July 2017

Christchurch Cambodian Evening

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Join Anthony and Anne McCormick for an evening celebrating all things Cambodian, complete with Khmer cuisine, entertainment and an update from folk who have recently returned from Cambodia. Saturday 5 August 6pm at St Christopher’s Church (corner Avonhead Rd and Coniston Ave). 

Tickets $25 per adult (family price available).

Tickets available from Anne (ph. 022 457 6924), the NZCMS Office or St Christopher’s (Office hours 9am-2pm Mon-Fri).

If you’re planning on coming, please respond immediately as the caterer needs to know final numbers on Thursday morning.

15 days of prayer for the Hindu world

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Over the past several decades, a movement of Christian pray-ers focused on the Muslim world has grown significantly. Especially during Ramadan, Christians around the world pray that God will move among Muslims, who make up about 24% of the world’s population. However Hindus, who make up 15% of the world, simply don’t receive the same level of attention, despite the fact that Hindus are often quite receptive to Jesus and the Gospel!

This year, the 15 days between October 8 – 22 is set aside to learn about and pray for our world’s over one billion Hindu neighbours. That time period also encompasses the significant Hindu Festival of Light (Diwali). A new annual Hindu World Prayer Guide is being produced to help Christians know how to pray for the people(s) growing up within this major and very diverse world religion.

Please pray that there will be a growing enthusiasm for prayer for the Hindu world! Also pray for this new Prayer Guide initiative: there is a need for further funding and promotion in order for this to take off.

For more information visit www.pray15days.org

125 years

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As you’ll see in August’s Intermission, NZCMS deeply values prayer. In fact, we’ve been praying together for 125 years!

That’s right: on October 25 we’ll be celebrating our 125th birthday. Back in 1892 God’s Spirit was stirring something in our land. There was a restlessness, a sense that there was more for the people of God to step into, a sense that mission is much bigger than what we’d seen.

It was out of that space that NZCMS was born. Within 8 months of our founding we accepted our first missionary, Miss M L Pasley, for service in Japan. Della Hunter-Brown followed only two months later. Then in October, at the age of 66, Bishop Edward Stuart of Waiapu retired from his position and headed to Persia to serve for 16 years! By the end of the century, we’d sent seven missionaries overseas, and were supporting three working in NZ.

This rapid growth was birthed out of a movement of ‘ordinary believers’ who were committed to seeing the Gospel spread to all corners of the world. And no doubt, early on they recognised that prayer was the key to seeing this happen. It wasn’t long before 55 NZCMS branches were regularly meeting across the country to not only hear about mission, but to pray for God to be moving among the nations.

So as we celebrate God’s faithfulness to us over the past 125 years, let’s pause to remember that “We’re all called to pray.”

 

Is there something you can do in your region to celebrate this 125 year anniversary – as a family, a church, a group, a NZCMS branch? If you are planning something please let us know by emailing office@nzcms.org.nz

Summer in Albania

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Summer has arrived in this part of the world, and our daily temperature is usually in the mid 30°c, which changes the way life happens here. Our daily routine at the moment often includes an afternoon siesta, and more time meeting with people in coffee shops for a drink. We are currently making a list of people we haven’t seen in a while so that we can meet them for a coffee and a catch up while life is less busy.

Team. Some of our team members are now on Home Assignment and all the kids are off school for over two months. This means our team meetings take on a different feel, as they are more often like family outings together. We are yet to get together this summer because last week we were all away together with the Kosovo and Bulgarian missionaries for our annual ‘Prayer Days.’ This was a time to focus on deepening relationships, studying scripture (1 Peter) and praying together.

Community Centre. In our last newsletter we told you about the new vision that the pastor, Erion, has been developing regarding beginning a community centre called “Ethos” in the main church building. The vision has developed. There is now a venue for youth to go to learn, or practice, their English, learn a musical instrument, or just to hang out together with other Christians. With a short term team they have also begun to make some contacts. Pray for the centre as it develops. 

Main Church. With the development of the community centre, the main congregation has now begun meeting in the building where the church plant is based (the majority of the congregation actually live in that area), and a new leadership team is being set up to oversee and lead the main congregation as the pastor’s main focus will be on the community centre. Some people are struggling with the change as it was done quickly, and without a lot of time for consultation. Our role has developed to support and work with the new leadership team, who are largely unprepared for the task ahead.

