A church planting student at a university in Mexico interviewed Nate last week on the ins and outs of church planting in New Zealand. Pepe asked some great questions and we thought you'd like to hear the answers...
Q What led you into missions?
A I think instead of me choosing missions, God actually chose missions for me. My wife studied missions at KCU so when I married her we thought maybe some day we’d be called overseas although we weren’t sure how that would happen as I was in a full-time worship leading roll in Indianapolis. But when I was recruited to join a church planting (CP) team in New Zealand we saw a perfect opportunity for us to be involved in missions together.
Q Why church planting? How did you feel the call for that?
A When we were asked to join the CP team, we read some books on the subject and began to realise just how critical church planting is to reaching the lost. C. Peter Wagner says, “the single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.” I believe that’s true. I've seen people come to know Christ for the first time way more frequently in church plants than through established churches or simply through individual evangelism alone. In short, we plant churches so the lost will be saved but ultimately so that Christ will be worshiped by more.
Q Why do you think God chose New Zealand for you?
A New Zealand is a perfect fit for our family. We love living here and our personalities seem to blend well with the culture. So maybe that’s why He chose us specifically to come to NZ. But generally, NZ simply needs more workers for the massive harvest here. There's a growing number of immigrants coming to NZ from all over the world and many of them don’t know Christ. Plus it's a post-Christian society, meaning the people who have been here for ages have basically turned their back on church. The Christians here rarely feel called into full-time ministry, and if they do it's difficult for them to support a family on a ministry income, so it’s important that we find ways to train and motivate people who live here to live out the Great Commission themselves.
Q So what are you currently doing in your ministry there and what's next?
A We planted a church with a team in the city of Christchurch in 2010 and stayed with them for five years. We’ve moved on to Auckland now and we’ve been developing a partnership with a local church here (Shore Community Church) for the past couple of years. I’ve been leading worship for them, improving on various aspects of their worship ministry, mentoring other worship leaders, and going to school to get a qualification in counselling. Recently we’ve formed a core church planting team and have commenced regular meetings with the leadership at Shore CC to determine how best to plant a church in partnership with them. In 2018, we'll phase out of our rolls at Shore, begin setting up for the CP, and raise funds during a USA furlough. We look to be on track to plant a new church in Auckland by 2019/2020.
Q Which challenges do you have in your ministry and in your life in general?
A I’m faced with the challenge of finding a way to thrive in all areas of my life. It’s like juggling. I’ve got so much that needs my attention: quiet time with God, quality time with my family, good health, influencing the guys I’m mentoring and discipling, giving adequate time and energy to school, working hard for Shore CC and pouring enough into the next CP project to help get that off the ground. I could easily go crazy but a regular time in the mornings in the Word and in prayer grounds me. When I do that well I have great days and accomplish much. When I don’t get that right, I find myself spinning my wheels.
Q What would you recommend to a new missionary?
A Jesus said, “I am the Vine and you are the branches. Apart from me you can do NOTHING.” Never forget that. Hold onto it. Believe it. And make it evident in how you spend your time. Close your door, open His Word, and get on your knees. Humble yourself before Him and He will lift you up. We can spend a lot of time learning about and running after all the latest and greatest methodologies around missions and church planting but without a strong connection to our source of life and strength and power it’s all useless. The simplicity of seeking God’s wisdom daily trumps every book ever written on evangelism or missions or church planting. If you don’t hunger and thirst for His Words, ask Him to put that desire in you.
Q What is an ordinary day like for you?
A Haha well I don’t think I’ve had an ordinary day yet but my usual work week looks something like this...Two days at school/working on assignments, two days in the office at Shore CC, one day working on church plant prep and supporter relations. Sundays are spent at church - usually leading worship or helping train multimedia people or dreaming up improvements to our setup. I also do some mentoring/discipleship with several guys from church. I’ll meet with a couple of them each week. We host a life group every week, and I have regular band practices to run so with that and a CP meeting or two in the evenings it’s a full week! My wife is a full time mum but she’s also contributing to our work by creating publications/graphic design for our church plant project and sometimes for Shore CC. So when I can steal a few hours, I’ll take Finn (3) into the office with me or to a playground so she can get some work done. Finn has an older brother (Henry, 7) and an older sister (Lane,9). They were all born in NZ so they’re little kiwis!
Q Honestly, how do you feel that your relations are with these 3 groups: 1) other missionaries 2) your family 3) supporters?
A Good question.
1. Other missionaries. In general I have great relationships and heaps of support with other missionaries here in Auckland. We meet on a regular basis to pray together, dream together, and encourage each other. There was one difficult relationship. Thankfully it’s a wound that has healed. We’ve moved on and made our peace with it and I even thank God for all He did through that situation. We’re definitely better off now because of it.
2. My family. I love them so much. Fridays are reserved for sabbath rest. So I get extra sleep that day, then wake up and spend the day with my youngest son and my wife. Her love language is quality time. I don’t always get this right but I can say it’s definitely a priority now more than ever.
3. Our supporters. They are so good to us. We keep them up to date with our work every month through an email newsletter, and do Skype calls and phone calls with a few specific ones occasionally. We also make sure we catch up with all of them every three years when we’re back in the USA on furlough. We’ve had only good experiences with our supporters.