What are the challenges inherent in Jesus calling his disciples friends? Our Mission Partner in the Solomon Islands, Jonathan, shares his story.Election is a difficult subject for most people. And I’m not referring to what went down at the polls in the United States. I’m speaking about the scriptural teaching that God elects or chooses certain people to fulfil specific purposes. This teaching raises several tough issues. While talking to God, Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof points out two of them when he says – “I know, I know. We are your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t you choose someone else?” 1) The choosing of some means that others are not chosen. 2) The chosen do not always like it. Though we can’t hope to address both of these issues adequately here, we can look for a moment at the second.We overhear Jesus in John’s Gospel declaring that he has elected his disciples. “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (15:16). Jesus speaks of his election in the past tense. And as it turns out, he is referring to something he mentioned just a verse earlier when he said “I no longer call you servants…Instead, I have called you friends.” If any evidence is needed of Jesus’ right to call his disciples friends, he has already supplied it when he says that he will lay down his life for them in John 15:13. So Jesus elects the disciples as friends by loving them to the end. The Challenge of ElectionListening in attentively, we hear Jesus telling the disciples what this friendship entails. “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing” (15:15). And a little later in verse sixteen – “I…appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” The two thoughts, knowing what the master is doing and going to bear fruit, are connected. The friend, knowing the master’s plan for the vineyard, can no longer use the servant’s excuse for passivity. The servant will spoil the master’s plan if he acts in ignorance of his will. So the prudent servant waits and does not act until the master commands him. But not so the friend. He knows. And because he knows he is summoned continually to “Go! Bear fruit!” As long as the master is working, his beloved friends work with him. Far from lessening the workload of the newly-befriended, Jesus has increased it three-fold! Warming to the challenge that this election will present to his disciples, Jesus continues. The world will hate them because, now that he has chosen them, they are no longer of the world (John 15:18-19). If they needed any proof of Jesus’ words, they had only to wait a few short hours before the mob arrived in Gethsemane. “So let’s get this straight,” they might have been thinking. “Now that we’re your friends, we’re going to work harder than ever before, and we’re going to be hated by the world the same way you are?” To borrow a line from Shakespeare – “Ay, there’s the rub.” And we’re not even done yet! 1 John makes it clear that God’s friendship with the apostles is paradigmatic for his friendship with other disciples. That’s right, with us. When John calls his readers “beloved” he is referring primarily to God’s disposition toward them (4:7, 11). We have this name because of God’s choice. 1 John 4:10 says: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us.” We also have the same responsibility that the disciples had, born of the knowledge of God: “[L]et us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (4:11). And finally, we’re caught in the same intense hostility between the love of God and the world (2:15-17) in which they were entangled. The challenge of being elected God’s friends is no bed of roses! And so we run into the perennial temptation to re-write the script. We internalise the idea of God’s friendship in the following – distorted – ways. Jesus – “Hey guys, I love you all just the way you are. I wouldn’t change a thing about any one of you!” The disciples – “Yeah, we know. We’re all pretty decent…” Jesus – “I don’t want to force this on you, but I want to let you in on my master plan. It’ll be pretty tough, so I don’t want you to agree until you know what you’re getting yourselves into.” The disciples – looking at each other with uncertainty – “All right…” Jesus – “I want you all to love other people the way I love you. It’ll be pretty hard at first, but the world will come around sooner or later to the fact that all it needs is love.” The disciples – “Can we try it on for size first and see whether or not we like it?” The biggest problem with re-writing the script in this way is that we begin to participate in a world that is not real. And “the rub” – as Shakespeare put it – is eventually much stiffer in this imaginary world. Why? Because God is not at work there, in this imaginary world of ours. Instead, Jesus is our consultant friend and we are its kings.Resisting the CallAllow me to illustrate. Recently, obedience to a clear leading from God and ecclesial authority led my family to take up a missionary post in the Solomon Islands. Our first year was difficult and when the second year arrived things didn’t improve. Our children got sick on a regular basis. My wife and I, for what seemed like months at a time, were taking care of their sores from dinner to bedtime. My work wasn’t very satisfying. I spent hours preparing for lectures that, as far as I could tell, had very little impact on my students. The climate was stifling. We had some serious relational problems with our fellow-villagers. So I stopped investing. I began to work on various projects that had very little relation to my missionary vocation, but that satisfied my longing to do something fulfilling. This period lasted for over a year. Through out I had numerous warnings that I was responding to these difficulties in a way that was unfaithful to my calling. I tried to ignore them, and had a sense that I was turning my back on God and the people he had sent me to. I wanted to sleep constantly, but this had more in common with the guilty sleep of Jonah than the tranquil sleep of Jesus on the Sea of