It is in a way appropriate that an article on missions should appear toward the end of a series on “the pillars of the church” in our denomination. That the missionary task should be given a central place in the life of the church, we have in general been slow to recognize. It is only in recent years that the suggestion has been ventured that missions should be considered one of the marks of a true church, and it is safe to say that a sizeable part of our denomination would still question how central a place a missionary program should occupy in the life of the local congregation. It is also evident, however, that missionary activity is taking an ever larger place in the thought and life of our churches.
A HISTORIC AND CONFESSIONAL WEAKNESS
A little consideration of the history of the reformed churches and of our church in particular will, I believe, help us to understand, if not alto gether to excuse, a traditional lack of awareness of the cenb:al role of mis sionary activity in the church. Our denomination is the historical result of a repeated reform movement. In the middle ages the church had virtually conquered Europe, but it had all but lost the gospel. The immediate need in that situation was not for a wider missionary outreach so much as for a return to the faith of the gospel within the church. At the risk of a hasty generalization, one could say that the church had virtually gained the world but lost its soul. The Lord however raised up the reform movement within the church. The spiritual struggles of Martin Luther, before he came to know the gospel of salvation by grace, help us to understand the zeal with which he set about preach ing and teaching that gospel and endeavoring to bring the church to con form to it. That work was shared and carried further by the other reformers, among whom none endeavored to present the gospel more clearly and to work out its implications and applications for the church more fully than our spiritual forefather, John Calvin.
It is that concern with the return to the gospel and the endeavor to bring the life of the church back into conformity with it that stands out in our reformed confessions. And those confessions have been instrumental in establishing and maintaining the pattern of our church life in subsequent history. They have left a stamp upon our churches’ thought and life that we have deliberately tried to retain.
Rev. Richard De Ridder in his re cent master’s thesis on The Development of the Mission Order of the Christian Reformed Church observes that “the confessions of the Church…do not make much direct reference to missions, nor do they bear a strong missionary character.” In his development of this point he alludes to one of a series of articles of Rev. Harry Boer in the Reformed Journal of January 1953. In those articles Rev. Mr. Boer pointed out in considerable de tail the relative silence of our creeds on the missionary task of the church. He recalled that the Belgic Confession in Article 27 states as a fact that the church “is spread and dispersed over the whole world.” Article 30 states, regarding “the government of the church and its offices,” that “this true church must be governed by the spiritual polity which our Lord has taught us in His word; namely, that there be ministers or pastors to preach the Word of God and to administer the sacraments; also elders and deacons, that by these means the true religion may be preserved, and the true doctrine everywhere propagated.”
Besides such occasions and passing references to the extent of the church and the statement in Art. 36 allotting the duty to the civil magistrate to “countenance the preaching of the Word of the gospel everywhere,” our earliest Reformed confession has nothing to say about missions. (Cf. Reformed Journal, Nov. 1952, pp. 14, 16). Of the Heidelberg Catechism, which is more significant in that it is the guide to the church’s preaching and instruction of its children, the same writer observed (Reformed Journal, January 1953, pp. 12, 13). “One might ahnost say, there is no d:iJ:ect missionary emphasis in the Catechism.” He pointed out further how serious this deficiency is to the church in that, “it means that that part of the preaching which is officially required to guarantee a well-rounded presentation of the whole counsel of God as unfolded in the scriptures can, if it adheres closely to the Catechism, be almost silent on the missionary duty of the church.” He observed that the weakness of our past missionary effort may be in part the result of this weakness of our confession and of our preaching, as a result of it. Where, in this confession, the church and its expansion is mentioned, it is spoken of as the work of “the Son of God,” who “out of the whole human race, gathers for himself, by His Spirit and Word—a Church” and there is no reference to the plain truth of the scriptures that the church itself has a responsibility for this gathering. As Rev. De Ridder and Dr. Boer both pointed out, such a one-sided emphasis on the divine activity “is apt to foster mission inactivity in a Church.” (De Ridder, p.26.)
In the catechism’s dealing with the Lord’s Prayer (L.D. XLVIII) we are taught to pray that God will “increase” his church, but as both writers again, I believe quite correctly, ob serve, we are nowhere in the catechism taught what we are to do about it!