Outreach to Poliçan. Murray, Bujar and Genci have begun regular weekly visits to Poliçan with the aim to develop a number of small Bible study groups.The first Bible study group met last week, and it was a positive and encouraging time.

 

10 Ways to Care for Creation

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In light of last week’s article about rubbish, here’s something from the Lausanne Movement that captures the growing concern among global evangelicals regarding our responsibility as God’s image bearers to steward the creation he has blessed us with. To receive a free bimonthly publication from the Lausanne Movement, subscribe online at lausanne.org/analysis

 

The Lausanne Global Consultation on Creation Care and the Gospel met from 29 Oct – 2 Nov 2012 in St. Ann, Jamaica to build on the creation care components of the Cape Town Commitment.  We were a gathering of theologians, church leaders, scientists and creation care practitioners, fifty-seven men and women from twenty-six countries from the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Latin America, Oceania, North America and Europe.  We met under the auspices of the Lausanne Movement in collaboration with the World Evangelical Alliance, hosted by a country and region of outstanding natural beauty, where we enjoyed, celebrated and reflected on the wonder of God’s good creation. Many biblical passages, including reflections on Genesis 1 – 3, Psalm 8 and Romans 8, informed our prayers, discussions and deliberations on the themes of God’s World, God’s Word and God’s Work.  Our consultation immediately followed Hurricane Sandy’s devastation of the Caribbean and coincided with that storm’s arrival in North America; the destruction and loss of life was a startling reminder as to the urgency, timeliness and importance of this Consultation. 

Two major convictions

Our discussion, study and prayer together led us to two primary conclusions:

Creation Care is indeed a “gospel issue within the lordship of Christ”  (CTC I.7.A).  Informed and inspired by our study of the scripture – the original intent, plan, and command to care for creation, the resurrection narratives and the profound truth that in Christ all things have been reconciled to God – we reaffirm that creation care is an issue that must be included in our response to the gospel, proclaiming and acting upon the good news of what God has done and will complete for the salvation of the world. This is not only biblically justified, but an integral part of our mission and an expression of our worship to God for his wonderful plan of redemption through Jesus Christ. Therefore, our ministry of reconciliation is a matter of great joy and hope and we would care for creation even if it were not in crisis.

We are faced with a crisis that is pressing, urgent, and that must be resolved in our generation.  Many of the world’s poorest people, ecosystems, and species of flora and fauna are being devastated by violence against the environment in multiple ways, of which global climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss, water stress, and pollution are but a part. We can no longer afford complacency and endless debate.  Love for God, our neighbors and the wider creation, as well as our passion for justice, compel us to “urgent and prophetic ecological responsibility” (CTC I.7.A).

Our call to action

Based on these two convictions, we therefore call the whole church, in dependence on the Holy Spirit, to respond radically and faithfully to care for God’s creation, demonstrating our belief and hope in the transforming power of Christ.  We call on the Lausanne Movement, evangelical leaders, national evangelical organizations, and all local churches to respond urgently at the personal, community, national and international levels.

Specifically, we call for:

1. A new commitment to a simple lifestyle. Recognizing that much of our crisis is due to billions of lives lived carelessly, we reaffirm the Lausanne commitment to simple lifestyle (Lausanne Occasional Paper #20), and call on the global evangelical community to take steps, personally and collectively, to live within the proper boundaries of God’s good gift in creation, to engage further in its restoration and conservation, and to equitably share its bounty with each other.

2. New and robust theological work.  In particular, we need guidance in four areas:

An integrated theology of creation care that can engage seminaries, Bible colleges and others to equip pastors to disciple their congregations. A theology that examines humanity’s identity as both embedded in creation and yet possessing a special role toward creation. A theology that challenges current prevailing economic ideologies in relation to our biblical stewardship of creation. A theology of hope in Christ and his Second Coming that properly informs and inspires creation care.

3. Leadership from the church in the Global South.  As the Global South represents those most affected in the current ecological crisis, it possesses a particular need to speak up, engage issues of creation care, and act upon them.  We the members of the Consultation further request that the church of the Global South exercise leadership among us, helping to set the agenda for the advance of the gospel and the care of creation.

4. Mobilization of the whole church and engagement of all of society.  Mobilization must occur at the congregational level and include those who are often over-looked, utilizing the gifts of women, children, youth, and indigenous people as well as professionals and other resource people who possess experience and expertise.  Engagement must be equally widespread, including formal, urgent and creative conversations with responsible leaders in government, business, civil society, and academia.

