“The Protestant Reformed Churches believe that, in obedience to the command of Christ, the king of the Church, to preach the blessed gospel to all creatures, baptizing, and teaching them to observe all things which Christ has commanded, it is the explicit duty and the sacred privilege of said church to carry out this calling according to the measure of our God-given ability.
“We believe that this missionary activity includes, the work of church extension, and church reformation, as well as the task of carrying the gospel to the unchurched and heathen. However, we are convinced that our present duty lies in the field of church extension and church reformation.”
This quotation is taken from the preamble of the Constitution of the Mission Committee, as found on page 46 of our Church Order.
This preamble expresses the conviction that it is “the explicit duty and sacred privilege” of our Protestant Reformed Churches to preach the blessed gospel to all creatures. It also adds that we believe that this missionary activity “includes the work of church extension and church reformation,” as well as preaching the gospel to the unchurched and the heathen.
These are important tenets for the church to maintain.
But the point I wish to stress in this article is, that at the time this constitution was adopted our churches were “convinced that our present duty lies in the field ofchurch extension and church reformation.” The rest of the constitution is based upon that conviction.
And that, to my mind, applies to our position today as much as it ever did.
We often have been criticized in times past for our conviction that our missionary efforts should be limited to church extension and church reformation. We have been taken to task for sending our missionaries among organized churches to oppose the error of these churches. We were accused of disrupting the church of Jesus Christ, rather than building it up; of creating disharmony, rather than seeking peace and unity. Arid repeatedly the accusation was lodged against us that we did not “believe” in mission work, for the simple reason that we had not reached out to the unchurched and heathen.
Now it follows from the very nature of the case, that since we are convinced before God that we represent the purest manifestation of the church of Jesus Christ, we also strongly desire to draw all true and sincere believers into that fellowship. More than that, since we greatly cherish the truth of God’s sovereign grace as we have been privileged to believe it, we also consider it our explicit duty and sacred privilege to proclaim this truth to others outside of our churches, according to the measure of our God given ability. And finally, the truth never disrupts the unity or destroys the church, for the truth is of God. The error always does that, for error is from the prince of darkness, the father of the lie. Nor can true peace be obtained through compromise, for light and darkness never have anything in common, but always stand antithetically opposed to each other. It is only on the firm foundation of the truth of the Scriptures that the church finds her true unity and harmony, solidly knit together in the peace and fellowship of the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Reviewing the missionary activities bf our churches during the recent years, we find that our program gradually had been expanded. Although no foreign mission work had been taken up, offerings for this purpose were being received in our churches, and the mission committee was studying the possibilities of also entering this field. In fact, the Theological School was instructed to introduce the necessary branches for those who in the future might desire to prepare for the ministry of the word in foreign fields. Today a course on missions is being offered to the students.
All our efforts were put forth toward home mission endeavor, particularly among those who did have some church affiliation, and more particularly among those of Reformed persuasion. It is impossible to estimate how much literature was distributed, both in the Netherlands and in our own land. The radio was also employed to propagate the truth we confess, .in various parts of the United States and also in Canada.
The records show that about three years ago, in the fall of 1951, we began to speak of reaching out to the unchurched. At a meeting of the mission committee with the calling church, (that is, the First Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan), the following resolution was drawn up, “It is the sentiment of this gathering that our policy of labor is to bring the truth as we believe it to all to whom we find opportunity, either to the churched or the unchurched.” This action was approved by the synod of 1952.
During the winter of 1952 to 9953, we took on various radio stations, both on the east and the west coast, and in Canada. Contacts were made in various localities, and the possibility presented itself of opening a number of fields at the same time. In fact, the -synod of 1953 adopted the proposal presented by the mission committee to “endeavor to organize a definite home-missionary program along the following lines:
“a. To have one man serve as missionary-at-large, whose duties shall be:
“(1) To locate and labor in definite areas where other missionaries may be called to labor.
“(2) To labor together with the missionary called to the given field in the early stages of the field’s adoption.
“b. To choose a definite area or areas to serve as specific, fields of labor for the missionary about to be called at this time, where said missionary and his family shall be established for an indefinite time; however with a designated minimum of time.” To carry out this plan, the mission committee was instructed to make arrangements for calling three more missionaries, besides the one that was already serving the churches.
The mission program seemed about to expand far beyond anything attempted in the past.
Then came the schism in our churches, and many departed from us to walk with us no more. We formulated our plans, but the Lord had determined that they should never materialize.
As a result, our mission endeavor was temporarily brought to a standstill, except for the radio broadcasts originating from the First Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan. These were continued and even extended to include parts of Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota. We have a station in Sioux Falls, and also in Aberdeen, South Dakota.
And that places us before the question as to our present field of labor.
Evidently, also in this matter we must seek the guidance of the Lord, to go where He, sends us. Very often in the past a field was opened up to us where we least expected it. In fact, it came as a very pleasant surprise to all of us when three ministers from the Reformed Episcopal Church responded to our radio broadcasts, sought contact with us, and finally became students at our Seminary.
There were times when we were reminded of the experience of the apostle Paul when he went out on his second missionary journey. He had travelled from one end of Asia Minor to the other, but repeatedly was prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word, even in places that seemed to him a likely field. Thus hedged in the apostle finally came to Troas, somewhat perturbed, no doubt, if not despondent, constantly wondering why the Holy Spirit was hindering him from preaching the word. The answer came through the vision of the Macedonian man, calling him to preach the word in Europe, since there were also there those who were ordained unto eternal life.
Or, to use another figure, Ezekiel’s prophecy speaks of sheep which have wandered away through the mountains and upon every high hill, and have been scattered upon all the face of the earth. (Ezekiel 34:11-16). These are sheep of Christ’s pasture. The chief shepherd has His own rightful claim to them. He also knows them by name. And He alone gathers them. Therefore He it is who calls and sends forth His servants to gather His own unto Himself. That is true mission work.
That must always be our directive. For we can go only as the Lord sends us.
But then there are some fields that immediately come to our minds as areas which have been investigated in times past, but never thoroughly worked. A few years ago some preliminary investigations were made in the middle west, more particularly in South Dakota. Moreover, some contacts were made along the East Coast. And we have had an extensive series of broadcasts by the Rev. Vos over a station in London, Ontario, Canada. These possible fields should not be forgotten nor neglected.
But our immediate field is much closer to home. And that is among those who have been drawn away from us through the recent schism in our churches. There are undoubtedly many who have been misinformed, or who were swept along with the leaders of their churches, and who now find themselves outside of the churches which have always been dear to them. At the same time, they find themselves removed from the truth of God’s sovereign grace as they have always confessed it. At first they were told that the whole issue centered around “personalities.” Then they were informed that it was a matter of “emphasis;” that while we still stress the sovereignty of God, they wish to stress man’s responsibility. This new emphasis sounds very much like, and is nothing less than Arminianism in the cloak of Reformed truth. Now they have reached a point there they are ready to brand us (that of which they were formerly a part) as nothing more than a sect. For proof I need only refer you to a recent issue of Concordia.
Our immediate calling is to enlighten those who have been led astray, sheep which have been scattered and now begin to wander about. Some of them we can reach through the Standard Bearer. In some communities our own churches can be a witness to them. This might even be a possible field for a future home missionary.
In any case, the fields are white for the harvest. There is much work to be done. The truth must still be propagated, with even more zeal and determination than before.
And that as the Lord directs and opens the way.
The Lord of the harvest assures us that our labors are never vain in Him.