The Canons of Dort, written 56 years after the Catechism, when the Netherlands was beginning to gain power and influence in other parts of the world, reflect some growth in the missionary vision. In them, as Dr. Boer observes, “we find many thrusts of an eminently missionary value: the universal significance of the Gospel, the need of preaching the Gospel to all men without distinction, God’s Lordship over the missionary task, certainty that the universal church will be gathered in, the need for prayer for the unconverted, the rejection, by plain implication, that the doctrine of election in any way absolves the Church from missionary proclamation” (Reformed Journal, February 1953, p. 10). Yet in this confession too, “the divine activity stands sharply on the foreground in most of the passages and the human activity recedes into the background.” Generally speaking, our creeds, in most respects so strongly and solidly Biblical, have been weak in missionary emphasis. They have been especially weak in failing to state and hold before the church its missionary duty.
AN OBSCURED PRINCIPLE
If our creeds have little to say about the missionary responsibility of the church, what they do say speaks of it as a work of God as a work of the proper church officers, or even as the responsibility of the civil government. They do not hold it before us as the responsibility of the individual Christian within the church! That fact is worthy of special attention. Our creeds at this paint reflect a weakness in the early Reformed church, a weak ness that to a large extent continues with us right down to the present day and that the writer is beginning to suspect is the underlying source of perhaps most of our missionary problems. Again and again we have been slow to see the missionary job, and when we did we have usually had great difficulty in deciding who ought to do it. All too seldom has it been realized or painted out that, at bottom, all of us ought to do it!
In trying to understand this peculiar weakness of our churches it might be well for us to go back even farther than the Reformation. In the Word of God itself it is made plain that each Christian is under obligation to confess Christ before the world (not only the church), and to be a missionary witness for Him. In the Old Testament the task of such witness and the special qualification by the Holy Spirit for it, was given to special individuals. Even there it was intimated that that situation would change (Numbers 11:24–29; Joel 2:28–32), and in Acts 2:16–21 we are told that with the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost upon the whole church, precisely this change did come about. Now all the church received the Holy Spirit to prepare each one, old and young, for this missionary task (Acts 1:8). Oddly enough our Heidelberg Catechism in its treatment of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in Lord’s Day XX speaks only of His work in the Christian and breathes never a word of all of this witness so prominent in the New Testament.
At first the missionary significance of this general outpouring of the Holy Spirit for missionary witness does not seem to have been too clearly realized. When the persecution arose after Stephen’s martyrdom, we are told how these ordinary Christians, scattered in all directions, “went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). Some of these people began to enlarge the scope of this witness to Gentiles as well as Jews (Acts 1l:19ff.), and we are told that this ordinary witness of believers led to the origin and growth of the great church at Antioch. In the church so begun, Barnabas and Paul came to work, and from it, rather than Jerusalem, they were sent out and their great foreign missionary work began (Acts 13:1–3). Of the churches they founded, the same kind of general missionary witness on the part of the membership was characteristic. Under the blessing of God that fact had much to do with the tremendous effectiveness of their work. (I Thessalonians 1:6–9 describes a beautiful example of such a witnessing though persecuted church.)
In the course of time this free wit ness of the membership, characteristic of these early churches, evidently be gan to wane and even, it appears, to be curbed by well intentioned church authorities. The old church father Ignatius, for example, repeatedly in his letters tried to guard the church against increasing error by insisting that each Christian must be submissive to his bishop as to the Lord him self. He warned against “doing any thing without bishop, presbytery, and deacons.” “It is essential….to act in no way without the bishop.” (Ignatius To the Trallians 7:2, 2:2). “Nobody,” says he, “must do anything that has to do with the Church with out the bishop’s approval….whatever he approves pleases God as well. In that way everything you do will be on the safe side and valid…But he who acts without the bishop’s knowledge is in the devil’s servIce (To the Smyrnaeans 8:1–9:1). With such a frame of mind developing on the part of some church leaders, is it strange that the next 1000 years of history saw the individual’s missionary responsibility almost completely obscured?
The Reformers, in their return to the gospel, pOinted out that the me dieval church leadership had usurped undue authority. Martin Luther in his Address to the German Nobility called the nobles to reform the church since the church leadership was show ing itself unwilling to do so, and he justified such an appeal on the basis that the gospel teaches that all believers are priests. He was not think ing of this office of believers in any missionary connection, however, and when the Peasant Revolt broke out he vehemently called upon the nobles to suppress the peasants in their un authorized religious as well as politic al activity. In other words, this personal responsibility of the believer for Christian witness did not receive clear recognition and affirmation by Luther.
Calvin’s writings too seem to have been preoccupied with the duties of church office and, so far as I have been able to discover, had little to say about the missionary witness of the individual. And that has been char acteristic of the Reformed churches which followed him.
