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Category Archives: Local Church

A brief reply to Mark Keown’s, Should Women Lead Churches and Preach?

Recently a friend sent me a link to Mark Keown’s blog post “Should Women Lead Churches and Preach?”

In general, Mark’s post didn’t state anything significantly new and revolutionary in the world of egalitarian/complementarian debates. What he writes, for the most part, has been stated by many others who hold an egalitarian view.

Let me state at the outset there are many who would use the term complementarian to describe themselves who are really patriarchy and from whom I would have no fellowship. They say stupid things about what the Bible supposedly claims about woman, the home, the church and society. Their views and practices are unbiblical and harmful.

However, Mark’s post is very unhelpful as well. For, at least three reasons.

  • Due to his lack of reference to and interaction with the best of complementarian representatives, one could sadly conclude that Mark’s arguments here have never been addressed from Scripture by anyone and therefore you’d be an idiot to think differently than he does. I know it is only a blog post. Yet, one should, at least show an awareness of the literature and give some indication that there are Christians who love Jesus, the Bible and woman who have come to different conclusions.

Here are just a few examples of excellent books which address every argument raised in Mark’s post:

Neither Complementarian Nor Egalitarian : A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate

Different by Design : God’s Blueprint for Men and Women

God’s Good Design : What the Bible Really Says About Men and Women

Notice the above three books are all written by woman, each solidly exegetical, each familiar with the historical arguments and current debates.

Marriage and Family in the Biblical World (a collection of essays, one written by a female scholar)

Here are a few items written by the husband/wife duo of Andreas and Margaret Kostenberger:

God, Marriage, and Family : Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation

God’s Design for Man and Woman : A Biblical-Theological Survey

Women in the Church : An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15

Jesus and the Feminists : Who Do They Say That He Is?

Notice that none of the above authors, as far as I am aware, are connected to CBMW. I say that simply to point out that there are solid, robust, complementarian authors and scholars from a variety of sources. I haven’t even included Amiee Byrd and Carl Trueman, who are both complementarian, yet who stirred up a hornet’s nest last year in critiquing CBMW and others in how they often defend their complementarian views.

  • Mark makes this statement near the beginning of his post, “However, for women who are called to ministry, this is essential to their identity in Christ, and it cannot be treated as a secondary issue. It is a primary issue where Christian identity is concerned.”

I find this statement concerning on a number of levels which have nothing to do with gender.

As a Christian my identity is in Christ. It’s not in my vocation, my role as husband, father, etc.

As someone in full-time Christian ministry it is critical that they never begin to think that their identity is tied up in their ministry or their ministerial role.

For someone training future ministers it would be critical to constantly remind them of this. To send anyone out into ministry where they are thinking that their ministry or ministerial role is where they find their identity is to set them up for great disappointment, frustration, and failure.

  • In the last few sentences, just before Mark’s concluding paragraph he makes the following statement, “We may be standing in the way of the Spirit if we block women from ministry. We may be like the Pharisees who thought Jesus was ministering under the power of Satan. Jesus warned them that a sin against the Spirit is the ultimate sin for which there is no forgiveness. That is worth thinking about.”

To give credit where credit is due, this is certainly an original contribution, as far as I am aware, in the whole egalitarian/complementarian debate.

Essentially all of the authors above, and everyone who has ever been a part of Jesus’ church who place some limits on when and how woman can serve in the church may be guilty of the “unpardonable sin”! Wow!

I’ve read some strong statements by both egalitarian and complementarian authors before. I’ve read statements by complementarians that embarrass me. I’ve never read anywhere such an unfounded and frankly ridiculous statement by contributors to this debate on either side.

There is no possible way one can defend this conclusion exegetically. If one handles such an important part of the Gospel’s teaching – “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” – with such a casual and indefensible approach, why on earth should anyone listen to how they handle the rest of Scripture?

To be frank, Mark, suggesting that brothers and sisters in Christ whom you disagree with as potentially guilty of committing the “unpardonable sin” is a serious matter. I obviously have quibbles with the rest of your post, but this kind of statement is beyond excuse. I would beg you to reconsider your words.

