2015 Report of the President
of Covenant East Classis
of the Reformed Church in the United States
“I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise You. You who fear the Lord, praise Him! All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, and fear Him, all you offspring of Israel! For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him; but when He cried to Him, He heard. My praise shall be of You in the great assembly; I will pay My vows before those who fear Him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek Him will praise the Lord. Let your heart live forever! All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You. For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations.” Psalm 22:22-28
This quotation from Psalm 22 is remarkable. Most of us recognize Psalm 22 as a sad and even tragic Psalm. The first verse passes from the LORD Jesus’ lips while in agony on the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” The verses that follow prophetically describes Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion. They are obscene and graphic, and accurately describe the events and circumstances of Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. There are a couple things to which I would like to draw your attention. As a prophetic psalm it foretold what Christ would have to endure to secure the redemption of His people. From the beginning it was clear; a tremendous price would need to be paid. Yes, He would crush the serpent’s head; but in doing so, He would be bruised. It was this bruising, even before his crucifixion, that torturously brought forth prayerful drops of blood in the Garden. And still he went, willingly, readily, the full distance for the sake of His people.
But Psalm 22 speaks of more than this dismal event. As the Psalm reaches its apex, we learn the effect and goal of His work. As I called up the passage on Biblegateway.com, I noticed the title describing the Psalm: THE SUFFERING, PRAISE AND POSTERITY OF THE MESSIAH. Christ endured all that He endured because he knew that His sacrifice would be accepted and His People would be redeemed. The remainder of the Psalm describes how they will hear, be drawn, and assemble to worship and praise His Name. If you read through the above verses you will see how they predict the unfolding ministry of the Spirit in the Book of Acts. He speaks of the descendents of Jacob rejoicing and the offspring of Israel being gathered in. Then moments later the Psalmist affirms that the ends of the world will hear and fear and worship the LORD. They too will be gathered into the assembly, the congregation. All this, of course, points to the New Testament Church, which is “the general assembly and church of the firstborn” (Hebrews 12:23).
While we belong to a particular denomination called the Reformed Church in the United States, it is good for us to remember that we are just a part of this unfolding mystery and majestic work of God’s grace throughout time and history. Every generation in every age needs to be vigilant and take its stand for God and the Kingdom of His Christ. We and our congregations need to be vigilant and give ourselves wholly in service to our Lord. Without diligence and watchfulness, we will grow weak and tired. May God and His Spirit be pleased to renew and invigorate us to continue laboring in this work.
As I’ve read through and reflected on the Parochial Reports of the ministers of Covenant East Classis, I’ve been encouraged. It is clear that our pastors are committed to Christ’s Church and the preaching and teaching of His Word to the best of their abilities. As our pastors have labored, our congregations have heard the Word. God has been pleased to bless the work and continue his grace toward our congregations.
From their reports, it is clear that each of our pastors is laboring diligently in the work of the Christian ministry. They are dedicated to the preaching and teaching of the holy Gospel. They are feeding and shepherding their flocks. Most of our pastors are fully supported by their congregations, but a few remain who continue with financial challenges. A common note throughout the reports is gratitude to the Lord and congregations for the livelihood provided. As best I can recall, I believe all our ministers have enjoyed relatively good health. We have one minister, in response to complications of Obamacare, who has taken on extra employment in order to continue insurance coverage for his family. While not a long term solution, it was thought to be workable for the time being.
It should probably be noted that the Peace Reformed Church of Garner has gone through a major conflict over the last year. This conflict resulted in the resignations of Rev. Harvey Opp and two of the elders. As you might suppose, this left the congregation in a state of flux. Former elders were appointed to finish the unexpired terms and since then the congregation has elected their replacements. They have recently extended a call to an OPC pastor, Dr. Mark Larson. He has indicated his desire to accept this call and arrangements are being made for his examination.
Each report also indicated that our ministers have been laboring with our youth in catechism instruction. Most of the ministers have also participated in our Summer Church Camp. We remain grateful for the faithful labors of the Manitowoc congregation and Rev. Kyle Sorensen for the organizing and hosting of each year’s camp. “Thank-you!” I’ve included these or similar words for the last few years, but we are truly grateful for this ministry you provide for our youth.
Over the last year, our mission works have varied from a state of holding their own to prospering. God has been blessing and growing the church in Eden Prairie, MN, in dramatic fashion. Their communicant membership has increased from 55 last year to 76 this year. In Rev. Kron’s report he states, “As a church we are not focusing on numbers, but on shepherding the flock that God has entrusted to us and in growing in the grace of Christ together.” He had pointed out earlier how shepherding is an essential part of their work,
“We cannot shepherd those we do not know, so shepherding means we as servant-leaders must truly get to know each person in the congregation. One way this happens is through family visiting, as the elders come to our homes to open the word of God, pray with us, and hear the struggles and joys of our hearts. This is a great opportunity for the elders to get to know the congregation (and for the congregation to get to know them), which enables us as servant-leaders to continue to minister the gospel of Christ to the congregation…so our hearts are knit more closely together….”
Statistically, there were some year over year changes, but most are understandable in light of the ebb and flow of Church life. Notable is the fact that our confirmed, unconfirmed, and baptized members all increased by 2%. This is the first time that all three of these have been positive in recent history. It is certainly an occasion to give thanks to God! We’re thankful to note that there were 15 young people confirmed this year and 12 baptisms.
As noted last year most of the congregations are providing opportunities for spiritual growth and study. Most congregations have Bible Studies, small groups and designated times for fellowship and mutual learning. One congregation mentioned their plans to begin a mid-week Prayer Service. Some were studying our Creeds and Confessions, while others were studying classic reformed works. It was mentioned by a few of our congregations that they were being blessed by R.C. Sproul’s Dust to Glory: A Survey of the Old and New Testaments. May the Lord be pleased to bless all of these labors for his glory and the building up of the saints.
It seems that the internet and our web presence continue to be the most consistent and successful way to reach new members. Several of our churches also upload their sermons to SermonAudio.com which has been a helpful tool to acclimate potential visitors to the teaching and preaching they can expect to hear. It is encouraging to see sermons preached in the context of a local church continue to minister to dozens, hundreds, and occasionally even thousands of individuals across the United States and around the world.
There remain three men under care with a couple of our men, Steven Carr and Cody Schwichtenberg, nearing the end of seminary education. Several of our ministers are presently in mentoring relationships with those preparing for the gospel ministry. We should continue praying for those who hope to one day become leaders in our churches.
One particular joy that stands out is what the Lord has done in the Gettysburg, PA, congregation where Rev. Jay Fluck has been laboring over the last three years. This congregation had been adrift from the Reformed faith as they tried to sort out what was and wasn’t “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” On September 28, 2014, the congregation voted to seek membership in the RCUS. They have brought their constitution and practices in line with RCUS standards. Rev. Fluck reports:
2014 has been a monumental year in the history of our congregation. It began in the difficulties of theological conflict and a division based on that conflict. Over the course of the year the sides of that conflict became more clearly defined. We began to recognize that we had claimed to be historically Reformed, but we were not. As we became more cognizant of the Reformers, especially those classified as “Reformed”, we began to understand that we had not known what they had said, so we were learning new things from the old teachers of the inspired Word. This accentuated the differences between us and led us through conflict to a new resolution.
In summary then, we rejoice that the Lord has been using and blessing the ministry of the Gospel to build up the churches of Covenant East Classis. Let’s all give ourselves afresh with renewed zeal that we and our congregations might “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Let us never forget the exhortation of the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 4:15-16: “Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”
Sincerely, your co-laborer in the Gospel,
Rev. Randall Klynsma