tony and austen, kirk and nick

I never knew that reading a newspaper could be so exhilarating. So it has proved to be today with NZ's leading newspaper, the New Zealand Herald.

First they choose to name Tony McLean and Austin Hemmings as their NZers of the year. What an inspired choice! And what compelling evidence of the impact on this nation of these two young Christian men (both pastor's kids!) who gave their lives for others. I have commented on these stories more than once: here and here.
Lives like these help make the gospel of Jesus plausible in New Zealand. This is one of our most desperate needs. Some good stories to trump the bad ones.

But it didn't stop there. I love my basketball and so to read the featured back-page interview on NZ's best player, Kirk Penney, and discover that he is a committed Christian was fantastic - just as turning to the sports pages to be reminded again that Nick Willis (Olympic bronze medalist and oh, how I screamed when he rounded that final bend in the 1500m; a Sportsperson of the Year) is also a committed Christian ... For years I have longed to see high profile Christians, particularly in the influential world of sports, adorn the gospel with a grace and humility that draws people to the Jesus living within them.

With the challenge of winning Kiwi males to Jesus here are four testimonies in which I find so much encouragement in 2008.

nice chatting



Yes I noticed that too, although I always wonder about how much we should really be excited about Christian sports personalities, Jonathan Edwards, the British olympic gold medalist was long feted in the Christian media and held up as an example, but when he lost his faith we didn't really know what to say. Obviously i am glad for them, but i also fear the pressure from the church for them to take some sort of high profile ambassadorial role for which they may not be at all suited. In terms of culture change and influence i'd rather be promoting Christian social activists than sports stars. Although i suppose they can lose their faith too potentially.
Paul said…
Yes - and No!

Being a Christian in the public eye creates pressures of all kinds with which newer Christians will struggle. I guess that is why Saul disappeared for awhile before he reappeared as the Apostle Paul. And why Chuck Colson went to ground for awhile - and why Dave Dobbyn shunned publicity. Just because someone is in the public eye doesn't mean that they have an infusion of spirituality and knowledge that future-proofs their faith. We must be careful not to givem them "ambassadorial" roles. Agreed. The Jonathan Edwards story is very sad...

However in this country where Christians in the public world are either so sparse or so silent, I do want to celebrate the lives of those who contribute to 'giving Jesus a good name' amidst all the rubbish that is attributed to Him.

The public testimonies of Tony and Austen, Kirk and Nick will force many people to take a second look and think a second thought about Christians and the Jesus who can so obviously transform peoples' lives. I do rejoice in this. They are from a demographic which is particularly hostile to Christian faith.

The testimonies of Tony and Austen are as secure as they are profound. Their families cope with unimaginable losses, even as the cause of Christ in this land has been immeasurably assisted. This is a HUGE call by the NZ Herald (and remember this is the secular media recognising them, not the Christian media "fete-ing" them at all!)

On a much, much smaller scale there are the Kirks and the Nicks. I pray for them. I pray that the public walk will always match the private talk, for the sake of Jesus. I want to be as prayerful as I am "excited".
Mark Maffey said…
Hi Paul

It was also interesting to note that Murray Burton the Elim Principal was also lauded for his leadership in the wake of the canyoning tragedy.(see link below)

Again Murray illustrated to many of us how to display leadership in the midst of a difficult circumstances.

There was also an interesting article in the NZ Herald on the 4th of December by Garth George calling NZ to get back to basics, to display traits and virtues that were not dissimilar to the fruits of the Spirit.(See link below)

Ansvar Insurance whom I work for have Michael Jones as their Ambassador. He is a fine example of a Christian Athlete and it would be good to see more Athletes with a strong faith backed up by their works flying the flag.

Having said all this we are called to be Ambassadors of Christ. We are in a sense Aliens and Strangers to the rest of NZ and the more we can demonstrate a life lived better and differently the more attractively the Gospel, the Good News can be displayed.
Paul said…
More grist for your mill in today's news, Jonathan. English cricketer Chris Lewis - who I was pretty sure was quite open about his Christian commitment during his playing days (maybe I have that wrong) ... anyhow he was arrested today at Gatwick airport for alleged drug possession.

But Mark - I think your mention of Michael Jones proves my point. It is almost 15 years since he was in his prime. That is a long way to reach for the example of a sportsperson with a strong testimony. And yet Michael is still the best many people can do.

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