Serving the FUNCTIONAL unity of God’s Church across NZ 

The Shining Lights Trust exists to identify GAPS between the outreaching efforts of the New Zealand Church, so as to help see them plugged.  Our core work is therefore innovation, and is strategic by nature.

The FUNCTIONAL unity of God’s Church as a whole is one of those identified gaps.  

Our role is to be catalytic – to feed a conversation about how things could be different. This part of our work is little seen. It is about resourcing, networking and serving the interests of others – to build a broad network of trust that it’s capable of united effort.

Current status: Travel to network and build relationship is a feature of our work. Representatives of our team have travelled the entire nation to relationally connect with pastors’ groups eight times (as at 2021). We have met each time with pastors’ groups in between 45 and 70+ different cities and towns. The outcomes we believe to be happening on the ‘sidelines’ of these conversations are very encouraging.

Evidence of significant unity in the NZ Church: The Hope Project’s volunteer-based delivery tested our unity in a unique way – across the span of maybe 4 decades.  This has been achieved in the largest 70 cities and towns nationally from 2020 onwards – and evidences that a noteworthy level of unity between church leaders right across the nation already exists.

The key thought that can catalyse change

Because thinking leads to behaviour, the way to change culture (behaviour) is to find the key thought that needs challenging – or building. Our suggestion the past decade has been as follows.

The key change in thinking is this: “The primary  purpose of geographic (City/town) pastors’ groups is not relationship (as has usually been asserted), but mission.” Relationship is however the first and purpose on the path toward an ability to FUNCTION as a united Church, and entirely necessary. God wants a FUNCTIONALLY united Church that serves its mission (Phi 1:27, John 17).

To illustrate the life-cycle of a city or town pastors’ group, we articulate three levels of unity between church leaders in a town or city:

  1. Coffee unity – building relationship and trust
  2. Prayer unity – when prayer is regular, and is for the city rather than each other and each other’s churches and needs
  3. Functional unity – when prayer and trust are releasing leadership and vision, and the key question is able to be answered – and it’s answers pursued for the city as a whole

The key question: What can we do together that we cannot do apart?

The necessary process:

All united efforts should be the product of an awareness of the Spirit’s presence, and a seeking of his revelation and leading.

A necessary boundary:

The independence of churches, to do what they can do independently, is therefore not wrong. Independence is a function of maturity – as also is inter-dependence. So: “Do all you can do independently! The question here is, what can we do together that we cannot do apart?”

The most challenging paradigm to change:

How does united Church leadership work – as contrasted with local church leadership? We lack a shared vocabulary as God’s Church to even have this conversation. A key thing happening right now is therefore the establishing of a common vocabulary through intentional conversation.

Our work in this area involves… 

1.

Travel

To meet pastors and pastors’ groups relationally right across the nation – to facilitate and feed a directional conversation. Many are enjoying this!

2.

Resources

Like Dave’s book, In One Spirit. Also short videos. (Scroll down to see details)

3.

Leadership Facilitation

The Hope Project is a tangible example, this being a ‘hub’ around which many things happen or are catalysed. Overtime we’ve become positioned to advise or connect pastors’ groups in various ways.

Our next level of vision for unity is to see pastors’ groups achieving easy ‘wins’, like the the four united goals listed HERE.

FOUR WIDER GOALS we could unite in together nationally, achieved through FIFTEEN EVERY-DAY ACTIVITIES/HABITS were presented and discussed in 2021 – as articulated in the 2022 ‘Outreach Today’ Magazine HERE.

  • The limit is often in the wy we think. New thinking can enable new results.

One articulation of three ‘roles’ connected with us is HERE – but really its all about relationship, and partnership between people who’s hearts connect in a vision for unity and the gospel.

To be noted – the same work is taking place amongst youth ministries. Godtalk.nz is the ‘name’ connected with this – though momentum in facilitating unity is not strong (as at 2022), while encouragement of it is active. (Godtalk has about 550 youth and youth leaders across the nation connected and receiving monthly updates. Uniting youth leaders in every city and town is a goal, with Kingdom intent.

(2021) CULTURAL CHANGE AND WHAT A UNITED CHURCH CAN DO — WITH DAVE

In this ‘bubble-popping’ message Dave talks about how and why our potential TOGETHER is still greater than we imagine – but also why uniformity won’t get us there. Hear 4 long-range goals we could unite in, with 15 applications – all of which are possible. But it’s a slightly different way of thinking and working together that is needed. If communication lines could exist, we could achieve much ‘in unison’ – without requiring uniformity, and this is already working in our nation!

The 2020 video for city/town pastors’ groups

Find notes / discussion guide to go with this video here.

In view of Covid-19, our national 2020 travel to connect with pastors’ groups was cancelled. This video to the right was created to contribute to the timely conversations some of that travel was purposed for.
This video articulates vision in FOUR areas. This is about things we can do together NATIONALLY that we cannot do apart. Numerous criteria are considered in the journey toward suggestions like these.

