Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Northy 5

During a mission on the Chatham Islands, Sister North may have been an unusual sight, being a woman in ministry. When questioned about this, she replied, "They probably thought the Church Army was a bit mad anyway, and were sure to do funny things."

I'd like to think that people still us that way, but I fear we have become tame and domesticated, trying to fit in and be accepted rather than to dare to be different - prophetic even. WE have a friend in UK who defines a typical CA evangelist as "odd". Fools for Christ anyone?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Kind of Northy

I heard this quote from Joyce Meyer on the radio earlier today.

"Passion is not a feeling; it is a deep commitment to press on to the finish."

I think Sisters North and Childs would approve - it is, after all, how they lived their whole lives.

Northy 4

The apprentice model of training is becoming increasingly popular once more. But for this to work, it needs the 'apprentice' to be obedient to 'the master'! I mentioned Felcie Childs and her offer to work with Sister North - well she did just that. But Felcie didn't find it easy!
"I asked Felcie to read the lessons or to take part in the prayers, or to give a short talk, and to her it was agony. She was a very, very shy girl and when she got up to read she really suffered...and to read was painful. What she said often bore very little resemblance to what was in the Bible, or what she was reading."
I am pretty sure that at this point we would give up on our apprentice, and suggest that this life and ministry just was not for them. But in true Church Army fashion, Northy cruelly insisted that Felcie carry on!
And over time, Felcie improved. "As time went on, she was so conscious of the call of God that she didn't care whether she looked silly. She very quickly improved her reading and her manner...she was commissioned and I got golden reports of her work...she never looked back, and it all stemmed from the fact that she had been called of God, and if that meant a hard struggle then she would undertake that hard struggle."
I pray for those in CANZ to have such spiritual toughness and determination, and for God's call on our lives to be so clear and powerful that we will never give up.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Northy 3

It is said that you are only a leader if someone is following! Even before Church Army was formally established in New Zealand (which happened in 1935), Sister North was approached by a young lady who felt called to serve with Church Army.

Northy explained that at that stage, there was no guarantee that Church Army would ever operate fully in New Zealand, that some of the bishops had so far not given their approval, and "if you give up your work now and come to me, the time might come when your work will come to and end and you will have to go back to whatever you can find in the world."

2011 will see CANZ launch a new initiative/movement whereby people will gather in missional/incarnational communities, to radically share Jesus, live as contagious disciples, and offer life-sharing community. We will offer training and equipping, mentoring and ongoing support, resources, and some help with hospitality costs initially - but it is unlikely that we will ever offer a 'salary'. The call is a dangerous one, with few guarantees, and we expect few will have the faith, courage and passion to join us.

Felcie Childs responded to Northy's discouraging comments with these words - "I have laid down my life at the foot of the cross, and whatever that means, I will do it."

Loving God, please bring such people to serve along side Church Army NZ

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Northy 2

Having survived her training period, and a position she faithfully endured rather than enjoyed, Sister North felt very much at home on a caravan. Before long she was asked to be in charge of her won van - a task she found daunting "it was all very well to go out and visit and give small talks and do as I was told buy the Sister in charge, but to be in charge, and have another Sister under me was quite different."

But surely, despite what she said, Northy could cope? "I remember when I first got to that van...just crying my heart out because I felt I just couldn't do it." Being out of your depth, knowing the task is beyond you, that you don't have the skills, knowledge, abilities to complete the mission - this is a familiar feeling to all those who achieve great tasks in God;s name. because of course God knows our limitations only too well, and once we throw ourselves on his mercy, as Northy said "as time went by I found that with the help of God - I could do it."

Don't just attempt the things you know you can do - put yourself in a position where you have to rely on God. And then watch what he will do.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Northy 1

History could have been so different! Sister North applied first of all to CMS to work as a missionary, but was turned down as "my standard of eduction was not good enough." Instead she was advised to work with Church Army for two years, and then re-apply.
Church Army, interestingly "accepted me without any difficulty."
Northy decided at the end of the two years to stick with Church Army, who after all "had taken me young and new and raw and everything...just as I was...they had given me good training and accepted me warts and all."
This reminds me of someone else, who took under his wing hot-headed fishermen, cheating tax-collectors, women of dubious reputation and known rebels. The only suitable candidate - educated, responsible, good with figures, careful with money - didn't turn out so well.
I hope Church Army NZ will continue to take risks in the people we welcome, train, equip, send out and support. John Wesley said "Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on Earth". I say the same, perhaps replacing the word 'preachers' for 'local missionaries'

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Northy

I am currently reading the transcript of an interview Lorraine Lloyd held with Sister Kathleen North, who arrived from UK in 1933, and died here in 1992. It is thrilling and inspirational, and over the coming days I shall be sharing portions of "Northy's" story.
Prepare to be amazed, moved, delighted and deeply challenged by the story of one on whose shoulders we are privileged to stand.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

"82% of short-term missions today go to countries in the most-Christian third of the world. Only 2% land in the Middle East."

Robert J. Priest
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
"The overwhelming majority of American missionaries today are “vacationaries.” Joining mission trips of two weeks or less, they serve in locales where Christianity already predominates." Steve Addison

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I don't know what to say

As a bringer of Good News, I have been struggling to know what to say in response to the tragic events in the South Island mine. As a Christian I must have something to offer, beyond "come and light a candle."
I can think of nothing that comes near to being right than the hymn sung in the New Zealand parliament yesterday - to the same tune as 'Then sings my soul'.
Here are the simple lyrics, in Te Reo and English

Whakaaria mai Tōu rīpeka ki au Tiaho mai Ra roto i te pō Hei kona au Titiro atu ai. Ora, mate, Hei au koe noho ai

Show your cross to me. Let it shine there in the darkness. To there I will be looking. In life, in death, let me rest in thee.

Nothing to add

Friday, November 12, 2010

NEIGHBOURS DAY 2011

I attended a planning group for Neighbours day 2001 - to be held on 26-27 March. It is simply awesome - the idea of thousands of people all over New Zealand being given cakes, cookies, or jam by strangers who live just across the road; or invited to a BBQ to spend time with people they've said a passing 'hello' to hundreds of times but know nothing about. www.neighboursday.org.nz

We need to re-neighbourhood or re-communitise the places where we live, work and play. People are lonely, isolated and lost simply because they rarely enjoy genuine relationship. This day is not about big events, programmes or organisations, but about individuals and families befriending those around them.

There is something profoundly Jesus-like about this. He frequently ignored crowds and focussed on individuals. In an age where big is always best, where the best churches are the largest ones, and the most successful ministers those who attract the mass followings, I suspect Jesus is calling his followers away from the crowds, structures and strategies with all their fame, glory and superficiality, to be present instead with the humble, lowly and irrelevant, for there we will find Christ Himself.

Although Neighbours Day is non political and non religious, I was thrilled to find followers of Jesus at the heart of it, quietly, gently serving in order to transform this nation. I think Jesus was pleased too.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Christian Heroes

“We’re not afraid of death because Jesus died for us. Of course we cry, but they’re tears of happiness, because we die for God.”

- Sama Wadie, 32, his hand wrapped in a bandage, after attending Mass at Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad, where 51 people were killed last Sunday. (Source: New York Times)

Such Christians are heroes, who live the Jesus life with a depth and intensity I fear those of us in the 'West' may never experience. I despair at times that my following of Jesus is so tame, insipid and pale - so different from the outrageous, energising, vibrant, technicolour, abundant life-giving Jesus who leaps from every page of the Gospels.

I want to live a Jesus centred life which is so radical and challenging that people hate and despise me. I long to challenge the conventions and customs of this day by embracing the most loathed members of society; by showing no favour to the most powerful, wealthy and influential; by outraging the religious and celebrating the lowly. But it may cost me my life, and I'm not sure I'm quite ready for that.

Welcome

We hope you enjoy the new look CANZ website - please send us feedback to let us know what you think. New sections and pages will be added as the fresh vision and direction which God is guiding us into unfolds - so bookmark the CANZ website and visit us regularly.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

75 Today

Church Army New Zealand is 75 years old today.
I feel humbled and honoured to lead an organisation with such a proud history - and today I thank God for all those - living and dead - whose path we follow. It is awe-inspiring to 'stand on the shoulders of giants.'

What better way of celebrating the day than spending time with Sister Kath King - our longest serving evangelist. Having recently undergone serious surgery, she said "thank God for successful surgery, please pray that improving mobility will allow more opportunities for continuing ministry."