 

Charles Spurgeon Writes to a Child

Late in life & very unwell, Spurgeon models for us true pastoral care as he sits down to write to a child. More than that, he models for us the type of gospel love and pleading all Christian parents and pastors ought to have for the children in the care.

Written on July 1, 1890, Spurgeon was said to have been sick, tired and very busy. His hand “was swollen and probably painful as he held the pen.” (Dallimore, p 225)

My Dear Arthur Layzell,

I was a little while ago at a meeting for prayer where a large number of ministers were gathered together. The subject of prayer was “our children.” It soon brought tears to my eyes to hear those good fathers pleading with God for their sons and daughters. As they went on entreating the Lord to save their families my heart seemed ready to burst with strong desire that it might even so. Then I thought, I will write to those sons and daughters, to remind of their parents’ prayers.

Dear Arthur, you are highly privileged in having parents who pray for you. Your name is known in the courts of heaven. Your case has been laid before the throne of God.

Do you not pray for yourself? If you do not do so, why not? If other people value your soul, can it be right for you to neglect it? See, the entreaties and wrestlings of your father will not save you if you never seek the Lord yourself. You know this.

You do not intend to cause grief to dear mother and father: but you do. So long as you are not saved, they can never rest. However, obedient and sweet and kind you may be, they will never feel happy about you until you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and so find everlasting salvation.

Think of this. Remember how much you have already sinned, and none can wash you but Jesus. When you grow up you may become very sinful, and no one can change your nature and make you holy but but the Lord Jesus, through His Spirit.

You need what father and mother seek for you and you need it NOW. Why not seek it at once? I heard a father pray, “Lord, save our children, and save them young.” It is never too soon to be safe; never too soon to be happy; never too soon to be holy. Jesus loves to receive the very young ones.

You cannot save yourself, but the great Lord Jesus can save you. Ask him to do it. “He that asketh receiveth.” Then trust in Jesus to save you. he can do it, for he died and rose again that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life.

Come and tell Jesus you have sinned; seek forgiveness; trust in Him for it, and be sure that you are saved.

Then imitate our Lord. Be at home what Jesus was at Nazareth. Yours will be a happy home, and your dear father and mother will feel that the dearest wish of their hearts has been granted them.

I pray you think of heaven and hell, for in one of those places you will live forever. Meet me in heaven. Meet me at once at the mercy-seat. Run upstairs and pray to the great Father, through Jesus Christ.

Yours very lovingly, C.H. Spurgeon. (Dallimore, p 224,25)

 

The Naming of a Church

Yesterday, I read this post by Joe Thorn and it reminded me of the thought process we went through in naming Rolleston Baptist Church.

I am convinced that much of this discussion is contextual and therefore is not easily transferable to other settings. Thorn hints at that in his post. So this isn’t a response to his post, it is just that his post reminded me of our process.

One will search in vain to find any prescriptive Biblical teaching on church names! So when it comes to planting a new church one has the opportunity to do something (actually a lot of things) that is not a “normal” ministry experiences when in an established church – pick a name!

This can be rather terrifying, in that, you are establishing a name to a church that will, Lord willing, outlive you! In today’s world, web address as registered, FaceBook pages setup, etc. all with this name. The name of the church takes on significance long before you have an physical location, sign, etc.

In our setting I found this to be rather simple… I was driving around town with two other men from Grace Baptist Church in Christchurch on my first visit to Rolleston and we began to discuss the name.

For me, I considered the following:

