Mandy & I were married, 8 January 2000, just over 14 years ago. We had no idea even how to begin to imagine what that Lord was going to do in our lives and with us in the future. We should have been clued in a bit though…
In an odd and kind of funny way the Lord has seemed to bring about significant changes in our lives in four-month windows. We were married four months from the day we first met. We moved to New Zealand four months from first having the thought of moving to New Zealand. Our move to Howick from Hastings occurred in about four months. In just over four months, Lord willing, we will be living in Rolleston, New Zealand seeking to be used by God to establish a new church in this vital part of the country.
We have enjoyed the privilege of living and ministering fulltime in New Zealand since September 2006. I served as a Bible College lecturer from 2006 to 2010. Since December 2010, I have served as the Associate Pastor at Howick Baptist Church in the Eastern suburbs of Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city.
However, we have just accepted a call to move to the South Island of New Zealand for Joe to serve as the Pastor/Church Planter for Rolleston Baptist Church – a church that doesn’t actually exist yet, but Lord willing will before the end of this year.
This has been a difficult process. We love the people at Howick Baptist Church. They are our family and leaving them brings real sorrow. We know the next few months will be mixed with joyful anticipation and departing grief.
Here is the statement I read to our church family at Howick Baptist Church this morning (Sunday, 23 March 2014).
Dear Church Family,
The following update is one I find difficult to give, and yet truly desire to share with all of you, our church family.
For nearly three months, Mandy & I have been seeking counsel & prayerfully considering a significant change in ministry.
At the beginning of January I received a request from Grace Baptist Church in Christchurch which is pastored by a friend, along with one of their elders, asking me if I would be willing to discuss with them a plan for the planting of a new church.
My first inclination was “You’re talking to wrong guy.” However, after hearing from them more and listening to their vision, I agreed to visit, learn more, and prayerfully consider whether the Lord would have us be a part of this.
For a few years, folks from Grace Baptist Church have been conducting Sunday afternoon meetings, along with children’s holiday programs in Rolleston where two of their families live. This includes one elder and a deacon. Over the past 12 months or so they have teamed up with a few other families from St. John’s of Latimer Square and one family from St. Saviour’s. Each of the ministers from these churches are friends of mine and most of the families involved know me from various camps and conferences.
Each church has had a vision for seeing a new church established in Rolleston in the near future – partly because of the families they have living there, but also because of what is happening in Rolleston.
Rolleston is now the fastest growing town in New Zealand. Since the earthquakes there has been a systematic plan to shift much of the housing in the Christchurch area south. As a result, Rolleston has grown from a town of about 2,000 before the earthquakes, to a town of 9,000 today, and is planned to be 30,000 to 40,000 within three years. In addition, once the motorway extension project is complete, Rolleston will be only a 15 to 20 minute drive from Christchurch – including Canterbury University. It is already only 10 minutes from Lincoln University.
I have been discussing this with Peter and the elders here at HBC since I was first contacted and have continued to seek their counsel throughout my discussions with the folks at Rolleston and Grace Baptist Church.
We love each and every person here at Howick Baptist Church. You are our family, and we have loved you since we arrived here just over three years ago. The privilege of being used by the Lord to help establish a new gospel preaching church in New Zealand is humbling and exciting. Leaving you dear folks is gut wrenching!
After much prayer, Mandy, the children, & I have found ourselves at a place where we have unity and confidence that this is where the Lord is directing us.
We moved to New Zealand from the States 7 ½ years ago. We said when we arrived we came here for our grandchildren. What we meant by that was that we knew the training, equipping, and establishing of gospel preaching churches all over this country was going to be a multi-generational work. We are still committed to that work.
I envisioned myself, at that time, more as one who would be focused on the teaching, training, equipping and sending out of others. I still see that as a vital role to my present and future ministry.
Yet, I also believe the Lord is directing us to step into the role of church planting for such a time as this. My hope, prayer, and vision, is that this will be a gospel preaching, training, multiplying church.
