Saturday, April 23, 2011

New Zealand Christian Leaders Gather in Waikanae

Published in Challenge Weekly 2011

Over the last week, some 200 Christian leaders from all over the nation came together at El Rancho in Waikanae for the 6th New Zealand Christian Leader's Congress. The Congress is a significant cutting edge event, a must-do for many of the Christian leaders of the nation. The leaders came from many denominations, parachurch organisations, colleges and the business world. The theme this year was a vision for 2020, 'The Gospel in the Decade Ahead.' The Congress was launched by Rev Dr Stuart Lange and Angelene Goodman from Laidlaw College who spoke on 200 years of the Gospel in NZ. The presentation was brilliant, speaking of the way in which Christianity was fused into the nation from the beginning and formed the basis for the Treaty of Waitangi. This was followed over the next few days by a range of speakers on the gospel from a range of perspectives including its content and proclamation, economics, global issues and mission, creation, justice, family, and the State.

Particularly significant were the overseas speakers. Jeff Fountain, former Director of YWAM Europe and now chair of the Hope for Europe Round Table and Schuman Centre for European Studies, inspired the Congress arguing that the future of Europe is not as bleak as many hold and that the seeds of her renewal are many. Geoff Tunnicluffe the Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance spoke of the range of ways that evangelicals are now able to influence global politics and policy making. Of particular note from the other speakers is planning for the 2014 Bicentenary when the gospel was first preached in NZ by Samuel Marsden on Christmas Day 1814 at Oihi Bay. This is a very significant moment in our history and an opportunity for NZ Christians to engage the nation with the gospel. Plans have begun for significant events to commemorate the coming of the gospel to Aotearoa. Glynn Carpenter, the tireless National Director of the NZ Christian Network compared the NZ church to the Sardis Church of Rev 3:2-3, challenging it to wake up. He spoke of his hopes for the decade ahead. Aside from plans for the 2014 bicentennial, other emphases moving ahead include holistic mission engagement across the nation, reducing the rates of abortion, rebuilding a marriage culture, and building Christian unity across cities and regions. The presentations from the Congress will be available through the NZ Christian Network Website (http://www.visionnetwork.org.nz/). David Lyle Morris with a superb team from Meadows Church led the Congress in some times of wonderful worship. While the speaking and worship were excellent, the highlight of the congress was the rich fellowship and the networking of Christians across the many flavours of the faith in NZ. We saw a living out of Jesus' prayer for unity in John 17.

After the shocking news of the Christchurch earthquake was made known early Tuesday afternoon, the quake dominated the thoughts and prayers of the Congress. Many delegates from Christchurch left immediately desperate to get home to family, friends and those in their pastoral care. A press statement was released from the Congress expressing that the Christian leaders stand together with New Zealanders in prayer and thought for the people of Christchurch and Canterbury. Much prayer arose from the delegates for the people of the region. This congress will always be remembered as 'the one when the Christchurch quake happened.' The earthquake serves to highlight the urgency of the task the Christian Church has as we move ahead. Christians across the nation must rise from their slumber as the people of God, stand together in the unity in the Spirit, continue to defend and proclaim the gospel, seek to see the transformation of people, churches and the whole nation, with the servant-heart of Christ. The need is huge and we must be relentless in our commitment to the cause.

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