Charles Hewlett and Chris Chamberlain reflect on why, from a leadership and a governance perspective, we are re-examining the way we communicate as a movement.
By now hopefully you have all become familiar with this statement, which has been shared widely throughout our movement in the last few months: “the Baptist Union of New Zealand is a collective of faith communities bringing gospel renewal to people and places in our local neighbourhoods.”
I’m in a fortunate position as the national leader of this collective. I meet regularly with regional leaders, regional coaches, Assembly Council and other leaders in our movement. I have conversations with pastors up and down the country. Often when I come away from those discussions, I am buzzing because I have heard stories of gospel renewal that is taking place in neighbourhoods all over New Zealand. That is exciting enough on its own, but what makes it even more thrilling for me given my role, is that these are stories involving our people, our faith communities.
But something does sadden me about this: these stories are not reaching deeply into our movement and into our communities. I think it is vital that they do. We all need to take encouragement and inspiration from what God is doing in our midst. Because if we believe secular media, the gospel no longer has any relevance in 21st century society. Christians know that is not true, but we hear little ‘out there’ to counter that argument. We are sitting on proof that Jesus is just as relevant today as he was when he was on Earth in bodily form, ministering to his own neighbours and nation. By sharing our stories more widely and frequently than we do today, we can proclaim loudly the good news of what God is doing. In marketing‑speak, we can get ‘cut-through’.
Participation, reach and effective communication
Whilst the Baptist magazine has done a sterling job at attempting to capture some of our stories, there is a limit to what can be told in a bi-monthly, 40-page print publication. Moving to greater use of digital communication will enable more people to participate in sharing their stories. It will also improve dissemination of those stories, because they can be shared quickly, widely and cheaply.
The terms ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’ describe people born into the digital age and those who have acclimatised to it as adults. Most of us fit into one of those two categories. While there will always be a place for print, by using digital technology we are, in effect, ‘speaking the language’ of the majority of people. It is essential for effective communication that we do.
Jesus told us: “You will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NIV) and “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19, NIV). Participation, reach, effective communication of the good news—these are things that excite me about what lies ahead for us as a collective of faith communities. What about you?
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.”
Kia ora, Baptist whānau. I am writing regarding the changes to our Baptist magazine that have been flagged for the last few months.
The Assembly Council has had the magazine as an agenda item many times over the years. At times it has been for exciting reasons, such as the regular awards it has received for the high-quality publication that it is. At other times we have received reports around the challenges to communication that we face in a rapidly changing world and the drop-off in circulation that the magazine has suffered.
We also have our annual Baptist Union budget that we have been struggling with but that our churches have indicated must be balanced. Our print and distribution costs have been a large financial loss for quite some time. Into the mix, we notice the changes in communication that have taken off in the last decade or so.
We thank God for the outstanding legacy that our magazine has created. We give thanks for the numerous people who have made the magazine what it has been for our movement of churches. Now, we pause, and we take a breath before making our next move.
We call out together to our heavenly Father in Jesus’ name. We seek the renewal of the Spirit into this context. We ask for a fresh flow of inspiration as we chart the next steps in our communication together as a collective of thriving faith communities.
Contributor: Chris Chamberlain
Chris is the chair of the Assembly Council, which acts as the Assembly between annual Baptist Assemblies (Hui) and provides leadership for our Baptist movement.