Looking Back over Fifty Years
James L. Bosgraf
I have had the privilege of serving the Orthodox Presbyterian Church for approximately forty-five years, and I have been an active member a few more years than that. I have served three congregations as pastor. These were very different churchesone located in the suburbs, one in the inner city, and one in a small country townand my family enjoyed living and ministering in each one.
We especially enjoyed the regular ministries of preaching, teaching, and pastoring, and our friendships within the presbyteries were rich. We enjoyed serving within the presbyteries on various committees, but we consider our work with young people some of the highlights of our lives. Our summer camp experiences in Wisconsin and Colorado stand out as times of special fun. Our experiences with camping and special family conferences with our friends in the OPC often provide us with recollections of enjoyment and laughter.
When we were conducting Bible classes, getting lost on long hikes, participating in athletic activities, and sitting around campfires, we were developing relationships that will always make us appreciate the fellowship that we have with special Christian friends.
It was enjoyable watching young people develop in their spiritual commitments, but also in their educational and family commitments. Many of these young people served God in jobs in which they had to face challenges that could only be overcome through commitment to Christ as their Savior and Lord. We still keep in touch with some of these people and consider those relationships some of the treasures of our lives.
Each of these churches had a strong evangelistic and mission emphasis. Those programs have continued, and many of the churches that they have helped all over the world have gone on to assist in the development of other churches. Some of the young people have grown up to serve God in local churches with distinction, and some have gone on to serve on foreign mission fields. We do wish that more of them had remained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
I have also had the opportunity to serve on many denominational committees and have been in attendance at more than thirty meetings of the General Assembly. Many of those meetings dealt with topics of great importance, and I have always been impressed by the careful manner in which the Assembly deals with these matters in order to be faithful to Scripture. On more than one occasion I disagreed with the conclusions reached by the Assembly, but I always appreciated the manner in which issues were decided. A number of times I have seen the wisdom of the decisions only after years of looking back on them. I particularly remember times when we were considering joining with other denominations. Those were times of heated debate and great difficulty for me. I acknowledge the wisdom of some of those decisions, but I wish that we could work more closely with other churches of like faith.
During my years in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, I have seen great growth and development. I believe that the obvious blessing of God has come from faithfulness to the authority of Scripture in all of the churches and ministries. While some might think that we are not spectacular enough, I have appreciated the orientation to doctrinal soundness and biblical worship as a means to bring glory to God. Our growth has not only been in numbers. Because of the wise decisions of our founding fathers, we have seen steady growth in many areas.
Present and Future
I am pleased with the present ministries of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and look forward to continuation of these important services to the kingdom of God. We continue to develop new foreign mission fields. While we have had to close some of our foreign mission works, we can point to ministries in Korea, Taiwan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia that continue through those with whom we have worked in the past. We have been served by dedicated men who led these efforts in the past, and we continue to be led by servants who lead with sacrifice and vision.
Our home mission efforts continue to be overwhelming sources of encouragement, as God continues to give us opportunities for church planting. We continue to praise God for leaders who challenge us to step out in faith as we develop more new churches.
I have served as a regional home missionary in the Presbytery of the Midwest, and I have had some experience serving in the area that is now the Presbytery of Michigan and Ontario. During my years of ministry, I have had significant contact with more than fifty churches in the OPC. This has provided a wide variety of experiences and some wonderful opportunities to see God's people at work. My leadership has often been minimal in the development of these churches because God has brought gifted men to take up the leadership roles. On many occasions, these men and their families have made significant sacrifices to serve these developing churches. I have learned much from many of them about faithful ministry under great pressure.
Some of these churches have remained small in size, but many have shown significant growth, as God has brought his people into these ministries. The oversight ministry of many established churches has been vital to the development of these mission churches, and often the overseeing churches have received significant blessings from the people in the developing churches.
The ministry of the Committee on Christian Education gives us much reason for praise to God. Many years ago I served on this committee, and I have watched them take on more and more ministries over the years. The work of Great Commission Publications, New Horizons magazine, the encouragement of ongoing study through MTIOPC, and the development of the Intern program are just a few of the commendable efforts. The training of new ministers is overseen in an effective and enthusiastic manner. The leadership of this committee has been and continues to be commendable. The new Internet ministries provide exciting new possibilities for ministry. Projects such as the new Psalter Hymnal demand great dedication and effort. We respect those who serve so faithfully on this project.
Especially humbling is the manner in which the Orthodox Presbyterian Church has responded to financial challenges. Our people have responded again and again in times of special need. Even though we have faced economic challenges as a nation, we have seen generosity from our people to support our regular ministries as well as many special crisis projects. The work of the Committee on Diaconal Ministries has been a wonderful demonstration of the love of God through his people. Our foreign and home missionaries have been helped in their spreading of the gospel through these practical demonstrations of love.
I do have some concerns about our future work. We need to retain more of our young people. Our churches should give less of their money to other causes, and more to the ministries of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. We must develop men who come through good seminaries to serve the many churches whose pulpits become vacant, as well as new churches. The standing committees of the denomination need to coordinate their activities better.
I am especially encouraged by the many people who work behind the scenes to serve the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. They serve without much recognition, but they perform many vital tasks for the overall ministry of the church.
I believe that the future is bright for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, as God continues to use us for his glory.
The author is the regional home missionary for the Presbytery of the Midwest. He has served as the pastor of churches in Hanover Park, Ill.; Denver, Colo.; and Oostburg, Wis. New Horizons, June 2011.