OPC church plant in Wisconsin: unique outreach efforts

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The McShaffrey family

Next time you vacation in the Wisconsin Dells, plan to drive less than 20 miles southwest to Reedsburg and worship with the saints at Grace Reformed Church. You’ll find sound preaching and warm fellowship in a congregation that reaches out in unusual ways.

The church began as a mission work of the Presbytery of the Midwest of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) and was organized (particularized) as a church in 2007, with the ordination of three elders. Two deacons were installed in July of 2013.

Rev. Christian M. McShaffrey has been involved with the work since he graduated from Mid-America Reformed Seminary in 2003. He was ordained as an evangelist in 2004 and installed as pastor of the church in 2007.

“Though we are organized as a church, my work is not done,” he says. “While at Mid-America, I learned the ‘three-self’ formula of missions: 1) Self-governing, 2) self-supporting, and 3) self-propagating. The first two are done, but the third is yet future.”

The congregation consists of 48 communicant and 14 non-communicant members. They meet for Sunday worship at 11:15 AM in a PCUSA, whose space they rent at 148 North Park St. in Reedsburg. A luncheon at 12:30 PM follows the morning service. Members meet again for singing and prayer at 1:30, with a Bible study beginning at 1:45.

Rev. McShaffrey explains that the group originally met for morning and evening services, but because many members travel as much as an hour, evening attendance was lacking. When the congregation began renting its current facility, the worship schedule had to be adjusted around that church’s 9:30 AM service.

“The current schedule was based on necessity, but I have come to love it,” Rev. McShaffrey says. “Attendance in ‘second service’ has increased, and the bonds of our fellowship have deepened by breaking bread together each Sabbath. During the summer months, some linger about at the church in fellowship until evening.”

A home meeting is held each Wednesday at 6:00 PM for prayer, study, and fellowship. Members also take the initiative to sponsor Friday evening hymn sings, summer sporting events, hikes at a nearby state park, or community service projects.

The church’s website (reedsburgchurch.org) highlights several ministry and outreach efforts. One link leads to the unique Serious Christianity website (seriouschristianity.org), which answers multiple questions about different aspects of the Christian faith. Its purpose is to challenge the many “mere professors” of Christianity out of their complacency into true conversion.

“As a church planter, I spent a lot of time talking to people in the community,” Rev. McShaffrey says. “Almost everyone claimed to be ‘Christian’ and their claim was based on either 1) growing up in a church or 2) decisional regeneration. Antinomianism is rampant today.”

Visitors to the website can click on questions, which are answered with short, biblically-based articles. Other pages include comments from the Puritans and modern theologians. An “outreach” tab provides access to files for printing cards that invite people to explore the website by asking, “Do you take your Christianity seriously?”

A “diaconate” page on the church website introduces a couple of deacons, extensively explains their work and church guidelines, and offers links to other local resources.

We have a fairly active diaconate,” Rev. McShaffrey says. “We meet a lot of people by offering help. Of course, the majority of our work in done within the church. But I get about one phone call per week from strangers asking for help. Somehow, our church got the reputation of being generous, and I know that other pastors direct people to us. Having a public policy posted is helpful when it comes time to say, ‘No.’”

The website also includes links to Bible audio files and a way to request a free copy of a Bible.

“I believe that the Word of God is powerful. Reading it can change lives,” Rev. McShaffrey says. “One of our deacons is a Gideon and his love for distributing Scripture encouraged me to do the same. I get about one call per month. I order and ship directly from Amazon.com (because most people are not interested in meeting). I include my name and phone number in the front cover.”

Grace Reformed also offers Bibles through its radio ministry. It broadcasts sermons and prayer times as well as sponsoring daily Bible reading. When Pastor McShaffrey introduces himself to people, they often ask, “Are you the Christian who gives away free Bibles on the radio?”

The website includes an invitation page in Spanish, although it acknowledges that a specific Spanish-language ministry does not yet exist. The website even includes directions for taking a cab to the church service and having the deacons pay the fare.

Most church members participate in the annual Life Chain, in which pro-life advocates stand together to pray for God to forgive our nation and put an end to abortion. The Reedsburg group stands on Main Street for 90 minutes on a Sunday afternoon. Rev. McShaffrey says, “It is a visual statement of solidarity by the local Christian community that abortion kills children, hurts women, and angers God.”

In addition to his ministerial duties, Rev. McShaffrey serves as Clerk of the Presbytery of the Midwest. He appreciates his education at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, saying, “I received sound theological instruction and was also encouraged by the good example of my professors in seeking the peace, purity, and unity of the church.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 10 & 11 of the October 12, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal.

