The member of the church struggling with a debilitating injury or terminal disease. The widow or widower coping with loneliness. The young person fighting against a particular temptation—drunkenness, immorality, worldliness. The young mother overcome by the demands of her calling in her home and with her children. The parents who are taking seriously their calling to bring up their children in the fear of the Lord. The couple whose marriage relationship is severely strained. The church member who has been wickedly deserted by an unfaithful spouse. The Christian schoolteacher discouraged because of harsh criticism by parents who do not much appreciate the demands placed upon our schoolteachers. The covenant father who is disheartened by the stress in the office or factory, who in addition finds it difficult to earn an adequate wage to meet his family’s needs, pay his children’s Christian school tuition, and contribute to the church budget. The brother or sister who has a trusted, long-time friend betray them and leave the church. The sinner stricken over the guilt of his sins and crying out to God for forgiveness. The person who, although chosen by God in eternity and redeemed in the blood of Christ, knows nothing of Christ, His Word, and the church.
What do all these people have in common? What is the great need that they share? The answer: their need for the preaching of the gospel. Their need for God’s appointed means by which sinners are brought to repentance over their sins and faith in Jesus Christ. Their need for the pure preaching of the gospel, which works and confirms faith. Their need for the preaching of the gospel, which is foolishness to the world but the power of God unto salvation (I Cor. 1:18.)
The Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary is in the business of training qualified young men for the ministry of the gospel. In the seminary, those who have served in the ministry are committed to train others for this highest of earthly callings. By teaching the full complement of subjects in the areas of the biblical languages, Reformed theology, church history, practical theology, and biblical exegesis (interpretation of Scripture), men are equipped academically for the rigors of the gospel ministry. At the same time, the focus of the curriculum is on preparing men to be preachers, those who handle the Word of God honestly (II Cor. 4:2) and “rightly divide the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15). Men who are teachers and communicators. Additionally, we aim to develop the spiritual gifts with which God endows men to be faithful undershepherds of the Good Shepherd, whether in the established church (including those churches with whom we have official relationships) or on the mission field.
We live in challenging days. We have experienced great upheavals in society and controversy in the church. The years 2020 and 2021 will go into the record books for many reasons. The record book of the PRCA certainly. These are days in which the love of many for the truth has waxed cold. These are days in which people “will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts…heap to themselves [false] teachers, having itching ears” (II Tim. 4:3). These are days of lawlessness, not only in society, but also in the church. Men do what is right in their own eyes. They conduct themselves as a law unto themselves, as accountable to no one other than themselves. Men and women disregard the will of Christ “[t]hat there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another” (I Cor. 12:25). These are days in which as never before, our churches need faithful servants of Christ, who sacrificially minister to the needs of God’s people and submit to their elders.
May God give our churches and sister churches such men!
Considering the current situation in our churches, the need is great. Presently there are only six students studying in our seminary. Three of the six are not in training for labors in the PRCA: two for the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore, and one for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Australia. These men are Josiah Tan, Marcus Wee, and Isaac Peters. The three remaining students are committed to ministry in our own churches. Matthew Koerner is a second-year student; Luke Bomers and Arend Haveman are first year students. It is true that there are men in the wings. Some who are presently in college or in high school have expressed their desire to train for the ministry, including two men who are currently taking Greek grammar in our seminary. But considering the number of vacant congregations, the number of retirements among our clergy in the coming years, and replacement of another of our seminary professors, our missionary fields, and it is obvious that our need is great—very great!
We urge parents, grandparents, Christian schoolteachers, officebearers, and church members to encourage your sons and grandsons, your students, and your friends who show promise to consider the calling to the ministry. It is never too early to plant the seed in the minds and hearts of the sons of the church. And pray, all of us—fervently and often— that God will look upon our need and raise up in our midst faithful servants of Christ. We invite all young men who have thoughts of the ministry, either to stop by the seminary or correspond with our registrar, Mr. Charles Terpstra (prcseminary1925@ gmail.com) or one of our professors. We would also welcome your visits to our classes for a day, to see firsthand what goes on in the seminary.
