An ‘updraft’ in meteorology characterises a storm’s early development as warm air rises, eventually bringing the rains that offer sustenance and life. Rick’s hope for this monthly updraft column is for it to be a catalyst for change, ultimately contributing to the transformation of our faith communities. This regular column first appears in the Northern Baptist Association monthly newsletter, ‘Northern Lights’.

At the beginning of this month (August 5th – 6th), we hosted our Northern Region Hui at Tikipunga Baptist in Whangarei. We are incredibly grateful for how we were so graciously welcomed and served by Derrick and Lenore Jellick and the team from Tikipunga and the wonderful support from other local Baptist Churches. We were treated to an amazing array of cuisine, engaging times of worship and a real sense of God's Spirit drawing us together as his people.

The past two and a half years have been incredibly challenging. We've faced COVID and uncertainty as our churches find ourselves in a liminal space between what has been and will be. With that in mind, we focused our Hui on personal renewal and refreshment of God's Spirit and enjoyable and fun times of being in community. It was also a time of inspiration and imagination, seeking the new work God is doing in his people today.

Our sessions on Saturday focused on the renewal of our churches as we seek to be faith communities bringing gospel renewal to people and places in our local neighbourhoods. Drawing on the Book of Acts, Charles and Kathryn hosted a conversation on Robust Leadership, Growing Disciples and Healthy Resources, which all combine in Effective Mission. All factors are important conditions for the gospel renewal we seek to bring. 

We then focused on stories emerging from our churches that are stepping out in faith and trusting God with new ways of community formation. As we find ourselves in a time of needed change, there are three apparent options open to us as the church today to bring renewal:

Planting New Church Communities – this involves the development of new church communities that embrace a different way of being a community without the inhibitions of existing structures and ways of doing church with its current rhythms and practices. 

Whole Church Community change - here, the existing church community goes on a journey of adaptive change. The aim is to leave behind rhythms and practices that no longer shape us effectively as a people growing in Christlikeness, participating in God's mission. With this option, the whole church begins to embrace a different way ahead that sees us become a movement again. 

Establishing Emerging Communities alongside the existing - This option becomes viable where a church has stagnated or is struggling to adapt to our current situation. This option focuses on creating new forms of community alongside the existing local church structures. In time these new forms of community will build momentum and grow to a point where they become the way of the church. They move forward with the existing rhythms and practices of the current community at some point coming to an end.

The stories shared by some of our churches inspired us to think differently about our church communities and how we can embrace change in the liminal space we find ourselves.

We're grateful to those who shared and for church leadership during times of change. You've demonstrated vision, courage and creativity as you seek to respond to what God is doing in your communities, hoping to bring gospel renewal. You're an inspiration to us all. Thank you! 

Hui also allowed us to hear from our younger leaders as Reti facilitated a panel conversation on their view of the church going forward. As we look to lead our communities through change, we need to create more spaces to involve the under-30s in our leadership. Their vision for faith and life is essential for our journey ahead.

This is a significant time for our region's churches and our national movement. God is at work in new ways. As you carry the burden of leadership and ministry in some way through this season, our prayers are for God to grant you wisdom and revelation to discern the path he is calling you and our communities along. May we have the courage to take steps of faith, to risk trying new things and embrace the changes required. May we again become a forward-thinking, path-setting movement bringing gospel renewal to our local communities.

Rick Pierce is Minita-a-rohe mō te Hauoratanga me te Whakawhanake, Network Pastor, Health and Development, Northern Baptist Association. You can contact Rick by email: [email protected]

For more editions of Updraft, click here.

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