In God’s providence there is a strong prospect of an essentially new situation arising in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
For the next few years the denomination may well be presented with the lack of open existing pulpits or fields for newly declared candidates to the ordained ministry.
Certainly, God may have changes in store that could significantly, even dramatically, affect what may be seen today as lying ahead. He has done so before. But it is possible that with this prospective case, God may be lifting the eyes of the churches to see it as their calling to consider adding to their present labor.
Technically, the churches are not currently sharply confronted with this matter. But practically, the challenge of filling a single open field (missionary to the Philippines), combined with a present candidate and his young family awaiting God’s call, at least foreshadows what may lie ahead.
Should there not be some formal consideration of financial aid, and even more, of developing callings, the Lord willing, for such candidates whose commonly expected pastoral ministry may be forestalled for an extended period? On the infrequent occasion of this situation heretofore, it seems the candidate has been left pretty much on his own, almost with “Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled.” (Forgive this last if ignorance betrays.) Perhaps a fund could be established along the lines of present seminary students’ financial aid. This would be a significant encouragement, both tangible and psychological, not only for today’s candidate but also for the five present denomination seminary students and some number of pre-seminary students taking language courses at the seminary.
But a far greater encouragement for these men, and stimulus for the churches, lies in discovering what new, or renewed, work God may have, both for the men and for the churches.
Certainly the establishment of daughter churches, new congregations like Wingham, and those established by mission labors would be obvious work, as such occur. And also there will be retiring ministers, although not many and not soon. But while these posts must be in view, God may also be directing the PRC to other tasks as well, in the prospect of a ‘surplus’ of candidates. Directed to what and where and how might be presently unknown. But, surely, inquiring of and seeking for His purpose here is a proper work of the churches.
A single view of the labors of the two domestic missionaries fairly trumpets the idea of how a young, well-trained candidate serving under an older, highly experienced minister could not only contribute a necessary part to an effective mission, but also gain invaluable experience for one whose clear, earnest desire is to set forth the life-giving evangel within the earshot of all, whether that “all” be an established PRC congregation or whether that “all” be the wild and wooly world outside, riotously bent on self-destruction. And why should not such a candidate be ordained as a minister of the calling congregation, entrusted here with the role of evangelist—a scriptural post—working as leader of an established congregation’s carrying out its clear gospel mandate?
Thus his work could be either with a congregation’s missionary, if there be one, or with the congregation itself to guide actively its own outreach ministry. (Am I going too fast?)
This could even develop into the concept of a cadre approach to mission labors, involving not only the call of more than one minister but the serious enlistment of experienced, committed volunteer laymen, maybe tentmakers, both officebearers and others. By grace-sustained leadership, all these could be combined into a serious, active force that—maybe even uninvited— might send forth the pure truth of the gospel in a way that the general public would be hard put to ignore.
All this as a means to proclaim to as many as possible in these last days the sovereign predestination of our Father in heaven graciously manifest in His self-established, unconditional covenant promise of loving friendship with His elect people.
All this grounded foundationally on the perfect life of God the Son, Jesus Christ, and His substitutionary, sacrificial death for the sins of His people.
All this made alive in the hearts of His people—first by the monergistic regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, and then by the Spirit-directed setting forth of the fullness of this truth to His church, preached in His visible, faithful congregations and publicly witnessed to those of His own who may be unknown to us.
All this calling His people, through His grace alone, to show forth their new lives by a committed, though imperfect, obedience in loving thankfulness for His sovereign work of salvation in them.
And what a calling it is to obey His commands even to “go out into the highways and hedges … into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”
Depicted here is not an “in your face” force necessarily, but certainly not one to be portrayed as “in a little nook with a little book.” The real “nook” is whatever part of the world lies in striking distance, and the “book” is the Sword of the Spirit that is the Word of God, quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, hardly “little.”
Admittedly this has been what some might call a blustering about and careening off one ecclesiastical pillar to another. The very atmosphere of some “folkways” somehow naturally generates this sort of approach. Unhappily, it sometimes doesn’t survive well in other cultural climates that can quash it unheard.
Try to ignore any bluster or careening.
But don’t ignore the concept.
It is readily applicable on as small a scale as one man being called to the ordained ministry in the church and posted by the calling congregation as evangelist. Every congregation could have one, or not, providing flexibility in the number of openings for ministers and almost certainly leaving none without a call upon graduation.
And if this were basically employed, God may choose to use it as a means of putting it in the hearts of more men to serve Him, both as ordained ministers and as volunteer, even tentmaking, laity.
What a swarm of ideas fly out from this prospect! There is an extraordinary reservoir of spiritual energy, in part potential awaiting kinetic release, being filled to its banks by God’s gifts, heaped up and overflowing, which He has bestowed upon the PRC for three generations— a profound base of strength in their solid grasp of the truth proclaimed in their instituted churches and lived out organically by its people. All this springs forth from the essence of the covenant, which shows the gracious unity of the church body with its families as the principal structural members. What a wonder is shown by the vitality of this concept—eight generational daughter congregations founded out of the present twenty-eight total, consistent God-honoring marriages, burgeoning parent-controlled schools, vigorously orthodox seminary, doctrinal consistency within the denomination, expanded publishing of sound books and periodicals, and modern electronic communication resources.
All this and more make up a grand spiritual reservoir as God builds His church through the generations. It has been collected, protected, and enhanced for more than eighty years, often through great trials and sacrifices. This spiritual capital must be diligently nurtured and guarded.
But is it possible that some of it may evaporate, unused, unless more is expended than in the past? And while this capital includes cash and bricks, more vitally it is made up of people, young and old, waiting, perhaps unconsciously, for a special call that they too might be spent. That’s the real challenge that may lie in this renewed prospectus of evangelism.
These are but a few thoughts designed to encourage other thoughts, and even some action. All this in innocent ignorance of what others, better able, may already be thinking and doing.