#NZCMS (for under 30s)

Introducing the Bentons

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Hello and greetings to you all!

We are so excited to get the opportunity to introduce ourselves to you. Our names are Guy and Summer Benton and we’re writing to you from Phnom Penh, Cambodia where we have been serving as long term missionaries for 5 and 8 years respectively. We’re moving to NZ later this week and are thrilled to be joining the NZCMS team as mission enablers for youth and young adults.

Guy is a NZ native and Summer is from America. We met at a mission conference in NZ in 2011 where Summer came to speak about her work with survivors of human trafficking in Cambodia. After about 18 months of ‘Skype dating’ and a few overseas trips, we were married in America in 2013. Guy then joined Summer in Cambodia and began working with the Anglican Church of Cambodia to strengthen the youth program of the church here.

We have three beautiful children: A son, Pirum Isaac (14), who has joined our family through a miraculous international adoption, and two daughters, Quinn (3) and Norah (10 months). Summer is a counselor and Guy is a youth worker. We both love seeking ways to use our professional talents for the Lord and have a passion for youth, mission and for missionary care and cannot wait to join the NZCMS team! Looking forward to getting to know each of you in the NZCMS family over the coming months and years!

Introducing Jairus

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Hello! My name is Jairus Robb and I’ve recently accepted the role of Communications Officer at NZCMS. It’s great to join the team! In my short 27 years, I have lived in many places, including Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, and about 6 other locations all over New Zealand. In that time I’ve collated a lot of different skills and experiences, ranging from journalism, teacher aiding, laboring, tax processing, Church ministry, teaching and all manner of youth work roles. I have recently just resigned from my position as Youth Pastor at Westside Acts church after serving in that role since July of 2012. Who knows what the future will bring but at the moment this decision closes 9 years of youth ministry service. How time flies!

I’ve recently become engaged in October of this year to my incredible fiancé Jasmine and can not wait to become a ‘married man’. Engagement has marked a real change in season for me where I believe God will reveal parts of his nature that I’ve never known before. Jaz and I are ridiculously excited to marry each other and both feel a call from God to do ministry together. Whatever form that may take in the future, I’ll tell you right now, we’ll be a force to be reckoned with!  

My main passions include writing, reading, preaching, boxing and being the number one fan for the band twenty one pilots. Given half a chance I’ll give you a pre-prepared, thirty minute lecture on this musical duo (no there’s not twenty one of them) and explain in great detail how ‘amazing’ they are. Seriously, they really are amazing. One of the other things that really gets me enthusiastic is looking at how to translate the Gospel to today’s under 25’s in a way that grabs their attention. Because I grew up as a Pastor’s kid and missionary kid, I get especially excited whenever I’m thinking about how to hook in ‘churched’ people that may be bored or desensitized to Jesus. I believe that there’s always a deeper relationship to be had with God and feel a real desire to see people of all ages transformed by the love and power of his Spirit in tangible ways. Mobilising Christians for mission, I believe, is a key way that we can see this happen.  

I’m very excited to be a part of the CMS team and can’t wait for the various ‘communications officiating’ that I’ll be doing by spreading the vision of mission to New Zealand and the world.

Many blessings,

Jairus.

 

 

 

 

 

Your Real Christian Life

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Have you ever found yourself thinking like this: that after the next big step you’re real Christian life will start? You’ve had some great one-off experiences, say a short-term mission trip or some amazing conferences. You know there’s so much more to be living for, that there’s a life available in God that is truly amazing. But you just have to get through the next stage – finish your degree, build up capital to buy a house, get married… It’s easy to keep pushing that ‘real Christian life’ into the future as we wait for a time where we’re suddenly change into the people we dream we could be, but that’s just not how following Jesus works! This is it! The life we’re living now will determine how we’re living in 5, 10, 20 years.

In the video above, Bishop Justin Duckworth challenges us to learn to live for God now, rather than waiting for some mystical time when things suddenly fall into place for us.

#NZCMS will be on pause this month while Jon and Kirstin are travelling overseas.

 

#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!) 

