Replication

Today, across town, there is an exciting development for Christianity in Invercargill.  The Invercargill Intercultural Church is at this very minute holding its formal opening of their new building in Centre St.

Roy and a few from here are representing our church at that great occasion.

Mature people, animals and plants replicate themselves.  Genesis is full of begatting. And post flood, there was more begatting. So too do churches need to begat. 

Each church, just like a person, animal or plant has a life cycle and in its most productive years – its years of maturity -it should be replicating itself, planting outside of itself in order to sustain the species.

It has been our great pleasure to be part of the spiritual growth of Jordy and Peihua and to nurture and guide their vision of the Intercultural Church. Jordy went from us to EastWest College and then on to the mission field in China where he met and married Peihua and they returned to NZ.  We encouraged him to start a church for immigrants here in Invercargill. I told him, you don’t need to go to China to do mission, China is coming to us.

The church was planted because of the missionary heart of Jordy and Peihua for the immigrant people moving into Invercargill, particularly Chinese.

And we have both financially and prayerfully supported this new work.

Church planting seems to be something that has faded from the wider church vision here in NZ.  But it was at one time in the fore front.

And in New Testament times it was paramount.  All the epistles are written to fledgling church plants through Asia Minor, Rome and Greece and to the pastors of those churches.

When Eastside became Eastside, the Glengarry church and the North Invercargill church as well as some from Central Baptist planted this church.  They went outside their comfort zone and became missionaries on the home front.

But even before that, way back in the history of the church in east Invercargill is a story of planting churches.

In 1924, the North Invercargill Baptist Church acquired a small hall in Carlyle St and started an outreach known as East Road Interdenominational Mission. 

At that time, the city ended at Lindisfarne St going east, on the south side of Tay St and Isabella St on the north side. Yarrow St ended at Isabella St. All land east was either farm or racing stables except for several homes in Carlyle, Duncan and Stuart St on the south side of Tay St known as Hawthorndale.

From that, the mission grew into the Hawthorndale Baptist Church.

 

The late 1950s the City Council and State Housing Corp, in the Glengarry area, planned a joint residential development. The church applied for 3 sections designated as a church site on the corner of Yarrow St and Glengarry Crescent. These were purchased for approximately $4000 and the Glengarry Baptist was planted.

From there, in the 1990s, it birthed Eastside Baptist.

Today we celebrate the planting of another church into Invercargill – the Intercultural Church.

It was a dream of mine for many years that Eastside would replicate itself into South City in what is called a multi-site church.  Little did I realise that this dream would come to fruition in totally different circumstances and have a totally different shape than I thought, through the Intercultural Church. South City, mission oriented, community church – all the boxes ticked but not as I had imagined.  Praise God for knowing better than me.

Some may ask why there is a need to create new churches, why can’t people just join the current church.  The reason is clear.

Times, need and demographics change and the church needs to adapt to meet those needs and sometimes that adaption means starting something new for that new profile, whilst keeping the current profile which continues to meet a need.

Paul Nixon wrote a book on community ministry entitled, Fling Open the Doors: giving the church away to the community. I want to refer to concepts from that book.

He writes that churches in the 21st century will, more often than not, be intensely community oriented.  The Eastside community reaches out predominantly to those people of the margins of society, and unashamably so.  But the Intercultural church reaches out to those from Asia for whom English is a second language and who face the issues of moving into a new world with a new worldview, far removed from their home countries and their own thought and behaviour patterns.  The community for the Intercultural church is Asian, even down to their thinking.

Nixon writes that churches in the 21st  century will be marked by a deeply felt sense of mission. Jordy joked last year that his was the only church with no Christians.  That is mission:  building a community where people can feel comfortable to enquire into this new thing called Christianity.  He now of course has Christian converts and has had baptisms.  And the church which started in his garage has outgrown the facilities.

Nixon writes that 21st century churches will have a view that their physical facilities are community centres for the peoples they serve. I visited the Intercultural Church on Monday morning. The woman were gathered making moon cakes for the Moon Festival which happens this month.  Chinese banners hang around the walls of the garage church. ESOL classes, Chinese language classes for the kiwi Chinese kids. The place is always open much like Eastside. The church is a hub for the Asian community, just as Eastside is a hub for the Glengarry community.