5. Environmental missions among unreached people groups.  We participate in Lausanne’s historic call to world evangelization, and believe that environmental issues represent one of the greatest opportunities to demonstrate the love of Christ and plant churches among unreached and unengaged people groups in our generation (CTC II.D.1.B).  We encourage the church to promote “environmental missions” as a new category within mission work (akin in function to medical missions).

6. Radical action to confront climate change.  Affirming the Cape Town Commitment’s declaration of the “serious and urgent challenge of climate change” which will “disproportionately affect those in poorer countries”, (CTC II.B.6), we call for action in radically reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building resilient communities.  We understand these actions to be an application of the command to deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Christ.

7. Sustainable principles in food production.  In gratitude to God who provides sustenance, and flowing from our conviction to become excellent stewards of creation, we urge the application of environmentally and generationally sustainable principles in agriculture (field crops and livestock, fisheries and all other forms of food production), with particular attention to the use of methodologies such as conservation agriculture.

8. An economy that works in harmony with God’s creation.   We call for an approach to economic well-being and development, energy production, natural resource management (including mining and forestry), water management and use, transportation, health care, rural and urban design and living, and personal and corporate consumption patterns that maintain the ecological integrity of creation.

9. Local expressions of creation care, which preserve and enhance biodiversity.  We commend such projects, along with any action that might be characterized as the “small step” or the “symbolic act,” to the worldwide church as ways to powerfully witness to Christ’s Lordship over all creation.

10. Prophetic advocacy and healing reconciliation.  We call for individual Christians and the church as a whole to prophetically “speak the truth to power” through advocacy and legal action so that public policies and private practice may change to better promote the care of creation and better support devastated communities and habitats.  Additionally, we call the church to “speak the peace of Christ” into communities torn apart by environmental disputes, mobilizing those who are skilled at conflict resolution, and maintaining our own convictions with humility.

Our call to prayer

Each of our calls to action rest on an even more urgent call to prayer, intentional and fervent, soberly aware that this is a spiritual struggle.   Many of us must begin our praying with lamentation and repentance for our failure to care for creation, and for our failure to lead in transformation at a personal and corporate level.   And then, having tasted of the grace and mercies of God in Christ Jesus and through the Holy Spirit, and with hope in the fullness of our redemption, we pray with confidence that the Triune God can and will heal our land and all who dwell in it, for the glory of his matchless name.

“Can I talk about rubbish?”

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We’ve been busy, but it’s been a good kind of busy. Our sewing enterprise continues to take shape. We’re hoping sales in New Zealand and Australia can help us keep the prices affordable for the local market, thereby contributing, even in a small way, to reduced rubbish and carbon footprint. We’re approaching food banks in NZ about whether they’d accept our re-usable cloth sanitary pads if donated for those unable to afford disposable pads (apparently topical there right now). Let us know if making such a donation interests you or a group you know. Email office@nzcms.org.nz if you want to hear more.

Hearing about our products, our girl’s teacher invited one of us to be the “creative parent teacher” on the theme of “women’s empowerment” to celebrate the birthday of a famous campaigner for girls’ education. “Can I talk about rubbish?” she asked. “Of course,” he replied, “the main thing is that you’re a woman.”

So began our series of presentations: “Living with rubbish”. Where does rubbish go? What animals are affected? What happens when you burn it? All novel questions, it seems, around here. Promoting the three “R” (reduce, reuse, recycle), we discussed alternatives to buying heavily packaged takeaways, which left parents and teachers in the audience challenged to change their consumption habits. “This is really important,” said one parent, “everyone should hear this”. After three years of living with the overwhelming reality of the rubbish around us, it is deeply satisfying to share meaningfully about this.

We’ve done the presentation five times now, including in our neighbourhood. As well as a platform to promote the products, it feels good to celebrate our rubbish-picking neighbours as eco-heroes. Without them, our city would have 30% more rubbish to deal with! Unfortunately, they are often regarded as dirty, impolite, unhealthy bottom-feeders. “They’re actually richer than many of the legitimate citizens of this area,” the local government official tried to tell me, “squatting for free, paying no tax. They can just go home to their houses in the village.”

