a first eleven: mission

The essence of mission is being salt and light at the same time. Salt is about mixing in and participating in society. Light is about standing apart and being distinctive from the flow of society. Participating without being distinctive is not very missional. But neither is standing apart without mixing in...

Here in New Zealand there are heaps of examples of people/organisations who do this well. They inspire me! If David Letterman can have his nightly TopTen I am going to have a a go at a First Eleven (with the Cricket World Cup around the corner, of course!) of salty-lighty mission initiatives that give me hope and make me an optimist.

[Warning! What follows is highly subjective!]

#11 the 'God billboards' (www.godmarks.co.nz)
These people have thought about the barriers to the gospel and then in a simple, disarming way they've placed a few imaginary words from God into prominent places. Even the CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi is on record as an admirer... I certainly am!

#10 Maxim
While they do not claim to be exclusively 'Christian' and they have a perspective that not all followers of Jesus may share... I am drawn to the courage and perseverance with which they've engaged the political world with truths/questions long submerged. It's been long overdue.

#9 John Cowan on Sunday Night Talkback
His wit and humour may secure many ears - but it is his grace with people and his seasoned wisdom schooled on the gospel that keeps those ears.

#8 Parachute Music Festival
Regardless of the good it has done for Christian music, there is no denying that this movement has strengthened my arm in a core mission task: Christian parenting. 'Look, there are actually heaps of people who love Jesus.' To stand among such a throng of Jesus-followers helps make the gospel plausible in a pretty hostile land.

#7 Hamish Stevenson and Soul Purpose
This is a little gem. Take a little time with this mag and you quickly discover an immersion in youth culture - but in a way that is aglow with distinctive lights all the way through.

#6 Parenting Inc
Schools and Community Centres and Churches throughout this country - for some years now -have been crowded with people coming for some wise lotion for the very itchy itch that scratches so much. Keep at it Ian and Mary and Co!

#5 Andrew Becroft
I've followed this career for many years. Just a hint of Joseph and Daniel! Immersed in the public world as Principal Youth Court Judge - the criminal activity of young people in his face every day - here is a person of humility and integrity who mixes truth with compassion in order to find a just way forward.

#4 TEAR Fund/WorldVision
Is there another country in the world where this Christian Aid agency combo has such a high and respected profile? I doubt it... It is a massive achievement over many years. Stick at it Steve and Lisa and Co!

#3 Kim Workman and Prison Fellowship
With nightly TV news bulletins being a sequence of criminal activity, the headline sins of the very naughty receives huge exposure in our land. But behind the scenes there is this quiet achievement of 'faith-based prisons' as a testimony to the power of the gospel.

#2 Sam Chapman
The politicians can debate the presence or absence of an underclass in NZ through to the next election ... and they probably will. But there is no denying the power of a transformative gospel at work through Project Awhi - in the very places where our nation is most desperate.

#1 Brooke Fraser
Yes - this one is tops! I am still baffled by the fact that Albertine is a mainstream release. This is my favourite example of salty-lighty mission... lyrics laden with truth wrapped up in the gracious winsomeness of a person with outstanding musicianship.

Yep - these are people who participate in the world in a way that seeks to be distinctive. There are many, many more - many with names we do not recognise! - but these are someo of the ones who have helped me with my Jesus-following.

Two crucial comments with which to conclude:
(a) These are the sort of people who need our persevering prayers...let's not forget to do so.

(b) Let's not forget the local church. I could have offered a First Eleven of salty-lighty local churches. Easy-peasy! I've discovered dozens of them. The local church is where the prime responsibility for gospel-shaped mission lies. Here is where our prime efforts to participate in such mission lies as well. Go for it!

nice chatting



Nigel Irwin said…
Subjective it may be, but I reckon there are thousands who will agree with you. And speaking for myself, I admire your 'First Eleven' (as well as many others) greatly - for the simple fact that they are being deliberate and purposeful in an area that I personally find so difficult. It is a gross generalisation, but I think we fear evangelical mission on a personal level because it will set us apart as odd, standing alone and susceptible to ridicule. But if we, as Christians in NZ, took 2 small steps out of our comfort zones, we wouldn't be standing alone at all. And people might not see us as so ridiculous after all.
Jesus tells His disciples in John's gospel that the world will hate and reject them because of Him... to the best of my knowledge, no-one has hated or rejected me in my entire life! Pretty clear evidence that my light don't shine!
cam4long said…
Hey Paul,

Thanks for continuing to post your thoughts on life as your encounter it. Thanks for being willing to state your opinion and for inspiring those of us who read your posts to have the courage to do the same.

Thanx guys - I like that thought about the impact which 'two small steps out of our comfort zones' might have.
Sometimes we are so frozen by the fear of WINNING people to Jesus that we forget that the primary task is to take our opportunities to bear WITNESS to Jesus. And that does mean 2 or 3 steps over here and 2 or 3 words over there. That's not so hard...
Actually this post has not quite gone as I expected. What I really wanted to do was spark you to think about some of those people in your 'first elevens'.

