Planning, pastors, pre-schools, preaching and an earthquake
These are some of the things that happened when I was in NZ last weekend. It was a whirlwind trip and was exhausting but at the same time it was incredibly productive and blessed by God.
Planning – Wellington Bible Forum
As the weeks roll on our plans begin to take shape as we meet and get to know the people God is gathering to be part of this new church. As well as planting a new church that loves Jesus and loves Wellington, we are planning a ministry to workers in the CBD of Wellington. This will most likely take a similar shape to the City Bible Forums that have appeared throughout the CBDs of Australia.
Wellington CBD is home to about 1 in 4 workers in greater Wellington. We see this as a great opportunity to share the gospel with them and help engage them with the Word of God. From my time in Wellington so far and my chats with the folks I know over there, this is a new opportunity for the city.
We don’t want to plant a church that is just ‘newer’ or ‘cooler’ than the others and so simply attracts Christians from other churches rather than reaching new people. (If you’ve met me, you know it won’t be cooler!) Wellington Bible Forum will hopefully give us a sphere in which to engage the city with the gospel so that we can actually reach new people.
On the planning front, I had the chance to meet with two separate families who are looking to find a new place to serve and grow as Christians. I shared with them our plans for Wellington Evangelical and gave them a chance to ask their questions about what this new church will be like.
The highlight of the trip was gathering together 7 locals who are thinking about joining the launch team. Because of the earthquake there was some speedy Facebook messaging to make sure everyone was ok and to reorganise our location to somewhere a little less risky. We gathered in the share-house of one of the team in Island Bay. It really was a joy to gather with a bunch of people who hadn’t met each other before and to eat, talk, read the Bible and pray as we long for God to be drawing people to himself in Wellington. For those who were praying for this meeting, your prayers were answered!
While in Wellington and Auckland I had the chance to meet a number of pastors of established churches who see and understand the needs of the city. It was great to listen to them and pray with them about their ministries. It was also a real blessing to have our plans graciously affirmed and supported by them. We are really thankful for the partnership in the gospel we are going to be able to share with a bunch of churches in Wellington in particular.
Something we have learnt so far is that pre-school in NZ is seriously complicated. One of the great things is that the government provides every kid with 20 hours each week of free early childhood education. The difficult thing is navigating the myriad of pre-school, childcare, day-care, kindergarten, play centre and playgroup options. All of which are different and vary from a few hours of unstructured play all the way through to something that essentially resembles the 9-3 of big school.
Again I was given the opportunity to preach at Auckland Ev and to share with them where our plans are up to. It was great to see some people we had met on our first visit and talk some more about what is going on in Wellington.
The passage I was given to preach on was Romans 2:1-3:20 which is pretty heavy hitting. It essentially says that we all sin, there are no favourites, so we all need to hear the gospel. Not only was I struck by my own sin and need for a saviour, but I was reminded about the need for the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation for everyone, to be shared everywhere – Wellington included!
At 2:31pm on Friday I was driving past the University on Kelburn Parade when my car started shaking and I heard glass breaking. I assumed that someone had crashed into me so I pulled over. But the shaking kept going and there were no other cars to be seen. When I saw people crouching on the ground I realised that I had just experienced my first earthquake. It was a 6.6, which was bigger than the one in July.
As an Aussie who was alone in the city, it felt like a bit of a novelty, a free rollercoaster without leaving the ground. But it soon dawned on me that for the local who has family and friends spread across the city, it would have been a horrifying experience and then an anxious wait to hear from those you love that they are ok. And then there were the memories of Christchurch and how bad it can be.
Please keep praying for Christchurch and those who still live with the effects of the earthquake. And while you are praying, please pray for Wellington Evangelical as God brings things together for this new church. Pray that God will use it to draw people to himself.