Such discussions have been informed by my part-time study. This semester’s topic was “climate change, justice and sustainability.” One of my first assignments was to write a letter to people back home about my convictions about climate change. You can ask for a copy by emailing office@nzcms.org.nz. I’ve also written an essay regarding “Rich Christians in an Age of Climate Change” with some thoughts for the church here, and another essay on climate change risks for our rubbish-picking neighbours and local perceptions and priorities to adapt to an increasingly uncertain future.

Resource: Missions Dilemma

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Our NZCMS office is continually on the lookout for great training materials. So whenever a new book or DVD comes into the office I like to take home and share with my husband. Neither of us have much experience in cross-cultural mission, so we’re the perfect test subjects to see whether a book or course can relate to ‘normal Christians.’

Missions Dilemma has struck a chord with us. Steve Saint’s back story is compelling; his father and four other missionaries were martyred by Amazonian tribesmen. Despite that, at the age of 9 Steve, his mother and aunt were invited to live back in the village and share the Gospel. Forgiveness and reconciliation was forged, and the tribe now “walk God’s trail.”  And out of this incredible experience, Steve has dedicated his life to global mission.

This DVD series builds on concepts that Steve discussed in his 2001 book The Great Omission. He explores some of the common mistakes made by well-meaning short-term and long-term missionaries. Though it’s told from an American perspective, the stories could just as easily be about Kiwis. Each session is a 30 minute long video with several interviews in different parts of the world. 

Many churches struggle knowing how to bring everyone on to the same page when it comes to mission. Well, it’d be easy to invite people to stay after one or two Sunday services to watch a session over a cuppa. Those who especially enjoyed it could be invited to complete the series as part of a focus group. Or better still, a session could easily be played in place of a sermon one or two Sundays – a powerful way to expose the entire congregation to solid missional reflection.

Session one captures the focus of the whole series, getting us imagining the point of view of the recipients of mission. Steve states it plainly: “we can be absolutely convinced that we are right and still be wrong”.

You can go as in-depth with the series as you like. You can happily just watch the DVD’s, but if you want to go deeper there are reflections an discussion questions to ponder over for each session.

If you’re looking for an ‘easy’ introduction to cross-cultural missions, this series is the one! If your church is sending out a Mission Partner or a short term team, or simply wanting to grow in mission as a congregation, then get your whole church on-board by watching this series.

To find out more and to rent/buy the series visit www.vimeo.com/ondemand/missionsdilemma 

The digital workbook can be found at www.itecusa.org/missions-dilemma

Christian witness in today’s post-truth society

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This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of the Lausanne Global Analysis and is published here with permission. To receive this free bimonthly publication from the Lausanne Movement, subscribe online at lausanne.org/analysis

By Tony Watkins.

 

‘Truth has perished; it is banished from the lips’ (Jer 7:28).

We now live in a ‘post-truth’ society. The adjective ‘post-truth’ was Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year for 2016. It relates to ‘circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals’. This perfectly describes the 2016 political campaigns leading to the ‘Brexit’ vote in the UK and the US presidential election.[1]

Casper Grathwohl, President of Oxford Dictionaries, said that the term’s rocketing popularity is ‘fuelled by the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust of facts offered up by the establishment.’ He suggests that it will become ‘one of the defining words of our time.’[2]

As Grathwohl implies, the term ‘post-truth’ is closely connected with the deluge of ‘fake news’ we have experienced. Jonathan Freedland writes, ‘In this era of post-truth politics, an unhesitating liar can be king. The more brazen his dishonesty, the less he minds being caught with his pants on fire, the more he can prosper. And those pedants still hung up on facts and evidence and all that boring stuff are left for dust, their boots barely laced while the lie has spread halfway around the world’. [3]

The changing news landscape

Why do fake news wildfires spread so quickly across the media landscape? One key factor fanning the flames is, of course, political agendas. Fake news affects far more than politics, but it has recently characterised that sphere of public life to a frightening degree. There have always been lying politicians desperate to promote themselves, and propaganda is a vital tool for any totalitarian state. Yet it does feel that there is something very different about the current political landscape, at least in the West.

Two things are different in particular:

First, social media allow anybody to communicate anything at any time to a vast audience. Donald Trump exemplified this during his 2016 election campaign when he tweeted things that were inflammatory or blatantly untrue, but which resonated well with his target audience. Second, social media have become the main way we access news; so the incomes of established news media are plummeting. They desperately need more clicks on their content to bring in more advertising revenue. The Guardian’s editor-in-chief Katharine Viner laments that ‘the new measure of value for too many news organisations is virality rather than truth or quality.’[4]

‘All are greedy for gain . . . all practice deceit’ (Jer 6:13; 8:10).

