Are we brave enough to be 'sent to the edge'? (John Day)

Tuesday, 3 September, 2013

John Day asks whether we are brave enough to be 'sent to the edge'.

Fresh Expressions Aotearoa New Zealand (ANZ) is about bringing the fresh learning and Fresh Expressions experience to our context - but some of the UK language does not sit easily with us.

It is difficult for us to talk about 'pioneers' for instance. This is the language of colonial days and empire. We have, however, a rich Maori tradition of exploration: of being 'sent to the edge' (tonoa ki te pito) – a phrase which appears on our logo.

As we reflect on Acts 1.8, ' will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth', we smile and realise that New Zealand could not be any closer to the ,ends of earth, from a UK perspective and yet the deep irony is that the ,ends of the earth, might also be my next door neighbour.

2014 is the 200th anniversary of the Rev Samuel Marsden of the Church Missionary Society preaching the first sermon in our land. On the beach, in the sun, on Christmas Day 1814, he proclaimed the words of the angels to the shepherds: the 'glad tidings'. The ANZ Church is preparing to celebrate this anniversary.

The ANZ Church has a history of being early adopters: embracing new projects and methods, especially from the USA and the UK. The tough task facing FE ANZ is to explain that fresh expressions is not an added extra which can be bolted on to any church programme or ministry, but requires a reorientation. This is discipleship DNA.

The 200th anniversary invites us to pick up the challenge of proclaiming the Gospel today in a culture where perhaps more than 80% of Kiwis have no contact with church as we know it. Fresh expressions' principles, contextualised, can help us enormously.

Fresh Expressions Area Strategy Teams (FEASTS) are now established in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The mission shaped ministry (msm) course is being run in all three centres and has about 60 participants from the whole range of denominations and networks.

Christchurch msm was first off the mark in February with 35 participants and has just had its weekend away. The liveliest discussion occurred when we grappled with evangelism: how does it look in an earthquake-shattered city which has lost nearly 90 church buildings (of about 250)? About 170,000 homes have been damaged and an estimated 15,000 households need to move to different suburbs or new housing areas. We are being 'sent to the edge' in so many ways: structurally, emotionally and missionally.

It is clear that Fresh Expressions is driving us back to the Gospel and pushing us hard on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Evangelism should flow out of God's love and grace within us. It's not a programme, a quick fix to church decline, or the silver bullet, but being reminded of Christ's way of mission. Fresh Expressions is encouraging us to be brave like those first apostles, powered by the dynamite of the Holy Spirit, loving, listening, serving, exploring discipleship and discovering what it means to worship the God of life and love.

About the author: 

John Day is Archdeacon for Mission in the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch.


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