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Church plant takes root in Romania

 

benediction-croppedIn 2013, Christ United Reformed Church in Santee, CA, welcomed Mihai and Lidia Corcea, a young couple who had traveled from Romania for Mihai to study at Westminster Seminary California. During 2016, Mihai graduated on May 28, sustained his candidacy exam by Classis SWUS on July 19, and was ordained on July 24. The couple returned to Bucharest on July 25, where they began a church plant.

“It has been a tremendous blessing to see how the Lord has answered our prayers for Mihai and Lidia,” Rev. Michael Brown says. “I met Mihai years ago, when he and another member of the core group in Bucharest, Claudiu Stefu, travelled to Milan for its Reformation conference. He told me about the desperate need in Romania for solid churches to be planted. He explained that, besides a few Hungarian-speaking churches, there is no Reformed presence in Romania, nothing to reach the Romanian-speaking population. I was impressed with Mihai’s passion about bringing the gospel to his native country and planting confessional churches. It was obvious that he had given much thought about how to do in Romania what Rev. Ferrari was doing in Italy. We discussed the challenges and obstacles to planting a Reformed church in Bucharest. At the time, it seemed almost impossible, little more than a dream.”

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L-R: Elder Dan Palmer, Elder Dr. Ryan Glomsrud, Rev. Mihai Corcea and his wife Lidia, Rev. Michael Brown, Elder Dan Plotner, and Elder Jonathan Taylor

He adds, “But of course, with God all things are possible. Within a couple of years, Mihai and Lidia left their jobs and home in their native country and made the long journey to California.” Mihai began his seminary studies, and the couple attended Christ URC, where they warmly bonded with their church family.

Mihai served a year-long internship at Christ URC, attending consistory and council meetings, teaching catechism classes to youth, and going on home visits with the elders. He also led worship and exhorted at least once per month.

“We were pleased with his maturity, humility, and wisdom,” Rev Brown says. “We had the joy of watching Mihai and Lidia grow in their faith as well as their love for Christ’s church.”
ordination-3-cRev. Brown says Mihai did “an exceptional job” on his candidacy exam, “which is especially remarkable when you consider that he did this in a second language.”

At Mihai’s ordination service on July 24, Rev. Brown preached from Ephesians 4:1-16 and gave the charges to the pastor and congregation. Rev. Corcea pronounced the benediction. He is now a Missionary Pastor, called to make disciples in Romania by planting a church in Bucharest and evangelizing the lost.

“I think the best way I can describe the church that we hope to establish in Bucharest is by the three parts of the Heidelberg Catechism,” Rev. Corcea says. “Our church plant should be a people gathering in a place where they understand their sin and misery, they receive the knowledge of God’s merciful salvation through the gospel, and they start living more and more according to all the commandments of God out of thankfulness for God’s grace.”

exterior-cThe Evangelical Reformed Church in Bucharest (Biserica Evanghelica Reformata din Bucuresti) began meeting in a rented building in downtown Bucharest. It is about three minutes walking distance from a subway station and two blocks from the city’s largest park.

“We chose this location because it is easily accessible to anyone by car or subway,” he says. “We are also very close to the financial district where most young professionals work.”

A few local Reformed Christians, who had became members of Chiesa Riformata Filadelfia (Rev. Ferrari’s work in Milan) four years ago, now attend services at 10 AM and 6 PM. Church members are inviting friends and family to worship, and the group utilizes social media, such as Facebook, and have a website, where they post video recordings of the sermons.

Although Milan is a two-hour flight away, the two church plants encourage each other. The consistory of Christ URC supervises both groups by maintaining regular contact with the pastors, encouraging them, and helping raise funds for support. Each church planter reports via Skype at Christ URC’s month consistory meetings and communicates weekly via email. The hope is for Rev. Brown and an elder to visit Bucharest in conjunction with their annual visit to Milan.

“We believe that an annual visit to our missionaries from a member of our consistory is an important component of effective oversight,” Rev. Brown says, “as it helps us to encourage them on the field and maintain our fellowship with them.”

interior-1-cAlthough a Reformed presence previously existed in Romania, the last Romanian Reformed church disappeared in the 19th century. Today 97% percent of Bucharest’s two million people are Eastern Orthodox.

While Mihai was growing up, his family left Eastern Orthodoxy to become Baptists. But he experienced a great deal of religious confusion as a young person. The Bible began to make sense for him when he started reading Reformed literature. His stint at Westminster and time at Christ URC have shaped the way he envisions the Reformed church in Bucharest.

