Jeff De Boer is the pastor of Redeemer OPC in Ada, Michigan. Prior to this pastorate, Jeff pastored in the RCUS, PCA, and URCNA varying across rural, suburban, and metro areas. He is a graduate of Mid America Reformed Seminary and studied law at the University of Iowa. He and his wife, Karen, have 5 children ranging from two college-aged down to 3 younger school-aged children.
This week, we share Jeff’s answers to our first 3 questions of the interview…
1. What is something that you believe and/or do in regards to outreach that has changed over your time in ministry?
I’ve come to believe four things that have shaped my own approach to reaching those who do not know Christ.
First, I’ve come to see that my church will generally have a willingness to engage others with the gospel with the same degree I am willing to do so. Simply put, that is pastoral leadership.
I know there is a segment in Reformed and Presbyterian churches that believes a pastor’s primary or even sole calling in regard to evangelistic efforts is to prepare his congregation to do them. There is a certain appeal to that conviction. But I take Paul’s words to Timothy, “do the work of evangelist” to be more than preaching the gospel to himself, his family or his church. Rather Paul is specifically telling him to make an ordinary part of his pastoral ministry something that characterized the early New Testament Church (e.g. Acts 21:8).
Second, there is a natural connection between gospel affected ministry to those in the church and those outside of the church. Preaching and pastoral work that lacks grace almost certainly discourage your congregation from reaching people who need grace.
Third, I’ve come to believe that gospel ministry must be addressed to the whole person. Involvement in the lives of those who do not know Jesus leads to the most natural and effective gospel conversations.
Finally, the failure to reach others with the gospel is one of the reasons that people leave conservative Reformed and Presbyterian churches. A number of years ago I read Clowney’s “The Church.” In that book he notes that a church that says it is about the gospel but does little to gather those who do not know the gospel will inevitably begin to lose its own young people. These young people will come to believe that the inactivity of the church is a clearer indication of the church’s real convictions than the talking and teaching about the importance of the gospel.
2. If the OPC and OPC churches want to continue to grow in our effectiveness in reaching the lost-what is the most important thing we need to work on and how or in what way(s) should we be working on it?
Simply put, the most important step in effectiveness is realization that gospel identity is more important than our cultural identity. I mean that in two ways. First, our expectations about who will enter the kingdom of heaven and therefore who can become a member of our churches are often self-fulfilling. I would suggest one simple step toward changing this sense of who we are: get to know people who are not like you. The second way I mean this is, the gospel must come first in our interaction with others. It is more important than their marital status, criminal record, church history, ethnicity or voting choices.
3. What is something that has surprised you about outreach and evangelism to the lost as you have done it?
Two things have surprised me time and again: connecting with people who are not Christians is not as difficult as it seems if you put yourself in places where they are. And God works at a rate that is different than I expect—sometimes much slower and other times much faster.