Baptist Churches of New Zealand
v.132 † no.1
WHAT IS GOD’S WILL FOR MY LIFE? MOVING FORWARD WHEN THINGS ARE TOUGH
DOES ‘BEING BAPTIST’ HAVE RELEVANCE TODAY?
Feb/Mar 2016 NZ $3.90 (incl GST)
HE WAKA EKE NOA: EVERYBODY IN ONE CANOE WITH NO EXCEPTION
FOR WE ARE W H AT H E H A S M A D E U S , C R E AT E D I N J E S U S C H R I S T F O R GOOD WORKS, W H I C H G O D P R E PA R E D BEFOREHAND TO BE OUR W AY O F L I F E
Ephesians 2: 10
Pākehā identity † Long term mission: inside perspective
“BEING AN IMAGE BEARER IS OUR GREATEST CALLING.” 1
TA K E O U T S
HOW DO WE KNOW WHAT THIS IMAGE LOOKS LIKE? HOW DO WE GO ABOUT PURSUING THIS CALLING? DOES THIS REFLECT YOUR LIFE?
Raechel Myers. 2015. shereadstruth.com. This is the Gospel: Day 2 – In His Image. Retrieved from shereadstruth.com/2015/08/04/in-his-image
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04 CONTENTS FE ATUR E
Who do you say I am?.................4 Magazine Manager Angela Pedersen Editor Sarah Vaine Art Director Sue Pepper Global Mission Greg Knowles Business Manager Daniel Palmer __ Contact Editorial email@example.com Churches in Action firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising email@example.com Website baptistmag.org.nz Facebook facebook.com/baptistmagazine
RE FLECT IONS
Straining against the oars...........8 RE SO U R CE
Equipping you...........................10 D I SC I PL E SHIP
Identity and sexuality...............11 FA M I LY
YO U TH
Baptist Churches of New Zealand PO Box 12-149, Penrose, Auckland 1642, New Zealand Telephone 09 526 0333 __ Printing Image Print, Auckland Photography shutterstock.com and lightstock.com __ The NZ Baptist Magazine is the magazine of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand.
Distributed through local Baptist churches in NZ and dependent on their contributions. Registered with POHQ as a newspaper. ISSN 1176-8711. A member of the Australasian Religious Press Association.
R E VIE WS
FA M I LY
Seeking godly decisions.............16 C U LT U R E
Why Pākehā need to know who they are................................19 LE AD E R SHIP
Together, on the way and in the fray.....................................22 GLO BA L
In for the long haul.......................26 He waka eke noa: Everybody in one canoe with no exception....................... 28 D I RE C T ORY
A word from the Editor Our identity is a complex matter: all kinds of voices speak into who we are. Yet not understanding our identity can cause damage to ourselves and others. In this issue of the Baptist Magazine, we consider something of what it means to understand who we are. We reflect on what it means to be made in the image of God, yet in need of the saving grace of Jesus and the transforming work of the Spirit. We ask how understanding our identity affects how we see ourselves and others. And as we explore this, we probe into what following God’s will might look like. We also try to balance an understanding of our individual identity with one of our corporate identity. We hope this is helpful as you journey with God and others in your own identity questions. On a personal note, I will be on maternity leave from the end of February. Please continue to use my email address for correspondence: these will be forwarded on in my absence. I look forward to continuing in this role from July ~ Sarah Vaine.
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I AM? The importance of understanding our identity before God.
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In this two part article, Richard Cook shares part of his story as he explores his identity before God and Shona Birch calls us to consider Jesus’ commandment in Mark 12: 31 – what does it mean to love others as we love ourselves? The applause in my heart The applause echoed around the theatre. It was the finale of the final night. I was Oliver. The musical was Oliver. The streamers rained down. We bowed each time the curtain fell and rose again. I was important. I was somebody. And everybody in that theatre seemed to be applauding it. This was what author Larry Crabb describes as the moment in which I felt most alive.1 For me it defined what life at its best should be like. Because of the power of this experience it contributed significantly to my sense of identity, or selfhood – the way I thought I should be in the world – approved of, applauded, important. f course it was all a performance, repeatedly rehearsed, each movement and facial expression coached by an in-yourface director, corrected, corrected again, and re-run until it was to his liking. He seldom smiled or gave approval, but on stage that is of course what we went out there for. We had confidence that his approval would mean the approval of the audiences that would come. And so it was. I was easily drawn into this way of being because I had grown up in an English family and from my earliest days had been formed by English cultural norms. Keeping up appearances in order to gain approval, or as my dad summarised it one day, “get[ting] it right,” was the modus operandi. Few questioned it. It was the way we were
“conform[ed] to the pattern of this world,” as the apostle Paul termed it in Romans 12:2. We learnt that putting up a good performance meant applause would follow. So you established your identity. If every sentence, every facial expression, and every way you held your body complied with the social norms you would achieve value and importance. That was the script. That was the story. That was the social ‘truth.’ This kind of learned submission to cultural precepts produced what Thomas Merton called “a false self.”2 It formed the self I thought I should be. Yes it was well rewarded: school reports, parental smiles, and affirmation from other adults all reinforced this way of being. It offered the possibility that I could gain the whole world. But it never told me I could lose my soul. I made sense of it as we all do by coming to believe something very deeply about myself in the world: I came to believe that I would be okay and acceptable if, and only if, I achieved. So I set out to prove that. I worked long hours, got high grades, was a high achiever. Yet this was all driven from an inner anxiety – a terror that I could lose it at any moment. A look of disapproval, failure to perform at something valued by others, and it would come crashing down. Crabb describes this as a deathly feeling, and as a result one to avoid no matter what.3 This was unsustainable. Maintaining a good boy identity had a cost of its own. The anxiety, melancholy, and hidden forms of escape were the exacting price. For over thirty years they exacted a toll on my soul health, my marriage, and my relationships. This constructed identity, or “false self,” became the very thing that God seemed most intent to break. In fact I am convinced that every time
I sang: “Break me, melt me, mold me, fill me,”4 God’s Spirit seemed to respond with, “Yes... at last. Exactly what I’ve been waiting for.” I have come to recognise that every struggle is a springboard. These anxieties and escapes gradually came into the light, as of course they eventually always do. What a gift they now seem. What a joy trials have become. But what an annoying hindrance they seemed at the time. Sprinkled through my journals back then was the longing to be free to be me. But I had no idea how to change my sense of identity – my sense of self. And God seemed in no hurry. There was no haste. Just a patient, gentle Father who would use every opportunity to burn out of me this culturally informed and pride motivated false story. The transformational journey surprised me. I thought it would be about me gaining victory and strength. Instead it has been about embracing my inadequacy. It is about surrender in the small moments when failure or disapproval confronts me. It is what Richard Rohr calls a “spirituality of imperfection.”5 It is about accepting a different story, one in which I am what Therese of Lisieux called, a little one – poor, pitiful, blind and naked.6 It is about accepting that I am desperately in need of the riches that only God can give in an ongoing revelation. The ugliness of my pride and escapes has brought me to the foot of the cross many times – sometimes daily. Without that cross I would still be carrying the patterns, the guilt, the shame, and the sense of identity that destroy. The cross. Not a well-polished, shiny, sanitised version that most of us are familiar with. No – a rugged, blood-splattered, torture machine with flaking flesh still intact.
