It seems customary that the secretary of your board make an annual report at this our annual meeting, and so it is now that I again must make a review or take stock of the activities of your board for the past year.
In going over the material of our meetings since our last general meeting one feels that most of the ‘news’, so-called, has been published in our S.P.R.E. Since your secretary was also a member of the propaganda committee, it seemed pointless repetition to go over the same material again. We feel as propaganda committee that we have kept you all pretty well abreast as regards our board action, and so for this time your secretary will depart from the usual procedure and briefly call your attention to a few general aspects of our cause.
The first observation we shall make is that of the success of the various denominational organs and projects of reformed circles outside our own, not only in the sphere of primary education such as we are concerned with tonight, but in nearly every field of endeavor whether it be primary, secondary, or even higher education. Whether it be the field of religious broadcasting or of official organs of publication, or shall we say—even mission work, the success of these causes in circles outside our own seems amazing. There seems no limit to the funds that are raised; figures nearly always run into hundreds of thousands; there seems no dearth of personnel. One is amazed at the seeming abundance of brilliant talent with which these various institutions and publications are manned. Not only does the Lord provide them with men and money, but it seems that their progress usually stops nothing short of being nation-wide. Brethren, what shall we say to these things? Does the Bible teach us to measure spiritual and eternal values by such outward progress and success? Far be it from me at this time to reflect on the inner spiritual condition of any reformed group outside ourselves. However, is not Scripture intensely clear on this point, that though outward success may be a sign of real and inner growth, surely it insists that it is not necessarily a measure of it. Let us proceed for a moment to look at our own denominational causes, shall we say our own Protestant Reformed Christian School movement, our own Reformed Witness Hour, our own Standard Bearer, Concordia, and Beacon Lights. Perhaps we need not nor should we dwell on our outward success and progress. We as Protestant Reformed people have the habit, or at least should have, of penetrating into the reality of things, into the things as God sees them. However, let us look at it just a bit. Perhaps we should begin by being humbly grateful to our covenant God for the S.P.R.E. with its supporters and funds that He gave us, for our Standard Bearer and radio, etc. However, if we insist on evaluating or measuring our outward growth and success as we in the world measure success, doubtless we must confess that we are small, that we are weak, that we are even sometimes back-sliding. What shall we say to these things, brethren? Does the Bible teach that lack of earthly and material success indicates an inner moral decadence and apostasy? Far be it from me at this time to deduce that because of our small measure of carnal and earthly values that therefore we have a large measure of eternal and spiritual values, that God is really and truly pleased with us; but by the same token and most emphatically do we assert that our measure of outward success in no sense is necessarily an indication of moral or spiritual weakness or decadence or apostasy.
To leave the matter of outward success and progress and to continue further nevertheless in general on the subject of denominational causes and projects, I would like to observe further the work itself in the various phases. As usual a number of brethren have again tonight come to the end of their tenure of office in our school board. Some of the brethren in our boards and committees have labored for years in this board not only, but in other fields of church work as well. In our various activities of campaigns and drives, and in approaching people in their homes, we have occasion to observe rather accurately and at first hand the varied reaction of our people. The attitudes of those who do not support a given cause range from a mere ‘not interested’, to a wicked, slothful neglect of one’s religious obligations, to sneering and even bitterness and opposition. Perhaps this failure on the part of so many to support church causes and organs is somewhat a normal natural condition in the church militant. Even apart from the sloth and slovenly neglect of our responsibilities and duties, obviously there is room for a certain amount of difference of opinion. Take, e.g., this cause of our own school— when we should start, how we should start, where we should start, or perhaps even if we should start at all—can be a matter of honest, diligent, and faithful opinion. Far be it from me to reflect on this difference of opinion as such. I do choose at this time to reflect rather vigorously on this other thing that is so often confused with this difference of opinion. I refer to that sloth, that neglect, that refusal to cooperate and to do one’s share in the work, to assume responsibility and duty, that bitterness and opposition. If we take, e.g., our own school causes once more, let us assume that it is possible to honestly differ on the question whether we should even have our own school or no. When Protestant Reformed parents assemble together and band together in such a cause as we represent, let it be that most of them feel that we should have our own school at once, yet they are Protestant Reformed, they are parents who have chosen to deny themselves, who have chosen to work together for the common cause of the instruction of the covenant seed. Anyone who is convinced that we should not at this time have such a school, I beg to submit and I stand to be corrected, that such an one cannot honestly and sincerely absent himself from such assembly and still be faithful and diligent. Surely such an one cannot be scoffing and bitterly opposing and at the same time love the cause of sound instruction for the covenant seed. If such an one, for example, is convinced that we should continue to attempt cooperation with the existing schools and if he really is devoted to the cause of sound reformed Christian instruction, I suggest, should not such an one seek his place in such assembly, should not he contribute of his light, of his talent, of his vantage point to such assembly? And is there not something wrong with said assembly if it does not give place to that type of individual?
