The title of this editorial is lifted from a report to the Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches set to meet in June of 2013. The full sentence reads: “These are exciting times, and God has given us also a powerful way to extend our distinctive message to the ends of the earth.” The report happens to be that of the Reformed Witness Hour Committee, but the clause could have appeared in any number of reports to synod. It captured what I felt as I read the agenda of synod. Excitement. Let me show you why in this preview of synod’s agenda.
The main work of the Domestic Mission Committee (DMC) is in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area, where missionary Rev. Bruinsma and his wife live and work. Obviously, the welfare of a mission field is heavily dependent on a missionary (and family). Rev. Bruinsma reports not only on his labors (extensive and energetic), but also on his observations on the work generally. Some of his reflections we share:
Domestic missions is not what it used to be. In the past we were able to keep ourselves busy with
small groups of people who asked us to come and help them. These groups consisted of people who were already of a Reformed background, had a certain knowledge of Scripture and the Reformed confessions, and understood what it meant to be committed to a church and its ordinances. This is not true of domestic missions anymore today. We live in a society rife with unbelief and an ecclesiastical world void of scriptural knowledge….
Not in the least discouraged, Missionary Bruinsma continues
This does not mean the church today may become remiss in her calling to preach the gospel both in far-off lands and to the dispersed of our own land. Preaching the gospel outside the confines of the instituted church is as important and urgent as preaching that gospel within. We must always and ever call to faith and repentance and we must do that “to all persons promiscuously and without distinction.”
And he assures synod, “We have by God’s grace continued to preach the gospel in Pittsburgh.”
Preaching is the heart of the work in Pittsburgh, as it must be. The report of the DMC indicates
that it includes Heidelberg Catechism preaching, and that it is supported by catechism classes for the youth, doctrine classes for adults, lectures, and conferences. The missionary and the DMC give a good report of the activities of the missionary and the group in Pittsburgh, good encouragement and involvement by the DMC and the calling church (Southwest PRC). They are innovative and long thinking, also in their outreach to the areas surrounding Pittsburgh.
The DMC’s efforts to encourage home missions include development of the web site and offering assistance to evangelism committees/societies of local congregations in the hope that their efforts will develop into a denominational work. I, for one, pray their efforts are fruitful, and that the Lord of the harvest will open doors to enable the PRC to call additional domestic missionaries.
Reformed Witness Hour
The Reformed Witness Hour (RWH) Committee is not a standing committee of the PRC, but is rather a committee historically under the consistory of First PRC in Grand Rapids. Thus it does its fine work at almost no cost to the denomination (officially) but is sup
ported primarily by contributions and church collections. It cooperates with our DMC to broadcast in places where the DMC has interest in mission work. The RWH Committee reports that currently the RWH is broadcast on eighteen stations in the US and Canada, as well as in Northern Ireland and the Philippines. They continue to add stations as requests come in.
Their excitement for the work shines through when they describe a new facet of their broadcasting, namely, the Internet. They report tens of thousands of visits and downloads on their website (www.reformedwitness.org) and Sermon Audio.
Important as the media may be, however, it is especially the message that invigorates this committee. They write:
We are not simply “another voice” on the airwaves and on the Internet, even in terms of the Reformed faith. Ours is a distinctive Reformed radio and Internet program, on which we proclaim our distinctive doctrines of sovereign, particular grace and an unconditional covenant. But besides proclaiming these distinctive truths, we also are becoming more and more distinct with our teachings on creation, on marriage and family, and on the Christian life. The Lord has given us a clear and certain sound to herald in these last days, and we are committed to staying faithful to this pure, biblical doctrine.
The main work of the Protestant Reformed Churches in foreign mission continues to be in the Philippines. The reports of the Foreign Mission Committee (FMC), Doon’s consistory, and the missionaries all reflect the godly excitement they experience in their work. First, they rejoice in the return of Vernon Ibe to the field and his ordination into the ministry. Rev. Ibe has accepted the call from the Berean PRC in Manila and is capably doing the preaching and the pastoral work in the congregation. The missionaries also appreciate his assistance because Rev. Ibe can speak and preach fluently in Tagalog.
Some may have wondered about the need for two missionaries in the Philippines, what with Rev. Ibe’s return. Anyone who reads the reports will have all doubts removed about that. God has given Missionaries Smit and Kleyn many contacts and opportunities to expand their labors. Currently they preach in five different locations as they are able. In various places and to various groups they teach catechism classes and Reformed doctrine classes for membership. In addition they hold seminary-like classes for area ministers on doctrine, sermon-making (homiletics), and interpreting Scripture (hermeneutics).
Then consider that their nearest group is forty-five minutes away, and the farthest is a five-hour drive.
Besides, they are regularly and carefully working with various churches and ministers with a view to forming (in God’s good time) a denomination of churches devoted to the Reformed truth that the Berean Church already wholeheartedly embraced as taught in the Reformed confessions and interpreted in the Declaration of Principles.
