The Staff of Beacon Lights has requested us to write a brief article revealing the present status of missions in the Protestant Reformed Churches. With this evident interest on the part of our young people in the matter of missions we are truly pleased. We are quite sure it reflects the interest which most of our people have regarding this subject.
We simply refuse to concede to the charge which has always been made, and again quite recently, that the Protestant Reformed Churches have little or no interest in missions. In The Banner of January 6, 1961, the Rev. H. Baker reiterates this false charge when he writes: “Besides, the Protestant Reformed Church, as it was constituted prior to 1954, had little interest in missions.” Better it had been if he, and all who have made similar charges against us, had said: “The Protestant Reformed Churches, as they were constituted prior to 1954 and now much more since that time, have had very small facilities and resources wherewith to fulfill their mission mandate.”
It is simply not true that our churches never had mission zeal and revealed little or no interest in the cause of missions. The records of our synods will show that we have inquired even of the secretary of missions in the Christian Reformed Church for information as to the where-with-all to conduct even foreign missions. The records will show that even before we had synods our churches were bent on performing mission endeavor. The records will show that since we have had synods we have always had a mission board which has worked diligently with the means at our disposal and conform to the constitution of missions adopted by our churches which very beautifully expresses in its preamble the principle of missions which has hitherto controlled our interest and endeavor. The records will show that, when we were able, we called missionaries and sent them into the field, and that at present we have a missionary who is on the field assigned to him. The records will show that when a new field opened up, or a new method was proposed, our people responded with keen interest, with prayers and gifts, to support the work. We deny the charge that the Protestant Reformed Churches have no interest in missions.
It is true that we have never been able to do much in the field of missions. It is also true that we could do much more than we are doing if we had the facilities. And perhaps we could say that we should be doing much more than we are doing even with our present facilities. Every church experiences times of lethargy, despondency, evidences of lack of interest due to various causes. No church can rest on the laurels of her achievements and be satisfied that she has done enough. Our churches are no exception to this.
When we consider the Lord’s command to His church to evangelize all the world, it is always proper that the church should inquire whether or not she is obedient to this command. If the quest of our young people who are inquiring as to the status of missions in our churches has in it the purpose to determine whether we are obedient to Christ’s command, they are asking a very proper question, and one that may have salutary effects.
What is the present status of missions in our churches?
To answer this question we could begin by reporting an inventory of our present facilities and reviewing our present activities. We have a mission board, consisting of five ministers and four laymen, men who have been chosen by synod and mandated to promote the mission endeavor of our churches conform to the constitution also prescribed by synod for the conduct of that endeavor. This board will have met five times since the last synod before this article appears in print, and will probably meet two or three times more before the next synod. Most of the time and effort of this committee has been spent in an honest effort to determine a field of labor for our missionary, the taking on of more radio facilities for the propagation of the Gospel peculiar to our churches, and for the distribution of suitable literature of an informative and instructive nature.
We also have at present one missionary who is engaged in what is called church extension and reformation work. The Rev. George C. Lubbers has served faithfully and well in this capacity for the last five years. As fruit of the work accomplished most by him, three churches have been brought into our denominational fold. At present our missionary is working a new field among people of German Reformed background in Tripp-Menno, South Dakota. It is also through his direction that much literature is being distributed throughout various areas in our country.
It is also through the facilities and cooperation of the Radio Committee of our First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids that the mission committee is conducting rather extensive radio broadcasting. Besides the six radio stations which carry our messages throughout our own land, we also broadcast from a station in the Netherlands West Indies, and over the facilities of a much larger station in Europe. The cost of these endeavors, which is not a little, is pro-rated to each of our families by synod. That about sums up the present endeavor of our churches in missions.
There are several factors that should not be lost sight of when we inquire as to the present status of missions in our churches. First of all, we must recognize the fact that our numbers and therefore also our financial capabilities have been greatly decimated since the split in our churches in 1954. In close connection with this, we struggle with the obvious handicap of a shortage of ministers. It is the candid judgment of this writer that it would be folly to organize through mission endeavor more churches, giving them the opportunity to call our ministers, when we do not have enough men to supply the churches we already have. We cannot, nor can anyone else expect us to do great things in the field of missions unless we are given the men and the facilities to do them.
Here is a wonderful opportunity for me to impress upon you young people and especially upon our young men the urgent need of laborers in Christ’s vineyard. God has given us a well established seminary where you may be trained for the Gospel ministry. May we urge you to consider prayerfully this urgent need if haply the Lord may lay it upon your heart to seek this high and holy office in His church. With this provision we may look forward to the future with greater interest and greater activity in the promotion of missions at home and abroad.