Saturday, September 24, 2011

One Service - Touch Pause Engage

Last Sunday all 6 East Taieri congregations gathered in one service at the Hislop Hall, in Taieri College.
It was a wonderful opportunity to worship God together and to seek God for the year ahead.  We also appreciated the music ministry of David Lyle Morris, who joined us for the occassion.

I paste below a summary of my sermon notes for that service from Luke 10:1-9


Members of a rugby team are all different, but together they make up the team – each member playing their part.
Together, we make up the East Taieri Church team. We are all different. There are six different services represented here. But together we make up the ET team, each member playing their part.
The mission of the All Blacks is clear – to get the ball across the try line, and stop the opposition doing the same, so they win the game.
What is our mission as a church?

One people in mission for God’s glory
Growing in Christ and making him known in love
through word, sign and deed
Because all people matter to God.

What does that look like? What’s our vision for that in the future?

1) The people were in touch with Jesus (Luke 10:1)

The 72 people Jesus chose and sent out were some of his followers. He knew them, and they knew him. Jesus was sending them out as his ambassadors to proclaim that the Kingdom of God is near. God’s powerful rule as King was being demonstrated in Jesus ministry, and now they were going to do the same kinds of things. Healing people, driving out demons, and telling people about turning back to God. They had seen Jesus do it, now they were to go out and do it themselves. But it came from their relationship with Jesus. Being in touch with Jesus.

Our mission is an overflow of our relationship with Jesus. At East Taieri Church our vision is that we are all close to Jesus. Knowing Jesus, so our lives are changed and we can be a part of Him changing other’s lives too.

How do we stay in touch with Jesus? God took the initiative in sending Jesus, but we also need to respond. There was a woman who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years. She had spent all her money on doctors and none of them could make her well. She thought, “Jesus is my only hope.” She thought “If I only reach out and touch his cloak, I will be healed.” And she was.

You can reach out and touch Jesus in worship. Those of us leading worship are praying, digging deep in the Scriptures, practicing music, preparing creative stuff, getting ready. But all of us need to get ready for worship. We need to come expecting to meet with God in all His love and power. We want to grow in our worship services in the year ahead.

You can be in touch with Jesus in your own of course. Growing in your relationship with Jesus in those quiet moments at home. In the year ahead, I will be teaching about spiritual gifts and spiritual practices that are part of living as Jesus lived.

Or when you meet with a mentor or in a small group. In the past year we had 4 new small groups start, 2 at FUEL, and 2 from the rest of ET, giving us over 25 groups now. People encouraging each other in their life with Jesus. God has good things for us as we draw close to Jesus

2) Pause – Prayer, Reflection, Learning, Growth (Luke 10:2)
Notice what happened before they actually went out.
Before going out, they were to pray. Prayer reminds us that we are dependent on God’s grace and power. We humble ourselves, and ask God to do what we cannot.

So we are making October a month of prayer. We will give you a prayer diary for the month, inviting you to seek God daily. There will be suggestions for prayer and space for you to write down what you sense God saying to you. We will finish the month with a major prayer gathering to worship God together and hear what the Lord has been saying. We will be praying for our whole mission as a church, including that God would draw us all close to Jesus.

Then they were to go according to some specific instructions from Jesus. (Lk 10:3-9) We will see in a moment that the basic idea of our mission is simple. Sometimes we over complicate things. But here Jesus did give them some mission instructions. They were to travel light: no money, no bag, or sandals. They weren’t to dilly dally along the way making small talk to the people they met. There was a sense of urgency to find those people that were open to the good news about Jesus, discovering where God was already at work in a town or village and joining in. (Jesus altered these in Lk 22:35-36).

The second part of our vision at ET is everyone growing in Christ, understanding that the Christian life isn’t just about going to heaven when we die, but living in the kingdom of God now – ambassadors for the King.
(Luke 10:9) Seeing God’s power at work putting things to rights, healing sickness and injustice, bringing forgiveness and reconciliation, changing lives, caring for God’s creation around us... A big view of what it means to follow Jesus as an ambassador of the King of Kings.

There are specific ways you can pause, reflect, learn and grow:
  • There are opportunities for intentional discipleship.
  • This ET brochure, “How can I grow spiritually?” has a menu for spiritual growth: starters, entrees, mains, desserts...
  • This year we put together a ministry opportunities board, which highlights opportunities for you to step out into a new serving experience with God.
  • We will be running the updated Network Course in the new year to help us be clear about our spiritual gifts, personal style and passion, so we understand more of where God is calling each of us to step out in mission.
  • In March next year we are having a church camp which will be a fantastic opportunity to build relationships and grow as a disciple of Jesus.
 3) Engage in God’s Mission: In touch, pause, then go! You and I “go into mission” every day. When we get out of bed – our home is a mission. When we go out our gate, enter school, workplace, or join in with something through ET church or in the community, we are in mission. Our vision is that we all might be in a vital relationship with Jesus, growing in him, and overflowing to others in mission.

