In February 2016, Baptist leadership teams gathered to consider how we approach the priority of mission within the Baptist churches of Aotearoa. Five priorities emerged. Our churches are being encouraged to explore these over the next five years. Here, David Moko and Steve Davis reflect upon one of these priorities—share. Specifically they ask, what does it mean to share grace?
In recent years New Zealand’s cultural diversity has rapidly increased, partly due to record levels of immigration and our nation’s response to the wave of refugee movements. Ethnic migrant churches already constitute twenty-five per cent of the Baptist Union family. This percentage will increase as Chinese, Burmese, Indian and other faith communities seek to become part of this mission family of churches.
Baptist churches have made numerous responses to the challenges of cross-cultural mission. Many Kiwi pastors express a desire for their church communities to reflect more the cultural composition of their respective communities. Current Baptist Union boards and committees, recognising the lack of cultural diversity among its members, are seeking to address this shortfall by co-option methods of recruitment.
New Zealand Baptist culture at our national Hui has also changed significantly from the past. Local iwi are being consulted far more than before. Tikanga Māori customs and protocols create a more bicultural Hui, advancing multicultural rhythms within an accepting environment. The experience of the Waitangi Hui of 2014 confirmed we cannot go back to how we did things before.
The values driving this engagement
As human beings made in the image of God, we are called to respect one another’s humanity, including cultural identity. Being aware of cultural world views and protocols sets the tone for constructive conversations. People are honoured and valued by listening to each other, and it affords an insight into current or relevant issues at hand.
As New Zealanders understand the bicultural foundations of Aotearoa New Zealand, this will provide a natural framework for people of other cultures to enter into the conversation with mutual respect and ministry.
He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.
Mission and cultural engagement
History tells us God’s written word, the Bible (Te Rongopai), arrived with the missionaries in 1814. However, Holy Spirit was always here in Aotearoa New Zealand, ministering to Māori prior to Pākehā arrival.
For Māori, the biblical text, history and life experience suggests that all of creation, not just human beings, is of a spiritual nature and is the focus of God’s redemptive activity. This holds true for many of the world views of other non-western cultures. We recognise and affirm other culturally defined notions of spirituality as an inherent quality of creation, augmented by the act of God in human beings through the gift of God’s image and likeness, irrespective of behaviour. Engaging with local iwi to hear the story of the land and the people’s journey will better inform mission in the present, with growing attention toward the future.
Unity and diversity in the body of Christ requires that we humbly engage with our community as learners, not as people who ‘fix’ everyone or everything. It also means changing the construct from behave/believe/belong, to belong/believe/behave. Belonging is not just to a place, for example the local church, but to people in a given community. Therefore let’s cultivate a sense of calling to mission and service to a specific community, and not just to the faith community who happens to meet in that location.
Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua. My past is my present is my future—whakatauki (Māori proverb).
By remembering our past and looking at our unique current situation we can envisage our future (cf. Jer 29:11-14).
Pathways to consider
The following are some suggested bicultural and ethnic mission initiatives and strategic engagements:
- Leadership cultural competency, including noho marae wananga (marae-based training/seminar) on the Treaty of Waitangi, contextual theology, and place-based theory and praxis. Such competency can build confidence for further engagement in intercultural relationships.
- Practitioner-level resources on the Baptist Churches of New Zealand website, to empower and resource pastors and key church leaders.
- Identifying and equipping potential pastors and key church leaders among the next generation/second generation immigrants.
- Encouraging and facilitating processes towards more culturally appropriate learning environments.
- Brokering partnerships among Kiwi and ethnic churches for local and global impact.
- Arranging networks of thinkers and leaders who seek to engage with local, culturally diverse communities.
- Best practice seminars/courses with a mission track at Carey Baptist College for ongoing training in leading multicultural churches.
Everyone has a place at the table
There are challenges to moving beyond a Pākehā majority cultural default setting. For example, how do we best select and appoint credible and mature people who are culturally diverse to our national and regional boards and committees? And, in a denomination where networking is valued for appointments, how will Māori/migrant/ethnic leaders feature on the radar to be considered for senior roles?
Discerning God’s sovereign will as we overcome such challenges is a process of giving and receiving. We value everyone, and everyone has a place at the table. This will be evidenced by loving, trusting and supportive relationships across our broad spectrum of the Baptist family and with those beyond our immediate circle of influence or ministry.
“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” (John 13:34-35).
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands (Revelation 7:9).
Story: Steve Davis & David Moko
Steve Davis is National Team Leader of Baptist Ethnic and Multicultural Ministries (EMM).
In 2007 David Moko was appointed Kaihautū for Baptist Māori Ministries, now known as Manatū Iriiri Māori.