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My flesh. Jesus’ flesh made one with my flesh. And this is my only hope, my best hope, my glorious hope. For the truth about the identity of ‘me’ is not found in performance, achievement or approval: those needs point to a much deeper truth – that I am completely in need of saving from myself. Walking across the lawn at Orama Community on Great Barrier Island in 1993 some words came into my mind. They were very simple, but it was a revelation: “YOU ARE MY SON. I have adopted you.” This is grace-full truth. I am broken, small, and inadequate up against the challenges of being alive on this earth at this time. Yet I am adopted into a new family where my heavenly Dad sees another way of navigating these challenges. He would let me live as I please – and reap the good or bad
Would you be willing to let God tell you the real truth about you? that would follow; or I can gradually surrender into dependence on the life of my new family. So I literally am ‘in.’ I am living in a new reality. I am connected to the dancing Trio who love me and smile at the pure unnecessariness of my anxious striving, and relapses into performance and achievement. They smile, I think, because they know the truth – and this bigger, truer, grander, more glorious story eclipses the best I could do even on my very best day ever. My identity is not referenced in me. It is not determined by me. It is not affected by me even by the worst I’ve done on the worst day ever. Such is the over-powering, over-arching enormity of this true story. My identity is not about me. It really is all about him... “For from him and through him
and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever!” (Romans 11: 36). __ Story: Richard Cook Richard has taught counselling at Bethlehem Tertiary Institute in Tauranga for nineteen years and focuses on one-on-one and small group spiritual journeying.
Larry Crabb. 2005. Soul Talk: The Language God Longs for Us to Speak. Thomas Nelson. Tennessee. 2 Thomas Merton. 1962. New Seeds of Contemplation (p. 35). New Directions Books. New York. 3 Crabb. Soul Talk: The Language God Longs for Us to Speak. 4 Daniel Iverson. 1926. Spirit of the Living God. Copyright © 1935 Birdwing Music. EMI Christian Music Publishing. 5, 6 Richard Rohr. 2007. The Little Way: A Spirituality of Imperfection. Center for Action and Contemplation. New Mexico. 1
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L O V I N G O U R N E I G H B O U R S – A S O U R S E LV E S
When one of the religious scholars asked which commandment is the most important, Jesus answered in Mark 12: 30-31 (The Message): “LOVE THE LORD GOD with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.” He followed this with the second most important commandment: “LOVE OTHERS as well as you love yourself.” Many of us are probably very familiar with this passage. But how often have you considered that in this statement, Jesus automatically assumes that you will love yourself... and the level to which you love yourself should be reflected in how well you love others. This leaves us with a question – how well do you love yourself? Consider some of the following questions: •
When you look at yourself, do you see a child of God created in his image? Are you able to thank God for making you, you? • When you mess up, are you wrecked or are you able to come back into the knowledge that you are a precious child of our loving heavenly Father? Can you accept that you are accepted through Christ? • Would you still be of high worth even if you ‘achieved’ nothing else by the world’s standards of success? Having said this, do you believe that you have much to give to the world? • Do you believe that you are worth the same as everyone else? If you answered with a lot of affirmations, you will probably breeze through the day expecting doors to open and the world to welcome you! But maybe your honest answers
were sadly negative. Maybe you go through each day feeling like a second rate citizen, and feeling that you do not amount to much in your own eyes, or anyone else’s. Recently a young woman sat in my office whose answers to similar questions were very negative. As she told me her story there was lots to be sad about but there were also some very good things about her life! Overall however, her core belief was that she was a waste of space. She had trouble making any decisions and had no confidence in her own abilities or her own self-worth. In actual fact she was an intelligent, attractive young woman with all sorts of opportunties. So what had so twisted her thinking that she had reached the conclusion that it really didn’t matter if she lived or died? What was the lie that the enemy had sown into her thinking that had captured her heart in such a way that her adult mind couldn’t find logical ways of working? As she allowed her mind to drift back to where she had first known the ‘I don’t matter’ belief, we found a sad little girl living in an unhappy family. She had come to the conclusion that the best way to survive was to be so compliant as to be almost invisible. As we talked, she recognised that she had decided that the family needed for her to be the ‘good one.’ And so she, quite subconciously, as children do, vowed to have no hopes, plans or desires of her own. She would subjugate her whole personality for the sake of her family’s fragile peace! But in losing herself she had given away her God given right to choose for herself, enjoy herself, or be a ‘worthwhile’ person. Her little heart had made a choice that sounded very righteous but was in fact an abrogation of her God given right to “choose life” (Deuteronomy 30: 15). No wonder she was sad! Yet as she revoked that childhood
vow, Jesus came to her, and she heard him whisper to her heart that “she was important to him!” It was at that point that she realised her adult self needed to go back and find the little girl that she had abandoned and love her again – as God did! The transformation that happened as she heard the truth that day was instant! Allowing the Holy Spirit to bring truth to the lies the enemy deceives us with sets us free from shame, guilt, fear, and self-loathing. It sets us free to accept that we are lovable and loved by God. Getting the right perspective on our value can then help us love ourselves and others well. This is foundational to being healthy and Jesus understood this! My next question for you is – would you be willing to let God tell you the real truth about you? He is longing to tell you! “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” John 8: 32. __ Story: Shona Birch Shona was a pastor’s wife, serving in four churches, and she was Chaplain at the Titoki Healing Centre. She continues to teach and counsel in Transformational Prayer.
TAKE OUTS! 1. What is your identity story?
2. Have you considered Mark 12:31 in how you see yourself and others? 3. In your relationships, do you love yourself or others more preferably? 4. For more content on identity wrestles, check out Leading Out Of Who You Are in resources.
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STRAINING AGAINST THE OARS What can we do when life is tough?
Here we pick up the story. It’s getting tough out on the lake – the wind is picking up and the disciples are straining with the effort of rowing. Jesus needs to get to the other side of the lake as well and so begins walking across the water. But he doesn’t seem to intend to join them in the boat – it seems like he was going to let them get on with it. However, when the disciples cry out, terrified by the ghostly apparition, Jesus ends up joining them in the boat. At this point, the wind dies down. Jesus has saved the day and they carry on to the other side of the lake. So, what are these passages about? Hungry people and miraculous provision? The disciples in a storm and Jesus miraculously coming to their rescue? Or could it be something else? Mark 6: 51-52 might give us a clue. With Jesus in the boat and everything
the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down” Mark 6: 47-51. “LATER THAT NIGHT,
his passage takes place the night after Jesus has miraculously fed the 5,000 from five loaves of bread and two fish. Not only did he feed this vast number from just five loaves, but there were twelve baskets left over! Jesus asks his disciples to pick up the leftovers and then sends the disciples to the other side of the lake.
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under control again, Mark tells us that the disciples “were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.” It’s a rather strange summary to an action packed day. What can we make of this? Bread Through the gospels, bread becomes the hallmark of Jesus’ ministry. As well as feeding 5,000 with five loaves of bread, Jesus feeds 4,000 with seven loaves of bread in Mark 8 and Matthew 15. The devil tempts Jesus to turn stones into bread, to which Jesus replies, “Man shall not live on bread alone” (Luke & Matthew 4:4). Jesus talks about bread all the time: “It is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven” (John 6:32), “I am the bread of life” (John 6: 35), “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6: 51). And at the end of his ministry, Jesus broke bread with his disciples. Wherever Jesus goes, there is bread. But all this bread points to something more. Just as bread
had defined Moses as the great Old Testament deliverer when God provided manna for Israel, bread is once more a sign... this time that Jesus, as the Son of God, is the carrier of God’s deliverance. Let’s return to the passage. The people had eaten their fill of bread. The disciples had gathered up twelve baskets of excess and may well have had them in the boat with them. Perhaps they are up to their armpits in bread! Now the wind has got up and they are straining against the oars. Jesus is out there too – he saw them straining... and he was going to pass them by. Why? Perhaps the following illustration can help explain. Thirty-five years ago I was rowing for the Tauranga Boys College Rowing 8. Our coach was seventy-three years old. Morning after morning we would meet the coach at 6am and he would thrash us. As the season wore on he would thrash us more and more. We decided old Bill the coach was losing his marbles. We went from two lots of 2,000 metre sprints, then onto three... and when we got up to four lots of 2,000 metre sprints in a morning, we thought Bill had definitely lost his marbles. But what we came to realise was that this was all about his trying to put grit into our journey and our capacity to race. More than that he was trying to put steel into our determination. He wanted us to understand what it was like to push our bodies past their aerobic capacity. We thought the coach was crazy in our training sessions. But when we went to the New Zealand Nationals... and won... we thought he was fantastic! As I reflect on this passage and why Jesus might have planned to pass by, I wonder... was Jesus trying to build some character into the disciples here? After all, Jesus knew that his Great Commission would require all their character and determination to carry
them through and given that they had experienced miraculous provision you might think they had all the evidence needed to know that Jesus had everything in hand. So couldn’t they have kept rowing? Remembering the bread of our past How many times have you been heading towards a God-given destination whilst straining against the oars? You still have the evidence of last week’s miracle all around you, but you wonder, you strain and you doubt. Has anybody experienced that? I have. For example, I just love being a pastor. But there are times when it’s tough. So what can I do? Well, I think these are the times when I can look back at the stories of the church and remember the miracles of God’s provision. So I can think about Dunedin Baptist Church – they have a marvellous story of God’s provision. Six or seven years ago, they bought seven hectares of land for $250,000! Isn’t that incredible? The developer told them he had done all the work he needed to on the land, so they could have it for that price. And I can think about Lower Hutt Baptist Church. They had to make a decision whether or not to move into the theatre or stay on their current site. After praying and fasting, they planned to meet on a particular Sunday to make a decision. On the Saturday night there was a lightning strike that blew the roof off the church. The congregation met on the Sunday morning looking at the church building, wondering if this was a sign from God! Just this week, I have heard stories from Morrinsville Baptist Church. After a few years of many folk studying Te Reo, fifty Māori folk walked into their building. In the last few weeks the church have had gang members giving their lives to Jesus. Isn’t that amazing? Doesn’t it give you strength? It does me.
Remembering God’s provision in the stormy times gives us the strength for the next day.
HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU BEEN HEADING TOWARDS A GOD-GIVEN D E S T I N AT I O N WHILST STRAINING AGAINST THE OARS? There are times when God just delivers, at times and in ways that you simply didn’t expect. These are the moments we live for. As children of God, remembering God’s provision in the stormy times gives us the strength for the next day. But friends, our journey is going to be tough at times. It’s going to be challenging and there are times when you’ll be straining against the oars and you’ll be struggling to see where God is. You’ll be looking outside of the boat that is fighting against the wind and you’ll be wanting to see that at the minimum Jesus is walking beside you. In these times, remember how God has provided and ask, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6: 11). __ Story: Craig Vernall Craig is the National Leader of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand.
TAKE OUTS! 1. Are there times in your walk with God where there has been miraculous provision? How could you regularly remind yourself of these times? 2. Are you in a time of strain at the moment? What can you take from this article to help you?
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Leading Out Of Who You Are: Discovering The Secret Of Undefended Leadership – Simon P. Walker Understanding how you tick as a leader is vital, for your sake and those you lead. Walker considers how each of us can establish defences against the knocks of life, and looks at how these affect our leadership. He considers the need for undefended leaders – those free from the need to succeed to achieve approval and unthreatened by possibility of ‘failure,’ able to take responsibility whilst trusting others, giving from love rather than obligation, and able to let go when needed. Aimed at leaders, but applicable to all. A great team resource ~ Sarah Vaine. What Am I Supposed to Do With My Life: God’s Will Demystified – Johnnie Moore A former university pastor, Moore has met many Christians stressed about finding God’s will for their lives. He says we can overcomplicate this search, stalling into dithering inaction that robs the world of potential good. Moore
destiny for humanity: to be conformed to the image of Christ. He offers a compelling view that humans have dignity due to their relationship to God and offers a constructive alternative to traditional understandings of humans as image bearers ~ Sean du Toit. WEBSITE AND APP
suggests that you consider God’s will as being “more about who you are than... where you are or what you do,” and says, “You don’t find it; you become it.” He considers how self-discovery, commitment, and even discontentment, play their parts as we find and live out our individual purpose ~ Linda Grigg. Dignity and Destiny: Humanity in the Image of God – John F. Kilner Here, Kilner has taken a very careful and detailed look at what Scripture says about our identity as those created in the image of God. The focus of this study is on God’s
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DISCIPL E SHIP
exualit How do we navigate our sexual identity in the context of our Christ-rooted identity? AUTHOR’S NOTE
As we discuss our identity in relation to sexuality, we are eager to avoid over-certainty because strong conviction can too easily drown out the humility of those who “know in part and prophecy in part” (1 Corinthians 13: 9): none of us are ever ‘finished’ learning about any topic, including this one. We recognise that no one is free of bias and our views and the ways we express them are usually shaped by influences other than Scripture: various ‘cultures’ (e.g. popular culture, our family culture, our local church culture) will always have some degree on influence on us, whether we go along with these cultures or push back against them. And for those who have been victims at the hand of a discussion or opinion of sexuality, though we cannot speak for everyone, we nonetheless offer one more much-needed apology to any person who has been hurt by careless words or behaviour, no matter how well-intended.
Identity is complex. Amidst this, sexuality is a significant part of identity and it affects both how we see ourselves and relate to others. However we live in a highly sexualised culture and must acknowledge the effect that this has on our perspective. In this discussion, we aim not to provide more answers but instead hopefully a glance at something of God’s revelation about our identity. This is our identity in the eyes of Christ, whose are the only eyes that really see. Clusters and levels of identities So then, what do we already understand about identity? Identity of the self and the other is a constant and subconscious conversation in the winds of understanding ‘who’ we, or they, are. And it is not a single answer to a single question: understanding any individual or community means engagement with all manner of questions. Questions such as: • •
What does she do? What does he enjoy?
Whose life do they reflect on and learn from? • What social class are they from? • Are they a father or mother, sister or brother? When it comes to sexual identity, there are yet another stack of questions which seem, especially in our modern world, to be everexpanding: •
Are they male or female? Are they masculine or feminine? • Who do they find themselves most naturally attracted to? • What gender expression do they feel suits them best? •
Within these clusters of identities, some are held at a higher level than others. For example, one’s identity as a mother or father will (usually!) be more deeply prized than the identity as a fan of a TV programme or sporting team. Identities are not only held at different levels, but they can also be in conflict with one another. An identity based on one’s addiction to gambling, for example,
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will be in conflict with the same person’s identity based on their job as, say, a financial advisor. In such a tossed sea of multiple and at times competing or conflicting identities, what do we hear from Christian Scripture and theology? Scripture, theology and identity in Christ The ‘imago dei,’ (image of God), is the central identity given to humankind. Genesis 1: 26-27 gives us a formative and foundational picture of the biblical understanding of humans being created male and female – opposed yet interdependent sexes. We are fundamentally made both to reflect God’s character into the world, and for a host of interdependent identities: employer and employee, husband and wife, friend and friend, and more. We are made to want and need one another. From Genesis 3 onward, however, this good desire to be wanted and significant is distorted, leading to a thousand forms of idolatrous identities and actions (see Romans 1: 24-32). And so we must return to the understanding, as Stanley Grenz puts it, that the ‘imago Christi’ (image of Christ) is the fulfilment of what it means to be the ‘imago dei’, and is the true and ultimate resting place for human identity.1 This is established in what is called the Magna Carta of the New Testament, Galatians 3: 26-29. Here, Paul describes Jesus Christ as the glue that holds the church together, even as it is made up of many peripheral and non-essential identities: male and female, Jew and Gentile, and so forth. Provided they are not idolatrous (e.g. glutton, adulterer, etc.), the Spirit of God neither elevates nor degrades these non-essential identities, but instead empowers us to hope and trust in our grace-enabled identity as children of our “Abba” (Romans 8: 15). What could our desire for the other, as sexual beings, look like when it is
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completely whole and satisfied in this grace-enabled identity as children of God? How do we hold onto our identity in Christ high and first in the midst of a sexualised and secularised culture? Christian identity in a sexualised context As we have seen, sexuality is an important dimension of who we are and it points us towards the other – ideally in a beautiful diversity of loving and serving relationships. Indeed our bodies are God-given so that we can live and relate to one another through them. But at the same time, sexuality must not become an idol. Our highly sexually saturated culture and the ivy threads of individualism conspire together to elevate sexual identity higher than its rightful place, increasingly linking sexual expression with human rights and basic freedom. By contrast, the church must continue to hold all sexual identities as peripheral, compared to the saving and transforming identity we have in Christ. As Leslie L. Fields explains: “Our aim is not manliness or womanliness but godliness... We need not pretend we are all alike, or that gender doesn’t matter, but gender has mattered far too much…”2 Yet as we consider this, we must also remember that our deepest identity in Christ ultimately leads us to put the concerns and needs of others before ourselves. Lauren Winner suggests that as Christians we need to relearn how “to live in [our] bodies well.”3 This challenge extends from sexuality to self-image, from self-care to caring for the needs of the other, from bodily worship to communication through body language. As unfinished creatures, all of our peripheral identities – sexual and non-sexual – are being reordered and transformed into the glory of Jesus Christ (often at a much slower pace than we’d like!). We have
a long way to go in understanding and experiencing the glorification of our bodies and thus a long way to go in understanding our various identities as well. In a world clamouring for ‘sexual freedom,’ we are reminded in Galatians 5: 13-26 that our freedom through Christ is not primarily for ourselves, but for the sake of serving the other. May the Spirit who empowers freedom through our permanent union with and identity in Christ, enable us to use that freedom for others, perhaps especially when they are different to us. __ Story: Naomi Compton and Dale Campbell Naomi is one of the pastors at Karori Baptist Church, wife to Mark, with a child on the way. Dale is associate pastor at Northcote Baptist Church, husband to Diane, father to Thomas, and is aiming to finish a masters thesis at Carey Graduate School.
TAKE OUTS! 1. When you consider your own identity, what words or descriptives would you include? Does this line up with Scripture? 2. There is increasing discussion around sexual identity in our world. Do you agree that this should be held as peripheral, compared to our identity in Christ?
Stanley J. Grenz. 2006. The Social God and the Relational Self. In Lints, Horton and Talbot (Eds.) Personal Identity in Theological Perspective. Grand Rapids/Cambridge. Eerdmans. Leslie L. Fields. 7 July 2015. How We Made Too Much of Gender: Reclaiming an identity more meaningful than manhood or womanhood. Christianity Today. Retrieved from christianitytoday.com/women/2015/july/how-wemade-too-much-of-gender.html. Lauren F. Winner. 2005. Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity (p. 88). Grand Rapids. Brazos Press.
FA M I LY
LAUSANNE YOUNGER LEADERS GATHERING Four NZ Baptist leaders have been selected for the Lausanne Younger Leaders’ Gathering (YLG) in Jakarta this August. Clare Knowles, Sarah and Elliot Rice, and Lyndon Drake will join 1,000 leaders of different denominations from around the world, as part of Lausanne’s strategy for engaging in global mission (see http://bit.ly/lga-regm). The Gathering is the first step in ten years of participant mentoring and education, and it is exciting that this once-ina-generation Gathering includes four NZ Baptist leaders. Clare is passionate about the Bible and is training to become a Bible Translation Consultant with the Bible Society of NZ as well as teaching Greek and Hebrew at Laidlaw College. Sarah and Elliot are recent Carey Baptist College Clare graduates and coordinated the Intermission Programme in 2015. Lausanne YLG will be a chance to Sarah & Elliot make significant connections as they step into pastoral leadership in NZ. Lyndon is a part-time Lyndon pastor at the Auckland Baptist Tabernacle, and involved with mission coaching for the Baptist Union’s Northern Association and leadership of the World Evangelical Alliance’s Council for Business and Theology. If you would be interested in supporting this group, get in contact!
We are sad to announce closure of two Auckland churches – Balmoral and Springs of Life (Pt Chevalier). Springs of Life began as a home group in 1933. Douglas Vause has been pastor here but felt led to resign – there was insufficient leadership for the church to continue. Douglas says a standout aspect of the
church was knowledge that God speaks to all people and uses them for ministry in all areas of life. Douglas was part-time and will return to self-employment full-time. Balmoral was founded in 1963 when Grange Rd and Shackleton Rd Baptist Churches merged. Their pastor, Graeme Hight, says the small congregation made this courageous decision in hope of establishing a new multi-ethnic church to more ably reach the changing face of Balmoral with the gospel. After a welldeserved Christmas break, Graeme will look for another pastoral role in Auckland. The church assets have been passed to the Northern Association, which is looking at new missional ventures to operate from these sites alongside the existing Samoan congregations.
GREETINGS FROM BEN WAKEFIELD
Kia ora tatau, greetings to you all. My name is Ben Wakefield and I have the joy of being the President of the Baptist Union for 2016. I am looking forward to this year. It will be great to see how our movement of churches engages. I will visit churches in our movement that I have not engaged with before, meet people I have not met before, and pray for things I have not seen the need to pray for until I face them. The joy of a new year, and a new role, is that it is new. This brings change and challenge – these are the marks of the future view. Yet, with all the new year’s resolutions and goals that by now have been broken or at least modified, how much change or transformation really happens? I find myself in a similar rhythm to last year: family, yard work, gym, office, meals, coffee... life... continues in time with the previous year. I still struggle with the pressures of leading, still wrestle with the hope that my parenting is good enough, still laugh at the same jokes, still enjoy the same pastimes. These are all similar to last year.
So do things change? Thinking about this I was struck by a passage in 1 John: “This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2: 5a-6). Although things around may look, feel, or taste the same, one thing that can change is the way following Jesus looks: I can always be led by the Holy Spirit to live more like Jesus. This passage in 1 John deals directly with our relationships in the community of faith, and if we are honest, this can be one of the hardest places to live like Jesus because face it, “Christians should know better!” Yet we know that we are changing to be more like Jesus when we live as Jesus did and when we live out the character of God in justice, compassion, and forgiveness, with love and humility. I look forward to this year where I will be in places and with people in our movement who are living as Jesus did. I trust that this year is one you can look back on as one where you know you are in him. Naku noa, Ben Wakefield.
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Three members of the South West Baptist Church staff and their families are heading overseas this year. Tim and Katie Perry with their two lads Alex and Oliver, Josh and Larissa Hilton, and Anthony and Sandy Watt with their daughters Hanna and Olivia, will be heading to Asia as part of a new global venture by SWBC to include community development, employment creation, and spiritual formation. This marks the beginning of a long-term commitment by the church to carry on from its previous forty years of global mission.
SENIOR PASTORS RETIRE Ian and Joy Brown recently concluded over fifty years in ministry amongst our Baptist family when Ian retired from his role as Church and Pastoral Advisor to the Waikato Baptist Association. Ian began this role in 2000 after concluding as Executive Secretary (National Leader) from 1991-2000. Previously they served pastoring in Lyall Bay (1965), as missionaries in Bangladesh (1966-78), pastoring at Glen Eden (1979-83), and leading NZBMS (1983-91). Ian has been an apostle for our movement (though this isn’t a commonly used term in our family of churches) and has worked with many churches around NZ helping with all manner of issues. Their farewell in November at Morrinsville Baptist saw many sharing how Ian and Joy had encouraged them over the years. Ian and Joy, words can’t express the debt we Baptist churches owe you for your years of dedicated and selfless service. May “the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you... and give you peace” (Numbers 6: 24-26).