“Spending three years in an URC church in California has helped me understand more that church is not an add-on to our ‘relationship with Jesus,’ but the main way through which God has promised to bless us. As I preach every Sunday and I look at the covenant children present in our church plant, I am reminded of God’s grace to them that they have the opportunity to grow up in a church where they are catechized according to the truth of the gospel. I rejoice in the fact that, Lord willing, they will not have to go through the same confusion and pain of not having a healthy church close to them.”

In addition to the work involved with planting a church, the Corceas plan to begin publishing Reformed literature that they have translated over the last three years. He says, “We hope that by this small Reformed publishing house, we will be able to raise awareness of the Reformed church and the Reformed doctrine and practice.”

The Corceas appreciate the financial support they received during Mihai’s seminary years, saying they are “greatly thankful” for the “love and generosity” of individuals and churches.

Rev. Brown explains that the Romanian mission work is funded by URCNA congregations who wish to participate in “this exciting opportunity to make disciples in Romania and establish a confessional and Reformed denomination in that country.” He adds, “We encourage all churches in the URCNA to consider supporting this mission, helping us to shoulder the burden of this worthy labor for Christ and his gospel.”

The above is a slightly edited version of an article by Glenda Mathes that appeared on pages 18 & 19 of the September 21, 2016, issues of Christian Renewal.

Transformation: From prison to pulpit

 

laying-on-of-handsIt’s a long journey from a prison cell to a church pulpit, but Lowell Ivey has traveled it by God’s grace. On May 27, 2016, the former prisoner was ordained and installed as the organizing pastor for Reformation Presbyterian Church in Virginia Beach, VA.

“My testimony is the Lord’s testimony as he’s worked by his mighty grace and power in my heart and life,” he says, “and even been so gracious as to give me a covenant family.”

Abandoned by his birth parents, Lowell grew up with a rebellious nature and angry heart. He began stealing as an adolescent and was sent to prison for armed robbery as a young man. During his first six years in prison, he hated Christians. He enjoyed arguing with them and trying to prove them wrong, even using the Bible against them.

“I thought I was very adept, very smart,” he says. “But I was a fool.”

Lowell found his identity in a white supremacist gang, and his attempt to murder a member of another gang landed him in solitary confinement. Alone in his cell one night in 2000, listening to the radio, he heard the gospel proclaimed.

“That radio program showed me the depth of my depravity and wickedness,” he says, “and that it wasn’t something I could change.”

He couldn’t change himself, but the Holy Spirit transformed him. “One moment I felt as if I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t repent. But the next moment, the Lord by his mighty power broke all that, took it all away. And I fell on my knees beside my bunk, weeping, asking him for forgiveness. But not only that, asking him to change my life, to change my heart so that I would begin to live only for his glory, the glory of my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

During the remaining nine years of his incarceration, Lowell gradually moved through the slow process of sanctification. He embraced the Reformed faith through Ligonier’s “Renewing Your Mind” radio broadcasts. He grew in that faith by reading catechism sermons of Dr. Joel Beeke (Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary). And he contacted Rev. Nathan Brummel, (director of Divine Hope Reformed Bible Seminary), who regularly wrote to him and sent him theologically sound literature.

As Lowell grew in the faith, he thought about the need for prisoners to be discipled in the Reformed faith and considered serving in prison ministry some day. Prior to his release, Rev. Brummel put him into contact with Rev. Phil Hodson, a local OPC pastor.

Lowell says about Rev. Hodson, “He was a mentor to me after I was released from prison and even invited me to live in his home for a time. I became a member of the church he serves, Christ the King OPC in Longview, TX, where I also met my wife, Mae.”

Still thinking in terms of prison ministry, Lowell began seminary training in Texas in 2010, but then transferred to Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (GPTS) in 2011. He attended Covenant Community Church (OPC) in Taylors, SC.

“In seminary, and through the influence of my pastor, Rev. Peter VanDooedewaard, I began thinking more about pastoral ministry,” he says. “While I wanted to continue ministering to prisoners, I became increasingly convinced that the Lord was calling me to a broader ministry.”

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Pastor Ivey, daughter Geneva, and Rev. Nathan Brummel

In Lowell’s senior year at seminary, the session of his church discussed having him serve a pastoral internship. Early in 2015, he received a call from Rev. DeLacy Andrews, Regional Home Missionary for the Presbytery of the Southeast, to see if he might consider helping establish the church plant in Virginia Beach. Although Lowell was interested, he and his church session agreed that he should proceed with the internship.

“My prayer at that point was, ‘Lord, I want to go wherever You lead me. If it’s Your will for me to serve in Virginia Beach, I know you will keep the door open,’” he says. “I let Pastor Andrews and the Pulpit Search Committee know that I was withdrawing my name from consideration for the time being.”

