in this, that the apostle, when he received the vision, knew without a doubt, because of direct revelation, that he was to go to Macedonia and preach the Word in this part of the world. We have requests from many areas by some individuals or groups of people, but because this is not direct revelation from God it is necessary that we investigate whether the request is made seriously and whether we are able to help in the particular instance. It is through the process of investigation that we come to a conviction (and we believe that this is by the Spirit’s leading) as to whether or not we should begin a mission labor in a certain place and at a certain time.
But it must be remembered that, even in the direct “Macedonian call” that Paul received, he was sent not to a particular group of believers or to a “core group,” but to an area where God was pleased that he preach the gospel promiscuously, and this, unto the gathering of believers and the establishment of congregations. Paul preached the Word and God gave the increase. He was not ashamed of preaching the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:14-16).
It is in this same way that we are called to labor on any field that we enter, whether there are in that area some believers with whom we may have contact, or whether we are laboring strictly in the midst of unbelievers. It is necessary that we preach the pure gospel of Christ, in strict adherence to Scripture. And ‘God will give the increase according to His good pleasure.
The apostle Paul (or the other apostles, for that matter) did not join himself to groups of believers who were already in a certain place, and then, in some sort of joint venture, attempt to bring the gospel of Christ. In fact, the apostles did the very opposite, as we read in Acts 19:18-20: “And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” In each area in which they labored they brought the same gospel and established the same type of worship services, and ordained men with the same qualifications into the same offices. (In Jerusalem, see Acts; in Ephesus, see I Timothy 3; in Crete, see Titus 1.) And all of this sets a pattern for our own labor, for the apostles, under the inspiration of the Spirit, gave us the scriptural record of the worship and of the officebearers and their labor in the places where the gospel was preached.
We find that the apostle Paul went first to the synagogues, if there were such in the cities where he labored. There he preached the antithetical Word of God, calling those in the synagogue away from the old dispensational worship and away from the apostate teachings of the Pharisees, to the gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified and raised. He did not go to the synagogues to mix the gospel of Christ with their customs of worship, but to call them unto the new dispensational church. The result was that he went from the synagogues to the streets of the cities to address the Word of God to such as the Lord would lead to the preaching of the Word. Then, in strict accordance with the Word, congregations would be established, and officebearers would be ordained. This is the testimony of sacred history again and again as recorded in the book of Acts.
Again I say, this is the way that our missions ought always to be carried out. The missionary on the field is to bring the pure gospel of Christ, and the goal is to establish a congregation that is founded in every part upon the regulations of Scripture and in accordance to all the principles of Scripture. It is necessary that we preach only the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation, and that we also then oppose those that cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine of Scripture (cf. Rom. 16:17-18). When we fail to do this, our mission labor either fails or is at best very weak, and the result is that God’s Name and honor are not maintained as they ought to be, and then God’s children are not blessed as they should be. This means, for the Protestant Reformed mission labor, that the Protestant Reformed distinctives must be maintained throughout the labor and work. They ought never to be compromised. This is so in the areas of doctrine and of life, in the areas of worship and of order. Thus we read in Colossians 3: 16-17: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”
It did not matter to the apostle Paul or the other apostles what the culture was in the area in which they worked. They brought the gospel in the same way, and established the same structured congregations. From their epistles we receive instruction for our church structure and worship, no matter whether the epistle was addressed to the Ephesians, who for the largest part served idols in their history, or to Rome, where mythical gods were served in their history, or to the Hebrews, where Judaism was followed in their history.
In the church the elders and deacons had the same requirements for office; the preaching of the Word was to be the same; the life of the people was to be such that they cast off the old ways of unbelief and customs to serve the living God faithfully according to His Word.
Now, to accomplish this on the mission field, whether in the States or in Ghana, we ought not to be affected by the customs of the particular area in which we are working. Especially is this so on the foreign field, where the background and culture of most of the people are based upon pagan worship and heathendom. But this is often the case elsewhere too, when we are called to work with those who are nominally Christian, whose traditions of worship, of songs for worship, and of order for worship are based upon their free-will theology, or their Pentecostalism, or their independentism, or whatever.
Dear readers, if we believe that our churches are founded, rooted, and grounded in the truth, and that we hold the truth steadfastly, and that we are blessed by this faithfulness to the Scriptures in all of our worship and life, is this not what our desire should be for all those to whom we have the opportunity to bring the gospel?
It is exactly for this reason that we do not begin in Ghana with a group that is already there. We surely could have a group that would want us to work with them, but then we would not be following the scriptural example of the apostles. If we are going to labor on the mission field, then we must labor by the pure preaching of the Word, and Christ shall gather those that are ordained unto eternal life. The congregation(s) that will be gathered will then love the same truth that we love. The congregation will live under the same yoke of Christ that we live under. The congregation will have the same offices as the congregations did in the days of the apostles; they shall love the same confessions which set forth faithfully the truth of the Scripture; they shall have the same sacraments administered according to the Word as we do; they shall have the same love for God, the same appreciation for the covenant that God sovereignly establishes with us and our seed; they will be husband of one wife, wife of one husband, in their life on earth; they will worship together as families, etc. For we with others of the elect in this world have one Lord, and the one Spirit works in the hearts of the one body of Christ. To begin work with a group that already has in place its own way of worship, with all of the errors that may be a part of that worship, would mean that the preaching at the outset is compromised. (Of course, if they have not the errors, then we need not labor there, for God would already be worshiped there in spirit and in truth.) Wherever we go to bring the gospel as Protestant Reformed Churches, we must go with a view to setting up a Protestant Reformed mission – not because of our name, for of ourselves we are nothing, but because it has pleased our God to keep us faithful to the truth and to preserve in our midst a pure worship. He has blessed us tremendously. It is our desire that all of God’s children may have this blessing.
Our intention is to preach the gospel in Ghana from the very beginning twice on the Sabbath, once on the basis of the Heidelberg Catechism. We shall sing the songs of Zion from the Psalms, in English from the Psalter, and in the native language from the Psalms written in that language. We shall have a distinctively Protestant Reformed church worship, with all the reverence that is God glorifying. This will probably mean that we will begin with a relatively small group of worshipers, but it is the preaching of the gospel that brings to the activity of faith. We will begin to hold Bible studies in addition to the Sunday worship, for those interested. And we will trust that our God will bless this labor. When our Lord brings to our mission His saints, they will be one with us in faith and blessing. May God grant that it be so. And may we wholeheartedly support this work as churches, with prayers, gifts, letters, visits, etc. Then not only shall those that Christ gathers in Ghana be blessed, but so shall our churches be blessed.
Notice: Those of our readers who are on the Internet, and who wish to obtain up-to-date information about the PRC field in Ghana, are invited to check out Rev. Moore’s homepage. His address is: http://www.mtcnet.net/ ~revmo/