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Reverse Mission Update

I thought it’s about time I gave you an update on our efforts to support what we’ve been calling ‘reverse mission’ here in New Zealand. New Zealand has become a largely secular nation despite its deep Christian roots. At the latest census in 2013, no fewer than 1.8 million people declared themselves as having no religious affiliation or objected to answering the question. That made up 43% of the population and could soon surpass the number of New Zealanders (44%) who identify themselves as ‘Christian.’ If we look at the Christian scene, most traditional denominations are in decline and Roman Catholics now outnumber Anglicans.

A second trend is also evident: the rapid growth of non-Christian religions in New Zealand. Almost 300 000 residents belong to others faiths, the largest group being Hindus which has grown 126% in number since 2001. Overall, affiliation to non-Christian faiths has grown by 67% in the past 15 years.

All that makes it clear: New Zealand is no longer just a ‘sending country,’ but also one in need of focused mission engagement! Kiwis need to hear the Good News in fresh and relevant ways, and sometimes ‘outsiders’ can do this more effectively than those immersed in their own culture. Missional Christians from other cultures can also play an important role in encouraging Kiwi churches to get involved in mission, both locally and beyond our borders, and can help them become better skilled and more effective in cross-cultural ministry.

Like Paul, many Christians from places like Africa and Asia have heard a ‘Macedonian call’, “Please come to help us” (Acts 16:9). These are people who follow Jesus as a result of the hard work of missionaries from places like New Zealand over the past two centuries, but now the Gospel need in our own land is driving them to come as missionaries to our shores: the tables have turned, mission has been reversed and now we’re in need at least as much as their countries. But is the Kiwi Church ready to recognise our own struggles, faults and failures, and are we open to being challenged and changed by new ideas, outside voices and fresh approaches? 

The NZCMS Board has recently endorsed ‘Reverse Mission’ as part of our broader mission strategy. Essentially, what’s envisaged is a greater emphasis on facilitating the placement of these ‘reverse missionaries’ in ministry in New Zealand churches.

I see one of NZCMS’s main contributions as facilitating contact between ‘reverse missionaries’ and host churches – a bit like a dating agency really. We’ll receive requests from New Zealand churches and use our global networks to connect these churches with overseas people who have the skills, abilities and experience needed. We’ll also provide cross-cultural orientation for ‘reverse missionaries,’ pastoral care back-up, advice in crisis situations and prayer support, as well as help host churches prepare to receive their ‘reverse missionaries.’ Please pray that God raises workers from other parts of the world to come to NZ to support the Kiwi Church in her mission, and that we’ll have open hearts to respond to what God is doing.