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On 31 December 2015, Graeme Young retired after twenty-five years as Senior Pastor of Whangarei Central Baptist Church (WCBC). In farewell, we considered Ecclesiastes 3 to celebrate the times and seasons of Graeme and Marion’s lives, and acknowledge their lifetime of ministry to Baptist churches – Papanui North, Paeroa and Whangarei Central. Also
acknowledged was Graeme’s valued contribution to other Northland Baptist churches and pastors as well as to the local Ministers’ Association. This couple are much loved for their commitment to the Lord and congregation, for faithful preaching of the Word, and for their constant encouragement to others to put Jesus at the centre of their lives, as individuals and as families. The WCBC family will miss them greatly. May God grant a blessed and fulfilling retirement.
CHRISTCHURCH EARTHQUAKES – FIVE YEARS ON
When the February 2011 earthquakes struck Christchurch, it became a story of two cities. The vast majority of damage was located in the centre, east and hill suburbs of the city: these areas were awash with liquefaction and broken buildings, utilities, roads, and schools. Whilst some areas in the west were badly hit, here it was mostly business as normal. Spreydon Baptist Church got off lightly. Grace Vineyard Church did not. A couple of days after the earthquake, Alan Jamieson (Senior Pastor of South West Baptist Church) had a conversation with Dave McGregor (Senior Pastor of Grace Vineyard Church) which ended with an invitation for the Grace team to batch with Spreydon for a while. Thus began a three year co-sharing of the church facilities with (at its peak) five services each Sunday and an extra thirty staff members during the week – Grace is a large church with over 1,000 people worshipping each Sunday. The two churches jokingly shared it was a bit like having relatives come to stay thinking they might be with you for a few weeks and then staying three years. But it was great fun, and helped build a strong relationship between the two churches. It had an added
bonus of making a statement that two churches can genuinely work together and support each other. Whilst sharing the facilities with Grace, conversations were also being had between Spreydon and Halswell Baptist Church about the changing nature of the Southwest of the city: new subdivisions were rapidly being built and significant numbers of people were moving from east to west into undeveloped areas. Long conversations led to the two churches becoming one, linking ministries and leadership, though operating services at both sites for the first two years. 2015 has seen Spreydon and Halswell join their services, to fully become one new church in culture, vision and values. Now known as South West Baptist Church (SWBC), the hunt is on for somewhere in this growing area to house new ministries, and for local communities of church people to take root and begin to quietly serve the streets, schools, and people of the area. Five years after the earthquakes, a number of the congregation are still waiting for their homes to be repaired or rebuilt, and work for many (especially in caring industries) continues to be demanding. SWBC is planting local redemptive communities in response, following the grass roots of Jesus’ command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Five years on... it’s far from over.
A hero at ten 1 0 0 Y E A R S A G O – T H E Y O U N G F O L K S ’ PA G E
Some endings are glad – when a hard task, a wearisome journey, or a long day’s toil is over, folk rejoice. Uncle Tom said that when he was a boy in the lower standards at school, he used to think the clock almost smiled when it struck twelve, and he imagined it fairly laughed when it struck four p.m. Twelve was dinner hour, and four was the hour of release from the tasks of the day. Of course, the smiles and laughter were not in the clock, but in the little schoolboy’s heart. But what boys can greet the ending of a holiday with a cheer? And we had come to the last Sunday of our seaside holiday at Uncle Tom’s farm. Master Billy, at the dinner table, said he just hated to think that after one more day they would have to say goodbye to all the pleasant things connected with a holiday, and get back to school and daily home tasks. Mother replied that she thought they should try to make the ending of a holiday its very crown. And they could do this in three ways: First by being thankful. A great man used to pray: “Lord, bless all who have shown us any kindness, and may we never forget to be thankful!” Then, God had given us the priceless boon of memory. And a good memory will help us to take back with us the very best part of our
KOINONIA KIWISAVER SCHEME
holiday and enjoy it all the year round. And the third thing little Alice had hinted, when, after Billy’s “explosion,” she whispered to mother, she would be so glad to get back to home and Daddy. And Billy’s home, I am glad to say, was one to which any boy should be glad to return from any pleasant spot in all the world. Uncle Tom said nothing at the moment. But he asked Aunty if he for once might serve the pudding as well as carve the meat. And when a big dish of fruit, and another of rice custard, was set before him, he said, “Billy is today to have the first helping.” Then he carefully lifted a little of the spice from the top, and handed the plate to lusty Billy! The latter was in no hurry to begin on such a helping. Spice was nice, but it wasn’t substantial enough to be satisfying. Needless to say that Billy got his full share in due course. It was Uncle Tom’s way of teaching us what a holiday should be – spice to give relish to the work and the duty of the whole year. Without work, rest becomes weariness; and the surest way to rob a boy of his holiday would be to give him a holiday lasting all the year round. It would be like a dinner of spice. __ Story: A.L.O.C. Baptist Magazine, February 1916.
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SEEKING GODLY DECISIONS
What do you do when you can’t decide?
I know a couple who toss a coin to help them make decisions, even big ones like what job to take or where to live. It has worked out alright for them so far, but beyond deciding what to have for dinner or what movie to watch, tossing a coin doesn’t appeal to most people to help with decision-making. What do you do when you can’t decide, and when much more is at stake than what choice of shampoo to buy? Where do you turn when your GPS to God’s so-called plan for your life just won’t respond and he seems silent? Often, the decision-making process we choose is just as important as the
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decision itself, and the road to a good decision has got many parking spaces, deceptive road signs, and diversions along the way. Simon Simon was waiting. He wasn’t exactly sure what he was waiting for, but he told himself and everybody else that he was waiting for God to guide him: to guide him about what to study at university, who to date, which church to attend... Meanwhile, months rolled into years until by his mid-twenties, he still hadn’t made decisions about those things, but he said he was still waiting on God. When a friend asked him what this ‘guidance’ from God would look like, he
replied that it would be clear, like a sign in the sky of his mind. It would feel ‘just right’ and all the ducks would line up in a row... the children of God are promised a great future right? It would be an open door right in front of his face… God is the giver of good gifts right? Oh and lastly, it would be easy (or at least straightforward)... that would be a clear sign that God was going in front of him, clearing the way to help him out. And so, Simon paused, but then walked on by some opportunities for apprenticeships or study that passed him. He dated a few girls but after a while, each time he discovered something about them that was less than ideal. The ‘right one’ must still be
out there, he thought. He still didn’t know what he wanted to do next year, let alone the rest of his life. By his late twenties, he started to feel a nagging sense that life wasn’t turning out how he had thought it would. Frustration at God came creeping in. Where are the signs, God? Where are the ducks that are meant to line up in a row? Where are the open doors? Simon thinks that God is like Santa, and I think he’ll be checking the chimney for his presents for a long time to come. Ella Ella has trouble deciding. Unlike Simon though, who can’t see God’s leading in anything, Ella sees God’s leading in everything. That’s the problem! If she feels attracted to a particular choice, she thinks it is God telling her to go for it. If she feels scared, she interprets that as God not wanting her to go ahead. If she isn’t sure, she thinks it is God telling her to wait. Whether it’s an emotion, a logical thought, or a word from a friend, she tries to baptise everything by saying it is from God. But is it? Well, it is how she decides. So, she turned down a couple of amazing job opportunities that came her way, because she felt so terribly inadequate and scared about them. Surely, she said, God would have given her more confidence and peace about it if she was meant to do it? Ella was in a relationship with a man she said was her dream guy, even though her friends and family didn’t like him. Sure, he was a ‘bad boy’ and she had her concerns, but she was deeply attracted to him. Didn’t that mean that God wanted her to be with him? Hadn’t the happy high she felt when they first met been a sign that he was a gift from God? When Ella got unhappy at her last church, she interpreted that as God calling her to a new church... though it was actually because she couldn’t be bothered putting in any effort. When she finally decided to study at medical school, she declared God