Integral Mission (Issue 27)

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By Dr Andrew Shepherd

Since the 1970’s there’s been a reawakening within the evangelical Church to the socio-economic dimensions of the Gospel. Activities such as disaster relief, medical welfare, community building & empowerment, job & income creation, trauma-counselling, peace-building, tackling structural injustices, are all now affirmed as an integral aspect of seeking the Kingdom of God.

And over the last two decades, our understanding of the scope of God’s mission has broadened further, with the rediscovery of God’s love for all of creation. The biblical narrative from beginning to end gives an account of this, explicitly stating: the goodness of creation; that creation is created and sustained by the power of God’s life-giving Spirit; of nature’s agency in praising its Creator; that creation reveals the power and nature of God; of God’s intention for the land be a place of life-giving abundance; that humanity, as caretakers, are to respect and nurture creation to fulfil its Creator’s intent for it to teem with life; that God, in Christ, is reconciling all things.

This biblical understanding – that God’s missional intent is not confined to homo sapiens but is about creating communities of shalom in which relationships between humanity, God, and all of creation are reconciled and renewed – is evident in declarations such as the Anglican Five Marks of Mission. But what does this fifth mark of mission actually mean: “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth”? How does safeguarding the integrity of creation relate to the other marks? Is caring for ecosystems and endangered species of the same priority as care for our fellow human? And, how does this fifth mark become an integral aspect of missional living in the contemporary world?

Five Marks yet interwoven

We need to recognise that the five marks, while distinct in our declarations, are in practice inextricably interwoven. Consider the work of Christian conservation organisation A Rocha in Uganda. A project of providing cheap and easy to use bio-sand water filters to produce clean and safe drinking water for slum-communities near Kampala looks, on first glance, as simply a response to essential human needs. But the benefits of this project spread beyond individuals to families, communities, the land and countless other species!

The distribution of 600 bio-sand water filters has eliminated the need for women to boil water over charcoal fires. Each bio-sand filter is utilised by five families (strengthening community) meaning 15 000 people now drink safe drinking water (health benefits), thus saving $152 000 NZD p.a. in charcoal costs and medical fees (poverty reduction). Healthy children are less often absent from school (education benefits) and women now have 15 days per household p.a. – the total time previously spent boiling water! – to devote to income-generating enterprises (gender empowerment).

And the benefits beyond homo sapiens? Previously, families required approximately 12 bags of charcoal each year for boiling water. So, for every five families, 60 fewer bags of charcoal are bought. For 15 000 people, that’s 36 000 bags. One felled tree makes two bags. Therefore, because of the filters, at least 18 000 trees each year are still growing (less carbon-emissions and on-going carbon sequestration), thus preventing top-soil erosion and desertification, and continuing to provide habitat for wildlife (bio-diversity gains).

Here in Aotearoa the Karioi – Maunga ki te Moana conservation project which seeks to restore biodiversity to a sea-bird mountain near Raglan likewise provides multiple benefits: community building & empowerment, environmental educational for youth, job and income generation for local hapu. (See www.arocha.org.nz/projects/karioi-maunga-ki-te-moana).

What’s our role?

But what of those of us living here in Aotearoa New Zealand not engaged directly in community development or conservation work? How can “safeguarding the integrity of creation” be an integral aspect of our missional living?

The Paris Climate Change conference in November 2015 was a watershed moment. After decades of denial we seem to have acknowledged that the global ecological crisis stems from the unsustainable mode of living pursued by homo sapiens (especially Westerners). Since the industrial revolution, powered by the cheap energy provided by fossil fuels, we’ve created a way of life in which speed, transience and limitlessness are seen as virtues. We live largely in ignorance to the detrimental impact our pattern of living has on other non-human inhabitants who share this planet with us. Whether we care to admit it or not, the average New Zealand standard of living is unsustainable – dependent upon an overuse of ecological capital and the exploitation of others (human and non-human).