Galilee! After my wife and I realised how depressed I’d become, we began to pray, asking the Lord to give us joy in our vocation again. Several months later, after recommitting ourselves fully to the work before us, joy began to return.The Three Facets of Friendship I had been forgetting three spiritual matters so important to the life of friendship with God. First, God remains Lord when he elects us to friendship. “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” Within this divine choice we’re free to act as God’s friends, working with him in the way that we know he is working. In my case that means teaching his Word faithfully, loving and being present with his people, and praying for them daily. But we’re no longer free to withhold what God has claimed as his own when he calls us friends. I became depressed because I was acting against my own being as a friend of God. I was acting against freedom.The second spiritual aspect I had forgotten was – “I appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” The kind of fruit we bear depends wholly on whether we’re working in the Lord’s vineyard, or in vineyards of our own planting. We know now what our friend and master is doing. He is planting a harvest that will grow up to everlasting life. To refuse this calling is to bear fruit that will perish or to bear no fruit at all. And finally –“I appointed you so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” For the present, our own evaluation of whether our work seems fulfilling or not is unreliable. We’re told though that our future desire will correspond with his. We will come to love that which he loves. This will happen as we claim that for which God has elected us. We will pray for and receive things beyond our comprehension now, because he is inviting us “further up and deeper in” to that friendship whose depths are eternal. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (15:7). Let us come to know God not in the imaginary friendship we would elect for ourselves. Rather, let us receive God’s friendship as it is, given to challenge and change us, and given before we could even ask for it.
Are you a strong administrator who is looking for opportunities to put your skills to work? Have you ever wanted to have a role within an international mission organisation? This job opportunity is a unique opening that allows you to connect the nuts and bolts of administration with the big picture of what God is doing around the globe! We are looking for someone who is competent in managing donor support and office administration to join our team. The New Zealand Church Missionary Society (NZCMS) is a Christian mission organisation that currently equips and supports 37 Mission Partners in 14 overseas countries and in mobilising New Zealanders for mission. You will be the first point of contact to the office. In addition you provide a vital link by engaging with donors and churches to ensure accurate processing of donations. Please download the Job Description here for a detailed description of the role.Please send your applications to email@example.com. Applications close 28 February 2019
Our Gap Year program is called Better World. The vision is to equip a whole generation of young people to bring the light of the Gospel into the suffering of the world around us. Our team for 2019 consist of six participants and two leaders who will be living in community together for the next ten months. Meet them below and join us in prayer as they undertake this life changing journey. If you want to know more about Better World, click here.
Ruth, along with her husband Mike, have been on the mission field in Papua New Guinea and Cambodia for an estimated 14 years all together, with up to five children with them. All five of their children are now grown up and all are pursuing God’s mission in one way or another. We asked Ruth how they have gone about teaching her children to be missional.When we were back in New Zealand for the birth of our twin boys, I heard someone speaking on Radio Rhema about how easy it is for parents to have a “castle mentality”. We want our children to be safe and so it’s tempting to live behind a protective Christian wall and tell them, “Don’t rock the boat, stay with what you know,” so they can have a nice, safe life and go to heaven when they die! Jesus’ call is so different. We’re here to take the light of his love into the darkness. Whenever Mike, my husband, and I read Bible stories to our kids, we talked about how God is with anyone who steps out and trusts him. Even when things go wrong, God is always there. As was appropriate age-wise, we shared and prayed with our children for God’s answer for us and others around us, wherever we lived. While living overseas we had the privilege of meeting people from many cultures who chose to follow Jesus and often at great cost. Our children saw the reality of their faith and that God is not a Kiwi but is at work throughout the world that he created and loves.When we returned to New Zealand our children did find it hard at times, feeling so different. They were pastor’s kids, missionary kids and home schoolers! We never pretended that this was not true, instead we talked about how all Christians are called to be aliens, not really belonging in this world. We looked for opportunities for them to meet people who were willing to be radical followers of Jesus and were still cool! We did this so that they learned that there were many expressions of how to live for Jesus, and that we’re each responsible for playing our part and being active in the community of believers that God places us in. We often discussed that following Jesus is not an excuse to be weird or harsh in our relationships with others, but rather an opportunity to share the love and acceptance we’ve experienced from him with those around us. We encouraged them to dream big, use the gifts they have, live boldly with Jesus and be agents for God’s Kingdom in the world. I believe this is mission,wherever you may live. And this is how we took our family along on the ride with us.