was calling her to make a difference to the hurting... but actually, the primary drivers were that she wanted to feel significant, and was terribly afraid of struggling financially the way her parents had all their lives. When she stops to think about it, Ella has a niggling feeling that sometimes she is deceiving herself with all this Godtalk. But saying, “God is saying this...” keeps family and friends off her back, and kind of appeases her conscience. So she keeps doing whatever feels good at the time, and naming it as God’s leading. It is how Ella decides. Both Simon and Ella are making decisions that are affecting the entirety of their lives. Both of them are overspiritualising their decision-making, and claiming that it is God who is (or isn’t) leading. It isn’t working out too well for either of them, but what are the alternatives? How can we tell whether something is or isn’t God leading us? If there are no ducks lining up in rows and if we can so easily deceive ourselves with our motivations, then how can we truly discern? Discerning well In the Christian’s backpack on the journey of life there are three essential navigation instruments. Our Triune God has guided individuals, families, and communities with these for centuries. These instruments are the Spirit of God, the Word of God, and the people of God. Screeds has been said, done, and written about these three things so I’ll keep it brief, focusing especially on two vital aspects of how to use each of these instruments well. The first of these aspects is truth. Truth is vital when discerning and decision-making. Jesus promised, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
When we make decisions based on truth, we create a secure foothold for ourselves. It doesn’t mean our pathway will be all flowers and candy, but it means that we can trust that our decisions have been made based on what is true, what is right, and what is honourable to God. Trust is the second essential aspect. Trusting in your decision, and more importantly, in the God who is with you as you walk into your decision, is vital because challenges come to every single path. We can only trust what is true. Let’s take a brief look at how we can find truth to trust in our decision-making through the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the people of God. The Word of God The Word of God (A.K.A the Bible) is utterly essential to our decision making in life. You might think, how can that be? I don’t see any instructions detailing which university to choose, or who to vote for in the next election! This is true, but the primary role of the Bible in our decision-making is not so much for specific minute instructions: it is for understanding the general will and purposes of God for our lives, for humanity, and for the planet. The big story of Scripture gives us a framework to understand and interpret our own stories, and where they fit into God’s big unfolding story. Without the Bible, we are left searching for answers to what all of creation is for, who God is, and who we are ourselves. As we grow in our understanding of God’s big story and our place in it, we see things around us differently. Instead of interpreting the world around us through other frameworks available to us (such as society’s ideas of ‘success’ or ‘purpose’),
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we see it through the only true framework – God’s. Scot McKnight explains this well: “Guidance begins with Scripture, or it will wander astray. How so? Some claim to hear God in such things as inner promptings or feelings of peace, or through prophetic words or the counsel of friends. Yet what they hear sometimes counters clear principles of God’s word, which means they are not hearing the God of this grand story. So we are quick to call our attention to the necessity of grounding all guidance in Scripture.”1 As we grow in our understanding of the truth found in the Word of God, we will grow in our ability to make true and trustworthy decisions in our lives. The Spirit of God While the Spirit of God guides us through many things, including the Word and the people of God, here I am referring to God’s guidance that comes directly to our consciousness: our mind, will, and emotions. This powerful trio are God-given gifts that are essential to our decision-making. However, as well as having powerful abilities for good and for truth, they also can be powerfully used for bad and for deception of ourselves. They are amazing gifts, but they are not always trustworthy! As we saw with Simon and Ella, if we make our logic, or our will, or our emotions our primary decision maker, then we give them a place God never intended them to have. We quickly end up deceiving ourselves, calling things true that may not be true or trustworthy. How do we avoid this trap? We desperately need the Spirit of God within us to help guide us into what is truth, and to show us what is truly going on within ourselves. We need our minds, wills, and emotions to be servants of the living God instead of
being king themselves. We need the Spirit of God to help show us what is true and what is false in our own, often mixed up and misleading emotions, reasoning, and motivations. This requires a willingness to listen to God, to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves even when it is hard, and to have a lot of humility and grace. Thankfully, we don’t tackle this task alone – our Triune God is with us. “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us” (1 Corinthians 2: 10-12). The people of God The people of God simply refers to other Christians. This might include the old, the young, family, strangers, those from our own church, or those who you hear on a sermon from the other side of the world. Our generation are often told that we are individualistic and not well connected with our wider community. This is not always true, but if it is true of you, then be aware that you could be missing out on an absolutely gold resource of wisdom, experience, and counsel – the people of God. When you are making a decision, seek out what others who you trust have to say. You certainly don’t have to accept everything they say, but others often see things that we don’t see... or don’t want to see! Humbly chew on what they say and take in the truth. Proverbs 11: 14 reads, “In an abundance of counsellors there is safety.” Don’t make a decision until you have checked in with “an abundance of counsellors,” even if you don’t like some of what they might say! Remember,
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your goal in listening and talking with the people of God is to find truthful and trustworthy advice regarding your decision, so choose people who you know are truth-full and trust-worthy. Look for what is true, then trust it Look for what is true through the navigational instruments of the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the people of God. One may be helpful, but all three will help you to discern the path to take more strongly. When you do make a decision and put your first foot on that track, you may have some unwanted company. Even if it is a true and trustworthy path, fear, risk, and discomfort might be in your backpack. But if you are surrounded by the Word of God, the Spirit of God and the people of God, there will also be courage, hope, and trust in every step that you take. In your decision-making backpack, you may want to also include a coin to toss…but a coin toss doesn’t quite have the time-honoured respect that the Word of God, the Spirit of God and the people of God do... and who needs small change anyway? __ Story: Lindy Jacomb Lindy is a graduate of Carey Baptist College and has just accepted a call to pastor at Karori Baptist Church.
TAKE OUTS! 1. Is there a decision that is hanging over you at the moment? 2. How could you look at the three navigation instruments discussed here to help you move forward? 3. Are you able to trust God’s Spirit within you and those around you to help you?
Scot McKnight. 2015. A Fellowship of Differents (p. 162). Zondervan. Michigan.
C U LT U R E
WHY NEED TO KNOW WHO THEY ARE Belonging in Aotearoa New Zealand.
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iWithin our churches in recenti itimes, there have been discussionsi iaround what it looks like for Māorii ito relate to God as Māori, withini ia Pākehā-dominant culture.i iThere is an ongoing need fori ireconciliation between Māori andi iPākehā, particularly around thei iissues of restitution and poweri isharing. But amidst this we musti iconsider the associated need fori iPākehā to understand who they arei iand how they belong in Aotearoai iNew Zealand. Dr Alistair Reesei iconsiders why this is.i Why does understanding your identity matter? People need to know who they are and how they belong for a variety of reasons. We live and operate out of the understanding of our identity, and significantly for social cohesion, identity influences the way we relate to each other. When identity is confused, not only does it bring a personal insecurity but it also colours our view of others. Identity insecurity often means that we feel threatened by the prosperity and development of another person or group. As I have travelled presenting some of the social justice issues of Māori, including loss of land and culture, my expectation had been that Pākehā would respond with a desire to see justice and the restoration of Māori loss. And that does happen to some extent, but what I also hear is a sense of Pākehā insecurity about their identity and place of belonging. So, counterintuitively, although Pākehā ‘enjoy’ the political, social, and economic advantages of a dominant people, in the deep area of identity, we are insecure and somewhat challenged. Some scholars have termed this the ‘Pākehā
existential dilemma.’ I believe this has caused limitations in the Pākehā support of Māori identity and pursuit of reconciliation. Why are Pākehā confused about their identity? To begin to understand this, we need to recap some of the history since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. For new settlers to New Zealand, Europe tended to be referred to as the homeland for many generations. Europe informed their view of history and the Pākehā identity strongly depended on that connection. This Euro-centric perspective limited the formation of an identity narrative which might have reflected the new environment. In addition, the process of colonisation often saw Māori encouraged, by the Crown and some Māori, to assume a ‘white exterior.’ Māori put their own cultural identity in the background and adopted a European persona in terms of language and culture, in order to make ‘progress’ in the new world. These perspectives began to change around the 1960s. With the formation of the European Economic Community in the 1960s, New Zealand no longer had preferential treatment in trade and the security of the connection to Europe began to be eroded. The cultural shifts and civil rights movements of the 1960s set a foundation for what is termed in some quarters as the ‘Māori renaissance’ of the 1970s and 1980s. This included the increasing awareness that it was good and right for Māori to be Māori. The Treaty emerged again from a period of neglect within the national consciousness, and with it the associated recognition that Māori are the tangata whenua (people of the land).