Finally, we’re not going anywhere too soon. For much of April we will be on a pre-scheduled family holiday with my Mum before she returns to the States. Otherwise, it is ministry as usual for the Fleeners at HBC.
With the Stand Conference 18-20 July we have agreed with the elders here at HBC and the folks in Rolleston that our transition would take place after the conference.
Lord willing we will be moving to Rolleston sometime near the first week of August.
Brothers & sisters, we love you. We love Christ and His Gospel. We love the people of New Zealand. It is our desire to be poured out in the service of the Gospel or Christ and His people in this land.
To God be the Glory!
In addition to this new role as Pastor/Church Planter of Rolleston Baptist Church, I will continue serving in a number of other ministries:
- Serving as the chairman for The Stand for the Gospel Conference. STAND is a cross-denominational, Reformed, Bible Conference begun in 2010. We have hosted Conrad Mbewe (Lusaka, Zambia) in 2010 & 2012, Geoff Thomas (Wales) in 2011 &Thabiti Anyabwile (Cayman Islands) in 2014. This year we will D.A. Carson (US/Canada), in 2015 Carl Trueman (US/UK).
- Serving on the board of The Gospel Training Trust, a trust established in New Zealand modelled after The Proclamation Trust in the UK and/or The Simeon Trust in the US for the purpose of raising up a new generation of faithful, Bible expositors/teachers in New Zealand.
- Serving annually as a bible teacher/trainer for The Equip Conference, a weeklong conference targeted to Young Adults for the purpose of seeing a new generation equipped to accurately interpret and teach others the Scriptures.
- Serving as adjunct lecturer for Ethics and Advanced Hebrew Exegesis at Grace Theological College.
- Blogging regularly at https://joefl.wordpress.com/ & http://kiwifruitblog.org/
Mandy is a fulltime wife, mum, and homeschool teacher. It is our conviction that this is her primary calling for this season, and we are so very thankful to be in a place where she is free to serve our family in this way. Yet, by God’s grace, Mandy has served in a wide variety of areas: 1) regularly serves as a musician on piano or double bass for church services, 2) discipling the young adult/university ladies, 3) maintaining a warm and hospitable home where we host several guests each week, 4) teaching/equipping young/new mum’s from church, 5) partnering with Joe in leading a Bible training seminar for young adult men and women at the annual Equip Conference, 6) organises the music for her and the children playing at various retirement homes when Joe preaches a Gospel message, and 7) regular participation in a community orchestra.
Mekaela is 12 and plays the piano, violin, and bassoon. She loves maths, reading, and all things girly.
Gavin is 11 and plays the piano, violin, and has hopes for the French horn. He loves history, science, reading, and all things boy.
Tabitha is 8 and plays the piano and clarinet. Tabitha is the bubbly personality in the family and absolutely loves babies!
- For each of us to grow in our love for Christ, His Gospel and His church during this time.
- For Mandy & I to serve each other with joy and to communicate well during a time of significant transition.
- For the folks at Howick Baptist Church as they seek the Lord’s direction for their future regarding pastoral staff, etc.
- For the folks in Rolleston as we begin the many-detailed process of planting a new church. Pray for unity and joy in the work of gospel ministry.
- For housing in Rolleston. A Trust has given generously to help with the setup costs and the stipend for a pastor for two to three years. However, a pastor’s stipend in New Zealand does not cover housing. Therefore there is additional need for funds to aid in either the purchase or rent of a home.
- For church property. We are in the early stages of considering how, where, & when to purchase property for a future church building. Due to the significant development in the area property values are increasing quickly so it seems like buying soon would be wise. It may be possible to purchase a house with a larger section now which could be subdivided later to build a church, therefore helping with both the housing need and a future church location. We need much wisdom here in addition to the finances.
- For an initial location for church meetings. We are hopeful that a local kindy (pre-school) will allow us to use their facilities for Sunday services by September, if not sooner.