There appears a far more comprehensive report of the actions and decisions of the 1964 Synod elsewhere in this issue of the Standard Bearer. But since the synod devoted much time to our mission program and mission efforts I would like to devote a little space to these matters. Those who were interested in the affairs of the synod have already asked, ‘What was done about Houston?,” or, ‘What are the plans for Jamaica?, or, ‘What about calling another missionary for the field of home missions?” These questions I want to answer and discuss briefly.
First of all then, a few remarks about Houston, Texas.
Synod did decide to continue the work in that field, at least for the present. This will be rather difficult because we have no missionary to give his undivided attention to this field of labor. But the Mission Committee was instructed to contact the various consistories, asking them to release their ministers for a period of about three weeks to visit Houston. In cooperation with the families there these ministers will be expected to put forth every effort to make new contacts in that area, in order to increase, if possible, the number of interested parties toward a possible future organization of a church. Each minister will be expected to report to the Mission Committee his findings and his advice concerning future labors in the area.
If the work in Houston is to be carried out successfully, the families there will be very busy. Their first attempt will most likely be to obtain church directories of the orthodox evangelical churches in the area and also the names of all interested parties in the community. Thereupon they will be reading pamphlets written by our ministers, in order to pick out those that will best serve their purpose for propagating the truth of God’s sovereign grace as we know and confess it. A wide distribution of these pamphlets and pointed newspaper announcements may, under the blessing of God, open the way for our ministers to make personal contacts with those who have not yet made acquaintance with our churches, A prayerful, diligent witness should soon prove whether or not our God will leave a permanent witness of His sovereign grace in that place.
Secondly, there is the Jamaica field.
Concerning Jamaica synod decided to continue sending all available material for use in their churches. This includes such material as catechism books, Sunday School Guide, Standard Bearer, Beacon Lights, pamphlets and sermon recordings.
Last fall about two hundred copies of catechism books were sent to the island. Book One of Bible Stories and Old Testament History for Juniors with the accompanying Work books were given to the various churches. These have been gratefully received and diligently used by both old and young. This year the children should be ready for Book Two of Bible Stories and The New Testament for Juniors with its accompanying work book. The Standard Bearer andBeacon Lights have helped to make these churches more fully acquainted with us and with our convictions. The Sunday School Guide has been a great help to both teachers and pupils. Both Rev. Frame and Rev. Elliott inform us that they have taken the recorder and tapes with them on their visit to the various churches, and that the sermons are eagerly listened to for their mutual edification. They tell us that the people receive great spiritual benefit from these sermons and they experience the common bond of faith that unites them to us.
The synod also decided to make plans for taking Jamaican students into our seminary in the future. It will be a disappointment to some of the Jamaican young men that these plans cannot be realized at once, since they had their hopes built up on coming to our seminary at once. Yet they will be content to know that this matter is now under study by our Theological School Committee. Synod decided “to instruct the Theological School Committee td investigate the possibility of preparing a special course of instruction adapted to the preparation of these young men (of Jamaica) for work in the midst of their own people.” The following grounds were offered for this decision:
“(1) Obviously, to give them a complete education such as our men receive takes too many years.
“(2) It is not necessary for them to receive education in all the required pre-seminary and seminary courses to minister to their own people.
“(3) To meet their needs requires a special course differing rather radically from the course now given our ministerial candidates.
“(4) We should help these people to the extent that the Gospel of Christ may be proclaimed in their midst if passable.”
There is still another possibility of helping these churches which look to us for help and guidance. And that is that we send someone to the island again to spend a few weeks or months there in order to aid them with personal counsel and further instruction. Especially the churches with Rev. Elliott, who have not had contact with us as long as the other churches have, are quite desirous that someone should come to visit them again. Recent letters from them have expressed the hope that a minister or even an elder might come to answer their many questions and to help them with problems connected with organization. Personally I am sorry that this matter was not brought to the attention of Synod. But we do well to consider this in our future plans.
Also matters pertaining to calling a home missionary were discussed at synod.
As you may know, there was a request at synod that all our ministers be made eligible for the missionary call. This was agreed upon by synod. And this gives the calling church many more candidates for a future trio. May the Lord in His own time incline the heart of one of our men to take up this work in the future. One big draw back will be the shortage of ministers in our churches. The need for our outlying churches is also great and cannot be ignored, but we know that it is Christ Who calls through His Church and says to this one “Come,” and he comes, and to that one “Go,” and he goes. For it is Christ who gathers, defends and preserves His own Church even unto the end of the ages.