Fake news is also driven by greed. A great deal of it is dreamed up by teenagers in Veles, Macedonia.[5] Having discovered that they could attract vast traffic to bogus websites by publishing sensationalist stories, they are becoming rich by selling advertising. These teenagers have become masters at click-bait headlines. Interestingly, most fake news stories from Macedonia have been pro-Trump; the hoaxers found during the US election campaign that pro-Clinton stories did not bring in anything like the same traffic.

Macedonia is not the only fake-news factory:

The Czech government now has a unit confronting the flow of potentially destabilising fake news in the lead-up to the general election in October 2017. The false stories (mostly about migrants) come from websites which, the Czech authorities claim, are supported by the Russian government.[6] In Burundi, journalists accuse President Pierre Nkurunziza of using fake news to re-ignite ethnic tensions while simultaneously dismissing UNHCR and EU reports of human rights abuses as lies.[7]

However, fake news is not always created with an obvious agenda. Often on social media, especially following an atrocity or disaster, it is merely careless, unverified reporting which quickly spreads. Anyone who was on Twitter after recent terrorist incidents in Western Europe will know just how much conflicting ‘information’ was circulating.

Information cascades and filter bubbles

Whatever its origin, fake news relies on social media to spread widely and rapidly. A survey by the Pew Research Center in 2016 suggests that 23 percent of US adults have shared fake news, knowingly or not.[8] We need to look at sociological and psychological reasons to understand why people share it with others at all.

The key way social media platforms persuade us to share content is by social proof. The more ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ a post has, the more likely we are to like or share it ourselves. And so it spreads in ever-widening circles, accumulating more likes and shares as it goes. It does not take much for an unstoppable ‘information cascade’ to develop.

We also share posts that push our emotional buttons: if something makes us laugh or cry, or angers us, we will share it. We may share something just because the headline or image has stimulated the pleasure centres in the brain—even though we have not engaged with the actual content. If we later see something revealing that what we have shared is false, that affects us less. A rebuttal does not stimulate the brain’s pleasure centres; so we do not bother sharing it. In other words, our response to much of what we see within social media is primal, not rational.

Then there is the problem of confirmation bias. We all have a strong psychological tendency to latch on to information that confirms ideas we already have. Conversely, we tend to avoid or reject anything that challenges us. So we readily believe anything that meshes with our existing worldview or values, and dismiss anything that threatens them.

Even without all these factors, social media platforms would still be ‘filter bubbles’. When we like and click on things in Facebook’s news feed, its algorithm delivers us more of those kinds of things, and less of the content with which we do not engage. Day by day, our timelines become increasingly filled with things that reinforce our perspectives—whether or not they are true.

Truth stumbles in the street

When ‘alternative facts’ take over from truth, a culture is in big trouble. Katharine Viner says, ‘This does not mean that there are no truths. It simply means . . . that we cannot agree on what those truths are, and when there is no consensus about the truth and no way to achieve it, chaos soon follows.’[9]

Isaiah’s assessment of his society is startlingly relevant: ‘So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey’ (Isa 59:14–15; see also Jer 9:3–6).

The implications for the church are sobering. When public discourse becomes nothing but competing viewpoints claiming to be ‘facts’, debate over the truth of the gospel becomes much harder. Those insisting on the existence of ‘true truth’ are swiftly dismissed as bigots, and their message is ignored. Any appeal to a source of authority, such as the Bible, is neutralised by writing it off as just ancient ‘fake news’.

Where do we go from here?

Paul follows Isaiah in insisting that suppressing the truth brings God’s wrath (Rom 1:18). Will God ‘give us over’ to our pursuit of feelings over truth, so that the West totally loses its bearings and collapses in chaos? Or will we embrace truth and wisdom once more and turn away from the relativistic mess into which we are sliding? We must pray that the West takes this second route and that the majority world does not also become infected by the post-truth disease.

I see some signs that people and even media companies are increasingly troubled by the present state of our society. Mark Zuckerberg has committed to tackling fake news on Facebook[10] and The New York Times has promised a ‘renewed focus on truth and transparency’,[11] for example. Are people realising afresh how vital truth is to society? Or is it just a momentary slow-down in the decline? The role Christians play in society could well be the deciding factor.