Our National Director, Steve Maina, shares three highlights of NZCMS’ work in 2018. To watch the video please follow the link below. https://drive.google.com/file/d/15StSm3smeB1A0QunfWSESyL-GN4oIvgE/view
We asked some families how they’ve taught their children to be missional. Kesh and his family moved to Christchurch in 2017. He is studying a Masters in Social Work and attends the Presbyterian Church where his wife, Esther, is an ordained Minister. To the Sabey family, mission is simply shining God’s light through our words and actions. While we have always encouraged our children to share their faith verbally, we place more emphasis on living in a way that attracts others to the light of Christ.Here are some practical ways in which our family aims to be missional:Share Christ with your actions: Being kind, helpful, sharing a smile, encouraging others, playing with a lonely child at school and standing up to bullies are not just ‘good deeds’. They are powerful ways in which others are attracted to the “different” in us. Be natural when talking about your faith: Look for natural conversations and circumstances to share the Good News. Try to avoid churchy jargon and religious lingo that an unchurched, primary-aged child would not understand. Simply put,“Don’t be weird”.Don’t be discouraged when you don’t see any fruit: Being patient with those we are influencing is a powerful fruit of the Spirit. Every sincere, Christ-like word or action we share with others is a seed which has the potential to sprout in due season. The “due season” may be tomorrow or twenty years away. Listen first: In a culture where everyone wants to “have their say”, there are a great number of people who simply want to be heard, understood and accepted.Simply listening and empathising, rather than leaping to provide answers, makes others feel cared for. When someone feels cared for, they will take you and your message seriously.We hope that you find these tips helpful. We will leave you with a little “Sabeyism” we say to our kids before they leave for school: “Be kind, be respectful and shine like a light!!”
Tess Delbridge talks with NZCMS National Director Steve Maina to find out what courageous faith really looks like.As John Allen Chau prepared to land on the remote North Sentinel island in the Bay of Bengal, its residents known to be violently hostile towards outsiders, he wrote in a letter to his parents, “You guys might think I’m crazy in all this but I think it’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people. Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed.”According to his journal, during his first interaction with the tribesmen he shouted, “My name is John, and I love you and Jesus loves you.” They shot at him with bows and arrows. The following day, he was killed by the tribe, his body dragged along the beach and buried. Chau’s story is reminiscent of the story of missionary Jim Elliott, murdered by a remote Ecuadorian tribe in the 1950s, and is somehow both inspiring and frightening for ordinary Christians. “No matter which way you look at it,we need that sort of grit, where you know you’re going to be persecuted, you know you might die, but you’re still willing to go,” says NZCMS National Director Steve Maina. “You’re not being asked to die for your faith in New Zealand, but we still find it hard to share the gospel,” says Steve. “Our confidence in the gospel is getting lost, and we need a reawakening of our confidence and boldness in the gospel.”Steve’s vision for NZCMS is that we would recapture the need for urgent and courageous proclamation of the gospel to all people. “We need to encounter Jesus in such away that he turns our lives upside down. Sometimes I have wondered whether that is actually the problem,” says Steve. “We need to have a living faith and a living encounter with Jesus where it’s his glory we seek rather than our glory or our safety. In 2 Corinthians 5:15, Paul says, ‘he [Jesus] died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.’“Is there a problem with our encounter with Jesus? Have our lives been transformed so much that we are devoted wholly to the saviour who has given his life for us?” Steve asks. That’s the heart of the NZCMS mission.We exist to see lives changed by the gospel, bringing glory to God. This year we expanded our mission focus to include various communities at home here in New Zealand. We appointed someone to research how we could increase our work among migrant communities.We have two mission partners specifically focused on mobilising young people for mission, and we have recently confirmed our first mission partner to work among Maori people in South Auckland. Across the world, the stories of gospel transformation continue. In the Philippines children are coming to the Lord in droves. There are new believers in the Middle East. Families in Asia are being equipped to protect their children from human trafficking, and in Africa, clinics and pharmacies are empowering communities and saving lives. And the stories of transformed lives continue to pour in. These are the stories of what happens when people have a living encounter with Jesus.We give thanks to God for our mission partners and supporters, who have caught the vision of courageous gospel proclamation across the world. But we want to go further. In 2019, NZCMS is prayerfully aiming to raise up 20 new mission partners to take up this challenge of courageous gospel proclamation, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. “We cannot give ourselves to these bold steps without an encounter with Jesus,” says Steve. “People are not naturally willing to give their lives to something where they think there’s a huge risk. But I’m praying that God can help us challenge that because I’m finding that if we’re going to be raising workers for the harvest, we cannot promise them safety. So we need brave people, men and women who are willing to go to places that are broken in this world and bring transformation.”But not all of us need to be John Allen Chau, who was prepared to risk his life for the sake of bringing the gospel to the North Sentinelese. An encounter with the risen Lord Jesus enables each one of us to make courageous decisions to share the love of Christ. For some, being brave in this way may mean risking the good opinion of our neighbours or colleagues in order to see some won for Christ. For others it may mean the loss of a treasured job. And for yet others, it may mean a violent death at the hands of an isolated tribe. Jesus says, ‘the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few’.“Are you going to be brave or safe?”asks Steve. “You can’t be both.”
