New Zealand

How are we doing (from Missions Interlink NZ)

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The following has been shared from the most recent Missions Interlink Bulletin

Is recent emphasis on “missional thinking” making a Kingdom difference? Alan Vink, National Director at Willow Creek Association NZ, recently shared some sobering statistics concerning Christian realities in Aotearoa NZ. He was the opening speaker at the ENGAGE Evangelism Conference in Tauranga, September 2 – 3 2016. By sharing the raw data with the church and parachurch ministers present, Alan wanted to encourage us to reassess how we are doing and therefore what we are doing to extend God’s kingdom in Aotearoa (and, by association, beyond).

Having “done the numbers”, Alan placed the number of churches in NZ at around 3,000. According the data he had access to (presumably the last NZ census), 10 to 12% of our 4.7 million NZers “regularly” attend a church, of any type. “Regular”, Alan clarified,”is about once every three weeks”. More number-gymnastics followed to expose how infrequently “regular” church goers are exposed to communal Christian life, potentially missing out on transformative disciple-forming teaching, worship and fellowship.

The point Alan rammed home was that the percentage had not changed in decades. His research showed a very short lived rise during the charismatic renewal of the 70’s/80’s but attendance soon returned to around the 10% mark. For all the resources poured into outreach efforts and community ministries, all the new churches planted and mega churches grown, and all the immigrant believers bolstering city church numbers, the percentages remain consistently low.

Furthermore, Alan noted that conversion rates (as determined by recorded baptisms) are even more lamentable. Selecting a reasonably representative denomination, he reported that in 2015 225 ‘average’ sized churches in this denomination baptised 500 people—that’s just over 2 per church per year. He claimed that 70-80% of the NZ population is now beyond the reach of a gospel witness. Drawing on research by Nick Thompson of Auckland University, Alan identified the most gospel-resistant sector as “middle-class NZ” declaring, “affluence is a clear barrier to the gospel.”

How are we doing? For all our community outreach initiatives and so called “missional” thinking, apparently we have a long way to go and much prayerful rethinking to do. Future mission from Aotearoa NZ is contingent on this situation changing.

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!

Pacific 2 Nations: a Report

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NZCMS Office Intern, Ropeta, recently attending the Pacific 2 Nations conference in Auckland, a conference focusing on calling Pacific people into global mission. Here she shares her reflections from the event.

If my people….

never had the chance to hear the Gospel, I wonder how different my life would be.

If my people…..

have heard the Good News of Jesus, how has this shaped and transformed their lives, their families, their communities and their nations?

This year’s P2N conference theme was ‘Awakening the Warrior.’ Leading up to the conference I had pondered the above questions. What did it take for someone that was so on fire for God to leave the comforts of home and overcome barriers such as language, finances etc. to venture out and take the Good News of Jesus across the Pacific ocean? I truly believe it came down to their first love, knowing who Jesus was and what he had done for them and wanting to share that with others. The Great Commandment and the Great Commission – they go hand in hand.

Seems so simple, yet so daunting. I guess that’s what makes a Warrior.

My definition of a warrior: Someone who is loyal, gets the job done no matter what the cost is for them. They are often the hero in the making on the verge of doing something great. They are misunderstood at times but always pull through. They are forceful souls; they embody qualities of strength, courage and determination. They rise to the challenge because there are causes to serve and struggles to overcome, battles to be won. They like to be on the front line with their trusted comrades. Their basic drive is to uphold what is right and defeat what is wrong. They are honourable, faithful and a true witness to the mission. This is the warrior.

I have come away from the P2N conference challenged, stirred and out of my comfort zone. The speakers were great, the worship was on point and the message has hit home for me: be available, no more excuses and it’s time to take part in what God is already doing. I don’t want to be the disobedient one. I want be a part of God’s plan to be a blessing to others. Because I have heard the Gospel, I see how it has transformed and shaped people’s lives, communities and nations. I want to be a warrior for mission and be a part of God’s story, one that brings hope, love, transformation and grace to all his people and creation.

The Pacific drum for mission is beating from the north in Hawaii, from the east in Tahiti, from the west in Papua New Guinea and to the south in New Zealand. It’s getting louder and louder but will my people hear it?

God is awakening the warrior.

 

(The above photo is from Amy Huffaker on Flickr.)

Reaching out by inviting them in (Issue 23 bonus material)

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By Felicia Erickson

Middleton Grange International College in Christchurch has been serving the international student community since 2000. From the beginning homestays have been part of our strategy and we’ve placed thousands of students in primarily Christian homes. Our school moto is “In Thy Light shall we see Light” from Psalm 36:9, and with this as our focus we’ve been able to equip our students with the truth of the Gospel and shine light into the world.