Missional living that is serious about safeguarding the integrity of creation will reflect intentionally on the nature of our housing and churches (size, heating, energy efficiency, water use); our frequency and mode of transportation (public vs personal vehicle); our leisure activities (the luxury of overseas vacations); what we purchase (needs vs wants and the power of advertising; the ecological footprint of a product from extraction-manufacturing-transport to market to disposal; product design & longevity); and what we eat (carbon footprint; water use; ecological impact of insecticides).

Just as we should be aware of the human impact of our consumer choices (explored in Intermission Issue 25), we need to become awake to the ecological impact of our patterns of living. Such awareness however, should not to lead to paralysis.  For the sake of the poor and the planet, we need to transition towards a low-carbon economy – lowering our carbon emissions and then off-setting the rest (see www.climatestewards.org). Background knowledge provides the context where, as missional communities of faith, empowered by the Spirit, we can explore creative ways of living which will benefit all of God’s creatures.

Dr Andrew Shepherd is the National Co-Director of A Rocha Aotearoa New Zealand. Later this year, A Rocha in partnership with Tear Fund, will be releasing the Rich Living programme, designed to assist faith-communities explore sustainable ways of living. Visit www.arocha.org.nz/education-advocacy/ or email

 

For discussion

Share examples of projects which weave together the 5 Marks of Mission (evangelism, discipleship, compassion, social justice, creation care)? Why is this interweaving an essential insight for local and global mission?

What steps will you and your group make to reduce your environmental footprint?

 

 

This article mentioned a holistic bio-sand filter project that simultaneously addresses environmental, social, educational, gender and economic issues. The French government is offering funding for 100 environmental projects that receive the most votes. We encourage you to register and vote, enabling this project to grow. Voting is open until July 7. For more information, click here. To vote, click here.

Souls, Seals and Creation (Issue 27)

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When you hear the words ‘Creation Care,’ what immediately comes to mind? There are three typical Christian responses:

Irrelevant. Caring for the earth isn’t important for Christians – we should be concerned about people’s eternal future, not this earthly dwelling. For these people, the Gospel is about saving souls, not saving seals, and environmentalism is a distraction from real mission.

Incidental. Caring for creation is right and important but it’s not everybody’s calling. Just as some are ‘Christian Surfers,’ others are ‘Christian Conservationists.’ These people are glad somebody’s caring for the planet – so long as it doesn’t have to be them!

Integral. Caring for God’s world is a core Christian commitment. It’s found throughout the Bible and is essential to discipleship, worship and mission. All of us are called to witness to God’s creating, sustaining and saving love in how we care for the natural world.

God’s World, God’s Story

The story of Scripture can be summed up as Creation, Fall and Redemption. As Christians we often see this story as two dimensional, about our relationship with God and our relationship with others. But the story has a third dimension: a relationship with non-human creation.

As God created the world, he saw that all his creation – human and non-human – was good (Genesis 1). Human beings are a part of creation; we’re creatures, made on the same day as the animals. However, being made in the image of God, we’re also called apart within creation (1:26-28) and given a role to care for non-human creation (2:15).

We know that Adam & Eve’s disobedience (Genesis 3:1-19) caused a fracturing in the relationships between God and humanity (they hid from God) and between people (e.g. Adam blames Eve). However there were two other fractures: between humans and the rest of creation (3:17-19), and even between God and his creation (Romans 8:18-21). All of these relationships are damaged.

As we move through the Old Testament we see the importance of God’s relationship with not only people but also non-human creation. It’s emphasised in Genesis 9:8-17 where God establishes his covenant between himself and all life on earth. If we had space we could look at Israel and their relationship with the land, and some of the ways God expected his people to care for the land and wildlife (e.g. Deuteronomy 22:6,7; Leviticus 25:1-7).

Turning to Jesus, Colossians 1:15-20 tells us much about Jesus’ relationship with human and non-human creation. He’s the reconciler of everything on earth and in heaven. Jesus’ death brings healing to all these broken relationships, and his resurrection brings hope for the future of all things. It’s Jesus’ resurrection that’s the guarantee of hope for the whole universe. The risen Jesus was neither a ghost nor a disembodied soul. There was no dead body left behind in the tomb. He was and is physically alive. The risen Christ is the guarantee that those who trust in him will be raised from the dead and that the whole created order will be transformed and renewed.

