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To An Unknown God

Acts 17:16

"Na, i a Paora e tatari ana ki a raua i Atene, ka oho tona wairua i roto i a ia, i tana kitenga i te pa e ki ana i te whakapakoko"

"While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols."

"Ua faatali atu Paulo ia te i laua i Atenai, ua tiga tele ifo lona loto, o matamata o ia i le aai ua tumu i tupua"

New Zealand feels a lot like ancient Athens at times.

When Paul is faced by the rampant idolatry in Athens, he doesn't recoil. Why doesn't this agonising distress lead Paul to dismiss or denigrate the idols and idolaters? Why doesn't he disparage the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, or the leading thinkers at the Areopagus? Why doesn’t this distress lead Paul to put distance between himself and all that confronts him?

I think the reason is this. He’s motivated by faith and not fear.

He has faith in the God who created and sustains everything. He has faith in the God who is working out his purposes in all of history. He has faith in the God who will judge the world through the one who died and rose again.

In Acts 17:19-22, Paul’s faith as he faces Athen's idols ultimately leads him to engage the Areopagus. He engages a prominent group of Athenian leaders and thinkers with the gospel.

Notice how his faith leads him to engage them:

First, he affirms their dignity. “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.”

Then he respectfully and carefully seeks to understand their worship. “For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship...”

He finds a bridge from their worship of idols to the gospel. “I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god.”

He casts a light on the internal inconsistencies of their worship: “So, you are ignorant of the very thing you worship."

And then finally, he then proclaims the gospel. "And this is what I am going to proclaim to you.”

Paul knows the gospel of Jesus' death and resurrection goes against these idols but it is good news for the people who are bound by them.

When Paul looked and saw the idolatry around him, he didn't shy away out of fear. He stepped into it. He sought an opportunity. He didn't water down the gospel to make it easier for them to swallow, but he did talk about it in a way they'd understand.

New Zealand feels a lot like ancient Athens at times.

There are things going on all around us that are completely against the gospel. The question is, will we shy away out of fear? Or will we follow Paul? Will we lean in and engage where we can?

What will motivate our witness, faith or fear?

By Mark Grace, CCCNZ Ambassador

News from Our Churches

Kids Holiday Programme at Onslow Community Church

Last week over two days, 65 school-age children attended CHARGE, a kids' holiday programme organised and run by Onslow Community Church.

This year the programme was based around a Matariki/space theme, using a personalised version of David’s Psalm 8.

Pete Rhodes-Robinson, a pastor at Onslow Community Church, writes:

“Children enjoyed making crafts, playing games, watching a drama performed by the youth, puppets, dancing, singing, and sharing morning tea together!

"We even had a ‘live chat’ with a space station astronaut, with the help of Zoom!”

“During our ‘Snack & Chat’ times we shared about why God chose David to be king, and how God loves us and knows our hearts too.

"We taught about sin and how God can make our hearts right with him. The programme concluded with a session for the whole family on Sunday, the 16th of July featuring a well-known speaker, Ray Cooper, who built on the teaching theme.

"A number of holiday programme families attended the Sunday service which was encouraging."

We are so happy to hear how churches are sharing the gospel with their communities and we feel very encouraged by what God is doing in New Zealand.

Four Churches Working Together

Hillcrest Chapel, Northgate Community Church and Chapel Hill Community Church shared a hangi prepared by the community at Rukumoana Marae.

Over Matariki weekend four Waikato churches held a shared dinner together: Hillcrest Chapel, Chapel Hill Community Church, Northgate Community Church and Rukumoana Marae.

They were welcomed by Rukumoana church leaders, while the Rukumoana church family provided the Hangi.

There's an amazing story behind the relationship these four churches share. Less than a year after Kemp and Anne Pallesen came to Hillcrest Church, it outgrew its newly extended building. In the late 80’s/early 90’s the church then planted Chapel Hill. Within five years they outgrew that and they in turn planted Northgate. The journey continues today as Kemp and Anne, along with Paul Samuels and others, replant the Rukumoana Church.

Philip Renner, Pastor at Chapel Hill Community Church, writes:

“We owe a debt of thanks to Rukumoana Marae for blessing us with a hangi, and to Kemp and Anne Pallesen who are the common thread through all four churches for their years of service to Christ.

"If unity always tastes this good, we should do more of it.”

The team from Rukumoana Marae welcomed attendees into the building, while Paul Samuels opened with a mihi whakatau.

John and Wendy Buchanan from Chapel Hill Community Church, Frank Scrimgeour from Hillcrest Chapel, Kemp and Anne Pallesen, who have been involved in all the churches represented, and Jenny and Graham Jacobsen from Northgate Community Church formed a panel to tell the shared history of their churches and the different ways God has moved over the years.

Chris Chalmers from Hillcrest Chapel (pictured above, left), Philip Renner from Chapel Hill Community Church (above, middle) and Jonathan Ruthven from Northgate Community Church (above, right), who are currently serving as pastors of these churches, also answered questions about their shared value of working together in greater unity.

