Question and Answer

Mission Philosophy: OPC & PCA

Question:

Could you please explain the difference between the OPC's and the PCA's philosophy of missions?

Answer:

As you can appreciate, any attempt to answer your question has to be done delicately. After all, we can only speak from our perspective about brothers with whom we have ecclesiastical fellowship. Therefore, I will try to answer your question simply by explaining how we do missions. Then perhaps, you can ask someone in MTW (Mission to the World, PCA) how they do missions and with the materials of both in hand, you can draw the comparisons. Hopefully, you will find that we do many things in a similar manner.

The contents of the booklet Making Disciples of All the Nations probably best describes how we do missions.

We focus on self-consciously Reformed church planting and officer training. To that end we begin by trying to work with indigenous churches and only when that is not possible do we consider starting new denominations as we have helped to do in a couple of countries. This also means that we do not enter into cooperative agreements with para-church organizations because we understand that it is the church that Jesus builds in this world.

We help to build up or plant churches by using the means of grace, focusing on the preaching and teaching of the Word. (None of our missions, for instance, uses the Jesus film.) Because our catechism is quite clear with regard to who is called to do the preaching of the Word we place the highest value on the work of the ordained officers on the field. Those who are not ministers, (ruling) elders, or licentiates in the church are not permitted to preach (or exhort) on the field. Our diaconal ministries (e.g. medical missions) are secondary to the preaching of the Word. Therefore we do not conduct diaconal ministries unless they can be done alongside of the preaching of the Word.

We also consider it important for the church to understand the responsibility it has for sending missionaries into the world. To that end, although our missionaries must keep the church informed of their work and visit the church's congregations while on furlough, they are not responsible for raising their own support. The church through its Committee calls the missionary and the church sends the missionary, and therefore the church pays to send them.

Thus the Committee on Foreign Missions arranges for the support of the church's missionaries from the monies given for the work it does on behalf of the church. (The parallel situation would be that of a pastor in the church. He does not go around raising his salary from the members of the congregation. When they vote to call him they place themselves under a moral obligation to keep him from worldly care.)

We try to have at least two ordained men in the mission to a nation. The mission, in its decision making, functions in a way similar to a session or presbytery for administrative purposes. It may elect a chairman but his power is parliamentary in nature.

I hope that this answers at least some of your questions concerning the manner in which the OPC does missions. As I wrote above, you will have to contact someone in MTW concerning the way that the PCA does missions. Although we may providentially function differently in some ways, we praise God for the opportunities that we have to labor with one another in seeing the lost called to repent and believe and in planting self-consciously Reformed denominations with confessional, well-trained indigenous officers.


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