Among the Anabaptists, however, this personal witness of the individual believer began to be affirmed and practised. John Horsch, in his Men nonite History (Vol. I, pp. 314, 315), states that “The Mennonite Church at the beginning was preeminently a missionary Church….In that period there were no special mission organi zations, yet the Church was engaged in aggressive evangelistic work.” Like the early church in the Acts, these believers under persecution “went everywhere preaching the word.” “They did not all conduct public services. They all considered it their duty to spread the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ.” He says father, “On the point of the missionary calling of the church Menno Simons’ views differed from those of Luther, Zwingli and Calvin. These reformers held that Christ’s commission to preach the gospel to all nations concerned only the apostles. Menno, as is clear from his writings, recognized that the great commission is binding for the Christian church of all periods.”
While it is clear that the charge made against Calvin is not borne out by his commentary on the great com mission, it seems to have been characteristic of the Anabaptist movement that it definitely placed greater emphasis on the missionary task, and particularly on the duty of the individual Christian with respect to it, than did the other branches of the Reformation movement.
When one views, in the light of this historic difference, the later development, in the churches’ missionary history, he can hardly help but ob serve that the church movements that trace their roots to Anabaptism do seem to have been more active and successful in many cases than those that come from other branches of the Reformation such as our Reformed churches. This is in no sense condoning the theological errors or weaknesses of these movements, but it is a fact that we may well ponder that the Lord has blessed, in spite of their doctrinal errors and weaknesses, the work that many another denomination has done, far more than the work that many of our Calvinistic churches, with a more biblical system of belief and organization, have not done. While we ought not to copy their weaknesses, we ought to be ready to learn from them where, in the case of some belief or practice, they have been more faithful to God’s Word than we.
THE MISSIONARY HANDICAP OF OUR ORIGIN
To return to consideration of our own immediate denomination’s his tory, we observe that we began with a generally strong Biblical system of belief and practice, though weak in missionary emphasis. Our church movement arose out of an effort to reform the church and bring about a return to its confessional faith. Read ing the history of the Secession of 1834 and of the hardships our fore bears underwent in it, we can readily understand that in that time of persecution and struggle to set up a faithful church, they saw little occasion Or opportunity for missionary outreach beyond the church itself. Amid the hardships of that time many began to think of emigrating to seek a place where there would be freer opportunity to live individually and as churches according to their consciences. Undoubtedly the mate rial need and the hope of economic betterment played a large part in their plans, but it must not be forgotten that their material need was often considerably greater than that of their neighbors because of their share in the Secession.
In that immigration movement, their concern to preserve their Reformed faith and life led to the decision not to move into settled areas and adjust themselves to the way of life they found there, but to choose the harder course of setting up their own colony in a new area. In that way they might hope the better to reestablish and pre serve their Reformed church life. Four years after the beginning of the Holland settlement the decision was made to affiliate with the Reformed Church of America, members of which had given them considerable assistance in their resettlement problems. This decision was made on the assumption that the Reformed Church was maintaining the faith and practice for which they had been struggling. When in the course of the next six years it became apparent that that assumption was not warranted, a small but growing group decided to secede and to set up a separate denominational organization that would stand squarely upon the foundation of the fathers.
In this familiar history we can appreciate the Reformed conviction that came to expression. At the same time, looking at the matter from the point of view of the significance of these events for the missionary cause, we observe that the immigration movement, the setting up of a separate colony, and then the reestablishing of a separate Church all tended to make of the denomination which was com ing into existence a group apart, distinguished by language and custom as well as by faith from the people of the rest of the country. In that way a barrier was set up to an effective missionary outreach in the new land that even 100 years have not completely eliminated. How often our churches are handicapped in their efforts in the communities by being known as “the Dutch church,” even though the Dutch language may be almost completely forgotten!
This immigrant character of our Church is not only traceable to its beginnings; it has been maintained throughout its development b y its continued growth through immigration, right down into the present through the tremendous Canadian immigration movement which is causing the Church to grow at an unusual rate. That we have continued to grow by immigration is good. To help and to receive into our churches such new comers who share our faith is a spiritual opportunity not to be despised. It is not to be dismissed as insignificant for missions either. Even Paul, the great missionary, taught us to begin working where we have the most ready contacts; he usually started with his own countrymen. We may be thankful for the unique opportunity that the Lord privileged us to help our fellow-Christians and to extend the church of Christ in this way. But we need to realize and try to overcome the handicaps that this “immigrant” character of our churches has brought with it in missionary effort among those of other than Dutch background. The Apostle made the most of Jewish contacts in setting up new churches, but he did not permit them to become specifically “Jewish churches,” dedicated to maintaining and promoting Jewish life along with the gospel. Our church needs to learn, as I believe it is learning, to “become all things to all men,” that it “may by all means save some” (I Corinthians 9:22).
