Publications

The Spiritual Battles, Here and Now (Intermission – Issue 36)

Posted on

The following stories are from those in New Zealand and all around the world who are aware of and have been fighting spiritual battles recently. Ephesians 6:12 says

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

My purpose for collecting and sharing these stories is so that you become aware that this spiritual battle is very real. And I believe that God wants more of us to become aware of this so that we can begin to learn how to fight against “the spiritual forces of evil” for the extension of his Kingdom. 

Jonathan Hicks – CMS Mission Partner in Solomon Islands

“The Song”

Parents in Melanesia face lifelong liability for their children’s actions. Silas and Aiye’s son has a sexual addiction. Already in significant debt, the couple is broadsided by a series of compensation claims from families of several young women. One family threatens violence. Ashamed to ask their community to help them with their expenses, the parents are paralysed. Then Silas comes to our house telling us that Aiye has gone missing for a whole day. As evening sets in, we pray that God will bring her safely home.

After dark, she arrives at our house: “When I heard about my son this morning, my heart became like a stone. I wandered in the bush until evening. I came to a tall cliff. I stood there on the edge of it, imagining myself falling down. Then a bird flew over me and sang brightly. My heart felt something again. The light came in. I woke as if from sleep and walked home.” We had prayed with Silas fifteen minutes earlier. The place where she was standing? A fifteen-minute walk from the village.

“A Warrior Spirit”

Melanesian priests often begin their training with significant spiritual baggage. Sometimes they have invited evil spirits into their lives to give them more spiritual authority. Sometimes this was done for them at birth. In May 2018, the Lord made it clear to me and Andrew that we needed to confront his fellow student because he had a very powerful devil-spirit. The student was convicted by our message and agreed to meet at the school chapel to pray for deliverance.

During the deliverance, we realised we were confronting a warrior spirit that had caused the death of several people before. Surprisingly, this realisation caused absolutely no fear at all. As we prayed for him, I was aware only that we were being helped by the Prince of Peace. Andrew – who has a gift of discernment – said he saw a figure dressed in white standing above the two of us. The Lord answered our prayer and the evil spirit left our friend. When it had gone, the student did two things he had never done before. He wept – his wife of thirty years had never heard him do this – and he asked to be re-named. We anointed him and he received the name of a great priest-king from the Old Testament. 

 

Peter – Vicar in Christchurch at Halswell-Prebbleton parish and Archbishop’s Commissary

“A Story from Christchurch”

As a vicar or minister of the Gospel, you get called on to do some pretty strange things every now and then.

About a month ago, the Cathedral staff fielded a call from a man who was convinced his house was haunted. Strange things were happening, and he was hearing voices urging him to kill himself. More seriously, his adult son living with him had, in fact, attempted suicide. He wanted “the bishop” to come and exorcise his house. So in due course, Mark Barlow and I visited a state house on the east side of Christchurch.

Listening to his story, it would have been easy to dismiss it as schizophrenia or something similar – except  for one thing. He said that because he was so scared, he had called on the name of Jesus, and the voices and evil presences left him alone “but still hung around.” He was impressed and so started reading an old Gideon’s Bible he found.   While he was reading it, he was left in peace. Even more impressed, he started attending a church. His problem was he couldn’t keep speaking the name of Jesus, and he couldn’t read the Bible all day. He wanted the evil out of his house.

Mark and I went from room to room and in the name and authority of Jesus commanded whatever evil beings were in the room to leave. Then we asked the Lord to wash the room clean and blessed it with water. In the son’s room, we also prayed for the son’s recovery and prayed with the man himself. We led him to commit his life to Jesus, cast out the spirits that were in him and encouraged him to continue attending church and join a group where he could be discipled. The wonderful thing was that not only was the house a different place, but he was also a different person when we left – even his voice had changed. He was so grateful.

 

Katie – CMS Mission Partner in Spain

“The Neighbourhood”

The man entered the second-hand clothes shop regularly. We knew he was a witch because he had mentioned it before. There’s another man who walks past the shop with his hood up and clasping a symbolical necklace as he speaks words over the suburb. Yet another shop has opened close by that is full, like all the rest, of objects, bottles and cards that can be used to call on the spiritual world. A fellow painter in my art class talks about someone who can come and “clean” your house of spirits.  

In Europe, we too are in a spiritual battle from internal and overseas influences. Our deepest longing is that people can be set free from this oppressive spiritual bondage and know true freedom in Christ. So, we are moved to pray and to intercede.     

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:18).

 

Andy Miller – CMS Mission Partner in Costa Rica

“The Timing Was the Givaway…”

We have been in Costa Rica for two months now and we had been here a week when my wife Shona was admitted to hospital for five days with acute diverticulitis (you can Google it!). I know that we are in a fallen world and we can’t give the enemy credit for all sickness, however the timing was the giveaway.  

We started the day taking Shona for a doctor’s appointment at 9:30am as she had a sore stomach. Twelve hours later, after blood tests, ultra sound, more blood tests, a lot of waiting/ insurance negotiation and a CAT scan, she was finally given a bed at 9pm. Essentially, if you wanted to plan something that would be the most disruptive for our lives at this stage – this would be it! Plus, we have three children who felt very anxious as they are in a new country, new school, with a new language and Mummy is in hospital.  

As it happened, we decided to relax and trust in the Lord and enjoy spending time together. We hadn’t had a whole day together, child-free, since our wedding anniversary. It was a hard day. However, we decided not to be afraid or discouraged and spoke lovingly to each other. This whole experience with the ongoing tests has made us slow down and put each other and family first. As we put our trust in the Lord and reach out for prayer and help, then we see what the enemy intended for evil turned around for good and a testimony of his love and peace invading our circumstances. 

