Dear Praying, Helping Friends:
In Acts 4:33 we read, “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.” This witness of the early church was the secret of its growth, not the signs and wonders that accompanied it. After all, these signs and wonders and the healing of a man who was lame since birth – these all happened outside the heart and were all intended to direct the attention of people to Christ and His resurrection and the gospel which is “the power of God unto salvation.” We all too easily forget that everything in the Bible is meant to point people to Christ and the power of God “unto salvation” in Christ. And we should not forget this since the salvation of the soul is the greatest of all His supernatural works. Just as the creation of man was God’s crowning work in creation, so the salvation of the elect is God’s crowning work in history from creation until the return of our Lord “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Let me say again: The salvation of the elect is God’s crowning work in these days. All else that He does – including His sovereign control of governments and weather and the antichrist himself – is all subservient to His end of building His church in this age. Yes, the building of the church of Christ is God’s chief end in this age, and, incredibly, although the power is all His, He uses His church to build His church. Amazing!
This, then, is why Westminster Biblical World Mission exists. Not to do something God cannot do Him-self, but to do what God has commanded us – to go into all the world to preach the gospel and disciple the nations and be His instruments to build His church until He returns in power and great glory. Christ not only died for His church and now sustains it. He is directing His missionary enterprise over all the earth and, in Central and Eastern Europe, given us this unspeakable privilege of doing His work – with you who pray and financially support this work as our esteemed co-workers. Isn’t this awesome?
Let me give you a brief update. This work began in 1990 when the Communist iron curtain came down, led to our school, Karolyi Gaspar Institute of Theology and Missions, in 1992. Then our first graduating class in 1996, after which the bishops of the Hungarian Reformed Church made it clear they did not want our men (excommunicating them when they did not agree to be retrained in their liberal seminaries). In 1998 we formed our church, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central & Eastern Europe. In the next 10 years we grew from zero membership (not counting our men) to over 200 people in 20 congregations in three countries – whom the Lord added by conversion to Christ since no one in the HRC had the courage to leave that church and join us – we were so maligned. In 2008, however, the public mood toward us changed. Initially, we thought this was a boon to the work, so we spent more time with these folks who sent us these signals of friendship. But at the end of 2011 we noticed that, while our church was still growing, the rate had fallen off. I also felt that, for many reasons, the Mission needed to turn the work over to the nationals ASAP. And that we needed a new method to reach people. So the Lord gave us this new Romans course. The idea was both simple and powerful. Instead of trying to win people through our personal influence with them, we used our contact with them to offer them a short course from the Bible where they would do the reading and study and we would only be their tutors. Our first results (first six months of this year) were spectacular because these people were more ready for conversion. Recent results, though not quite as good, still are good since many of them, though not “ripened fruit” ready to fall, are ready to read and study the Word. So today we have nearly 300 members in 22 congregations in the three countries where we are working (Hungary, Romania, Ukraine).
Of course, work with our own children and the children of our members is above all else. But if we look at ways to reach the unconverted, this Romans course is now the cornerstone of our work. After this come
three other programs which go well with it: 1) our summer camps which minister both to believers and unbelievers 2) our spring and fall conferences mainly for believers, but those “not far from the kingdom” are welcome and usually make up 1/3rd of those who come 3) evangelistic series which our congregations have. Speaking of conferences, we just finished our fall conference in all three countries. Ferenc Kovacs reported 10/30 about the conference in Romania: “Our Reformation Conference just ended. The Lord was gracious and brought 77 people – 60 adults and 17 young people. Of the 60 adults, 42 were members and 18 were non-members. They came from all over Transylvania. The basic theme was ‘Reformation through the Holy Spirit.’ Friday evening Gábor had a lecture on ‘The work of the Holy Spirit in Calvin’s life’. Saturday morning Szabolcs lectured on ‘The sin against the Holy Spirit’. In the afternoon Attila spoke on ‘Grieving the Holy Spirit’. On the Lord’s Day I had the morning worship and preached on the ‘Fruits of the Holy Spirit’. In the afternoon Kálmán lectured on what it means to be ‘Filled with the Holy Spirit’. We are thankful to God for His help in preparations for and preaching at the conference. We had prayer meetings every morning and good testimonies from our church members. The conference – the fellowship, lectures, sermons, testimonies, personal discussions – all was a great blessing and encouragement. I had very good feedback from non-members too.” The conference in Hungary was also greatly blessed. There were 90 adults and 30 young people from four countries. The people also gave thanks for our newly renovated facilities there. In Ukraine the conference drew 37 adults and 7 young people.
Returning to Paul’s epistle of Romans, all our congregations have people being affected by its teaching on God’s plan of salvation. And this method of having people read and ponder Romans on their own (leaving the tutoring to us) means that God is really the teacher, leaving the way open for the Holy Spirit to convict them of sin, righteousness and judgment. People who would never want to discuss salvation with us have no problem reading God’s Word, then asking us the meaning of what they have read. True, many are shocked at Chapters 1, 2 to read about the wrath of God and that all come short of the glory of God so that, by the law, no flesh shall be justified. A few then drop out of the course. But most move on and read in Chapter 3 that there is another kind of righteousness – a righteousness that is through faith in Christ and His atoning work for sinners. So this course is living up to all our expectations. But we are making a few changes. One change is to make Romans 1:1-6 the first lesson before reading about the righteous wrath of God against sin. In this way, we introduce the person of Christ so that, when Romans 3:21-31 tells of His saving work for sinners, He has already been identified as the Son of David (messiah and perfect man) by whose resurrection He was declared to be the Son of God and whose perfect offering was received by God for His people. Another big change is at Chapter 4 where Abraham’s faith is shown to be the kind of faith that all must have if they are to come to Christ. We have found that many do not understand what true faith is. So we have added Romans 10:5-13, Hebrews 11:8-16 and parts of Genesis which show that God was Abraham’s lord in the areas of worship, family, friends, work and possessions. To be truly saved, people must come to Christ as Lord, not only asking Him for forgiveness of sin, but wanting Him to be lord of their lives. Hence Abraham’s kind of faith is the only kind by which men may call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. It is not the kind of faith that views God as a Santa Klaus, but the kind that goes to Christ and bows at His feet as the crucified, risen Lord of glory. Pray that many in the Hungarian lands will truly call upon the name of the Lord and, so, be saved.
Yours in His faithfulness,
Bob & Clara Rapp