The following address was given to the PMU Council at the 2017 annual Council meeting.
As we celebrate this 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, it is important to acknowledge the impact that the Reformation had on missionary work. While we could site numerous examples, one particularly comes to my mind: the work of John Calvin in sending missionaries to France, Europe, England, Scotland, and Brazil.
There are several new and informative perspectives on this subject available, but one blogging pastor who has been researching the subject observes that,
Something happened to a number of these French refugees (gathered in Geneva with Calvin). As they listened to Calvin’s preaching their hearts were stirred for their homeland. Many of them yearned to go back to France and preach the gospel. Calvin agreed to commission some of them to return but wanted to train them first. “A good missionary is a good theologian,” he told them. He trained them to preach, taught them theology, and assessed their moral character, making sure they were qualified to be ministers of the gospel. <https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/john-calvin-missionary-and-church-planter>
Calvin was seeking servants who would be workers who did not need to be ashamed—men who could rightly divide the Word of Truth. He sent such men, along with the other pastors in Geneva, not only to France, but to the world.
Calvin was a hands-on field representative, and Dr. Pine follows in his path. Calvin corresponded faithfully with these missionaries and provided instruction and encouragement to them. Dr. Pine keeps up correspondence and communication with our missionaries on a regular basis; answering questions, giving biblical advice and encouragement, along with other Council members.
As you are aware, Calvin, and the other pastors at Geneva, sent a mission to Brazil in 1556, and though it did not accomplish all that was hoped, it was not for want of desire or effort. Starke goes on to say,
By 1555, Calvin and his Geneva supporters had planted five churches in France. Four years later, they had planted 100 churches in France. By 1562, Calvin’s Geneva, with the help of some of their sister cities, had planted more than 2,000 churches in France. Calvin was the leading church planter in Europe. He led the way in every part of the process: he trained, assessed, sent, counseled, corresponded with, and prayed for the missionaries and church planters he sent. Pete Wilcox, writing in a doctrinal dissertation cited by James, concluded that in the last 10 years of Calvin’s life, missions was his absolute preoccupation.
So, here we are 500 years later, not trying to add something to the work of the Reformation, but trying to keep up with the work that was started five centuries ago. We are not so much plowing new ground as trying to keep pace with the example set before us by those who set the course in the past.
Jeremiah 6:16a Thus says the LORD: “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls.
Our Savior clearly set down the mandate in His Word, and the return to that Word that came with the Reformation revealed the need for the Church of Christ to be making disciples in every part of the world. In our own humble way, this is what we continue to do by sending our missionaries abroad, and laboring to establish home mission works.
As we sit here today, two things are obvious. First, we are not being innovative. We are merely doing what our fathers in the faith have been doing since the days of the Reformation and beyond. It is the work of Christ; it is the work of His Church.
And secondly, the work of the Reformation is far from over. To the left you see a picture, not from France, or Spain, or Brazil, but from a little town outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where just recently they celebrated the arrival of a new relic: the tooth of the Bishop of Padua.
It is a reminder that we cannot sit down and revel in the past; we must rise up and take up the standard and continue on, bringing light and truth to a world filled with darkness and lies.
Isaiah 18:3 All inhabitants of the world and dwellers on the earth: When he lifts up a banner on the mountains, you see it; And when he blows a trumpet, you hear it.
As we listen to the reports from our missionaries, as we look over the fields and the prospects, as we consider our financial records, may we be thankful and pray that God would continue to bless our little Reformed body with the spirit of the Reformers and may we continue to be moved to not only support, but expand the work in whatever way God pleases.
My thanks to the Council, to Dr. Pine, Mrs. Pine and the office staff for your work and for your help to me through this past year. And most especially, my thanks to our missionaries, home and foreign, for helping the work of the Reformation to continue. May God richly bless you and the work of PMU during the next year, providing us with a fresh sense of the need for dedicated service and commitment to the work of missions.
Rev. G.W. Fisher