“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies. Fulfil ye my joy, that ye like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” Philippians 2:1-2.
“Be ye of one mind!” This passage, in a nutshell, explains the purpose of the Federation Board of Protestant Reformed Young People’s Societies. It clearly sets forth the goal of all the work done by the Federation Board. We must understand and hold to the same knowledge of Christ as confessed by our Protestant Reformed Churches in the Three Forms of Unity, remembering that only in the way of unity are we to receive any comfort and blessings from Christ. Indeed, if we are engrafted into Christ, believing that we receive all things in Him our Head, then we must be determined to be of one mind. This attitude should characterize the members of the body of Christ already while they are young people. The Federation Board exists to help us young people achieve the goal of being of one mind in Jesus Christ.
The use of a young people’s federation board is not a new idea that was spawned within our own churches. In fact, it was adopted from a similar format used in young people’s federations of our mother church, the Christian Reformed Church, which in turn was copied from the young people’s federations of the Gereformeerde Kerken. One such federation was the Nederlandse Jongelings Bond, or the Netherlands Young Men’s Union. This national federation was comprised of several “Rings” or regions of about ten local societies called Jongelings Verenigingen, or Young Men’s Societies. These societies were similar to our young people’s societies in many ways except that they were only for young men that were 16 and older. Each society met weekly except when they had monthly regional meetings. In addition to these meetings there was also a national meeting of all the societies. My grandad, who was a member of a Young Men’s Society in Zuidlaren, remembers one such meeting in 1935 at Middleburg where there were about 5,000 in attendance!
Apart from the large membership which can be attributed to the sheer size of the Gereformeerde Kerken, this federation of societies was determined to develop the faith and doctrine of its members. My grandad remembers that each member without exception was required on occasion to prepare a written introduction on a particular biblical text, and to be able to answer questions on the topic. That commitment to learning the truths of Scripture in a united way was the purpose of this strong federation. The federation intended to bond the societies with a view to being of one mind, of one faith in Jesus Christ.
In 1940, when our young people were looking for a way to federate, they patterned the Federation of Protestant Reformed Young People’s Societies after the Nederlandse Jongelings Bond of the Gereformeerde Kerken. Before 1940 our young people had nothing in the way of united activities.
They wanted to express themselves as Protestant Reformed Young People in a united way, primarily by a publication. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema was instrumental in forming the Federation Board and the Beacon Lights since he was the editor of the Christian Reformed Church Young Men’s Society’s youth publication when he was a young man.) To accomplish this goal they set up an Executive Board of the Federation similar to the Nationaal Bestuur (National Board) of the Nederlandse Jongelings Bond of the Gereformeerde Kerken. The Board was formed to govern the activities of the Beacon Lights, and to fulfill the purpose of the Federation.
You can find this purpose in the Constitution of the Federation. If you can’t find a copy, don’t worry because the Federation Board is having it reprinted so that all members of the Federation can have a copy.
You will find in the Constitution that Article 3 states the threefold purpose of the Federation. The first statement is “to enable all Protestant Reformed Young People’s Societies to work in close unity.” As Protestant Reformed Young People’s societies that confess the same truth about Christ, this statement should come as no surprise because if we believe the same Christ then it follows that we will want to associate with one another. In Psalm 119:63, David reflects this thought when he writes,
“I am a companion of all them that fear Thee, and of them that keep Thy precepts.” We can do this by being an active member of the Federation. You may ask, “How do I become an active member?”
The answer is that you support the activities of the Federation by attending the conventions, retreats, singspirations, and meetings with the attitude that you desire to grow in the truth of Christ through your contacts with fellow believers. Also, you can make sure that your local society is fulfilling all of its requirements to the Federation Board by paying your dues and by helping out in fund-raisers.
