Category Archives: Howick Baptist Church

Our Final Seniors’ Morning Tea at Howick Baptist Church

For the past 3 1/2 years we have enjoyed Morning Tea with the senior members of Howick Baptist Church quarterly. A number of ladies serve faithfully in preparing the food and decorations. It is always a great time of fellowship. One of our family’s more enjoyable activities in the church.

For many of these our children have been privileged to play their instruments for a bit of a concert. It has been one of the most encouraging opportunities for our children to practice their instruments.

Here are the videos from Wednesday’s Morning Tea. The kids have really come along way in their music ability over these years.

Tabitha on Piano 1 – 090714

Mekaela on Bassoon 1 – 090714

Mekaela Bassoon 2 – 090714

Tabitha on Piano 2 – 090714

Gavin on Piano 1 – 090714

Tabitha on Clarinet 1 – 090714

Mekaela on Piano 1 – 090714

Mekaela on Piano 2 – 090714

Tabitha on Clarinet 2 – 090714

Gavin on Violin 1 – 090714

Gavin on Violin 2 – 090714

Mekaela on Violin 1 – 090714

Mekaela on Violin 2 – 090714



My Last Sunday PM Service at Howick Baptist Church

I joined the pastoral staff at Howick Baptist Church in December, 2010. At that time they were not having Sunday evening services, so we decided to start them the beginning of 2011.

It’s been just over three years but this Sunday will be my last PM service at Howick. Partly due to my family moving to Rolleston, New Zealand for a new church plant in July, but also due to what has been our normal “winter break.” We have generally taken a break in the winter due to the cold weather and the building being too hard to heat.

Certainly this service has not achieved all I hoped it would. I had hoped more of the folks from Howick would eventually make it part of their normal Lord’s Day routine to begin and end the day with the gathered church, yet I realise changing family schedules and routines is hard work and doesn’t happen quickly. I had hoped the service might provide a place for others to serve in music or sound, etc. yet, I was committed to not loading up the same people who serve in the AM with more work. I had hoped there would be a place for younger guys to preach in this setting and yet for various reasons this didn’t happen past the first year, really. In the end, I acknowledge my contribution to many of these failings.

Yet, I am still thankful for these 3+ years of services.

Those who have attended regularly have enjoyed genuine fellowship at a deeper level with others than is often possible when only attending the morning service.

We have made the sharing of prayer requests and prayer a regular part of this service. This has allowed us to learn from others when hearing them pray (and there are some ladies that when they pray you really learn how a mature, lover of Christ prays), along with hearing how God is answering prayer.

We have enjoyed singing some great hymns together. Even as a small group often singing with no instruments we have experienced some great times in corporate song. (Even with me leading singing out of tune, although there have been some attempts which have been complete failures!)

Since the beginning we have included a Q&A time during the service, usually at the end. This has allowed people to ask questions related to the sermon/teaching or anything else they wanted to ask. This has ranged from basic followup questions from what was just taught to some big questions about life and the Scriptures. Of all that we’ve done during this service this is the aspect for which I have received the most consistent, positive feedback.

There have been a handful of young adults and a couple of guys in particular which have been very faithful to this service from the beginning. This has been hugely encouraging.

A couple of our elderly ladies, even widows, have attended very faithfully as well. I have found this to be both humbling and a wonderful example.

Also a few ladies who are married to non-Christians have been very faithful. Their cheerfulness and thankfulness has been a real blessing.

I don’t have an exact number, but I can think of six to eight people who started attending the PM service and then began attending the AM service as well. This was unexpected but something that I found very encouraging.

Finally, this service has provided a wonderful opportunity for me to preach/teach more regularly than I have in years and, as a result, to grow substantially for which I am very thaknful.

In these 3+ years I have preached through Colossians, Porverbs, The Gospel of Mark, and a series through the Minor Prophets. In addition, I taught through a lengthy series on Ethics, and Doctrine.

I have been blessed, equiped, and encouraged. I think I am more prepared for church planting as a result of the experience this service has provided me and my family.

