Don’t miss the boat

“Don’t miss the boat” says J.D.Greear; “I believe we need a fundamental shift in how we think about the mission of the church.”

After describing some churches as cruise liners (with satisfying programmes for all the family) and others as battleships (where the church organisation itself does most of the gospel presentation), Greear prefers the metaphor of aircraft carriers – churches that equip their people and send them out carrying the gospel far and near.*

SIM NZ Director Rob Reynolds says that’s Calvin Community Church in Gore. “The whole leadership team is always evaluating how the congregation can best take the gospel out with them to wherever they are.” Rob was there recently with Shireen Chua from OMF, for a weekend missions consultation. Shireen describes the long history of Calvin’s church involvement in mission: “As we spent Friday night together, looking back at all their different initiatives and missions activity, it revealed a strong DNA and history of looking ‘Beyond Ourselves’… What stood out was the commitment of the leadership, who set aside a whole weekend to learn, discuss and plan together what this next season could look like.”

The next season has already begun with a teaching series on “the five faces of mission: Tell, Teach, Tend, Transform Society and Treasure Creation.” Lead Minister Ken Williams is reminding his congregation to see that mission isn’t something that other people do, or something that people overseas do, but mission is the task of the church. Something that we do everywhere and always. “Before I started I asked two questions of the congregation — When we say the word mission, what comes to mind? I asked them to go a little bit deeper: What is mission? And I was very encouraged with the depth of response.

As well as currently supporting mission workers in Russia, Sri Lanka, West Africa, Egypt and doing bible translation in Australia, Calvin supports youth mission initiatives in New Zealand – Word of Life based in Hamilton which has a staff person from Gore, and Camp Columba, near Gore “which does tremendous work helping young people come to Christ and grow in maturity.” Many of their own youth are involved.

Then there’s The Table, run by the church on Fridays at lunchtime “for people in society who haven’t always got somewhere else to go.” It has been going for 6-7 years. Most wouldn’t come to a Sunday service.

“We have a meal together,” Ken Williams says, “and also a devotional time called the God Spot. The wife of one of these people made the comment that ‘he doesn’t really come for the food, he comes for the God Spot.’ There is a lovely community of people who come along – not just people we are offering a lunch to, they have become friends.”

Calvin’s leaders try to find ways of engaging the church’s overseas missionaries and their stories in the church services. “SIM’s partners Rob and Katherine came from here, feeling a strong call to West Africa. Then they came back under fairly traumatic circumstances. They are now in Africa again, but having been home for an extended period due to covid, it means quite a wide diversity of people in our congregation have heard their stories, and we can see that this relationship-building has been a real positive.

“We are trying to improve our work in getting video clips from our overseas people in worship services — it’s a work in progress, to resource our mission partners so they can grow their support this way. The local church needs to do this better than we do; we’re building on the intent. We know the things we put our attention to is what gets done. So we’re the people of God involved in God’s mission; we want to get as creative as possible in doing that. We still have a long way to go to be effectively engaging in mission – we are on the way.”

*From his book Gaining by Losing – Why the future belongs to churches that send.