When my husband and I prepared to move as mission workers to New Zealand, the Lord gave us several words to help us gauge the spiritual climate of the land. We were made aware that New Zealand had moved into a post-Christian era but, putting a fire under our feet, God strongly spoke to us about renewal sweeping through the land. We arrived with passion and anticipation.
We realised we’d be facing new territory. Our American roots meant we were unacquainted with ministering in a post-Christian environment. While America is perhaps at a tipping point, it’s still the norm to run into nonbelievers who nonetheless know something about Jesus.
Many grew up attending Sunday school, Catholic Mass, the local synagogue or at least attend Christmas and Easter services. It’s easier engaging nonbelievers who have a context for understanding Jesus. We wondered what evangelism and discipleship would look like in a land that had ‘moved past’ the Gospel.
Upon arrival, we quickly noticed the chasm that existed. While there was a beautiful family of believers populating our city, many people we encountered had never even heard of the name of Jesus and had no context for understanding.
One afternoon in 2013, I was interviewing a young woman at the mall for a project. Right away she asked me to speak louder because she was deaf in one ear. My prayer radar perked up, my interviewing was put on the back-burner and I asked if I could pray for her. She said yes, and amid the ridiculing laughs from her friends sitting with her at the food court, a friend of mine joined me in quietly praying for her healing. We felt God’s peace despite the awkwardness of her friends’ laughter and found out later that she was healed that day. Yet when I tried to explain Jesus and the backstory of the Gospel, it dumbfounded me that she had no paradigm for God. To be transparent, I struggled to explain it to her because I expected her to be at least vaguely familiar with Jesus. Everything I said suddenly sounded airy fairy.
How could she not have heard about him in a nation filled with churches? And how come I was so unprepared to talk about him in a way that made sense?
Playing our part
Not long ago I had a similar situation with my hair dresser. When he casually mentioned his partner was deaf, I immediately thought back to the girl at the mall and asked if I could pray for his partner to be healed. He said yes, pausing from snipping while I said a simple prayer. He was thankful and inquisitive about my beliefs – he knew nothing about Jesus or God.
A few weeks later I checked in and learned that his partner’s hearing had improved. I was elated! He was shocked. But even though he witnessed the miracle, his eyes moved into sceptical hesitancy when I explained about Jesus. Again, I struggled to know how to share without sounding like a nutter. God was moving, cracking open the door, yet I felt unprepared as I overanalysed every word coming out of my mouth. But before I came down too hard on myself, I was encouraged when he mentioned how he was intrigued by the coincidence that he’d been recently befriended by two other clients who were also believers. I felt the weight of the world fall off my shoulders as God reminded me that it’s not all up to me. We’re each playing a part.
As time passed I continued to pray for salvation for the guy and his partner. Recently, I popped by the salon to chat. He had no clients when I walked in and the timing proved divine. He said he was just thinking about me the night before because his partner’s ears were ringing and he thought he should ask me to pray again. So we sat on the art deco couch of his salon, but this time I suddenly felt to encourage him to be the one to pray. After some convincing, he offered some genuine prayers and we talked freely about God for another 20 minutes. The words came easily this time and my hairdresser was opening up more and more. I left feeling inspired by God’s goodness. God is doing the work. I just have to be available.
It reminded me that coming to faith in Jesus is often a journey. My interactions with someone may be just one step of that journey. My main responsibility is obedience. While evangelising can appear difficult in a ‘first-world nation’ where science, logic and sensuality trump spirituality and moral responsibility, I’m realising that reaching anyone – western or not – comes down to being led by the Holy Spirit and trusting him with the outcome. If I can let go of the pressure I place on myself, I know I’ll find peace in just doing my part, however eloquent or simple it may be. I also need to let go of overanalysing what I sound like. Because what I’m saying is true, I need to trust God to help my words resonate in the person’s heart. Speak the truth. The truth will set people free.
If we want to see a move of the Spirit in New Zealand, the key is obedience. See yourself as a missionary in your sphere of influence. Train your heart to hear God guiding you on his mission and be ready to speak, pray, listen or serve. There is no reason to fear. God knows who’s ready and what they need to hear. Be the vessel and leave it to God to manage the outcome. What would quickly transpire if every believer tuned in daily and stepped out in obedience? I imagine God’s Gospel would spread like wildfire, setting hearts across this nation aflame for him.
Kate, Noah and their daughter live in Christchurch where they support grass-roots missional engagement here and around the world.
What small steps were significant in your journey to faith in Christ?
What are some of the barriers that have kept you from sharing your faith? What would God say in response to these barriers?
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