Lowell graduated from GPTS in May of 2015 with his Master of Divinity degree and went on to serve for the next year as an intern in his church. When Lowell’s internship neared its conclusion, Rev. Andrews contacted him again. The Virginia Beach group still had not secured a pastor. The Search Committee interviewed Lowell in January of 2016, and he spent ten days in Virginia Beach in February, preaching, teaching, and visiting families. On the last day of February, the congregation voted unanimously to request the Presbytery to call him as its organizing pastor.

Presbytery approved his call when he sustained his examination on April 22. Lowell and Mae and their two children moved to Virginia Beach on May 10, and he took up the work there on June 1.

“Looking back on it now, I can see how faithful the Lord was in leading me as He did,” he says. In addition to learning from Pastor VanDoodewaard during his internship, Lowell served alongside a refugee pastor who had suffered intense persecution, including imprisonment and torture. “The internship was crucial to my growth in pastoral ministry. I’m using the lessons I learned every day in my calling here in Virginia Beach.”

Several men who participated in Lowell’s ordination and installation service on May 27, have been influential in his journey from prison to pulpit.

Although Reformation Presbyterian Church is a mission work of the Presbytery of the Southeast, the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic has assisted in the effort. Regional Home Missionaries from both presbyteries, who have been involved with the church plant, took part in the service. Rev. DeLacy Andrews (RHB, Southeast) provided instructions regarding the office of minister. Rev. Steve Doe (RHM, Mid-Atlantic) gave the charge to the congregation. Rev. Jay Bennett, Moderator of the Presbytery of the Southeast, officiated the service. Rev. Peter Stazen, pastor of Grace OPC in Lynchburg, VA, and member of the provisional session of Reformation Presbyterian Church, led a prayer of adoration and the invocation.

Dr. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr., president of GPTS, gave the charge to the evangelist. Dr. L. Anthony Curto, Associate Professor of Missions and Apologetics at GPTS, supervised the laying on of hands and offered a prayer of ordination.

Rev. Peter VanDoodewaard, who had been Lowell’s pastor for five years, preached from Psalm 2. Rev. Nathan Brummel read Scripture.

“I am amazed at how God has poured out His grace in Jesus Christ upon Lowell,” Rev. Brummel says. “God has showered him with grace upon grace. He immediately transformed Lowell at the moment of his conversion from a proud racist member of a dangerous prison gang, into a humble, loving servant of Jesus Christ. God has given Lowell a Proverbs 31 wife and two beautiful covenant children. May God be glorified through Lowell as this new OPC minister begins his evangelistic and pastoral ministry in Virginia Beach.”

Rev. Phil Hodson was not able to be present, due to a death in the family. Having spent years as Lowell’s pastor and observing him in the church community, he says, “We have seen in Lowell a mature understanding of the Reformed faith, a faithful handling of the word of God, and a good grasp of biblical and systematic theology. We have also seen him attain to these things by adorning them with a faithful walk before the Lord. His manner and speech are crowned with actions that demonstrate the sacrificial love of Christ. He joyfully confesses that he is a ‘prisoner of the Lord,’ and embraces whatever circumstances the Lord calls his to. He does not pursue the credit for labors he has been engaged in. Rather, he is focused on bringing attention to Christ and to serve His glory.”

Rev. Ivey explains that Reformation Presbyterian Church (RPC) has met since 2012, first with informational meetings and then home Bible studies, led by Revs. Andrews and Doe, Regional Home Missionaries. Worship services began in November of 2013, and the session began searching for a church planter in 2014.

Rev. Ivey says, “The church is vibrant, friendly, historically Reformed in terms of its confessional stance and its worship, and has a passion for outreach and evangelism in the Tidewater region.” He describes that area of eastern Virginia as containing 1.5 million people, more than 60 percent of whom profess no religious affiliation.

The RPC group meets for 11:00 AM worship at Fleet Reserve Association, 357 Edwin Drive, and for 6:00 PM worship at Indian Lakes Community Center, 1313 Indian Lakes Blvd, both in Virginia Beach. For more information on the church plant, see its website.ordination-group

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 16-18 of the July 6, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal.

Reaching out in Jersey City

 

church-group-cWhat do you know about Jersey City? It’s the second most heavily-populated city in New Jersey with an ethnic diversity befitting it as the home of Ellis Island. It’s also the location of a young URCNA church plant, Grace Reformed Church.

When the work began meeting for worship on September 1, 2013, a core group of 24 people met at a local community college. Three baptisms, six professions of faith, and nearly three years later, the group has increased to about 40 persons (including some seeking membership), who now meet in a larger and more convenient space.

sign-c“Since March 2014,” explains Rev. Sam Perez, “we have been meeting in an after-school facility (New City Kids, a Christian non-profit associated with the Christian Reformed Church). This facility can accommodate 150-200 people, and allows us many freedoms that we didn’t have at the community college. For example, we can post a church sign on the front gate, we can have a monthly fellowship potluck, and there’s a place for crying babies and their mothers.”

The mission work remains under the oversight of Messiah’s Reformed Fellowship, located across the Hudson River in New York City. Rev. Perez attends Messiah’s weekly Consistory and monthly Council meetings. Messiah’s Council and Consistory interview people seeking membership with the Jersey City group and assist its leaders with diaconal and shepherding matters.

Over the last three years, Grace Reformed Church has undertaken several outreach initiatives. Members have visited 500 apartments or homes in the immediate vicinity. They caroled in the neighborhood during the Christmas season. The group has hosted five community barbeques. They organized a basketball team of 19 high school boys who did not attend church, an effort they hope to repeat this coming year. The church’s website (jerseycitygrace.org) features video and audio files that are doctrinal and evangelistic. And they keep considering new avenues of outreach.

“We are looking to expand our opportunities by partnering with a local Gospel Rescue Mission,” says Rev. Perez, “and by hosting different URC groups who would be interested in short-term mission trips to Jersey City.”

In addition to staying closely aligned with its supervising church, the mission work has fostered fellowship with similar congregations by participating in three joint picnics with other NAPARC churches.

Rev. Perez reports that Grace Church has conducted three membership classes and sponsored a variety of studies. The group has covered J.I. Packer’s 18 Words and Gene Edward Veith’s God at Work. Now members are reaching out within their personal spheres.

“We’ve started regional groups where men lead different groups in their homes in the North Jersey area,” he says. “We are currently reading/studying Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community. The Jersey City regional group meets at a local diner.”

Primary study opportunities occur on Sundays under the proclamation of the Word. After preaching through Mark 11, Rev. Perez is leading a short series on “kingdom/frontline” prayer before beginning the third summer of instruction in the Psalms. “We’re covering Psalms 21-30 this year,” he says. “The 150 sermon-series will take 15 years at this rate.”

Initiating a second service in January of 2015 allowed time to preach on the Heidelberg Catechism, which will conclude in early June. In January of 2016, the group began a monthly prayer service on the first Sunday of each month. Sunday services are held at 10:00 AM and noon in a building at 240 Fairmount Ave., at the intersection with Monticello Ave. in Jersey City.

familyRev. Perez is also finding many areas for personal service. “I’m an ad hoc volunteer at First Choice, a Christian crisis pregnancy network. I teach English once a week at Open Doors, a Christian non-profit that seeks to help immigrant populations in the NJ-NY area. I have been invited to teach once a week, at New City Kids, a class of teenagers the material from Veith’s book on vocation.”

As he reflects on the short history of the Jersey City church plant, Rev. Perez recognizes that although the work is “often tiring, disappointing, and frustrating, our hope is not in horses nor chariots, nor in having ‘things go smoothly,’ nor in our ability to overcome obstacles. Our hope is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. God has been ever faithful, His Word ever true, and His promises ever sweet.”

He adds, “As we never tire of saying at Grace Reformed, the Lord is the One, True, Living God. Who is like the Lord, our God? We know that Christ is the King of all kings, and that He has been given possession of all the nations. So we seek to be faithful to Him, and fruitful because of His mercies blessing His work.”

Want to know more about Jersey City and Grace Reformed Church? Maybe you should consider a short-term mission trip to come alongside the saints there as they seek to do God’s work in reaching the nations with the good news of Jesus Christ.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 10 & 11 of the June 15, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal.

Aloha to Grace Church of Kauai

SONY DSCMany URCNA members grieved to hear about the closing of the Grace Church of Kauai, in Hawaii, on Easter Sunday in 2016. The consistory of Grace United Reformed Church in Torrance, CA, had supervised the church plant for more than eight years.

Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen explains that his family moved to Kauai and he took up the church planter role in June of 2009, after the work had already existed for about a year and a half.

“When we came, only one family had their membership with our overseeing church,” he says. “Soon after our arrival, three other families committed to the work and transferred their memberships. In addition to these, we had a few families and individuals who worshipped with us but were unwilling to become members.”

The group slowly grew to include ten member families with several children and additional regular visitors. By 2013, fifty or more people regularly attended services. Then three of the core families, each with three children, moved off the island due to work and economics.

“They all hated to leave Grace Church of Kauai, and we shed many tears over their departure,” Rev. Vander Meulen says.

vdr-meulensWorship attendance remained strong at about 35 people, and members prayed for God to bless their efforts with more growth. But two additional families left the island for job-related reasons in 2015, including the group’s elder.

“So over the past three years we’ve seen declining numbers, we lost our elder and had minimal prospects for replacing him, and with the diminished numbers came diminished financial giving,” he says. “In December of 2015, the council of Grace URC decided to shut down the ministry.”

This sad news led to a rapid decline in attendance. Many people chose to no longer attend, and one family with four children decided they would move to the mainland early in May.

“There are still four families and a few individuals who are left,” Rev. Vander Meulen says. “Where will they go for worship? I don’t know. There is no other church that is Reformed or even remotely similar. As long as my family is on the island, we will meet at one of our homes for Sunday worship, where I will preach. But when we leave, those left will struggle to find a church home.”

The Vander Meulens are in the process of preparing their home for sale and packing for their move at the end of May. He is available for call and has agreed to serve Coram Deo Reformation Church in Littleton, CO, as interim pastor for six months.

pulpitHe says, “When the decision was made in December to close the church plant, I requested that we continue for a few months, and the council agreed. We decided that Easter Sunday fit the timeline and would be an appropriate closing date. Although the occasion was sad, the reminder that Jesus lives as head of the church is a great comfort. He is the one who opens doors and closes doors. None of this was a surprise to Him. And will not the judge of all the earth do right?”

Easter, indeed, brings resurrection to mind. Seeds that lie dormant for years may again spring to life.

While many grieve to bid Aloha to Grace Church in Kauai, that Hawaiian greeting is used for meeting as well as departing. Who knows what God has in mind for the saints in Kauai?

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 6 & 7 of the May 25, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal.

New church planter for RCUS work in Omaha

klynsma-randall-julie-1
Rev. Randall & Julie Klynsma

Rev. Randall Klynsma has accepted a call as associate pastor for St. John’s Reformed Church (RCUS) of Lincoln, NE, tasked with planting a church in the Omaha metropolitan area. Rev. Klynsma took up his new responsibilities on February 1, 2016.

The mission work, now known as Omaha Reformed Church, has been holding worship services since September; however, it has existed in various forms since 2011. In fact, St. John’s originally contacted Rev. Klynsma a few years ago to determine his interest in establishing the church plant. At that time, he believed God was still calling him to remain as pastor to Northland Reformed Church (RCUS) in Kansas City, MO.

But God began changing his heart at the RCUS Synod meeting last May. He says, “When I heard the Home Mission Report about the work in Omaha, I was emotionally engaged.”

From time to time, he found himself wondering if he might be the next man to serve the group. By fall of 2015, he was feeling more convicted. After a conversation with his Spiritual Council at Northland Reformed, he contacted the consistory at St. John’s Reformed Church. They responded that his name had recently come up again as someone they should contact to see if his feelings had changed.

Providentially, the church’s two open Sundays for preaching were the fourth Sundays in October and November. And the fourth Sunday of each month was the one week Rev. Klynsma was not committed to prison ministry at Ft. Leavenworth after the evening service.

After filling the pulpit those Sundays, he preached a trial sermon as a candidate on December 6, 2015. The following week, the congregation voted unanimously in favor of calling him to the work.

Since then, he and wife Julie have been going through many transitions, which included listing their home for sale and seeing four of their children move out. Most are still in college, and three of them moved into an apartment together. Their youngest is a senior in high school and plans to remain in the Kansas City area in order to graduate from her current school. While he’s already working in Omaha, the couple’s transition to a home there may be gradual over the next weeks or months.

Rev. Klynsma is a 1989 graduate of Mid-America Reformed Seminary, who served the Orthodox Christian Reformed Church in Ripon, CA, and then the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Bridgewater, SD, remaining in each pastorate for about a decade. He most recently served almost seven years at Northland Reformed Church (RCUS) in Kansas City, MO. For the past five years, he additionally served as President of Covenant East Classis, but has now been dismissed to South Central Classis of the RCUS.

Omaha Reformed Church meets for Sunday school at 4:00 PM and worship at 5:00 PM at the Lighthouse Baptist Church, 3919 Greene Ave., in Bellevue (a southern suburb of Omaha). A Thursday evening Bible study meets at 7:00 PM at the Holiday Inn Express on 15th St. in Bellevue.

Although the core group currently meets in Bellevue, it hopes to find a location located in the south central or south west metropolitan area. The group also hopes to become firmly planted in God’s truth.

Rev. Klynsma says, “We hope to plant a confessionally Reformed church with a heavy emphasis on creeds and confessions.”

More information about the Omaha Reformed Church is available on its website.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 13 of the March 23, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal.

Waterdown’s Living Hope URC: Building a church from the outside in

Rev. Bylsma leads the September 28 service
Rev. Bylsma leads a September service

Over 80 people attended the first service of Living Hope United Reformed Church in Waterdown, ON, on September 14, 2014.

The new venture is a daughter church under the authority of Living Water Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brantford, ON. Living Water’s minister, Rev. Greg Bylsma, preached at the first service from Matthew 11:28-30 on “The Sincere Summons: Come to Christ!”

Attendance at subsequent services has varied between 30 and 80, and Rev. Bylsma says, “People are definitely coming by to see what it is all about.”

To help generate community interest, a “Day in the Park” was held on the Saturday prior to the first Sunday of worship, beside the building where the services were to be held.

The event followed the “min-carnival” pattern Living Water has used successfully for years in various Brantford parks on Saturdays. During the morning, children participate in activities (such as water balloon toss and face painting) to earn tickets, half of which can be redeemed for candy and half for books and tracts on the gospel. Before lunch, organizers share the gospel with those in attendance.

The new church meets in the building of the Optimist Club
The new church meets in the building of the Optimist Club

Rev. Bylsma says, “It’s a great ministry that often sees anywhere from 70-120 community kids receive a taste of the gospel in a single day.”

That “Day in the Park” event demonstrates the new group’s desire to emphasize evangelism within the context of a robust Reformed faith. The focus on these aspects, rather than numbers, differentiates this effort from a previous attempt about 15 years ago.

Since September of 2013, several families from the Burlington/Waterdown/Dundas area have been meeting to study Scripture, as well as discuss and pray about the possibility of a daughter church.

During this time frame, a steering committee has been working toward the establishment of a daughter church. Informational evenings and informal gym nights in the area provided opportunities for families to gather for fun and fellowship while learning more about the church. Organizers have also read books such as How to Plant on OPC and How to Plant a Reformed Church.

“At this point,” says Rev. Bylsma, “we are really just beginning that exploration again, but with a more focused goal. We aim not so much to begin a church only if we have enough families, but to begin a church work if we see a need that families of that area can help fill with the gospel. In other words, we aren’t going to simply start a church based on numbers, but we are conducting this exploration to see if, by God’s grace, we can see another faithful, vibrant, outreaching Reformed church in the Burlington/Waterdown area.”

That aim is expressed in Living Hope’s stated goal of “being conscientiously Reformed and intentionally evangelistic to the glory of our Triune God.”

Rev. Bylsma explains more about the rationale behind the slogan. “When we considered exploring a new Reformed presence, we were mindful that there are currently a significant number of Canadian Reformed churches in that area. So we didn’t want to just start another church, and we didn’t want to start it to steal sheep.”

LivingHopeSept28PM2 (2)“To the contrary, many of the families interested in the work had a strong interest in seeing the church reach out into their community and bring the gospel to those who do not yet know Christ. So our early discussions focused on the idea of beginning a daughter church work that would, from the start, have a strong evangelistic focus. While emphasizing the need to reach out with the gospel, we did not in any way mean to ‘shrink’ that gospel down. Hence we remain conscientiously Reformed even while we are intentionally evangelistic.”

The Living Hope effort already evidences cooperation with local Reformed congregations. Rev. Bill DeJong, pastor of Cornerstone Canadian Reformed Church in Hamilton, preached at the first evening service and has been scheduled to preach again.

Rev. DeJong says, “It’s neat in terms of URC-CanRC relations, to partner with Greg Bylsma in support of this group.”

Rev. Bylsma will preach at one service for each of the initial six Sundays. Living Water’s elders work with the steering committee to secure pulpit supply, and Living Water provides accompanists when necessary.

Living Hope meets at 9:30 am and 4:00 pm at the Optimist Club in Sealey Park, 115 Main St. S in Waterdown. For more information, check the Living Hope page at the Living Waters website.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 11 & 12 of the October 15, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

OPC efforts in Wisconsin

winter churchFormer URCNA pastor installed in OPC in Wisconsin

Hammond, WI, is an hour and half directly north of Rochester, MN, and about 30 minutes east of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area. It’s also the home of Covenant Presbyterian Church, an Orthodox Presbyterian Church congregation consisting of Reformed believers from a variety of ecclesiastical backgrounds.

Rev. Shane Lems was installed as the congregation’s minister on October 18, 2013, having formerly served as church planter and pastor for the United Reformed Church of Sunnyside, WA.

