Mission Enthusiasm- Our Solemn Duty
Rev. Jason Kortering (at the time of writing this, Rev. Kortering was a Protestant Reformed minister-on-loan to Singapore.
God did great things for the spread of the gospel through the seventeenth century Reformation. From Pentecost onward, the Holy Spirit has moved the church to bring the gospel to the lost. The same Spirit used the Reformation to liberate the saints so that they could properly and enthusiastically bring the gospel to all nations.
This applies in two ways.
The Reformation gave back the message to the church. Not that it was entirely gone. Rather, it was obfuscated by an apostate church. God's work in the heart and life of men like Luther, Calvin, and others so affected them that they once again had good news to speak. Freed from the shackles of work-righteousness, they could enthusiastically declare to the nations that there is salvation in none other name than that of Jesus. Salvation in Christ is God's work from eternity to eternity. Such a work was planned in the eternal counsel of God, grounded in the perfect work of the Lord Jesus, and now declared and applied to the hearts of men through the sovereign grace of God. Men everywhere were commanded to repent and believe in this God.
Personally, I am so thankful that this is the same word which we can preach to the nations today. The gospel as taught in the Holy Bible, so beautifully summarized in our Reformed confessions, and taught by the Protestant Reformed Churches and the Evangelical Reformed Churches of Singapore, is a wonderful word. In no way does it hinder mission work. Those in whom the Spirit works respond with thankful hearts wherever we preach. We have had opportunity to bring the word in Singapore, in India, in Myanmar, and in the Philippines. We can truly shout, Hallelujah! there are those everywhere who love the good news of salvation as summarized in the Reformed faith. God gave this to us through the Reformation.
The same Reformation also gave to the church the messengers! Good news which is not heralded is constricted. Such was the case prior to the Reformation. Both the clergy and the people were bound to silly practices and clubbed to spiritual death with the constant barrage to do more penance, work harder for their salvation, appease an angry God. What a change came over the church when all the members of the church were not only told that they were free from such burdens, but also given the mandate once more to preach this gospel and bring it to the nations. This was true because the Reformed churches instructed their members that they all were officebearers in Christ's church. They were not, and are not now, all alike in their office, but they are all in office. Christ gave to the church the special offices, among which is that of minister of the Word. The Reformation equipped pastors and motivated them to go and preach the gospel. Think of Calvin's school in Geneva. What an influence to spread the Reformed faith! Christ also gave to the church the common office which every saint possesses, the office of believer. In this capacity of believer, we all have the commission to witness. When Christ instructed the church to go and make disciples of all nations, He gave that great commission to the entire church, so that every member must face this calling as a solemn duty before God. Pastors and missionaries must make disciples by preaching and baptism; members are involved in making disciples by witnessing.
Unless we understand this, our mission enthusiasm will be silenced and curtailed. In this brief article I will say a few things about this twofold duty.
The Duty to Preach
The great commission has been expounded among us many times (Matt. 28:18-20). The purpose of my article is not mission theory, but to generate mission enthusiasm. The duty assigned by our Lord and Master to the church is to make disciples. Our KJV translates "make disciples" as "teach." Jesus explains that making disciples is done by "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" and "to baptize them." These disciples are to be from "all nations." We can debate whether this means countries or people groups, but such debate to me is useless. As long as there is one disciple to be made from any country under heaven, the great commission stands as it is, a solemn duty to make disciples. The object of this activity is one who is not a disciple, one who is lost in sin. "Go ye therefore" indicates to us that, if disciples are going to be made from all nations, the church has to send someone away from his home to travel to another place. This is the particular duty of missionaries, as the Form of Ordination of Missionaries in the back of our Psalter explains.
Let me interject briefly at this point that the duty of the local pastor is affected by this commission as well. It is clearly biblical that the pastor of an established congregation functions as a shepherd of the flock. Most of his work is to nurture and build up the church of God. When Christ gave this "commission" to the church, He did not mean that no concern had to be shown to the lost at home. They must be "discipled" on the basis of our love for the neighbor who crosses our path. Those who are lost in sin around us serve as the ultimate test of our love of the Lord Jesus Himself. This is very crucial for mission enthusiasm for the lost. We pastors must develop a real sensitivity for this and act as examples to the flock. Unless there is obedience to make disciples of the lost in our own hometown, there will be little or no obedience to "Go." The burden and enthusiasm is generated where we live. It is the easiest thing in the world to love the neighbor who lives on the opposite side of the earth from us, and to send a missionary off to bring the gospel to him. It is much more demanding and meaningful to love the lost neighbor next door and obey Christ's command to make him a disciple by teaching and baptism.
