In God’s kind providence, great things are happening at the Center for Missions and Evangelism at Mid-America Reformed Seminary. As the spring semester has concluded and summer begins, it is exciting to see our graduates headed out into Christ’s harvest with a zeal to faithfully proclaim the gospel in church pulpits and in their communities as well. It was a privilege to attend the commencement service in early May. I remember when most of our graduates began. To see where they are now, where they are heading, and how they have grown spiritually—all these things occasion thanks to God for His kindness. One of the courses that the graduates took this spring semester was on Missions and Evangelism. It was a real joy to engage this subject with them and to consider together the heart of our Savior for the lost and the various means by which we as a church might strive to reach them. Together we looked at a biblical theology of evangelism and then looked at key reformers and the reformed confessions as they so wonderfully articulate a concern to reach the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ. One of my favorite lectures is “John Calvin the Evangelist,” in which we considered together one of the lesser-known sides of John Calvin—his evangelistic side. Calvin’s zeal for reaching the lost is inspiring and well embodied, not only in his writings but also in his own personal ministry. In many ways, the history of reformed missionary work is part of the evangelistic legacy that Calvin himself left behind. As Calvin’s heirs, we do him and his theology the most justice when we embody it with a genuine desire to reach the lost at home and abroad. John Calvin had quite the heart for missions and evangelism, and those who claim to carry his mantle must as well.
Another key reformer we looked at was Cornelius Van Til. Though Van Till is best known for his apologetic method, he should also be known for his street preaching in New York City, sharing the gospel with his neighbors, and evangelizing people in the hospitals while he was there visiting people from his congregation. Van Til was bold for the gospel as well as for the reformed faith, and he taught his students to be the same. He even took students with him when he did street preaching—and he made them do it as well!
Speaking of being bold, one of the last things we did together in the class on Missions and Evangelism was going out and doing evangelism together for an afternoon. The class was split in two, and with the help of another minister, we took the groups into two different neighborhoods close to churches where our students attend. We had a remarkably fruitful time together! Each of our students found their way into conversations with complete strangers. We were able to not only share the gospel with many people that day but were also able to invite people we met to visit the local churches our students attend. We used three evangelistic tracts produced by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Their titles are “What is Truth?” “What’s Your Story?” and “What’s Your Only Comfort?” We found that different tracts seemed to connect better with different people, depending on their age, background, and personal stories. The tracts also have space on the back for labels with information about the local church.
As a professor, it made me very happy to see the students out in communities practicing what I preached to them in class. This bodes well for their future service in the church, as so much of the challenge before the church today is not simply remaining faithful to the gospel but also finding faithful, creative ways to bring the gospel to bear on the lives of people who have very little knowledge about the Bible and the church. As a pastor, it was very encouraging to see these young men translate what they have learned in the classroom into language people on the street could understand. These young men are the future of the church, and I am grateful for their zeal to reach the lost. To invest in these students, train them, and then see them putting these things into practice for the sake of the church is truly a blessing. As Paul told Timothy, so also do these young, aspiring pastors need to hear… "As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry" (2 Timothy 4:5).
We are also very excited about our Center For Missions and Evangelism 2023 National Conference: Beyond the Walls: Faithful Mission in an Age of Adversity. Throughout the ages, the church has experienced adversity in various forms. Opposition to the gospel is nothing new. But the grace of God never buckles under pressure, and because of God’s grace, the church can be faithful to its mission—the Great Commission.
This conference will bring encouragement to church leaders and lay people alike by focusing on what it looks like to do faithfully reformed, outward-facing ministry in an age of adversity. Our speakers will address crucial topics that speak to the mission and identity of the church in a world full of darkness and confusion. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ offers any meaningful hope; and through God’s Word and Spirit, the Church continues to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Speakers & Topics:
1. Richard Bout: “Learning to Disciple the Nations— Nuts & bolts of Discipleship In a Modern Age”
2. Tom Hawkes: “Reformed Distinctives Vital to Church Planting In an Age of Adversity”
3. Marcus Mininger: “Careful, Deep Theology Tethered to Missions: Rethinking Romans”
4. Cornelis Venema: “To The Ends of the Earth: Calvin's Geneva and the Impulse of Reformed Missions”
5. Chad Vegas: “Discipleship from Within: Raising Up the Next Generation of Missionaries”
6. Eric Watkins: “Missing the Mission: What is the Mission of the Church?”
7. There will also be 2 Panel Discussions
Our conference will take place at Bethel Church from October 6-7 in Lansing, Illinois. It will begin at 9 am on Friday and go through dinner that evening, and will resume Saturday morning from 9-12. Meals and childcare for kids up to age four are included in the price of admission. See the conference website for additional information, including registration information at www. midamerica.edu/cme/conference. Please join us as we seek to grow and learn together!
Please let us know if you have any questions or how we can better help your church engage the work of the Great Commission. That’s why we are here. That is what Jesus has called us to do!