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Jettisoned by changes in the ‘homeland’ of Britain and challenged by Māori discontent to be assimilated into a European view of reality, Pākehā identity was challenged in a land where they had presumed to have dominance. Pākehā began to ask the question: “Who are we and how do we belong here?” How can the Treaty help Pākehā know who they are? It is generally accepted that the Treaty of Waitangi is an opportunity for Māori to address their identity, some of their needs, and some of the injustices they have incurred as a result of colonisation: the Treaty clearly identifies Māori as tangata whenua with rights and responsibilities that go with that. But the Treaty is also an identity opportunity for Pākehā. Judge Edward Durie summed it up well in 1989 at Waitangi by saying: “We [Māori] must not forget that the Treaty is not just a Bill of Rights for Māori. It is a Bill of Rights for Pākehā too. It is the Treaty that gives Pākehā the right to be here. Without the Treaty there would be no lawful authority for the Pākehā presence in this part of the South Pacific... We must remember that if we are the tangata whenua, the original people, then the Pākehā are the tangata tiriti, those who belong to the land by right of that Treaty.” On this basis, the Treaty affords Pākehā an identity and as Durie implies the Treaty also provides a pathway to belong to the land at a deeper level. How can the Treaty help Pākehā belong in this land? Metaphors are helpful in illuminating concepts and in my view the marriage metaphor is worthy of exploration when talking about the Treaty relationship. Of course it is only an analogy but it can
help us to understand some of the potentialities. In a marriage, each person has certain rights. But rights are not the heart of a marriage. The heart of a marriage is intimate relationship. One pathway to this way of relating is the preferencing of the other, the honouring of the other, with a desire to see the other prosper. In relating this metaphor to the Treaty, we acknowledge that the Treaty is partly about rights, but that it is actually about more than rights. From the very beginning, Māori and the Crown talked about the Treaty in covenantal terms. This elevates the Treaty to more than rights talk and acknowledges that the Treaty is primarily about relationship. So in seeking this relationship, as Pākehā, I ask, “What is best for Māori?” For example, I want to see Māori flourish in their language and in the way they see the world. I would like Māori to have a platform with liberty to be fully who they are. I could approach this legalistically. But as New Zealand Christians, we can understand something of the divine protocols of God. This includes the concept of honour. So as Pākehā, my response is to honour tangata whenua as I see elders honoured in Scripture. From this position of vulnerability, I honour Māori, not because there is something better about Māori but because there is something appropriate for me that when Māori and Pākehā are together, I take my lead from Māori. Practically, this concept of honour will include a willingness to become familiar with Te Reo Māori (Māori language) as well as tikanga (the Māori way of doing things), preferably within settings that might be described as Te Ao Māori (the Māori world). This is in contrast to the way we are used to operating and challenges our dominant cultural position.
But it isn’t an imposition of one culture on another; it is a beautiful way of doing life together, from which we are able to learn and develop a shared identity and move towards a greater civility. Importantly, this is not out of a desire to flatter or appease, but from a two-way exchange that is grounded in the confidence and security of equality stemming from who I am as tangata tiriti. Closing thoughts Identity configurations are complex, and of course more nuanced than the above generalised discussion has allowed. However given that, I conclude that discussions of what it means to be a Pākehā New Zealander in the 21st century are important. The adoption of careless identifiers will only repeat some of the colonising tendencies of the past and threaten the fragile and precious relationships which were formalised and consecrated in 1840. Pākehā are gifted an identity in the Treaty, but with this comes a concomitant responsibility. As I mentioned, rights are part of the Treaty. But before we work on translations and interpretations, we need to be ‘sitting at the table’ in relationship, getting to know each other, listening, and hearing. There will be differences, including the challenge of negotiating our different worldviews. However, the beauty of the covenant is that we are committed to working through our differences with an understanding that there can be unity without the loss of identity. From this vantage we are then able to unpack the details of the Treaty. The appropriate time for this is when we know something of the heart of the other. Otherwise we will be talking loaded political terms that are attempts to out-argue each other. It’s not that we shouldn’t talk about these complex aspects, but
...THE BEAUTY OF THE COVENANT I S T H AT W E A R E COMMITTED TO WORKING THROUGH OUR DIFFERENCES WITH AN U N D E R S TA N D I N G T H AT T H E R E C A N BE UNITY WITHOUT THE LOSS OF I D E N T I T Y. . . T H E A P P R O P R I AT E TIME FOR THIS IS WHEN WE KNOW SOMETHING OF THE HEART OF THE OTHER.
we must understand our identity in the Treaty first. __ Story: Dr Alistair Reese Alistair is a theologian and historian with particular focus on social reconciliation. He works with Te Kohinga Reconciliation Network in Tauranga. Through the lens of the Christian gospel and recognition of New Zealand history, this network seeks to strengthen the relationship between Māori and Pākehā in this region.
TAKE OUTS! 1. How do you consider your identity in Aotearoa New Zealand? 2. How do you view the Treaty? Do you see it as a document about rights, relationship, or both? 3. How well do you engage in the bicultural journey?
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TOGETHER ON THE WAY AND IN THE
Does ‘being Baptist’ have relevance today?
Recent conversations have led us as a movement to ask questions of our Baptist identity. What does it mean to be Baptist? What is the relationship of the local church to the wider body? What is the role of voting in our churches? Is Baptist identity even relevant in the 21st century?
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In a post-denominational world some people have no time for such questions. They would much rather throw out the dusty baggage of Baptist theology as something belonging to the distant past than continue to talk about it. That’s understandable. The days of defining ourselves by fixed identities
(e.g. membership in a political party, union, or denomination) have been surpassed by the freedom of individuals to construct their own identity (e.g. what they buy, wear, or choose). But while fixed identities (including that of Baptist identity) might no longer define us, it is important that we understand what we
are moving on from, before we flee the past by running into the future.
or elders or national gathering resolutions). Final authority rests with the risen Christ who is present as Lord in the midst of a congregation. These twin emphases form something of the Baptist dynamic, a Baptist way of being. Because Christ by his Spirit leads the church, and our gathering is the site of his promised presence, we gather together to seek his will and obey his word. Thus the gathered are free to respond to Christ’s leadership; we are free to be slaves to Christ. Freedom in relationship Contemporary Western conceptions of freedom are at risk of distorting the gospel’s idea of freedom. Freedom in our contemporary context is understood to be the right of the sovereign individual to choose – the more choice, the more freedom; the less choice, the less freedom. Where this falls down is that it assumes true freedom is freedom from relationship. The gospel suggests that true freedom is in fact found in relationship – relationship with God and his people. Our lives are not our own, and we do not get to choose the company we keep in the church. God creates the church and calls us to fellowship with himself and his people to become who we are in relationship.
