Richard R. Gerber
This churchman's comings and goings are for the purpose of encouraging the planting and development of Orthodox Presbyterian churches.
Jim Bosgraf, the churchman, began his labors as regional home missionary (RHM) for the Presbytery of the Midwest in 1992. This was the beginning of his second stint with Home Missions in the Midwest. From 1985 to 1989, while pastor of Bethel OPC in Oostburg, Wisconsin, Jim served part-time as missionary-at-large. A missionary-at-large was an earlier version of an RHM.
Jim's call in 1992 was to labor as RHM for the Chicago area. This was a homecoming for him. He had grown up on Chicago's South Side. His father was a prominent attorney, a dedicated Christian, and a churchman.
Jim grew up loving Christ and Christ's church. He went to Wheaton College and Gordon Divinity School to prepare to serve his Savior as a pastor. On March 31, 1967, Jim was ordained to the gospel ministry by the Presbytery of Wisconsin (later renamed the Presbytery of the Midwest). He pastored Grace OPC in Hanover Park, Illinois (which he helped establish as associate pastor of Bethel OPC in Wheaton); Park Hill Presbyterian Church in Denver, Colorado; and Bethel OPC in Oostburg, Wisconsin. Throughout his years of ministry, Jim has had to manage diabetes, with which he has been afflicted since his youth.
God has certainly been at work in the Chicago area. OP churches have been established in Batavia/North Aurora, Orland Park, and New Lenox. A church planter for a Hispanic church in Cicero is expected in the foreseeable future.
As Jim labored in the Chicago area, opportunities in other places began to spring up. Inquiries came from Kentwood and Rockford, Michigan; Madison, Wisconsin; and Springfield, Illinois. So Jim began to nurture groups beyond the Chicago area. Further inquiries came from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Independence, Iowa.
In December 1997, the Presbytery of the Midwest brought nine requests for support to the national Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension: Independence, Iowa; Madison, Wisconsin; in Illinois, Batavia and New Lenox; in Michigan, Grand Rapids (Mill Creek), Ionia, Rockford, Royal Oak, and Holland. Only Ionia failed to develop.
Opportunities also began to open up in the Canadian province of Ontario. In 1997, three families from London, Ontario, began to make the two-hour trip across the border to attend worship at Oakland Hills Community Church in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Jim, Pastor Ralph Rebandt, and the session of OHCC began assisting these families to lay plans for establishing an OP church closer to home. Covenant OPC in London is the fruit of these labors. Today there are two organized congregations and four mission works in Ontario.
When Jim began his labors, the Presbytery of the Midwest had eighteen churches and five mission works. At the end of 2004, the presbytery had twenty-one churches and seven mission works. But that is only part of the story.
Now two regional churches exist where there had been only one. The Presbytery of Michigan and Ontario was formed on January 1, 2000. This new regional church has eighteen churches and six mission works. The combined net increase for the two presbyteries is twenty-one churches and eight mission works. What amazing growth God has given during these twelve and a half years of Jim's labors!
During the last year, he has labored in Meaford, Ontario, on the shore of Georgian Bay, in the lakes region of central Minnesota, and in a multitude of points in between. Two pilots, Keith LeMahieu and Greg DeJong, assist Jim in reaching the far corners of his territory.
Jim and these presbyteries are shouldering a large share of our national focus on metropolitan and urban church planting. Of the five targeted metro areas, three-Minneapolis, Toronto, and St. Louis-are in Jim's territory. And of the five urban areas that OP Home Missions hopes to reach, Chicago and Detroit are within his area of ministry.
Jim has spent a great deal of time during the last two years in Minnesota. In addition to the work in Brainerd, in the lakes region, Jim has nurtured a group in St. Paul, the next-door neighbor to Minneapolis. Worship services began six months ago.
Many have labored alongside Jim. Pastors and ruling elders have stepped up to the plate to lead Bible studies, assist with the oversight of mission works, and preach at Lord's Day services. Before he was translated to the church triumphant, Pastor Don Stanton was a tireless worker and ardent champion of the cause of home missions in the region.
The annual "King's Men Offering" has played a vital part in the development of churches in these presbyteries. This offering has assisted many of the churches to buy land and to build, buy, or expand facilities.
Jim's wife, Judy, is a key supporter. During Jim's years as RHM and during his years of pastoral ministry, she has been a strong and capable helper.
Praise God for Jim and Judy. Thank God for the many OP churches established. Rejoice in the faithful support that the pastors, ruling elders, and people of the presbyteries show for home missions. Rejoice in God's provision of safety during so many miles of travel.
Please pray that God would continue to give Jim good health and safety, and continue to use the Bosgrafs for his glory by advancing the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
The author is the associate general secretary for the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension. Reprinted from New Horizons, July 2005.