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Robert D. Decker is professor of New Testament and Practical Theology in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.

That the church of Christ has the calling to do mission work is plain from Scripture. Jesus said: “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 always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) This command of Christ applies to the church of all ages, for the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ as the chief corner stone are the foundation of the church. (Eph. 2:20) Christ promised to be with that church even to the end of the world. The book of Acts records the explosion of the apostolic church from Jerusalem throughout the Mediterranean world. This calling in missions is also plain from the fact that Jesus told us that this gospel must be preached to all the world for a witness to the nations, and when this work is accomplished, Jesus said, then shall the end come. (Matt. 24:14) Revelation chapter 6 gives us the vision of the white horse and rider going through the earth conquering and to conqueror.

All of this applies to our churches. In obedience to the command of the King and by the grace of His Holy Spirit we must be busy in this work. By the grace of God we can preach the gospel boldly, optimistically, and joyfully. We need never be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for our God always causes us to triumph in the gospel in every place. The gospel is the power of God to salvation to every one that believes; the Jew first, but also the Greek.

In the past the emphasis in missions was on church reformation. This is plain from the preamble of the mission committee constitution: “The Protestant Reformed Churches believe that, in obedience to the command of Christ, the King of the church, to preach the blessed gospel to all creatures, baptizing, and teaching them to observe all things which Christ has commanded, it is the explicit duty and sacred privilege of said churches to carry out this calling according to the measure of our God-given ability.

“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. . .” From this it is obvious that our churches believe they have the calling to preach the gospel to all creatures. Belonging to this calling is church extension or reformation. Our churches, however, believe that their present duty lies primarily in church extension directed to Reformed and especially Christian Reformed Churches. This constitution was adopted by the Synod of 1940 and remains in force today. Under this preamble our mission work was done for the first 38 years of our history.

The history of Protestant Reformed missions is interesting. In 1924 there were three churches cast out of the Christian Reformed Church. These were called the Protesting Christian Reformed Churches; one in Kalamazoo, Eastern Avenue in Grand Rapids, and Hope in Riverbend. 1931 saw the appointment of the first mission committee. By 1934 there were 19 congregations organized largely as the fruit of the work of Revs. Ophoff and Hoeksema. Our first home missionary, the Rev. Bernard Kok, labored from 1936 to 1941. Other missionaries were called and labored both in the States and after the war in Canada. The work in Canada was among the post-war Dutch immigrants who had their roots in the liberated churches of the Netherlands. By 1950 there were 25 churches with nearly 6,000 members. After the split of 1953 the Rev. George C. Lubbers, became home missionary. For 10 years Lubbers worked in Colorado, the Dakotas, and in Houston, Texas. The churches of Loveland, Colorado; Forbes, North Dakota; and Isabel, South Dakota were organized during this period. The Rev. Robert C. Harbach succeeded Lubbers. The church in Houston was organized under his preaching. Rev. Harbach also labored in British Columbia and as a result some families have joined our churches in Lynden, Washington, and Edmonton, Alberta. Later under the ministry of the Rev. Bernard Woudenberg, Edmonton, Alberta, was organized.

1962 marks a significant date in the history of Protestant Reformed Missions. The Lord, in that year, opened a door for us in Jamaica. A minister in England heard the Reformed Witness Hour over Transworld Radio and liked what he heard. He contacted the Rev. C. Hanko and asked that we take over the work among some twenty congregations in the hill country of Jamaica. This we have done by emissaries and by correspondence. Rev. Lubbers served as missionary in Jamaica from 1970 to 1975. Currently the Rev. Wilbur Bruinsma is laboring on the Island of Jamaica. Why are 1962 and Jamaica so significant? For some forty years we were involved in church reformation and extension almost exclusively. Many accused us of not believing in missions and of proselytizing among the Christian Reformed. When Martin Luther was accused of this, he replied that he was too busy reforming the church to do missions. That is our answer too. The churches needed to be established in the truth. Then, when they had been founded, God gave us work in Jamaica and later in Singapore. Besides, Jamaica is different, in fact, decidedly different. The Jamaicans are not white, but black. They are not Dutch, but Jamaican. They are not middle class, but poor, extremely poor, especially poor by Western standards. They are not well versed in the reformed creeds, but they are babes in the faith. And all these and more differences present their own problems. Just listen to those who have worked there. Prior to 1962 we labored among groups very much like us. We labored among peoples steeped in Dutch Reformed Theology and tradition. Now we labor among people very different from us; in different lands, in different cultures, and with different customs and mores. But the need is the same; the life giving gospel of the sovereign grace of God in Jesus Christ.

What then is our present calling in missions? The Protestant Reformed Churches have a calling to do church reformation and extension. In this respect the Protestant Reformed Churches have an awesome responsibility. God has preserved the reformed truth in our churches. We have, by His grace, good, solid, expository preaching and catechetical instruction. Discipline is exercised and the sacraments are administered according to the institution of Jesus Christ. We have several covenant, Christian schools staffed by dedicated teachers. Our churches are strong by the grace of God. Thanks be to Him! But it is not time to be at ease in Zion. Ours is a time when the very foundations of Reformed orthodoxy are being shaken and destroyed. Let him or that church that thinks he or it stands take heed lest it fall. Our calling is to preach and teach and give witness to the truth of the blessed gospel of God’s sovereign grace. We must do this by means of home missionaries, by means of the radio, the printed page, tracts and pamphlets. We must continue what we are doing as individual congregations and as a denomination, in New Jersey and Chicago and California.

This work is extremely difficult. There is widespread ignorance among the people of the most simple truths and Bible doctrines. This is because of the widespread apostasy in the seminaries and the consequent failure of the pulpit. Even the late Dr. J.H. Bavinck remarks about this in his book entitled,Introduction Into the Science of Missions, published some thirty years ago. Truly the lament of Hosea applies to our times: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge . . .” Our home missionaries live with this reality every day. Only a remnant receives the gospel of sovereign grace while the vast majority despise and oppose it. Our home missionaries live with this reality every day as well.

But we must also go to the nations. We must go wherever God sends us and opens the way for us. We must also continue to work in Jamaica where we still have a wide-open door. There are many needs, many sick, many weaknesses, many sins, many poor. These things ought not deter us; They are all the more reason why we must preach and teach the gospel there. Jesus told us that the poor we have always with us and inasmuch as we do it unto the least of these brothers of Christ, we do it to Christ. We must go wherever God sends us.

In this work we must never be discouraged. It is God’s work. The elect are in the nations. By the preaching of the Word the Son of God will gather them into the church. And by the same preaching of the Word, the ungodly will be left without excuse. And when the gospel shall have been preached to all the world for a witness, then, as Jesus said, the end shall come. In no less a work God gives us the privilege to participate. And in this work we are more than conquerors. God calls us and God equips us to be His instruments and God gives the fruit. We need never be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation unto everyone that believes. As we continue in our mission work let us confess with the apostle Paul: “Now thanks be unto God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of His knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour death unto death; and to the other the savor of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as many that corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” (II Cor. 2:14-17) The welfare of God’s covenant and the honor of His Name are at stake. This is the on-going calling and challenge to our Protestant Reformed Churches.