Normally, I suppose, a new department on missions in a church paper should start out with a discussion on the history of missions, or especially on the principles that govern all mission endeavor. I also considered this when I prepared the first article for this department a few months ago. And it is still my purpose; the Lord willing, to discuss at some future date the history and principles of missions. But in the meantime, there were other matters that forced themselves upon our attention. There was the Jamaican mission field that had been explored. I was eager to inform you about this work because I realized that you were interested in knowing more about this field. And now the synod of 1964 is approaching. As every year, mission matters are an important item on the synodical agenda. And many of these matters are of great interest to all of us as members of the Protestant Reformed Churches, and particularly to the consistory members, and even more particularly to the delegates of synod. There is one study committee that has already prepared its report on mission matters for the next synod. This report was adopted by the Mission Board, which has kindly consented to give me a copy of it, so that you may become acquainted with its contents and I may have the opportunity to make a few comments on it. The report I am referring to deals with the stand our churches have taken in regard to our own peculiar mission calling. And even more particularly it deals with the expression of that calling by our synods during the past five years. Let me explain. The synod of 1959 expressed a very definite stand on our mission calling. A year later, the synod of 1960 took a stand in regard to our calling to preach the Gospel beyond the sphere of our churches. The synod of 1961 proceeded along the same lines that had been drawn up in. the previous synod. And in 1962 the synod adopted a “Long Range Plan for Future Foreign Mission Work.” From all this it must be very evident that our churches have not ignored the mandate of Christ to preach the Gospel to all nations, but that the synod has been very active in considering various problems that arose in connection with our specific calling in fulfilling that mandate. It may be even added for further clarification that most of our discussions centered about the policies governing our radio broadcasting. Actually it was the problem of radio broadcasting that brought about a new expression on policy from time to time. With the result that our synod of 1963 began to ask; just what is our stand on mission work, and what is the policy that governs our domestic and foreign radio ministry? The question even arose, (which I hope to discuss later) whether radio ministry is mission work. Soon the suggestion was made that there might be gross inconsistencies between the stand that was taken in 1959 in regard to our mission calling and the stand that was taken in 1960 and 1962. There might even be some flagrant contradictions between these various decisions. Therefore the mission committee was mandated to study the various decisions taken from 1959 to 1962 for possible contradictions in these decisions. (See Acts of Synod 1963, pg. 38.) The Mission Board appointed a study committee and this study committee has prepared a report from which I will quote to you the various decisions of our past synods. The study committee informs us: “From the Acts of Synod 1959-1963 it appears that at least three of these synods differed with the preceding synods in their definitions of the mission calling of our Prot. Ref. Churches, and consequently differed also in their definitions of the purpose of radio broadcasting by the Mission Board. Moreover, in deciding upon matters of radio broadcasting, each of these synods did so according to its own definitions. All this will become evident from the following brief summaries of the decisions of the above mentioned synods.” In this present article I will quote only those decisions that pertain to the definitions of the mission calling of our churches, leaving the matter of radio broadcasting for a future article. Referring to the synod of 1959 the committee tells us: “The synod of 1959 declared itself of the conviction that the mission calling of our churches was limited to the extension of our Protestant Reformed Churches. This it did when, in deciding on policies regulating radio broadcasting by the Mission Board, it adopted the following: (Cf. Art. 137, Acts 1959)
‘Ground: This is in harmony with the preamble of our Mission Committee constitution, paragraph 2, ‘We believe . . . However, we are convinced that our present duty lies primarily in the field of church extension and reformation.’
“In the light of this decision it may be said that the synod of 1959 re-affirmed the definition of the mission calling of our churches previously set forth by our churches and as incorporated in the preamble of the Mission Board Constitution.” Thereupon, referring to the synod of 1960, the committee informs us, “At this synod the Mission Board presented a report of a sub-committee on foreign radio broadcasting. The contents of this report include a definition of the mission calling of our churches, the results, of an investigation based on this definition, and advice as how best to fulfill the calling as defined.”
“As to the definition of the mission calling of our churches, the report states, ‘It is beyond dispute that it is our calling as churches to witness to the truth of God’s sovereign grace, not only within the sphere of our churches, but also beyond our sphere to others. This witness should be as broad as possible, reaching as many people as we can.’ (Cf. B, pg. 139, Acts 1960.)