The church, however, must do more than that. The church must go out to the nations. When the apostle Paul carried out this great commission he began in Jerusalem, traveled to Antioch, and from thence to the world. If you stop to think of this, it is rather instructive how the church at Antioch placed such priority upon the "go ye therefore" when they sent Paul and Barnabas on their journey. The church of Antioch was a young, newly organized church. They must have lacked much in this great work. Yet they did not hesitate to send Paul, who must have been the most qualified and needed man in the congregation. If we see missions as obedience to duty, we do not put it at the bottom of our list of things we do as a church. Our local congregations have many responsibilities; our parents must operate Christian schools; our denomination has much work to do. It is all wonderful work of the Lord. But missions must never be viewed as something we can do if other things are done first. No duty may ever be approached in that fashion. We all have the duty to train up our children, and other duties often impinge on that. Yet, we may never say to God, "Sorry, other duties demanded our time, so we didn't get around to training our children." A duty is a duty, no matter what. Mission work is a duty that may never be neglected.
We have to prioritize properly in order to do what God requires of us. The same applies to mission work which we do together as churches. This relates to manpower, funds, time, and all the rest. I don't think God is much impressed if we try to reason among us that we can't afford to send missionaries to other countries while we sit in our beautiful churches with plush pews, enjoy exhilarating organ music, and have good preaching every Sunday. I wish all of you could visit in the homes of the poor, or join them in their hovels of worship, and then look into the face of God and say, we cannot afford missions. I don't think you would sleep well at night. God doesn't even ask of us to give up any of these luxuries. He just requires of us a heart that cares! Out of that care for the lost, more missionary families will arise out of the churches. As congregation we will give up our pastor for this work because we value it. And yes, if necessary, we may have to live a notch lower on the economic level to contribute to the work. Haven't we all done this for our family? Why not then do it for the family of God, which is made up of fellow believers from every nation on the earth?
As we fulfill our duty as churches we experience joy! One aspect of this joy is doing mission work. Personally, my wife and I are much encouraged by the response of our people to the work we and the ERCS are doing here. I hope it will increase, for it is only the beginning of so much more work that can be done, if the Lord should so will. Stop and think, obedience generates joy. It does in your personal life. Every parent knows what it means in the family situation. Do what God wants you to do and you will have a real sense of fulfillment under the blessing of God. In the measure that we are faithful in our duty in missions, we also experience the joy of the Lord. Nothing can compare to the joy that comes in making a disciple as Jesus has commanded. We parents experience something of it when we see our children walk in the fear of the Lord. What joy that is! Similarly, when we see one who has been born of the Spirit leave behind a life of heathen superstition and unbelief and cast himself on God and His Son, the whole church rejoices. Our baptism services are the highlight of the year. This is the goal of missions. Jesus said, "Make disciples!"
Duty to Witness
How thankful we all must be that our churches have properly emphasized the preaching of the gospel as the way to do mission work. We all know Romans 10 and we can all understand the need for Antioch to lay hands on Paul and Barnabas and send them.
Independent and individual evangelism is a hindrance to the gospel. The charismatic movement has many sins to account of before God, and this includes missions as well. Just last June we had opportunity to sit down at the breakfast table with a group of them who went to Myanmar from the USA "to pray for salvation of Burmese people." One gave an account of how the Holy Spirit indicated to him that he had to climb up a rather high mountain, on top of which was a Buddhist temple, in order to "dispel the devils out of their stronghold." His account was punctuated with hair-raising details and, of course, heroic results. Even my attempt to put some of this in perspective was resisted as "against God." These well-meaning people think missions can be done apart from the preaching of the gospel. They come and go, and then what? The devils return, I suspect. Never do we want to discredit prayer and its importance for missions, for without it all our labors are in vain. Yet prayer, apart from God's ordained way of salvation, is futile.
It seems to me that our emphasis as churches has been so much on preaching that we have neglected the other aspect of duty, that of all our members in the office of believers. Some of this may very well be reactionary to the abuse of almost everyone around us. This is understandable and shows care for faithful obedience to the gospel mandate. Yet, as we go along, we must not stay out of balance. The church can never do her work of the Lord by emphasizing preaching at the expense of witnessing. This is particularly crucial for outreach ministry, both in the local congregation and on the mission field.
