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Reaching out to Auckland’s downtown business people

Last year NZ Herald journalist Paul Charman found the Auckland Baptist Tabernacle’s website and contacted the Tab asking if it was possible to have a downtown CBD Bible study group.

Pastor Lyndon Drake’s response was to start one up. “For about three months the group was me and Paul. It felt like a bit of a slow start!” says Lyndon.

But around the same time, and unknown to Lyndon, Catalyst (the graduate arm of Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship) had been talking to another minister, Travis Scott at City Presybterian Church around the corner from the Tab, who also wanted to get something going in the CBD.

The two joined forces and the new Bible Study group was advertised via Facebook, word of mouth, and Catalyst’s graduate network.

As a result, the group grew quickly which, says Lyndon “wasn’t hard when you start with two!” The group has been meeting every week during term since. On average about six or seven attend the meeting, with 14 the most at any one meeting so far.

The group meet at the BNZ Partners Business Centre in the Deloitte tower at the bottom of Queen Street. “Over the stairwell is a big Colin McCahon with a quote from’s a cool place to be meeting around the Bible.”

Those attending include a small group of graphic designers plus business people who include bankers, lawyers, accountants, and an auditor – all representative of the sort of business people you would expect to find in downtown Auckland.

“We had a think about what to do and whether to make it explicitly evangelistic. But the feedback we got was interest in having a Bible Study and this works well for most people,” says Lyndon. The meetings are in the middle of the working week and are 40 minutes long, which includes 10 minutes to get from the office desk and 10 to get back again.

Last year the group worked through the Sermon on the Mount. Now they are studying 1 Peter.

Meeting in a banking business centre is a comfortable environment for Lyndon Drake. Before becoming a minister he was a vice-president at Barclays Bank in Britain and a talented bond trader. “If you are a doctor it’s easy to see how you are doing God’s work. But people think of investment banking as inherently evil! It’s a bit harder to see how banking fits into the Kingdom.”

With that experience to call on, Lyndon and Travis – who also had a career before becoming a pastor – help the study group to think about how they can apply what they’ve have learnt once they are back at their office desk.

“For a number of them it is a different focus. Usually we tend to end up thinking about a religious or ethical application. It’s harder to find a context to talk with other people in a work setting about what it means to, for example, write an article, or do due diligence on one company buying another.

“They are doing financial or legal work where the connection between faith and work is not quite as clear cut, beyond the simple ethical things such as not stealing or lying. It is about the bigger picture of how work fits into God’s kingdom.”

Lyndon says applying lessons from a Bible Study is difficult to think about in a busy work setting. One advantage of a lunchtime mid-week study group is those attending can go straight back to work with what they have learnt still fresh in their minds and perhaps act differently as a result.

So far all those attending have some Christian commitment, although not all are regular church goers. One challenge for Lyndon is how to reach out to business people who are non-Christians. With that in mind he plans to get the Tab involved in an event planned for downtown Auckland in April by WorkLife (which has evolved from Campus Crusade). Internet entrepreneur Mike Ballantyne is to speak at the Crown Plaza. Lyndon sees it as an opportunity to invite non Christian workmates so they can hear about Ballantyne’s astonishing business success and hear him share his Christian faith.

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