As a Christian organisation, part of our God given mission has been to find ways to include international students in the school, most of them coming from non-Christian backgrounds. But can the hosting of students – the welcoming of students into homes and families – also be seen as missional? Rather than answering from the school’s perspective, I thought it’d be interesting to hear from one of our host families. Below is an interview with one of our host mums.

 

Why did you consider hosting for a Christian school?

I’ve been hosting international students since 2009. A friend asked me to host for Middleton Grange since she knew I had hosted other students for different English language study providers before. Now that I have hosted for Middleton Grange I will certainly continue to be available for their students in the future.

As a Christian, I want to be free to share my faith, and hosting for a Christian school means students are constantly interacting with other Christians. This means there is continuity between their experiences at school and home – there’s a missional overlap between their formal life at school and their informal life as a temporary member of our family.

How is welcoming home-stays into your family life a missional opportunity?

While they’re with us we include students as members of the family, providing support as they adjust to life in a new country and are away from their families. This hospitality is one way we outwork our faith.

We openly share our faith through our day-to-day relationship with them and include them in the ways our faith is outworked at home. We also include them in our faith-based activities, including church and youth group as well as a Christian outreach to the homeless and less advantaged at Latimer Square on Friday evenings. At home, I make an effort a few evenings a week to play cards one-one-one with my students so we have an opportunity for conversation. This has often turned to faith-based discussions that have emerged through conversation about their daily activities and issues they are working through back home with friends and family.

What sort of fruit have you seen?

Through the time together closeness develops and I think my faith shines through as I show them love and genuinely come to love them. We’ve been encouraged by comments from students about how loved and welcomed they felt, many saying they now feel part of our family. We also celebrate when students say that their faith has become much stronger during their time with us. The students we’ve hosted who happen to go to church only go for Christmas and Easter. Many have commented how different our church, Grace Vineyard, is and how much more fun it is. They say they look forward to church and youth group and now realise it is not only for ‘old people.’

We’ve also discovered that hosting students encourages us in our faith. It has provided opportunities for us to see the fruit of living out our faith. So it’s not just for the benefit of the students!

 

Why not consider hosting international students as part of your family’s mission? What could be more missional than welcoming someone into your life, allowing them to see your faith in action. This is one very simple, very concrete way you can welcome the ‘stranger among us.’

For more information about Middleton Grange’s International College feel free to contact call 03 341-4054 or email a.wright@middleton.school.nz

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.

Strangers and Syrians – What Helping Looks Like (Issue 23)

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I arrived back in Wellington airport the week before Christmas feeling a little like a stranger in my own land. Two months later, I was again at the airport, but this time I was holding up a welcome sign in Arabic, waiting for a Syrian refugee family to arrive.

While on NZCMS leave and home service I’ve been volunteering with Red Cross refugee services. Because of my understanding of Arabic and my familiarity with Middle Eastern culture, I’ve been able to offer support to a Syrian mother and her five children, helping them adjust to life in New Zealand. This has involved collecting donated goods and furnishing their house, accompanying the family to appointments for housing and benefits, enrolling them in schools and medical services, and teaching them about public transport and banking.

Since the family don’t speak English and my conversational Arabic is reasonably fluent, I’ve been doing a lot of translation. This is fantastic Arabic practice for me and makes it easier for them to communicate with the others supporting them. There’s also been a need for some cultural translation – we may be familiar with how life works in our country, but for a foreigner things can be quite strange and difficult to understand. And it’s not just the big stuff like learning the language and understanding our (mumbly) accent. For example, we’ve been discussing the difference between pyjamas and track-pants, and teaching them the rules of cricket (which, as it turns out, is important for living in New Zealand when we’re hosting a world cup!)

It doesn’t just go one way either. I may be welcoming them into my Kiwi world, but they are equally delighted to welcome me into theirs. It was a hilarious and great joy to join in a ‘henna night’ (an Arabic hen’s party) for one of the daughters who is about to get married. In the context of a women’s only environment, the veiled Muslim women wearing long loose fitting clothes were unrecognisable in their tight mini-dresses, full make-up and belly dancing moves! Which raises an important point: Many of us will love the idea of helping out with families like this, but we find a number of barriers in our way.