But I guess I needed to ask for that, huh?! :)

I'd just love to be made aware of others who inspire you ... simply because they participate fully in the world around them but do so with a difference. They are salty-lighty followers of Jesus.
Anonymous said…
Well some of my 'first eleven' are probably not people whose names are readily known. My grandmother, for example, was a wonderful quiet witness to God's work and, with my grandfather, had a formative influence on my Christian walk. Then there are authors I admire - John Stott would definitely be up there. But keeping it local, I can't help but go back to those with whom I worship God on a regular basis, my close friends and those dear to me, who constantly challenge me and are to me great witnesses to God.
not a wild hera said…
Provocative post, Paul. Let me be provoked for a sec:

Maxim wouldn't be on my list because a) they don't actually identify as Christian at all - they do everything possible to avoid saying that. They're just full of citizens supporting traditional values... Check out the 'about us' section of the website starting at http://www.maxim.org.nz/index.cfm/About_us/Our_mission. I couldn't find a single mention of the church or Christianity. Genuine question: Can you be salty and lighty while anonymous?

b) you're right, not all Christians agree with what they're saying. I agree that's not the whole point, but I think we could seriously debate just how much stuff they focus on is stuff Jesus might focus on in Aotearoa today...

and c) I have serious concerns about their integrity in arguing their case. Check out their magazine, and see just how fair they are to their opponents, how many views are misrepresented or taken out of context... In the areas I have some expertise in (eg Treaty law), I've been appalled by their selective use of evidence and strong editorial style of writing that portrays opinion as fact.

Ok, ranting over. Great to see Soul Purpose, Tear Fund and Andrew Becroft make it onto your first eleven - people who don't always have a high profile.

I guess my background and natural community is hyper-educated arty liberals of Wellington. One of my tests for the salty axis is how proud I am to mention groups and people like those three as examples of Christianity when with my friends who don't follow Christ. Dave Dobbyn, too, sometimes, definitely tranzsend (freeset is a poster child for this, surely), and people like Gregg and Bron Morris at Awina Teina in Auckland. Also cityside's Easter installations - powerful, uncompromising testimony in a language that is utterly accessible (at least to the arty liberals of my acquaintance... maybe that's part of the point with the salt axis - need lots of different varieties)

Is a lighty axis test how proud of them Christians can be within the church?
Anonymous said…
Totally agree with you on the Brooke Fraser number one placing, Paul. I got the album for Christmas, and it has sparked a renaissance in my 'relationshp with God' in a way that no other "Christian" release has even come close to. I think it's brilliant that Albertine is a mainstream release - and I find actually that there is more on so-called "secular" radio that makes me think and points me to God than there is on so-called "Christian" radio. Inspiring stuff.
Yes, Thalia, as my original post stated I had some ambivalence about including Maxim for the reasons you articulate so well.
For their purposes it is expedient not to be identified as 'Christian'...

I probably feel more positive than you do about the stance they take on some issues - but not all. The integrity issue is a biggie. I hope they don't deceive deliberately as part of their strategy (they'd be off my first eleven in a flash!).

But I still admire the way they wade into the political world and add some robustness to debates that in NZ do tend to default perennially in a "lefty" direction (if we operate on a global canvas here). I think that adds some integrity to the political process overall.
While I was restricting myself in this post to NZ, it is worth underlining Thalia's mention of 'freeset' ... yes, there is salty-lighty mission at its very best. Immersed in a society at the point of deep need but doing so with a gospel difference - and distinction!
Anonymous said…
Hi Paul,

As someone who works as an announcer in 'so called "Christian" radio (as Jane put it), I would like to affirm some of the things you have listed since I have had contact with some of them.

It is a very good list.

Having met the guy who started the Godmarks billboards and engaging in a chat about the place of God in a world where Christianity is often seen through hostile eyes, they have done a fantastic job of removing the barriers to God that we often put up.

John Cowan has the slot on ZB that airs about the same time as my talkback show on Life FM on Sunday nights. On the occassions that I have had the opportunity to listen to John I have admired his patience and integrity. In my profession, I have a lot to learn from people like John. I have a tendency to be a little too hot-headed sometimes.

Parachute Music Festival has done wonders for Christian artists who otherwise wouldn't get heard (alongside Life FM... 'so called "Christian" radio). One of the things I admire about the festival is the way it champions causes that we as Christians should care about. The work for World Vision this year was superb. I appreciate the heart of the organisation and I pray that our relationship with them continues to grow.

The team at Soul Purpose do an amazing job at turning out a quality magazine with little resource. They endeavour to meet NZ youth culture and engage it with something beyond itself. They should be admired.

Tearfund/World Vision are second to none in my view. I catch up with Steve Tollestrup (Executive Director of Tearfund) every Thursday afternoon on my show, and his heart/knowledge and passion for engaging the world in a way that expresses the reality of Christ always amazes me. Steve is one of my heroes. When Steve speaks, I do my best to shut up and listen. I value our relationship with World Vision as well. They excel at what they do and I love what their division, Rampant, offers to our young people - the chance to make a very real, tangible difference in this world.

Prison Fellowship NZ should be supported by every Kiwi, even if only through prayer. My talkback show has letters written to it by a couple of people who have been impacted by PFNZ and I have had the opportunity to hear the stories of people whose lives have been changed by it completely once they have left the prison system. I feel privileged to be connected to these stories in some way and they inspire me.

Sam Chapman. While Nicky Cruz was in the country I had the opportunity to chat with a couple of the guys connected to Sam's work. Their stories speak volumes about the capacity of this man to truly show Christ.

Brooke Fraser. My first contact with Brooke was when I had a 'King James only' guy ringing me regularly on my talkback show to harass me and continually question my faith.... I found he had done the same with Brooke so I contacted her. Since then I have had the chance to chat with her a few times. She is a fine example of an intelligent Christian who does not compartmentalise her faith. What you see is what you get. She's a grounded Kiwi girl with a heart that puts many of us to shame.

I would like to add another one to the list (from my own subjective perspective), the Rhema Broadcasting Group. Having worked within it now for a couple of years, I have a new found appreciation for what it does.

As the talkback host on Life FM (as well as being the afternoon announcer) I recieve complaints every single week.... always from Christians. Every one of those complaints tends to be very personal and attacking of my faith simply because I ask questions.

RBG is stuck between a rock and a hard place. We're too Christian for many who don't like the faith and we're even too focussed on the faith for a lot of Christians who make claims like this - "and I find actually that there is more on so-called "secular" radio that makes me think and points me to God than there is on so-called "Christian" radio" Whilst I understand this sentiment, is it the fault of 'Christian' radio, or is it down to the bias of the listener? I personally find that God speaks in many places and it is my own bias that makes me unable to hear him in most situations.

Every week a quarter of a million people tune into what RBG has to offer, whether it be one of our 4 stations, our TV channel or The Word for Today and I have personally seen the impact it can have, from the prisoners listening in, to the girl who contacted me to say she had been listening to me one Sunday night and had cut her wrists in the bath and was writing on the walls with her blood.... after listening she had called out for help and following on from that had pursued counseling.

I have had death threats and veiled expressions of desire for my death from Christians who have no idea what goes on behind the scenes at RBG for me. They hear me asking questions on the air that make them uncomfortable.

Whether or not a Christian gets something out of what we have to offer, RBG is something to be admired. It has existed for over 25 years, is NZ's largest 100% Kiwi owned broadcaster, operates on a shoe-string compared to other media organisations in this country, has spawned a movement of broadcasters around the world sharing the Gospel (UCB International), but most of all.... it has, and will continue to, make a difference in peoples lives by expressing Christ.... even if we fail sometimes.... which we do because we are humans working out the God factor in today's world like everyone else. We need your prayers as well.
WOW ... thanks 'servant' for taking time to respond so fully.

Let me try and return the favour!

Yes, I did almost include Rhema Broadcasting Group (RBG) in my list. It was a subjective (and incomplete) list. I will certainly not be lining up on the side of the trenchant critics you encounter regularly. Big organisations make big targets and they can catch all sorts of stray arrows...

However my sense is that the major impact of RBG is aligned more with ministry than mission (and that has a place!). That adjective "Christian" does tend to attract Christians ... be it Christian music, Christian schools, Christian political parties, or Christian radio and TV. I am not sure I will find numerous individual testimonies to the contrary that convincing. But you can try! In my mind these initiatives still carry that hint of 'sub-culture', rather than genuine 'counter-culture' ... but I am less likely to be critical of that then I once was. In these times which may have some kinship with the biblical 'exile', there may well be a place for the best in so-called "Christian" initiatives as part of the missional mix.

To go back to my original post, my sense is that the reality of RBG's impact leans more towards the light/distinctive end than it does the salt/participative one (which clearly has its place) - and I was trying to identify specific people that were both. Maybe I have that wrong...

On balance I feel pretty positive about the Radio Rhema threesome (I have even recently become involved in some of its programming!). I think it has matured as an organisation.

My confidence in ShineTV has not yet reached the same level. I hope it will do so one day. But it is younger... While there may be many stories of personal life-change as a result of Shine, I am concerned at how often I turn over to it and find something that is culturally irrelevant. Unbelieving kiwi channel-surfers will have an image of gospel/church/mission being reinforced that I'd be giving a lot of my energy to trying to undermine! I am not sure what the way forward is on this one. I don't understand all the issues... But I think I'd favour fewer hours on-air and then a more judicious choice in programming. For example, does The 700 Club-type programme really need to be aired in NZ?
Anonymous said…
Those are all very fair statements Paul.

You mentioned becoming involved in our programming... how is that happening?
I've joined the roster for the Viewpoint slot

Popular Posts