  1. Church – we are a church. We are not just a fellowship, and certainly not a club, or just a community organisation. I am committed to having the word “church” in our name.
  2. Rolleston – we desire to be a local church, established in and actively reaching Rolleston for Christ. I like the idea of having “Rolleston” in our name.
  3. Baptist – I’m a Baptist (a Confessional Baptist). I am not uncomfortable with this and make no apologies for holding to Baptist convictions. In our context, where we have a Presbyterian Church in town, and are surrounded by Anglican churches, I think Baptist in the name helps folks to immediately recognise who we are as compared to others.
    • I must add here, I have many friends in area Presbyterian, Anglican, and Reformed Churches. They are dear brothers and sisters-in-Christ. In the big gospel game, we are on the same team. Yet we hold differing doctrinal distinctives.
  4. Reformed – I am a Confessional Baptist (I’m happy to affirm the 1689, London Baptist Confession of Faith). We require our elders at RBC to affirm the 1689, Long Baptist Confession of Faith. Generally this would classify us as a “Reformed Baptist Church”. However, in our context we opted not to include the word “reformed” in the church name:
    • We do not require members to affirm the 1689, London Baptist Confession. In other words, we are quite happy with gospel diversity at the membership level.
    • The word “reformed” in New Zealand (at least in church names) has been so historically recognised as “belonging” to the Reformed Churches of New Zealand, it just seemed like a point of confusion which would constantly need explanation.

The result of this, rather simple process, was the name Rolleston Baptist Church. We are a church, holding to historically recognised Baptist distinctives of doctrine and practice, seeking to reach the community of Rolleston with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

Do we have to choose between hate and the condoning of sinful lifestyles?

There has been a lot of discussion regarding the “Baptist” pastor from Auckland who supposedly sent an extremely evil email to a gay man.

Interestingly Ian Wishart has made the following observation on his FB page:

“Maybe it’s the investigative journalist in me, and the sceptic in someone else who shall remain nameless, but something seems fishy about this story of the pastor abusing the gay author.

Logan Robertson does not seem to have much of a digital footprint pre-dating this. In fact, his “church” is so obscure it runs from a house and its website was only established a matter of weeks ago. Frankly, I’m surprised Jim Marjoram was able to find so obscure a church to send an email to…because I couldn’t find it in the usual church email directories he would ordinarily have used..

Maybe I missed something…”

The Baptist Union clearly and rightly distanced themselves from this supposed “pastor”.

As a Christian I would want to clearly affirm that this man’s statements do not represent true Christianity or the Bible, regardless of what Denominational label he chooses for himself or whether he even pastors an actual church.

At the same time, I am just as concerned about the following sentence in the Herald article, “He [the author of the book] said several congregations in Auckland, including St Matthew in the City and Ponsonby Baptist, had supported his book and support group.”

Not only do this man’s [the supposed “pastor”] views not represent true and historical Christianity, neither do the views of St. Matthew in the City and Ponsonby Baptist.

In today’s cultural environment it may be more palatable to speak publicly against those who claim to be Christians and are inherently hateful, but it is equally necessary to speak out against those who name the name of Christ and openly encourage sin and do not call people to repent of their sin. By openly condoning an active, homosexual lifestyle even performing same-sex “marriages” both of the above mentioned churches have done just this. [I am not sure if St Matthew’s has performed a same-sex “marriage” yet, but Ponsonby Baptist has and there was (may still be) another scheduled there this month.]

The Scriptures clearly rebuke those who hate and command us not to speak evil. Yet they also clearly call us to speak the truth and to call sinners to repentance, never forgetting that we all are sinners in need of repentance.

As Christians, we don’t have to choose between hate and condoning of sinful lifestyles. We can strive to obey God’s Word by “speaking the truth in love” (Eph 4:15).

The supposed “pastor” from West Auckland failed to do this, but so have churches like St Matthew in the City and Ponsonby Baptist.

I have written quite a bit on this subject over the past couple of years. You can read more on the following links:

Marriage manifesto

Marriage, definitions, and homophobia

Everything’s different. Nothing’s changed

To Attend or not to Attend? This is Soon to be the Question

To Attend or not to Attend? This is Soon to be the Question – Part #2

To Attend or not to Attend? This is Soon to be the Question – Part #3

 

Rolleston Baptist Church, Church Planting – Our Story Thus Far – October 2014

I have posted a few other times this year in relation to the Lord directing us to join with a group of folks in Rolleston for the purpose of establishing a new church.

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

Rolleston Baptist Church – Online

Titles Can Create Confusion

Why I don’t find the term Evangelical by itself terribly helpful

My Last Sunday PM Service at Howick Baptist Church

I thought I might share a bit about how we have proceeded in this effort thus far. This is not an attempt to outline a one-size-fits all philosophy to church planting. Some may read this and think we have lost our minds. Others may clearly identify weaknesses to our approach. Someone may find this helpful. Mostly, it may serve those who are currently part of this work along with future members of Rolleston Baptist Church.

