Mid-America Reformed Seminary was the site for back-to-back URCNA conferences in June. The Ministers’ Conference ran from June 24-26 and the Missions Conference was held from June 26-28. This was the second Ministers’ Conference. The first conference two years ago grew from an idea at Synod London.
“Three years ago at Synod London a plan was born for a URCNA ministers conference,” says organizer Rev. Harold Miller. “That plan came from the conviction that our ministers be afforded an opportunity for great teaching directed at the needs unique to the pastor of a local congregation, and specific to our URC ethos and circumstances. The first conference in 2011 was well attended and was very satisfying in meeting our expectations. However, the Lord surprised the organizers by more than doubling the attendance at the conference this year—and richly satisfied all with wonderful teaching and fellowship.”
Although this was the second Ministers’ Conference, it was the first formal URC conference on missions.
“The URCNA Missions Committee is grateful to God for his blessings on our first official mission conference,” says organizer Rev. Michael Brown (Christ URC; Santee, CA). “Nearly fifty people attended from all over the world, mostly URCNA pastors and missionaries, but also many elders and laypeople. Ten seminary students were able to attend by the financial assistance of a private donor. Two ministers from the Reformed Churches of New Zealand were also present, as well as Mr. Mark Bube, the General Secretary of the Committee on Foreign Missions of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.”
Rev. Nick Smith (URC of Nampa, ID) was impressed with the number of attendees from such widespread locations. “As one speaker noted, this was a sure sign of health among our churches, that so many ministers were eager to learn and fellowship together, and that so many congregations were willing to make it possible.”
Both conferences satisfied Rev. Todd De Rooy (Redeemer URC; Orange City, IA). “My expectations were to be refreshed from a week of encouraging speakers and brotherly fellowship. That’s exactly what I received. Both conferences featured speakers who are not only pastors, but pastors who had long-term ministry experience in the areas of which they spoke.”
Rev. Mitch Ramkissoon traveled from Alberta to attend the conferences. “From the list of speakers, I expected the conference to be exciting, provocative, and stimulating. They did not disappoint. The passion and frankness with which they spoke to us betrayed great love for Christ’s Church and a deep personal knowledge of the struggles of the ministry in low and high moments. It was obvious that their wisdom came from years of study and experience.”
Speakers for the Ministers’ Conference included Dr. J. Mark Beach, Rev. Alan Strange, Dr. Joel Beeke, Dr. Gerhard Visscher, Dr. Joseph Pipa, Dr. David Murray, and Rev. Paul Murphy. They spoke on a variety of topics related to “Ministering in Changing Seasons.”
Rev. Murphy’s final presentation at the Ministers’ Conference served as the first presentation for the Missions Conference. Other Missions Conference speakers were Rev. Michael Brown, Rev. Bill Boekestein, Dr. Brian Lee, Rev. Mitch Persaud, Mr. Mark Bube, Rev. Richard Bout, Rev. Wes Bredenhof, and Rev. Andrea Ferrari.
“Altogether nine speakers presented lectures on everything from the nuts and bolts of church planting in North America to how to establish a confessional Reformed denomination in a country overseas,” says Rev. Brown. “Each session was educational and motivating, making this precisely the kind of conference we, as a federation, need right now as we continue to find our footing in missions.”
Rev. Brown explains that two Q & A panels, one on domestic and the other on foreign missions, were designed as “brain-storming sessions” for attendees. “We also held a luncheon in which ideas for and concerns about funding church plants and foreign missionaries were discussed. The consensus seemed to be that we need to be more organized as a federation and prioritize our giving so that URCNA church plants and foreign missionaries are not underfunded.”
As a representative of the URCNA Missions Committee, Rev. Brown presented a manual on church planting that the Committee hopes to present to Synod 2014 as a suggested “shared strategy” for home missions. He encouraged conference attendees to offer feedback since the Committee desires the work be beneficial to consistories, councils, church-planters, and core groups.
“Overall, the URCNA Missions Committee was happy with how the conference went,” said Rev. Brown.
Rev. Miller added, “Each local congregation who sent their pastor can rejoice in the way the Lord has blessed these humble efforts.”
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 10 & 11 of the July 31/August 21, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal.