URCNA Missions Committee gathers for face to face meeting in Orlando

mission-committee-2016
Pastor Michael Brown (SWUS), Pastor Jody Lucero (Central US), Elder Paul Wagenmaker (Mich), Pastor Richard Anjema (Western Can), Pastor Harry Bout (Ontario East), Pastor Jared Beaird (Pacific NW), Pastor Neal Hegeman (East US), Pastor Richard Bout (Missions Coordinator), and Pastor Greg Bylsma (SW Ontario)

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.

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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.