You will notice through this my conviction that “it’s churches that plant churches”.

For several years a couple of families from Grace Baptist Church in Christchurch have lived in Rolleston and sought to reach out to their community with the gospel of Christ in both word and deed. Over the past couple of years the Lord added to their number families from two other Christchurch churches – St. John’s & St. Saviour’s. These families met together regularly for fellowship, established three area Bible Studies, and ran a Sunday afternoon service for several months in the local Community Centre. Sometime in 2013 the the ministers from Grace Baptist & St. John’s along with six families all living in Rolleston, after much prayer and consultation decided to proceed in a plan to establish a church in Rolleston. Grace Baptist would serve as the “mother church” in this, other area churches would lend support and encouragement, a local Christian trust committed finances to help pay the stipend for a pastor during the early establishment phase of the church… the group needed a pastor.

In early 2014 I was contacted by the elders of Grace Baptist asking if I would consider a call to be appointed as the Church Planting Pastor of Rolleston Baptist Church. This is where the specifics of our approach may differ from some of the ideas you find in most of the popular church planting books.

Once my family & I reached the place where I was able to confidently answer this call in the affirmative the elders of Grace Baptist & I discussed a plan for how this would unfold.

Here is a brief outline of that plan:

  1. I would be appointed as an elder at Grace Baptist Church. This took place on 17 August 2014. This was done to more officially demonstrate the links between Grace Baptist and the new church. In addition it provides clear accountability for me as the pastor of RBC and for the progress of the church in these early days.
  2. I would be formally commissioned and appointed as the pastor of Rolleston Baptist Church (RBC) by Grace Baptist Church. This took place on 31 August 2014. Seeing that RBC doesn’t technically exist as a church but only as a group of believers who are meeting together informally, Grace Baptist is the existing church serving to confirm my qualification, gifting and calling to this work. 
  3. We would begin services for RBC in our home for a period of time. Part of the reason for this early stage would be to establish ourselves (we are eight families with three young adults – 35 people including children) as a church, formally. As a Baptist Church this will require, at least:
    • Clarifying and affirming a Statement of Faith
    • Clarifying and affirming a Constitution
    • Clarifying and affirming some key items of practice (e.g. Baptism, Lord’s Supper, Members’ Meetings) [At the writing of this post (30 Sept. 2014) we are in the process of working through these three steps. Lord willing in the coming month or so we will reach a point when we will hold a special service where the following will take place.] 
    •   
    • Formally establishing membership where we would all officially join the church taking a Membership Covenant, and formally affirming our Articles of Faith.
    • Appointing elder(s) assuming the presence of, at least, one who is Biblically qualified and willing to serve in this office.
    • Appointing deacon(s) assuming the presence of, at least, one who is Biblically qualified and willing to serve in this office.
  4. At this point we will be a “constituted” church with formal membership, established doctrinal basis, and qualified/appointed leadership. Lord willing this will also be the time when we will begin meeting more publicly in a hired, local venue.
  5. From this point, anyone who begins attending RBC and desires to join the church will be taken through a series of “studies” where we will walk through our Articles of Faith and Constitution seeking to serve the unity of the church by helping to ensure anyone who enters into membership, understands who we are as a church and why we approach the life of the church the way we do.

The above process is purposeful as our primary desire is to honour Christ not only in what we do and teach, but how we conduct ourselves as a church. No process will guarantee an avoidance of struggle. We pray the Lord will bless these feeble efforts.

Here are a few other past blog posts on the church which may shed further light on my thinking and convictions for any interested:

The Church – Ecclesiology is Important

The Church (Called and Collected) – Hip-Hop Teaches Us About the Beautiful Church

Sermon Mini-Series: Church as Family, Body, and Building

Baptist Autonomy Can’t Mean Each Church is Free to Do Anything

Should I Join a Church? or Is Church Membership Biblical? – My Thoughts

Lord willing in the very near future the website for Rolleston Baptist Church will be “active & live” providing more information about us.