Classes are in full swing for the second semester. Prior to the start of the new semester, our students attended the Interim course for eight days. These are intense courses taught by the faculty on a rotation basis. This year’s Interim was taught by Prof. R. Cammenga and was entitled “The Theology of John Calvin.” A special treat for our students was that they were joined for the course by the missionaries and their three students in the Philippines. The sessions were video-recorded, and our Filipino brothers listened to the lectures later in their own homes by means of Zoom. If you are wondering, the Philippines is thirteen hours ahead of Michigan. They submitted their questions via email, and we were able to answer them first thing the following day. It was a special delight to include them and in a small way get to know brothers Jethro Flores, Emmanuel Jasojaso, and Jeremiah Pascual.
Our seminary is a denominational institution. It is supported by the members of the Protestant Re formed Churches. Although the seminary is under the supervision of the synod, between the meetings of synod a specially appointed committee of five ministers and five elders oversees the day-to-day operations of our theological school. This committee (Theological School Committee, or TSC for short) meets monthly and regularly sends visitation committees to sit in classes to evaluate the instruction given and the progress of the students. One of the important items with which the committee is tasked is preparing an aggregate of names to synod when one of the faculty is facing retirement. Prof. B. Gritters is scheduled to begin the mandatory retirement process this year. Synod 2021 will decide on the appointment of his successor to the departments of New Testament Studies and Practical Theology. This will undoubtedly be one of the most important items on the agenda when our synod convenes in June this summer.
The faculty and licensed students stay busy preaching regularly, not only in the churches in southwestern Michigan, but throughout our denomination, including those churches located in the western United States. Airplane travel is a wonderful thing—usually. Four of the professors are regularly supplying vacant churches with Heidelberg Catechism preaching. Professors and students preach regularly on the Lord’s Day. In addition to preaching, the faculty keeps busy preparing for their classes, developing their courses, writing in the seminary’s theological Journal, as well as the Standard Bearer and Beacon Lights, teaching catechism classes in various churches, serving on denominational committees, giving special lectures, attending our assemblies, and many other aspects of the life and work of the church.
Prof. R. Dykstra and his wife, Carol, are serving our sister congregation in Singapore for five months. They plan to return to the States in May. The other faculty members are teaching Prof. Dykstra’s courses so that he can provide this very valuable service for our sister church in southeast Asia. We remember our brothers and sisters living in this far-away island country. One of their students, brother Josiah Tan, anticipates completing his seminary training in May. He plans to sit before our synod for his oral examination. Pending his successfully sustaining his examination, he hopes to return to Singapore with his wife and children to take up work in our sister church.
Prof. D. Kuiper is teaching several courses as the replacement for Prof. Dykstra. Most of these courses he is developing for the first time. Prof. B. Huizinga, Prof. R. Cammenga’s replacement, is in the process of studying theological Dutch and beginning the work on his Th.M. thesis. He has completed the course work for his advanced degree. As faculty, we want to take this opportunity publicly to express our deep appreciation for the work of our registrar-librarian-archivist, Mr. Charles Terpstra, and our office secretary, Miss Sharon Kleyn. If you come to the seminary, you will probably be greeted by their smiling faces.
The members of our churches must know that the professors take seriously the responsibility entrusted to us. We rejoice in the confidence that our members have in the work we do in the seminary. We are thankful that as in the past, so also to the present day, we have the trust and support of our people. Wherever we go, we hear the expressions of gratitude and encouragement. We do not take this for granted.
Continue to pray for us. Pray that the Lord keeps us faithful in the dark days in which we are living. Pray that the Lord is pleased to continue to use us for the defense and development of the truth. And pray that He may be pleased to continue to supply our pulpits and mission fields with faithful, competent, trained men of God. For His glory and the gathering of His church.