AN EMERGING CONVICTION
Rev. Richard De Ridder in his thesis (p. 35) points out that “The Christian Reformed Church owes a very great debt to the Reformed Church of America – for the stimulation of mission zeal and enthusiasm which the short-lived union (with it) occasioned in the churches of the colony. Extreme poverty and other matters of pressing concern in the churches prevented the Classis from engaging in any specific mission activity at the time, but it did not pre vent the quickening of interest in missions.” We read of monthly prayer meetings with offerings for missions being set up, Christian schools being discussed with a view to missionary training, the circulation of missionary literature, all of which indicate a growing missionary interest in this period of union.
The new organization that began in 1857 retained this interest, for at its second classical meeting “It was proposed that a prayer service be held for the extension of God’s Kingdom, and it was accordingly decided to hold such a service on the first Monday of the month, and that the collection that would be taken should be used for Bible distribution” (De Ridder, p. 42). Some idea of the limitations of the churches’ early missionary vision is suggested by the fact that in 1861 a proposal to send help to Syria was “dropped on the ground that these Christians belong to the Roman Babylon, and if the Lord’s will be to cause Babylon to fall, then by helping we would be guilty of upholding it” (De Ridder, p . 44). At the same time there were expressions of dissatisfaction that more was not being done. Money was being collected, although not in large quantities, and first sent to the Netherlands for Bible distribution among the heathen, and later to South Africa (p. 46). Later, in 1878 it was decided to keep money collected for a mission program of our own (p. 48). In 1880 it was decided to stop saving this collected money on interest and to send it to the Nether lands churches for the support of their mission program! We read of com plaints about the churches’ lack of missionary activity and about discus sion concerning beginning their own program.
INDIAN AND FOREIGN WORK
“Influential members of the Church began suggesting that the Church work among the Indians of our own land. Foremost among these was Elder F. Kniphuizen, who “had been in spliced by the accounts of John Eliot, the apostle to the Indians (1604–1690), and called the attention of the Church to the need of work among these tribes” (p. 51). The year 1886 brought a decision to begin a field of our own, and 1888 the appointment of a special committee for it. When the Committee had difficulty getting a missionary, its secretary, Rev. T. M. Vanden Bosch, finally volunteered in 1889. Rev. Henry Beets in his book Toiling and Trusting tells the graphic but short story of the beginnings of the Indian work in South Dakota, which came to an end within a year, when no Indians came to the announced meetings (p. 28, 29)! The year 1896 saw the beginning of a more extensive venture into the Indian work with the sending out of two missionaries to the Navajos. The Zuui work began shortly thereafter.
We lack the space to trace the early struggles and disappOintments of this work. W e ought to observe, however, that the early work showed an experimenting with various ideas regarding missionary methods. The missionaries, feeling that the converts needed to have their living standards raised, set out to form an industrial colony, which was eventually begun at Rehoboth. Opposition to this idea finally led to its conversion to a boarding school and hospital. The idea of a Christian industrial community, bor rowed from John Eliot, never suc ceeded. The Indian work continued and expanded with an emphasis on educational work and the use of a hospital.
In 1920 the decision was made to open a second field in China, where work could be carried on only intermittently because of political upheaval, until our last missionary had to leave in 1950. In 1939 our Church assumed responsibility for the work in the Sudan formerly carried on by the Sudan United Mission. This field was taken over with the understand ing that the indigenous principles of establishing self-government, self-propagation and self-support among the native churches from the very beginning should be continued. The re markable way in which the Lord has blessed this work has gone far to revolutionize the thinking of our Church on missionary methods, so that today there is a growing conviction in the Church that our missionary program should be developed along these soundly Biblical and practically successful lines.
The years 1950 to -54 saw our acceptance of a field in South India, serious friction partly as a result of our effort to take over such an established but “free-lance” type of work, and ultimate withdrawal from that field.
In 1950 we began work in Japan on the basis of an avowedly indigenous method, in general similar to that which proved so successful in Nigeria.
Since 1953 we have had one worker in Formosa.
Within the past year our program of assistance to churches in South America and Ceylon has also become officially part of our foreign mission admiuistration.
