Monday

A few of my New Zealand girlfriends.

A few of my New Zealand girlfriends.

We’re getting near the end of this lectureship/reunion. You can tell people are growing weary—too many late night talks … a surfeit of emotions raised by the relief of being together with like-minded ministers.

We  began the morning with worship. (As always, Ken Young does a great job leading. Thanks Marka for traveling to be with your husband and support his work.) More reports from the field. A video highlighting the South Pacific Bible College and its almost 30 year history.

I spoke this morning on “Faith on the Journey.” There is not theme more central to the journey described in Hebrews than faith. Faith is the one

Working on my lesson

Working on my lesson

essential that must be packed and taken along when traveling from here to an eternal there. But do we really understand what faith is, what biblical faith means? I fear that it is easy for us to define faith as “mental assent to a list of propositional truths about God and the world.” Faith as a list of statements we claim to believe in. Faith as articles and principles we affirm.

There is such a thing as a noun kind of faith—THE faith. But for much of Scripture (and certainly in the book of Hebrews), faith is a verb—something that is lived out … something that causes you to act, think, and feel differently. I focused on Hebrews 11 and the stories of faith recounted there. These are stories that will stretch your definition of faith. Stories about people who believed in God in ways greater, higher, deeper than simply accepting his existence. Noah, for instance, receives an absurd call to build an ark and then “did all that God commanded him” (Gen 6:22). Faith as obedience, no matter what is asked. Or consider Abraham who trusted God enough to accept his covenant and do his part (leave home, continue sexual relations with his aging wife, carry his son up onto Mount Moriah). Faith as absolute confidence in the promises and character of God. (The sermon outline for this lesson is available under the “Toolbox” section in the right-hand column.)

Here I am preaching one of the sessions for the lectureship.

Here I am preaching one of the sessions for the lectureship.

We had lunch together. Then I taught another leadership class. We talked about the “Tree” model of spiritual maturity and the FOOD, FAITH, and FRUIT that characterize people (and churches) who are growing up in Christ. A great discussion that led (later) to an invitation to return in August of 2011 to speak at a leadership workshop held annually in Rotorua.

That same focus was the topic of my final talk on Monday night—the importance of “Eating Along the Way” and nurturing spiritual maturation. Maturity is another important theme of Hebrews. The writer of this book is very concerned that his readers “grow up” in Christ and worried that they are not, in fact, doing so. They are “stuck,” spiritually speaking. They are still feeding on milk, not meat (the latter half of Heb 5). They need to move on from “elementary teachings” to get to the life-changing principles that lead to holiness and godliness (Heb 6). They must welcome the discipline of God as his way of guiding them to a wiser and more mature life (Heb 12).

Tree2With this context in mind, I used the Tree model of spiritual maturity to propose one way church leaders could focus on the growth and development of the people God has placed in their care. How can we help our people grow roots deeply into the spiritual nutrients God has supplied (the FOOD)? How can we help them expand their understanding of faith to include not just confession but commitment, trust, and perseverance (FAITH)? How can we encourage holy FRUIT in their lives? When all is said and done, this is the essential work of church leaders—a work we have been ignoring for too long.

The SPBC is doing a wonderful work in this region of the world. If your church is looking for a mission work to support, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better or more worthy effort than this. (I’m sure they accept checks from personal accounts as well!). Below are some photos of the staff and faculty of the school, just to help you get to know the people involved.

It’s been a great trip. I look forward to more contact with the College in the future. We’re talking about the possibility of my teaching during one of their terms and working with various churches around New Zealand to promote leadership and encourage creative engagement with Kiwi culture.

Steve Raines--Principal of the School

Steve Raines--Principal of the School

Mike Austin (left) teaches at the College. Randall Brooks is a church plant consultant, an American whose lived and worked in New Zealand for the last 10 years.

Mike Austin (left) teaches at the College. Randall Brooks is a church plant consultant, an American whose lived and worked in New Zealand for the last 10 years.

Richard is the Dean of Students for the College

Richard is the Dean of Students for the College

David Nelson--Academic Dean

David Nelson--Academic Dean

The Tech crew

The Tech crew