• Trusting Whom?

     

    I read two articles the other day that seemed to speak to each other. The first was in the Dominion Post: “The use and misuse of religious freedom”. The second was in the book of Joshua, in the Old Testament of the Bible.

    The DomPost writer was a professor of Bioethics, and his theme — crudely summarised — was that you can’t have it both ways. If a person chooses to follow a religious principle and a given code of conduct, there will be prices to pay that will not be paid by other people. You may choose to accept the religion and the price, or not; but not the religion without the price.

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  • What the Bible Teaches about Relationships and Sex

     

    During the recent Queen’s Birthday weekend 120 young people gathered at Queenstown’s Lakeland Park Christian Camp for their annual Bible Teaching weekend. The subject matter being dealt with was ‘What the Bible Teaches about Relationships and Sex’. Graham & Wanda Ashby were responsible for the teaching and it was an absolute delight to see such hungry Young People digging deep into the Scriptures over the weekend. In some respects we were all caught by surprise at just how much interest there was in these issues. Certainly by their own admission, many Young People asked “Why aren’t these subjects taught to us in church or at Youth Group? We needed to hear this!”

    Despite the ‘deep issues’ being discussed there was such a positive atmosphere during the entire weekend. Prior to camp Graham & Wanda had asked many to saturate the camp in prayer so that the father of lies would have no access to the hearts and minds of these Young People. This prayer hedge that surrounded the camp meant that Scriptural truths could be clearly taught and the result was the Holy Spirit was able to move deeply in many lives. During the weekend there were some tears as the Youth were confronted with the moral deception that appears to have invaded our society and in some cases our own hearts. The truth was hard hitting but the response was that had many young men and women were saying they were so very grateful that at last someone was telling them God’s thoughts on these difficult subjects which they face every day.

    Because of the subjects being covered some real tensions were expected. Instead there was a desire for forgiveness and an admission that we have drifted with our culture and needed to be reminded of God’s perspective on these issues. This camp was an opportunity to recalibrate our thinking and to rediscover the facts about what the Lord values in our domestic, public and private relationships.

    Graham & Wanda’s five messages were broken down to explain the meaning of the word love by looking at the Greek meaning as in ‘storge’ (family love), ‘philia’ (friends love), ‘eros’ (romantic love) and ‘agape’ (selfless love) with a final roundup on Monday morning. It would be fair to say that the Young People were very responsive and by that we mean a hush came upon every session as Graham & Wanda spoke. Along with their anticipation was a deep interest and attention. It was quite a remarkable experience to sense their elevated interest in what was being taught. Many of the Christian young people admitted that they have never heard in their church teaching or preaching on how to live and love within a family; how to be loving and influential as a friend; how to choose a life partner; how to be a living sacrifice and how to renew your mind.

    After each message there were discussion groups to get feedback and see if they had understood what the Scriptures were saying. It was amazing to hear their honesty and openness during these times. Many of them were up front with how they know they need boundaries to be set for them by their parents and by God. Some even admitted that they needed discipline but their parents won’t do it!

    On the issue of friends, some confessed that they are weak at being friends because in order to be among friends they so often just go along with their peer groups in order to be accepted. They seemed to be amazed at learning that the ‘sex culture’ that they now live in is NOT normal. It had been pointed out, that to them the culture of today seems normal because they know nothing else. Graham outlined the world’s history of sex so that they could understand for themselves how over the last 4,000 years, immorality and sex idolatry has continued to eat away at the human race and at the human heart. Wanda revealed the lies they are hearing through their sex education programmes at schools and how most sex-education teachers say “when you have sex” and no-one ever says “if you have sex”. With the Young People’s new awareness of how obsessed our society has become came a revelation that they did not want to be like the world. We weren’t expecting that. We thought that on this point some may say we are ‘out of touch’ or ‘old fashioned’. Instead it was as if they knew that society was so bad that they chose not to be shaped by it. Over the weekend we were all gaining a sense of identity that is found in Christ and the Young People were beginning to understand the call to purity and separation from the standards of this world. A great number of the conversations with adolescents were them thanking us for telling them like it is and for not being meek and weak on these subjects. They admitted their confusion and ignorance and were very appreciative of being reminded about God’s plans for relationships and sex. Some admitted that pornography had eaten away at their hearts but were repentant of these temptations and would go home and correct them. Their honesty and openness was a real feature of camp.

