In this regular column, our Baptist National Leader, Charles Hewlett, keeps us posted on the happenings in Baptist faith communities across Aotearoa. The original Charles Mail is emailed out on a Friday and reproduced here the following Monday.

Tēnā rawa koutou

I was reminded time and time again over the Easter weekend how amazing Baptist volunteers are.

Like the couple who drove their separate cars 90 minutes to and from camp just to drop young people off, and then pick them up again! And Rachel and Mal who gave up their whole weekend to help prepare food in the kitchen. The Grandma who baked and baked so her church youth could enjoy morning and afternoon tea. The hundreds of volunteer leaders…

Thank you so much New Zealand Baptists – what a blessing.

Kawepūrongo

My Easter started with a retreat day on Thursday with these guys – Paul Windsor, Brian Harris and John Tucker. 

We read scripture, prayed, and ate together. We talked about Jesus and his call upon our lives, and how we might serve the people of God better. Ha – are there three better preachers of the Word?! 

Karen churches’ cultural celebration

On Saturday evening I had the opportunity to speak at the Baptist Karen churches' cultural Easter celebration in Auckland. Faith communities from Wellington, Palmerston North and Auckland gathered together to celebrate Jesus Christ and celebrate culture together. It was full of fun, very educational, and so inspiring. 

One of the highlights for me was the Rope Dance (photo below). As the music begins, the dancers weave intricate patterns with the rope, creating mesmerising braids and knots. It symbolises unity, strength, and the interconnectedness of the Karen community.

How important are the increasing number of Myanmar congregations within our Baptist family!

A day at Easter Camp

On Sunday Joanne and I spent the day at Northern Easter Camp at Mystery Creek in Hamilton (photo of me with Blue). Oh my goodness – it just keeps getting better all the time!

I found myself quite emotional sitting in the stadium with over 4000 young people hearing the gospel of Jesus being proclaimed so clearly.  

The highlight for me had to be the ‘Youth Takeover’ on the Sunday morning.

Opportunity was given to the young people to take responsibility for the Resurrection Sunday service – including my own 17-year-old daughter who had the opportunity to speak. Very proud mum and dad – go Jess! 

I wonder how our gathering might be different if we did a similar thing at our National Hui?

Baptist attendance statistics 

I have loved my little glimpse of Baptist Attendance Statistics from the last 12 months. I am not a mathematician but seeing the numbers heading in the right direction is so encouraging to me. Attendance by teens is up 19%, by children up 14%, by Māori up 8%, with overall attendance up by 12%. And what about baptisms – up 43% over the past 12 months!

I know we have plenty of work to do (e.g. we are not back at pre-COVID levels), and 70 churches didn’t complete the stat forms. However, the increase represents your hard work in a pretty tough environment. Let’s celebrate these numbers, and continue to “work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within us.” (Col 1:29) 

Meeting with our Children & Family Ministry Regional Coaches

Speaking of children and families – so good to host the Regional Coaches in my office last week (photo below) to talk about the plans for the year ahead that came out of their retreat. Thanks again Jan, Raewyn, and Steph for all your hard work.

Welcoming Rob Petrini

On Tuesday this week we welcomed Rob Petrini (interim Regional Leader for the Lower North Association) to his first Regional Leader meeting. Hutt Central Baptist Church have generously lent Rob to us for two days a week while Mike Warring is on leave. So good to have you on board Rob.

Tearfund’s Church Engagement 

A highlight of my week was spending time on Wednesday with Aliesha Whitehead and Kevin McFetridge (Tearfund Church Engagement Managers). After just 30-minutes of talking together my global awareness had soared – child development, modern slavery, farming and enterprise, disaster and conflict and so on…

What a gift Tearfund is to the church and the world that we live in.

Working together for the purpose of gospel renewal

On Thursday morning Alan Jamieson, John Tucker, Luke Kaa-Morgan, Wayne Schache and I met for breakfast. We talked about many things – mostly how our teams can increasingly work together for the purpose of gospel renewal of people and places. Please be assured we are here to serve you, and to help see your faith community thrive.

The Baptist NZ photo competition

What does gospel renewal look like in your community? We're running a photo competition with $1000 on offer for first prize ($500 to the photographer and $500 to their church).

Take your camera/smartphone outside your church service and capture something of what God is doing in the everyday of your local church and neighbourhood.

Click here to find out more and enter

Te Pouarataki mō te Hīkoi

From our Treaty Guide

Ka mau te wehi! An expression that means fantastic. It was fantastic to be with over 4000 young people at Northern Easter Camp in Kirikiriroa, Hamilton over the Easter weekend. A personal highlight was having a group of rangatahi (photo below) participate in creating new content that they are excited to present to the campers for use in the main meetings. The content uses te reo Māori and honours Jesus and the message of the season.

Please join me in praying that these rangatahi will be drawn closer to Jesus and remain excited for Easter Camp ’25 as they continue to work on their creative content. Korooria ki te Atua. 

Matawhaiaro

Kia ora Baptist Whānau

This week I read something I wrote five years ago...

I know, I’m like a stuck record, but Baptists must primarily be known as people who have their eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. When determining our priorities we immediately look to him. When unsure what to think and how to act we begin with his Word. When wanting to bring renewal we start with the power of his gospel. And when wondering how to treat our neighbours we look to his life. 

We have been called to be the church in a country that mostly rejects the Christian message. The idea of a metanarrative or overarching faith story is often viewed as ignorant, arrogant and oppressive. But Baptists must be counter-cultural and recognised as people who love Jesus and are quick to reference the Bible as we graciously work to restore all that is broken.

I still like this :) As I reread my comments I found myself asking:

– How do the people I lead know that I love Jesus?

– How do they know the Bible is central to me?

– Do they see my confidence in the Gospel?

– And I wonder if they see the ethics of Jesus in the way I treat them?

I know I have plenty of work to do! Please know that as National Leader there is nothing more important to me than having the eyes of New Zealand Baptists firmly fixed on Jesus. Do tell the people you lead how beautiful he is – often!

Thank you so much for all that you do. May God bless you heaps this week.

Charles

Karakia

I asked young adults coach (Upper South Association) Hannah Cossey to write a prayer for us this week, giving thanks to all the Baptist volunteers, especially those who helped out at Easter Camps and services across the country. Hannah sent through the photo below of a 200-strong youth choir leading their peers in worship on Saturday night at the Southern Easter Camp.

Jesus,

I thank you so much that you call us to yourself first and your work second. You give us fullness of life and your kindness is towards all of us for all that we need. Jesus,

I ask that each person that has served you in the crowds this Easter would find closeness with you in the quiet afterwards too. 

Help us to be led by you in how we seek good rest, and Jesus, just like we can't do the work on our own sometimes the rest we need is beyond what we can achieve on our own too. So, Jesus, would you heal our sicknesses, bring rest to our tired bodies, help our minds to find rest and good things to dwell on, may our spirits find peace with you.

Amen

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