And while I’ve acknowledged that we need to be prayerful and reflective, learning & growing, the basic pattern in Lk 10:9 was fairly simple:

 1. Minister to real needs with God’s power,

 2. And tell people where it came from.


 Let me give you a few examples of our strategies for engaging:

 (a) Today, someone from FUEL gave you a brochure that explains the mission and vision of FUEL – a mission work of ET. FUEL is a breakfast cafe church that meets on Sunday morning in Fairfield. Their particular focus is reaching and discipling people not currently involved in church. FUEL has grown to around 30 adults and 20 children every week. We need to pray that God will raise up new leaders, so FUEL can go on and grow.

(b) We want to be a part of God changing lives and transforming communities. Our community facilitator Joy is doing a great job of research, networking, and seeing people join in opportunities that God raises. We want to engage our community.

It will mean building partnerships where we can be an influence for Jesus amidst something that may not be labelled “a ministry of ET church”. This already happens through our chaplaincy in schools... Through the way Christians from ET are involved in victims support, caring for the elderly, night patrols, sports clubs... The Father and Son’s breakfast Ben McK is helping organise. Our vision is that we would all be thinking “God’s Mission” as we go about these activities.

(c) We are going to consciously celebrate the way existing ET ministries are engaging people outside the church family. Sue Todd’s testimony: English for Speakers of Other Languages – Coffee & Conversation Group.

(d) We are going to introduce more people to Jesus.

Two key strategies:

(i) We attract and invite people to fantastic events (such as Christmas Eve – this year lets break the 1000 mark – and perhaps more importantly) and we attract and invite people to quality ministries (such as Mainly Music and the Marriage course).

(ii) We build relationships with people, and speak about Jesus.

Our attractional stuff is going well. But we aren’t great at actually saying something. I’m not saying this to heap guilt on us. But in the year ahead we are going to help you get better at speaking about Jesus in a relaxed, helpful way, using one simple, fun, training course. I’m sure we all have someone we know that we want to introduce to Jesus.

(e) Our vision is to grow our global mission too: Short term mission experiences; Supporting long term missionaries; Building the relationship that has begun with the San Pathong Church in Thailand...


Rubgy is just a game, but our mission is not a game. It’s life instead of death. Grace and truth instead of striving and lies...

My prayer is that these words, “Touch”, “Pause”, “Engage” will echo in our minds and will think of our vision of being in Touch with Jesus, Pausing to pray, reflect, learn and grow, and Engaging with God’s mission to a hurting world.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mission Visit to Thailand

In June/July, my wife Sue and I had the privilege of travelling to Thailand to visit missionary families associated with East Taieri Church.  One family are members of our church so this was a particular focus.  A long way to go for a pastoral visit, but it was fantastic!  The other two families are also top people and it was inspiring to spend time with them.  All three are doing great work in quite different settings.

Some reflections on our time.  There is a saying "to be Thai is to be Buddhist", and while there is real openness and response to the gospel among hill tribe people in northern Thailand, Thai Buddhists are much less open.  Significant resistance and opposition occurs.  We were aware of principalities and powers also.  Sue & I found ourselves praying a lot.

I am sure we can learn much from the challenge of sharing the gospel in this culture.  One Thai church leader I spoke with said that the issue of Karma and the culture of shame (rather than guilt), required a foundation of loving acts of service before the words of the gospel could be shared.  That has some echos of NZ (though we don't have a culture of shame).  The church in which he is an elder has a significant community development programme underway - even though their church has and average attendance of only around 30 people!

The respect for Buddhism was evident in the people who scored priority seating at the airport! (The first icon is a monk).  I heard on the radio today the way our market economy ranks people in order of importance according to their contribution to
GDP.  This would give more value to the most lowly paid job, than to any volunteer role, or what I would regard as crucial roles of raising children, or caring for aged parents.

Perhaps Thailand has more insight than NZ on some of these priorities.  Certainly older parents or grandparents are well respected.  One Thai couple told us how much they appreciated the sacrifice our missionary family was making in coming to Thailand and leaving their parents back in NZ!

Meeting procedure in Thailand can be very slow (even to this Presbyterian), but it has the advantage of being highly relational.  Again we could learn something here.  One little personal reminder this somewhat task oriented pastor needs occasionally is "people before task Martin".  I sometimes say that to myself.

The importance and also difficulty of language learning was obvious. 

The different culture of missionaries from the US was apparent.  They had more resources behind them, and a different approach to engaging Thai nationals.  As in any church ministry team, missionary teams must work hard at their working relationships.  The health of the team is key.

We were able to begin a relationship with a Thai church near Chiang Mai.  I am excited about the mutual learning and support that will come from this as our relationship grows.  At this stage we are simply praying for each other, but that first step is a good step.  It's importance cannot be overlooked.

Looking forward to visiting again!