What it means to have a mission (message)

MESSAGE INCLUDES FOUR SPECIFIC UNITY GOALS

The message to the right is from 2018 and  is very empowering, and full of strategic insights for our nation. Regarding unity, it discussing the fourth piston [unity] at 28.25mins – as one of four areas for united application in service to our mission nationally, with a strategic view.

Our request to all city and town pastors’ group is that they unite in the following 4 goals annually.

FOUR GOALS

  1. The gospel to all possible homes in their city (Hope Project booklet delivery
  2. Prayer walk every street of their city (concurrent with delivery)
  3. Christ into Christmas (sell the vision of returning Nativity Scenes to published view through individual, group, business, congregational and united efforts)
  4. All members in all churches equipped for conversational outreach like Jesus annually.

FOUR LEVELS OF RESOURCE TO SUPPORT THE FOURTH OF THESE GOALS

  1. Four week sermon series, with matching small group discussion
  2. Four week small group discussion series
  3. Four 5min videos played during offering time
  4. Four articles on Jesus’ conversational skills printed in church bulletin.
  • Note ‘Hope Project Regional Reps’, ‘Delivery Coordinators’ and ‘Hope Project Local reps’ below.
  • We encourage that this would be a higher level of ‘achievement’ together than many are yet achieving – and yet is simple and realistic.
  • We encourage consideration on the reasons why these four things have been selected – to consider what these achieve when we are united nationally in them.

Other thoughts and resources to feed the conversation

Below are some simple accessible resources to feed the conversation.

2019 DISCUSSION VIDEO: 8 mins on unity for pastor’s groups

This 8min video covers (1) an illustration explaining EXACTLY why our functional unity is needed and (2) a concluding explanation on the kinds of ways we could yet engage with cultural thinking nationally.

Hope Project is concurrently promoted because (1) this video in a singular communication with many pastors in an entire year, and (2) we’re intentionally leveraging it for the purposes of (i) broad education on the substance of possible public engagements and (ii) to encourage intentionality in the equipping of members with skills for spiritual conversations.

Hope Project booklet delivery – remarkable example of unity that already exists

In contrast to what others told us when we started investigating things in 2011, we have found church leaders and members  across our nation to have a sincere heart for God and for Christian witness. The heart is there! What is needed is help to catalyse new action.

In 2020 the Hope Project’s Easter booklet delivery was made volunteer-based for the 70 cities and towns with over 5000 population. This required functional unity in God’s Church, to deliver to 1,080,000 homes in those 70 cities (while a paid delivery covered the rest of the nation). The delivery was achieved.

Huge encouragement resulted in local churches and cities in terms of confidence for outreach, increased conversational outreach equipping, and increased unity amongst churches – bringing hope for the latent potential of churches together in their cities.

It showed that God’s Church is already united its heart and vision. What is needed is sensible strategy and opportunity!

Resources

In One Spirit, by Dave Mann

The Christian Church is no longer in the majority. How could we become an effectively activated minority?

This book is the product of conversations about unity with about 1000 New Zealand pastors.

  • The first half considers how culture changes and can be changed. It then identifies 5 cultural trends working against the wider hopes of the Christian community – and 3 working in its favour, to consider their potential interplay.
  • The second half is then specifically on the unity of churches in cities and towns, with a focus on the role, function and potential of city/town pastors’ groups.

Purchase via this website for $20 plus $5 P&P here.

Our local connection in your area…3 roles

1.

HOPE PROJECT REGIONAL REPS

These are exceptional individuals, usually being retired pastors and business owners, who make phone calls to local churches to encourage (i) their awareness of free outreach equipping resources, (ii) engagement together in prayer walking their own city and suburb, (iii) getting the gospel to homes of their own community annually with provided Hope For All booklets, and (iv) together helping to put Christ back into Christmas.

2.

DELIVERY COORDINATORS (DCs)

This is the contact person in each city or town where the delivery is being done by volunteers. This is usually a pastor in the city/town pastors’ group, though not always. We have found the delivery to be easy to organise and achieve wherever pastors’ are considerably united (E.g. Tauranga needed only 15 of 130 churches to help,  supplying just 10 volunteers each on average, to complete approx 130 delivery route areas. We did not need to even ask 115 of the churches for help).

3.

PASTORS’ GROUP CONVENORS

We relationally connect, to share ideas and resources from a national and city perspective. This includes raising awareness of about 20 ministries that we see significance in for unity and outreach in our nation (as measured by what pastors’ groups have told us), while also networking and encouraging pastors’ groups together.

IMPORTANT BOUNDARIES

We have been facilitating discussions on boundaries necessary for unity to become functional with pastors’ groups.

For ourselves, no person or group has to partner with us, fund us, help or do anything at all with us if they don’t want to. Everything is voluntary. This is a very important part of our DNA – as a release of true united FUNCTION will come about in no other setting!