What is the Battle? (Intermission – Issue 36)

Posted on

The current issue of our Intermission magazine is about the ‘battle’ humanity finds itself in. The battle against spiritual evil. The battle against injustice. The battle against ourselves. There’s some pretty deep stuff in here.

You may be thinking to yourself, “Jairus, I don’t actually think I’m in a battle.” Well, whether you believe you’re in one or not, you’re bound to recognise that there’s something not quite ‘right’ with the world you live in. And there’s something not quite right with humanity either. With me. With you.

Paul wrote in Romans 7:15-16, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” How perfectly does this describe the battle raging within us and the world? The division of right and wrong, good and evil, truth and lies. Something is broken. And I believe it’s time we start recognising that God does not intend for it to stay that way. And, perhaps more importantly, he doesn’t mean for us to passively watch on either!

The kingdom of evil and the Kingdom of Heaven

This realm, this kingdom of brokenness and lies, is visible every day. It rules in the news, where we see what subjective, biased producers want us to see.

We see it in romance movies, where teenagers are taught that the most important things about a relationship are how physically attracted you are to the other and how they make you feel.

We see it in politics and bills that are passed, where men and women push forward policies, not based on the common good and the public majority, but upon their own personal agendas and vendettas.

This is not what God intends for our world to look like. This is not how God intends for us to act. So what do I think of when I imagine the Kingdom of God? And what could God be calling us to? What does this “Kingdom of Heaven” that his Son talked about so often look like?

Does it look like a marriage, in which the foundation of the relationship is not about how the couple makes each other feel, but about serving and strengthening each other so that they can better follow God?

Does it look like a news reporter who pursues truth and the authentic presentation of facts to the public, so that the leaders of our country are held accountable for their actions?

Does it look like a God-follower throwing himself or herself into the political realms so they can walk into the public spheres of our communities and, instead of yelling, “I have all the answers!” humbly ask, “What are the questions I should be asking?”

I’m sure you can agree that, when you imagine the Kingdom of Heaven, it looks entirely different to what we often experience. Or even how we ourselves tend to act.

So what now?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I’m not writing this article just for the sake of it. I’m not trying to sound enthusiastic and passionate for fun. I am genuinely pleading with you to begin considering this question: “Am I happy about the current condition of the world?”

I, for one, feel my heart starting to beat a little bit faster when I ask myself that question. My imagination takes over, and I feel my faith beginning to grow and anger – yes anger – bubbling up as I come to realise how subtly and how effectively Satan has twisted things. Or how we’ve twisted them ourselves.

This article isn’t your typical Intermission piece in which I write a thousand words and ask you some questions to reflect on at the end. This article is meant to create a hunger within you for change. It’s supposed to remind you that God intends for us to do something about the brokenness and evil we see in this world. And it’s supposed to help you realise that first: we need to become aware of the enemy we are facing. And second: we need to devise some strategies so we can fight back. I’m sure that, without both of these working together, we will lack the power that God intends to give us.

In Matthew 10:16, Jesus says this:

“Look, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

So how about it, fellow Christians? Will you be someone who walks through the evil and broken places of this world and overcomes and restores it into the image of the Kingdom of Heaven? Will you move as Jesus did through the shadows and call on God to fill them with light? Will you be a soldier in the battle for the Kingdom of Heaven? Because the enemy is out there. And God is continuously looking for someone who is willing to put up a fight.

Note from the Editor (Intermission – Issue 36)

Posted on

NZCMS publishes a magazine called Intermission four times a year. Among other things it addresses missions work from a variety of angles, inspiring and encouraging individuals, small groups and churches all over New Zealand. This month we will be publishing our 36th Issue titled “Are you prepared for battle?”

Harrison Ford says the following in a movie called “42”.

“Your enemy will be out in force and you cannot meet him on his own low ground.” The film is about Jackie Robinson, the first African American baseball player to play in an all-white team and an all-white league. It’s an incredible movie and it paints the picture of how brutal, vicious and conniving the ‘powers that be’ were in trying to stop Jackie from playing the sport he loved

But Ford’s character trains Jackie how to deal with his enemies’ attacks. He tells him to respond differently. Not react to a nasty comment with one of his own. Not to punch back when an opposing player strikes him. But to flip it. To change lanes. Switch gears. He taught him to come back at his opposition with something they couldn’t respond to.

In this issue of Intermission, we will be talking about spiritual warfare and the different fields of battle that this war takes place in. There are some serious topics here. But how often can we be drawn into the depths of seriousness? The muddy waters of sombreness and gloom? And yes, there is space for these feelings. Jesus never ignored them. But the key is that he never let them overwhelm him. When the enemy tried to force exaggerated gravity and despair upon him, he changed gears. He told a story. Made a joke. Shocked the crowd. Forced the devil into silence with something his enemy couldn’t respond to. Friends, we don’t meet our foe on his own low ground. 

That’s why we chose this particular front cover for this month’s issue of Intermission. It’s funny. It’s light. It’s quirky. And I believe when Nehemiah wrote, “The joy of the Lord is your strength!” he actually meant it. So, as we come to read the following articles in the coming weeks, let’s remember that our enemy Satan has no joy. And he certainly doesn’t know how to respond to laughter when he does everything he possibly can to get us to cry.

