This editorial is not my reply to Rev. H. C. Hoeksema, who brings his “reflections” on a previously printed article of mine to the attention of our readers elsewhere in this issue of Beacon Lights. This article is, quite naturally, my consequent thoughts on missions which should serve to point out to our young people some sound principles of this holy calling; principles which must be kept in mind as we develop and culture our mission zeal. I purposed to compose thoughts of this nature before my former article was even sent to the printer. And this intention was also expressed, as I recall distinctly, to the editor in chief of Beacon Lights. Besides, assurance of its forth-coming was promised to interested readers who agreed fully with my former editorial. Hence please disregard Rev. Hoeksema’s careless charge when he says in effect, that I should have brought to the minds of our young people constructive criticism and positive instruction about the nature of mission activity, rather than stimulating an artificial mission zeal. By this time he knows that everything cannot be pressed into one editorial, and, he is acquainted with our editorial policy or “monthly alternation” in Beacon Lights.
But be that as it may, I surely didn’t expect, nor fear, that a two month delay in the appearance of a subsequent essay on mission principles would serve to “rally some sort of flighty, unbalanced, heady mission enthusiasm . . “ as Rev. Hoeksema so boldly predicts an article as mine would arouse.
Now some basics on missions!
Actually this is a gigantic but beautiful study. And many things unfortunately always go unsaid. Yet, to my mind, there are two chief, foundational principles of missions that no church worthy of the name should leave slip into obscurity. The first is: the congregation of Christ Jesus is spontaneously performing missions. This is simply a fact, and is so since the church is a light in the midst of darkness. She is the regenerated in the midst of the unregenerate; she is that called out of darkness into his marvelous light. And her light is her spiritual life. How that light shines when the saints are gathered in worship! How that light shines when they retreat to their daily positions and stations in life: whether in the home or by the way! This is implied, beyond doubt, in the words of our Savior when he said, “Ye are the light of this world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid.” Matt. 5;14. The church as light attracts, you see, and God certainly uses this means to bring sons and daughters to Himself.
But let us never stop here! An outgrowth from this glorious principle is the fruit-bearing branch. We mean to say, it is the calling of the church of Jesus Christ to let her light shine.
1) At home? Yes, of course! God’s people do this by being faithful in their duties toward kingdom labors in their midst, and in maintaining a good external deportment. Possibly in a limited sense you may call this an aspect of mission work.
2) Abroad? Yes, of course! Our light must be shed abroad even unto the far regions of the earth. The latter is mission work in the most selected sense of the term. Specifically the mission-mandate refers to this.
Plainly therefore, missions is the work of God who through our Lord Jesus Christ and by His Spirit causes the glorious gospel of salvation to be brought before men so that the eternal purposes of God with respect to men might be realized. These always are two-fold: the church of Christ is gathered and the kingdom of Satan is rendered inexcusable. And we witness this too in mission work!
So the church is means and instrument in the hands of the Lord to gather his people, and then the church as she possesses that tool of all tools: the preaching of the Word. That Word means everything! Our Fathers observed this when in question 54 of our Heidelberg Catechism they tell us concerning the holy, catholic church, “that, out of the whole human race, from the beginning to the end of the world, the Son of God, by his Spirit and Word, gathers, defends and preserves for Himself unto everlasting life a chosen communion.” As young people, you may always use this bit of confession as a commentary on missions. It certainly applies.
Now surely the man of God who is engaged in such labor must be called of Christ the Lord, something which involves the church, the community of believers. Most clearly this is outlined for us by the infallible Word when we read of Paul and Barnabas that as they ministered to the Lord in the church, the Holy Ghost said, “separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.”
Another thing! How is it possible to deny the effective guidance of the Spirit of Christ when the Word so expressly tells us of the Apostolic mission history, “after they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not?
Perhaps it is not superfluous for me to remind our young people that these are a few basic principles of missions which we must bear in mind as being the very roots of any mission work.
The practical matters are another story. Naturally a host of questions arise when the church busies herself in this work. I have in mind these: how many men should be sent out? Where should missionaries be sent? How do we know if we are called to a “given” field? What emphasis must be placed on “fruit”? We could ask many more, but let these serve to arouse an interest in missions.
In the light of my former article, in which I call our young people to a greater zeal in mission work, it should not be surprising that I raise this question now: Why have we had such “little and limited” activity along these lines? What has held us back? Is it our Gospel? To this we reply negatively, no neither our method of preaching nor our content of preaching is to blame. Our churches, differing from a vast majority of churches, does not take recourse to an offer of salvation. And to many, missions is impossible without it, therefore men frequently cite this as a reason for our limited mission work and our retarded mission interest. It all comes down to this: if we as ministers cannot go to the mission field declaring, “come now, just as you are, you can!” then missions is impossible. But we disagree with this! Rather than offering salvation in our preaching, we confront men with the glorious gospel of salvation, we command men everywhere to repent and believe and we assure the unrepentant that he will die in his iniquity, while to the one who believes goes the promise that he shall not see death but live forevermore. No! we need no offer, which by the way, never does any good anyway since the natural man cannot “take” the riches of Christ by himself. Besides, the offer certainly leaves the impression to the hearer that he has a power in himself which he could put to use.
Neither does our “message” make missions impossible for us. We teach the whole Word of God both at home and abroad, never omitting certain great truths – always striving to keep them in their proper balance. Quite obviously our gospel is not at fault.
Possibly our mission efforts would double and consequently even flourish if, as churches, we placed DUE ACCENT on this heavenly task, and then in relation to other kingdom duties. Our laxity may be due to an “unbalanced approach” to our kingdom callings. Do we think as much of the mission field as the court room? Do we think as much of the mission field as the school building? These are very weighty questions which should be answered honestly, and of course, calmly and discerningly.
Several years ago (1955) I spoke for our Eastern Men’s League in Hudsonville church. I spoke then on missions or evangelism. At that time I begged the gathering to give much support to missions and then in every way. I held before them the combined budgets of two of our own Christian schools, and the yearly budget of our mission program. And I compared them. To our shame, then already, there was scarcely any comparison. I pleaded for “more of a balance” assuring the men (as I want to do now again) that I am no enemy of our Christian schools by any means, but I feel if we can spend so many, many dollars for the schoolroom, then why not a few more dollars for the mission field? And take note, since that day (1955) our educational costs have greatly risen but our mission budget has remained rather static. Possibly balanced budgeting will be an answer. More means will undoubtedly bring a new look to our mission front: mission machinery then will be in action, on the field.
And that unparalleled activity called prayer! Without it we have nothing.
Even in these critical days of perplexities and vacancies, let us not “shelve” our high calling of God: Go ye out into all the world and preach the gospel.