    All in all we have had a mighty weekend and conclude that these South Island Young People are spiritually healthy and eager for the challenges that are ahead of them. There was a hunger in their eyes and hearts and they weren’t shy about sharing their struggles, hopes and dreams. Get this – 90% of the young people had Bibles at camp! Brilliant. So often, that’s the last ‘accessory’ they pack. It was evident at camp that these Young People are serious about discovering what the Lord wants them to know and do. They seemed to understand that in order to get the best out of them we had to get the best into them. There is no substitute for the authority and power of God’s Word. It was like a lion in the weekend – the book was opened, truth was let it out and everyone gave it great respect!

    It is the hope of every leader at camp (and probably parent too) that true fruit will come from the (agape) love that they carry into their existing and prospective relationships. And let’s keep praying that these Young People develop God honouring relationships in the future and that with their bodies, minds and lives, the families and homes that they establish will become a great light in the darkness.

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  • Prayer Partner “the app!”

    One of the great things about prayer is that God answers! I know this because in the times when I discipline myself to note prayer requests in my prayer diary, I can see over time pages and pages of God’s faithfulness!
    Which leads to another issue – often I find myself committing to pray for something or someone and then at a later date I struggle to remember what I am praying for. I am sure that God understands and he honors prayer from my limited memory, but I then miss out because I don’t get to see God’s provision in answered prayer.

    Enter “Prayer Partner”, an iphone app. This great little tool enables you to note down prayer points, categorize them, specify the number of times a week you want to pray for that item and then to record the answer!! Awesome!

    What’s great is that now, I don’t need to carry my prayer diary around (not that I ever did!) and I don’t need to rely on my memory. Now when I am talking with someone or something comes to mind I simply add it to my phone prayer list and I’ve got it!!!

    Prayer Partner has been a great tool to keep me praying for people and situations. I find that moments that used to be spent thinking about nothing much are now useful. I’ll open up a list and can pray over situations and people. I find it continues to enlarge my heart for God’s mission and people.

    But wait, there is more. After praying for someone you can use the contact button to send a text or email to encourage them or share and verse that the Lord has laid on your heart regarding the situation you are praying about.

    I don’t know about you, but I think the more we can encourage each other and pray for each other the better.

    Nick Field

     

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  • Book Review – Into the Great Unknown

    Into the Great Unknown
    by Maurice Harvey
    Published by iUniverse, Inc

    Maurice Harvey spent many years as a photo-journalist with the United Bible Societies, in a role that took him all over the world. Adding to his two earlier books, Shooting the Globe (2002) and Reading the Funny Bible, (2004), both published by Castle Books, he now brings us Into the Unknown.

    The book begins in Africa in 1960, headed for the new nation of Congo, only recently Belgian Congo and ravaged by war and unrest. Over the next 30 years, Maurice travelled through various African nations, Central and Eastern Europe, Indonesia and North Korea, and here he tells us about it. With an eye for the dramatic and the quirky, and a heart for the God he consistently served through the United Bible Societies and his work as an internationally-recognised photographer, he gives us glimpses of God at work in places we might rarely suspect him to be, except in theory.

    Basically, the title gives the introduction. The book tells the story. The man adds the colour. And God gives all of it meaning.

    Into the Unknown, books are available from iUniverse.com (physical copies) or from kobo.com (ebook). The book is also available from local booksellers or your preferred online retailer.

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  • Book Review – Silent Tears

    Silent Tears
    by Taikaawa Savage
    Published by DayStar Books

    DayStar’s newest publication, to be launched on June 17, is Silent Tears: One Woman’s Journey from Hell. The writer is a personal assistant to a retired Auckland businessman and a member of Life South Church. Her book is the dramatic account of her courageous struggle against demon possession and evil. She tells her own story of experiences with abuse, and in her appendix, “Are demons real?” she says that although some people scoff at the idea of demons, in her case there was not one but several. Her story is the glorious, age-old but always new narrative of the freeing agency of the Holy Spirit of God, who led her by faith in Jesus away from sexual abuse, alcohol, gambling and demons into his glorious light.

    The book sells for $22.95 plus $5.00 postage and packaging, and may be ordered from DayStar Books, PO Box 65275, Mairangi Bay, Auckland 0754. The DayStar website is www.daystarbooks.org

    Note: book image used is for illustrative purpose only. Dimensions and materials may vary from actual product.

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  • Book Review – Caring for Creation

    Caring for Creation
    by Dick Tripp
    Published by Avery Bartlett Books

    Dick Tripp, a retired Anglican clergyman who has written a series of booklets on aspects of the Christian faith, now produces a comprehensive expression of the biblical mandate for caring for God’s creation. In doing so, says Archbishop David Moxon, “he provides Christians with a detailed biblical approach to the growing crisis in our environment, its causes, the role of the Christian church and the challenge that lies before us all.” In truth, the writer has not said all that could be said, but in 150 pages he challenges all of us to think biblically and responsibly about the world we live in as a tribute to its maker. Both the church and the individual are addressed, and are encouraged to neither ignore the problems nor to panic over them. If Jesus is really in the process of redeeming his world, then his people are surely called to assist.

    The book retails at $24.99 plus postage and packing, and may be tracked down through Avery Bartlett books: www.averybartlett.co.nz

    Dick Tripp’s other writings may be seen at www.christianity.co.nz

    Note: book image used is for illustrative purpose only. Dimensions and materials may vary from actual product.

     

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  • The State and Growth of Brethren Churches in New Zealand (2011)

    Phil Tait, Pathways College, 23 March 2012

    A survey of Brethren churches was conducted in July-August 2011 where I mailed questionnaires to church secretaries and pastors of 108 Brethren churches (drawn randomly from the 188 churches listed on the Brethren website).  A total of 50 questionnaires were returned (response rate 46%, amounting to 27% of churches).

    Church and Congregation Size

    The average size of congregations (roll) is 203 (median is 142) and the average attendance at Sunday services is 144 (70% of the roll).

    If the sample is representative of all Brethren churches then the total would be 38,000 people.  However, this may be overstating the number because it is likely that more of the larger churches returned questionnaires.  The 2006 Census recorded close to 20,000 people designating themselves as Brethren, although a good number may have just described themselves as Christian

    The number of Open Brethren assemblies has been decreasing since 1961 but the number of people has not declined as much.  However as a proportion of the New Zealand population Brethren numbers have dropped from 1 per cent to less than 0.5 per cent.

    YEAR OB CHURCHES SOURCE
    1881 12 Treasury
    1901 91 Treasury
    1911 110 Treasury
    1921 130 Treasury
    1961 220 Treasury
    1971 250 Treasury
    2001 200 Peter Lineham
    2011 188 Brethren website

    The racial composition of the churches surveyed was mostly New Zealand European (82%) but a growing number of Asians.

    RACE PERCENTAGE
    Pakeha (NZ European) 82.4
    Maori 3.5
    Pacific island 1.9
    Asian 6.6
    Other 4.2

    Church Activities

    Participation of people in small groups for fellowship and Bible study ranged between 10 and 100 per cent with an average over the churches of 52 per cent.

    A full-time pastor was designated (employed) by 52% of the churches.  Half of the churches had an office person full-time or part-time and one third had a youth pastor.

    Average Days Per Week
    CHURCH SIZE PASTOR YOUTH PASTOR OFFICE STAFF OTHER STAFF
    0-99 1 0 1 1
    100-199 4 1 2 1
    200-299 4 1 3 3
    300 + 5 5 4 3

    Sunday Services included the following elements and characteristics:

    SUNDAY SERVICE CHARACTERISTICS PERCENTAGE
    Sunday school for children 90
    Morning tea and fellowship time 78
    Contemporary music 70
    Regular meal together (at least monthly) 46
    Evening service with focus on evangelism 14
    Evening service with focus on youth 12
    Morning service oriented toward unchurched 10
    Adult Sunday school 10

    Churches also had the following activities and emphases:

    CHURCH CHARACTERISTICS PERCENTAGE
    Programme to identify and develop people’s spiritual gifts in the last 3 years. 24
    Programme to disciple new converts. 59
    Provide social services to the local community. 82
    Regular programme for corporate prayer. 78
    Partnered with other churches or para-church groups for evangelism or outreach. 66
    Has a specific strategy for evangelism and church growth. 62

    Only 24 per cent of churches had worked on identifying spiritual gifts in the last three years.  Two-thirds of these used a specific programme, most often using the Network materials. The remaining third had church leaders encouraging people individually.

    Programmes for discipleship of new coverts existed in 60% of churches. Of these one third used particular programmes and study materials. Over a third disciple people through one-to-one relationships. The remaining quarter integrated new converts into existing home groups and Bible study programmes.

    Most churches said that they had regular programmes for corporate prayer (78%) but only 30% had a weekly prayer meeting, while 30% had a monthly meeting, and the rest including prayer in the Sunday services, home groups and Bible studies.

