Touring Northland earlier this year with Rowan and Margaret Smiley, we saw first hand some of the struggle that is facing our church. Ironically, one of the most energised and heart-warming meetings was at Ngunguru (Tutukaka Coast Community Church – just out of Whangarei).
It had been a long day. First we met with the people of Kaurihohore (Kauri), an engaged and engaging group who come from outside the immediate locality to an historic church building to worship, connect with one another and be a visible presence. Later, we met with leaders of St John’s Whangarei (the Golden Church), in a much-used community church facility.
Finally, the Tutukaka Coast Community Church put on tea for us. The small, mixed group had recently gone through a significant church split where the bulk of the congregation joined a more conservative group further up the coast. They knew what they had lost and their initial despair was focussed on how they could reclaim it.
I know what that’s like – I’ve been there. Yet they were such a rich, warm and engaging group. Over dinner we talked about who they are now, what skills, passion, resources they have – and using that as a basis for reaching the community. They had lost nearly all their young families, yet here they were in the midst of a retirement community, reflecting on who they now were as a church. Perhaps new opportunities for ministry in a different way, with a different cohort are now possible. As one who prioritises ministry with the non-young, this group struck me as one rich with resources to reach an important and mostly missionally-neglected demographic.
As we toured it became clear that most were open to being encouraged. Sitting with leaders and congregations in the district has deepened my conviction that the place to start is by reflecting upon 1) who we are (rather than who we are not) and 2) what gifts and graces we have (rather than what we don’t have). These are all part of God’s question to Moses, “What’s in your hand?” (Ex. 4:2). When we then consider the nature of the communities in which we find ourselves and what is happening there, we discover “What God is doing” (Jn 5:16-19).
When we open ourselves to the invitation to action, we might see the opportunity to move beyond mere survival and engage with the community around us in vital and life-giving ways. Recognising that Mission Resourcing currently has neither the time nor the capacity for resourcing mission in this way, how can we make this happen?