So… what does this mean for you, me and those three damaged relationships? If we truly love God, we’ll love and care for his creation. If a friend you loved gave you a beautiful ceramic fruit bowl that she’d made, would you use it as a rubbish bin, allowing it to become dirty and trashed?

If we love God we’ll love what he loves. Every time we’re too lazy to rinse out that container so it can go into the recycling bin, or can’t be bothered walking to the local shops so take the car, we make a spiritual choice to be selfish and say ‘no’ to treating the earth as if it really is the Lord’s. Whenever we buy cheap meat without asking if the animal was cruelly farmed, we show disrespect to our Creator. These are uncomfortable truths, and I don’t always get it right, yet it’s vital we realise the links between our relationship with God and our relationship with the planet.

If we truly love God and love others, we’ll love and care for God’s creation. Today’s average Kiwi uses such large amounts of the earth’s resources that we’d probably need more than three planet earths for everybody in the world to live the same way. How I live and the daily lifestyle choices I make affect everyone else on the planet. We can’t escape the reality that the over-consumerism and waste of 20% of the world, us included, leaves the remaining 80% starving and dying early from poisoned waters, soil and air. (You can do a ‘foot print’ calculator to find out how many planet earths we’d need if everyone lived like you: goo.gl/5WnnD9) .

Changing our lifestyles is one of the hardest things to do, but if our desire for change stems ultimately from our relationship with God and with others then I believe it can happen, just one step at a time.

Acknowledgements to A Rocha International’s Director of Theology Rev. Dave Bookless for some of the ideas in this article. Lesley recommends his book Planetwise: Dare to Care for God’s World.

 

For discussion

Which of the three views (irrelevant, incidental, integral) have you held throughout your Christian life and why?

What more can we learn about the relationship between Jesus and all creation from Colossians 1:15-20?

 

Squad Goals

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I remember it vividly. My younger 17 year old self was sitting in the pews of a large inner-city church in Auckland. The old stained glass windows glistened in the dim glow of the electric chandeliers above. The arched brick work cast criss-crossing shadows that our buildings don’t seem to have any more. The church was quiet, apart from the speaker’s voice which was projected by the amplifiers hanging from the rafters. It filled the room with carefully chosen words as he articulated the mystery of the Three-in-One God that is the breath in our lungs.

For the first time in my life, I began to comprehend that the Godhead was in community within itself. Three-persons-in-one, dancing together in perfect love, relationship, and vulnerability. The speaker said “From the start of time, being made in God’s image has meant that we were made for community. We were made for each other, to share in the community of God with one-another here on earth.”

“That’s awesome!”, I thought. But as I looked around the room at the white hipsters, surfer dudes, and young professionals in the pews around me, I started to ask myself, “where are the people here who don’t look like me?” “Why is it that none of the homeless in the inner city seem to feel comfortable enough here to come on a Sunday?” “Does Christian community only include those who I want to hang out with?”

Sometimes, despite the truth and mystery of the Trinity, I feel like the church is often a place where community is not so much a dance as it is an organised march; not so much a place of fulfilling, loving relationship as it is a primary school disco where people sit on opposite sides of the room, or dances by themselves. And sometimes, even worse, the church simply offers the same plastic promises of community as the Empire, in which we only hang out with those who look like us, act like us, dress like us, and think like us. There has to be more to community than hanging out with people that are exactly like ourselves, otherwise we end up ignoring others who are different and creating a system of those who are in and those who are not. And we end up thinking one way – never being challenged to see another side of the story we call life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve experienced incredible, welcoming, diverse community in the church, too, and ultimately imperfect people will never be as good at loving as God is. Nonetheless, I’ve heard countless stories of people who have felt excluded, ostracised, unwelcome, and too different to fit into communities that are trying to model the radical love and grace of our servant King, and that needs to be addressed.

