Charles Hewlett is the National Leader of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand.

The Baptist movement is a missionary one: mission is in our DNA. It is my desire in 2024 to begin pivoting our strategic focus from foundational and structural issues to actual ministry and mission – putting greater effort into gospel renewal through our communities of faith.  

We asked four mission leaders what unleashing New Zealand Baptists to bring gospel renewal to our local neighbourhoods would look like for them.  

Sarah Beisly, business entrepreneur, elected member of our Assembly Council  

What does a missionary movement look like to you?  

I see a group of ordinary Kiwi people gathered around our extraordinary Jesus. We’re on our knees, and we are crying out, “God, may your Kingdom come”. Our motivation to do such a thing comes from our belief that God’s Kingdom coming is better than our personal ambitions and strongly held opinions. We reflect, discuss, and dream about what God’s coming Kingdom might look like in our place with our people. We pray daily for God’s Kingdom to come to our people in our place. And then we accept the daunting role of co-creators with Christ, and, with fumbling attempts, we act out God’s Kingdom coming with our hands, feet, minds, and hearts.  

What does it mean to be a church planted in our local community?  

To be planted means getting to know our community, neighbours, people, and place. This starts with fostering relationships of mutual friendship and learning. You might meet someone and think, “But this person is so different to me.” When we focus on our differences, we build walls. Instead, we can ask, “What do I have in common with this person, and how can I focus on our shared humanity to build a connection?”  

To assume that our church is the only group of people involved in gospel renewal in our community is naïve and arrogant. It’s not all about us. God is at work outside the four walls of our church building. We can counter this bias by searching for the beauty and goodness in our community. Where can we glimpse gospel renewal already happening? Who are the people in our community doing God’s Kingdom work — even if they don’t realise it? How can we support our community leaders in their beautiful mahi? How can we partner with non-church groups to participate in God’s Kingdom work in our community? 

What does it mean to live as a Christian in the world in 2024? 

To be a Christian means to know and follow Jesus. It means continuing to read scripture, to get to know the true Jesus, not just the ‘helpful genie type god’ we often conveniently imagine. Getting to know the true Jesus, the whole gospel, is uncomfortable and challenging. Our relationship with the true Jesus will shift our values and our priorities. To be a Christian means to seek God’s Kingdom first and trust that God will take care of our daily needs. A lot of Kiwi people obsess over success, money, property, safety, certainty and control. But seeking God’s Kingdom first means that instead, we give our best energy to gospel renewal and trust that God will look after the rest.  

Lyn Campbell QSM, former teacher, Families Commissioner, Baptist President. Now Chaplain to the Riwaka School community 

What does a missionary movement look like to you?  

We are all called to mission, to go as salt and light where God places us. This is our primary role in our everyday lives. 

Fundamental to an effective missionary movement’s effectiveness is understanding the context we are placed in. What issues are impacting people? Where is justice lacking? Who’s already active in the area? We must not just go in assuming we know what’s needed. Building trust and good relationships is essential. 

My observation is that we have been inclined to have an attitude of “come (to our church) and be like us” rather than going and being salt and light wherever God leads us. A missionary movement involves a lifestyle choice where we understand and embrace the role God gives us in living as ‘kingdom builders’, forming communities where people can belong and grow in faith. 

What does it mean to be a church planted in our local community?  

If we regard our church facilities as community hubs, we could potentially increase our focus and impact beyond our immediate church community. If we intentionally turn “inside out”, mission in our communities would become central to who we are. 

My observation is that we tend to prioritise “gathered church”, particularly Sunday services. If we prioritise non-Christian or becoming-Christian people, positive change will come. We tend to spend much of our time, energy and assets on internal nurturing, feeding and helping our people, and that should continue but not at the expense of investment in our communities beyond the doors of the church. 

What does it mean to live as a Christian in the world in 2024? 

We need to understand that things like tension, uncertainty, and being on the edge and in uncharted territory are our ongoing experiences. We should expect them. It makes people nervous, especially older people who tend to head for what is known. God is present and active, calling all of us to mission outside our comfort zones. 

Raewyn Moodie, Kaitiaki Children & Family Ministries Northern Baptist Regional Association 

What does a missionary movement look like to you?  

