Once you’ve been around tranzsend and the Baptist church family for a while, you start to get used to certain phraseology. For instance, when May rolls around you find people talking about “Self Denial” and the little translator in your head automatically registers it as “that annual missions appeal.”
One of the challenges of my role is to try to find a way to disconnect that translator and enable people to decipher the words as they are meant. You see, “that annual missions appeal” that tranzsend promotes and resources is so much more than a way to fund mission.
We call it the Prayer and Self Denial Appeal. That phrase has been a part of NZBMS’s identity for decades and, over the last 17 or so years, we’ve brought it to the fore on an annual basis. We don’t use it lightly or for the sake of tradition; those words are deeply meaningful and, if you think about it, the concepts of prayer and sacrifice are at the centre of all lives of faith.
Prayer is one of those key spiritual disciplines all Christ-followers long to engage in but few seem to be able to sustain. Every year, tranzsend invests time and energy into resourcing the New Zealand Baptist churches to pray. More specifically, we ask that those prayers be directed to the work of the great commission. As we pray for and about mission, we give God the opportunity to soften and shape our hearts after his; we become more attuned to the world he has called us to reach and more available to be used in the task.
What’s more, our field staff covet your prayers! Every one of them will testify to the difference it makes to have faithful prayer support from home.
Self denial, on the other hand, is almost an anathema in our culture. In an age where advertisements scream for our attention and proclaim that we deserve the biggest and brightest and can get it at very reasonable terms, the idea that we would choose to go without something is deeply disturbing. But this too is a gospel call. Christ challenges us to take up our cross, to put others first and rearrange our priorities accordingly.
The practice of simplifying our lifestyle, even temporarily, can have a profound impact on our spiritual journey. Once again, tranzsend endeavours to facilitate this experience on an annual basis. We provide icons to encourage lifestyle changes and opportunities to see the outcomes of self denial making a practical difference in someone else’s life.
So, as your church begins to talk about Prayer and Self Denial this year, make an effort to reclaim those terms. They’re more than a name for an appeal; they’re an integral part of how we want to resource you, the Baptist churches of New Zealand, for the work of mission and your call to follow Christ. Let us serve you in your journey. And, as you draw closer to God through the process, appreciate for yourself how he’s able to use you to draw others around the world to himself.
• Paul Dunn is the Communication Specialist for the New Zealand Baptist Missionary Society (NZBMS)