We will miss these folks and this service very much. We are very thankful.

I am very committed to the idea of two services on a Sunday and look forward to seeing how we might provide for this in the coming years in Rolleston Baptist Church. In the early months we are looking to have an afternoon service after a shared lunch, but we will see what The Lord does.


Psalm 46 – “Be still and know that I am God”

This Sunday AM I will be preaching one of my favorite Psalms, Psalm 46:

ESV  Psalm 46:1 To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. 6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. 7 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah 8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. 10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” 11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

As a church we will also begin memorizing the next hymn in our monthly, hymn memorization project, again a favorite – A Mighty Fortress Is Our GodThis is Luther’s hymn loosely based on Psalm 46.

The first part of Psalm 46:10 is a much loved statement, one often included on cards or little trinkets to hang on your refrigerator.

“Be still and know that I am God”

Is this meant to be a a soft word of calm and assuring comfort or a word of rebuke?

Is it “Be still and know that I am God” to those who are suffering, or “Be Still! Know I am God!” to those who are raging against God?

Which fits the context of the Psalm? Which do you think Luther saw in this Psalm?

I’ll give my answer Sunday morning… 🙂


2014 Stand for the Gospel Conference with Don Carson – Registrations Open

Registrations are now open for this year’s Stand for the Gospel Conference with Don Carson. Space is limited, so register early!

In 2010, Howick Baptist Church (where I current serve as Associate Pastor) held the first Stand for the Gospel Conference. This conference was started with a vision to serve the church in New Zealand, across denominations around the unity of the Gospel; its life transforming power and the call to proclaim it to all people, calling all people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

The conference is purposely simple. We host one keynote speaker from overseas who expounds the Scriptures challenging us with the Word of God. There are also a small number of seminars given by men and women serving the church in New Zealand on topics which unfold implications of the Gospel applying them to our lives as believers and the ministry of the church.

In previous years we have hosted Conrad Mbewe, 2010 & 2012 (pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia), Geoff Thomas, 2011 (pastor of Alfred Place Baptist Church in Aberystwyth, Wales), Thabiti Anyabwile, 2013 (Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman).

We are scheduled to host Carl Trueman (Westminster Theological Seminar) in 2015.

This year our keynote speaker is Don Carson, research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.He has been at Trinity since 1978. Carson came to Trinity from the faculty of Northwest Baptist Theological Seminary in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he also served for two years as academic dean. He has served as assistant pastor and pastor and has done itinerant ministry in Canada and the United Kingdom. Carson received the Bachelor of Science in chemistry from McGill University, the Master of Divinity from Central Baptist Seminary in Toronto, and the Doctor of Philosophy in New Testament from the University of Cambridge. Carson is an active guest lecturer in academic and church settings around the world. He has written or edited about sixty books. He is a founding member and currently president of The Gospel Coalition. Carson and his wife, Joy, reside in Libertyville, Illinois. They have two adult children.

Once again we will offer several practical seminars on the Saturday: Dave Clancey (How the Gospel Forms our Gathered Worship); Alan Thompson (What is Biblical Theology and Why Is It Important?); Lisa Moelker (The Gospel and Dirty Dishes: Living by Grace in Every Area of Our Lives); Nick Brennan (Praying with Jesus: The Lord’s Prayer as a Sketch of Christian Prayer); Owen Griffiths (The Early Missionary Movement in New Zealand); Q&A Panel(Here the Reformation Begins: A Practical Discussion on Family Worship).

Conferences can be a drain on time and resources. They can also be a wonderful opportunity for fellowship and spiritual feeding. We pray Stand for the Gospel falls into the second category. Why not come along this year and see for yourself?

The dates for this year’s conference are 18-20 July. See the website to register and for more details:


Joe Fleener

(“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1 Timothy 4:16)


Associate Pastor, Howick Baptist Church | Church Planting Pastor, Rolleston Baptist Church |Steering Committee, Stand for the Gospel Board Member, Gospel Training Trust Adjunct Lecturer, Grace Theological College | Adjunct Lecturer, TIM Training Course


To not inherit the Kingdom of God is serious business

Another month has arrived along with another issue of the Baptist Magazine.