One barrier might be that you don’t feel you know enough about their culture to be any help. Another may be that, deep down – hidden somewhere in your heart – is prejudice, a distrust of their culture, fear of opening up to people you don’t really understand. Sometimes the most missional thing we can do is take on the role of humble learner, giving them the honour of being the cultural teachers. And in the process we may discover that some of our prejudices melt away. Those strange veiled women – something we don’t really understand – suddenly become people like us in the privacy of their own home!

In Cairo, I used to walk past Syrian refugees every day on my way to the gym and to buy vegetables. In fact, the United Nations refugee agency hired part of the All Saints Cathedral building in Cairo as a refugee centre. Although the Anglican Church in Cairo has a large refugee ministry, I wasn’t able to engage with it personally or offer much of a hand, except to pray as I walked past them each day. So the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of one Syrian family settling in New Zealand has brought great joy to me. With all the news of wars and violence in the Middle East, it was hard not to respond in this practical way when the opportunity presented itself. Plus a side benefit has been eating Middle Eastern food and drinking cardamom-infused sweet Arab coffee – something I miss from Egypt!

For families like this, our volunteer team plays a significant role in their first six months of New Zealand life, as it takes at least six months to really settle in a new place. The goal of the volunteers is to support the family to live independently in New Zealand after this time.

There’s lot of ways Kiwis can help support and journey with the ’strangers among us.’ And it’s not just people like me who happen to speak another language that can make a difference. What’s needed is regular Kiwis willing to give some of their time to people that are feeling lost, alone and vulnerable in an unfamiliar land. As Scripture says, “Treat the stranger among you as if they were one of you, loving them as you love yourself” (Leviticus 19:34).

Volunteering with Red Cross is definitely an option I’d recommend. For more information, see their website.

 

For Discussion

What barriers keep you from taking opportunities – big or small – to welcome foreigners to our land?

What ways can your community, small group or family reach out to ‘strangers’ like the family above?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.

The Practice of Loving Strangers (Issue 23)

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Scripture doesn’t seem to have a problem with self-love. In fact, it seems to be a given. Jesus told us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. But what about those who are not our ‘neighbour’? Scripture tells us that our love for the ‘stranger’ is to be as strong as our love for ourselves: “Treat the stranger among you as if they were one of you, and you shall love them as you love yourself” (Leviticus 19:34). My dear friend, if you’re to look deep within yourself, can you honestly say that you’ve learned to love ‘the stranger’ as yourself? If not, are you willing to do it?

Our story of loving ‘strangers’

The Lord has sent us in New Zealand sojourners who are different to us in race, language, colour and beliefs. He has sent them to us as a Church. In 2001 a vision was given to start a ministry in Christchurch among migrants and refugees from the Middle East. Soon after the ministry was established, it started to serve a large sector of migrants in many areas, helping them settle. Over time we’ve learned much about what it means to love ‘strangers among us.’ We’ve learned that helping and loving others is more valuable than time and that migrants are not ‘clients’ or ‘cases’ but friends and brothers and sisters. We’ve learned that immigration is like an organ transplant. It’s removing a living organ from one body and transplanting it into another. It comes with pain, suffering and sometimes rejection. It is a long process for the new organ to fit into the new body successfully. And above all, practical love is the key to people’s hearts. We’ve learned that others are more willing to hear the Good News if they see God’s love through us as we share with them in their suffering.

I can tell you many stories of individuals I’ve met on this journey who are suffering and in need, people who are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, spouses and children. Like the father who had to leave behind his children, wife and his business to flee for his faith. Or the medical doctor in his mid- 20’s who came to live as Christian leaving behind wealth, a little daughter and his wife – his family gave his wife to another man while he has been in NZ. Or the two girls who were abused by their own family members – when they received Christ they had to leave their country to escape the death penalty.

What does loving a stranger look like? We’ve helped many brothers and sisters who’ve come to Aotearoa for safety. We also have the opportunity to help international students who are coming from Islamic countries for education. After asking the Lord to open a door, a friend who is a taxi driver met one of these students who needed help. He connected that student to us and the next week another 40 students were meeting in our office for cultural activities. Many of them accepted Christ as a Lord and Saviour.

We’ve been able to provide emergency accommodation, financial support, legal aid, friendship, pastoral care. We’ve offered ourselves as a family for them and connected them to godly people who helped them in different areas. We see Christians using their God-given gifts and placement within New Zealand society to help us to love these ‘strangers’ among us.

Many more stories could be told – we have a new one every day. The Lord is doing his work, and we are the tools in his hand. The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. There is much that we can do to love the stranger among us.