Again, I do not want to spend time demonstrating this to be true. I rather want simply to emphasize it in order to generate mission enthusiasm. Let me just make brief mention of Acts 8:4, "Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word." Yes, this included preachers, but the verse can never be completely appreciated without accepting the historical evidence that it included many converts who assisted them in witnessing of the gospel to many people, wherever they went. The Book of Acts shows how helpful, non-ordained people assisted Paul in the spread of the gospel by their faithful witness to others (see Acts 18:26). Think of the Lord Jesus Himself as He labored with the Samaritan woman as recorded in John 4. To me this is a beautiful example of the relationship between preaching (Jesus) and witnessing (the Samaritan woman). She brought to Jesus many from the city who responded as recorded in John 4:42, "Now we believe, not because of thy saying; for we have heard him ourselves and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world." If we question how Reformed this is, we all know the beautiful expression in our beloved Heidelberg Catechism, as our fathers explain the prophetic office of every Christian: one of the purposes of being anointed by the Holy Spirit is "that I may confess His name and present my body as a living sacrifice of thankfulness to Him" (A. 32). As a result of this we are able to walk in good works, one purpose of which is, "by our godly conversation others may be gained to Christ" (A. 86). This I call witnessing.
Such activity God expects, and as we perform it, it functions as an indispensable support for the preaching of the gospel. Every member of the local congregation, every Christian, carries love of the neighbor in his heart. The love of the neighbor motivates him to carry a burden for his spiritual condition. It grieves us much to see a fellow human being making a mess out of his life, hurting himself and his neighbors, and, in the process of such sin, living on the slippery slope of destruction as described in Psalm 73. The love of God makes us care.
This produces action in at least three ways.
First, there is the need to try to reach out to such a neighbor. I recall that, when I first came to Singapore, I preached a sermon on I John 2:15-17 and emphasized the antithesis so strongly that a sister came to me afterwards and shared with me her frustration at that sermon. I understand much better now what she was driving at. There is no contradiction between loving the neighbor and "not loving the world," as described in John's epistle. A careful distinction must be maintained. We must not have friendships with the world that will deny our witness and corrupt our souls. Our avoidance of such friendships, however, must not separate us from the world so far that we do not have opportunity to witness to them. Any effective witness to our lost neighbor necessitates contact with him which can be interpreted as genuine concern. This takes much effort, to build bridges with the non-Christian so that witness can be effective. Much grace and wisdom is needed in this regards.
Second, when such contact is established, the Christian must know how to speak of the gospel and share faith. No one can do this better than the person who has made the contact. I learned here in Singapore that I made mistakes in this connection when pastoring in the States. More than once, members would come to me and tell me that they had witnessed to certain individuals at work, and then they would ask that I take up the work. I kindheartedly agreed, and in most instances it was ineffectual. Most of the time they never wanted to meet with me. My being a "preacher" scared them away. What I should have said to my members is, "I will help you continue your work. No one can take your place at this crucial point of contact." Here in Singapore members have one-to-one Bible studies with those who show some interest. Sometimes they organize a "BS" (Bible Study) at work during noon break and use the time to discuss spiritual things. The point is, one-to-one sharing of the gospel is crucial in the early phases of witnessing.
Thirdly, when some degree of trust has been established, they invite the inquirer to a gospel meeting or Bible Study in the church to acquaint them with the church in a more informal setting. Sometimes they are ready for worship, but to most non-Christians the worship service is a bit intimidating. Ultimately, the goal is to get the interested person to come to church and hear the preaching of the gospel and to worship. Even then, when they show up, the members of the church must show genuine interest in them, sit next to them, help them find the Bible text, find the songs in the book, and afterwards sit down with them to discuss what they have heard. When the person is ready, he is taken into a membership class for formal training.
We do tracting. It is used by God in a very limited way. Never is tracting done by just inserting some literature in a mail box. This is generally useless. Rather, material must be given at the door and a brief conversation engaged in to be followed up later. God did use this lately at CERC when contact was made with a 91-year-old lady who has now been baptized in Christ, a great thrill for the church. Most of the time members come to the church and to faith in Christ by being personally worked with by the members.
This makes clear the twofold duty. Witnessing serves the preaching. The two must not be confused. Neither must they be neglected. They go together as Christ's way to make disciples.
May God give us enthusiasm for this important work we call "outreach."
From the Standard Bearer April 15, 1998 - originally part of the rubric "Go Ye Into All the World"
Rev Jason Kortering (Wife: Jeannette)
Ordained: September 1960
Pastorates: Hull, IA - 1960; Hope, Walker, MI - 1966; Hull, IA - 1970; Hope, Redlands, CA - 1976; Loveland, CO - 1979; Grandville, MI - 1984; Minister-on-Loan (Hope PRC, Walker, MI), Singapore - 1992
Emeritus: 2002Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Rev._Jason_Kortering
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