Below is the list of authors and that have written for us to explore this topic of ‘spiritual warfare’. I pray that they inspire, equip and empower you to go forward into the daily battles that you face with prayer, passion and perspective. Because the war is out there, but Jesus has promised that we will have the victory!

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!” – John 16:33.

 

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles and contexts, the Intermission publication will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. 

Each Intermission article will be uploaded periodically and can be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission. Alternatively, to receive the physical copy, feel free to email us at office@nzcms.org.nz or call us on 03 377 2222. 

 

Diaspora mission (Intermission – Issue 35)

Posted on

“Dad, can I show you a simpler way of doing that?” my teenage daughter remarked. I like to problem solve issues with my electronic gadgets but as I get older, I’m realising that I’m not as tech savvy as I was when I was younger. My digitally native teenage daughters have become my tech consultants. The roles have reversed.

When I (and my family) first arrived in Christchurch nine years ago, I had an interesting conversation with my neighbour when he asked what I did. I said I was a missionary from Kenya. After the initial shock, our discussion centred on what a contemporary missionary looks like. It was all new to him.

My friend, Mark Oxbrow, tells the story of African missionaries who are using the JESUS film and Arabic New Testaments to take the Gospel into hundreds of Arab homes in the Middle East. There they are able to share the film with children and read the Bible with their mothers. Sadly, these maids will never appear in any statistics of foreign missionaries. They will probably attract little prayer or financial support from Western churches so concerned about reaching the unreached. Mark calls this “mission from below” or “Majority world mission”. Those who were traditionally recipients of missionary work are now carriers of the Gospel.

Missionary migration  

The twenty-first century is shaping up as a century of immigration. Globally, the number of international migrants worldwide has continued to grow rapidly in recent years, reaching 258 million in 2017. Some of these migrants are missionaries.

The idea of God using migration to reach the nations with the Gospel is not new. God called Abraham to leave his homeland and go to a foreign land. God promised not only to bless Abraham but to bless the nations through him. In Acts we see the believers scattering due to persecution which led to the Gospel arriving in Africa! God has used “people on the move” as carriers of His Gospel to the corners of the earth and that includes Aotearoa. I personally have been recently meeting a number of people who told me God called them to come to New Zealand to share the gospel.

At NZCMS we’ve noticed what God is doing and have become more intentional in equipping churches in New Zealand to receive a diaspora missionary from the Majority World.

This idea of missionaries coming from places that previously were considered mission fields is what we are calling “diaspora mission”. I know the term is not necessarily the best one, but we use it because we want to help change the current narrative or paradigm that a missionary is one who comes from the ‘West to the Rest’, ‘The Powerful to the Less powerful’, ‘Wealthy to the Poor’ or any other sayings that are around!

You see, we need to radically revise our paradigm of who a missionary is in the contemporary, globalised world. A careful reading of mission history shows that the midwives of the Gospel over the decades have often been people in the margins rather than those at the centre of ecclesiastical power.

So why diaspora mission?

It’s about reciprocity and mutuality. As a product of the Western missionary movement, I am so grateful for those Kiwis who have served overseas, including in my country Kenya. But I think for far too long, mission has been a one-way street. It’s time to complete the circle. A reading of I Cor 12:21-22 from a global perspective affirms this idea and challenges us to consider how we can receive the gifts of the global Church.

“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.”  

If the Lord is sending these “diaspora missionaries” here, are we willing to welcome them?

It could be like Joseph and Daniel of old where our ongoing prosperity as a nation spiritually, depends on how we welcome the strangers among us. As Jesus says, ‘And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward Matt 10:42

We need their help

New Zealand has become a largely secular nation despite its deep Christian roots. 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. Diaspora missionaries who come from multi-ethnic contexts can also help us develop strategies towards becoming an intercultural church.

Like Paul, many Christians from places like Africa and Asia have heard a ‘Macedonian call from the West’ (Acts 16:9), “Please come to help us.” The Gospel need in our own land is driving them to come as missionaries to our shores. 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?

A strategy towards embracing intercultural missions 

So if your Church would like to call a diaspora missionary, where do you start?

I see one of NZCMS’s main contributions as facilitating contact between diaspora 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 diaspora missionaries, pastoral care back-up, advice in crisis situations and prayer support, as well as help host churches with cultural issues to help them receive their diaspora missionaries. 

I’ll close with a quote from Kenneth Bailey. “The gospel is not safe in any culture without a witness within that culture from beyond itself ”.

Diaspora missionaries are not only workers who provide capacity for the Church to reach more people, but they also help identify some of the cultural and spiritual blind spots we may have.

Questions to consider

What do you notice about the faith of those from other cultures around you?

What do you notice about the blind spots in your culture that ‘strangers’ might be able to point out?

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles and contexts, the Intermission publication will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. 

Each Intermission article will be uploaded periodically and can be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission. Alternatively, to receive the physical copy, feel free to email us at office@nzcms.org.nz or call us on 03 377 2222. 

Manaaki Mission Motivations: The Power of Hospitality (Intermission – Issue 35)

Posted on

What Aotearoa New Zealand’s bi-cultural journey can teach us about our mission among the nations.

Māori culture is a hospitality culture. We have a whakataukī (proverb), He tangata takahi manuhiri, he marae puehu — If people abuse or disregard their guests, their marae will be dusty. There is a play on words here with reference to the marae. It could refer to the marae ātea, the public forum or open area in front of the wharenui (meeting house) where visitors are met in a pōwhiri (welcoming protocol), but it is more properly understood as a verb to mean being generous or hospitable. Their hospitality will be dusty. In other words, shameful.

