Pastor Overduin Synod 2021

Pastor Overduin’s speech at Synod 2021. Transcript included below.

Dear Mr. Chairman of FRCNA Synod 2021 and Esteemed delegates and advisors and visitors to this meeting, thank you for your consideration and acceptance of my request for emeritus status as of January 1, 2022.  Thank you, Rev. Schoeman, for the words just now spoken also in regards to this request and to the whole of my ministry within the FRCNA in the three congregations I have been privileged to serve, first in Chatham, then in Chilliwack, and the last twelve years in Calgary. 

I wrote down a few thoughts as to what I might say and wish to convey at this admittedly significant event in my life. There are several thoughts I would like to bring forward, and I won’t be more than 15 minutes.

The first is, when coming to this point and actually having this request processed for my emeritus status, it is something I almost myself can’t believe is happening and has happened just now. I mean with that, where have the last 35 years almost gone?  How quickly they have passed by!  In each of the churches I have been given to serve, when in the work, the weeks went by quickly, O how soon Sunday came every week again and you needed two new sermons ready, and there was always so much else to be done as well. But given strength to plod on steadily and steadfastly, and with each consistory’s help and encouragement) the weeks and months and years went by, and here I am, asking for emeritus status at age 67, and for the reasons stated as you could read in the Agenda for Synod, 2021. The older ministers here, my esteemed 7 emeritus colleagues, will hardly be able to accept, that yes, now I am joining your ranks too! Brothers, as Moses teaches in Psalm 90, about our lives, truly, “it is soon cut off and we fly away” (10) and James likewise says, (4:14b) about our lives, “It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”  Isn’t the application for us all here, what Moses says in verse 12 of Psalm 90? “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” May even my emeritus request now drive just this lesson home to us all!

Then a second observation is how indebted I am to God Triune for the years of ministry He allowed me to serve.  I can tell you, and quite likely I don’t need to tell you even, that there is nothing in and of myself that ever made it possible for me to become a minister of the gospel, and there is nothing about myself that brought about this reality that I may ask for honorable retirement status as gospel minister. Dear ones, its God’s grace from beginning to end that I stand here today for this matter at hand! To God be the glory for teaching me the absolute necessity and precise perfectness and infinite preciousness of the gospel doctrine of complete justification by faith alone in Christ alone. (QA 60 of the HC, what a precious gospel gem, ever to treasure in this regard!) Grasping this gospel doctrine by God’s grace and Spirit for a lost, guilty, vile sinner like myself by nature, and growing in realizing its constant worth and comfort during all my years in the pastoral ministry, is where I stand also at this point in my life, as the source of all my hope and peace and joy. 

In this regard, in asking now for emeritus status as I wrote in my communication about this request, please know it is not that I am looking to stop laboring in God’s church and kingdom. No, the good news of the gospel is too wonderful for that! And I pray, God helping me, I may continue to serve in proclaiming the good news of the gospel as God gives me still the opportunity and ability to do so…..But it may be in a different capacity and perhaps with somewhat less pressure every week again.  With all the other emeritus ministers, asking for emeritus status is not to cease from gospel ministry but to change our pace in gospel ministry and perhaps broaden our gospel ministry in specific areas of interest. 

The third comment I would like to make is just to explain more clearly what I meant when I wrote in my request for emeritus status, quote, “While very appreciative of our FRCNA background and its balanced, well-rounded emphases, always in ministry I strove not primarily to be an FRCNA minister of the gospel, but a gospel minister in the FRCNA.” With that statement I meant and mean the following. On the one hand, how much I love our FRC churches and our faithful, Biblical, reformed, confessional, experiential, Trinitarian, church-orderly, head-heart-and-hands Christian heritage!  I really mean this with all my heart. Never can I thank the LORD enough for raising me within this federation of churches, and as the years go by, I don’t prize it less so, but more and more so.  On the other hand, no church or federation of churches is perfect and without faults and blots, (just read Rev. Pronk’s book on our secession church history) and no heritage (however good) is something we should glory in, in a way that can actually obscure the very gospel and gospel message we desire so much to proclaim and pass on to the ends of the earth and for the generations following. Too much exclusively focusing on our so-called distinctives can ironically take away from what we are distinctly wanting to advance as Reformation/Secession gospel churches of the FRCNA. Plus, the wonderful reality over the years and decades in ministry is that we learn[ed] the gospel emphases heritage we so value and rightly see as constantly most important, it is found also in other churches and denominations. Faithful ministries like the Banner of Truth book ministry and their conferences and with Ligonier ministries, etc., and the HRC contacts, and PRTS and everything related to it, have all been so encouraging and uplifting in this regard! So this explains my saying that I see myself as a gospel minister in the FRCNA more than a FRCNA minister of the gospel.  By saying this I am not in any way speaking negatively of the FRCNA, but only highlighting the greatest matter of all, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the one and only Saviour of sinners for all who have ears to hear.   