NZCMS, in partnership with Te Pihopatanga o Te Tai Tokerau, is excited to introduce Te Hau o Te Rangi (Howard) Karaka.
I’ve been in Kenya for just over two months and I am entering into my final month of my placement. As I reflect on what I’ve been able to do, I’m filled with a joyful gratitude.
Nairobi Chapel, where I have been serving, has been an incredible work place of ministry with amazing people. I’ve been able to serve in many different contexts including the youth department, young adults, PPI (Bible in Schools) with the younger kids and am also involved with the worship team.
I’ve been struck by the faith that the leaders have and the amount of prayer that backs this faith up. There is no limit to what God is capable of in the eyes of the Kenyans and in a lot of cases it is all they have. This is something that’s really challenged my way of thinking and something I hope to bring back with me. It is a challenge to the church in New Zealand and an opportunity to learn from our Kenyan brothers and sisters. An example of this is the vision statement of Nairobi Chapel – planting 300 churches by 2020. They have set an impossible task in the eyes of men but have decided to look at it through the eyes of our Father to whom nothing is too big or too impossible.
The last two months have been filled with highlights and memories I will never forget. I’ve seen my faith tested, my dependence on God challenged and my relationship with him grown. God is working in big ways and I’ve learnt a huge amount about myself and also about Him.
I’m constantly thrown in the deep end and it has been a sink or swim reality. I‘ve been given responsibilities of preaching, leading Bible studies and prayer groups, all of which has thoroughly put me out of my comfort zone. Through all of this, I’ve been learning about the limitations of my own abilities and how to depend on God when I find myself stretched.
As I head into my final month I’m praying that I finish my time here strong and that the Lord continues to teach and mould my character into more of a Christ-likeness.
I want to be able to continue to serve at full capacity and be available in any way I can. I’m so grateful for the support from those in New Zealand and the constant prayer. It means the world to me to know that, as I walk out the door, I’m doing so with the prayers and faithfulness of people back at home. I’m also so thankful to the Lord for making this opportunity possible in the first place.
Blessings from Kenya,
My journey towards overseas mission began as a child when my family and I visited an Operation Mobilisation ship that was moored near to where we lived. After looking around the ship and hearing about life on board from people working there, I told my mum “When I grow up I would like to be a missionary!”
I first visited Fiji in 2015. As I visited villages and special needs schools I began praying and exploring the possibility of doing a short term mission assignment. I’d just completed my degree in Early Childhood but I knew I would have to work two years in an early childhood setting in order to get my registration. During this time, I have continued to feel the passion for overseas mission, and to explore where my experience as an Early Childhood Teacher could be used overseas. Earlier this year I approached NZCMS with a view to them supporting my desire to do short term work in a Kindergarten in Fiji.
Since beginning my journey with NZCMS I’ve felt a peace which I believe is a real confirmation that God is calling me to serve in Fiji. They’ve provided me with the logistical, spiritual and personal support needed to take the next step in serving God on mission overseas. Therefore, from January 2019, I’ll be partnering with NZCMS as an intern volunteering as an early childhood teacher at St Christopher’s Kindergarten in Suva. As I prepare for this new season please pray for:A continued sense of God’s call and peace as my time overseas gets closer A sense of his peace and presence as I settle into a new country and a new role And the knowledge and assurance that God is with me