"Heoi whitikiria nga hope o o koutou hinengaro, kia mataara, tumanako atu, a taea noatia te mutunga, ki te aroha noa e kawea mai ki a koutou a te whakakitenga mai o Ihu Karaiti."
"Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
—1 Peter 1:13
It is an unsettling time for the church in New Zealand. People are on the move, displaced. They are shut out of their homes and living with relatives. Families are adjusting—painfully—to a new reality of uncertainty.
1 Peter 1:13 is particularly relevant today. Part of being in Christ is to feel out of place. It is to feel like our home is not quite so homely anymore; it is to enter a completely new world, while remaining in the same old places.
Being a follower of Christ is to feel like a foreigner amongst friends, to feel like an exile in one's own country.
To embrace the Saviour is also to embrace his suffering. Jesus himself told us: "The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master." If our master suffered for his message, why would we expect otherwise for ourselves?
Into this turmoil and tumult, Peter calls the church to be sober-minded. Or, in the words of Graham Henry, Peter is calling the church to go “blue head.”
The day after the famous 2015 World Cup All Blacks win, Henry said of his team:
“Although we didn’t have control of the game we had control of our minds. That’s probably the difference between 2007 and 2011.
"When you lose control of a match you can freeze or take flight or start fighting. We call that redhead. The All Blacks work on going ‘bluehead’.
"So you will see Brad Thorn throwing water over himself or Richie McCaw stamping the ground or Kieran Read looking into the stand with a wider vision. It brings them back to the moment, makes them ask what their job is now, what they should be doing.”
It is remarkable to me that in all the calamity the people of God face, Peter instructs us to first prepare your minds for action, to be sober-minded. Being sober-minded is a fight.
In turmoil, being sober-minded is our first fight.
It is a fistfight with whatever distracts us. Sober-mindedness is a way of thinking. It is thinking clearly, born from concentration. It is clear-eyed, cross-centred thinking that hopes in the return of the King, Jesus.
Nigel Pollock, a friend and mentor would often quip about the expression: “They were so heavenly minded that they were no earthly good." He would say that the Bible and church history point in the other direction; that those who have done significant earthly good have only done so because of their heavenly-mindedness.
And with all this in mind, I pondered how I could cultivate this sober, heavenly-minded thinking for myself. Last year our church family did a Bible-in-a-year reading plan, and this year Emma and I are working through another one. I’m also seeking to read about 30 minutes a day. I’m learning through observing leaders who I respect that Christ-centred, sober-minded thinking in momentous moments comes from small blocks of concentrated reflection on Christ over long periods of time.
If we daily seek to anchor ourselves in the cross of Christ, we will be prepared to be sober-minded when the waves come.
Churches Reaching Children and Families
It is a Sunday morning, and community kids who have come into relationship with their local churches through Rally are having what might be their first taste of being on a boat, shooting air rifles and hearing the good news of Jesus.
What a delight it was to be at the Manawatū Regional Rally Camp.
It was such a privilege to join Aaron Campbell from Bunnythorpe, Graeme Honore from Queen Street Gospel Chapel in Levin and Gavin Ander from Whanganui as they helped children—many for the first time—shoot air rifles (below, right).
We are grateful for volunteers like Kirsty Lauridsen and Rosie Yates from Crossroads Church who are pointing children like Lucy to Jesus from the scriptures in a local church through Rally (above, right).
We are so profoundly grateful for the volunteers—many with full responsibilities, working and running businesses, farms and homes—who give their time to work together to point children and their families to Jesus in their local churches through Rally.
It is so encouraging seeing leaders from York Street Chapel and Queen Street Gospel Chapel in Levin, Marton Bible Chapel, Rongotea Bible Chapel, Feilding Bible Chapel, and Woodville Gospel Hall working together to point children and their families to Jesus!
So much delighted me about being there. It was great to see churches and their volunteer leaders working together with the campsite, funding trusts that will see children and their families pointed to Jesus.
Children heard the gospel with incredible creativity and excellent clarity through the ministry of children’s’ evangelist Ray Cooper from Forest Lakes Camp.
45 churches from within the movement are reaching approximately 1000 children, and their families in the community, through 50 Rally groups across the country.
They are served by more than 250 incredible volunteer leaders.
It’s exciting to know these volunteers are being served quietly by a team who are developing a new Bible-teaching curriculum, making it easier to access resources through an updated website. They are also linking leaders and groups together through new Facebook groups and keeping leaders up to date with new newsletters.
I am a little—maybe more than a little—biased about all of this, since I serve the Rally Board as Chair. Regardless, I am very thankful for the work Rally is doing throughout the country.
CCCNZ Youth Enabler Murray Brown would like to introduce us to Brad Shepherd (above) who leads the youth ministry at Chapel Hill Community Church alongside his friend Daniel Airey.
Murray comments: “It is always inspiring to meet impressive young leaders like Brad who willingly use their time to give to others what they themselves received during their time in youth group."
Murray also mentioned: “It was great spending time this week with Chris and Sarah Chalmers at Hillcrest Chapel in Hamilton (above).
"Chris commenced ministry as the church's pastor, while this year Sarah has begun serving as interim part-time youth pastor.”