Practical suggestions

Speak to your pastor or mission team about putting you in contact with someone who is serving in this area or ask them if they know of a ‘stranger’ who needs help. Introduce yourself to a migrant or visitor to your church and consider inviting them for a meal at your home where you can come to know them closer. Perhaps that will open further opportunities to help: assisting them with finding a job, with cultural adjustment, with basic living needs. If you know about a new neighbour, go knock on their door. Introduce yourself, welcome them and invite them over if they want. Call a mission organisation or group that is works with migrants or refugees. Offer yourself to share in welcoming and helping ‘strangers.’ Commit as a church or small group to regularly pray for the ‘strangers’ in your community. Perhaps this could even become part of your regular church services or small group gatherings? Take time to identify the needs in your local community. What is it that ‘strangers’ are in need of? Is it guidance, cultural-interpretation, friendship, counselling, work skills, housing and furniture? Are there ways your church or small group could start meeting some of these needs? Perhaps most importantly, lift up your heart to God and ask him to open your eyes to see and find those who are in need.

If anyone is interested to learn more about this ministry in Christchurch, please contact office@nzcms.org.nz

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.

The Gospel Crossing Kiwi Cultures (Issue 23)

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By John Hornblow

We live in Palmerston North, a city of about 80000, home to over 120 different ethnicities. Within the city, All Saints Anglican Parish is engaging with many born beyond our shores. There are many ‘strangers among us’ that we want to welcome and support.

Some ways our church community offer welcome and support include: resettling Afghan and other refugees, teaching English to eager students, offering hospitality to our large Bhutanese community and ministering to international students and staff at our tertiary institutions. It’s all about offering friendship, the opportunity to feel safe in a community again, maybe an invitation to attend a Bible study group or be included in a worship service.

These are all great beginnings. However, often these ministries operate unintentionally in silos. To bring these different ministries to the awareness of our church community we’re spending a month in August centred around ‘The Gospel crossing cultures in Aotearoa.’ During the month we’ll provide space in our worship services for people to tell stories of the Gospel crossing cultures and what that looks like for them. We’ve also invited Steve Maina to share about the challenge of integrating into a western culture. We’ll hear stories from the Wellington Chinese Mission about the excellent work they do amongst their people. We’re looking forward to many others who will share their journey of being strangers and becoming family within Aotearoa.

We hope this will deepen understanding, stimulate prayer, gain support and provide encouragement. It’s more than just learning what we do, but about discovering that crossing-cultures and welcoming ‘strangers’ is central to the Gospel we’re called to live.

This is one way we’re seeking to be more aware of the ‘strangers among us,’ helping our parish engage with the reality of life for many people in our neighbourhood and discover the cross-cultural mission opportunities in our own backyard.

 

For discussion

What cross-cultural opportunities exist in your own neighbourhood?

How is God calling your church to respond?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.

The Shape of Today’s World (Issue 23)

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It wasn’t all that long ago that you could walk down the street and only run into people just like you – people who shared similar upbringings, values, interests, beliefs. We were all basically the same, like smurfs among smurfs, or Temuera Morrison among the clones. Sure, we knew that there were people somewhere who were entirely different to us, but they were far away from our world and (most probably) far away from our thoughts. We knew of missionaries who had braved the elements and set sail to those ‘others,’ but only the elite few possessed such a calling.

But worlds collide.

Not long after we discovered Chinese food and Thai curries we realised that our once homogeneous cities were becoming increasingly diverse. Thanks to a number of factors – globalisation, convenient international travel, the internet, refugees seeking asylum to name a few – we regularly find ourselves rubbing shoulders with people different to ourselves, with ‘others.’

In fact, in 21st Century New Zealand you’d have to make quite an effort to avoid crossing paths with Asians and Africans, Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists on an almost day to day basis. And this isn’t merely the case in a few western cities. Almost the entire world, from America to China, from New Zealand to India, is now culturally and religiously plural. And guess what: we’re at the heart of it. New Zealand is now home to more ethnicities than there are countries in the world (213 compared to 196) and by 2021 one-third of Aucklanders will identify themselves as Asian.

If we’re honest, many of us would admit that we once imagined the ‘average Kiwi’ to be white Pakeha living alongside a minority of Maori and Pacific Islanders. Maybe there was once some truth to such a perspective, but these days there simply isn’t such a thing as the ‘average Kiwi.’ New Zealand is simply too diverse to allow for such a category, and until we recognise that, we will stand in the way of what God is wanting to do in this nation.

