On February 7th-8th, the Synod Home Missions Committee met for a conference at Heidelberg Theological Seminary (HTS) in Sioux Falls, SD. The main purpose of the conference was to begin the process of building a strategy for doing mission works by learning from our missionaries. It might be better to describe our meeting as a round table discussion instead of the term conference. When you think of a conference, what comes to mind? You probably picture a person standing on a stage giving a lecture while the rest of the group listens. That was not how it happened at our time at HTS. Our conference resembled more as friends gathering together to hear one another’s input on a variety of subjects. Our main subject was missions, yet we looked at missions from a variety of different vantage points.
On Monday evening, HTS professor Dr. Maynard Koerner opened our meeting with a devotional from Psalm 96. He em-phasized that the new song that we sing to the LORD is a song of victory, and it should be our desire that our unbelieving neigh-bors would join us in singing that song of victory in Christ. After the encouraging devotional, we immediately jumped into business by discussing the past successes and failures experienced by missionaries in the RCUS. The missionaries expressed that strong hospitality and a community of love brought the best lasting results. As Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” ( John 13:35) In order to build a community of love, it is important for pastors and members to have constant interaction with one another, realistic expectations of people, active involvement in evange-lism, and preaching which places an emphasis on Christian love and hospitality. Areas where the RCUS could improve upon concerning missions include building and nurturing strong core groups as well as encouraging more involvement from the send-ing churches.
On Tuesday, HTS professor JP Mosley opened our session with a devotional from Romans 10:5-6 emphasizing that al-though it is good to develop a strategy for missions, we must not forget that our main calling is to preach the Gospel. From 9am to 3pm, we covered a whole host of topics that included helpful knowledge before starting a mission work, training and recruiting missionaries, opportunities and places to initiate a mission work, and evaluating when to start and end a mission work. Let me do my best to highlight some of the insights that came out of our Tuesday discussion.
A good question asked by Rev. Matt Powell was, “Do we start a work in a big or small city?” One of the advantages of focusing on a smaller city such as Casper, WY is that there are plenty of people who have a sense of community and know their neighbors. The disadvantage of a bigger city such as New York City is that there are plenty of people, but there is a lesser sense of community and at times can be quite isolating. Certainly, both need the Gospel of Jesus Christ, yet it may be more profitable for the RCUS to zero in on the smaller cities.
Another good question asked was, “Are we asking too much of our missionaries?” There is a lot expected of a man who walks into a mission work. An idea was brought up that it might be wise to delegate the work among 2-3 men. For example, a retired RCUS minister could be delegated as a regional home missionary who serves a particular area seeking people interested in the Reformed faith. After interest is identified, another minister could be desig-nated as the church planter who serves in the interim whose role is to preach the Gospel and strengthen the core group. Once a core group is established, an RCUS minister with at least 5 years of experience can be called to be the full-time missionary of a particular work. In the RCUS, a method similar to this was suc-cessful in our Dickinson, ND mission work. Some men are more gifted as missionary seed planters. While other men are more gifted at watering the church that has been planted. Scripture gives grounds to this idea of divvying up the work of missions to a variety of gifted men. 1 Corinthians 3:5-6 says, “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.”
I appreciated the illustration that Elder Fred Hoffmann gave during the meeting. He said, “We are trying to get our machinery in order before we buy more land.” Fred was spot on, and his illustration perfectly summarized what was determined at our meeting. The Synod Home Missions Committee agreed that it is important that the RCUS establish a strong core group before a mission work is pursued, and also men need to be adequately equipped before they are sent out into the mission field.
It is the committee’s desire to be good stewards of the time and responsibility the LORD has given us. This is why we met together, yet we are acutely aware of the fact that, “unless the Lord builds the house, men labor in vain who build it.” (Psalm 127:1) Please continue to pray for us as we seek to build a faithful and biblical strategy for home missions. More impor-tantly, pray for all the mission works and pastors in the RCUS. I will leave you with a portion of the hymn that Rev. Vern Pollema read at the closing of our meeting.
The church’s one foundation
is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
she is His new creation
by water and the Word:
from heav’n He came and sought her to be His holy bride;
with His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died.
By Rev. Cody Schwichtenberg