Missions Monday: Do we care about church-planting in the URCNA?

Monday is for missions here at the CURC blog. Check here each Monday for posts about Reformed church-planting and missions, particularly in connection with the URCNA. This may prove to be especially timely in light of the upcoming Synod meeting June 11-15 in Nyack, New York. On the Synod’s agenda is the report of the Synodical Study Committee on Missions, which I have had the privilege of chairing. At its meeting in London, Ontario in July 2010, Synod London adopted the following recommendation:

That Synod 2010 [of the United Reformed Churches in North America] accede to overture 8 to evaluate the need for a full time / part time or volunteer position of URCNA coordinator of missions with this position functioning under the authority and oversight of a specific Consistory. One of his responsibilities would be to edit and publish the federation’s mission newsletter.

1. That Synod 2010 appoint a study committee to evaluate the need for a missions coordinator.

2. Mandate:

a) That Synod 2010 mandate this study committee, in evaluating the need for a missions coordinator, to make inquiries of NAPARC churches regarding their policies on missions.

b) That Synod 2010 mandate this study committee to develop a proposed set of federational mission policies and guidelines.

(1) This report should include the possibility of developing a missions coordinator position.

(2) This report should include recommendations regarding:

(a) How to encourage communication between URCNA missionaries, church planters, councils and congregations. (b) How to obtain updates from the missionaries and church planters for publication in the missions newsletter. (c) How to maintain the “missionsURC.org” website and utilize it to post prayer requests and other matters relevant to URCNA membership – e.g., when and where missionaries are “home” and available for speaking. (d) How to ascertain and remain abreast of the disparate financial needs of missionaries and disseminate pertinent information to URCNA councils (e.g., location, family, nature & needs of a particular ministry).

3. The grounds for this mandate were stated as follows:

a) The URCNA has realized substantial growth in the scope of domestic and foreign mission activities of its member congregations and classes.

b) While the URCNA stands as one in spirit and truth, there exists among many of our member congregations, missionaries and church planters a sense of standing alone.

As a relatively young denomination, the URCNA is still getting its legs regarding its approach to church-planting and missions. Unlike most Reformed and Presbyterian denominations in NAPARC (the North American Presbyerian and Reformed Council, a coalition of confessional denominations), we do not have a denominational missions committee or even official missions policies. While a laudable study report on missions was recommended to the churches at Synod 2001 offering a model for planting churches, it was not adopted by the churches as policy but only received as advice. Churches were left free to take it or leave it. More then ten years later, the result has been a lack of structure that has had a disabling effect on our ability to fulfill the Great Commission.

To this day, we have no shared strategy as a federation of churches for missions beyond Article 47 of our Church Order which states:

The church’s missionary task is to preach the Word of God to the unconverted. When this is to be performed beyond the field of an organized church, it is to be carried out by ministers of the Word set apart to this labor, who are called, supported and supervised by their Consistories. The churches should assist each other in the support of their missionaries.

The problem is that not all churches are assisting each other in the support of their (read: URCNA) missionaries. In too many cases, URCNA missionaries and church plants are under-funded while para-church organizations (many of which are not even Reformed) continue to receive support. Moreover, there exists among many of our missionaries and church-planters an unfortunate sense of standing alone.

Next week I will explore some of the missions report on the agenda for Synod 2012. But until then, I’d like to hear your thoughts: How do we remedy this problem as a denomination? How can we reprioritize our missions support in such a way that we more responsibly follow Church Order Article 47? Do we truly have a passion for church planting in North America and abroad?