Mr. Doezema is an elder in Southwest Protestant Reformed Church in Grandville, Michigan and secretary of the Domestic Mission Committee.
Each year the Domestic Mission Committee submits to synod a report of its activities, and at about the same time writes also a news article on domestic missions for readers of the Standard Bearer. As it seemed to us, the nature of the report for synod this year was such that it could well serve both purposes. What follows, therefore, has been excerpted from that report, for the benefit of a wider readership.
Eastern Home Missions
Perhaps the highlight of 2007 for the Protestant Reformed Fellowship of Pittsburgh was their settling into new facilities. The members of the Fellowship, and their missionary, were happy for the identity it gave them in the neighborhood. They were convinced that the church building would prove to be an asset to theirwork. But there can be no doubt that their being able to worship in this building has been, besides, a morale-booster for the members of the Fellowship. They had been truly grateful for the facilities that had been made available to them in Trinity Christian School, and they would have been content to stay there as long as it met their needs. But having a church building that they could call their own, where they could both worship and hold all their meetings, gave them a sense of ‘belonging’ that was very evidently a thrill for them. That came out, even, in a letter that one of the members (a young mother of four small boys) wrote recently to Southwest Church. She said, “I cannot express the gratitude in this small card for obtaining our building. To have a place of our own is a precious gift to our family.”
Significantly, however, that line came very close to the end of the letter of appreciation. Though genuinely appreciative for the building, she had it in proper perspective. The letter began with reference to baptism—the baptism of her fourth son. “I cannot express the joy and amazement that comes to my heart,” she said, “when I think how far our group has come to get to this point. The Lord has been very gracious to us and brought us a long way.” The mere building is a plus. The spiritual journey is what it’s really all about. This mother in Israel had it exactly right.
The church building has also served to give some focus to the work of outreach. Rev. Bruinsma mentions that in his annual report to synod: “Now that our church building has provided a specific location from which to work, we have targeted the borough of Forest Hills. On a couple of occasions we have had opportunity to walk the streets of Forest Hills delivering invitations to special events.”
One of the “special events” to which the neighbors were invited was the Open House for the church….
Notice, too, how they did it: Ads on WORD FM. Photo opportunities in local newspapers. Packets of information delivered personally to a thousand houses in the neighborhood. Especially that. Fourteen members of the Fellowship accomplished that feat in a couple of hours. Every one of them found it possible to talk to some people who happened to be in their yards. And then, a few days before the event, seven of their number hit the streets again—this time to 500 of the same houses—with a reminder of the event and a short brochure entitled “Is the Christian Faith Easy?” We were pleased, too, to learn that about 25 young people from Southwest and Georgetown had come to participate, and that some of them helped by going door to door on the morning of the Open House to invite neighbors to attend. This is healthy, and bodes well for the cause of missions in our churches.
The result of it all was that 20 to 25 people from the neighborhood came to the Open House. Maybe some of them came just for the free hamburgers and hotdogs cooked up by chief chef Keith Bauman. But they got, besides, some food for thought: two short meditations, one by Rev. Bruinsma and the other by Cory Griess, who was there on a summer-assignment from the seminary. And in the basement of the church there were displays, focusing prominently on the RFPA and the Reformed Witness Hour, but also an advertisement for participation in a Bible study.
Happily, that isn’t all. Rev. Bruinsma could report to us in November that the Fellowship enjoyed a “steady stream of visitors from the neighborhood and elsewhere in Pittsburgh” during the summer months. And he attributed it to their hanging flyers on doors of houses in the neighborhood, a “blitz of ads” on radio, and his being on the Reformed Witness Hour. The “blitz” refers to: a couple of interviews aired on WORD FM’s “BibleBurgh”; a live interview on WORD’s “Jon and Stephanie in the Afternoon” talk show; and a number of ads on the station, some with Rev. Bruinsma’s voice and others with the voice of the radio announcer. “If a reputable station such as WORD not only airs our ads but also recommends us to its listeners,” writes Rev. Bruinsma, “it will bring (and has brought) visitors to our worship services.”
