I have never felt more proud to be a part of our family of churches in Aotearoa New Zealand than I have since February 22.
Some of us operating out of our National Resource Centre in Auckland have had a unique opportunity to see what it is like when Christ-directed communities behave like Christ-directed communities. I’ve met with people in Christchurch who, despite great adversity, are seeing the crisis as a genuine opportunity to live out the redemptive love of God in the communities that are now their parishes.
A number of those stories have been told. I’ve also seen the tremendous response from our people around the country as churches have sent teams and as individuals have offered to serve. People have been going to their communities offering prayer, practical help and a way to connect with God at a time when the normal securities have been ripped away from people. It has been inspiring.
But I find myself asking the question: Do we really need an earthquake for us to behave in this way? I’m into my last six months as National Leader of our movement. The past four and a half years have been times of tremendous privilege and I could go on at some length about all the things I’ve loved about the opportunity to serve with you and our wonderful Saviour over the past few years. However a part of my role is to be prepared to intervene in situations of need in our churches.
I’ve been pleased to fulfil that role but at times it has been frustrating because sometimes our behaviour towards each other isn’t that great. (You may struggle to understand this if you are part of a wonderfully harmonious, outward-looking church that has its focus strongly on being Christ directed.) If, as you read this, you immediately think of someone else, you may have missed the point.
So do we really need an earthquake to bring out the best in us? Of course not. A few thoughts:
Major on the majors
When the earthquakes took place, particularly on February 22, the need was immediate and obvious. But we are living in the midst of continual and desperate need. In a typical year in New Zealand, there will be many more people murdered than the number who died in the Christchurch quake. There will be families torn apart by strife, living in squalor and with no financial security. There will be young people binge drinking, harming themselves through drug abuse and, particularly here in New Zealand, there will be some whose sense of hopelessness and despair leads them to take their own lives.
This calls us to look outwards and direct our energies to our primary calling – sharing the good news about Jesus through our proclamation and our living, and making his saving power known. If you have any doubt about this, go back to Jesus’ Nazareth Manifesto in Luke 4:18-19.
Love one another
Most of the strong injunctions from Jesus and the New Testament writers that we are to love are directed to Christians loving fellow Christians, and with very good reason. If we are incapable of loving each other, we’re not going to be very good at loving the needy ones of our parishes. Our witness may also not be too flash! To achieve this we need to have some understanding of the qualities of commitment and perseverance that are essential components of agape love. And we need to prize humility. We are not always easy to love!
Give unity its proper place
Jesus’ final words to his disciples prior to the cross must be taken seriously. How can we possibly say we are followers of Jesus if we ignore them! In John 17:20-23 note that Jesus says, “I am praying not only for these disciples but for all who will ever believe in me through their message.” This is a subject that merits much more than I can share here but it starts with our relationships as fellow believers in our own church contexts and spreads out from there.
Jesus’ words are initially to a small group of his disciples. Paul’s powerful words about the body functioning properly are given initially to individual churches. If Christ-like unity becomes a way of life, it will be infectious.
Wise and empowering leadership
Outstanding, visionary leaders are most probably few and far between but we are all capable of the following, which are essential qualities of leadership at every level – encouragement, transparency, listening well, valuing good processes, affirmation, humility (promoting others rather than needing the limelight and being prepared to recognise when we’ve got it wrong), directness (being prepared to act quickly if there is a problem) and, closely allied, having the courage to move out of our comfort zone and be prepared to confront where necessary in the right way. And never stop learning from others.
I believe that poor leadership is a major contribution to the big back door we see hurting many of our churches. Poor leadership, whether from elders, board, pastor or key staff, all contribute to disharmony and hamper our witness. People who have worked with me over the years will be very aware of my shortcomings in this area. Part of the privilege of the past few years has been the opportunity to keep learning.
The Lord bless you. It continues to be a great privilege to serve with you in the greatest work there is.
• Rodney Macann, National Leader