On February 23-25, 2016, the Synod Home Missions Committee (SHMC) met in Cerritos, a suburb of Los Angeles, CA, with Rehoboth Reformed Church Mission Work. Special thanks to Elder Robert Mettler who made multiple trips both to pickup and drop off committee members and missionaries from John Wayne Airport.
The meeting began with a delicious fellowship dinner brought in by the members of the mission work. After dinner Committee Chairman Rev. Hank Bowen gave a devotion on Philippians 4:9 and led us in a time of prayer. He then introduced the members of the Committee to the congregation and asked the Mission Pastors to introduce themselves and the work they were doing. We then returned to our hotel for the night.
This year’s meeting was organized as a conference with multiple speakers and presentations, each addressing different aspects of organizing and carrying out the work of Missions. I’ll give a brief summary of each presentation.
Wednesday morning we began with Committee member Rev. J.P. Mosley (Pierre, SD) giving a devotion on Romans 1:13-17. He stated that as pastors and missionaries we cannot be effective in our work if we are ashamed of the Gospel Jesus Christ. His words garnered a hearty “Amen” from those present.
Next was a presentation by Rev. Jim Sawtelle (Minneapolis, MN). He spoke on the subject of “Church and Mission Work Organization.” Included in his presentation was a wealth of information gleaned from previous Church planting efforts.
Among pages of good ideas the following suggestions seemed especially helpful (to me as a new Home Mission Pastor).
- Remember the Mission Work is not you, the mission pastor… it belongs to those wanting to start a new church. In this light he suggested that the core group understand what is expected of them, regarding their attendance and commitment to the work. With small groups the presence or absence of a family or two is a big deal. There should be open communication and notification when they are going to be absent.
- Don’t do everything. Give ample opportunity to serve and even insist that members of the church and Mission Work do what they can: things like bulletins, set up, take down, organizing and preparing for events. It’s their church and they should be invested in it. Your time is not best spent doing administrative type things that can be done by others.
- Make sure the overseeing consistory is doing their work. Give them the tools to accurately evaluate your work. Sawtelle suggested giving them a set of questions they should ask you at least every year and use to evaluate your labors. It is also important that the consistory send an elder to attend worship on a regular basis and get to know the people attending the work. He also recommended that each missionary find as a mentor an experienced minister to whom they can turn for advice, as well as someone nearby (a peer near him) that he can meet with on a regular basis.
- Do the best possible job in communication on every level. We have to establish the right path for information to flow. This is true between consistory and pastor, between Mission Work and overseeing consistory, and between the members of the congregation and the pastor.
- Be diligent in prayer. God has a wealth of blessings for His people, but He will only release them if His people pray. Sawtelle shared that for 17 years, every Friday and Saturday he has prayed that the Lord would bring visitors that are ready to hear the Gospel. He has consistently been amazed at who the Lord has brought through the doors of the church. Everyone involved should be diligent in prayer!
He concluded his presentation by asking a few experienced church planters what they wish they had known when they first began the work of planting a church. This led to a pretty insightful discussion.
The next presenter was Rev. Hank Bowen (Modesto, CA). He shared his vision of how this meeting and the visits conducted on the classis level by the Classis Home Mission Committees (CHMC) to their mission works should be done. He affirmed that the work of these meetings was not to facilitate the writing of reports, but rather the further equipping and encouraging of our missionaries in the field. The visitations of the CHMC’s are to be information gathering so that the works can be adequately evaluated and on the whole encouraged to continue carrying out the work.
Among the suggestions given was that these visits should take place at least once a year and that time should be taken to visit with the pastor, the congregation, and the officers both together and separately so that ample opportunity is given for all issues and concerns be discussed. A particular point was made that overseeing consistories need to exercise an active role in both the oversight and support of the pastor serving in the field. This includes both participation in important decision making activities as well as the spiritual care of the pastor and his family.
After a break for lunch we heard a presentation by Committee member Rev. Ryan Kron (former Home Missionary pastoring the Emmaus Road Reformed Church in Eden Prairie, MN). His topic was “Nurturing a Lively Church in Worship and Fellowship.” He spoke first of the necessity of building genuine relationships with and among the members of the core group and membership of the Church. There is no substitute for genuine friendship that results from fellowshipping together with the body of Christ.
He then challenged every ministry to be sure they communicated the life changing power of the Gospel in an authentic and genuine way. This should be driven by the conviction that Gospel proclamation is the means God has appointed to rescue and regenerate the lives of lost souls. Before you can preach to others, you have to have first preached to yourselves. There is no substitute for being prepared and passionate in the pulpit.
He encouraged us to be winsome and kind to all. There will be those who want to fight and argue, but don’t play their game. Simply tell them the truth and identity the teaching of the Word of God and let it be. In all likelihood, their problem is not with you, but the Word. He also mentioned that not everyone is wired to be a missionary pastor. The same is true for those who would be members. Speak the truth in love. Warn a divisive person and after the second admonition, for the sake of unity and peace, ask them to leave.
Our second speaker of the afternoon was Rev. Michael Voytek. He is the pastor of Rehoboth Reformed Church, the host of our meeting. Pastor Voytek has been laboring in this field for several years and told of some of the efforts and experiences to reach to the community in which they’re located.
One of the more successful efforts has been at the campus of nearby Cerritos College. They have had success in simply setting up tables and letting the students come to them. On “move in day,” In and Out Burgers gives all student a coupon for a free hamburger. This results in a very long line. What better place to have a table than where their target audience has to slowly pass by? They’ve actually added several students to their membership role and regularly have other students attending their services.
He also shared some tracts that he wrote and uses to evangelize. He regularly tries to challenge the inconsistency of denying the God who made the world and directs all things according to the purpose of His will.
Following this, the SHMC met individually with the Missionaries. As I conclude this article, I urge all readers to be in prayer for our current Mission Works, Missionaries, and their families.
Valentin Alpuche Shafter, CA
Wes Brice Dickinson, ND
Steve Carr Rogers, AR
Randall Klynsma Omaha, NE
Jonathon Merica Stockton, CA
Matthew Powell Casper, WY
Jim Sawtelle and Tim Marinelli Minneapolis, MN
Michael Voytek Cerritos, CA
Rev. Randall Klynsma