Integrated Foundations

In order to understand something of the Māori perspective of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the intercultural responsibilities of each party to that covenant, we need to appreciate some of the kaupapa (foundational values) of te ao Māori (the way Māori view the world) and its resulting priorities.

Culture is a complex concept. For Māori, cultural values are deeply integrated with each other and inseparable, making it impossible to discuss one aspect without inferring its relationship with our entire way of understanding the world. A life essence permeates it all, connecting all things to each other. Christians must not dismiss this view as pagan, animist or pantheist. Those terms are just modern Western constructs. No, Christians should readily attest to the life essence of all things, rooted in the very story of creation itself, a result of the utterance of the Word (John 1:4) and reverberating with Christ, in whom all things hold together (Col 1:17).

To develop healthy intercultural relationships from and within Aotearoa New Zealand it is helpful to understand the genesis of our bicultural foundation. To understand our bicultural foundation we need to comprehend our covenantal obligations under the Tiriti o Waitangi. To comprehend the intention of Te Tiriti we need to appreciate how Māori view hospitality (marae). To appreciate the values of hospitality for Māori we need to grasp the underlying concept of manaaki. Grasping manaaki will also help us better work out our participation in God’s mission in this world since Christ is the ultimate manifestation of manaaki.

Reinforcing Mana 

Māori concepts have many shades of meaning depending on the context in which they are used. Manaaki is one such concept-word. The Māori Bible translates as manaaki Hebrew words like berakah and the Greek eulogia (both translated as “blessing” in English). In my doctoral research, manaaki was explained to me by Māori Christian research participants as, “to āki (encourage or lift up) the mana (esteem, respect, honour, life essence) of another”.

Mana is core to understanding mana|āki and it is grossly underappreciated in our common usage. We could argue that mana is one of a handful of reinforcing rods that run through the foundations of a Māori view of the world. To see mana as merely honour or respect is to treat it very superficially. We do not have sufficient space here to do justice to the complex spiritual roots beneath the surface that emerge as mana. Suffice it to say, it is deeply compatible with a Biblical view of reality being created by God’s Word and breath.

Mana is the evidence in a person of their life essence and spiritual virtues. Pākehā would call it a person’s psycho-emotional make-up, preferences, strengths, and talents. Mana is a person’s charisma in the spiritual sense—our divine grace. Mana is the manifest evidence of all these things at work through all that a person is and does in relationship with others. For Māori, and no doubt many other tribe-oriented societies, a person’s mana is recognised by their community and ascribed to the person by the community—you cannot claim it for yourself. You can do things that affect the community and lose mana and you can do things for the community and gain mana. The more mana you are recognised for, the higher standing you have in the community. Mana is therefore relational currency, and a highly prized and defended treasure it is at that.

A Platform For Many

And so we come to Te Tiriti. There is no doubt in my mind that our Māori forebears understood and signed Te Tiriti as an act of manaaki. As a relationship-forming protocol. They extended hospitality to the British Crown on a national level, viewing the signing of Te Tiriti in a similar way that a hongi (nose press) seals the relationship at a pōwhiri on a marae. Māori leaders elevated the mana of the British visitors by extending them hospitality, allowing all those represented by the authority of the Crown to come in and treat the land as their home (but without ownership, for that was largely a foreign concept to Māori at the time). The offer of co-residence came with full expectation that the new settlers would do so guided by the ethics of the tangatawhenua (people of the land), just as you would expect to do on a marae. The British clearly did not see things the same way and used their mana against the people of the land, thereby losing mana in the eyes of Māori.

Most of us are well aware of how the relationship went bad. My aim is to emphasize why the relationship was formed in the first place. It was an act of generosity and hospitality, NOT an act of surrender in the face of a greater power. In the creation of the (enduring) covenant we know as Te Tiriti o Waitangi we have an agreement between two peoples: the tangatawhenua and the British Crown. That is why we call the relationship a bi-cultural one, but this is actually inappropriate terminology because the British Crown represents many cultures. Even in 1840, when Te Tiriti was covenanted, the British Empire ‘represented’ the Australian, Canadian, Indian, East and Southern African, and some Middle Eastern, Asian and Pacific Island indigenous peoples. How much our Māori Chiefs understood about the reach of the British Empire we cannot know, but they knew Queen Victoria was the head of a very large, multi-cultural domain. Te Tiriti therefore included all who would come under the auspices and rule of that empire, as permitted by the Queen’s delegated authority here—the Government.

The Government of Aotearoa New Zealand now represents the Crown in extending permission for migrants to come and settle in our land. To an extent, this is the Government’s right under Te Tiriti. Te Tiriti allowed them to govern and hold rule of law over those entering the land on the basis of the hospitality of the Crown. Māori were to retain their own sovereignty and co-reside in the land with a rule of law compatible with the Crown’s. But we all know how that has worked out in reality to date.

A Foundation To Build On

Māori may have had our hospitality abused by the Government and its settlers but that does not dismiss the power of hospitality as a deeply spiritual discipline. Christ had His hospitality abused by Jewish powers and Roman law as He held out an invitation to enter His Kingdom. As the Father sent the Son, so we are sent into the world (John 18:18) to extend Kingdom hospitality to those willing to come in. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to provide the very best manaaki you can to those seeking a place of peace where they can fully be who God has made them to be. This is our intercultural responsibility under Christ’s New Covenant. We must not let Jesus find our marae dusty. (Philippians 2:1-11)

Questions To Consider

How willing are you to extend hospitality to a stranger and open your home to them? What motivates you most when facing a stranger: fear of being abused, or the desire to esteem others in love, regardless of the potential cost? In what ways would mission ventures as we know them need to change for us to shift from condescension (imposing ourselves to give something we feel they lack) to mutuality (interdependent development)?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles and contexts, the Intermission publication will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. 

Each Intermission article will be uploaded periodically and can be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission. Alternatively, to receive the physical copy, feel free to email us at office@nzcms.org.nz or call us on 03 377 2222. 

The stories of those who come to us (Intermission – Issue 35)

Posted on

There is a need literally three metres outside the doors of our church. Every day hundreds of students walk past. So many have come so far to be here but they don’t seem to have anyone who cares about them. They fall into a world where there is only a lecture theatre, a shoebox apartment and the internet.

I’ve always admired how international students can take the risk (and expense) of leaving their home, family, friends and everything they know. They are young and come to better themselves in a place where everything is new and different – people, culture, food and even simply trying to communicate are all things they need to get used to and learn.

Sometimes the pressure can be intense. Tim, a successful Chinese honours student we know, was the only one from his village who had ever gone to university. Tim’s study cost so much and was so important that his father back home decided not to tell him he was dying of cancer. By the end of the year, it was too late and Tim’s father was gone.  The same thing happened for a dying brother of a young Iranian postgraduate student. I know an Indian student whose parents sold their house to get him here.

You get the idea of the sacrifices many make to be here in New Zealand. And you can begin to understand that there are cultures that think and do things differently to the way Kiwis do. In that difference, we can find the joy of intercultural engagement in Christ. I don’t believe Jesus is interested in us either conforming others to our image or living in our own separate worlds like marbles in a bag – in the same place but completely disconnected. I believe scripture affirms that while we are made distinctively within our own cultures, those worlds are made to overlap to the glory of God and the benefit of all.

The results of engagement

St Paul’s is a central city Auckland church, situated between two universities on one side and student accommodation blocks on the other. We tried not to overthink what we saw. We prayed and decided to find a day to open the doors of the church, invite people in and do a simple meal of soup and cheese toasties.

Our small volunteer leader’s group talked to others and the team grew. Six years after opening the doors, we have a leadership team of around 25 people from at least 8 different Auckland churches. On a normal Wednesday lunch, around 120 people come through the doors. People from China, Iran, India, Japan, Colombia, Chile, Indonesia, Nigeria, Rwanda and Russia gather to eat and meet informally. 

We always pray that we can make known the love of Jesus, whether it’s by making a sandwich, sharing a smile or letting someone know the good news. Over time, many have come into contact with a group who think Jesus is real and can be trusted in real life. Intercultural connection in Christ is not rarefied air for specialists. It is basic human kindness for those who are guests in our country. We help with CV’s, give people lifts, teach English and piano, go tramping and skiing. We make good friends. Sometimes it’s hard on the heart as most eventually return home. But some take a new faith in Jesus back with them!

Needless to say, we’ve had some pretty significant disappointments and failures along the way. But we kept going. Now, in addition to the meals we provide, around 25 people regularly come to a weekly pizza and Bible study night we run. We let people look at the Bible for themselves and ask them open questions to enable them to engage. We pray. A core group of people have put their faith in Jesus and want to grow. We are currently planning our first discipleship weekend. They will be the leaders in future.

Here are some comments I’d like to finish with. As well as love for Jesus and neighbour, I think there are some key ideas underlying what we do.

Key ideas to consider

Dignity:

The person God puts in front of me is a human being with his or her own story, loves, dreams, fears and challenges. Faltering English doesn’t change that. Let’s not treat people like children and pat them on the head simply because New Zealand is new to them.

Understanding:

I need to be patient and listen and learn to see the world through other eyes. Interaction with different cultures brings strange worlds of ideas, behaviours and foods that may initially make no sense or even repel me. It might make me impatient. But without that understanding of the other world, I will introduce someone to the saviour of only my world and culture. The real world of the one I am sharing with will remain largely untouched. If I persevere in listening to the person God has put in front of me I might be able to see past the strange symbols and concepts and come to appreciate what they understand a person to be, and how they are related to both their family and the unseen world. Finally, they may begin to let me into the dark places of their world – things that make them ashamed, anxious or despairing.

Enriching:

When I am patient and listening and understanding, I will begin to see the Lord and Saviour of the other person’s world. I will see Jesus in a new way I’d never seen before as He meets the needs and aspirations of that person. I will begin to worship and proclaim Jesus in a new and fuller way in terms I’m only just beginning to understand. The Lord will have led me into a fuller and deeper worship of Him through an intercultural engagement with someone who has become my brother or sister. That is why we need intercultural engagement. 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles and contexts, the Intermission publication will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. 

Each Intermission article will be uploaded periodically and can be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission. Alternatively, to receive the physical copy, feel free to email us at office@nzcms.org.nz or call us on 03 377 2222. 

What is Intercultural Engagement? (Intermission – Issue 35)

Posted on

I am partial to a good Sri Lankan curry – and I’m slowly learning how to make them. I line my curry leaves, cumin, cardamom, chilli, cinnamon and mustard seeds up on the bench. I grind and mix them with the other ingredients and then simmer them all together. Finally – and often salivating from inhaling the aroma – it’s time to eat. Delicious!

 What is Intercultural engagement?

