In writing about a subject like this, it seems proper and fitting that before we discuss the subject itself, we should first have in mind some of the fundamental teachings of Scripture, and our Confessions that may apply here.
First, let us remember that which we believe concerning the holy catholic church of Christ, namely “That the Son of God, from the beginning to the end of the world, gathers, defends and preserves to himself by his spirit and word out of the whole human race, a church chosen to everlasting life.” Let us note that it is not the missionary that does the gathering, be he ever so diligent in his work. Secondly, we are to also notice what we learn from our Heidelberg Catechism, that the Holy Ghost works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the gospel. Here too, the preacher is the servant and administers means by which God works the faith, and God remains the only giver.
We may not conclude from the above, however, that missionaries and preachers are not necessary in our churches for Paul explains this mystery in Romans 10:14, 15 and 17, “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Also, II Cor. 5, “We are ambassadors, therefore, in behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us; we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God.”
With these fundamental principles in mind we may discuss further why it is necessary that the church of Jesus Christ have home missions in our present modern world.
The origin and purpose of such missions date back to the days of our Lord Jesus Christ, when he commanded his apostles, and in them all lawful ministers of the word: “Go ye unto all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” With this command in mind, we notice how Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, went out to all corners of the earth to preach the glad tidings. After he had laid the foundations, he had helpers, ministers and teachers that nourished the congregations the Lord had given him.
In the more recent history of the Church, in the days of the reformation, mission work by the church became an extreme necessity. The task also was very difficult because of the political upheaval that resulted from the reformation. We know that western Europe was divided into many political units whose rulers often denied the reformers a place in their domain. The church was persecuted and often the sheep were dispersed. Our fathers saw the need for missionaries, and the church provided for this need. However, the church insisted that to keep the doctrine pure and keep the false prophets from destroying the flock, that the ministers who went out to preach be sent and duly called by the church. A study of the Protestant Reformed Church Order will show that several articles therein became a part thereof for the very reason that many were preaching to dispersed Christians who had no church affiliation.
We may all agree that the necessity of mission work in the early days of the Church, and in the days of the reformation is quite obvious; however, times have changed. In this modern day and age everyone hears the gospel proclaimed. There certainly is no place in our land where Christians are persecuted and dispersed. Surely the devil and all his hosts have not become tired and finally given up the struggle! Have the forces of the evil one not become more cunning? Have they not devised new methods to catch, with the same result, to lead to destruction? Hardly a day goes by but we hear of a merger being proposed for two separate church denominations. This amalgamation of churches usually destroys the confessions of either one or both; at the most, confessions become a common thing. If the confessions are not destroyed, they are abbreviated under the name of revision. Some may even keep the confession, but by wisdom of words and cunning distortion, they teach contrary thereto and become false prophets who rob the people of God of their comfort.
In all this the people of God are being persecuted and dispersed. They cannot like this denial of the truth. They seek to escape from it, and often find no place a go. Some in their desperation, fall to the fundamentalists, and become lost to the eye and ear of the church. Did not Elias make intercession to God against Israel saying: “Lord they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith God to him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.”
May we not conclude that mission work is a necessity in our day? We may be sure that because of all the efforts to confuse the people of God, it is not an easy task to be home missionary and gather the sheep under these circumstances. Here lies one of the difficulties; that those who have been dispersed, are not always sure of what the Reformed truth is. This writer can testify to this, because on numerous occasions while visiting with the missionary at the home of these dispersed people, it has been necessary for the missionary to show that their present minister, whom they thought to be orthodox, is really a fundamentalist and arminian. Further, such peoples do no longer know what the old confessions taught since they were sure that their present minister was honestly expounding them. After digging them out of the old trunk in the basement and reading them again for the first time in years, it brings to memory what they had learned in Catechism years before. This all demonstrates the pressing need for home missionary labors, though they be ever so difficult.
May what we have here tried to write serve to inform our covenant youth of the necessity of prayer and pray the Lord of seed-time as well as harvest for his blessing.
He alone is able.