Among Baptists, this relational dynamic has been expressed in formal church covenants through which church members covenanted together to be God’s people, walk together in all God’s ways, and watch over one another in love. These covenants brought together the vertical relationship with God and the horizontal relationship with one another into a single commitment of faithfulness to God and each other. This relational dynamic of early Baptist life was not an addition to the church life once other more important things had been settled. It was the basis of their being. In covenant with God and one another, local churches were free to seek Christ’s will for all areas of their common life. And while the local church is surely free, freedom does not equate to rugged independence. Yes the primary authority for the local church is the person of Christ, but Christ’s body is the whole church in every time and place. Baptists have always affirmed their need for interdependence, and the counsel and insights of other congregations and assemblies to discern God’s will. In wider gatherings and associations, Baptists have used the same covenantal language as in local fellowships.
seeking Christ’s will in the midst of our differences and disagreements. That is the Baptist dynamic. We are a people who gather together to seek Christ’s will for our life and mission, and we do this by prayerfully listening to Scripture in the context of community. These twin poles of Scripture and community are both crucial. To either discard Scripture while embracing community, or to embrace Scripture while discarding community, is to betray the covenant bonds which Christ has established. Being Baptist
means both submitting to Scripture in the midst of community, and listening for the voice of the living Word in both. This can be difficult. It is tempting to marginalise or abandon those who understand or apply the Scriptures in ways that we do not. But it is often through sustained and patient conversation, listening respectfully to the voice of counter-testimony, that we come to fresh insights in the gospel and its claim on our lives. At their best, such intensified conversations are not a source of warfare, but gospel growth.
When we gather together Christ is present in our midst and we can expect to hear his voice in the gathered community by the Spirit.
The challenge of seeking together In recent years this dynamic of gathering together to discern the mind of Christ through Scripture in community has been seriously eroded. There are
Exploring a Baptist way of being There have been many attempts to define Baptist identity in terms of convictions – authority of Scripture, believer’s baptism, congregational governance, the priesthood of all believers, freedom of the local church, separation of church and state, freedom of conscience... but none of these convictions are unique to Baptists. What gives Baptists their distinct flavour is the manner in which we hold these convictions together. The beating heart of Baptist identity, around which all else coheres, is the conviction that the risen and ruling Christ promises to be present when his people gather together in his name (see Matthew 18:20). This understanding has two important implications for Baptist identity. Firstly, our gathered life together is crucial. When we gather together, Christ is present in our midst and we can expect to hear his voice in the gathered community by the Spirit. Secondly, the promised presence of the Lord Jesus in the gathered community sets the church free from all other lords or rulers. Final authority over a congregation rests not with a pope or creed (or senior pastor,
n the way and in the fray Helen Dare suggests that the Baptist dynamic can be summed up as being “on the way and in the fray.”1 To be “on the way...” together is to be united to one another under Christ and his will as revealed in Scripture. To be “...in the fray” together is to be
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several reasons for this decline, not least the cultures of voting and leadership. Baptist churches only began to use voting in the early nineteenth century. At that time the English parliament permitted only the wealthiest five percent of men to vote. So for Baptist churches to adopt the practice of voting and open the ballot to all members – male and female, rich and poor – was a profoundly subversive and prophetic act, powerfully embodying the belief in the priesthood of all believers and the competence of all church members to participate in discerning the mind of Christ.2 However, as Steve Holmes contends, this practice is now so culturally conditioned that it can actually prevent us from discerning Christ’s voice.3 Instead of its subversive origins, the formal culture of voting can result in a party spirit, power blocks, and angry ‘winnner-takeall’ debates. This is problematic. The goal when we gather together is not to impose our will on others and win a vote, but to listen together for the will of the risen Christ. Linked to this is the problematic adoption of a business paradigm. In many church meetings, prayer, worship, and Scripture reading have been replaced by formal debates, proposals, points of order, and amendments. As a result, participation is often limited to a small group of people: pastoral staff, elected officers, those with particular expertise on a subject, and people who feel confident and competent to speak in a highly formal public setting (often those who are culturally privileged and/ or theologically trained).4 Yet the church is a Christocracy, not a democracy and sometimes forthright voices need to pipe down. It is Christ’s voice that we seek, and he often speaks through marginalised voices. Holmes challenges Baptists to reconsider the practice of voting: there cannot be a culture where a few people assume they are competent to discern Christ’s will. Assumptions of human competence to discern the will of God are dangerous and the reality is that there are no human qualifications, human
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agencies, or human abilities that enable us to know God’s will. It is only the Son who knows the Father’s will by the Spirit. Church leaders, biblical scholars, and world class theologians are as dependent upon the coming of the Spirit to illuminate God’s will as those who are new to the faith.5 In the church, as Paul Fiddes says, “There is no chain of command, no pyramid of power. Christ alone rules,”6 and he communicates his will through his entire body by the Spirit. Yes, the risen Christ gives leaders to his church. But no individual leader or group of leaders is competent to discern the mind of Christ. It takes a miracle of grace, a gift given by the Spirit, to enable fallen human beings to know the mind of Christ. The task of leaders is to allow the self-organising power of the gospel to form and maintain a community that discerns and obeys the will of Christ, “on the way and in the fray.” Renewing our practices Such dynamics may appear hopelessly inefficient to those of us used to more organisationally efficient processes. But, since when did the gospel promise to be organisationally efficient? We are called to be “on the way and in the fray” with God and one another, whether comfortable or not. So what might that look like today? Once again, Holmes offers us some helpful suggestions.7 Firstly, it will mean structuring church meetings around worship and Word. Early Baptists sought the mind of Christ in these contexts and they should be central elements in our church meetings, because Christ speaks through the prayerful reading and exposition of Scripture. Secondly, we must actively promote those voices which tend to be marginalised in our communities, and ensure it is safe for their voice to be heard on their own terms. This will require humility, patience, and creativity, as well as a willingness to examine our own sinful entanglement in systems that exclude minority voices. This will likely involve the careful use of small groups during church meetings so that every voice can be heard. Thirdly, pastoral
leaders will need to place greater priority on the formation of authentic community within our churches. These kinds of prolonged and sometimes painful conversations can only be sustained if people feel it is safe to speak honestly. The Baptist dynamic does not offer us a tidy set of boxes we can tick, and then get on with the real business of church. The Baptist dynamic throws us back on God and one another to walk together, “on the way and in the fray.” We recognise that expressions and practices will vary but they need to as the Spirit illuminates and animates our obedience to Christ in covenant community. __ Story: Andrew Picard and John Tucker Andrew is a lecturer in Baptist Theology, Christian Doctrine and Applied Theology at Carey Baptist College and a member of Titirangi Baptist Church. John is a lecturer in Baptist History, Church History, and Preaching at Carey Baptist College and a member of Windsor Park Baptist Church.
TAKE OUTS! 1. Do you see yourself as Baptist? What are your reasons? 2. Does ‘freedom’ in your church relate to independence or relationship? 3. Are there ‘Baptist practices’ that may need to be reviewed in your church? Helen J. Dare. 2014. Always on the Way and In the Fray: Reading the Bible as Baptists. Oxford. Whitley Publications. 2-5 Stephen R. Holmes. 2011. Knowing Together the Mind of Christ: Congregational Government and the Church Meeting. In Anthony R. Cross and Ruth Gouldbourne (Eds.) Questions of Identity: Studies in Honour of Brian Haymes (pp. 172-188). Oxford. Regent’s Park College. 6 Paul S. Fiddes. 2003. Tracks and Traces: Baptist Identity in Church Theology (p. 85). Milton Keynes. Paternoster. 7 Holmes. Knowing Together the Mind of Christ: Congregational Government and the Church Meeting (pp. 186-188). 1
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In this issue of Baptist magazine we look at Identity: - Who does God say we are? - What is God's will for my life? - Does being Baptist hav...
Published on Feb 7, 2016
In this issue of Baptist magazine we look at Identity: - Who does God say we are? - What is God's will for my life? - Does being Baptist hav...