Rev. Miersma is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of New Zealand.
Greetings from your sister church in New Zealand! As seen in the title of this article, our little church has reached the milestone of its tenth anniversary. In the May 1, 1985 issue of the Standard Bearer there appeared an article announcing the organization of the Protestant Reformed Church of New Zealand and giving the history that led up to that event. Ten years have now gone by. Looking back over those years we can confess with Samuel, “Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.” Knowing that our God is a faithful God, both willing and able to help us, we continue to look upon Him to be with us in the future, our “stone of help,” our “Ebenezer.”
Since few of you have any direct contact with this church you may wonder what has taken place during the last ten years. Let me try to fill in some of the details.
We must first state what took place at the beginning. On March 17, 1985, some ten years after Prof. H.C. Hoeksema and Rev. C. Hanko first visited New Zealand, the faithful group of believers were organized into a church of Jesus Christ. Wanting to be both Protestant and Reformed this new church not only called herself Protestant Reformed, but also adopted the Reformed Standards as held by the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. We confess and hold dear the Three Forms of Unity, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession of Faith, and theCanons of Dordrecht, as well as all the other minor confessions as they appear in the back of The Psalter. The Psalter, incidentally, is used in our worship services exclusively. And furthermore, following the rich Reformed tradition, the church chose to be governed by the Church Order of Dordrecht.
From this it can be easily seen that we are very much like you—so much, in fact, that if it were not for the many miles of water between us we would be one with you organizationally. Since organizational unity was not possible, the new church sought and obtained sister-church relationship with the Protestant Reformed Churches in America at the 1986 Synod. Synod also agreed to ask the churches to take collections for the young sister, which would make it possible for her to call and have her own minister. Early in 1987 the Macedonian call for help was sent to the undersigned. After accepting the call and waiting for the New Zealand government to give permission for immigration, the undersigned and his family moved to New Zealand in January of 1988. Installation services, officiated by Rev. J.A. Heys, took place in February. The undersigned still serves as her pastor, having been here now for just over seven years.
Turning to the membership and life of the church, we go back to its beginning. On that memorable day in 1985 five families, comprising eighteen souls, brought their membership papers forward to become charter members of the new church. Today the membership consists of seven families, nineteen souls altogether. Although we celebrate the Lord’s Supper regularly we have had the privilege of administering the sacrament of baptism to but three. Two of our number the Lord has taken to glory where they are now part of the church triumphant. Seven of our young people have made confession of faith. Sadly, four of them upon marrying left our fellowship, two to leave for foreign lands. However, on a happier note, two of our young people have recently announced their engagement to each other with plans to marry later this year.
In addition to our ecclesiastical fellowship with the PRC we have continuing contact with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia. This contact has proved to be a blessing to us, and the brethren in Australia have expressed the same with respect to us. This contact has led to our sending our pastor as observer to their Presbytery (Synod) meetings, and to his speaking at one of their annual Easter camps and preaching in two of their churches in Tasmania for a period of three months. Thus the bond is warm and continues to grow. With the Evangelical Reformed Churches in Singapore we are also trying to establish closer contact.
Every church, individually and in federal union with churches of like faith, has the calling not only to preach to the saints within the church but also to bring the gospel message to those around her, even to the ends of the earth. Being a small church with the desire to grow not only spiritually but also numerically we are keenly aware of that calling and are trying to fulfill Christ’s mandate to the church as given in Matthew 28:19, 20. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” To do this we follow the principle of mission work as set forth by Christ just before His ascension. In Acts 1:8 we read, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” That being our guide we have begun and concentrated our efforts in the immediate vicinity of the church, working further out as the Lord leads us and gives us opportunity. To bring some organization to our efforts an Evangelism Society was established under the auspices of the Session. It is through this society that we carry out most of our efforts.
Our most recent effort, begun in May 1994, has been the publishing of a monthly leaflet called the Reformed Banner. Five hundred of these are distributed in the area of the church each month to addresses that have not received it before. Each one contains an insert telling about our church and an invitation to be placed on our mailing list. Included also is the opportunity to subscribe to the Standard Bearer at an introductory offer of half price. This leaflet also is advertised periodically in a Christian weekly paper distributed nationally, and with each weekly advertisement of our worship services in the religious section of Wellington’s Evening Post. This has proved fruitful in that many have asked to receive the Reformed Banner regularly. Several Standard Bearersubscriptions have also resulted. However, more important is the fact that we have had a number of phone calls inquiring about the church and also a number visiting our worship services.
In addition, we continue to do what we have always done. We maintain a good stock of pamphlets and booklets which are advertised and distributed nationally. Our bookshop stocks all of the RFPA publications as well as other books published by various organization in the Protestant Reformed Churches. The society also maintains a tape library and sponsors lectures. These efforts may appear small when placed alongside the efforts of larger churches, but considering our smallness it represents quite a commitment for each of our members, both in terms of time and resources. We pray that God may continue to bless these efforts. Even though up to this point they have not resulted in numerical growth, the testimony of the members is that they certainly have grown themselves spiritually. And that, of course, is the first and primary purpose of the preaching of the gospel, the edification and preservation of the local church.
As a Session (consistory) and as a congregation we appreciate all of your prayers which you bring to the throne of God’s grace in our behalf. We need your prayers; for, just as in any church in this world, we too are plagued with difficulties from time to time. We also use this means to thank you for your continued support in the way of your offerings. Your gifts of love provide the means which are necessary for us to continue the ministry of God’s Word here in New Zealand.
As we soldier on we remember the Word of God which was addressed to us on the day of our organization and summarized in the May 1, 1985 issue of theStandard Bearer. I quote, “The undersigned preached on Ephesians 2:20-22, emphasizing that they as an instituted church of Jesus Christ were a visible manifestation of the church invisible, the spiritual habitation of the living God as He dwells with His covenant people in Jesus Christ through the Spirit. Their strength, therefore, could only be found in the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ as its chief cornerstone, that is, in the Word of God as recorded and preached by the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being that Word, the revelation of the God of our salvation. The small flock was instructed that as a church this was the Word that they were commanded of God to preach, and that too, in all its purity. In addition, the officebearers which were to be elected during that service were duty bound to carry out that mandate as officebearers of Christ.”
Through this means we hope that you have become better acquainted with your sister here in New Zealand and thus will be able better to relate to us and pray for us.