With members from every classis across the United States and Canada, the URCNA Missions Committee generally meets through video-conference calls or communicates via email. But it aims for two face-to-face meetings per year, and January 26-28, 2016, seemed the perfect time for committee members to gather in sunny Orlando, FL.
Classis SWUS representative Rev. Michael Brown says the Committee met, “primarily to continue our work on developing a manual for foreign missions in accordance with our mandate.” He adds, “We are very encouraged about the work of URCNA missions both on the foreign field and domestic.”
Prayer for those mission endeavors was a highlight of the meeting, according to its chairman, Pastor Greg Bylsma. “Our first night was devoted exclusively to receiving updates on the various mission works and, after each update, spending time united in prayer for that specific work and pastor/missionary. This was a blessing for the whole Committee, and was also one of the great accomplishments of our time together.”
Another important feature of the meeting was the report from URCNA Missions Coordinator, Rev. Richard Bout, who visited many domestic and a few foreign fields during his first year in that position.
Those visits have given Rev. Bout “a holistic picture of the ups and downs of URCNA missions,” according to Pastor Bylsma. “As a Missions Committee, we don’t want him feeling like he is doing this work alone or unappreciated. This meeting gave us time to look together honestly at his observations and work together toward ideas and proposals to the federation that might benefit both those working in missions and the work of missions for the glory of God and the faithful extension of His kingdom.”
The meeting focused more on foreign missions than domestic efforts, due to the continued work on the Foreign Missions Manual, which Rev. Bylsma describes as having an “admittedly thin” possibility of being presented for approval at Synod 2016.
Other items of business at the Orlando meeting included updating prayer maps for the 2016 calendar year, reviewing past publications, preparing a report for Synod 2016, and planning a mission conference for 2017.
Foreign mission challenges facing the URCNA are giving meaningful oversight to those laboring overseas and working in a more united manner in the fields. Domestic challenges include the difficult work involved in planting a church.
“Someone once said that the number one quality a church planter needs is an infinite capacity for disappointment,” Pastor Bylsma says.
A challenge for established churches is to become more like a mission church that serves as “a light in its community,” according to Pastor Bylsma. “So perhaps one area of challenge for all of us would be to pray Paul’s prayer in Col. 4:2-4; that God would give us doors for sharing the gospel, boldness to speak when they open, and the ability to make it clear when we do.”
Rev. Bylsma believes one of the greatest joy involved in URCNA missions is witnessing the federation’s zeal, evidenced by the large number of works undertaken by this relatively small organization. “We are eager as a federation to see God’s kingdom advance through preaching Christ and Him crucified,” he says. “We are pressing on in missions, we are making our best effort, and God in His grace is blessing it.”
But the greatest joy is “seeing God use His people in the URCNA (both ordained and non-ordained) to bring dead sinners to life in Christ,” he adds. “The incredible beauty and blessing of this can never be overstated. At every church plant and in every mission work (and in every established church), God is working. He is opening blind eyes to the glory of the cross.”
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 12 of the February 24, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal.