National Leader's column
By Rodney Macann
Lorna and I went to Parachute this year and it was great. It was very wet on the Sunday but that didn’t seem to dampen the enjoyment of the event for the thousands of the young in body and heart who were there.
I have to confess I didn’t mosh but I enjoyed watching from the stands. There was a wonderful wholesome energy about the whole thing. It was Parachute’s 20th birthday and there was celebration.
There’s a great deal to celebrate! The recognition of the importance of music to young people and the determination to both encourage young Christian musicians in the bear pit of secular rock music and touch the heart and minds of the many thousands who would never go near a church has been a tremendous one.
Tributes were paid to Mark DeJong who has been there from the start and whose leadership has seen Parachute develop into the great festival that it is.
But Parachute is much more than a music festival, it’s an organisation that encourages the best in music and gives guidance and support to young musicians as they seek to make their way as career musicians. Let there be no mistake about it – God the creator of all good things and Jesus the hope of the world are celebrated at Parachute.
When I was starting out in my career as a singer in the classical world I was occasionally drawn in to backing pop groups to earn some money and performed and recorded with Pink Floyd at a couple of pop festivals in the ‘70s. The Parachute experience is very different because it is potentially life giving.
I admire hugely Mark DeJong’s ability to have guided Parachute over the long haul. However at the very beginning there was also another Mark and a Kevin who were there.
Mark Pierson was the creative genius who, along with Kevin Schulz and Mark DeJong, had the vision for a festival in Otaki that was birthed in 1987 and called Mainstage. The Parachute organisation was birthed in 1989 but the Parachute Festival grew from the original Mainstage.
I know because I inherited Mark Pierson as a colleague at Wellington Central Baptist when I went there to lead the ministry team in 1990 and Mark informed me that I wouldn’t see much of him for a few months around Christmas and the New Year as much of his time would be given to the running of Mainstage.
I discovered that he had also harnessed the energy and commitment of many Wellington Central people in all sorts of creative ways from sponsorship type schemes to a lot of practical help. I don’t know whether Mark ever imagined the festival would grow as it has done as they worked from a field on the banks of the Otaki Gorge.
It was already mighty impressive in 1991 while he was still involved with Kevin in the leadership. Mark has a gift for start-ups. When I arrived at Central I discovered he had drawn together a group of 20 or so young adults and not-so-young adults to prepare for what became a very significant ministry to the poor of the city that was called Still Waters.
His preparation work was outstanding. It most probably developed in a way that was different to his original vision but that didn’t matter because others were given the opportunity to share and grow the vision. Mark left Central not long after Still Waters was birthed but the ministry went on for years and continues to evolve under the direction of the Spirit touching the lives of hundreds of needy people over the years and giving great opportunity for younger people in particular to be a part of God’s redemptive plan and justice for the world. Mark Pierson is a particularly gifted pioneer.
Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:6 talks about the way that his ministry and that of Apollos complemented each other: “I planted the seed in your hearts and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.” I’ve paid my tribute to Mark but I also want to pay tribute to those who have the watering ministry. With Still Waters over the years there have been any number of people who have had a tremendous watering and sustaining ministry at different times.
We can’t all be the pioneers, but the ministries of encouraging, sustaining and developing are equally significant. Parachute has been blessed by the watering ministry of Mark DeJong.
We have a tremendous planter in our midst at this moment – Chris Sola, and there is a potentially great work of planting going on at this time with Chris and his church in South Auckland. Many were thrilled at the recent Gathering as they heard Chris tell his story.
But Chris needs the waterers who will have many different gifts. Maurice Cavaney has been and is a great waterer, as is Kelvin Fairhall at the National Centre, but if this new project goes as we hope then we’re going to need many with the gift of watering. The watering may be as simple as writing a cheque to aid this new project. God gives the increase but He does it as we work with Him as planters and waterers. Watch this space!
Meanwhile, Kevin Schulz continues as a planter having recently planted a new Baptist church in Paraparaumu.