What We Believe

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns” (Psalm 46:1–5).

Following his resurrection, and shortly before he returned to his Father in heaven, Jesus declared to his disciples that “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). Nothing has been held back; the Father has given all power and authority in every realm to his risen and victorious Son, our Savior. Jesus then commands them to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to observe all that he has commanded—the Great Commission. And he concludes by giving them this marvelous promise: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). He will always be with us, his people, no matter what happens. He is our “very present help.”

For most of us, the COVID pandemic of the past year and a half has been a difficult and trying season, bringing significant disruptions to almost every area of our lives. Even that weekly anchor, the gathering on the Lord’s Day with our precious brothers and sisters in Christ for the corporate public worship of our glorious God and King, was suddenly and profoundly affected.

A Help in Times Past

We hear an echo of the words of Psalm 46 in the verses of Martin Luther’s famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”  When the hymn was written in the latter part of the 1520s, disease was rampant (the plague, with a fatality rate for those infected approaching 80 percent, would depopulate entire cities for at least another hundred years), and supposed heretics were banned or burned. Yet, in the hymn, we sing of the great comfort that is ours in Christ, who is our refuge and strength, to whom we can flee in times of danger and need for solace and safety—finding him to be that “bulwark never failing” and “our helper … amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.”

The psalmist’s description of Christ as “a very present help” carries with it two related ideas. First, that his help is easily found; all we need do is turn to him and ask for it. And second, as the alternate wording of the text in the ESV indicates, his help is well proved; we have a lifetime of previous experiences of Christ having come to our aid in times of distress and peril. His arms are never too short.

Desiring to express gratitude to the Lord for his mercies to the OPC, the Sixteenth (1949) General Assembly of the young Orthodox Presbyterian Church established a special Thank Offering to help her carry out the Great Commission work, in Christian education and in home and foreign missions, that Christ has given to his church. And every November since, the congregations of the OPC have contributed generously to the work of the Committees on Christian Education, on Home Missions and Church Extension, and on Foreign Missions, through the annual Thank Offering.

The Work of the Church Today

All three of these Worldwide Outreach committees experienced significant challenges in their respective ministries due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, as part of the city of God, we are able to rejoice, knowing that Christ is in the midst of us; that we shall not be moved; and that he will help us when the morning dawns.

The Committee on Christian Education publishes New Horizons and Ordained Servant: A Journal for Church Officers. The OPC website, OPC.org,
averaged more than eighty-nine thousand unique visitors per month and received more than seventeen million hits last year. In cooperation with the Presbyterian Church in America, we operate Great Commission Publications, which produces Sunday school materials and other Reformed literature. The new Trinity Psalter Hymnal, a joint project with the United Reformed Churches in North America that was published in 2018, is now already in its fifth printing. This year, the committee provided assistance to eighteen summer and fourteen yearlong internships for seminarians and recent graduates to test their gifts and calling for gospel ministry. The committee organizes an annual Timothy Conference to identify and encourage young men, ages sixteen to twenty-one, with apparent gifts for gospel ministry (see page 7); the Shiloh Institute to recruit able men, age twenty-one through the first year of seminary, for ministry in the OPC; and the Ministerial Training Institute to assist in maintaining and enhancing the quality of ministerial service in the OPC.

The Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension helps the presbyteries and congregations of the OPC to start new Presbyterian and Reformed congregations throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and parts of Canada. It is currently helping to support twenty-four church plants, five of which celebrated the arrival of their organizing pastors this year (in Thousand Oaks, California; West Plains, Missouri; Dayton, Ohio; Richmond, Texas; and Byron Center, Michigan). The committee also assists in the support of eight regional home missionaries, five church-planting interns, one presbytery evangelism initiative (Battle Creek, Michigan), and one refugee ministry (Clarkston, Georgia).

The Committee on Foreign Missions sends missionaries to Asia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Quebec, Uganda, Ukraine, and Uruguay. Over the past few years, we have also enjoyed the privilege of rubbing shoulders with missionaries from more than a dozen NAPARC and ICRC Presbyterian and Reformed churches on the foreign fields. Four indigenous presbyteries in Asia have already been organized. Among the Karimojong in northeastern Uganda, we are seeing a first generation of Bible teachers emerge. The congregation in Montevideo, Uruguay, elected its first ruling elder. The Mobile Theological Mentoring Corps is helping to train church leaders in Austria/Switzerland, Colombia, Hungary, India, Peru, South Sudan, and beyond. And we continue to wait upon the Lord for an opportunity to resume our labors in Eritrea, where 1,500–2,000 of our Christian brothers and sisters currently languish in prison for the sake of Christ.

And so, with Luther we sing: “God’s truth abideth still; / His kingdom is forever.” And with the psalmist we affirm: “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”  

The author is general secretary for the Committee on Foreign Missions. New Horizons, November 2021.

New Horizons: November 2021

A Very Present Help

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