Past editions of the NZ Baptist magazine are a treasure trove of information. I was researching and found some great gems concerning our beginnings from February & March 1923:
“The Rev. E. N. Goring [our first Pastor] thanked all for their welcome. He feelingly acknowledged the brotherhood of the ministers of other churches. Though a convinced Bap)st, he owed a great deal to influences of Christly men of other churches which made him their debtor” - working with other churches!
“The Mayor of Hawera (Mr E. Dixon) … assured the Baptists that there were plenty of people, plenty of money, and abundant opportunity for their enterprise in Hawera”. — the blessing of civic leaders!
“We have just heard that Hawera has formed a branch of the B.W.M.U., [now Baptist Missionary Fellowship] ...We shall hear more of this vigorous new-born”. - a heart for Mission!
“The church has a nucleus of members and workers whose character and service would be a strength to any cause. The opportunity in the town and district is great and challenging, and the whole denomination should stand behind this latest effort of extension, and make it a great adventure for the Kingdom of God in Taranaki”. - the right people, in the right place, with the right Kingdom a1tude!
Sounds pretty relevant still! Lord, please give us the courage of our predecessors. To dream big dreams; to step out boldly; to reach out to our community in your name.
Some people would say that “the church” has had its day! They would argue that we are now a post-modern, post-Christian, secular society where the church simply has no rele-vance for the majority of people.
Sadly, they have a point! We will be filling out census forms soon, and I’m sure, like in years gone by, many with no engagement in “church” will happily tick “Christian” for their reli-gion. I read a claim that there are now more people around who have left the church, than are left in the church.
As a Pastor this is something that I often struggle with. I find myself pondering some kind of response. I have concluded that shouting, “NO, YOU’RE WRONG, THE CHURCH IS RELE-VANT” (with volume for effect), might not be the best response.
And so we are left with this question: other than being the religious service department of “Births, deaths and marriages” (and who knows for how much longer given recent debate), what is the church’s role in our society?
It’s good to look and see what Jesus might have said. In his famous “Sermon on the Mount” Jesus says this: “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavours of this earth...You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world.“ (The Message Translation)
The role of God’s church is not to be the tradition keepers; the moral police; or a “nice” group of people who meet on a Sunday morning. The role of the church is to remind us all that God is God; to point the way to where God is at work in this world; and to encourage others to seek out and find God through his Son Jesus Christ.
I’m not sure if this is “relevant” in the popular sense, but what I do know is that Jesus changes lives, and He calls on His church to be salt and light in the world.
Blessings. Pastor David Auty.
Every time a New Year roles around it seems like time has flown and I can't quite believe another year is over . Does anyone else feel that way? When I look at my daughters it could-n't be clearer - it wasn't long ago that Hannah was a baby, right? Well actually, in 2013 she turns 10! As they say "time flies".
What is it about time that makes it fly by so quickly? There is the old saying that, "time flies when you're having fun". However, my experience is that it flies regardless of the level of fun being had!
I think perhaps some of the "speed" of time can come down to our hopes, dreams and ex-pectations. If we are striving for more; if we are desperate for the future NOW, we can find that it comes all too soon and perhaps not in the way that we might have hoped. If however we can stop ourselves from living in the future. If we can stop and smell the roses; if we can simply experience the present, then perhaps we wouldn't be so concerned or anxious about the future. I'm not saying that we shouldn't have a vision of the future (that's the great stuff that dreams are made of!). Instead, I'm saying that the future is moulded by what we do right now - it's safe to leave in God's hands. So right now I think I need: to spend some time re-aligning myself with God; to work on my relationship with Him, to allow him to "recreate" me as I go about some recreation. How about you?
This Christmas many of us will be spending quality time with family and friends. We will be sharing presents, consuming copious amounts of food and beverages, and generally having a fantastic time! In our culture this has become a huge part of what Christmas is about - and it's great. I'm happy to say, if all goes to plan, my Christmas will be much like this.
But there's a dark side to Christmas for many people! For those struggling finan-cially, Christmas can be a gateway to financial ruin; a time of spending far more than planned in this consumer driven environment. For others they will be on the receiving end of increased domestic violence over what is meant to be a "festive" season - for them it is anything but.
For new immigrants to New Zealand, or even those who have simply moved town, Christmas can be a sad and difficult time, reminding them of the good times "back home". For many Elderly, particularly widows and widowers, Christmas can be a very lonely time with no friends and family to share it with.
I could go on. The simple truth is that Christmas is great for many of us, but it's not great for everyone! That's why it's so important for us to remember the real reason that we celebrate Christmas. It rings from the familiar words of many Christmas car-ols and can be summarised in this line, "Joy to the world, the Lord is come!". The birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is not some popular myth and it's far more than a religious notion, it's the power of God reaching into our world to bring us all hope and a future. My prayer is that we will ALL have a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
On Thursday I was shocked to hear about a Tornado ripping through a part of West Auck-land that is very close to where I grew up. Tragically this event took the lives of three peo-ple. Then, I heard on the radio news that Ngongotaha, Rotorua (where our house is) was also hit by a Tornado - unfortunately it didn't take our sinking house away and solve that problem (visions of flying house in "Wizard of Oz").