Many of us will have heard that we are made for each other, but many of us will be asking as we get older, are we really acting like that’s true. I am captivated by the Triune God, the three-in-one in perfect community, and I would like to see us as the Body of Christ better reflecting the image we bear. Are we willing to ask the hard questions about our ‘squads’ and take up the challenge to live differently in community with others?

Jeremy Harris lives in Auckland. Jeremy is a student at Carey Baptist College, a voluntary youth coordinator, a writer and a poet. He heads up Grace Collective (young adult Anglican shenanigans). Their latest event ‘Squad’ tackled the issues Jeremy writes about here. This blog originates from www.gracecollective.wordpress.com

 

THE MUSE

How does the church you belong to ‘do’ community? How is/isn’t the church faithful ‘image-bearers’?

 

THE MOVE

Invite someone you wouldn’t normally invite to your place for a coffee or meal this week. Or, if that’s too scary, strike up conversations with different people you encounter as you go about your week. Simply ask to hear their story.

#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!) 

Sending Mail to the Wrong Address

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You can’t ‘do mission’ without knowing your context. And unfortunately we Christians don’t always understand our own culture very well. It’s been hard for us to keep up in the “post age”: post-modern, post-Christian, post-colonial, post-postal service (almost!). Bishop Justin Duckworth recently said that the church is “sending mail to the wrong address”; the culture has moved on, but we still talk, act and do-church in ways relevant to a past era.

Justin has a gift of being able to name where New Zealand is at, and in this recent video at Laidlaw that’s precisely what he does. It’s long, we thoroughly encourage you to crack out the popcorn and give it a watch!

Liminal Spaces: Freaking out about transition

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Transition is difficult. It’s hard to know how to feel in the midst of coming, and going, leaving the old, and starting the new, even when we know what we’re going to is something good.

What about when we don’t know what comes next? There are times when a season comes to an end, but God hasn’t yet opened the door into something new.

We find ourselves in the ‘grey space,’ evading questions about the future, and desperately hoping that something concrete comes our way soon.

There’s a phrase I find really useful to describe this space – ‘liminal space.’ It describes being in transition, standing on a threshold, but being unsure of which way you should aim, or which direction God is pointing you in. Richard Rohr suggests that this space is sometimes referred to as a ‘luminous darkness,’ the space of ‘not-knowing’:

“It is when you have left the ‘tried and true’ but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are in between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. It is no fun.” (p22 – Grieving as Sacred Space)

As someone who likes control and to plan, I find ‘liminality’ very uncomfortable… plus it’s a challenge to my pride and my sense of having it all together. I find myself worrying about the future – questions about calling, jobs, location and community are all strongly interwoven.

In this space, I want something firm to hang on to, a goal to aim at. But I don’t have one. Rarely am I comfortable with saying ‘I don’t know what’s next.’ Rather than be present to the uncomfortable fact that I do not have the answer and I am not in control, my own way of dealing with this space is to come up with all sorts of crazy options for the future, preferring the abstract, absurd and impossible over the unknown.

I can hide from the gift of liminal space, evading the ‘blessing of unknowing’ with busyness, tasks, excuses, and explanations. But it would be a waste. This space is actually an invitation to learn to live with ambiguity and anxiety, to trust and to wait. It’s a space in which I need to avoid the temptation to ‘explain away’ my unknowing, or to justify why I don’t have a five-year plan.

In this place, where the light has not been thrown upon what happens next, I’m being invited to trust, to lean into the God who has proved himself to be faithful time and time again. This ‘leaning in’ frees me from the burden of being in control, and of knowing exactly what to plan for. Instead, I’m invited into relationship, to embrace the vulnerability of not having all the answers, and instead to trust in the goodness, provision, and kindness of God.

 

THE MUSE

Are you in a space where you aren’t quite sure what the future holds, or you sense that a change may be coming? How can this idea of ‘liminal space’ help you to embrace the ‘not knowing’ as you wait for God to speak clearly?

THE MOVE

Ask God to place the right people around you as you journey through transition – whether now, or in the future. Be intentional about meeting with friends for prayer and conversation – you may not get all the answers you need, but having people who will support you in this space is invaluable.