As far as numbers are concerned, Rev. Bruinsma writes in his annual report that the Fellowship will very likely soon number nine committed families (including the missionary family). Numerical growth since last year, therefore, is modest. But we heartily endorse our missionary’s conviction, as expressed in that same report, that the two most important criteria on the basis of which we should assess our work are 1) spiritual growth, and 2) open doors. With those in mind, Rev. Bruinsma’s enthusiastic assessment of the work in Pittsburgh is that “the Lord is truly blessing our labors.” We concur.
Western Home Missions
Reflecting on the real growth in the Covenant of Grace Protestant Reformed Fellowship of Spokane in his annual report to synod, Rev. Thomas Miersma acknowledges that, in comparison “to a large congregation,” they are still small, “but then,” he adds, “we are not to despise the day of small things, in an apostate world where we are plucking branches out of the burning in North America.” Good advice.
That, really, is what we are about in Spokane. Plucking those branches, out of the burning, and establishing them in the Reformed faith. From that perspective, our evaluation of the work in Spokane can be expressed no better than it was by our delegation that visited the field last year. They wrote:
Our overall impression of the ‘state of the Fellowship’ is that the members of the Fellowship are a people being wonderfully gathered and established. As follows:
Through solid, systematic, antithetical, personalized instruction in the essentials of the Faith. Our missionary has a gift for this. He takes the time to do work with each couple and individual through the Essentials of Reformed Doctrine, and to ‘tailor-make’ this instruction for the various folks. This has borne and is bearing fruit: the members of the Mission are discerning of the various errors and evils not only of our secular society, but also of the apostate church from which they have been called out; the people are appreciative of, thankful for, and truly comforted by the gospel of sovereign grace; the people are beginning to live by this truth; the people are standing up for, speaking out for, and seeking to spread this truth wherever they can….
It is our conviction that there is a good work being done in Spokane, and that God is blessing the work and the people there. We discussed with the missionary and members of the group various ways evangelism and the witness of the Fellowship might be improved….
The first item of interest of which Rev. Miersma writes in his annual report is the “New Location.” The reference is to the location of the facilities that the Fellowship had used as a worship/office center for the past few years. The old storefront location had served them well, but there were several limitations—inadequate classroom areas and absence of a kitchen being among them. Besides, it was not centrally located with respect to the homes of the core group. But what decided the matter was that the landlord decided to open his business on Sundays. Parking space and noise were not minor problems. So the search began for a different building.
As explained in the missionary’s report, they found one due north of downtown Spokane. It’s readily accessible from the whole city. It’s in a more visible location than the storefront. It has about 50% more usable space. And the building is detached and has its own parking lot, lending to the Fellowship a greater appearance of permanence.
It has been gratifying to see that the Fellowship ‘hit the ground running’ in their new location. As Rev. Miersma explains, they have “to some extent a new mission field, as far as the city of Spokane is concerned, since we are now in a totally different part of town.” They began immediately, therefore, to make a determined effort to make their presence known in their new surroundings. Shortly after the move, the Fellowship sponsored a lecture series, held on four consecutive Friday evenings. One of the members of the Fellowship designed a flyer to advertise the event. Another sent out e-mail promotions to previous contacts. Another developed two billboards advertising the lectures and the worship location. Another prepared radio advertising—to air during the Rush Limbaugh program. And still another arranged for advertising on community and Christian community event and calendar websites. Rev. Miersma wrote two brief articles for the website reflecting the theme of the conference.
As it turned out, therefore, the lecture series provided an occasion for getting their name out there for a month. And the results were also gratifying. The conference went well, with visitors at each one. And, better still, visitors appear also at the worship services. One found the Fellowship in the phone book, another on the website, another from the sign on the building, and still others were brought by members of the Fellowship. It’s interesting to note, concerning the latter, that one member brought a Roman Catholic woman and a Russian immigrant who is Pentecostal.