Responding to fake news

Christians should be passionate about truth because we follow the One who is the Truth (John 14:6). However, it is inconvenient and uncomfortable to do so; it makes us unpopular and requires courage. Yet we must not flinch from it. That means not only holding to truth intellectually, but living it out day by day.

 ‘The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy’ (Prov 12:22).

It is tempting to share something which fits comfortably with our views, whether or not we are sure of its truthfulness. However, we must never become like those Paul warns against, who ‘gather around them . . . teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear’ (2 Tim 4:3). Instead, we must resist our confirmation bias, questioning the assertions that come streaming our way. We must not assume that ‘social proof’ proves anything. We must commit to discovering the truth, which includes doing our best to be sure of the sources of the information which comes our way.

Our commitment to truth must take us beyond simply reporting and sharing things that are true. We must be prepared to challenge false assertions and spin, to present alternative viewpoints, and to share fresh perspectives. If the church is to have a prophetic role within society, we must dare to speak precisely those biblical truths which most challenge and discomfort society (Jer 7:27–28; John 16:7–11). Let us pray for courage to do so.

 

 

Tony helps Christian leaders develop a better understanding of how the Bible (especially the prophets) relates to today’s media. He partners with several organisations, including Damaris Norway and the Lausanne Media Engagement Network, for which he is the Network Coordinator. He is a visiting lecturer at the Norwegian School of Theology and Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Communications, Norway. Tony is the author of Focus: The Art and Soul of Cinema and Dark Matter: A Thinking Fan’s Guide to Philip Pullman, and co-author of seven other books. Visit tonywatkins.uk for free resources on media and the Bible.

 

 Endnotes

[1] Editor’s Note: See article by Darrell Jackson entitled ‘BREXIT and Its Impact on European Mission’ in September 2016 issue of Lausanne Global Analysis. See also article by Thomas Harvey entitled, “Trump’s First Hundred Days” in this issue.

[2] ‘Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 is . . . Post-truth’, Oxford Dictionaries, 16 November 2016.

[3] Jonathan Freedland, ‘Post-truth politicians such as Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are no joke’, The Guardian, 13 May 2016. Mark Twain is credited (falsely, ironically) with saying ‘A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on’ (or lacing its boots). The Victorian preacher C.H. Spurgeon quoted the saying in Gems from Spurgeon (1859), referring to it as ‘an old proverb’.

[4] Katharine Viner, ‘How technology disrupted the truth’, The Guardian, 12 July 2016.

[5] Emma Jane Kirby, ’The city getting rich from fake news’, BBC Magazine, 5 December 2016; Samanth Subramanian, ‘The Macedonian Teens Who Mastered Fake News’, Wired, 15 February 2017.

[6] Robert Tait, ‘Czech Republic to fight “fake news” with specialist unit’, The Guardian, 28 December 2016.

[7] Rossalyn Warren, ‘”Fake news” fuelled civil war in Burundi. Now it’s being used again’, The Guardian, 4 March 2017.

[8] Michael Barthel, Amy Mitchell and Jesse Holcomb, ‘Many Americans Believe Fake News Is Sowing Confusion’, Pew Research Centre, 15 December 2016.

[9] Katharine Viner, ‘How technology disrupted the truth’.

[10] Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook note, 13 November 2016.

[11] Minda Smiley, ‘”We are preparing for the story of a generation”: New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet discusses covering President Trump’, The Drum, 12 March 2017.

New wheels for Dianne

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We’re delighted to share that our big item of praise: a new set of wheels! Its a “new” but not new diesel Toyota 2.5E Innova, the 2010 model with 7 seats (with removable seats), only 61000 kms on the odometer and it’s had only one owner. Other than one slight mark outside, it’s pretty much immaculate. So we are very happy.

I asked Obet to put it on a rise outside our Home of Love and Compassion so I could take a good photo. At that moment some of the children from the Children’s Home arrived from school, and they were excited to be in the photo. And Melany our Social Worker happened to also arrive with Gelai, our little Cerebral Palsy child. They had just brought her new set of wheels as well – a stroller!

This means we’re now set to fetch you from the airport when you visit! In fact, we’ve recently been able to pick up a team from the airport using this car for the first time: a group from St John’s Rangiora.. And what a great time we have had with them over National Disability Month. (Plus its really nice to just be with kiwis!)

