The Church of Christ frequently muses upon the words of the Prophet Zechariah, “For who hath despised the day of small things?” Zech. 4:10. In the setting in which they were first spoken, Zerubbabel had laid the foundation of the rebuilt temple, but the completion of the project seemed impossible. In discouragement, Zerubbabel had gone to Zechariah for an explanation. The Word of the Lord came to the prophet assuring him that His work in gathering His church was not by might nor by power but by the Spirit. The servants of the Lord had to be reminded that no opposition would make it impossible for God to complete His Work; the temple would surely be built and the people of God preserved unto everlasting life.
Frequently we are tempted to make a carnal comparison between the work of God in His church and the seeming progress made by the devil and his hordes in the world. Whenever we judge causes by their external manifestations and equate bigness with success, we inevitably despise the day of small things. This is particularly true when we bring to mind that the true success of the church is not to be judged on the basis of externals; rather it is truly successful only when that success is divinely approved and thrives under the blessing of almighty God. Sometimes we are tempted to complain about our mission activities and say that they do not amount to much. Many who are not members of our churches, but take a passing interest, look at our mission work and brashly conclude, “The Protestant Reformed Churches don’t believe in missions.”
Sometimes we Protestant Reformed people have this thrown our way so often that we are even tempted to agree, or at least look the other way and somewhat apologize for our feeble efforts.
The true blessedness of mission work in the church is rooted in its quality. By quality we obviously mean mission work that conforms to the purpose of God as given to us in the Bible. Quality includes the proper message proclaimed, that it agrees with the Word of God in all its purity; but it also includes methods used in pursuing the proclamation: there are right methods and wrong methods as indicated in the Scripture. We can be sure that in the measure that this quality is compromised or forsaken, the quantity of mission work will increase. If we only change our message or method and make it less offensive to the natural man and more appealing to human pride, we will gain a larger listening audience, more people will show interest in our mission work, more will join our churches, we will then have more money and increasing means to do much more mission work.
But, if we conscientiously hold, to the quality of mission work as it is given to us in the Word of God, we must reckon with the fact that our mission work will from outward points of view remain small; in fact, it may even become impossible for us to do mission work in the formal sense of the word. We are living in the last days, and these are constituted as the “day of small things.” We strive to preach from our pulpits the whole counsel of God as this relates to our doctrine and life. We proclaim this through the radio, we publish this in our church papers, we write this in pamphlet form. The great theme is the sovereignty of our God. The fact is that in our day, there are few people who care to hear this message. Our churches are small in numbers, our seminary is as small as it can, get, our financial backing is marginal, our man-power is taxed to the full. Are we going to despise this? Are we going to forsake the Scripturally revealed way and sell our birth-right for a mess of “pseudo-ecumenical” pottage? Are we going to say that our mission work is so small we might as well forget it? Our answer must be a two-fold negative one: we will hold to the truth once delivered unto the saints, and press on in our calling to speak .it forth to the ends of the earth. It is not, first of all, a question as to how many missionaries we have, how large our mission budget may be, how many stations over which we broadcast, or how many millions of pamphlets we publish. First of all, our concern is to be faithful to the truths of the Word of God as these are preserved for us in our Reformed confessions; and being faithful to these, we must use properly our money, our time, our energy in serving God. This is our privilege in the midst of increasing apostasy and decay.
For the past 12 years, there has been a congregation in Pella, Iowa, consisting of about 6 souls. They felt more than most of us the “day of small things.” Nevertheless, they pressed on; they had taped and reading services in the house and in the American Legion Hall. Ministers from time to time went there on Classical appointment. Rev. Lubbers worked there as missionary for about 2 years. It appears that the seeds of the Word sown over these years are bearing fruit. Prof. Hoeksema delivered a Reformation Day lecture at the chapel of Central College on Nov. 9 to an audience of about 150 people. At the Sunday afternoon service on the following Sunday about 50 people gathered with the faithful few. As follow up the Mission Committee decided to respond favorably to the request of Pella Consistory that more work be done, and requested Rev. Schipper to labor in Pella for about 2 weeks in December. By preaching, lecturing, and visiting with people in the area, it became evident that there is increasing interest in this community. Rev. Schipper lectured on Ezekiel 33:11 to approximately 28 souls and about the same number were present both Sunday afternoons for the services. The Mission Committee has decided to request Southeast church to release Rev. Schipper for 4 Sundays, Feb. 18-March 10, in order that he may continue his labors in Pella. Arrangements are also being made that more Classical supply be provided and lectures given. Surely it is good for us to remember these labors in our congregational prayers, that if it be the Lord’s will the witness of the truth may continue in the Pella area for generations following. Here we have the opportunity to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.
