In the previous Baptist magazine, Charles Hewlett reflected on some of the things he would like Baptist churches in New Zealand to be marked out by: being Jesus-focused, thankful, innovative, audacious, contagious and prepared to give up their rights for others. This time he invited a few Baptists to share what they hoped our faith communities would be known for, and this is how they responded.

Andy Shudall  (Titirangi Baptist Church)

I hope we’re known for our grasp on Scripture and Scripture’s grip on us. If we love Christ, we love his Word; if we love his Word, we obey him. Bonhoeffer said only the one who obeys believes, and only the one who believes obeys. 

Baptists began in radical obedience to Scripture, standing apart from the cultural norms of their day. Love of Scripture is what marks us as a movement. 

It is to be the joyful, careful, deep, decisive, warm and loving immersion in God’s Word in our life together that shapes us. 

This is to be seen in our intimate gatherings of two to three, as well as in our large worship services, where time is allocated according to priority—God’s Word being given the space it needs so that we might hear the Spirit’s voice, experience his power and know his transforming love. 

Sarah Buckwell (Royal Oak Baptist Church)

I would hope that New Zealand Baptists would be known for warmly encouraging diversity within the body of Christ. 

As God continually breaks out of the boxes we can subconsciously create, God quickly becomes far bigger than what one person or group can testify to. To be known for being a culture that encourages different voices to be heard and taken seriously. A culture that seeks an understanding of those who are different to what we might be comfortable with, and finds a unity in Christ through that seeking. To see New Zealand Baptists come together united in our diversity in a way that honours our God and continues the mission set out for us as God’s people. 

Matt Renata (Church of Ihumātao)

With Jesus at the heart of everything we do, Te Hāhi Iriiri o Aotearoa (The Baptist Churches of New Zealand) should be known as a tribe/denomination that strives for genuine unity and diversity in the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12 (NIV) says, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” Sounds easy enough, right? 

In 2020, where division, deception and disillusionment are bringing destruction and decay to the body of Christ in Aotearoa, we must be a movement that’s fuelled by the love of Christ and striving for unity in every aspect of who we are. We must reflect the diverse nature of Christ’s love and display the manifold wisdom of God to the world. Could Baptists be known to love well, be unified of one Spirit, and embrace diversity, weaving our people together interdenominationally, culturally, ethnically, gender- and age-wise, and beyond?

Mike Simpson (Dunedin City Baptist Church)

When people enter our churches, whether it be Sunday morning or any other ministry, group or event, their first impressions last. 

For years we collected ‘yellow cards’ filled out by people new to our Sunday service. Time and again their feedback was about what they felt more than what they heard, and what impressed them was being genuinely made to feel loved, accepted, welcomed. 

Beneath this impression is not merely friendly door greeters but a whole community bound together in love, bearing with and opening their lives to one another, practising forgiveness and reconciliation, and looking out for the ‘new person’. The adopted family of God. A new community rubbing shoulders (and rough edges) as we seek to minister within and without. 

It must have been what seekers and new disciples discovered in Jesus’ ministry and in the early church. John 13:34‑35 (NRSV) sums this up: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Helen Sturgeon (Ilam Baptist Church)

At Ilam Baptist, when we dedicate a baby we say, “You are loved, and you are wanted. There is always a place for you in God’s family.” 

I would love for New Zealand Baptists to be known as people who create spaces where people experience this, whoever they are, wherever they are from, and whatever their story is. 

I would love us to welcome and be open to all people, to drop our egos and our need to be right, and to notice where the Spirit of God is working in each situation. 

I would love New Zealand Baptists to be known for supporting the equality of women in leadership and in every area of church and community life. 

I would love us to listen well, offer grace and always be pursuing God’s shalom in everything and for everyone. That we would do the journeys of life with each other and those around us. 

I would love for us to stand with people who are suffering, not with quick answers but with patience and courage to be the presence of Christ in these hard spaces. 

Closing thoughts

I wonder how you would respond. What are the characteristics you would like the Baptist communities you are part of to be known for? I encourage you to discuss these things with the people you do life and ministry and mission with. What are you known for? Do we need to make any changes? It is my prayer that the Baptist Union of New Zealand would bring honour and glory to God in all that we do. 

(If you missed part one of my reflection on this topic, you can read it online here.)

Contributor: Charles Hewlett

Charles is the national leader of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand. He is often heard saying, “I love Jesus. I love the Bible. I love the gospel. I love the church. And I love mission.”

Follow Charles Hewlett on Facebook: charles.hewlett.nz  |  Instagram: charles.hewlett

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 worldwide http://nrsvbibles.org/.

Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™