“This definition or concept of the mission calling of our churches the synod of I960 virtually adopted for its own. It did so first of all by deciding ‘to assent to the work done by the (mission) committee in this respect and declare this activity in regard to foreign broadcasting to be commendable work.’ (Cf. Art. 116, Acts 1960.) The implication of this decision is that the work is assented to, and declared commendable because it serves well to carry out the afore-defined mission calling.
“It is further evident that the synod of 1960 adopted the above definition of our calling in that synod adopted the advice contained in the report and authorized the Mission Board to contract with radio stations for foreign broadcasting.
“From all the above it is to be concluded that the synod of 1960 departed from, and to all intents and purposes repudiated the definition of the mission calling of our churches as established by the synod of 1959.”
Then referring to the synod of 1962 the committee states, “Concerning a definition of the mission calling of our churches the report adopted has the following:
‘B. 1). a. It is becoming increasing(ly) apparent that the Lord has caused the gospel to be preached in all nations where it is His purpose to gather His Church.
‘2). This does not mean that the Church has no calling anymore with regard to missions. Rather we find this calling in an entirely different direction.
‘c). . . . it remains a fact that there are small but strong bastions of the truth here and there throughout these countries.
‘d). Bearing these things in mind we see the calling of our churches today to direct its attention towards these remnants according to the election of grace to warn them of the dangers of apostasy, call them out of the apostatizing churches, and restore them to the Church of Jesus Christ.’ (Pg. 64, Acts, 1962.)
“From these quotations we learn that the synod of 1962 adopted an entirely new definition of the mission calling of our churches. It is distinct from that of ‘the extension of our Prot. Ref. Churches’ as defined by the synod of 1959. It is distinct too, from the definition set by the synod of 1960 which spoke of the calling as the broadest possible ‘witness to the truth of God’s sovereign grace.’ The definition now is to warn the small but strong bastions of the truth which are found throughout many countries ‘of the dangers of apostasy, call them out of the apostatizing churches, and restore them to the Church of Jesus Christ.’
Having given a clear and concise summary of the various decisions of previous synods on our mission calling, the committee draws the following conclusions:
“From the preceding summaries of the various synods from. 1959 through 1963 your committee concludes,
“A. That neither contradictions nor discrepancies exist in the decisions taken by the various synods. The advice of the committee of pre-advice to the synod of 1963 was evidently based on the supposition that the decisions and regulations of the synod of 1959 were yet nonnative and regulatory. This, however, is not the case. The decisions of 1959 were supplanted by those of 1960. And again, those of 1960 were superseded by those of the synod of 1962. This is evident from the summaries presented. Consequently; the decisions of the synod of 1962 concerning the definitions of the mission calling of our churches and the purpose of radio broadcasting are alone presently normative and regulatory. And neither the budgets nor the broadcasting activities of the Mission Board are in violation of these decisions and definitions.” A few additional remarks will suffice.
It is evident that in 1959 our churches did decide that our mission calling should be limited “primarily to church extension and reformation.” This was declared to be in harmony with the preamble of the Mission Committee constitution. It is also evident that the synod of 1960 had a broader view of our mission calling, for it speaks of witnessing “to the truth of God’s sovereign grace, not only within the sphere of our churches, but also beyond our sphere to others. This witness should be as broad as possible, reaching as many people as we can.”
Now there is an obvious difference between these two decisions. The one limits the mission activities of our churches to church extension close to home. The other conceives of our calling as extending beyond the sphere of our churches, even as broad as possible. And as a result of the latter decision, our churches took up radio broadcasting in foreign countries.
Is this an inconsistency or even a contradiction of policy? It certainly must be if the former decision is in harmony with the preamble of the constitution and the latter is not.
But this is not the case. The entire paragraph of the preamble referred to above, reads: “We believe that this missionary activity includes the work of church extension, and church reformation, as well as the task of carrying out the Gospel to the unchurched and heathen. However, we are convinced that our present duty lies primarily in the field of church extension and church reformation.”
What has happened is that the synod of 1960 has broadened the scope of mission work to include not only church extension, but also church reformation. It has also conceived of our calling as extending to the unchurched and heathen. The synods of 1961 and 1962 have acted accordingly. And the same may be said for our synod of 1963.
This is also our obvious duty. We have a glorious Gospel of sovereign grace entrusted to us. Apostasy is running rampant everywhere. The time is growing short. We must work to fulfill our calling even to the utmost of our power. We can labor untiringly in the confidence that God has used and will use our small efforts to His own good purpose.