You can really become active by sacrificing your time by becoming a member of the Federation Board. The Federation Board needs responsible young men and women who are dedicated to the purpose of the Federation because the duties of the officers require much time. There are mass meetings, singspirations, fund-raisers, and activities that need to be planned. It’s often so easy for us to think that these events just fall into place. The truth is that if the work isn’t done, there will be no conventions, retreats, or other activities. This impresses on us the importance of having a board that has the responsibility to make sure that these events run smoothly. Are you interested in the spiritual welfare of your fellow Christian young people? Are you willing to help maintain the unity of our Young People’s Societies in the truth of Jesus Christ? Then I encourage you to help the Federation Board either by offering to put your name on nomination for office or by volunteering to help the Board whenever the need arises. The Board can do nothing without the support of the members of the Federation. Remember, we are a united body. If some of the members don’t pull their weight, then the other members will suffer because of it. Members of the body of Christ that are in Young People’s Society will promote each others advantage if they are serious about preserving the Federation in the unity of the truth in Jesus Christ.
The preservation and witness of the truth is the reason for the Federation’s third statement of purpose. It reads: “To give united expression to our specific Protestant Reformed character.” This means that the Federation must strive to witness about the truth of sovereign grace in Jesus Christ as preached and confessed in the Protestant Reformed Churches. The only way to do this effectively is in unity of confession. If there are strifes and divisions in the body then unbelievers will become disillusioned with our witness. We can see this in I Corinthians 6:6 where the Apostle exhorts the church to strive for unity because he notices that, “. . .brother goeth to law with brother, and that before unbelievers.”
However, Paul charges us that although we live in unity, we must not pursue unity for unity’s sake. We must have unity in the truth. God unites His church only through the way of the uncompromised confession of the truth. We can see this in I Corinthians 11:18-19 where we read: “For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” If you read further in the chapter you will find that the Apostle writes these verses as groundwork to remind them that the sacrament of Holy Communion can only be administered in a united congregation. There could not be any heresies present because then they would be divided, and not of one mind. True unity is rooted in the truth of Jesus Christ!
We as young people should take heed to the words of this passage because we are the future church. Already in Young People’s Society we should begin to unite ourselves to our fellow young people by the discussion and study of the truth. We should understand that our agreement in the faith is necessary for us to walk together (Amos 3:3). We should also realize that the Federation sets up activities to help the young people of all our societies unite in the faith.
The Federation also helps our young people grow and unite in the faith as well as witness to others the confession of the Protestant Reformed Churches by means of the Beacon Lights publication. We can see this objective in the Federation’s second statement of purpose which is: “To guide these societies so they develop in faith and doctrine, particularly by means of a Federation publication.” The growth and study of the truth is essential to unity. It is often true that once a church becomes lax in the study of the truths of the gospel, she eventually begins to allow heretics in the sheepfold. She loses the ability to discern a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Finally, she is embroiled in controversy that cracks the unity of the church.
We should guard against this danger by sustaining the unity of our Young People’s Societies. The zeal for unity among the members of the body of Christ should be taught and applied already in adolescence. If we learn to labor toward the unity of the church at a young age then normally we will also do it when we take our place in the church in full communion. This is true in many aspects of our Young People’s Society life. We learn the importance of financial support by paying our dues to the Federation. We learn the importance of an orderly meeting when we conduct our society meetings. And finally, we learn that the communion of saints as manifested in the discussing of the truths of the Bible is of utmost importance if we are to maintain the unity of the Body of Christ.
In order to help build up the other members in our society as well as increase our personal knowledge of the truth we should be diligent in the study of Scripture. We should heed Paul’s instruction to Timothy when he writes these words: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15). One way we can do this is by reading the Beacon Lights, a magazine founded on the Word of God. The Beacon Lights, remember, was the main reason the Federation was founded. The Federation desired a means by which it could build the faith of its members as well as express its confession to other young people outside of our churches. We should be thankful to God that He has preserved this publication and our Federation for over fifty years. May we continue this tradition, the Lord willing, for many years to come.
We can continue this tradition only if we trust in our Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone gives us the strength and ability to labor towards the unity of our Young People’s Societies. He is the Vine and we are the branches. Only when we receive the blessings and nourishment of the Vine do we receive life. Therefore, we must be thankful unto Him by being of one mind. For, when we are of one mind then we have true comfort and fellowship in the Spirit.
“How good and pleasant is the sight when brethren make it their delight to dwell in blest accord;
Such love is like anointing oil that consecrates for holy toil the servants of the Lord.”
Psalter #370, stanza 1.
Mike is a member of Southwest Protestant Reformed Church.