• 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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  • On Being Unique

    I was involved recently in a church service that was a little outside my normal range. It was to be run by a minister with whom I don’t have a lot in common, and I had a minor task to perform near the end. A few days before the event I received an order of service, and was alarmed to note that it included an item listed as “Multi-faith hymn”.

    I should make a few things specific at this point. One is that I understand that our age regards tolerance more highly than conviction, and I have no real wish to be intolerant.  Another is that I have been a member of various inter-faith dialogues, and I have always observed the preparedness of Muslims to be visible Muslims and of Jews to remain unapologetic Jews. I have applauded them for that, and sought to remain specifically Christian alongside them. But if I regard inter-faith dialogue as civilized, I regard inter-faith worship as oxymoron. All of Jesus’ teaching points unequivocally to singularity. So does the thrust of the Old Testament law. And even if none of it did so, I would have to wonder why Jesus gave his life for the redemption of sins if there existed another, less agonising way of addressing it.

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  • Transitional Church

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/adselwood/4378869850/

    I guess there is hardly anyone in New Zealand who has not heard some part of the debate about the future of Christchurch Cathedral, and probably most of them have an opinion. It’s good that all of Christchurch regards the building well, but it’s clearly been a double-edged sword for decision-makers. Most churches just have to serve the needs of the people who worship there, and the rest of the population are happy to ignore them, scoff at them, leave them alone or otherwise treat them as they choose.

    And I guess that the people of Christchurch too, have generally been happy to ignore the spiritual function of their landmark while it got on with adding to the church of God. But it was visible, and indicative of history, and when its owners had to decide what they should do, the people had an opinion. Or several.

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  • Whose World?

    This month marked the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic, lost along with 1517 lives in April 1912. I was reminded of it by a piece of classroom work a girl was doing about it.

    It’s remarkable how the Titanic has stayed in the public mind. It’s not history’s greatest maritime disaster — it’s actually number 5, with the greatest single loss of life just on three times the Titanic’s. So, why the fascination still?

    The girl’s teacher had an interesting insight. “Gripping story,” she said. “It’s a whole combination of tragedy, romance, remoteness and I don’t know what else. Hubris, heroism — you name it.”

    I guess that’s equally true of most disasters. But among her quick-fire snapshots, I especially noticed hubris. It’s not a word you hear every day. It means pride; specifically, the sort of pride that makes you act as if you were God.

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  • Turning to God from idols

    And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia — your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God — I Thessalonians 1:7-9.

    Gurung was born into a family of Gurkha warriors in a small village under the shadow of Mount Everest and, as he grew up, he learned to trust in the power of the “kukri” sword that his father had placed in his hand when he was just a lad. With his other hand he also learned to spin the prayer wheels in the Buddhist monastery near his house, fully believing that every spin of the wheel would carry his prayers to God and ensure him a safe and prosperous life. But neither the kukri sword nor the prayer wheels brought him the good karma that he longed for. The sword soon provoked fights and got him into increasing trouble with his neighbours and, however hard he spun the prayer wheel, he could not seem to find any way out of his problems. Gradually he descended into depression and another god — “Rakshi”, or Nepali whiskey, came into his life and took it over. Slowly his health deteriorated and eventually he landed up in hospital.

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  • A Very Gallant Gentleman

    When I was a fourth former at Hawera High School, we used to have a weekly library period. The idea was to expose books to kids who might not otherwise notice them: an exercise largely wasted on me because I was not in the habit of noticing very much else. But I went to the library with the rest of my class, and I have to say that I mostly enjoyed it.

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  • More in Sorrow than in Anger

    I had dinner recently with a couple whose first child is just short of six months old. Naturally, he dominated a lot of the conversation. As a matter of fact, he dominates a lot of other aspects of their lives as well. Infants tend to.

    He is a sociable little boy, within the confines of his abilities to communicate. Like most babies in well adjusted circles, he comes in for a lot of attention: his standard means of dealing with it seems to be a fairly lengthy scrutiny of whoever is angling for his attention, followed by a grin. Sometimes the grin is accompanied by a vocal gurgle. He seems to want to be involved.

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