Again, numbers are modest. Regular attendance is from 26 to 29. Six families. “…branches out of the burning in North America.” A good work is being done in Spokane, and we are content with the fruit that the Lord is pleased to give to His work.
The first order of business for newly-appointed calling churches is usually the matter of making some kind of provision for the field while they await the acceptance of a call for missionary. As it turned out, Edgerton Consistory had to concern itself very little with ‘pulpit supply’ after being appointed calling church for a third domestic missionary by Synod 2007. Candidate Clayton Spronk was already working in Sioux Falls. And his acceptance of the call in July 2007 to serve as the pastor of Peace Church in Lansing, IL, did not leave the pulpit in Sioux Falls long unattended. There was but one Sunday between the time that Candidate Spronk and his family left Sioux Falls and the time that Rev. and Mrs. Kortering arrived, having agreed to supply the pulpit there until December 16, if need be. Then, already on October 7, Rev. Allen Brummel accepted the call to serve as missionary in Sioux Falls.
The DMC is thankful to God for that beginning of the work in Sioux Falls. Mr. (now Rev.) Spronk, though fresh out of seminary, did a good work in Sioux Falls. We thank him for that. And Rev. Kortering obviously came to Sioux Falls to do the work of missions—the work that has, for so many years, been close to his heart. He even offered to teach a ‘how-to’ course for the members of the mission. The classes, he said, would be for the purpose of assisting and encouraging the members to reach out to their neighbors, family, and others who cross their paths, to speak with them about matters of Christian faith and obedience.” As he reported to Edgerton and the DMC, his intention was to “divide the classes into two parts, the first has to do with biblical instruction (theory) and the second with hands-on experience, assigning different ways to engage in this work [i.e., by actually going out and doingit], and then during the class period share what happened, what was the outcome, and consider suggestions for doing it in a different way. The purpose more than anything is to help us overcome our fear of speaking spiritually to others.” Though unable to complete the intended course, Rev. Kortering did get a good start in it, and thus laid a helpful foundation for the beginning of Rev. Brummel’s work there.
About the core group, Rev. Kortering had this to say: “I am very much impressed with the membership of the Fellowship. What a way to begin a mission outreach! We have the luxury of a well-founded and mature core group. They are a pleasure to know and to work with. Thankfully, they know it is their duty to put forth effort to reach out, and thus to participate in mission work.”
That was our impression too, from the beginning. The Sioux Falls group intended to work. They would not be content to get ‘pulpit supply’ and then wait for ‘internal growth’ to get them to the point where they could organize and get on with the business of being a Protestant Reformed Church. Fact is, they were planning an Evangelism Conference before Rev. Kortering arrived. Likewise: ‘business cards’ to give to casual contacts, a supply of appropriate literature, a tri-fold brochure introducing the Fellowship and the PRC to inquirers, an attractive web page, an attendance record and a guest book, advertisements in a local paper and in the Yellow Pages, and more. To assure that the work was attended to properly, they had formed committees: a Steering Committee and an Evangelism Committee, with three sub-committees dealing with Pamphlets, Web Page/Advertising, and Special Events. More importantly, they were talking to others, and inviting them to the worship services—and making visitors feel welcome. This, we say, was a core group ready to work. We are not surprised that Rev. Kortering found them a delight to work with.
The Brummels moved into the parsonage on October 31 and Rev. Brummel was installed as missionary on November 8. He, too, went right to work. Already we are favorably impressed by his energetic approach to the work of missions, his determination to learn as he goes, and his very evident willingness to cooperate fully with the two governing bodies. He acknowledges that “this is and will be a learning experience for me.” And he encourages Edgerton and the DMC “to direct and lead me in any way you deem fit. Please help me be the best missionary I can be with the gifts that God has given me.” We thank God for that spirit, which is the work of the Spirit. It gives us good hope for the future.