In the August-September issue of Beacon Lights there appeared an editorial on “Mission Minded” from the pen of Rev. A. Mulder which, in my opinion, contained such a mixture of untrue charges against our Protestant Reformed Churches and constituents and of false conclusions concerning our denominational mission activity that it should not go unanswered. One who read said editorial would almost come to the conclusion that the old, old accusation of our opponents that we do not believe in mission work is true. Besides, the editorial was utterly lacking in constructive criticism and positive instruction concerning the nature of mission activity and concerning a sound, healthy, well-founded mission-mindedness. And it seems to me that especially if Beacon Lights is to guide our Protestant Reformed young people in the paths of truth with respect to mission-mindedness, such constructive criticism and positive instruction should have been forthcoming. It is very well to cry, “Let’s be busy!” But if real progress is to be made in this respect, we must not be characterized by an artificially stimulated mission zeal, but must keep our ecclesiastical feet firmly planted on the ground of the truth, and in the light of that truth determine our calling, in the strength of that truth perform our calling, and according to the standard of that truth examine our faithfulness.
To my mind, however, accusations of lethargy, unfaithfulness, definite lack of zeal, stinginess, and a buried zeal for missions, – all of which accusations appear in said editorial, – can only serve to discourage and smother the mission zeal of our people, though it might rally some to a sort of flighty, unbalanced, heady mission enthusiasm that is so characteristic in our day of many so-called evangelistic movements.
I do not at all mean to say that our mission efforts have been beyond criticism and that there is no room for improvement. This has never been the official position of our churches either. Our mission program has always been subjected to careful scrutiny and correction, for example, at our syndical sessions. And to be sure, when we have “arrived,” so to speak, then it is high time that we understand that something is radically wrong. But I contend that the latter is not the case in our churches, that the facts do not sustain the charges made in Rev. Mulder’s editorial, that he cannot prove them, and that he does our people an injustice by making said charges.
Let me raise just a few questions, and mention some facts to sustain my position. Then perhaps further discussion and editorializing might produce something positive and helpful.
1. What is it to be “mission-minded”? It is all very well to use an eye-catching phrase, and to cite the so-called “great commission,” for which, by the way, the term “mission mandate” is really a misnomer. But if our people are to be “mission-minded” in the healthy, Reformed sense of the word, they must be instructed. Everyone in our day cites this great commission. And many, judging by the gargantuan size of their mission program and mission budget, are apparently “mission-minded.” But is this genuine mission-mindedness? Besides, does not this great commission include, and that too, primarily the preaching of the gospel here at home, in our own congregations? And is it not also true that God’s people are gathered in the line of covenant generations? And may we not indeed answer the editor’s question in this light with a hearty “Yes” when he asks, “Is it going out from us?” Or does the editor have in mind an over-balanced and over-emphasized mission program, such as, for example, the schismatics launched on Guam, while the home churches rotted from within? I am only asking questions, you understand. But by all means let us have some answers to these questions before we are asked to examine ourselves: for self-examination must be calm and discerning, and must take place according to a sound, objective standard, if one wants to reach the correct answers in that examination.
2. What is the relationship between the “home front” and the “mission front”? What constitutes a proper balance between the home labors of the church and the mission labors? Is it fair and just to our churches to classify vacancies and a dearth of ministers as “only excuses”? At present, for example, we have no less than six vacancies among our twenty-one churches. For some four years to come our seminary will be able to fill only half of those six vacancies. Would it be according to the will of God, do you think, to take two or three or four more of our ministers and put them on the mission field? Moreover, I submit:
a. That the record shows that since the schism we have at no time been without vacancies.
b. That since the split many of our churches were in dire need of pastors, due to the circumstances brought upon us by the wickedness of the schismatics.
c. That since the split several of our congregations were in a struggle for their very existence.
d. That the split left us with no missionary and no mission fund, and that we were compelled to start from “scratch” in 1954! That it was simply unthinkable, would, in fact, have been reprehensible on the part of our Synod and Mission Board, to proceed with the program of calling a total of five missionaries at that time or ever since; and that the progress and fruits of our mission program since the split, when viewed in the light of circumstances, have been, generally speaking, favorable.
e. That the proposed program of five missionaries in 1953 was largely the pet project of those who soon became schismatics, who wanted to draw hordes of Liberated immigrants into our denomination, and who wanted calling churches other than churches like First, Doon, etc. because they wanted to get control of the mission program.
3. What constitutes proper order in mission work? And, in that connection, where particularly does the mission calling of our Protestant Reformed Churches lie? Has the home mission field been covered? Is our calling to do mission work among others of Reformed persuasion finished? Is our calling now chiefly in the rather alluring and romantic line of foreign mission work? Or is it perhaps true, in the light of our distinctive Protestant Reformed position, that we still have a very definite calling with respect to other Reformed churches?
4. Is it possible that there is such a thing as “running ahead of the Lord” in our enthusiasm” Does not the Lord also point out our mission calling through such objective realities as man-power, talents, means, opportunities, and that too, in relation to other needs and demands in the churches?
5. Is not the charge of stinginess in mission offerings grossly unfair in the light of the following incontrovertible facts?
a. Our mission assessment, in a time when our assessments are at all-time highs and in a time when the Lord has seen fit to burden us with the care of many needy churches, has been consistently among the highest. For 1962 it will be almost 22% of our total syndical budget. This is exclusive of a First Church radio budget of $5700 and a Foreign Mission contribution of $4000.
b. Generally speaking, the contributions per family of our people to the cause of the church rank high. If you add to this contributions to the cause of our schools, our people do exceedingly well in most instances.
c. Our people have always been ready to meet the financial needs of the church, missions included, when such need has been presented and when they have been instructed therein prudently.
d. Several of our congregations are busy, both with talents and funds, in localized church extension work.
In conclusion, therefore, I would suggest that we keep a level head, keep both feet on the ground, and, in the meantime, engage in positive and constructive discussion of our mission calling, of our mission program, and of our mission activities. If we do, a good, healthy “mission mindedness” will result. But cutting charges and wild accusations will simply antagonize our people, and justly so.