Acts 2:42 says: And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
John Calvin comments on this verse: “Wheresoever the pure voice of the gospel doth sound, where men continue in the profession thereof, where they exercise themselves in hearing the same ordinarily that they may profit, without all doubt there is the Church.” Our marching orders, given to us by Jesus Christ, are to shepherd the flock of God as we preach the whole counsel of God, faithfully administer the sacraments, and exercise church discipline (Belgic Confession, Article 29). I am thankful to God these “marks of the true church” continue to be present among the churches of the classis.
As President Pro-Tem, I am encouraged as I read the reports of the pastors of classis. God continues to fulfill his promise to build his church. Matthew 16:18 says: And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. We see this in the encouraging report of Rev. Ron Potter and the work the Lord is doing to build his church in Blue Bell, PA. We also see this in the reports we hear from Pastors James Sawtelle and Tim Marinelli in Golden Valley, MN, about the work at Redeemer and among the Chinese at the University of Minnesota. And we see this encouragement in Gettysburg, PA. Rev. Jay Fluck writes: “2015 has been a year of answered prayer. We became a member congregation of the RCUS! That meant that we had oversight and responsibility to a body beyond ourselves. The involvement with and oversight by a faithful denomination is a great comfort.”
I am also encouraged as I read of the faithfulness of the pastors of classis in preaching and teaching the Word. God’s sheep are being fed with the Word as each of you labors diligently and faithfully. Rev. Steve Altman writes: “I am very thankful to belong to a church and a denomination that places a premium on the Word of God as one of the means through which we come face to face with the wonderful grace of God each and every Lord’s Day.”
As I read the reports I was also reminded of the importance of prayer. Rev. Marinelli writes: “As I am charged not only to labor in the Word but also in prayer (Acts 6:1-4), I have continued in daily prayers for the needs of the church, of the families, and of the individual members of Redeemer. Rev. Sawtelle and I also come together for weekly meetings which include a time of prayer for the needs of the church. Finally, I have been involved in Redeemer’s monthly congregational prayer meetings, praying not only for the specific needs of this body but also for the RCUS, the church worldwide, and for various mission works.” These words are an encouragement to us all to continue laboring in the Word and in prayer individually, in our families, and in the congregation. If the church where you are serving does not have a regular prayer meeting, I want to encourage us all to think about beginning this important practice. From the very beginning, the monthly prayer meeting has been one of the most important aspects of the church where I am serving (Emmaus Road Reformed Church). Let us continue to devote ourselves to praying for each of the pastors and churches of classis, including Northland Reformed of Kansas City, MO, as they pray for God’s will in providing their next pastor. May we remember to pray for our brother, Rev. Randy Klynsma, as he has now begun to labor in Omaha. How thankful we are to the Lord for bringing Mr. Steve Carr to Grace Reformed in Northwest Arkansas for “such a time as this.” Let’s continue to pray for the students under care of classis. And let us also keep Rev. Harvey Opp and his wife in our prayers “for guidance regarding his sense of calling and desire to serve in the church, however the Lord leads.” The importance of prayer is especially seen in light of what Rev. Sawtelle writes: “I think the greatest challenge in the church today is the general lack of commitment that plagues our entire culture. People seem to want a church home with all that entails. But participating in worship, Bible studies, prayer meetings, youth group meetings seems ever to take a back seat to whatever else they have going. Commitment to “self’ is the defining spirit of our times. We find this spirit even among many life-long Christians. The culture has influenced the church in this area. Meeting this pastoral and spiritual issue will be something that we will be seeking to address more thoroughly in the coming year. Pray for us in this.”
I also want to remind us of what Rev. Potter wrote in his report; namely, the words of Ephesians 4:3 where Paul urges the church to be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. One of the important results of the work of the gospel in the church is unity. This unity is something we must pray for in each of the churches of classis. All of us have conflict in our various relationships because we are all sinners. Sadly, when conflict is not handled biblically people will sometimes abandon the relationship and leave the church. We all know examples of this kind of division. Handling conflict biblically is a way that we grow in holiness, and it is an important part of growing in our love for each other as we remember Paul’s words that we are to live in harmony with one another in accord with Christ Jesus (Romans 15:5).
I am also thankful as I read your reports of the communion of the saints in the churches. It is important for us as pastors to set an example for the congregation as we shepherd the flock and show hospitality. What a blessing it is to spend time with the people of God in their homes, over a meal, or gathering together as families. Rev. Sorensen’s words are important for all of us to remember as we pray that each congregation will grow in their love for each other: “Last year I spoke in this report of the doctrine of the communion of the saints being seen as the “friendship of the saints.” As can be expected, there has been mixed progress in this regard. We all have room for growth. I have seen people excited and thriving because of the Christian friendship which is enjoyed in this congregation. I have seen others who see that same friendship in some places, but see a total lack of concern from other church members, and so they are turned off to any involvement with the congregation whatsoever. Let us recommit ourselves to love one another.”
May God continue to bless the preaching, teaching, sacraments, shepherding, and fellowship that takes place in the churches of Covenant East Classis to the praise of his glorious grace (Ephesians 1:12).
In Christ’s service,
Rev. Ryan Kron,
Eden Prairie , MN