The synod considered this a very proper time for our local churches to be active in mission work in their own area. Since we have no missionary in the field at present we may be able to concentrate on this work a little more fully than we have done in the past. As you know, it is customary in the churches to appoint Church Visitors who visit the churches annually. These church visitors have a list of prescribed questions which are asked of the consistory. A copy of these questions may be found on page 69 of our Church Order. One of the questions is this, “Is the congregation busy in the extension of God’s Kingdom, especially in the promotion of missions, to the best of its ability?” This particular question raises more discussion than any other. The consistory members wonder just what they are called to do toward the extension of God’s kingdom. They also ask in what way they may be busy in the promotion of missions. And they never fail to inquire as to what is meant by the expression “to the best of its ability.” We can appreciate the fact that the various consistories want to give an honest and complete answer to this question and that they are interested in church extension work in their own area. We also realize that many of them are active in various ways. Most of our churches have committees, working in various mission endeavors, especially in the distribution of pamphlets. But this decision of synod can encourage them in this York and also help them to expand their program. For synod decided that any local church may appeal to the Mission Committee for assistance in the spread of pamphlets and for financial aid for local radio broadcasting.
There are, of course, many pamphlets available for distribution. Some of these pamphlets have been available for many years and have been sent to almost every part of the world. Some are of a more recent date. The Standard Bearer Board has published a few pamphlets under the heading of “The Word of Truth.” Another series has been published by the churches in the South Holland area. Besides these there is the “Covenant Witness” published .by the Hope Church, and the “Reformed Witness” by the churches in the Midwest. Many of us have felt that this material is far too valuable to be limited to such a small area: Some effort should be put forth either to unite these efforts or to give these publications a much broader distribution. But in any case, these should be made available to those churches which desire to send out pamphlets in their own community.
The suggestion was also made at synod that lectures should be given on timely subjects in defense of the five points of Calvinism, which are sometimes forgotten and sometimes attacked; especially the emphasis should be placed on the particular atonement of the cross.
The radio committee has been working for some time on a fifteen minute broadcast that can be used for a period of thirteen weeks. These broadcasts also are intended to stress the fundamental issues of the day. The one objection to a thirteen week broadcast is the fact that a listening audience cannot be built up in such a short time, unless the program is extensively advertised before it comes on the air. In areas where such a broadcast is to be used such an announcement should accompany the distribution of pamphlets, but should also be placed in .the local newspapers, and probably even extensively spread abroad by means of postcard or letter.
But all of these means of witness must necessarily be followed up by personal contact. This can be done by the local minister, or by the local consistory members, or even by members of the congregation. But such a follow up is essential if any program of mission endeavor is to bear fruit. Prayerfully looking to the Lord for His blessing upon these labors we can fulfill our calling in a time of much apathy and apostasy, even as our God has said, “Ye are My witnesses, saith the Lord.”
There are a few other items that were considered by synod.
Our radio broadcasting was discussed and various proposals were adopted. Most of our stations within the United States will be continued for another year. The Trans-world station broadcasting from Monacco throughout Europe and into England will also be continued for another year. That station still brings many interesting letters, which give evidence to the fact that there is a wide and varied listening audience in many countries. Although we are numerically small, this station gives us a wonderful opportunity to witness of the Reformed truth in many areas. The responses that are received should be followed up by further correspondence. Especially those listeners who show a sincere interest in hearing and searching the truth of God’s Word should be placed on a pamphlet mailing list. Thus a closer contact could be established with these listeners, even though our lack of ministers and facilities prevents us from making a personal contact with them. In the past some very interesting contacts have been made and also our Jamaican field was opened through information received from a listener in England.
The matters pertaining to foreign mission endeavor were extensively discussed by the synod and were referred to the Foreign Mission Committee for further study. It may be some time before we can reach out into areas where the people have never heard the Gospel. Especially the language barrier may prevent us from doing work among those who in their generations have been outside of the sphere of the preaching of the Word. But that does not mean that these areas cannot be investigated. Especially in those areas where the English or the Dutch language is spoken we may be able to make contact by correspondence, by pamphlets, or by radio. I recall that some years ago a listener of Radio Hoyer wrote that he had not heard the Reformed truth proclaimed since he had left the Netherlands. It was refreshing to him to hear our weekly broadcasts. Through such contacts maybe areas could be explored where the Gospel has not yet been proclaimed. Surely much can be done even in this field without laying a great financial burden upon our churches.
I have tried to give you an armchair visit to our synod and acquaint you with the decisions that were made in connection with our mission endeavors. It is our prayer that the Lord may keep us faithful to His Word and also bless these efforts toward the proclamation of His Name upon the earth. In the confidence that even weakest means fulfill His will and that His strength is accomplished through our weakness, we go on in faith that He will work His work toward the ingathering of His Church and the coming of His Kingdom. When the Lord builds His House, His laborers never labor in vain; when the Lord keeps His City, His watchers never watch in vain.