Nixon writes that the 21st churches will have an intense concern for connecting with the unchurched public but never at the price of compromising the core of the faith; The church has to reach out to the public but always must be focused on the Gospel message.  We do community but not at the expense of the truth of the Gospel.  That is why this church does not have a Trust to cover our community ministry.  We could get more funding if we hid the fact that we are church, but that would be denying Christ as our foremost concern. We apply for funding as a church and let the chips lie where they fall.

Nixon also writes that there will be multiple locations for doing ministry; that there will be varied experience in church growth patterns; there will be the willingness to change behaviours and strategies in order to bust through plateaus; and there will be a team approach to ministry.[1]

So what does this mean for us in the future of Eastside? What does it mean for each of us who are here?  What does it mean for us to be a spiritually mature person or church as far as replicating ourselves?

Let me take Nixon’s categories and address those parameters for ourselves

1)      Community oriented

Matthew 28:19-20

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

We are not the church that just meets in Glengarry, we are not the church to Glengarry people, we are not the church for Glengarry people, we are the church living with the Glengarry people.

We identify that we walk with the people. We do not act the colonialist in lording it over them.

Community is the centre of the entire missional incarnational approach to church, where belonging enables believing.[2]

On a personal basis, who is my community? How have the needs of my community changed?  How can I address those changed needs?  Remembering it is not about us, but about God and his mission

2)      A sense of mission

Our church mission statement: Follow Jesus, grow in wholeness, (and together) bring others to Him.

Israel Galindo writes that the ideal we hold dear for a congregation is that it is engaged in transformative mission in its immediate neighbourhood, a place that is well regarded and influential in the civic environment, whose opinion in the public square is weighty, respected, and counts for something.[3]

People do not care what we know until they know that we care. Our loving mission into the community gives us the right to speak God’s truth into their lives.

3)      Our building as a community centre

Someone once described this church as an urban marae, where everyone has a place to stand. A place of turangawaewae.  I often hear others praise for this church about it being a hub for the community every day of the week. 

On a more personal note: is your house your castle where you drive in, pull up the drawbridge and man the ramparts to keep the heathen away; or is your home a place for the community to see your lived-out Christianity?

4)      Uncompromised faith

A pastor friend of mine, Paul Makiha was appointed the Police chaplain for the Tokoroa Police whilst he was the associate pastor of the local Apostolic church. His senior pastor used to ask him “Is the main thing still the main thing.”  In other words, do we act as salt and light to the community, or has the community sucked us into its standards.  Our faith is paramount to what we do.

5)      Willing to change to win people to Christ

The wider Church is waking up to the fact that it exists not for itself but for others, that mission carries the meaning of being sent, and that if we are sent means we have to go!”[4]

If the mission of Jesus is to be fulfilled in today’s world, the Church must be ready to adopt the servant role He adopted, and it must become not exceptional, but normal, to find a Christian ready, like Jesus, to spend himself for others.[5]

The forerunners of this church -Hawthorndale and Glengarry - changed the shape and format of this church in order to reach out to a changing community.  Are we prepared to do so also?  Are we prepared to change the me focus to other focus in order that we can reach the community?

6)      Team ministry

And the last one I want to address is the team ministry suggestion.  Church is not about the pastor.  Eastside is not Chris’ church, the Intercultural Church is not Jordy’s church.  The church is all of us, a priesthood of believers.

If the church is a cult of the personality, it rises and falls on the leader.  That should not be the case in churches. It should be about team ministry

Team ministry is about all people working together to achieve the goal of the church.

The mission of this church continues. It will continue on, as we seek the heart of God, through prayer.

And that will happen if we continue to look for what God is doing in the world and become part of his program.

Reproduce yourself!

 

 



[1] Paul Nixon Fling Open the Doors: giving the church away to the community 10

[2] Hugh Halter & Matt Smay The Tangible Kingdom: creating incarnational community  98

 

[3] Israel Galindo The Hidden Lives of Congregations: discerning church dynamics 13

 

[4] Howard Belben The Mission of Jesus 57

[5] Belben 36