Dear Praying, Helping Friends:
John Calvin was born 500 years ago. This is a good time in Reformed circles to remember this man the Lord used so greatly as a reformer. When we do this, however, we need to remember his passion for evangelism and missions. After all, his theology was based on the Bible alone and meant to bring glory to God alone. He was thus committed to winning the lost to faith in Christ, building them up in the faith, and gathering them into biblical churches – from Geneva to the ends of the earth. Sadly, many who exult in Reformed theology miss the mark when it comes to Calvin and missions. They do this by 1) not including missions in their seminars on Calvin or, when Calvin is not the subject, in themes related to his theology. They do this, in fact, by 2) viewing missions as if it was not a theological subject at all. This truncated view of the Reformed faith then leaves the average church in a fog as to what kind of enter-prises they should support abroad and how they should be doing missions at home.
I cannot, in a letter like this, do justice to this subject. Let me only say there is much confusion in Re-formed circles when there ought to be much light. Worse yet, not many recognize the problem exists (Joel Beeke is a refreshing exception). Men of theological repute at the top of speakers’ lists make their church circuits with little said on missions. Why should they? After all, missions isn’t a theological subject, is it? Just applied theology with little in the Bible to tell us how to do it, right? So any method will do, won’t it? Such a conclusion, then, even though missions is the great business of Christ’s church on earth! Even though the church has been gifted and commanded to go into all the world, preach the gospel, disciple the nations, and build Christ’s church until He comes! No! Missions is more than anyone’s applied theology, and Calvin understood this. He was not only chief pastor of the church in Geneva and chief teacher at the Academy in Geneva (from 1558 to 1564). His church and the Academy were responsible for sending thou-sands of missionaries back to France , into all of Europe, and even to faraway Brazil .
Today, however, many of the best seminaries in the USA are graduating men who know little about truly biblical missions and, in some cases, are involved in foreign enterprises which are so far from building our Lord’s church abroad as to be a travesty of missions. Let me, then, say briefly what missions ought to be. Churches must not send just anyone who claims to have a call. They must send only the best (Acts 13:1-3) since missionaries must train nationals to know and stand for the truth. The message must be clear and uncompromising on critical issues and, if necessary, confrontational (Acts 13:38-45). Churches on the foreign field that are not true churches should not be cooperated with, but exposed as unfaithful and separated from (Acts 13:46-48). The goal of foreign missions must be to make disciples of the nations (Acts 13:49-52). The method of foreign missions must not be to culturally “connect” with false religions on the field, but stand against them (Acts 14:8-18). And those who have been awakened by the gospel mes-sage and are becoming true disciples must be strengthened in the faith and gathered into true churches (Acts 14:21-23). Until then, we do not have missions; we have a travesty of missions.
So, then, in Central & Eastern Europe, we must send our best to train young Hungarians who must, in turn, “equip the saints” and stand on Scripture in a way that the gospel is not compromised. These young Hungarian men must then be helped to engage in spiritual warfare against the darkness surrounding and coming out of false churches (Hungarian Reformed Church) and false religions which offer people some way other than the “narrow way” of Christ and His gospel. The whole enterprise must aim at nothing less than the building of the church of our Lord Jesus: Reformed in doctrine and church order, reformational in spirit, zealous in evangelism, strong in discipling others, and moving toward self-support and self-governance ASAP. “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not…” This is missions.
Now some quick news about our 15 men and 22 congregations as follows:
1) Imre Szoke in Miskolc , HUNGARY is thankful for an upsurge in the number of people wanting to take our D/M (discipleship/membership) course. He asks prayer for this and all aspects of the work.
2) Gyula Bagoly in Almadi , Hungary is now guiding two congregations in southern Hungary and seeing the Lord do great things as he does the work of “equipping the saints”.
3) Mihaly Siko in the capital ( Budapest ) is engaged in intensive discipling of others through his preaching, teaching, biblical counseling, evangelism, and the example of his life.
4) 5) 6) Our men in UKRAINE are Istvan Gal, Bertalan Lorinc, and Geza Demeter. Their work has not moved as fast as in Hungary , but they are now seeing some progress as they labor in prayer, hospital evangelism, creation seminars, camp and conference ministries, children’s ministry, and a strong effort to train our church members and disciple others who are showing interest in spiritual things. Pray!
7) Attila Szasz in Kolozsvar , ROMANIA has more and more people coming out for Friday evening group instruction. Pray that some of these contacts can soon be given more personal attention.
8) Sandor Molnar in Marosvasarhely has a new Bible study in the town of Adamos with ten very interested people coming. His main work is now 50% self-supporting.
9) Lehel Laszlo has two congregations, one a Gypsy work where children are also being reached. Pray for his main work in Erdoszentgyorgy that we might find land near the center of town and at a good price.
10) Ferenc Kovacs is a pastor in Szovata, heads up our fruitful camp and conference ministry, and is coordinator for the entire work in Romania . Pray for daily strength.
11) Kalman Kovacs is a big help to Ferenc. He leads three Bible studies, including a new one in Parajd where we recently had a great week of evangelism. He also preaches for Ferenc when Ferenc must travel.
12) Gabor Curcubet in Szekelyudvarhely heads up home schooling in Romania , does creationist seminars, publishes our creationist newspaper. Home schooling is not yet legal in Romania . Keep praying.
13) Sandor Tamas not only helps Gabor, but preaches and helps in other congregations. He is now courting Biborka, a fine Christian girl. Pray for the Lord’s direction in this and in his future ministry.
14) Szabolcs Simon has three congregations and directs our foundation, the legal wing of our church in Romania . Pray for the blessing of God’s Spirit on his labors.
15) Csaba Zolya has a congregation in Vulkan , Romania and a preaching point in Petrozseny. The Lord is blessing his zeal to reach the lost and disciple the saved. Pray for Ibolya and the twins she is carrying.
Some key developments in our work: 1) We now have translated and printed 18 books in Hungarian and soon hope to have two more out. 2) Children’s ministries are starting up in most of our congregations. 3) In Hungary we have new contacts which could lead, within a year, to starting a work in Hungary ’s second largest city, Debrecen , and in Northern Serbia . 4) In April or May, we hope to graduate our first distance learning student from Karolyi Gaspar Institute and support him as our 16th church planter. Pray for Peter Szabo as he is about to begin his work in Budapest with Mihaly Siko.
Finally, our financial needs. We need funds for another car in Romania – a small, three-year Dacia that will save Ferenc a lot in fuel. Our home church, Westminster PCA, has given us $2,500 in seed money toward the $7,000 we need. Pray for the remaining $4,500. Pray also about a building we want in Zapszony , Ukraine . It would be a big boost to our work in Ukraine . Last year we offered the owner $40,000 when he was asking $70,000. Last week he came down to $50,000. We will now offer him $45,000 and see what happens. Pray for this and the many spiritual and financial needs of our men in Hungary , Romania , and Ukraine .
Yours in His faithfulness,
Bob & Clara Rapp