The journalist PJ O’Rourke once wrote: “Everybody wants to save the world, but nobody wants to help mom with the dishes.” To translate this quote into Reformed speak: everybody wants to be involved in evangelism, but nobody wants to love their neighbor.
I have had a number of conversations in the last couple years about the culture of missions/evangelism/church-planting in the United Reformed and Canadian Reformed Churches. I have met a lot of people who are doing a lot and have a real love for different ministries. But I often smell a very critical air about the current ministries and mission works in our collective body of Churches.
The fact is, there are ways in which we could be more organized in our church plants and mission works, there are more things that we could do to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to more areas of our culture. But there are also many ways in which we could be more organized as established churches, there are many fields to work on and improve in. It is a matter of taking personal responsibility as churches.
As a young seminarian, I can look out and realize that I will face a number of different issues that are challenging the church of our day. Let me start naming them: church unity, worldliness, care of the elderly, care for the disabled, evangelism, secularism, eastern religions, immorality, laws being passed against the church. Are things worse than they used to be? Maybe they are worse than certain times in history, but these issues are not a reason for fear, but for courage as the church marches forward underneath the banner of our Ascended Lord Jesus Christ. The question is: how will we respond to the culture that we are in, the culture that is right in front of us?
I had the opportunity and privilege to grow up in a mission church in Rexdale, Toronto. I grew up seeing my Dad’s love for our Lord Jesus Christ and a love for people and a desire that everyone would know His Savior. He is labouring in a young congregation called Hope Centre. I grew up knowing Pastor Mitchell Persaud, who is labouring in Scarborough, Toronto. He also has a continuing desire to see those in his region to come to know Jesus Christ. He is labouring in a young congregation called New Horizons. Pastor Richard Bultje is another godly pastor I grew up knowing and he labours in the Niagara region in a small congregation called River of Life. That being said, I have visited Streetlight Ministries where Pastor Paul Aasman works to bring the gospel to the people in downtown Hamilton, and this is an excellent work. Pastor Daniel Ventura is planting a church in Waterdown Ontario, called Living Hope URC. My brother James Zekveld is planting a church south of Manitoba, Ambassador Canadian Reformed Church, and Pastor Tim Schoutten continues a church planting work started by Pastor Jim Witteveen in Prince George, BC. In August, I hope to intern with Pastor Brian Cochran who is planting a church in Regina Saskatchewan. And of course there are men like Mr. Pete Wright who is working as an evangelist with United Reformed church in Edmonton Alberta.
What I have learned from various men in this group of leaders and from many pastors in established churches is that love for God, love for the gospel, and love for people precedes a love for evangelism. The topic and the concept of evangelism becomes an airy far off concept that we are trying to attain to rather than realizing that it is right in front of us, before our churches and our church plants and mission works. Evangelism starts with the street you live on and the street that your church building is on.
The question is: will we love evangelism or will we love our neighbor?