As close to home as those events felt for me at the time, I didn't think that they would directly affect me. I was wrong. Early Friday morning I got a phone call from AirNZ (yes, you heard right...they called me!), saying that my early flight from New Plymouth to Auck-land was cancelled due to backlog following the storm in Auckland. I am now going to be late for my Mission Council meetings (doh!). You may remember a couple of months ago I wrote a blurb about waiting at airports - the wait continues...
Unexpected things happen all the time. We are affected by the consequences of things that we might have never anticipated. Chaos theory talks about a "butterfly effect", where small changes can cause large events. Of course the tornado wasn't a small thing, and it caused change to a relatively small event (my flight), but still the truth is that it was something that affected me in ways I didn't expect.
So what am I trying to get at here? Well, I think it's important that we notice the connections: between things; between people, between events. When we take notice of the connections then we can observe the way in which God has stitched this Universe together - no matter how hard we might try to be independent, the truth is that we're connected!
When we notice the connections we find that there are opportunities to share how the Good News of Jesus connects to every story; how God's Master plan of restoration affects every one; how the Holy Spirit is wooing us all into relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.
So open your eyes and look for the connections. Notice the cause and affect. Identify the chain reactions. Look out for God at work in transforming lives through the big things and the little things.
Blessings, Pastor David Auty.
We all know the value of helping out others. The truth is that this is part of being human, but it's also part of modelling good Christian community. In a sense we are called to look after one another.
I am always so blown away when people help me out in a time of hardship and find that it's a real privilege to walk alongside someone else when the going is tough.
But it's not just in tough times that we need to stick together. We need to be constantly looking out for one another, encouraging each other and walking this journey together.
Jesus said that people will know that we are his disciples because of our love for one another. That is what this is all about. Helping is witness; caring is outreach; walking the journey together opens the doors of the Kingdom of God so that we can tell others of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
So let's strive to uphold one another. Let's give of ourselves in a way that uplifts others and also sets us free.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor David Auty
Last week was manic for me as I rushed to get a big assignment done on top of normal life. This week so far has had little space either, and now I'm at Baptist Assembly for 3 full on days of "people overload" - actually that's not too bad since I'm a people person - however it does mean a growing list of "stuff" to do next week.
For many of us life is full on. We struggle to get everything done. We have responsibilities and feel pressured by the seemingly never ending demand. Even so, sometimes I find myself thankful for times like this...I know, it sounds strange, but busy times often give me the "wakeup" call I need to step back and just be with God. To take a deep breath and find strength in his presence.
For a lot of us the upcoming Christmas "silly season" will be a challenge in this regard. I just want to encourage you before it really hits: Let this time drive you into God's presence! Let yourself be strengthened and empowered by His grace and mercy! Let His Holy Spirit minister to your spirit - life and light. Let your joy be found in Him!
What are you waiting for? You could start in Psalm 43.
Grace and Peace, Pastor David Auty
Recently I watched a couple of TED talks from researcher Brené Brown. She has spent 12 years looking closely at shame and vulnerability—you can watch her talks on our church facebook group. I want to talk about a couple of quotes of hers:
“Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage” (Brené Brown)
Contrary to popular belief, vulnerability is NOT weakness! Too often in our culture this is the way that it is perceived: “If I show my vulnerability then people will think that I am weak”. But in fact the opposite is true. It takes courage to allow yourself to be vulnerable, and it’s only out of that vulnerability that we can truly be who we are meant to be. Jesus was pretty vulnerable to allow himself to be at the mercy of the murderous crowd, but without that where would we be?
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change” (Brené Brown)
For years I have been reading and studying about “leadership” and “change”. One of the things that I have noticed is that the best leaders and the most innovative people are not afraid of failure (or at least they don’t allow their fear to stop them trying). They try, and if it doesn’t work, they try again! Just like the old saying: “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again”.
But in order for us to do this we need to open ourselves up to the possibility that it may never work. We need to allow ourselves to be feel vulnerable—to let others really see us, and what we are doing, along with all the risk of disappointment, re-jection and judgement.
It’s true that if we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable then we can numb pain and heartache. However it’s also true that when we do this, we also numb joy and the thrill of human connection.
Christ came so that we might have life in all its fullness. Let’s not short change ourselves by living a life that is controlled by the fear of failure, or the lie that we are not good enough (“who do you think you are?”). Rather, let’s show our true vulnerability in surrender to Jesus—let’s allow his light, his life, his success—to be ours. Now that’s what I call really living!