Intercultural engagement is a bit like the spices in a good curry. It’s incredible how a small amount of any spice can add flavour to an entire dish. But a concoction of spices simmered together can produce an incredible flavour; one with a richness and depth that no single spice can produce. It’s still possible to pick out the distinct notes of each spice. If anything, the contrast with the other spices complements and enhances their flavour. Together, they have been transformed into something else.

All analogies have limitations – and this one is no different – but, I think it does help to explain what we mean by intercultural engagement. Culture is something to be celebrated. Intercultural engagement recognises and honours the differences and commonalities between cultures, and values the contribution of each culture. Intercultural engagement takes place through respectful, authentic interactions that allow each person to be shaped by the others and in the process each is transformed to produce a depth and richness that wouldn’t be possible without the “other.’’ It isn’t a dilution of culture. In the same way that “iron sharpens iron”, intercultural engagement helps to draw out the best of every culture while making us more aware of our own cultural blind spots so that everyone benefits from the gifts that each has to contribute.

What about multicultural or cross-cultural?

We often find ourselves in multicultural or cross-cultural situations. Multicultural situations are an important first step that can provide the basis for intercultural engagement to flourish. Multiculturalism itself doesn’t require any interaction between different cultures. It simply means that there are multiple cultures present and acknowledges the diversity between them. In other words, all the spices are lined up on the bench but they haven’t actually been combined together…yet.

Likewise, done well, cross-cultural engagement becomes intercultural engagement. The term cross-cultural can sometimes reinforce an ‘us’ as the ‘givers’ and ‘them’ as the ‘receivers’ attitude. It can be hard where we are in the majority, or in positions of privilege or power to receive the gifts that others have to offer and for us to allow our own way of being and doing to be indelibly changed in the process. Cross-cultural engagement doesn’t have to be that way! Interculturality recognises reciprocity. No single culture is the ‘norm’; every culture is both giver and recipient.

A biblical analogy

Perhaps the best and most well-known biblical analogy for intercultural engagement is the image of the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians. The church itself is meant to be the ultimate expression of intercultural engagement! The church is the united body of Christ where the difference inherent to each part of the body is essential to the functioning of the whole body. Each part must share a life-in-mutuality and solidarity with others, ensuring care, honour and protection of the most marginalised. It is this body that is the lived expression of unity in Christ.

When our own identity is founded in Christ, we aren’t defensive about our own inadequacies. Nor are we threatened by difference. Instead, we embrace ‘others’ as fearfully and wonderfully made. It’s only once we acknowledge the essential part of each member of the Body that we can flourish, growing into the fullness of Christ. God’s mission is to reconcile all things to one another and himself and the church, as Christ’s body, is meant to be a witness to all of humanity of the reconciling love and grace of God. An intercultural church is good news to a world fractured along cultural divides!

Using our imagination

What might an intercultural church look like? Intercultural engagement is dependent on relationship. Like the spices mixing together, or the parts of the body working together, it is the interdependent relationship that forms an intercultural community. Relationship is one of the best places to discover others’ strengths and gifts (and our own inadequacies and blind spots). We cannot be satisfied with being multicultural or cross-cultural in our church contexts or in the way we do mission. We have to get close enough to those who are different from us for authentic, reciprocal relationships to form.

Imagine a church where everyone’s gifts were known and utilised and where those with power and privilege empowered those from minority groups. Maybe there would be a roster of preachers from diverse cultural contexts. Maybe different languages would regularly be used for scripture readings and prayers. Maybe worship would be led by a variety of people using the style and music from their own cultural background. Maybe leadership would increasingly reflect the diversity within the church. Imagine this church engaging ‘interculturally’ in its local context. People from different cultural backgrounds would know that they are welcome and that this church, Christ’s body, is a place where they have value, can belong and can contribute because of, rather than in spite of, their differences.

Final thoughts

As the Body of Christ, we must learn how to engage interculturally within the church and in our communities. Like a good curry, it will require some simmering for the flavours to develop – we will need love, grace, patience and perseverance. But as we allow ourselves to be transformed into the fullness of Christ, the end result promises to be the best that God has for us. 

Questions to consider:

What might be some steps that can help a church community move towards becoming intercultural? How do you personally identify yourself culturally? Where are you from? What are the cultural influences that have shaped you? How can you learn from those who are culturally different from you in your context? How can you encourage them to use their gifts?

Recommended resources for further reading 

Dan Sheffield, The Multicultural Leader: Developing a Catholic Personality, Clements Publishing, 2005

Jay Ruka, Huia Come Home, 2007

Mark Lau and Juan F. Martinez, Churches, Cultures and Leadership, IVP: Illinois, 2011

Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, Abingdon Press, 1996

Rosemary Dewerse, Breaking Calabashes, MediaCom Education Inc., 2013

Sandra Maria Van Opstal, The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World, IVP, 2016

Soon-Chan Rah, Many Colours: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church, Moody Publishers, 2010

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles and contexts, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. 

Each Intermission article will be uploaded periodically and can be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission. Alternatively, to receive the physical copy, feel free to email us at office@nzcms.org.nz or call us on 03 377 2222. 

A nation of many colours (Intermission – Issue 35)

Posted on

I’ve always loved to draw. Even when I was a kid I would write up little comics for hours (And force my parents to read them no doubt!). For whatever reason though, I always stuck with drawing. I never picked up a paintbrush. I think it was because, at the time, painting a picture with different colours just seemed too overwhelming. And messy! Also, I never found someone to teach me how.