In almost all the areas in which we have churches, the Reformed Witness Hour is broadcast every Sunday. Of this number, five are being sponsored by the Mission Committee, the latest addition being in Loveland, Colorado. Scarcely does one realize the minute details and hours of work that go into this phase of our mission witness. This is not only true for the speakers, the vocal talent, the announcers whose voices are aired, but no less for the silent hands that work behind the scene. The Radio Committee of First Church is composed of members who are willing to work. They take care of all phases of the broadcast which include the details of programming, correspondence, printing and mailing of copies of the broadcast, finances, contracts, and the actual engineering involved in producing the tapes. If one would try to add up all the man-hours involved in producing one broadcast, I’m sure we would be more appreciative of the finished product. These faithful workers deserve the thanks of all of us, and may the importance of this work spur them on. The Mission Committee is interested in searching out ways in which the broadcast can be used most effectively. Even though we do not have a large budget for this work, we desire to use it properly and efficiently. This involves consideration of how long to broadcast over a certain station, how do we appraise the effectiveness of any given broadcast, how can radio be used to reach out into areas in which we do not have churches, etc. Perhaps in a future article we will be able to share some observations, as for example how to judge the response we receive from our present broadcasts.
If there is any field in which the Mission Committee feels the impact of the “day of little things” it is Jamaica. The Lord has provided for us this “open door”; but so frequently it seems that it is only ajar because of our limited means with which to work. Our fellow ministers and congregations there deeply appreciate all that we do for them. Expressions of such appreciation are received for the work that Rev. C. Hanko is now doing in instructing them through the correspondence course on the New Testament. Mr. H. Vander Wal prepares for mailing the tapes and materials of this course. Both of these brethren give much for this work and are dedicated to the task. Evidence of the fruits of this work can be seen in the development in the truth by those who receive it.
The Mission Committee is also advising the churches there as to how to proceed with the consolidating into 4 or 5 larger congregations. The many small congregations will soon be given opportunity to express themselves on the idea and whether they would favor such a move. In our dealings with the churches there, we recognize that we do not simply tell them what to do, rather we seek to guide them and lend assistance in what we judge to be best for them. The problems that are connected with such a move are many and will have to be faced as time goes on.
Rev. Heys has investigated the “duty” on the import of used clothing to the island. It appears that the customs officer determines the amount of duty at the time of importation; he examines the contents and then affixes the duty. It is impossible to know in advance just what the duty would be on any given shipment. The higher the value judged, the higher, of course, is the duty. With this information, the committee decided to request Southeast consistory to make arrangements for a clothing drive in the Grand Rapids area. There is no question about the need of the people in Jamaica and the committee feels that the best way to supply this need is by conducting used clothing drives throughout our churches and seeking ways to ship this to Jamaica most economically. Appeals will soon be made for used summer clothing.
We were informed that First Church, the calling church for a missionary, had extended the call to Rev. G. Lubbers and that the Lord had laid it upon his heart to decline this call. The need for a full-time man to labor in the area of domestic missions remains. We trust that God will provide us with men to labor in the ministry of the gospel both in the local congregations and in the mission field. The call goes forth to our young men that they prayerfully consider this need of the church. While we as churches wait for this supply, we will undoubtedly have to work together by sharing our ministers with vacant churches and also sharing them in the work of missions, lest we despise the day of small things.
Much work has gone into making the necessary preparation for the mailing of the pamphlet of Prof. H.C. Hoeksema in which he offers a critique on the recent decision of the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church taken in the Dekker case. Names of interested parties from all areas of the country have been placed on envelopes. The only thing still remaining is for the printer to finish his work on the pamphlet. This he has promised to do in the near future.
In order to cut down on expenses, it was decided not to print the Reformation Day Lecture of Prof. Hoeksema, but rather to make it available on tape for all that might be interested. Since most people have access to a tape recorder, it was felt that this would satisfy the need. This will be of special interest to groups of people that meet in their homes in various parts of the country who have expressed their interest in the lecture and will be able to enjoy it “live” on tape. If you are interested in a copy of the Reformation Day lecture, “450 years. . . .And Then?” simply contact the chairman of publications, Rev. M. Schipper, 1543 Cambridge, S.E., Grand Rapids, Michigan 49506, and he will be glad to supply you with this material for the cost of the tape (approximately $2.50).
Even though we are living in the day of small things, yet we may be thankful to God for the rich blessings He has given us as churches and the privilege we have in sharing these blessings with others who with us are concerned for the truth that God is God alone.