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Nazarenes in Australia and New Zealand recently expressed their genuine desire to engage in new and fresh expressions of church.
More than 100 participants representing at least 23 cultures from 27 Nazarene and other denominational churches across the Australia New Zealand (ANZ) Field gathered at "the Well: Mission-Shaped Church" conference from February 16 to 18. "the Well" was another intentional avenue for strengthening the field's priority to engage and equip the local church more effectively in God's mission.
The analogy of a well was used to foster the sense of a gathering place throughout the conference. A well is a place where one's basic needs are satisfied. The well is also a place to share stories, life, and conversations, and is a place of refreshment where primary needs are satisfied for the soul, mind, and body.
Lay leaders, pastors, leadership team members, and church planters participated on site, as well as via video conference in Perth, Western Australia, and Auckland, New Zealand.
Hosted by the ANZ Field, Nazarene Theological College (Brisbane), and the Missions Pathways Network, conference collaboration and coordination was undertaken by Australian missionary Belinda Allder until the rapid decline of her health and untimely passing on February 15. It had been Allder's goal, health permitting, to participate in the conference. The day after Allder's passing, ministry partners and old friends surrounded her parents, Bruce and Jacque Allder, sharing the burden of their loss in a moving time of prayer for God's comfort and healing grace for them and their family.
The conference was divided into three major streams.
A cross-cultural orientation provided participants with primary perspectives on communicating cross-culturally, major world religions, and communicating Christ in culturally-specific contexts. Dialogue provided an interactive and effective learning environment.
Presenter and noted author Robert Bank proposed the first century church as a model for effective missional engagement in the 21st century. In his full-day teaching titled "Church outside the box: moving beyond our comfort zone and into the culture," Banks' premise affirmed the denomination's new definition of church as “Any group that meets regularly for spiritual nurture, worship, or instruction, at an announced time and place, with an identified leader, and aligned with the message and mission of the Church of the Nazarene...”
The increasing relevance of the ministry to diverse faith and cultural communities is highlighted, for example, by the growing number of followers of Buddhism and other religions in Australia.
Presenters themselves reflected that culturally diversity. Satish Manmothe, a south Asian and pastor of a church in Sydney's culturally diverse southwest; Richard Giesken, a native of South Africa; Associate NTC lecturer and pastor of a multicultural church in Auckland, Vipul Kharat, also south Asian; were just some of the specialists from Anglo and Middle Eastern cultural backgrounds.
One local pastor shared his personal encounter when God challenged him about his own attitude to neighbors at a global conference. God called him to account for his deeply personal bias against his neighbors that was based on a negative personal experience in his country of origin.
Individuals involved in pioneering new communities of faith in creative ways also shared their experiences building intentional, purposeful, and genuine relationships with neighbors. In addition they spoke of their experiences of chaplaincy involvement in a motorcycle club, taking the church to areas without the church, and responding to a shared need out of relational crisis and family breakdown in a non-judgmental, caring, and affirming environment.
Participants affirmed the value and need of such a conference, including their desire to participate in future equipping events. Some of the key outcomes and reflections include:
- A commitment to becoming more intentional about connecting with neighbours;
- Recognition that God is always working;
- Challenged to see people as Jesus sees them;
- Reminded to form intentional relationships, making whatever adjustments necessary to our personal schedules to allow for involvement in social opportunities for connection;
- Avoid making people ‘projects’
"Mission moves on morale and momentum," said John Moore, ANZ field strategy coordinator. "the Well" is an attempt to meet around topics and conversation that will move us closer together and then forward with engaged, encouraged, and challenged hearts. Our most recent gathering at NTC provided this opportunity, drawing diverse participants with stories and questions to share regarding new initiatives that are taking shape across each district of the ANZ Field. We are grateful."
--Church of the Nazarene Asia-Pacific