Most of us know that a vibrant cultural diversity has filled New Zealand. But we all seem a bit separate and ‘uninvolved’ somehow don’t we? Sure we may interact with others somewhat. Say hello. Perhaps a couple of us have a friend from a different ethnicity than our own. But what have you learned from another that has challenged the way you view the world? Has your life been forever altered through an intercultural engagement? What memories come to your mind when you try to recall working with a group of diverse nationalities engaged together in God’s work? Have you heard sermons or Bible Studies in your church from an Asian perspective? A Middle Eastern? A Western? A Pacific Islander?

If you’re like me, and if you’re honest, you will struggle to answer any of these questions with a resounding “Yes!”. And if I’m honest, sometimes I don’t even want to think of an answer. Otherwise, it means taking responsibility and possibly changing something in my life. It’s simpler just not to think about it. Easier to understand. Uncomplicated. Not as messy. A little like drawing with a pencil.

But my friends, we’re a nation of many colours. The question is what are we going to do with them? Will we continue to think and dream and create with the only colour we’ve used in the past? Or is it time to begin choosing some different shades? 

I want to learn how to pick up a brush and start painting, and I’d love for you to join me. It will be messy. And yes, it may be quite complicated. But I believe the New Zealand Church is in a unique position to create something beautiful. And I think the Holy Spirit will be more than capable of teaching us how.

NZCMS’ quarterly magazine Intermission will arrive in your mailbox in the first week of June. We’ll also upload the PDF that week to this website. Within it are some incredibly valuable articles and resources all aimed at helping us becoming an interculturally engaged church. Feel free to contact us at office@nzcms.org.nz to subscribe to our mailing list or call us on +64 03 377 2222. Also keep an eye on our “Resources Tab” for an Intercultural Engagement page. Let’s start painting!

 

A story, a culture and a call (Intermission – Issue 34)

Posted on

I wonder sometimes if focusing on missionaries and pastors makes us as Christians feel better about ourselves. We go to church, we hear an incredible sermon and we say “Wow, that Pastor is really gifted. It’s so great to have him at our church”. Or we pick up a Christian article (much like this one) and are amazed at the missionaries overseas, working themselves to the bone for the sake of the Gospel. We say “God, it’s so good you’ve given these people such an amazing call from you”. It makes us feel good, doesn’t it? But what if something like that were a bit ‘closer to home’ for you? Let me create a hypothetical situation.

A story

Imagine walking into the smoko room at work and making yourself a coffee. A couple of your workmates are there as well, laughing and talking about the sport over the weekend and moaning about the boss. You join in happily and begin to make your lunch. When you turn from the kitchen bench to comment on the rugby game you suddenly see him through the door window. Jerry. The new guy. The Christian. Well, of course, you’re a Christian too but there’s a difference between you and him. He keeps on talking about it!

“Good afternoon everyone!” he roars as he enters the room with a grin the size of Cheshire the cat. Everyone else greets him but you quickly zero in on your sandwich and don’t reply.

“Please don’t do anything weird”, you think to yourself. But you hope in vain.

“I had a great yesterday,” Jerry says as he puts last night’s leftover tea into the microwave to heat up. “Amazing sermon and incredible prayer time with God. It was powerful stuff. How was everyone else’s weekend?”

You shrivel within yourself, wishing you were anywhere but here, dreading the response from your colleagues and feeling completely uncomfortable for them. You quickly finish your meal, drain your coffee and leave the room. “Why does he always have to make it so awkward?” you think to yourself grumpily.

This type of situation may or may not have happened to you before. But it illustrates my point. Perhaps the reason why we’re so comfortable talking about the talents and exploits of pastors and missionaries is because we think they have a calling that we don’t have. Or, more specifically, we think their passion or gift to proclaim the Gospel is something we don’t have any access to. And it makes us feel better about our lack of ‘Gospel sharing’ to rave about them. It’s a subtle way of saying “See, that’s not my calling so it’s fine that I’m not speaking about the Gospel.”. 

But when someone begins spouting on about God right in front of you who has no such title, he or she suddenly destroys that convenient little reason you’d given yourself for staying quiet. Because then the next question you have to ask is this: “If they’re talking about God, why aren’t I?” And that brings up a whole lot of uncomfortable questions.

A culture and a call

I’m still very young in the grand scheme of things, but I’m old enough to know that an attitude or response to something is often the fruit of a long-held belief or assumption. Another word for this can be the more ambiguous word ‘culture’. And I believe that it’s time for us New Zealanders to realise that there is something not quite right with a certain aspect of our culture, especially in how that translates into an authentic, Kiwi way of spreading the Gospel. Underneath our talk that we’re just trying to be humble and inoffensive, there seems to be another voice deeply embedded in our minds and emotions that whispers, “Don’t be too loud. Humility equals quiet. Passion can be low-key. Beliefs are private. Be a Christian through your actions.”

Now, are there truths to these statements? Yes! But they’re not the full story! And our enemy is a master at using half-truths to create the entirety of how we think we should act. When I read the Bible it tells me that the Holy Spirit comes with noise (Acts 2). It says we’ll be empowered to preach, heal and disciple (Acts 2, Acts 3). It says we’ll be filled with boldness and courage (Acts 4, Acts 5). And it declares that the call for all of us is to be witnesses to the ends of the earth and to make disciples of all nations in the name of Jesus (Luke 24, Acts 1). I think it’s time we stop treating these examples in scripture as simply ‘suggestions’ and actually start following their example. Perhaps it’s time to allow Scripture, the full truth, to shape our culture and not the other way around. 