Here is my monthly column for May’s “Minority Report”. This will likely be my last column on the same-sex marriage issue.

(ESV) 1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

(All of the following is hypothetical, yet not unreal.)

As I sit in my office and look across the desk I see a young couple (male & female) in their 20’s, they are not married yet they have been having sex with each other and, come to find out, others in the young adults group regularly and unapologetically.

As I have coffee with a husband of a lady in my congregation I learn that he is being investigated for fraud. He admits to me he has systemically stolen 2 million dollars from his employer over the last five years. He shows no signs of remorse or repentance, only a sorrow for being caught.

As I meet with another husband of a lady in my congregation the truth comes out that he is a drunk and when he is drunk (which is most evenings and weekends) he physically assaults his children and wife. He shows no signs of remorse.

As I meet with these people I will obviously discuss a number of items some which will involve the law, others relational damages, etc. Yet at the bottom line what must I say to them (granted this is an over simplification)?

Firstly, I must tell them that they are in serious trouble. Their sin is against those people they know but also, and most significantly, against God Whom they do not know. They will not inherit the kingdom of God. This is a serious matter. Yes, there are other serious matters as well, but the enteral destiny of their soul hangs in the balance. They must come to understand the holiness of God, the sinfulness of their sin and the necessity of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness.

Secondly, I must tell them of the hope found in the Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit of God. I must pray for the Spirit to open their eyes so they can see that this same Jesus that made it possible for Paul to say of the people of Corinth, “And such were some of you”, is available to them as well. Forgiveness is possible. They can be set free from the power of sin (not necessarily from the consequences) and find rest in Christ and peace with God.

As I sit in my office there are two men in their 40’s sitting across the desk. They have not been thus far involved in homosexual sex, but they desire to get married so that they may be able to enjoy said activity as a married couple. Once they marry they will inevitably be men who “practice homosexuality.”

However, unlike the previous examples which are all listed with this activity in 1 Cor. 6:9-12, rather than pointing out their sin and pointing them to a holy God accessible only through repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ, I will help them plan a wedding.

By sanctioning “same-sex marriage” one is by definition declaring holy the practice of homosexual sex. By declaring such as holy one is saying those who God says will not inherit the kingdom of God will.

This is serious business. The very gospel is at stake.


Church Planting in Rolleston, New Zealand – Our Next Phase in Seeking to Follow the Call of the Gospel Upon Our Lives

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…

Wedding Photo

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.

Me Preaching

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).

Mandy & I at HBC

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Serving as adjunct lecturer for Ethics and Advanced Hebrew Exegesis at Grace Theological College.
  5. Blogging regularly at &

Recent Photo of Me and MandyMandy 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!

Funny Family Photo

Prayer Items:

  1. For each of us to grow in our love for Christ, His Gospel and His church during this time.
  2. For Mandy & I to serve each other with joy and to communicate well during a time of significant transition.
  3. For the folks at Howick Baptist Church as they seek the Lord’s direction for their future regarding pastoral staff, etc.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Holding Firm to the Confession of Our Faith – New PM Series at Howick Baptist Church

This Sunday evening we will begin new series at Howick Baptist Church.

“Holding Firm to the Confession of Our Faith” Taking our cue from Jude 3, we plan to spend the first two terms (at least) looking at those doctrines which are essential to Biblical Christianity (Scripture, God, Trinity, Christ, Salvation, Hell, etc.) asking the questions: “What does the Bible say on this subject/doctrine?”; “How can we clearly summarise this truth?”; ”Why is it important for us to understand this and hold firmly to it?” Our goal is to cover one area of doctrine per night therefore, not exhausting the subject but providing a clear, succinct overview.


Like the roots of a strong, healthy tree which grow deep and wide, it is the depth and breadth of our doctrinal confession that provides us as individual Christians and a church health, strength, and stability.

You will be able to find all the material (MP3 recordings, PDF Notes, links to articles, recommended books, etc.) associated with this series on this page. (More will be added each week as we progress.)