A missionary movement looks like people who are actually interested in sharing the gospel with those around them by word AND deed, not just going to church for what they get out of it. 

What does it mean to be a church planted in our local community?  

To be planted in our local community, we as churches need to know the felt needs of those in our communities: go survey, ask questions, talk to people, and don’t be afraid of their answers. Most people aren’t actually looking for a Sunday morning service to go to. What is it that they really need? Until we ask, we won’t know. If we don’t know, we aren’t really planted, we are just perching on the side of our community, doing our own thing. 

What does it mean to live as a Christian in the world in 2024? 

To live as a Christian in the world in 2024, we must be brave. There are more people interested in reading the Bible than there are Christians prepared to ask to read with them. I run a playgroup at my house for young mums in our community. I asked who would be interested in reading the Bible for 10 minutes at the end of our playgroup, and they all stayed. It was nerve-wracking to get the courage to ask, but they all said yes. Let’s be brave!! 

Dave Tims, Urban Neighbours of Hope, Orbit catalyst leader 

What does a missionary movement look like to you?  

A movement consists of numerous groups sharing the same kaupapa, the same DNA, striving to achieve the same thing, yet in different contexts. They collaborate to find the most effective approaches.

Orbit is a national Baptist movement comprised mainly of people involved in Intentional Communities. An Intentional Community is a group of people who have chosen to live together with a common purpose, working cooperatively to create a lifestyle that reflects their shared core values, usually within the same neighbourhood or even in the same large house. This typically involves a small group (usually between 4-10 people) of highly committed individuals living in the same neighbourhood, often in less affluent areas. They intentionally share life with each other and their neighbours.

Each Baptist Intentional Community has established a set of common values bound by a covenant. These values are accompanied by collective daily prayers, regular meals with neighbours and community members, and working together for their justice and well-being. The focus is on those who are marginalised in society. These practices bring our values to life and reshape our lives.

We’ve discovered that we need to slow down to ‘catch’ Jesus. Rather than striving for material wealth or chasing the latest trend, Baptist Orbit members choose to slow down and walk alongside their neighbours, making time to be with them and care for each other. Learning to ‘catch’ Jesus by slowing down takes time. The Baptist Orbit movement consists of people intentionally learning to ‘breathe with it’ and slow down to recognise and join Jesus walking with their neighbours.

What does it mean to be a church planted in our local community?  

The expectations of us as church members can sometimes be unclear. Do we just show up? There’s no accountability even if we don’t. We should have higher expectations of each other so our lives reflect the lifestyle Jesus wanted us to live. Not just morally but economically, too.

How we spend our money often reveals who we truly worship. Who we share a meal with also reflects our values. Jesus shared meals with tax collectors, sinners, and those rejected by society, embodying his value of ‘bringing good news to the poor’. There’s something profoundly beautiful about sharing a meal at home or in a neighbour’s home.

Nationally, the Baptist churches are incredibly wealthy. How can we use our wealth to help others flourish? We have tremendous resources. Every church could be an even greater blessing if we realised how wealthy we are and understood our God-given responsibility with that wealth. We could transform so many neighbourhoods, reflecting His Kingdom.

What does it mean to live as a Christian in the world in 2024? 

We need to change our mindset. To follow Jesus responsively, we must care for those who are the least. Intentional communities root their values in seeing their neighbours thrive rather than just themselves. We have to relinquish a lot of our wealth and security to share it with others. Who are our neighbours, and how can we be good neighbours to them? We may need to reconsider where we live. Can we intentionally move into neighbourhoods often labelled as ‘poor’ and learn to be good neighbours there? 

We need to be honest about our values, determining which ones reflect God’s kingdom and which do not. Then, we need to live a lifestyle that reflects God’s kingdom and be accountable for that lifestyle. Once we do that, the things the world deems important no longer matter, and we start to live a completely different way, becoming a blessing to our neighbours. A friend recently shared this with me: “Never be so arrogant as to think you are bringing God into your neighbourhood. Your job is to be quiet and listen to where He is already working.” 

Cover image: L-R Sarah Beisly, Lyn Campbell, Raewyn Moodie, Dave Tims. Supplied by Charles Hewlett. 

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