“After six pretty good years there, an excellent opportunity came up in the OPC here at Hammond,” he explains. “They were planting a church and needed a pastor at the mother church. We liked the area and the church situation seemed like a good fit since they were planting and since they chose me from a big handful of candidates—after looking at our ministerial information forms. Also, I was open to the OPC since I really appreciate Presbyterian polity and ecclesiology.”

Rev. Lems is a 2007 graduate of Westminster Seminary California. His Iowa roots and a warm welcome by his new congregation eased the adjustment when he and his family moved from one of America’s sunniest cities to experience one of the Midwest’s harshest winters in a small town with a population under 2,000.

“The transition was much easier than we expected,” he says. “They accepted us from day one, and we’ve always felt cared for thus far. Since Lisa and I grew up in the Midwest, we are familiar with season changes, so the snow wasn’t too difficult to handle, and our four kids are doing well here also—they like it.”

The church itself is undergoing transition since its former pastor, Rev. Kim Kuhfuss, began planting a daughter church in Eau Claire, about an hour east and a little south.

“The church did break up after the plant, but in a very good way,” says Rev. Lems. “It broke away on good terms to plant another solid church, this time in Eau Claire. It’s been a good relationship so far on both ends. Honestly, even people at both churches will say how smooth this transition and change has gone. There’s good unity here!”

Lems familyProvidence Reformed Church, the Eau Claire plant (see related article below), remains under the oversight of the elders at Covenant Presbyterian and is partially funded by the Presbytery of the Midwest.

Covenant’s session is exploring ways to promote growth within the church and community.

Rev. Lems says, “Right now we’re doing elder training, we did some deacon training, we’re thinking about outreach, we’re giving profession of faith classes to the teens, we’re giving membership classes to some new visitors, and we’re taking the next step together.”

According to the church website, Covenant Presbyterian’s session consists of Pastor Lems, four elders and three deacons. Church school is held at 9:00 am on Sundays with worship services 10:00 am and 6:00 pm. The church is located at 680 Broadway Street in Hammond, WI.

The church has a Facebook page, as well as a website. Rev. Lems posts blog entries on the church site and continues to post at The Reformed Reader blog.

 

Barb-Kim KuhfussOPC church plant in Eau Claire, WI

Having witnessed the Presbytery exam of Rev. Kim Kuhfuss nine years ago, I was intrigued to discover his name as the current church planter for an OPC work in Eau Claire, WI.

Providence Reformed Church began meeting in July of 2013 under the oversight of Covenant Presbyterian Church of Hammond, WI (see above article). Covenant’s former pastor, Rev. Kuhfuss, and his wife had purchased a home in Eau Claire where they hosted initial meetings. Earlier this year, he requested permission to begin full-time church planting efforts there.

About 40 people attend 10:00 am worship services in the Eau Claire Micon Cinema at 3109 Mall Drive. An evening service is held at 6:00 in the parsonage, and a Wednesday evening Bible study takes place in a member’s home.

Rev. Kuhfuss describes the biggest challenge as “getting our name out in the community, making our presence known, and letting people know exactly who we are and what we are all about.”

The group has been attempting to do that through various advertising venues, such as newspaper, radio, local magazines, and mailers. They’ve also increased awareness by going door-to-door and participating in community events and outreaches.

An article in the January 2014 issue of the OPC denominational magazine, New Horizons, related that Eau Claire is home to about 115,000 people as well as the location of a University of Wisconsin branch campus. Rev. Kuhfuss reports that two students and a staff member of Cru (previously Campus Crusade) meet with the Providence group. Their attendance encourages the group to continue pursuing a presence within the local university community.

Kohfuss-Eau Claire OPCThe New Horizons article explained this isn’t Covenant’s first effort to establish a congregation in Eau Claire. Three families driving an hour to an hour and a half each Sunday led to Covenant beginning a 2008 work, which was discontinued due to lack of progress in 2010. But new contacts from the area and more families driving many miles led to this second attempt.

Rev. Kuhfuss is optimistic about its future. He identifies the greatest joy of the work as “hopefully planting a church in this city that will be here to serve God for many years to come.”

The men have been meeting for three months in regular times of prayer on Saturday mornings. Rev. Kuhfuss also requests prayer “as there are no particular Reformed churches in this area, although there are some churches where the pastors would accept at least portions of Reformed teaching.”

Rev. Kuhfuss spent 16 years as an Assemblies of God minister before coming to the Reformed faith. His transformed theological persuasion led to his 2005 exam in Des Moines and the subsequent entrance of Covenant Presbyterian Church into the OPC.

More information about Covenant’s church plant, Providence Reformed Church, is available at Providence’s website.

The above articles by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 13-15 of the May 28, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.