Such life-long, commitment to serving Jesus through Church Army makes me even more humbled and honoured to lead an organisation with such an exciting and promising future.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Amazing...


...Pukeko. I love them. They are ridiculous, gawky, and lack elegance, but there is something strangely compelling about them, especially now that baby pukekos are on the scene. Their walk is a delight, strutting with their massive feet, white fluffy backsides stuck out exaggeratedly.

I'm not convinced they play any great role in maintaining the ecological balance in New Zealand, or anywhere else. Their 'song' is a squawk. They neither fly nor walk with any degree of grace. But I love them. Partly because they represent something of the extravagant creative power of our God - and He, like me, thinks they are great. And perhaps I see myself in them - not particularly amazing at anything, and ridiculous in some ways - yet I too am an expression of God's extravagant creative power, and I am greatly loved by Him. As are you.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

He's Coming

After a year back in England completing his University degree, our son Michael joins us in less than 48 hours. It seems a very long time since we last saw him, mainly because it is! Words cannot really describe the excitement which has ebbed around the Clark household as we have counted down the days.
As a father awaiting the arrival of his much loved Son, I can almost imagine the reunion in heaven after Jesus ascended. The hugs, tears maybe, then the walks and conversations, as Jesus told his Dad all about his 33 years on planet earth. Finally the conversation turns to the future - "Dad, is there really no plan B, you know, if the disciples mess up?." "oh they will, and no there isn't."
The liturgy we sometimes use at Kodesh contains the line "we are enough to be the church." There is no Plan B. God's people on earth, weak, foolish and mistake-prone though we are, are the delight of heaven. We are enough!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Meandering

I love Oakley Creek, and we walk along it frequently. In recent wet weks it has been fairly thunderous, often overflowing its usual boundries - far different from the gentle creek we enjoyed last summer. Even when it is out of sight we can hear it, swelled by the frequent if short lived Auckland downpours.
There is one section where it twists and turns dramatically, before regaining its original course - I wonder if one day it will simply cut a path straight through the slowly eroding bank - though I hope not.
In some ways our first twelve months in New Zealand have been a time of meandering, rather than the torrential impact I imagined we'd be having by now. A time to assess, take stock, be quiet, settle, pray and plan. But I pray that the time when the Gospel and the love of Jesus will be flooding unstoppably across this land is not too far away - and I long to gain a deeper understanding of what Church Army's part in that will be. There is a time for meandering, but Lord, may it soon be done.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Shuffle along now


As a child I received a pair of slippers every single Christmas - useful, appreciated, but not exciting. I have been sadly slipper-less for many years, but approaching my 50th birthday (some way off yet!) I fancied again owning a pair - and my ever dutiful wife duly obliged.

A few days later Monika asked "why do you walk like that when you are wearing slippers?" and to my surprise I realised that I did indeed engage in the slipper-shuffle! Why? Well maybe wearing slippers conjured up sub-conscious images of me sitting by the fire, pipe in hand, slippered feet up, as I fade into retirement?

I make every effort now to walk properly when wearing slippers. I feel far from ready to wander off into the sunset with my zimmer for support - and thankfully I have a wife who won't allow me to!

Or as they say in Moerewa, "Tama tu tama ora, tama noho tama mate"
(To stand is to live to lie down is to die)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Party on dude


We've just returned from a wonderful week's holiday at a friend's bach in Pauanui. Reading, soaking in the spa, walking miles along the beach in t-shirt and shorts (and they call this WINTER??), talking in thoughtful mode, and soaking up the glorious beauty of the Kiwi countryside - all this has left us refreshed in body, mind, soul and spirit.
I was shocked to realise that in the 10 months we've been here, apart from a long weekend in December, this was our first proper break. I love most of what I am paid to do, I spend time with people I love, respect and enjoy, and it is thrilling to see God at work - but none of that takes the place of time off. Not taking a break is not being committed, faithful, hard-working or clever - it is stupid, stupid, stupid. Note to self - take proper hlidays, regularly. Note to others - if I don't, tell me.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The World Cup


I cannot remember hugging a man from Taiwan before, but that is exactly what I found myself doing at around 1.20am the other morning. Don't worry, this is not some sordid confession, but rather an example of what World Cup fever does to people.

The New Zealand national team - the All Whites (Kiwi pronunciation emphasises the first syllable, so it is ALL Whites rather than All WHITES) - were appearing in the World Cup Finals for only the second time ever. After months of build up, we were watching the first game, and they were trailing by one goal as we entered the third minute of injury time. Suddenly a cross came in, an All White met the ball with a firm header, and yes, incredibly, we had scored. Delirium, hugs all round (me and Harrison), the dead being awoken at 1.20am.

Following teams like New Zealand, or Hull City back in England, will give you rare, very rare moments lke this. Maybe once every decade or two! New Zealand not losing in the World Cup - once in history (so far). Hull City appearing at Wembley - once in history. Hull City being promoted to the Premier League - once in history. But the joy and celebration when those rare occasions happen is something supporters of Brazil, or Manchester United or Chelsea will never come near to experiencing. I can see why God often seems to side with the underdog - it is so much more fun!

Injustice


Emily was part of her school choir which performed as part of "the Big Sing" in Auckland Town Hall, and as proud parents of course we were thrilled to go and enjoy the evening. Her choir did really well, and I hope they feel their hard work - being in school at 8am each friday - paid off. They were great.
We heard 23 choirs perform, most were good, some were amazing, one or two average. Then the Auckland Youth Choir (I think) sang three things. 'Things' is a technical musical term to describe noises as opposed to meaningful words, sounds as opposed to tunes, and a garbled mess of voices as opposed to beautiful harmonies. The result of a 'thing' is that incredibly talented angelically-voiced young people end up singing garbage art-farty stuff rather than using their talent to actually sing.
I digress. The evening concluded with the awards ceremony, each choir being granted either "Highly Commended," Commended" or the patronising to the point of being insulting "Particpated".
I knew that Emily's choir would get the lowest award. Firstly they attend a low decile (poor) school with a mixed reputation. Secondly, they were not all white angels, nor did they use the "we are all Maori" or "this is how we sing in the Pacific Islands" tactic - they were integrated, a mixed group of kids who love to sing together. And thirdly, they sang a proper song, with enthusiasm and emotion. Not at all what the musical elite appreciate. And I was right, they received the award that was more offensive than Simon Cowell at his worst.
I wasn't the only person who left with a sense of injustice. I believe and encourage healthy competition. I do not support rewarding poor performances. But I am tired of some places being denied the opportunity to explode out of the shackles of their image or reputation. Can anything good come out of Avondale College? Or Nazareth? Oh yes!

I wonder


Two BBC News headlines caught my eye this morning. One read "Why Marriage Matters", and the other "Feeling Grumpy is 'good for you'". I jokingly wondered if the two were directly linked...marriage is good because it makes you grumpy which is good for you...! And actually, I think I may be right.
As Moni and I approach 25 years of marriage, I feel deeply grateful that we do so with a greater appreciation and understanding of one another then ever. I am sometimes astonished that this beautiful, amazing woman shares my life! And part of what I value about her most is that she not only copes with my (rare) grumpy moments, she even enjoys them - because we need people with whom we can be real, and unreasonable, and, well grumpy. So why doesn't that appear in the good marriage manual?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mennonite guests


We curently have a couple of guests from USA who are Mennonites - a denomination I knew little about. We talked about their practices and distinctives, and their commitment to community - a major theme for Church Army at the moment.

The most interesting part of the conversation for me was when these two deeply committed young men mentioned that while at University, their church attendance has been minimal, but their faith has been maintained and even strengthened. It is a pattern I see again and again - they have not rejected established church life, or fallen out with anyone, and may well return to it when they have kids to take to Sunday School - but for now they simply don't see regular Sunday worship in a dedicated building as essential for their spiritual health.

Are they losing their faith? I don't think so. Are they following the easy way of non-demanding discipleship? Again, I doubt it. They are expressing both a dissatisfaction with what happens Sunday by Sunday, and their need for an experience of Christian community which nurtures, challenges and informs their faith 24-7, in every situation they face. It is a cry I am hearing more fequently - a longing for authentic, radical Christian community.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Passion