 

A missed opportunity

Cross-cultural mission was once about going ‘over there.’ If we were to do as Jesus told us and make disciples of all peoples, then our only option was to get on a boat or a plane and actually go to them. Why? Because they were not here!

How about now? I’m married to a Norwegian. On one side of our home lives a lovely, young Korean couple. On the other side, a retired Welsh couple. So, in my small patch of New Zealand, I’m the minority as a Kiwi European. And it’s the same across the country. It’d be hard to find a classroom that didn’t capture some of this diversity: Asians, Africans, Europeans, Pacific Islanders. And while some are immigrants, many were born here – New Zealand truly is their home.

This cultural diversity is an opportunity I’m afraid the majority of the Church has missed. We’ve missed it badly. While we’ve been worrying about running our programme and sending people to the ‘others’ overseas, we haven’t noticed that world has come to us! People from some of the most unreached parts of the world – regions virtually untouched by the Gospel – are now at our doorsteps. And we don’t know what to do about it!

With cultural diversity comes religious diversity, and that can be threatening. But we can’t hide behind the walls of the church and deny this new cultural landscape. The plural world has become our plural world, and we need to learn what it means to not only confront the religions, but also coexist with them. It’s time for the western Church to grapple head-on (and with humility!) the question of “Jesus and the religions.”

 

Jesus, Gentiles and Samaritans

Christians have almost always lived along people of other faiths, yet strangely very few – almost none – have considered that Jesus himself interacted with peoples of other faiths, with Gentiles and Samaritans. It is about time that we turn to Jesus for a model of how we should relate to the ‘Gentiles and Samaritans’ of our world.

Jesus encountered people who worshiped idols, some who had an incredibly distorted view of the God of Israel, and probably some who worshiped Caesar as if he were a god. And how did Jesus respond to such people? He healed their children and servants (John 4:46-54). He praised their limited faith (Matthew 15:21-28). He pointed to them as models to emulate (Matthew 8:5-13). He accepted them despite significant cultural prejudices (John 4:4-42). He petitioned God to forgive them when they nailed him to a cross (Luke 23:34). He didn’t separate himself from them but received them, showing God’s welcome, love, justice, mercy and grace.

Jesus is our supreme example of what the human life can and should be. It’s only fitting that we see in him a model of how God would have us relate to the ‘outsiders’ of our world, the ‘strangers’ among us.

 

For discussion

What is the cultural and religious make-up of your neighbourhood? What research could you do? (A start could be the New Zealand Religion Map)

Read some of the passages mentioned above. What challenges you about how Jesus treated people with different religious and cultural beliefs? What’s one thing you can work on?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.

From the editor (Issue 22)

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Last year was a big one for New Zealand and for us at NZCMS. We reflected on all God has done in this nation since the Gospel was first preached on our soil 200 years. Christians across the nation were reminded of the power of the Gospel as we considered the impact it has had in our history. Now that 2014 is behind us, what have learned and what are we to do about it? This edition of Intermission seeks to answer those questions as we look back on the last year.

You’ll notice discussion questions at the end of some articles – we hope this will help you reflect as you consider the next ‘mission steps’ for you, your church and your community. Why not use these in your small group over the next month?

 

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your group? For more information or to order copies click here.

11.11am for Haerenga

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You’re probably well aware that our Haerenga Mission Internship isn’t running this year. Initially we were quite disappointed when we reluctantly made the decision to postpone it until 2016, but we’re come to recognize God’s hand at work. He has given us an incredible window of opportunity to review, tweak and re-launch our Internship – something we simply wouldn’t have had time to do had the internship been running this year. So praise God that he really does determine our paths as we trust in him (Proverbs 3:5).

Thus far the review has been a long and prayerful process as we’ve laid Haerenga before the Lord and asked him to lead us and place us where he wants us to be. There have been many conversations, questions, prayers, tears, wonderings and imaginings happening over the past weeks as we consider how to best serve the Church in growing up missional disciples for God’s Kingdom purposes. As we got deeper into the process of reviewing – interviews, surveys, many discussions – it felt as if we were in the midst of a deep fog, not quite sure where we should be going. But, thankfully, that fog is lifting. We are beginning to sense where God is leading us with our Haerenga Internship.

This is where you come in. Over the past few years we have had 11 young people journey with NZCMS as Haerenga interns. Will you join us this week, every day at 11:11am, praying for the future of the Haerenga Mission Internship, for the young people of New Zealand, and for strategies for engaging and equipping young Kiwis for mission?