Any close reader of this blog will notice that I consider one of the most encouraging signs of progress in the mission of God in New Zealand today is the growing momentum within the Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship (TSCF).
I delight in being on the Board and this past weekend was the highlight for me - the annual Board Retreat. Ably chaired by Andrew Becroft (Principal Youth Court Judge), the agenda was weighted towards resourcing and provoking, rather than business and detail - just as it should be. Here is a taste:
On the Friday night, Paul Trebilco, (Vice-President, TSCF) fascinated all of us with a talk on the locus of authority and leadership in the Pastorals, 1 John, and Revelation. Each one different and each one needing to find expression today. It was a classic example of how relevant the best in academics actually is - something the church has been too slow to recognise. Along the way he made the observation that "the church in NZ is more orthodox than it was twenty years ago". Big call. The tide has turned, particularly within the mainline denominations. It struck me afresh how Paul has had no small role in this. Eleven years as Head of Theology & Religious Studies at Otago quietly building something special - 40+ PhD students, mostly Biblical Studies... and still in his early 50s with his next book about to be published by Cambridge University Press and the books in the queue full of relevance to the mission of God today.
On Saturday morning it was the turn of another TSCF Vice-President, Dr Carolyn Kelly - a relatively recent returnee to NZ after completing her doctoral studies on 'theological aesthetics' in Aberdeen. She started with this clip from Sir Ken Robinson. I had not seen it before (although it has 4+ million views on youtube!) and it is so compelling, it almost makes me want to resign all efforts to teach in this contemporary world. Then Carolyn reminded us of the need to hold Truth and Goodness and Beauty together when working with students in the Arts and Social Sciences. The failing of TSCF over the years, and much of the evangelical world, may well be the inability to remain connected to Beauty. She spoke of her own testimony as "God calling to me through things of beauty."
Then, as is his custom, Nigel Pollock (National Director) spread his simple strategic eye over Twelve Opportunities facing TSCF. Because he is not a home-grown Kiwi, he seems to see the New Zealand context with startling clarity. It is the old story: if you want a definition of (Kiwi) water, don't always ask a (Kiwi) fish.
Ben Carswell (Outreach Coordinator, born in the same village in Yorkshire as Samuel Marsden - go figure!) prodded us gently, but strongly, in the area of evangelism - including an update on plans for the Rugby World Cup. Over lunch I had an exchange with Nigel over the phrase which Langham uses in the UK to promote its work - "mission beyond evangelism". We agreed that the challenge here in NZ is to remind the church that there is an "evangelism beyond mission" that must not be forgotten. Again and again, I hear people assume that there can be such a thing as an 'evangelism-less mission'...
Someone spoke about the need to recover hospitality ... and how we need to progress people from coffee table to dining room table to Lord's table. I like it.
Did you know that 25% of NZ passport holders live overseas? Did you know that 38% of the people who live in Auckland were not born in NZ?
I urge anyone reading this post who knows a tertiary student to do what you can to point them towards a TSCF group. If you are a graduate yourself, consider linking with their new Catalyst programme. And if you have a 'donation dollar' and you are wondering where to direct it, my advice is probably rather obvious by now. :)