It is strange how I can set my alarm for 3am, and spring joyfully out of bed when it calls me - to get up and watch a football match. Hull City against Liverpool, a meaningless encounter as we are relegated regardless of the result - but a final opportunity to give one of the big boys a "bloody nose."
I find rising at 3am to pray more difficult - or I would if ever I tried. A chance to talk one-to-one with the creator of the universe - now that is pretty cool, but for some reason my passion levels remain low when it comes to praying. Maybe if Jesus pulled on the number nine shirt for Hull City I'd be more enthusiastic about talking to him.
I guess the point is - thank God - that Jesus is passionate about me, he is up at 3am waiting eagerly to chat. If I can bother to turn up.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Heroes


Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and everyone should have at least one! On Monday, we had a visitor - a Tongan gentleman, an ex gangster, drug-addicted wife beating thug who has been transformed and turned upside down and inside out by meeting Jesus. He is heading down to Wellington to start a missional community amongst the most needy there.
The previous weekend, I met plenty of people in Dunedin who are potential heroes. They know that the struggling church needs much more than cosmetic change - it needs completely re-imagining and reforming. Seeing the need makes potential heroes - addressing the need makes actual heroes.
As Church Army in New Zealand undergoes a re-visioning process, I hope and pray we will have the wisdom to see what we must become, and the courage to allow God to transform us.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Paradise found


Sometimes I can hardly cope with how good my life is. I utterly love being in New Zealand, I love the challenge of my job; it is an honour to work alongside my Church Army colleagues; the community I live in is astonishing; the large family who share my home are an immense blessing; the pukekos who share our neighbourhood are a source of constant amusement...I could go on and on.

Today I walked with Monika along Oakley Creek which runs through our community - it is stunningly beautiful. Suddenly we unexpectedly came across a waterfall, straight out of a Pacific Island tourist brochure - but here it was, 10 minutes walk from our home! Is it possible for life to be so good we cannot bear it? Well right here, right now,my life is THAT GOOD! All I can do is humbly say "thank you Jesus".

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Money makes the world go round. Really?


I have invested quite a lot of time recently in putting together a business plan for one of our Evangelists, Louise. Louise works in Christchurch, and has a little bus she uses to reach kids and families in one of the most challenging areas of the city. We had the privilege of spending a week with Louise and the team last year, and the ministry is simply amazing.

Louise draws on her own difficult childhood to keep herself motivated and fresh. She says that she is determined that other children should not have to go through tough situations without the opportunity of doing so knowing the love and friendship of Jesus. She knows each child and the families inside out, and can reach them in word and action in ways that those of us who had more privileged early years never could.

It isn't fun writing business plans, but as I did so I was moved again as I was reminded of the fantastic work being carried out. But it angers me when the church can seemingly continue to fund liberal clergy who have no message to proclaim, who preside over dying churches while denying the historical creeds of our church; can continue to support extensive building programmes (I heard just this week of 2 churches in Auckland being given $1,500,000 between them)when we have plenty of vastly under-used buildings already - but we have to go cap in hand begging for financial scraps for such a vital outreach ministry as the Canterbury Kids' Coach.

I suspect Jesus still weeps.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Today's soldiers


Without excuse and self-consideration of health or limb or life, true soldiers fight, live to fight, love to fight, love the thickest of the fight, and die in the midst of it.” - William Booth

I was deeply moved this week to hear of a Church Army evangelist in Canada. Her recent commissioning was probably unique - as it took place at her bed-side, and in place of a uniform she wore pyjamas. With her whole body riddled with cancer, she has just days to live.

What really made my eyes leak though was hearing that she fully intends to preach this Sunday, if at all possible. Proclaiming the unchanging Good News of Jesus - this is the evangelist's passion and obsession, the thing that gets us out of bed each morning, the challenge and the joy.

This story made me proud to belong to Church Army, and determined to use every opportunity I have to share Jesus while I can.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sugary, sloppy sermons


A recent survey in UK found that Anglicans want sermons that entertain, are shorter than 10 minutes, and don't necessarily contain any Biblical input.

An episode of Boohbah sounds just about perfect for them.

I have an inkling as to why the Kingdom of God is not rapidly advancing though...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dark Side of Modern life

A New Zealand teenager who says she auctioned her virginity online for $32,000 to raise tuition money did not break any laws but it might be risky for her to follow through on the deal, police warned Wednesday. The anonymous 19-year-old student offered her virginity to the highest bidder on the Web site under the name “Unigirl,” saying she would use the money to pay for her tuition. She said in a post that more than 30,000 people had viewed her ad and more than 1,200 had made bids before she accepted an offer of more than New Zealand dollars 45,000

Sad indeed.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Parachute five


I think Ryan is great! He saved me a tent space right next to the main stage - he is the man!

Ryan went through our Gap programme last year, and came back ruined. He has a passion for people who do not yet know Jesus, and an inate ability to chat to them and to introduce them to his own best friend - Jesus. He spent six months in Berkeley NSW, giving out bread, chatting to people, and sharing Jesus' love in word and action. He longs to carry on doing just that, and we are working with his local church to make that possible, probably with Ryan working part time to earn some cash.

Which got me wondering - why doesn't the church support Ryan full time? He has undoubted gifts, a calling and a ministry. The answer is simple - the church pays for church buildings, church structures and church pastors, but despite the endless talk of mission, the church rarely pays for evangelists. Not in NZ anyway!

I am confident that given the right setting and good support, Ryan could gather enough new followers of Jesus to be self-supporting in a couple of years. But who is going to pay for him until then? And when that new group of believers is strong enough to look after itself, and Ryan moves on to pioneer a new work...what then?

Come on church. Pastoral, ordained ministry is not the only valid form of ministry, and certainly not all we should be supporting financially. Church planters, aspiring musicians, story-tellers - these people are coming to CANZ, for which I thank God, and when we have the $$$, I promise we will pass it on.

Parachute four


I had one of those heart-stopping moments on the last evening. I was seated with Monika about 3 rows back, praying for the rain to hold off, when one of those women came running towards me, arms outstretched, massive smile eating up the rest of her face. You know the kind I mean - mad, demented, nuts, odd, weird, strange. The ones who always have words from God for ME. The ones who kindly offer to pray with ME. The ones who scare the life out of ME.

"Hiiiiiiiiiiiii" she screetched, "how are uuuuuuuuuuuuu?" I learnt a prayer from Matt Fielder, a superb speaker. " God, help."

Jesus heard my prayer, as she flung herself around the quivering wreck of a man seated one row in front of me. Thank you Jesus.

Parachute three


One of our motives for attending Parachute was to work out how Church Army NZ could use the event next year to publicise what we do, especially the Gap Year programme, and possibly raise support. So I wandered around the displays of numerous Christian organisations with interest, determined to steal ideas and gain inspiration.

Instinctively, in my head I tried to calculate the cost of matching or bettering the gleaming displays of many of our "competitors" (I know you don't like me using that word, but we are all after the interest and the $$$ of the same, small market!) Add the cost of the thrilling giveaways we'd have to offer, plus the cost of the stall in the first place...and serious doubts crept in.

I'm an idealist...and my hope is that CANZ will be known, respected and paid for because the ministry we do is of such quality and impact that people want to be on our team. Changed lives; the least, last and lost being lifted, promoted and saved; thousands of Christians being motived, trained, equipped and supported to share Jesus in their everyday locations - this is what I long for CANZ to be known and love for. Not glossy brochures or dazzling handouts.

And afterwards I imagined all the Christian organsations agreeing to have a publicity fast - and the tens of thousands of dollars we'd all save being pumped straight into frontline work! Better go, my image consultant is on the phone...

Parachute two


Young people do my head in - I simply don't understand them half the time. I can cope with them when they're asleep, but beyond that...!

We are at Parachute, the highlight of the year, having paid serious dollars. Speakers and bands from across the globe...and the kids sit around playing cards. Why did you come, idiots!

Fast forward two days. The rain it raineth, in English proportions, everyone is less dry than Wet Wet Wet ever were, and the older Clarks are seriously thinking of coming home. So the card-playing, big speaker-missing, God-ignoring youngsters turn out in their thousands, cheering, singing, worshipping, drowning, praising, faithful, excited, passionate, Jesus-adoring. What is going on?

"The rain was so good...it stopped it being just fun or entertainment, and made us focus wholeheartedy on Jesus."

We need to hear it again - despite what many say, todays youngsters don't want spoon feeding and mollycoddling endlessly. They are willing to get drenched, and even to die, for a worthy cause.

Parachute one


Parachute is a massive Christian music festival held a couple of hours south of Auckland. We have just returned from an amazing four days, with a few blogs worth of material. Here is number one.