A pamphlet recently issued by our Home Mission Committee in the Dutch language gives a good brief survey of the development of our home mission program. From it we learn that “in the first 20 years of our existence no mission work was done in the true sense of the word,” that is, “there existed no committee to regulate the work and there was not one designated to serve as a missionary minister.” (One is tempted to ask, “Is only official work true missionary work?”)
“But there was work done. Especially the ministers Koene Van den Bosch and Douwe W. Vander Werp, of whom the first for some years was our only minister, did much to visit the people, hold meetings in various places, and shortly thereafter to organize churches. Means of transportation were extremely scant. They stayed in log and sod houses and had to undergo many difficulties. We read how Rev. Vanden Bosch again and again traveled from Noordeloos to Grand Rapids with his ox-wagon, armed with spade and axe to make a way. “With great difficulty they gathered the beginning of churches, sometimes consisting of very hetero geneous elements, and in the laying of the foundations they were fiercely opposed by ecclesiastical opponents.”
In 1872 it was decided to collect money for missions four times a year, but this collection proceeded slowly and it was not until 1880 that Rev. T. M. Vanden Bosch became the first home missionary. He worked extensively and effectively until 1882 when he was reluctantly released. Next the Church endeavored to obtain a home missionary from the Nether lands, but that effort too was unsuccessful. Finally it was decided that students who received assistance should automatically be called for this work and had to promise to accept such a call unless exceptional circumstances made this impossible. This drastic decision was eventually revoked. In spite of the lack of officially designated missionaries the work proceeded, carried out by regular minsters. In 1896 a home missionary was obtained and finally, in 1888, Rev. Marinus Van Vessum became our first home missionary who preached in the English language.
From these beginnings, the church’s home mission work grew extensively. It is worth noting, however, that for many years it was exclusively occupied with working among people from the Netherlands and largely those who shared the same faith. Poor mastery of the English language was a great handicap to working among the non-Dutch. In 1898 the decision was made that such work (among people of other backgrounds) should also be done as soon as the work among our own people would permit it. Until 1930, however, our home mission work was almost exclusively a world of church extension among our own people. In 1932 the Synod finally adopted a report emphasizing the churches’ responsibility for evangelistic work among its non Dutch neighbors and decided to begin such work. Since that time the denomination is expanding its efforts in this direction.
As we look back over this history, we may say in summary that our de nomination began its course with a theology that was generally soundly Biblical and systematically developed but weak in its appreciation of the churches’ missionary task. It was further handicapped by its early years of struggle and its immigrant character and traditions. Early in its history there began to appear evidences of a feeling that the Church ought to do mission work. This was in part the result of outside influences, but it was undoubtedly reinforced by the fact that the Word of God emphasizes this duty although our confessions do not. The churches’ efforts to act on this growing missionary conviction have been handicapped all through our history by the difficulty of deciding who should do it and more recently also by the difficulties of deciding how it should be done. By God’s grace however, there is a grow ing realization – though I fear by no means a general one – that basically missionary responsibility belongs to the whole Church and everybody in it, rather than to a few exceptional individuals. Unofficially and officially local work is increasing, home missionary activities have expanded tremendously, as has also the work in our foreign fields. This “pillar” of the Church seems to be definitely coming into its own.
THE ROAD AHEAD
If some suggestions may be ventured about the direction that our future development should take, it would seem to be in order first of all, to observe that in this missionary effort the Word of God should be consciously made our guide. Our church traditions and customs and even our confessions should be critically examined and made to conform to it. We should not hesitate to learn from others when it appears that their practice is more clearly in harmony with that Word than ours, but we should just as unhesitatingly refuse to copy them when their practice does not appear to be justified by God’s Word. In our developing mis sion program, perhaps more than any where else, we need to bear this in mind. Only so can we in the long run expect God’s blessing upon our work. This incidentally is also the genius of our Reformed faith, which is nothing but a return to the Word of God.
To the extent that this principle of conformity to the Scripture rather than to mere tradition, is kept in the foreground, others who come to the Reformed faith will be welcomed and will be able to feel at home with us regardless of their national back ground. Our missionary awakening as a Church is coming at a time when many other denominations have lost the Christian faith or have become very weak in presenting and maintaining it. We may hope to become a rallying point for many a Bible believing Christian in search of a Bible-believing and Bible-preaching church home, as well as an effective evangelizing agency to the unchurched, only if we truly take our stand on the Word of God, rather than on the peculiarities of national tradition.
THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT AND THE WORD
Second, the power of our missionary movement must also be sought where the Word of God teaches us to seek it, in the world of the Holy Spirit by means of the Word. Our mission effort, if it is to be truly sound, needs to reflect the biblical teaching of our confession that “The Son of God…gathers…by His Spirit and Word…a Church.”
Too often missionary history has been the story of drifting from this conviction to a dependence on inferior substitutes. We and others have felt that we had to help the gospel along by trying to bribe people with gifts of food or clothes or entertainment. We must attract them with an imposing building. We must get their notice with eye-catching tricks or cheap propaganda. We have felt that if people were not interested in the gospel, maybe giving them a free education for a few years would win them. If it could be supplemented by a gymnasium to match the one the government or the Roman Catholics were offering, so much the better!
People in Reformed circles have toyed with the use of such methods on the plea that a “comprehensive approach” is an implication of our “world and life view.” After all, did Christ not come to save the whole man? The trouble with that kind of thinking is that it confuses means with results. The results of the gospel certainly will transform all of life. But the power that does the transforming is the Word of God and his Spirit. We have too often handicapped our missionary effort by letting our attention be diverted from the preaching and teaching of God’s Word to trying to do for people things that they can do much better for themselves when the gospel takes control of their lives. To be sure, there is room for helping the needy and ministering to the sick, but the missionary emphasis should al ways fall where the Word of God so plainly teaches us to place it, on the bringing of the Word.
Reliance on all of these substihltes has usually sooner or later produced the kind of frustrations and problems that contrast as sharply with the mis sionary results shown in the Bible, as these methods have contrasted with the Biblical ones!
THE DUTY OF ALL
Third, we need to learn the elementary lesson taught in the New Testament that the missionary task belongs to the whole church, not just to a few individuals in it! It is too big a job to be left to the few. I need not repeat what was previously observed about the Holy Spirit being given the church to make each Christian a missionary.
The result of emphasizing this biblical teaching will be that the number of our missionaries will be increased manifold. When the church itself be comes, what one denomination calls itself, a “missionary alliance,” we may under God’s blessing expect to see more of the kind of results in our community witness which the early churches saw. A church in which each member is personally concerned with such a missionary outreach will be a church also in which mission converts will no longer find the difficulty they sometimes experience among us in “feeling at home.”
Furthermore, when we return to this biblical emphasis, we may hope to see the solution to one of our knottiest missionary problems, one that has restricted our efforts for almost the whole of our hundred years, that of getting missionary personnel. Again and again, in the review of our missionary history, we see how the Church came to feel that something needed to be done, even began to collect money for it, and then looked and looked in vain for one of those exceptional people called “missionaries” whose job it is to do such work. Finally, in desperation, maybe the secretary had to go out and do it himself! Recruiting missionaries is still our big problem. If we will only begin to teach our whole Church, be ginning with the children, the biblical truth that all Christians are called to be missionaries, and to train all for such an effort but also to teach them to pray for the people needed for special duties, may we not expect to find many more who, like Paul and Barnabas, after some preliminary service in an alert missionary church, will be sent out by the Lord himself to carry the work further? If, however, we continue to teach people that it is a wonderful work for somebody else, we may expect to continue look ing, too often in vain, for “somebody else” to do it.
Rev. Richard De Ridder’s thesis aptly points out that as our missionary effort grows there is a tendency for its administration to become more and more centralized under the control of executive committees. While a mea sure of centralized responsibility is inevitable, I believe that it is a biblically and practically sound rule that we should keep the work just as close as possible to the local church and the individual Christian in it. The mission cause has often suffered by the evasion of personal responsibility. Don’t expect someone else, or the church, to do what you should do; don’t expect the classis or a remote committee to do what the individual church can and should do. Don’t expect the Synod to do what the classis can do. Don’t expect the missionaries or mission to do what the converts should do. The biblical injunction, “Bear ye one another’s burdens,” is matched by the equally necessary reminder, “Each man shall bear his own burden” (Galatians 6:2, 5).
THE WORK OF THE LORD
Finally, we need always to bear in mind the fact that the missionary effort is God’s work. As directly, clearly, and simply as possible we need to point men to their need of salvation and to the Savior. It is al ways the Lord who does the saving and let us not forget – also the seeking. He only sees fit to use us. It is from him that we need to expect the power and the results. And it is by his word that we need to be guided in our way of working. He warned us, “Apart from me ye can do nothing,” and he commanded and assured us, “Go ye – and make disciples of all the nations – and lo, I am with you always.”