No doubt the question that fills the minds of most of our young people, who have a prayerful concern with our mission, is: what happened in Tripp, South Dakota? Why did our Missionary, Rev. G. Lubbers, leave there? Were there any people at Tripp, who, when all was said and done, would have desired to become Protestant Reformed?
Such are the questions which we either asked or suggested while we recently spent the Christmas and New Year in Michigan.
It should be borne in mind that your missionary went to Tripp, S.D. and rented a hall and preached and lectured with the result, that, even though the number of those who attended fluctuated and decreased, nevertheless there was a faithful group which attended the Sunday School, the Service and received catechetical instruction for themselves and for their children, and received us into their own homes as though we were their own regular pastor. The number of those who attended fluctuated from 15 to even 30 people per Sunday. During the twenty months which we spent at Tripp, S.D., the collections amounted to about $2,000.00.
Yet, with all this, our labors at Tripp were rather upon hope against hope! The question was: will these brethren and sisters really have the spiritual power and interest to ultimately ask to be organized as a Protestant Reformed Church. Or would they when the time came, and the actual confrontation with the questions and issues became imperative, turn about after taking a long hard look, and decide against asking to be members of the Protestant Reformed Church.
It was the conviction of your missionary that the Status Quo of being a mission station could not continue indefinitely. In view of coming to a proper termination, upon the suggestion of the undersigned, the Church Order was studied for a few months each Monday evening. The attendance was not too promising, nor was the interest keen; a faithful few came, some of whom showed genuine interest. However, when it was suggested to study the Canons of Dort, it became quite evident that some, a goodly percentage of the people, were either adverse or rather indifferent to this overture. They virtually balked at the idea. In a subsequent questionnaire, which the people filled in, it was evident that some were definitely opposed to studying the Canons.
On the basis of this evidence and upon the suggestion of the undersigned the Mission Committee went on record as recommending to the Consistory of the First Protestant Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Mich. (the calling church) that Rev. Lubbers be recalled from Tripp, and sent elsewhere. The Consistory decided accordingly.
Meanwhile word of this all came to the ears of the people at Tripp, S.D. a meeting was called in which the general opinion was expressed that they preferred to continue. In line with this sentiment a decision was taken on October 20 that a letter be sent to the Mission Committee requesting them to rescind their decision to remove Rev. Lubbers, and a committee of three was appointed to compose the letter and then have it read for approval at the next meeting. Strange as it may sound, two of this committee immediately took upon themselves to visit the various families and decided that the group did not care to carry on, and that no letter need be written. There were overtones to the effect that the Protestant Reformed Churches were “too strict” in discipline. Those who felt that way did not say that they thought the Protestant Reformed Churches were “too strict” but such was the opinion of so and so who would for that reason not come to the services.
Instead of a letter being submitted as decided, a meeting was held in the absence of Rev. Lubbers in which it was agreed that they would settle for an “Independent Tripp Reformed Church”, and then still request the preaching of Rev. Lubbers. This was strange maneuvering, to say the least.
It was really that those who insisted most strongly for an independent congregation did not really want “Discipline” as an earmark of the church. They did not desire to maintain Question 82 of the Heidelberg Catechism. They spoke of having “open communion”, etc. that it should be left up to the conscience of each individual. If a certain member desired to go bowling on Sunday, no minister should lift an eyebrow nor ask about the whereabouts of such an absentee from the service! What a farmer does about a “critter” which does not show up for water with the rest of the cattle, and a shepherd does according to Jesus’ Word, should not be done by a minister in Tripp! Such desired to leave the United Church of Christ for reasons of their own, but they would not purge out the old leaven of indifference and lack of ecclesiastical discipline. And a group that will not exercise Christian discipline is no true church!
There was a concrete reason why some balked at the acceptance of Christian discipline. In the group attending the services were a man and his wife who were Thirty Second Degree Scottish Rite Masons and Eastern Star Masons, and who desired to become members of the Independent Reformed Church. In fact, he offered to serve as an elder!! After some of the people read my document, “The Masonic Scottish Rite in the Light of Scripture and The Heidelberg Catechism”, they most adamantly would have nothing of such a church as was advocated.
The result was that on the issue of the Lodge in particular and the matter of discipline in general, the little group split into two camps and was purged of the old leaven. Those who desired not to allow Masons at the table of the LORD, desired to become Protestant Reformed, and so requested the Mission Committee to decide.
The Mission Committee expressed their sincere appreciation for the courageous request of this little group, but felt that it was wiser to advise them to join the Doon Protestant Reformed Church, about 100 miles distant, and hold their services separately, either by reading, taped sermons, or visiting ministers from Iowa and Minnesota. Thus, they could also have the sacraments administered to them. What the reaction was the undersigned does not know.
And so this chapter is closed for the Missionary.
It was a very strangely wonderful service which we held two years to the day in Tripp after the first lecture in that city. Your missionary preached on the well know words of Paul in II Tim. 2:19, “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal: the Lord knows who are his own, and let everyone who nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
There are times when this “nevertheless” has special meaning and comfort for a faithful servant in the vineyard of the Lord; it is a cry of victory in the midst of overwhelming odds and seeming defeat.