    Most churches were involved in providing some social services to the local community (82%). The most common ministries were food-bank (24%), counselling (22%), budgeting (14%), Mainly Music (12%), providing clothes and furniture (8%), childcare (8%), use of facilities (8%), school chaplaincy (6%), community meals (6%), and holiday programmes (6%).

    Church Growth and Evangelism

    In the 2011 survey, the larger Brethren churches are all growing but only slowly.  Some of the smaller churches are declining and some are growing rapidly (above 10% per annum).

    Growth Rate in the Last 12 Months
    CHURCH SIZE Negative 0 to 4.9% 5% to 9.9% 10% or more TOTAL
    0-49 4 3 0 1 8
    50-99 4 2 2 2 10
    100-199 5 3 2 4 14
    200-299 0 4 2 2 8
    300 + 0 9 1 0 10
    TOTAL 13 21 7 9 50

    The average growth from evangelism was 2.5 per cent for the 12 months (the highest number being 7 per cent).  The average growth from transfer of people from churches was 6 per cent in and 5.5 per cent out, making a net increase of 0.5 per cent for the year.

    A specific strategy for evangelism and church growth was in place in 62% of churches. Targeting of children and youth was a key strategy for 20% of churches. Encouraging church members to develop relationships and be a witness to Christ was mentioned by 18%. Organising meals and social events to introduce friends and foster relationships was a key part for 10%. Alpha and Christianity Explored courses were mentioned by 12%. Also included was: evangelistic preaching, Mainly Music, educational seminars, street evangelism, ladies social hour and tracts. No churches mentioned church planting as a part of their strategy.

    Partnership with other organisations for evangelism was indicated by two-thirds of churches.  Of these half mentioned other local churches and half mentioned para-church organisations.

    The survey asked respondents to identify which of the following activities that had caused any conversion growth they had experienced.

    ACTIVITIES NUMBER
    Friendship evangelism 33
    Youth ministry 28
    Community ministries 24
    Sunday preaching 19
    Involvement in home groups 16
    Gospel services 12
    Evangelism programmes (eg Alpha) 8

    Friendship evangelism is seen as the greatest contributor to conversion growth followed by youth ministry and community ministries. Sunday preaching and home groups are also important. Evangelism programmes and gospel services are the least significant either because they are less effective or because they are no longer widely used.

    When conversion growth is tested against other factors, the following factors showed a significant correlation with conversion growth:

    1. Existence of a specific strategy for evangelism and church growth.
    2. Programmes to identify and develop spiritual gifts.
    3. Youth ministry is a contributor to evangelistic growth.
    4. Home groups are a contributor to evangelistic growth.
    5. Contemporary music in Sunday worship.
    6. Youth service on Sunday evenings.

    It is to be expected that those churches with a specific strategy and focus on evangelism and church growth are the ones who are more likely to achieve that. Identification of spiritual gifts was the next highest factor to correlate with conversion growth. A focus on youth ministry is a third most correlated factor with conversion growth.

    Reflection

    The Brethren movement in New Zealand shows some encouraging signs and some indicators of concern. As Peter Lineham also found from analysing data from the 2001 National Church Life Survey, members of Brethren churches attend regularly, participate to a high level and are relatively committed. They are generally evangelistically minded. There is now a good number of Brethren churches above the 200 threshold (some even around 1,000) and all of these are experiencing some growth. In recent years ethnic diversity has increased particularly with Asian people.

    Ten years ago Peter Lineham felt that the Brethren had lost its focus on evangelism and had a relatively low level of involvement in community ministries. This new survey indicates that a good number of churches are now active in the community although many are not connecting this with evangelism. While most say they have a strategy for evangelism and church growth, the majority don’t seem to have this well thought through. A lot of churches are not helping people to identify and develop their spiritual gifts and most seem somewhat haphazard in their discipleship of newer Christians.

    There is no ‘one way’ to grow a church, or the Brethren movement as a whole, but a combination of factors under God’s sovereign work. One of the key strengths of the Brethren movement is its emphasis on the priesthood of all believers and mobilising believers to use their gifts for ministry in the church and in the local community. For this distinctive to continue to help us we need solid discipleship and the equipping of people.

    Our existing churches can never hope to reach the diversity of people in our communities and there is a need for creative church planting approaches. Having some good sized Brethren churches provides a platform for this to happen, but it will not happen people are equipped and led by the Holy Spirit for this task.

    Church health and church growth go hand-in-hand. We need solid discipleship as well as outreach and evangelism; depth and breadth. Similarly, church growth and church planting should also be undertaken simultaneously. Both existing and new forms of church are needed to reach all those God desires to be His.

    The writer welcomes correspondence at [email protected]

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  • Book Review – Way to Go: Living in a Broken World

    Way to Go: Living in a Broken World
    by George Bryant
    Published by Daystar Books

    George Bryant, well-known New Zealand teacher, educationalist and Christian writer, has produced his fifteenth book on the subject of how we should treat each other in the twenty-first century based on the teachings of Jesus, “the greatest teacher in the world.” He calls us to be more radical in the fields of forgiveness, peace-making, generous giving and personal morality, along with many more. He argues that a genuine commitment to the standards of Jesus would be radical for the Christian and attractive to the onlooker, and that the result would be to transform communities. His chapters are presented in manageable chunks, and his style is readable and easily digested. The book is selling at $23.99, plus $5.00 postage and packing. It may be ordered from Daystar Books, PO Box 65275 Mairangi Bay, North Shore City, or from PO Box 7031, Maungatapu, Tauranga. George Bryant’s website is  www.georgebryant.co.nz

    Note: book image used is for illustrative purpose only. Dimensions and materials may vary from actual product.

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  • HM Rage – 2012

    An update on HM Rage 2012 – from Steve & Cheryl Hamilton on behalf of the HM Rage board

    Hi Friends, Supporters, Sponsors, Crew, Church Leaders and Prayer Partners,

    Thank you for joining in prayer support for HM Rage over the years and for this latest weekend in particular.  The HM Rage board and crew have been mightily encouraged by messages of support, practical assistance and generous financial sponsorship that all contribute so critically to God’s work at this youth event.

    This year God has done abundantly more than we could have ever asked, ever dreamed-of or imagined.

    Yesterday, as we reached the end of a full-camp at Totara Springs with the 400+ youth spilling out of the cabins, motels and bunk-rooms.  Today we can look back on some truly amazing highlights and are humbled and thankful;

    • Over 120 youth responded (came forward and/or were counselled) as God’s Holy Spirit spoke into their lives.
    • God used Anthony and Shannon Samuel’s (Tamaki Community Church, Auckland) to speak words of challenge to the youth.  They called for God’s Spirit to bring about conviction – & for youth to get right with God and to live-out a life marked by faith & deeds (explained by Anthony as “God’s power-combo” – yeah!).
    • Please rejoice with us (and the angels) for the 30 first-time commitments to follow Jesus and the many more who were counselled as they expressed a desire to follow Jesus with passion.
    • On Saturday evening the Holy Spirit led an audience response that meant we had to spill over into two additional venues for enough counselling space!
    • Many of the youth stayed behind and spent extra time discussing the challenging topics covered during the break-out sessions (fantastic bunch of speakers/facilitators)
    • Jono Bay (Event Director) planned and implemented a fantastic programme of amazing worship, keynote sessions, sport, talent-quest and much more.

     

    This year marks our twenty-fifth year of HM Rage camps – and this year, God’s Spirit has blessed amazingly with triple the ‘usual’ number responding to the call of Jesus.

    In 2012, we were been blessed with a great team of helpers, speakers, worship team (Mt Mosaic – a talented & truly fantastic team) and camp-crew who have all worked alongside youth–community leaders to minister throughout the weekend.  Richard Davis and his staff at Totara Springs pulled out all the stops to serve God and the youth throughout the weekend.  A number of crew took annual leave from their work to help setup for the weekend, while others donated goods, services and finances – and we are so grateful for all who fellowship with us in this.  God has so abundantly blessed your generosity and unity of purpose!

    SOME FINAL THOUGHTS;

    God brought about a real-life youth-revival at Totara Springs camp this last weekend and while God has blessed HM Rage mightily in the past, this year he choose to demonstrate His grace and love in a far more powerful way than many of us have ever witnessed before.  Join with us in thanking God for His generosity to us.

    Please continue to pray for those youth who responded to God this weekend.  As they head back to the daily-routine of school, university and work, please pray that they will learn to walk with their God and he will be their very near, real & present Lord & Saviour

     

    HM RAGE are running a competition on Facebook for the seven days until 12th June 2012.

    The winner will be drawn from all those people who visit and ‘Like’ the HM Rage Facebook page.

    The winner will receive an HM Rage 2012 (wall mounted) Trophy and a goodie-bag (chocolates, sweets and more!!)

    Suggest links to;

    http://www.hmrage.co.nz/

    www.facebook.com/HMRage

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