To continue further on this business of making our Protestant Reformed causes and projects our own, I would like to inquire, is not the above described prevailing spirit indicative of something wrong in the midst of our various congregations of this community, not that there is any wrong merely in the fact that this ignorance, neglect, and bitterness exists, but something wrong in the fact that this spirit maintains itself in its position and rank as complacently as it does? Perhaps there are various things to which we could point as an explanation of this spirit. Permit me to point to only one basic matter in conclusion. The basic cause to which I refer is that of our leadership. I would ask, has the leadership from the pulpit and from the consistory been as consistently clear, as vigorous, as positive, and as unambiguous as it should have been? I do not hereby necessarily reflect on the person of any preacher or on the persons of any consistory. We, as Protestant Reformed people, believe that the church functions through its offices. I would ask further as regards this spirit of ignorance, neglect, and bitterness; should not this spirit, far from maintaining itself in its smugness and its complacency, far rather hang its head in shame? During the course of the past year many of us undoubtedly have had the opportunity to witness a few outstanding and magnificent occasions of such fearless and vigorous leadership. The reactions to these few instances would seem to indicate rather emphatically how far we have slipped in the past quarter of a century and how much room there is for the above suggested investigation.
I already hear some say—“Why bring that up here in a gathering such as this where people have chosen to deny themselves and to identify themselves with this cause?” Let the few final remarks be an answer to that question. I would say if I examine my own heart and mind that I find a very strong tendency to neglect to apply myself to the knowledge and the principles and the duties of the kingdom. The tendency to absorb oneself in kingdom duties and causes seems comparatively weak, and I trust that even the best among us will gladly admit that their love and zeal for these unpopular kingdom causes is nothing of which to boast.
In the first place, therefore, let this, your secretary’s report, tend to a re-awakening, to a renewed interest, to a rededication to the organs and institutions which the Lord our God has given us and that we may do so with all the gifts and light and talents wherewith our Maker has endowed us. And what about that segment among us that has forgotten or for some reason neglected to gather with us and to dedicate themselves to any or to all of the kingdom work which our God has given us to do? Let this, your secretary’s report, tend to a charitable and humbly understanding spirit above all, but also a spirit of determination to approach our brethren, calling these things to their attention so that we may do our duty even here in witnessing and giving expression to principles and duties as we have been led and taught to see. And what about that spirit of wicked neglect and opposition, that spirit that may have allowed prejudices and personalities to warp one’s sense of values, of principles, and duties? Let this, your secretary’s report’ tend to lift this spirit up out of its oblivion. Let’s look at it. Let’s define it. Let’s deal with it. Let’s be severe with it. Let’s give no quarter. Let’s root it out!
And what about our leadership? Let not the impression be left that sound and vigorous leadership is confined to a few instances, but let this, your secretary’s report, tend to a fostering of such sound and vigorous leadership. Let us love, support, encourage, and insist on leadership that hews to the line, that follows that sound and true line of reformed truth and polity and policies. And may we together seek Him in His precious Word in order that we may have wisdom and light and strength to labor and struggle together to the advancement of His great cause and that we may have a blessed part therein.
Charles Doezema, Secretary of the Board
*Secretary’s Report given at the last annual meeting of the Society for Protestant Reformed Education. This report is published at the request of the Society.