Oene, W.W.J. van (1990) Art. 51

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Article 51

Mission

 

The Churches shall endeavour to fulfil their missionary task.
When Churches cooperate in this matter, they shall, as much as possible, observe the division into classes and regional synods
.

Does it need any proof that the churches have a missionary task, the calling to spread the Word of God, to call others to faith and repentance and to proclaim the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ over all the powers of hell? Is it not clear that the church should proclaim that all power in heaven and on earth has been given to our Saviour and that therefore everyone is called upon to submit to Him and to acknowledge Him as Lord?

It is mandatory that the character of what we call “mission” is kept in view. We should nevertheless watch out for and avoid all false dilemmas; though the proclamation of the Gospel certainly results in people being saved, we should not characterize the work of mission as “saving souls,” or “bringing people to Jesus.” The Lord Jesus Christ and His glory and authority should be central. “To evangelize” means to bring the tidings of Christ’s victory and supremacy.

There is, therefore, no basic difference between bringing these tidings to people far away and to those among whom we are living. It would also be erroneous to consider “foreign mission” as a task of the church, but “home mission” as a hobby or task of some individual members. There is still a big gap between the funds set aside for the foreign mission and those reserved for home mission. The latter oftentimes are no more than a pittance.

When it is stated that “the churches” shall endeavour to fulfil their missionary task, the meaning of this is not that mission is considered to be a task of all the churches together, but that it is a task given to the church as such, and therefore to all the churches, each and every one. Each church shall therefore endeavour to fulfil its missionary task. Not every church is able to provide all the funds needed to send a missionary to a faraway country, but every church is able to spread the Gospel in its own neighbourhood.

This article sets forth clearly that mission is a task of the church and not of a society or of some group of persons filled with compassion for those who are still living in darkness. It did happen more than once that missionary societies were established in times when the churches were negligent in fulfilling their calling in this respect. Frequently these societies worked with great zeal and received much fruit upon their labours. But they at times as well fell prey to error and false doctrine. Societies are not subject to the supervision and scrutiny of office-bearers, and their basis is often a rather vaguely formulated “confession” which enables “birds of a different feather” nevertheless to “flock together.”

Proclamation of the Gospel both to those far and near is the task of the church, therefore of each church under the direction and leadership of the

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office-bearers. It is not a hobby or a fruitful pastime, but a mandate. Each church should be aware of this.

This will also prevent that the task is placed in the hands of a committee or a college of deputies. In the past it was reasoned that the expansion of the mission work made it necessary to formulate general regulations and to place the overall supervision and management into the hands of a college of general deputies. It went to such lengths that “sending churches” were not allowed to take major decisions without the approval of these deputies, and appointments and calls would only be made and extended with their cooperation and approval. Such an arrangement fits perfectly in an hierarchical system but should be shunned in Christ's free churches. This arrangement turns mission into a deputies-mission whereas the function of the churches is reduced to calling and appointing only nominally, because, Oh well, a missionary ought to be bound to a church, but that is all.

The Canadian Reformed Churches have refused from the outset to make mission a matter for general or regional deputies. They have even re­fused to make it a general or classical matter. After initial wavering, mission matters have never been discussed at broader assemblies. Mission has remained a matter for the (local) churches.

At first, Toronto, as the “sending church,” received the cooperation and support of all the churches. As soon as it was financially feasible, Toronto released the Western churches. These churches from then on supported the church at New Westminster (now Surrey). The cooperating churches receive reports from the “sending church,” and can have their input in various matters, but the decision and authority are ultimately the “sending church’s” alone. The agreement of cooperation in no way infringes upon the authority and autonomy of the “sending church.” When sending a missionary, it does not do so as the executor of the decision of the combined churches, but it conducts the mission work with the help and also on behalf of the supporting churches.

From the brief references to Toronto and Surrey it should have become evident that with their support and cooperation the churches did observe the division into classes and regional synods. Additional proof is the fact that, when the church at Toronto declared being able to conduct the mission work with the help of the churches in Ontario North alone, the churches in classis Ontario South pledged their support to Hamilton, observing therewith the ecclesiastical division lines.

All disorderly actions and arbitrary connections should be avoided. In this respect, too, the churches should observe the good order and must be able to count on one another when planning to establish another mission post. By observing the ecclesiastical division into districts and by cooperating with each other along these lines, the churches do not make the mission a classical or regional-synodical matter.

What applies to conducting mission work in faraway countries also applies to mission work in our own country.

Although it is not an ecclesiastical matter, the work of mission aid should be conducted along the same lines. It is beyond the scope of this Guide to discuss the question of mission aid and the manner in which it should be set up and managed.