Mr. Hopkins is a member of Trinity Protestant Reformed Church in Houston, Texas.
The J-Bar-J Ranch, in Sealy, Texas, was the site of the 1995 Reformed Evangelism Conference, Monday, April 3 to Wednesday, April 5, sponsored by Trinity Protestant Reformed Church of Houston, Texas.
There were 164 registered participants, most of whom were from the PRC. There were as well a dozen or more visitors. They came from places ranging from Washington State to Southern California, Michigan to North Carolina. Two representatives came from our mission in Alamosa, Colorado. Some showed up from Grace Communion Church of Jasper, Texas, 150 miles north of Houston, with whom Trinity has been in contact. Others, informed of the conference by announcements and interviews on KHCB, the local Christian radio station, came from as far away as Angleton, Texas (70 miles), and from as close as Sealy. Three of the visitors were from Trinity’s Christian Sindhi group, which is an outreach to the Hindu community in Houston.
They all came eager to hear and learn about the vital evangelistic spirit that is an outgrowth of uncompromising biblical principles based on a solid Reformed tradition.
It was truly a family conference. Ages ranged from 6 weeks to 80 years. One family had four generations in attendance. There were 39 children under the age of 12, and two dozen young people aged 13 to 18.
The general theme of evangelism was neatly broken down into three parts: Denominational Evangelism, Congregational Evangelism, and Personal Evangelism.
The daily schedule started with an hour of devotions before breakfast. Following that, the adults went to the Wagon Master Meeting Hall for announcements and the day’s main message, and the children went to the Town Hall Meeting Room with Rev. Haak.
Monday’s theme, “Denominational Evangelism,” was presented by Prof. David J. Engelsma, who explained that the proper denominational role was a subsidiary one, albeit necessary. Churches’ denominational affiliation authenticates their legitimacy as bonafide parts of the Body of Christ, but the job of “doing” evangelism and missions is the job only of the congregation. Failure to follow this principle results in “boardism,” where the leadership and guidance of field activities falls into the hands of a few individuals. This is a potent breeding ground for bureaucracies, isolating missions from the congregations, making it possible, even likely, that their goals become at cross purposes.
While all this was going on, Rev. Haak was giving lessons to the children, explaining about evangelism. God intends His children to be light in His world. That light is not as bright as it could be, at times, because we are ashamed, or afraid, or apathetic. That shouldn’t interfere with our doing good works for the glory of God.
The second morning session, after a time for fellowship and refreshment, was, for the children, a time for games and crafts under the capable direction of Trudi Hopkins and Crysta Brummel. Quite a few of the young people provided valuable help, too.
The adults’ second session was for small-group discussion of the speech. Each group (led by a seminary- trained individual) appointed a secretary/spokesman to record the main points of the discussion and report the same to the assembled group just before lunch.
The food was delicious, high points being Monday’s supper of barbecue beef and pork, and Tuesday’s chicken-fried steak. Wednesday’s grilled chicken over rice was another favorite.
Monday’s afternoon activities included a bus tour of the scenic Texas countryside (April is the perfect season to see the beautiful wild flowers). Several adventurous groups drove to the other side of Houston to view the San Jacinto (pronounced ja-sin’-to) Battleground (where Sam Houston defeated Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and won Texas’ independence). They just beat the rush-hour traffic on their return trip.
Back at the camp, those who chose to stay, slept, talked, or played basketball and volleyball. A Sindhi Indian visitor and his team brought a beautiful Appaloosa, so all the kids (at heart) could do a little horseback riding.
On Monday evening, Allen Brummel gave a slide presentation titled “An Intern In Singapore,” detailing some of his activities there during his six-month internship last year.
That was followed by an inspirational and insightful message from Rev. VanOverloop entitled “The Gospel of Grace.” His explanation of grace broke down into five points, which corresponded (surprisingly enough) to the Five Heads of Doctrine of the Canons of Dordt.
Tuesday’s morning talk featured Rev. VanOverloop’s comments on “Congregational Evangelism.” Just as Prof. Engelsma’s “Denominational Evangelism” material pointed to the next day’s subject, so Rev. VanOverloop’s material emphasized congregational support of what is an individual’s job. Evangelism is a side-effect of the church’s main calling: the glorification of God, and the feeding of the flock Congregational evangelism activities support and organize individual efforts (Mission Committees, Evangelism Committees, follow-up programs, and the like).
Rev. Haak’s talk to the children concerned the church at Antioch, where the followers of the Way were first called Christians. He used Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 32 (“But why art thou called a Christian?”) to explain the significance of that name.
Tuesday’s rain did not eliminate the outdoor activities, it just modified them. No one seemed bored or at a loss for things to do. The puddles on the volleyball court didn’t discourage everyone; they seemed, rather, to attract a special kind of volleyball player.
That evening, Allen Brummel gave a second slide show, this time about the part of his internship that brought him to the rural parts of Myanmar (formerly Burma), and the devastating effects of idolatrous Buddhism.
Tuesday’s activities were rounded out by Prof. D. Engelsma speaking on the subject, “Men Called to Repentance.” The Hebrew word translated “repent” is also the one translated as “turn away” or “return.” Man’s duty to repent has definite effects on his life.
Wednesday was the last day of the conference, and another rainy day, at least in the morning. Rev. Mahtani spoke to the adults about “Personal Evangelism.” His main point was that personal evangelism flows from the faithful preaching of the Word. That Word in the heart of the believer comes out in his life. We have to recognize it for what it is, and get rid of little excuses and fears to help it be more effective. We of all people on earth have a reason to witness and speak of the blessed hope and glorious God that is ours.
Rev. Haak’s message for the children concerned Joseph as an example of a true witness. Joseph humbled his sinful pride, was aware of God’s presence, had courage to stand his ground, had a genuine love for his neighbor, and possessed a patient trust in God. The children loved Rev. Haak’s talks.
After lunch, when we were saying good-byes to each other, the leftover cookies were auctioned off in bag lots to help defray conference expenses. But that light moment didn’t dampen the general sadness at departing that drifted through the camp as suitcases and cars were packed for the journey home.
According to the Conference Evaluation forms turned in by the people, the material presented by the speakers, the informal discussions, and the presence of people from a wide range of backgrounds, gave a new appreciation for both the importance and the possibilities of evangelism. The people were unanimous in their willingness to attend another such conference.
We are thankful for the extraordinary response by the participants to our preparations for the conference, but their response and our preparation count for only a .small part of the conference’s success. God’s hand was clearly in our midst.
Trinity Protestant Reformed Church is located at 214 Barker- Clodine Road, Houston, Texas, 77094. Telephone (713) 492-6172. All of the messages are available on cassette tapes, and can be ordered from that address.
Everyone is welcome to attend Trinity’s worship services held each Lord’s day at 9:30 A.M. and 6:00 P.M.