Archive for April, 2010

The Seed I received I have sown

Mission to Australia and New Zealand The seed I received I will sow

A round trip of 23,000 miles, thirteen flights and including stops in Sydney, Tasmania, Bendigo in Melbourne, Canberra, Wellington, Dunedin, Auckland, Christchurch and Brisbane in which I conducted 10 seminars and a further 6 meetings as part of trying to encourage 1 million Christians to invite 1 million friends this coming Back to Church Sunday in September.
It was autumn in Sydney when I arrived with a temperature of 27 centigrade! Despite being called a secular country 63.9% of Australians called themselves Christians at the last census in 2006, and for the Australian church there was surprise at the result of the last Back to Church Sunday 2009 with 12,000 Christians having invitations accepted by their friends to come to church.

One Australian minister described it as the best day of his ministry thus far! One of my jobs is to encourage church leaders to believe that people are waiting to be invited and then to help them mobilise their congregations to invite. The Seminars I delivered in Tasmania, Melbourne and Canberra were well attended and full of hope. In Canberra I spoke at the church of the Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd. Canberra is a government city established in 1908 as the capital of Australia as a compromise between Sydney and Melbourne. It actually lies right between them. Sydney a beautiful city does provoke animosity amongst Australians, one former Prime Minister Paul Keating said “If you’re not living in Sydney you’re camping out!” In one sense that spirit of jealousy or arrogance still lives on. There is a different spirit in each place I travelled from the can do attitude of Sydney, to a lethargy in Tasmania, from a pioneer spirit in Bendigo a former gold town to the lawmaking and hot air of Canberra! I met wonderful people including Bishops and I have great hope that the good news of the gospel will reach even more people in 2010.

I entered perhaps my favourite country of New Zealand through Wellington the capital. After speaking to the diocese of Wellington, my evening was taken up by a Seminar with New Zealand Bishops and key ministry educators at a retreat house over looking Wellington. The best thing to do with Bishops I find, is to make them laugh and then challenge their thinking.
It was good to see the Archbishop of New Zealand chuckling away at the presentation, before I asked him to lead the church into doubling its congregations! New Zealand is so good God made it twice. The North Island and the South Island, are wonderful, a Britain of the 1950s! Think Darling Buds of May and you wouldn’t go far wrong. After Wellington I went to the South Island to the Scottish part of the south island visiting Dunedin.
They had been really encouraged by people accepting invitations in a diocese that had been really struggling. It was wonderful to hear the confidence in their voices and the hope that God had not forgotten them.
Archbishop of York Sentamu had been to New Zealand the previous week to me and had consecrated a new Cathedral in New Plymouth. He had received front news coverage in the national newspaper for three consecutive days. It would be of course unknown for that to happen here in the UK, but this has also encouraged the church, that the media is prepared to take seriously the leaders of the church. After Dunedin I visited Auckland and Hamilton where I spoke to both Anglican and Baptist church leaders. I spoke at Hamilton Cathedral where the Dean a Dutchman called Jan Joustra greeted me like an old friend. Jan has really suffered for the gospel since his move from his native Netherlands by serving the LORD in Hong Kong, Nice and now New Zealand. It is tough being an Anglican clergyman nowadays! One of the truly humbling aspects of the work of Back to Church Sunday is helping the Christians in a nation like Fiji. Fiji had a coup a few years ago and many of the people left the country for New Zealand. As part of Back to Church Sunday this time we will be seeking to work specifically with the Fijian Diaspora in Auckland.

My trip ended in Brisbane with temperatures of 34c whilst I was speaking, a real preparation for spring in England! I challenged the Brisbane diocese to encourage their 11,000 worshipping Anglicans to invite 11,000 friends.