We cannot thank God enough for His blessing on these zealous labors!
Contact with Other Churches
The Committee for Contact with Other Churches (CC) reports on various work that it is privileged to do on behalf of the churches in obedience to the Lord’s command to manifest the unity of the body of Christ in the truth. The CC reports on correspondence with the Evangelical Churches of Australia, on the visit of synodically-commissioned observers to NAPARC (North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council), as well as a visit of two members to the Confessing Protestant-Reformed Congregation in Giessen, Germany in the last year. Discussions continue with the congregation in Giessen on matters of doctrine and practice, and some progress is reported.
There is, without question, special joy when God gives the Protestant Reformed Churches opportunity to experience the closeness of sister-church relations with the church of Christ in a distant land,
and the CC’s report indicates that. The relationship with the Covenant PRC in Northern Ireland continues to abide strong, and with obvious mutual appreciation. The congregation in Northern Ireland and her mission in the Republic of Ireland (Limerick) maintain a bold yet winsome witness to the Reformed faith in the British Isles and into Europe. A better ally in the battle of faith one could hardly find. We rejoice that CPRC NI is sending Elder Reid as a delegate to synod this year.
The bond of fellowship with our sister church in Singapore is certainly not a merely formal relationship. With much joy the CC (officially) reports to the synod that Rev. Andy Lanning has accepted the call to be the minister-on-loan to the Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore (CERC). To the surprise of none, Rev. Lanning is well received in CERC, and he and his wife Stephanie and their five children are adjusting well in their new land. They report that they are determined to labor there as long as the Lord wills. CERC is looking at the government regulations with which they must comply in order to call Rev. Lanning as their pastor in the next year and a half or so.
A historic event in our relationship occurred this spring with the visit of Rev. Koole and Elder Tom Bodbyl to CERC, when they, among other activities, conducted church visitation. The session of CERC requested church visitation because they understood that such a visit is not a ruling over, but a part of good mutual oversight inherent in Reformed church polity. As Southeast PRC and Grandville PRC, as Hope Redlands and Lynden, so the PRC and CERC have a responsibility to each other. The CC asks synod’s approval for church visitation to be done yearly, as it is with the congregation in Northern Ireland. Plans are for CERC to send a delegate to synod as well. These are exciting times.
A Special Report
Synod 2012 instructed the DMC and the FMC to form a joint study committee to examine seven specific matters of their constitutions having to do with the calling and continued labors of missionaries (confer Acts of 2012, Art. 58). The committee brings three recommendations. Synod will need to judge whether the committee has satisfactorily addressed all the concerns. Of particular concern to the delegates of 2012 was the fifth point, “Whether there should be a way to terminate a man’s calling as missionary in addition to the ways specified in the Church Order.” The answer of the committee is, “yes.”
Theological School Committee
Another year draws to a close in the Theological Seminary of the Protestant Reformed Churches. The Theological School Committee (TSC), appointed by synod to oversee the seminary, reports of God’s blessing on the instruction. This is the eighty-eighth year of instruction in which God has preserved the seminary as a defender and teacher of the Reformed faith. God continues to give the seminary young men, capable, godly young men, committed to be faithful preachers and pastors in the church of Jesus Christ. Nine young men are applying for entrance to the seminary in the fall, one of whom comes from our sister church in Singapore, and the rest from the PRC.
With joy the TSC reports that one student, Mr. Erik Guichelaar, son of the Wingham congregation, is recommended by the faculty for examination at the synod. The Lord willing, the churches will have another minister of the Word and Sacraments installed into office before the end of the year.
The times are exciting for the Protestant Reformed Churches. The blessings are abundant. This is far from a comprehensive summary—it merely highlights some of the reports.
Come to synod to catch some of the excitement, if you are able. This is not the fleeting excitement of a game-winning touchdown, a grand-slam homer, or a buzzer-beating basket. Rather, it is the excitement of seeing the Lord working in and through a branch of His church. You will see that the work is done not only orderly and carefully but also enthusiastically. The delegates are very willing to give of their time, perhaps vacation time, to do the work that Christ gives His church. Delegates of sister churches come from the other side of the Atlantic or the Pacific. You do not want to miss them.
Come to listen, to evaluate, to appreciate the wisdom in a multitude of counselors and the wisdom that the Spirit gives to the delegates. An abbreviated schedule is given below. If you cannot come, yet pray for the blessing of the Lord Jesus, the King of His church. Except the Lord build the house….
All events in Hudsonville PRC [5101 Beechtree St., Hudsonville, MI]
Monday, June 10, 7:00 p.m., Pre-Synodical Service.
Tuesday, June 11, 8:30 a.m.
Synod convenes; Mr. Guichelaar gives his sermon that morning.
Wednesday, June 12, 8:30 a.m.
The oral examination of Mr. Guichelaar begins.
Thursday, June 13, 7:30 p.m.
Seminary Commencement; Speaker: Prof. Gritters.