Emily has friends who make up a band called Kadet, who were invited to make their Parachute debut - and did so in one of the smaller venues called the Apollo. It was the first time I'd heard them live, and they were awesome. Their music isn't full of Christianise, there was no being washed in the blood of the lamb or even saved by grace, just songs echoing the real issues and desires of young people today "I want to fall in love"...that kind of thing.

I'm not expert, and I don't know if they're good enough, but I could not help pondering the massive impact these four Christian young men could have on their peers in NZ and beyond. The church won't fund them, of course, and though I'd dearly love to see Church Army taking these kind of evangelistic risks, we can't...so is there a Christian businessperson who'd be willing to invest not just in Kadet, but in the Kingdom?

Update...the best debut band gets to play on Main Stage at parahcute, and this morning Kadet did just that. Not just me who reckons these ladsare worth investing in!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I've been done


It is funny how certain phrases become fashionable - and consequently are repeated until you are heartily sick of them (rather like some songs!). One such line for me is "we are human beings, not human doings." The more I think about it the more it sounds like an empty 1960's hippie mantra or a new age excuse for sitting around doing nothing. But I do get the point.

If you want to make my wife, Monika, really angry, just ask her what she does. Because what you are really asking of course is whether or not she is in paid employment. Whether we like it or not, we tend to define and evaluate people by their job and title. But Jesus doesn't do that. Jesus sees Monika's passion to serve him and people and her tireless labours - and that she works twice as hard as her husband for no pay!

Church Army is considering becoming an order, rather than a society. I don't fully understand the difference to be honest, but I think part of the point of being an order is being known for what we are, not what we do. Church Army NZ currently describes itself by its task - "we follow Jesus, make him known, and help others do the same." I have started describing us as "a community of pioneering evangelists." Our being and our doing - surely one must come first and define the other?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Evangelism 2010

Like just about everything, the prevalent style of evangelism is subject to fads and fashions of the day. Recent years has seen a big push for friendship evangelism, process evangelism, lifestyle evangelism. It takes time, and we speak loudest by the way we live.
The excellent sermon I heard this morning included the story of a missionary hospitalised in India. The old man in the next bed couldn't get himself to the toilet one night, so messed the bed - to be smacked by the staff the next morning, leaving him in tears. The following night our hero carried the old man and helped him sit over the hole which served as a toilet - with the consequence that in the days after, many patients and hospital staff asked him for the tracts he had previously been unsuccessfully trying to distribute. When a visiting evangelist spoke to the patients and staff, he discoverd that many had given thier lives to Jesus.
A great story - and the point drawn from it was that it was the selfless act of mercy and compassion rather than the testimony or carefully crafted Gospel presentation which led to the conversions.
But I want to object at this point. Doubtless the beautiful expression of the Christian faith being lived out touched people's hearts - but without the Gospel being explained to them, (in this instance, via aprinted tract) and a response invited, they would have had no opportunity of entering a life changing relationship with Jesus. The Gospel must be explained - and I fear we have either lost confidence in its abiliy to bring transformation, or we have lost our ability to succinctly and helpfully explain just why Jesus came to earth.
For a fuller explanation of this theme, email me at canzphil@gmail.com and I'll send you a copy.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Welcome to 2010

So this is what 2010 looks like - hot lazy days in Auckland while my family in UK freeze and cope with snow!
I have been asked by a number of people to start a blog, so they can get to know me (and my thinking) better. So here it is. I hope to update it at least once each week, perhaps more, so please do check regularly.
I am genuinely excited as we head into this new year, with all the opportunities and potential it holds. I am also deeply aware that history is littered with wasted opportunities and unfulfilled potential, so my desire is to pray and think more; to speak in consultation more; to dream and risk more; but above all to put into firm action more of the visions and ideas which God sends my way.
"Community" is a buzz word in both the Christian and secular worlds. I describe CANZ as "a community of pioneering evangelists". Well now it is time to move from words to actions - so the new Church Army NZ Base is in the Kodesh Community in Avondale (www.kodeshcommuniy.org.nz). But we are not just living in a community, we fully intend to model community. We will have numerous visitors and guests staying with us, from a day or two to maybe years. We will develop a communal life with spiritual rhythms alonside washing-up rosters; prayer and peeling potatoes with mentoring and mowing the lawn! It will be an adventure for us as a family with the usual highs and lows; but for now I'm just relieved to be living out at least one great idea.