Rev. Kleyn is pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Edgerton, Minnesota, who will be installed as the new pastor of First PRC of Holland, Michigan on October 12, 2005. (Note: This article is based on a speech that was originally given for the Combined Ladies’ Meeting of the Doon, Edgerton, and Hull Protestant Reformed Churches.)
The subject we have before us is a significant one for us to consider. It is so because of the fact that our churches are busily involved in the work of missions. Presently we have five mission fields, and five ministers serving as missionaries. We also have many other opportunities as churches to establish mission fields and to do mission work. The Lord has been pleased to use us for the spread of His truth to many places throughout the world.
In a way, this subject is of special interest to you women who are here this evening. That is because of the fact that the congregations of which you are members are very directly involved in the foreign mission work of our churches. Two of the congregations are calling churches: Hull for Ghana, and Doon for the Philippines. In addition to that, the three ministers and six elders or ex-elders from the three congregations in this area constitute the Foreign Mission Committee of our churches. And this committee meets every month in order to supervise the denomination’s work of foreign missions.
But the subject is significant for all, for the mission work of our churches is the work of every member of our denomination. It is not simply the work of the calling churches and the mission committees and the missionaries and missionary assistants who are on the fields. It is true that most of the work is done directly by them. But you must understand and remember that they do that work on your behalf. The work of missions is, therefore, also your work. Every individual who is a member of our churches is involved in doing that work. And for that reason, also, you all have the calling before God to be interested in and to be involved in the spread of the gospel through missions.
Let us consider, then, what role you have as women in the churches’ work of missions.
To begin with, we take a brief look at what mission work is. It is important to understand this, especially in light of the fact that there are many misconceptions today concerning it.
Many have the idea that a significant aspect of mission work, if not the only thing, is to help out the poor by providing their earthly needs. We must bring the gospel, but we should also be actively seeking to raise the standard of living of those to whom we bring it. This often becomes the focus in mission work. The result is that mission work is redefined, at least in people’s minds, as doing service projects for others, or going on a “mission trip” to a third-world country in order to repair buildings, or build homes, or hand out such things as clothing and money.
However, this is not mission work. Mission work is not to provide financially for the poor around the world. But mission work is the work of preaching the gospel. Mission work is not helping out the poor materially, but helping out God’s people spiritually. Mission work is not delivering people from physical poverty, but is the work of preaching the gospel that delivers from spiritual poverty.
It is important that we keep this always before our minds. The work of the church in missions is to preach the gospel. We have been commissioned by Christ to bring the Word of God to those who have not heard it before, or who are currently not hearing it. We are to bring, not money, but the words of eternal life. We are to provide, not physical food, but spiritual food. That is the work of missions.
It is for this reason that the work of missions is the official work of the church. Mission work is not done by some parachurch organization. Mission work is not conducted by a self-appointed missionary. Mission work is not carried out by a group of “mission minded” people. The great commission was given to the church. And the fact that it was given to the church means that the church does the work of missions. It is official work that is done through the church calling missionaries, sending these missionaries to the fields, and supervising the work that is done on the field.
That is also why mission work is carried out by the men of the churches. You all know that. We do not have women missionaries. We do not have women as officebearers who can serve on the councils of the calling churches. We do not have women on the mission committees. The men are the ones who have been given headship and rule in the church of Christ, and they are the ones who are called to exercise that rule also in the churches’ work of missions. Mission work is done chiefly by the men of the churches.
This raises the question, then: What about you who are women? What is the role that you have in the church’s work of missions? If it is indeed true, as it is, that mission work is the work of every member of the church, how can women be involved in that work?
Your primary responsibility as women—and let me point out and underscore the fact that this is not only your primary responsibility, but also an indispensable work that you must be doing—that primary responsibility is that you support the preaching of the gospel. Your calling as women in the work of missions is really no different from the calling of any other member of the church. It is the calling that you have as those who occupy the office of believer in Christ. In that office, your calling is no different from that which all the men and children and young people in the church have. Every believer has that obligation. And it is the obligation, as I said, to support the preaching of the gospel. You are to give wholehearted support to the preaching—supporting it, first of all, within the congregation of which you are members, but then also supporting it on the mission field.
That support begins with a sincere interest in the preaching that takes place on the mission fields. It means that you have a desire to see the blessed truths of the gospel proclaimed to others. You desire that because you know from your own experience the blessedness of the truths of the gospel as the Spirit works them in your hearts and lives by means of the preaching. You long for others to hear that gospel so that they too might know the joy of that blessed salvation.
Another reason for your interest in the preaching of the Word of God is your desire that the church of Christ be gathered from every land throughout the world. You know Christ’s church is a catholic church. You know the elect are present in every nation under heaven. You therefore realize that the most important thing that has to happen in the history of the world is the worldwide preaching of the gospel so that the elect of Christ are gathered and saved.
Christ tells us that in Matthew 24:14. Giving us one of the signs of the end of time, Christ said: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” The end will come when the gospel has gone forth throughout the world and has been used by Christ to save His church.
As members of the church who hold the office of believer in Christ, and as those to whom God has given and entrusted the truths of the gospel, we must be interested in seeing the gospel go forth. We should long to see Christ’s one work in time and history accomplished—the salvation of the elect. For then Christ Himself will return and bring His church to glory.
That ought to be true of us all. Nothing should be more important to the believer than the salvation of the last elect. With that and the return of Christ in view, we must be vitally interested in and fully supportive of the preaching of the gospel.
There are many practical ways in which you are able, as women, to support the preaching. The Lord willing, we will consider them next time.