Christian Reformed Home Missions is committed to helping Christian Reformed churches, ministries, and members follow Christ and reconcile the world to God. In this interview Rev. John Rozeboom, Home Missions’ seasoned leader (and motorcycle enthusiast), shares his heart for missions in North America with HM senior writer Don McCrory.
DM: You’ve been with Home Missions a long time—10 years as a regional home missionary in California and now nearly two decades as executive director of the agency. How has Home Missions changed during those 30 years?
JR: Home Missions changes all the time! Lately when Home Missions colleagues see me coming they ask, “What’s next?” Home Missions has changed because God’s mission in Canada and the United States is becoming more urgent. Today North American missions engages our imagination and zeal as never before, like “a field ripe for harvest,” in Jesus’ words.
We’ve also changed the way we work. Home Missions has changed from doing mission on behalf of the church to being a mission catalyst; from starting new churches on our own to partnering with churches and classes in church planting; from telling local church leaders how to do ministry to learning together with them; from university campus ministry as a sideline to campus ministry that intentionally engages the heart of schools and students; from sending church planters and campus pastors to helping them identify God’s call and build networks for support and advice.
Our new mission statement sums up our purpose well: “Christian Reformed Home Missions serves the churches, ministries, and members of the Christian Reformed Church in North America through partnerships that work to fulfill Christ’s mission.”
DM: How has the Christian Reformed Church changed in recent years?
JR: Our motives for personal and church involvement in mission are many, and some go deep. Many of us feel strongly that making disciples and being Jesus’ witnesses is our calling. More CRC people are acting as Christ’s ambassadors. That’s different from assigning that job to Home Missions to handle on behalf of the churches.
We are moved by covenant kids wandering away from the church. We know and love our neighbors better and are distressed that some of them don’t know about God’s kingdom. More of us are working to bring down racism and to seek justice in communities of great need.
DM: What do you think is Home Missions’ greatest contribution to the Christian Reformed Church?
JR: First, Home Missions is one of the influences that God has used to encourage more of our leaders and more of our congregations to pray, work, laugh, and cry together for the gospel’s sake.
And second, the CRC is now more diverse and multiethnic—in large part through the prayers, plans, and work of Christian Reformed Home Missions. Of the 266 churches we’ve helped plant in the past dozen years, more than half have a majority of members who are of Hispanic, African American, Native American, or Asian cultural background. And between 25 and 30 percent of new ministries operate in communities of economic and social need.
DM: As you travel around the denomination, what misperceptions of Home Missions do you most commonly find?
JR: Mary Buteyn, president of Home Missions’ board, told me that at a recent classis meeting a CRC leader referred to the Deep Roots/New Branches initiative as a “Home Missions thing.” (Deep Roots/New Branches is an initiative of the CRC to ramp up church planting to 30 new starts annually.) The comment reflects an all-too-common misperception.
These new churches are not Home Missions churches. In fact, there are no Home Missions churches. New churches are planted by local churches and classes, not by an agency of the CRC. In many cases, agencies do get involved. The Back to God Hour, World Missions, CRWRC, Faith Alive (CRC Publications), and Home Missions are all partners in Deep Roots/New Branches.
DM: As you mentioned, our denomination has adopted a goal of starting up to 30 new churches each year for the next 10 years. Reaching this goal would increase our current rate of new church starts by 100 percent. How is Home Missions gearing up?
JR: God has used Home Missions to help churches and classes plant 266 churches since 1990. About 75 percent of these have continued in ministry after five years. There are more than 40 campus ministries in the CRC; about 25 are supported by Home Missions. Many of these nurture communities of praise and witness.
We’ve learned it’s vitally important that we pray to discern the heart of God and to inform our vision. We’ve learned we must value missionary leaders over material resources. God has shown us that work shared among a network of leaders and churches works wonders. We’ve learned that without true love and interest in our communities’ resources and problems, nothing is good enough. We’ve learned that the biblical, Reformed pillars of God’s kingdom and covenant are at the heart of mission. We know that abundant giving by Christian Reformed people and congregations follows faithful vision.
DM: You often say that Home Missions must “keep the main thing the main thing.” What is the “main thing”?
JR: The “main thing” around here is to be clear and compelling witnesses to God’s love in Jesus Christ and to take intentional personal and communal action in the ministry of reconciliation God gave us (2 Cor. 5:18).
DM: What do you think the ministry of Home Missions will look like in 10 years? What will be its greatest challenge?
JR: Right now a challenge for all our leaders and ministries is to shape ministry in such a way that our churches find increasing kingdom value in being part of the CRC family.
I humbly submit that by grace in 10 years we’ll see ministries and mission-focused communities in forms that will amaze and challenge us. CRC denominational ministries will be integrated for better support of churches for local and global mission. Home Missions will get better at coming alongside small, medium, and large congregations for mission. I see tighter covenants joining World Missions and Home Missions and CRWRC with Calvin Seminary in preparing ministers for church and university mission. We’ll see resources provided from donors that will challenge the socks off our vision.
DM: What has been your greatest joy in serving God through Home Missions for the past three decades?
JR: Today I’m thankful for two things: One is the creative, diverse, challenging, Spirit-filled people God has given me as colleagues, friends, and teachers. And the other is the power of the gospel. God has privileged my wife, Linda, and me to be part of Christian Reformed church communities that consistently welcome new believers—Crenshaw, Riverside, and Hayward in California, and Oakdale Park CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich. Each church welcomes new friends whose transformed lives show that God’s love is the greatest thing in the world. God brings between 2,500 and 3,500 new disciples into CRC churches every year. They teach and enliven our church. Home Missions is part of that. What more could we ask for?