Frank and Zoe Grant led Ōpōtiki Baptist Church, a once dwindling congregation in small-town Eastern Bay of Plenty, on a journey to become a church brimming with expectancy and vision. This is their story, as told to Linda Grigg. 

In 2009 Frank and Zoe Grant were approached about becoming pastors of Ōpōtiki Baptist Church. At the time, the church had around eight adults and was struggling. The couple knew it would be a challenge to pastor there, not least because they lived at Omaio, approximately 50km from Ōpōtiki.

Zoe says she was ready after a couple of months, but Frank took about six months to decide. He was comfortably enjoying fellowship at the local Māori Presbyterian church, with, in Zoe’s words, “golden oldies” like themselves. 

But ultimately distance and age proved no barrier, and the couple accepted the call. Their sons, who own a construction company, built them a two-bedroom cottage in Omarumutu, closer to church. And the Grants knew from their 50-plus years of ministering experience through thick and thin that God is always faithful and would continue to “perfect us in his ministry”.

Zoe says an understanding pastorate and elders with patience and love were needed, which took some time to establish to where it is today. 

“Prayer and intercession is the answer,” she says. “In my time alone with our Lord I cried to him for my people, weeping in my grief. ‘Where are we, Lord? Wherever we look holistically, we as the natives of Aotearoa are the bottom of the heap.’ In my groaning he gave me 1 Peter 2:9‑10. I know we are moving in a new way by his Holy Spirit to reach our people, beginning in our own Jerusalem, i.e. families with this covenant relationship with the Lord, even to the third and fourth generations (Isaiah 59:21).

“Now our Judea is our extended families—our hapū and iwi on our local marae. It is happening; our people want the truth as we know it (John 14:6)—not religious jargon and protocol. The committed younger generation has the means and vitality under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to fulfil the word of God.”

New vision

Not long after he came to pastor the church in 2009, Frank had the vision for an extension to the church building that would seat about 200 more people. It was a daunting step of faith for a small church to make.

The planning and resource consent process started in early 2011, with drainage and other pre‑construction work beginning in 2014. Four‑and‑a‑half years later the new building was completed. It was officially opened on 17 November 2018. David Moko, Kaihautu of Manatū Iriiri Māori, conducted the opening ceremony, at which Frank laid out the vision. Various kaumātua and other dignitaries also spoke.  

“Frank and Zoe Grant’s pastoral care and intercession is ministering to individuals and whānau who don’t know the Lord, and lovingly introducing them to God’s saving grace through faith in Jesus,” says David. 

“They’ve taken a small congregation that was almost at the point of closing, and have grown it to where the church decided to build an extension that has the capacity to seat up to 280 people. I liken their story to a reflection of 1 Peter—doing all that they believed God could do through them, God is now adding to the church. It is indeed a great story.” 

Frank and Zoe have recently transitioned to focus specifically on ministry to communities along the Eastern Bay of Plenty coast towards Te Kaha and beyond. Accordingly, the commissioning of Colin Moore as the new pastor of Ōpōtiki Baptist Church took place on 27th January 2019.

“It is a new thing the Lord is saying to us as far as reaching our lost, oppressed, broken-down people,” says Zoe. “The God of this world is money, at the expense of the poor who are legislated against. It is a new thing the Lord is doing and it is the truth, i.e. the person of Jesus. 2019 is a new beginning for many of us to reach our people.” 

New hope

Ōpōtiki Baptist Church’s vision is the Great Commission, believing for souls for the kingdom beginning with local families in Ōpōtiki District including Highway 35, and extending to the whole of the Bay of Plenty. But their mission extends nationally and even internationally, too. Late last year two of their church members went to Israel with Pacific Pearls, a national prophetic women’s Christian ministry they are involved with. 

The new building has fostered a sense of anticipation within the church community. Colin Moore says there is hope, faith and excitement that Ōpōtiki Baptist will grow as a church, both spiritually and numerically.

“The building has drawn people to work together better, and people have had to step up into new positions and grow. A lot more unity has resulted. There is a new sense of expectancy. God has shown his faithfulness to his people,” says Colin.

“Pastor Frank and Zoe have been amazing in their energy levels and dedication to moving the church forward all the way along. Their desire is to leave the church in a position that ensures it will grow and prosper and fulfil all that God has called us to in the years ahead.

“They are amazing role models. They have modelled true selfless commitment, faith and passion all the way, despite great odds and obstacles in this small needy town and district. Their unwavering love for the church and Christ is evident in all they do. They are very well known in the Bay of Plenty, all the way up the east coast from Te Puke to Waihau Bay, and they are a true father and mother in the faith to many, whether churched or unchurched. 

“Frank is an outstanding statesman for Christ and the gospel, in the church, on the marae and in the wider community. Zoe has an obvious zeal and is an exceptional leader of women. Both are much loved by us all. It is amazing what they have accomplished. They are a real inspiration to all of us and they hold the bar very high for their Lord Jesus.”

Story: Linda Grigg

Linda is editor of the Baptist magazine. 

Scripture:

Unless otherwise specified, Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright ©1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.