Dreaming with God (Issue 31)

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One of the most encouraging trends I’ve witnessed in the global church is an exciting wave of creativity which is igniting new ways of being church and is bringing the flow of God’s regenerating life into communities and families, especially those that linger in the margins of culture and the shadow of abundance. In every field, whether technology or agriculture, finance or the arts, hospitality or science, the people of God are positioned at the creative edge of innovation.

And what really lights my pipe is the fact that these pioneers and missional entrepreneurs are most usually not the collared clerics nor the degreed theologians. Neither are they the ecclesial superstars that fill our pulpits, stages and bookstores. They’re ordinary people who simply believe God’s still active and that they are, each one of them, strategically positioned to make a difference in their world.

Will you take a bribe, minister?

Some years ago when I was a minister – before the missions bug bit me again and sent me on another pilgrimage – a very ordinary but lovely lady in our church invited a few neighbours to her home to learn some crafts, enjoy a cup of tea and have a short reflection from the Bible. Word spread and the group outgrew her living room, finding a new space in the church where I worked. In a few years the group had grown to 400 people learning 40 different crafts, filling the church building to capacity every Wednesday (even the cleaning closet was used) and creating a two year waiting list to join. I often had people on the streets recognise me as one of the ministers and ask me to bump their name higher on the list (and no, I didn’t take bribes). We added Thursday nights which I attended to give the 5 minute devotion called ‘Think Spot.’ The numbers only continued to climb. 

Even my mother signed up to learn the art of painting, which soon became her profession, enabling her to make enough money to occasionally visit us overseas. But even more encouraging, my mother was deeply impacted by one of the Think Spots when I asked a craft teacher to give her testimony of how she found God. Not all of the teachers were Christians, but she’d recently decided to follow Jesus so I asked her to speak out of the freshness of her life transformation. This was a significant moment in my mother’s life. “Now I know that I am a Christian,” she told me later.

Pioneers who dare to dream with God

There’s so many stories I could tell of ordinary people who would most likely never be asked to lead a Bible study or give a sermon but who felt empowered to launch some tiny initiative that took root and blossomed into something that transformed lives and the local community. Here’s just a few examples:

Last week I met a lady who went to a food pantry at an Episcopalian church and was asked to lead it. She later came to faith and was baptised – which might be in the wrong order but it didn’t seem to matter too much. Today she still runs the Food Pantry for 450 families each week and has helped to start multiple food pantries in her city. And through her books, including a New York Times bestseller called Take This Bread, Sara Miles is sharing how food and faith are intrinsically connected.

Over the last month I’ve visited a few times with Timothy, the son of an Anglican Canon in Singapore who was told by his father not to enter ‘the ministry’ but instead pursue a career in business. So he became a banker. He and his banking friends launched a missional cafe that hosts Alpha groups. A few more missional cafes have already popped up in a few countries and the movement is just underway.

A new initiative by the Methodists seeks to start hundreds of tiny Kingdom initiatives by empowering ordinary people to give birth to the dream that smoulders in their hearts and minds. What I find interesting is that they expect most of them to fail. But what’s important to them is that God’s people are actively involved in launching tiny endeavours among the poor that bring hope and the living message that our Creative God is still active in bringing new things to life that will be conduits for his love and grace and gifts.

I wish I could tell you about the many other inspiring missional entrepreneurs I’ve encountered. Like the family in Portugal who teach struggling mothers each week to cook a meal for under 5 Euros. Or the retired businessman in Germany who visits a Syrian refugee camp three times a week to teach the German language. Then there’s the Silicon Valley entrepreneur who created an Artificial Intelligence based phone app for detecting depression and preventing suicide. Or the Catholic school teacher in The Gambia who’s starting libraries for children and permaculture projects to provide food during the rainy season.

These are just some examples of how ordinary people have found their place participating in the great mission of God. The beautiful thing is, there are simply no rules about what mission can and should look like – we need innovators willing to listen to God and creatively step out and try something new, even if it might fail. Every garden begins with a single seed and a step of faith. As church leaders equip and release their people to be the church in the world – to be grace-bearers and risk-takers – we’ll see the whole church begin to take the whole Gospel to the whole world.

For discussion

Is God inviting you to ‘dream with him’ in a new way? What part of your life might he be pinpointing, what opportunity might he be opening up, what group of people might he be highlighting?

“If you try the same old thing you get the same old results.” What are some new things you and your group could try? (Why not brainstorm a number of ideas while asking God to give you creativity and boldness).

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.