Rev. George C. Lubbers, member of the First Protestant Reformed Church, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, emeritus pastor, writer, father, grandfather, and great grandfather, became a minister of the gospel in the Protestant Reformed Churches 65 years ago.
Rev. Lubbers has been retired from the active ministry since 1978—now more than twenty years. Prior to his retirement he wrote for the Standard Bearer and Beacon Lights, served as a pastor in five different churches, and was a missionary for many years both in this country and in Jamaica.
Rev. Lubbers was born in Beaverdam, Michigan, on August 6, 1909. Beaverdam, an area between Hudsonville and Zeeland where he spent the first nineteen years of his life, was and is a farming community in Western Michigan. At the time of his birth, more than ninety years ago, Beaverdam was a small settlement of Dutch Reformed farmers.
Rev. Lubbers was baptized by Rev. Eldersveld in the Beaverdam Christian Reformed Church and attended the Beaverdam Christian School (1914-1922). He received all his catechism instruction during the first years (until about 1916) in the Dutch language. He vividly remembers the tolling of the church bells on Armistice Day ending World War I, November 11, 1918.
Because the church was not connected to a supply of electricity, he took his turn as a teenager in pumping the bellows that provided the air for the pipe organ in the church. Rev Lubbers has always loved to sing and he reported that sometimes he would continue singing when the congregation had already concluded for an interval in the song.
The parents of Rev. Lubbers were Cornelius and Aggie (Van Putten) Lubbers. Although the families of his grandparents could trace their origin to immigrants from the Netherlands, both were native United States citizens. They too had grown up in the Beaverdam area where they became acquainted, were married and reared their family of eight children. Half of the children in the family are now deceased. Two brothers John C. Lubbers, member of the Hudsonville PRC, and Henry C. Lubbers, member of the Holland PRC, are still living. One sister, Cobie Berens, lives at Sunset Manor in Jenison.
Rev. Lubbers was reared in a community and family in which an eighth grade education was all that was considered necessary. When he graduated from the eighth grade his formal education came to a conclusion for a period of time. Although an aunt thought he should go on to secondary school and then go to college just as many other young men growing up in the cities would do, he began to work on the farm of his father. He worked the clay fields of his parents’ farm in Beaverdam with the team of horses—Frank and Mack, and often worked for other farmers in the community. He hauled many loads of gravel with the team of horses, because one of the important responsibilities of the taxpayers and farmers in that area was to haul their share of gravel from the neighboring gravel pits so that the roads could be properly covered.
When Rev. Lubbers was sixteen years old, the Synod of 1924 met. The members of the small Christian Reformed community of Beaverdam heard of the trouble in the Christian Reformed Churches, particularly in Grand Rapids. A young talented minister, Herman Hoeksema, pastor of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, had been opposing the teachings of Abraham Kuyper regarding the theory of common grace. His opposition had stimulated the formulation of the infamous three points of common grace adopted by the Synod of Kalamazoo of 1924. Because of Hoeksema’s opposition to the three points and because of protests against his teachings by members of the Eastern Avenue CRC, Grand Rapids Classis East decided that Hoeksema must agree with these three points or be deposed. Because he would not agree, the Classis wrongly deposed him.
The events during this period of time (1924-1925) in the Christian Reformed Churches had a profound effect upon Rev. Lubbers. With his uncles and his father he attended lectures and church services in Grand Rapids and the Hudsonville area led by Rev. Hoeksema, Rev. Danhof and Rev. George M. Ophoff. He and other relatives became followers of the cause that resulted in the formation of the First Protesting Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan, later called the First Protestant Reformed Church. His mother would not associate with the movement led by Rev. Herman Hoeksema during these early days, although later she became a faithful member of the Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church, organized in 1926.
During the years 1925-26 he heard Rev. H. Hoeksema lecture and preach in the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church. He heard a lecture given in the Dutch language on “Kerklijke Hierarchie” (Ecclesiastical Hierarchy). The first sermon he remembers preached by Rev. Hoeksema was on Matthew 11:11-12. “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” This sermon was in also in the Dutch language. Later he attended a worship service held in the St. Cecilia Building. The sermon was on James 3:1-2. The elders were to begin family visitation and they were charged not to be many masters, but to know their own weaknesses, also the weakness of their own tongue. It was a bit later that he heard Rev. G.M. Ophoff lecture on the “Error of Common Grace” in the Spoelman Barn in Hudsonville.
Rev. Lubbers began to attend activities at the Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church in 1926. During the fall of 1926, Rev. Ophoff came to teach the catechism class that he attended. Rev. Lubbers shall never forget the pointed and clear exposition of the Heidelberg Catechism teaching concerning “our only Comfort in life and death.” He was still a baptized member of the Beaverdam CRC, but he attended regularly the catechism classes and the divine worship services at the Hudsonville PRC instead of attending the services and catechism classes in the Christian Reformed Church of Beaverdam. Although Rev. Lubbers could not be a charter member of the Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church because he had not made public confession of faith, he was a participant in all the activities during the early days of the church.
It was during these years that Rev. Lubbers and Mrs. Lubbers (Rena Schut) met and their courtship began. Both Rev. Lubbers and his future wife made confession of faith in the Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church in the spring of 1928. Rev. George Ophoff asked the questions both in the Consistory meeting and a few weeks later from the pulpit at the time of the public confession of faith. Rev. Ophoff preached on I Corinthians 6:20, “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit which are God’s.” It was a powerful message. For this reason we can say that Rev. Lubbers is a spiritual son of the Hudsonville PRC.
During the time that Rev. Lubbers became interested in the issues that resulted from the controversy of 1924, he came to the conviction that he should become a minister of the gospel. He decided that he would study for the ministry in the small Protestant Reformed Theological School that met in the lower level of the First Protestant Reformed Church, on the corner of Franklin Street and Fuller Avenue. He began to attend the seminary in September 1928, and here he spent the next six years of his life until his graduation in the spring of 1934. His professors were some of the advanced students in the school, Rev. Herman Hoeksema and Rev. George M. Ophoff.
The first two years were difficult years in preparatory studies for a young man who had left the classroom at the age of twelve and at the end of the eighth grade. He was required to study English grammar, Dutch grammar, Greek grammar and Hebrew grammar during his first year in the seminary. This was a rigid assignment—a good discipline to try the fledgling student to the utmost. It worked.
In August 1930, he married Rena Schut in a special Sunday evening service in the Hudsonville PRC. Rena was his faithful wife until her death in December 1998. Rev. Lubbers and his wife Rena became the parents of four children: Agatha Lubbers, Mrs. Garretta Newhof Cornelius Lubbers, and Lamm Lubbers. In covenant faithfulness God gave them thirteen grandchildren, many who have married. Now there are many great grandchildren as well, who are all members of the PR churches.
(Continued next month with the ministerial labors of Rev. Lubbers.)