An Unusual Season of Travel, Speaking, and Church Visiting

This January has been unlike any January we’ve experienced before. January has generally been a time when we have gone away on holiday for a couple of weeks. However, this January has found us travelling for ministry, visiting other churches and a bit of speaking/preaching.

05 Jan AM we visited St. John’s Latimer Square in Christchurch.

05 Jan PM I preached at Cornerstone/Campus Church.

06 – 10 Jan I was one of the speakers at this year’s Equip Conference

12 Jan AM we visited Reformed Presbyterian Church of Bucklands Beach

19 Jan AM we visited Papakura Baptist Church

25 Jan I am officiating a wedding at Howick Baptist Church

26 Jan AM I am preaching at Emmanuel Church in Auckland

01 Feb I am officiating a wedding at Howick Baptist Church

02 Feb AM I am preaching at Howick Baptist Church

We have been blessed by others as we’ve been privileged to enjoy fellowship with other congregations this month. It has been a joy to serve as the Lord has enabled us.


2013 Teaching Review

It goes without saying the role of a pastor involves much more than teaching/preaching. Yet, the responsibility to teaching God’s Word is a significant part of my calling in ministry. As I look back on 2013 I notice this is seen in the quantity of time doing just that.

  1. I started the year, as has become “normal”, in Christchurch leading a Strand group with my wife as part of The Equip Conference.
  2. According to our church’s website I preached 47 sermons at HBC this year.
    1. I was able to finish a series through The Gospel of Mark which we began in 2012 during our Sunday PM services.
    2. I was able to present a series on Ethics during our Sunday PM services.
    3. I was able to preach a series through the Minor Prophets (1 sermon per book).
    4. I was able to preach a handful of times during our Sunday AM services.
  3. I taught a five-part Bible Study Training Workshop on Saturday mornings.
  4. I was privileged to speak four times through Jonah at a church camp for St. Saviour’s Church in Christchurch in March.
  5. I was privileged to speak five times through Philippians at a church camp for two Reformed Baptist Churches near Christchurch in October.
  6. I was also privileged to preach for three other churches for their Sunday AM services throughout the year.
  7. I have had the honour of leading our Young Adults’ Home Group almost every Tuesday night. This year we have have completed a series through Ruth, Relationships, and Philippians (along with a number of spontaneous discussions!).
  8. I have been privileged to conduct one wedding in 2013 along with conducting pre-marital counselling for two other couples for weddings within the first six weeks of 2014.
  9. I spoke eight times through the year at two different retirement homes for their “chapel services”.
  10. I provided 10 devotionals during two different school holiday programmes for the teen leaders of Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
  11. I participated in a “dialogue” with Old Testament scholar, Dr John Walton in July.
  12. I presented a paper to a small group of New Zealand Baptist Union pastors on the subject of confessionalism.
  13. I have written eleven articles for the New Zealand Baptist Magazine.
  14. I have contributed, on occasion, to The Kiwifruit Blog along with my own blog here.
  15. Finally (I think), I re-gave a seminar at this year’s Stand for the Gospel Conference.

Never far from my thinking is James 3:1 “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

To teaching God’s Word is a tremendous privilege and comes with significant responsibility.

I pray those who hear/read what I teach will continue to hold me accountable to the truth of God’s Word.

I pray the Lord will find me faithful with His Word and with the opportunities to teach the Scriptures.

I pray, if I were to ever become an unfaithful servant, He would stop my mouth by whatever means necessary rather than let me destroy His people!

I pray the Lord will use His Word, by the power of His Spirit to call many to repentance and to continually transform His children into the likeness of His Son.

Soli Deo Gloria


Minor Prophets Series – Our God Reigns, The Shadow of the Cross in the Midst of Judgement

photo 2


Tonight I completed something I have never tried before. I preached a 12 part series through the Minor Prophets (1 sermon for each book).

You can download all the notes and MP3’s of the sermons on my “Minor Prophets” page.

I pray others may find these books challenging and refreshing.

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