I believe the Holy Spirit is calling us to challenge facets of our culture in light of Scripture, not the other way around. In a country that is experiencing so much tangible pain, both physically and mentally, perhaps moving in the tangible power of the Holy Spirit might not be such a bad thing. Don’t let your personality, culture or feelings shut you up from expressing your faith. You never know what might happen if you just open your mouth and speak.

Personal reflections

Now, it’s all well and good me writing this, isn’t it? But the truth is I find responding these challenges just as hard as you do. I actually find speaking about Jesus to friends, co-workers and -God forbid- strangers, incredibly hard. But, if I believe that Scripture is divinely inspired-which I do-then that’s not a good enough reason for me not to obey is it? Perhaps the biggest facet of myself that actually needs to grow is my faith that the Holy Spirit will “give me the words to say at the moment I need them.” (Luke 12:12). Let’s continue to learn, with his help, how we can be an answer to his call. 

 Questions for discussion

Do you find it easy to talk about Godly things with non-Christians? Why or why not?

What spiritual gifts do you see in others that you wish you had? What could you do to learn more about how these gifts can be activated in your life?

Where gladness and hunger meet (Intermission – Issue 34)

Posted on

“The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” (Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC)

My deep gladness and the world’s hunger

Several years ago a group of my friends chose to relocate our lives to a neighbourhood where the social fabric was wearing thin, with holes and tears in some places. After a year spent praying for the neighbourhood we discerned that the best way to ‘help’ was to move in and become part of the neighbourhood. Early on, one of our team shared this quote from Buechner at our team night. Over the years, a passion for sport led him to start a Sunday afternoon football club for neighbourhood kids and he began to coach local sports teams so that young people who wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity could not only play sports but also receive mentoring and discipleship. A passion for education and the different people and cultures in our world led him to become a teacher aide and eventually a secondary school teacher specialising in geography. With others, he opened his home to students from refugee backgrounds who had nowhere else to go. None of it was easy for him. But he could have joy amongst the day-to-day struggles because he’d found the sweet spot where his own deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger met.

When I first heard Buechner’s quote and tried to figure out what my deep gladness was, the first thing that came to mind was good food. I felt very unspiritual! Yet, when I think about my ministry in that neighbourhood, it was my love of food (making, eating and sharing it) that was foundational to meeting a deep hunger. No pun intended. God is in the business of satisfying the hungry with good things (Luke 1:53), and in opening our meal table we were able to join him in this task. Bellies were filled. But equally, loneliness and isolation were eased? and desire for connectedness and belonging satisfied.

In the early days, our family celebrations became opportunities to bring people from every part of our community together. Over food, friendships were formed between people who might never have otherwise met or only met in adversarial settings: migrants and former refugees, self-identified gangsters and ‘streeties’, religious leaders and social service providers, Christians, Muslims, agnostics, law-makers and activists. For that season our call to ‘go’ was actually to stay home and reclaim the kind of hospitality (literally “love of strangers”) described in the gospels (Mark 2:13-16; Luke 14:12-14, 19:1-10; Matt 25:35-36). In doing so we were privileged to experience the richness of God’s banquet table and to invite others to experience the goodness of God’s Kingdom.

When the going gets tough

Following God’s call is not always easy. It does not always include happiness, security or comfort (Matt 16:24-26). However, there are many things that help to sustain us in our call when life gets difficult. One aspect that offers sustenance is the joy to be found at the intersection of our passion and God’s mission. Straight out of university, I volunteered as a lawyer in South Asia to help rescue people from modern-day slavery. It was hard, gruelling work. The pursuit of truth and justice is part of my hardwiring so when freedom and justice for victims seemed elusive, living in the intersection of my passion and God’s mission helped sustain me as we waited for God’s kingdom to break through.

A few years later some of us started a social enterprise cafe that helped equip young people who weren’t in education, employment or training. I did the baking and helped mentor the young women. It was a different type of hospitality than that practised in the gospels, but one that had potential to provide economic and social justice for those who might otherwise get left behind. All twelve young people who completed their work experience with us successfully transitioned to paid employment and a few years later we can see the fruitfulness of the investment in many of their lives. It was physically exhausting and financially draining (we were only open a year and had some debt to pay back), but in the midst of a painful and challenging season, we knew that we were at the place where our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger met.

How to find your call 

So how do we discern where God is calling us to? Buechner helpfully writes: “There are all different kinds of voices calling to you, all different kinds of work and the problem is finding out which is the voice of God, rather than that of society, say, or the super-ego or self-interest. By and large, a good rule for finding out is this: The kind of work God usually calls you to, is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do, and (b) that the world most needs to be done…

If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing TV deodorant commercials, the chances are you have missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leprosy colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you are bored and depressed by it, the chances are you’ve not only bypassed (a) but you probably aren’t helping your patients much either…”

How kind it is of God to call us to serve His Kingdom in ways that are life-giving for us too. If you find yourself pouring out for the sake of God’s Kingdom but you feel heaviness, bitterness and the weight of your sacrifice and service overwhelming you, then perhaps you need to consider whether you’re serving where God has called you. Conversely, if you already love what you do but struggle to answer how it is advancing God’s mission, perhaps you need to re-think how you can meet the world’s deep hunger. God’s call always sends us to serve His Kingdom in the world (Matthew 28:18-20; John 17:18, 20:21). What we must learn to do well is to discern the intersection of our passion and God’s mission in every season of our life.

Questions to consider:

What do you think Buechner means by “deep gladness”? How is this different from happiness? What are the things that could be your deep gladness? Where could these meet the world’s deep hunger?

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.