Sarah Chalmers (youth pastor at Hillcrest Chapel) writes:

“It was a great time of shared connection as people remembered the journey so far and dreams for the future.”

Julie McKinnon (Hillcrest Chapel and CCCNZ Children and Family Ministries Enabler), who was also present, said:

“It was a very special event. It was so good to reflect on God’s faithfulness to our churches through the years and hear both the struggles and triumphs of church planting.

"It was great to celebrate and catch up with old friends and meet new people and wonderful to see a renewed desire to work together and build connections across the three churches and also to build relationship with Rukumoana. It was a blessed time.”

The Tauwhare Gospel Chapel's 60th Anniversary

On the 8th of July, after months of planning, the Tauwhare Gospel Chapel celebrated the 60th anniversary of its opening. It originally opened on the 26th of January 1963.

After a pōwhiri at the marae, Te Mape Haimona and Harataki Manihira led a blessing at the chapel.

Top: Tauwhare Elder Andy Millar with Kaumatua Tom Wheki. Bottom left: Norm Silcock and Te Mape Haimona. Bottom right: Brian Goodwin and Kemp Pallesen

Afterwards, back at the marae, a banquet was held, accompanied by waiata from the Hallelujah Gospel Band, and very capably emceed by Kevin Rapana after the opening prayer by Taingakawa Thompson.

Kevin Rapana, Chairman of the elders at Tauwhare Gospel Chapel

After dinner, a speaker from each generation shared their memories.

The first was Tom Wheki, whose father gifted the land for the chapel next to the marae.

Following him was Kemp Pallesen who, along with his brother Graham, has had a long-standing relationship with the believers at Tauwhare. Tom and Kemp then cut the anniversary cake.

Kaumatua Kemp Pallesen cutting the cake

Other speakers included Brian Goodwin, who has been an encouragement to the people since the days of Gospel Literature Outreach, and Taumoana Rapana, whose late father had been an elder for many years along with Walter Manaia.

Finally, Renata Te Aho, who is one of the current elders, gave thanks to the Lord for his goodness and shared his appreciation of the Christian heritage that had been passed on by faithful tupuna.

Left: Renata Te Aho, an elder at Tauwhare Gospel Chapel. Right: Atutahi Riki and Nick Goodwin

It was an evening of great rejoicing, many waiata and much reconnecting. The members of the chapel worked tirelessly and in unity, wanting above all for it to be an occasion that was filled with thanksgiving and glorifying God.

Left: Betty Pallesen, Mary Rapana, Taumoana Rapana, Anne Pallesen. Right: Kuia Marilyn Te Aho and Ngaromo Beazley

Thank you, Norm and Liz Silcock, for providing the photos and this lovely report.

Churches Partnering Together in Mission

Diana Hutchinson, Program Director at PCF, writes:

“A team of nine from PCF (Pakuranga Christian Fellowship) have just returned from a two-week mission trip to Fiji in the July school holidays.

"We spent time with Pastor Manoa and Alisi Kalanouviti at Waidamudamu Gospel Community Church in Suva, then travelled to Nasavusavu Gospel Church in Savusavu.

"We had the opportunity to share the gospel with people from the Hindu and Muslim community and encourage fellow believers through kids' clubs, youth, women's and men's events.

"We were also involved in the Sunday morning services at both churches. It was wonderful to return to Fiji again after four years.

"We pray that God might allow us to go back again next year. Cross-cultural missions are so rewarding and life-changing for all involved; we totally recommend them!”

If you’d like to know more do chat with Diana!

Introducing the CCCNZ South Island Regional Enabler

Tim Hodge, part of the church planting team at Springs Community Church in Selwyn, Canterbury, will be joining the CCCNZ staff team part-time from September as South Island Regional Enabler.

Tim is married to Liz, CCCNZ Scholarship Enaber. Together they have two children.

Presently Tim works with TSCF (Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship) in universities and polytechnic student mission as their Head of Training and Development. Prior to that, he was pastoring in a local church.

Tim became a Christian and was baptised in his local Open Brethren church as a teenager. After uni he and Liz were part of a team planting a new church, from that very same church that led him to Jesus. He loves cricket, skiing and puns—you have been warned!

Tim writes: "I’m personally so grateful to God for the CCCNZ whānau in the establishment of Springs Community Church. As we continue to put the gospel at the forefront of all we do, we get the joy of seeing God draw people to the Lord Jesus.

"That’s the aim of all CCCNZ churches and campsites, so it’s an honour to join the CCCNZ staff team to be an encourager, resourcer, networker and champion of all that God is doing in us and through us across Te Wai Pounamu, the South Island.

"I’m greatly looking forward to meeting many across the South Island in the months ahead."

Tim will be working two days a week from September and looking to be up to four or five days per week by Easter 2024.



 

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