 

#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!) 

 

You can’t do it alone

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I’m sure you’ll agree God has called us to make a real difference in the world. And if you’re been sitting in that space for a while, you’ll have realised that changing the world often starts with being transformed ourselves. Like the bumper-sticker says, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Change agents are those who don’t just do a whole heap of stuff, but who have come to embody values that set them apart and drive them to really make a difference. It’s pretty difficult to be both missional and selfish, or greedy, or lazy, or constantly grumpy, or judgemental, or controlling, or gossipy. …

The thing is, many of us put pressure on ourselves to change. … and beat ourselves up when we don’t! Maybe this is partly because we’ve been taught somewhere along the way that we can make self-change happen. We just need the will to change. There’s truth in that, but real change almost always happens in community. It’s belonging to a group that share common values that will help us develop and keep those values.

Bishop Justin Duckworth spoke at the NZCMS Cultivate conference in 2014. In this video he talks about our need for community.

 

How Now Should We Shop? An Action Plan (Issue 26)

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“Now that I’ve seen, I am responsible” – Brooke Fraser

Knowing what we now know, we have a choice: forget about it and do nothing, get overwhelmed and do nothing, or take steps towards change. Here are some tips I’ve found helpful to counter our culture’s consumerism while becoming more of a ‘Kingdom-shopper.’

Admit we’re wrong, admit we’re learning. The first step is always admitting we have a problem, but we also need to acknowledge that becoming a Kingdom-shopper is a journey that takes time. Let’s not beat ourselves up if this is new, and let’s not look down on others who aren’t as far along either.

Make small steps. It’s difficult to jump straight into shopping 100% ethically, and rushed change doesn’t always last. Slow but consistent is better than fast but short-lived.

Celebrate the ‘wins’ along the way. Do a ‘whoop-whoop’ or hi-five when you find a new ethical product or a brand making positive changes.

Buy second-hand. Buying used stuff challenges our materialistic tendencies and doesn’t contribute to the demand of ethically questionable products.

Buy local. Locally produced products are less likely to have ethical issues as they’re produced under NZ law.

Stall before buying. Pause before buying anything and ask whether it’s really needed. The higher the cost, the longer the stall (like 30 days for expensive items).

Buy quality. If you need to buy something with questionable origins, buy something that will last so it won’t need replacing.

Research expands options. If we don’t research in advance, we can be caught-out, needing to buy something less ethical or very pricey.Giving ourselves time makes Kingdom-shopping an opportunity, not an inconvenience.

Wear it out. Do I really need the latest iPhone or that new pair of shoes? Let’s be counter cultural by actually using what we buy until it needs to be replaced.

Fair-trade isn’t the only option. Buying exclusively Fair Trade (or equivalent) brands isn’t always possible or viable, but many other brands are making positive steps. I choose to consider a company’s trajectory – are they actively trying to improve? Plus companies are more likely to listen and make changes if I’m actually a customer.

Expect to be frustrated, misunderstood and disappointed. You’ll find many favourite brands fail to meet fair ethical standards. It’s meant no more Hallensteins jeans for me (but thankfully Cotton On is heading in the right direction). And friends won’t always understand why you’ve become picky about where you shop.

Make a tough decision. When Jacob was born I made the conscious decision that my child wasn’t going to grow up at the expense of someone else’s. It’s been surprisingly difficult, but having such a personal (and specific) goal has made compromising much harder.

Make it daily conversation. Don’t keep it to yourself, but journey together with friends or family. Mari and I talk about ‘slavings’ when we see suspiciously cheap products or are tempted to buy something we probably shouldn’t. It may sound crass, but it’s made us conscious of product origins and has made it easy and natural to constantly remember something deeply serious.

Don’t just talk. 90% of Kiwis say we want to shop ethically – let’s actually act!

The remarkable thing is, if you start living and thinking this way, you’ll discover the way you view the world changes. It’s becoming easier to value other people’s freedom than my own convenience, and increasingly difficult for me to enter the temple of the local shopping-mall… and I think that’s a good thing.