 

Shepherding the Heart tour of NZ – March 2015

Tedd Tripp will be visiting New Zealand in March of next year. You can follow up-to-date info on these conferences on their FaceBook page.

I will speaking to parents and teens at the Auckland and Christchurch conferences on “Developing a Christian Worldview”.

Tedd Tripp NZ Tour

 

Tedd Tripp Pastors & Wives Leadership Conference

 

Titles Can Create Confusion

The few who read my blog will know that I have contributed a monthly article in the Baptist Magazine for about two years. Today, the latest issue came out with my final contribution.
I saw the heading given to my article this afternoon in the latest issue of the Baptist Mag. The editor makes the headings and I immediately cringed when I read his choice.
The heading is, “Planting a Baptist Church in Rolleston”.
I am very sorry for the confusion created.
By giving the article such a heading it communicates this is a Baptist Union Church, I would think to many. However, though it will be a Baptist Church it will not be a Baptist Union Church. That has been clear in all other forms of communication thus far.
This church plant is being planted out of Grace Baptist Church in Christchurch which is also not a BU church and has come about by the initiative of those who live in Rolleston and have been conducting various ministries in Rolleston for more than two years (one of the families as lived in Rolleston for 15+ years).
Again, I sincerely regret the title given to my column this month. It would not have chosen that as a title. I will also say the editor would not have meant to communicate any offence. This is just a genuine mistake.
It is not my desire or any of us involved in this church to cause offence or confusion in this way.
 

Why I don’t find the term Evangelical by itself terribly helpful

In recent years I have seen a bit of a trend for Christians to simply refer to themselves as Evangelical.

Personally, I don’t find this terribly helpful and as I have ventured toward the adventure of what is called church planting, I have reflected on this a bit more lately.

In mentioning reasons why I don’t find it helpful, I could mention something like the phrase “Evangelical Catholic” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evangelical_Catholic) – There’s a combination one would not normally put together.

In actual fact this highlights one of my reasons for not using the term Evangelical by itself. Alone, the term doesn’t say a whole lot really. Often when I use the term a follow-up question comes, something like, “Evangelical what?” What kind of Evangelical. This question shows a bit of insight on the one asking in that they clearly recognise the term alone doesn’t really say a whole lot.

Historically the term has generally meant someone who is committed to the gospel. To the centrality of the truth of salvation by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone. However, the existence of a phrase like Evangelical Catholic shows that this isn’t always as clear as one would desire.

Even more than that, the term doesn’t really say anything else. One can be Evangelical and be charismatic or non-charismatic, complementrian or egalitarian, Arminian or Calvinistic. One can call themselves Evangelical and believe in inerrancy or not. Once can call themselves Evangelical and deny the existence of Hell and hold to universalism.

Interestingly enough I do hear some attempting to go by the label Evangelical by itself and then describing themselves as Calvinistic and complementarian. Of course the problem is Evangelical doesn’t mean those things. To do this is to confuse vocabulary.

However, to do this, I would suggest reveals another significant (actually I think the most significant) problem with trying to use just the term Evangelical to describe oneself. To do so, may be saying more than one intends.

If you attempt to describe yourself as simply Evangelical but then define that in ways that go beyond what the term really means you are implying that those who do not define the term your way are not Evangelical. That is both historically and linguistically confusing.

I have found this recently in discussions related to planting a church. Rolleston Baptist Church will not be the first Evangelical church in Rolleston. I don’t want to do anything to give the impression that it is.

Rolleston Baptist Church, Lord willing, will be an Evangelical church. However, it will be a Baptist Church and even then Baptist doesn’t necessary say a whole lot anymore either. 🙂

This post as nothing to do with the name of a church as it is not possible to put in a church name enough adjectives to describe where one falls on the Evangelical spectrum. I think the name of a church is important and am quite happy with the name Rolleston Baptist Church.

Thoughts on church names is for a later post, in this post I am just thinking about what terms Christians use to describe themselves.

 

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.

 

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 https://joefl.wordpress.com/ & http://kiwifruitblog.org/

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.
 
 
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