Then a fourth observation is one where I have to draw from a card my mother wrote probably in the late 1980’s following a Sunday when preaching in London FRC where dad and her were members in their senior years. I don’t know what I preached that Sunday that led her to write this note. Quote: “I wanted to say yesterday, you glorified Christ, but I thought, no, only God does that, that is not for us, because God IS glorious. But today, we read in the meeting [I am presuming it was a Bible study meeting], John 16:14. [There Jesus says of the Holy Spirit, ‘He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you.’] And that is what I felt (I see now, [she wrote]) the Holy Spirit used you to make Christ more glorious in my view and experience. Love, Mom.” Well, as you might understand, I have always valued that note from my godly mother.  It shows, doesn’t it?–the amazing wonder of the gospel ministry, by God’s grace and Spirit. God is pleased to use the foolishness of preaching to exalt Christ and draw to Him as only Saviour and Lord. (I Cor. 1:18ff). The preaching of the gospel is the Lord’s chief means of grace to lead people to Christ and to feed and comfort and equip in the way of Christ.  It is a high calling and who is sufficient for this calling?! But the LORD is pleased to use sinful, weak and ordinary men for this holy task and humble service of being His under-shepherds in Jesus’ Name.  How we should all thank the LORD that He gives men for this calling, for as Jeremiah says in Jeremiah 3:15 and Paul says also in Ephesians 4:11-13, this is His gift to His church; His underserved gift and mercy for His church.  “And I will give pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” …”And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ…..”

And now this leads me to my fifth and last comment which relates to the need for men for the gospel ministry. How thankful I was that also in the pre-Synod prayer service, Rev. L.J. Bilkes remembered this need in his prayer. Do we realize right now, also with my becoming emeritus we have room for 6 ministers?…thinking of Bornholm, Calgary, Dundas, Grand Rapids, Monarch, and their coming daughter church in Picture Butte, starting later this month, God willing. We have presently 2 students, and for both of them we are thankful, but even should they both go into gospel ministry next year, still there would be four vacancies. “I have a dream!” I have a dream, no, I should say, I have a prayer and care that before my earthly pilgrimage is done I may live to see the day when all our churches have their own pastor to shepherd them with each consistory through the preaching and pastoral care given. Let us all pray fervently for this blessing. As Emeritus ministers we need not worry either for lots of work still to be involved with and that can be done. May the Lord graciously provide for us all, and may we see young men from our churches truly converted and heartily called and providentially prepared and Spirit-led as lovers of Jesus and the gospel of God Triune, wholeheartedly giving themselves for pastoral ministry. 

Thank you. Let me close by asking that we rise and sing at this point Psalter 431:1,3,4,6 [based on Psalm 81]. 

Verse 1
Unto God, our King,
Joy and strength of Israel,
Lofty anthems sing;
Glorious are His ways,
To His Name give praise
With the harp and timbrel.

Verse 3
“Hear, my children, hear,”
Saith the Lord who bore thee;
“Never serve nor fear
Gods of wood or stone;
I am God alone,
Worship and adore Me.”

Verse 4
“Open,” saith the Lord,
“Wide thy mouth, believing
This My covenant-word:
‘I will, if thou plead,
Fill thine every need,
All thy wants relieving.’ 

Verse 6
“Most abundant good,
-If thou wouldst but prove Me-
E’en the choicest food,
Honey from the comb,
Wheat the finest known,
I would pour upon thee.”

Consider the following...

An idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand.

— A. W. Tozer