The annual gathering of the Baptist Churches from around Aotearoa New Zealand was a great success. Having everyone stay on site at Lincoln University created a wonderful sense of togetherness and we had the highest number of delegates for many years.
Our theme was Being the Body, Nobody Missing: an all-encompassing premise reminding us that every part of the body of Christ is important and has a role to play. The Gathering’s planned meta-narrative was especially obvious through the contribution of our well received keynote speaker, Mark Holmen. He brought our focus back to the foundation of our discipleship responsibility, the home.
There was, however, a second meta-narrative that emerged during the Gathering. I’d like to explore this further and offer some reflection. The theme I’m talking about is that of biculturalism.
From the opening moments of the Gathering to the closing speech I felt the Spirit of God prompting us to reach across cultural boundaries and once again engage Maori in a significant way. It was reminiscent of the Apostle Peter’s dream where God asked him to shake loose from the safety and religiosity of his Jewish world and embrace the Gentile world of Cornelius (Acts 10).
The Gathering was launched by David Moko (Kaihoutu, Baptist Maori Ministries). In a unique kumara ceremony we were encouraged to share kumara from our table with someone with whom we desired to form an alliance or needed to be reconciled. Taken seriously, it reminded us of the opportunity we have to be aligned or reconciled with the people of the land, the Tangata Whenua. Lyn Campbell pushed this point home as she concluded in her role as President.
The business session on Friday morning was excellent, a special and moving highlight coming when David Moko’s new strategic team was introduced to the assembly. Delegates spontaneously prayed encouragement and blessing for the team. As we stood together and symbolically shared our kumara I felt God smiled on us in a very special way.
With its fusion of Pakeha and Maori, Saturday morning’s commissioning of the National Leader was distinctly bicultural. A uniquely Maori form of handing over the baton was conducted with the taiaha (war spear), representing the mantle of leadership, being laid down and passed from one leader to another; and the sharing of the korowai (Maori cloak), representing the passing across of the mana of the National Leader. There were few dry eyes as the mana of leadership passed from Rodney Macann to Craig Vernall. Again, I believe, God smiled on us at that moment.
Saturday night was eclipsed by the telling of a portion of our story as a nation. Using his own life story, John Dawson (residing elder of Youth With a Mission) took us on a journey that helped inform and challenge us to recognise the heritage that we have as a people – Pakeha, Maori, and from all nations around the world. The Spirit of God was among us during our time together and there was more presented than we could possibly digest in that one moment.
So, why do I reflect on this aspect of the Gathering here in World Reach? It’s because I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that New Zealand Baptists are being prompted by God to engage our culture to a greater degree and to raise up and inspire, resource and mobilise, young Maori men and women and their families for the task of mission to the world. I believe that when Maori are mobilised to join God in his mission, we will witness something here in Aotearoa New Zealand that our forefathers fervently prayed for – that revival will come to this nation.
I am prepared to go out on a limb and say the Maori serving God around the world is a vital key to seeing more Kiwis reached for Jesus. What’s more, I believe that God is giving us, as New Zealand Baptists, a new opportunity to join him in his mission in New Zealand in a way that will enable us to reach the world way beyond what we can possibly imagine now.
Somebody is missing, somebody here and somebody in the world; and through Christ we truly have the opportunity to emerge as the whole body of Christ just as was always intended. Join me in that response – pray that David Moko and his team, and you and I in our local context, can raise up people to reach the world for the sake of the Gospel.
• Peter Mihaere is director of NZBMS.