25 Nov, 2014 Phase I – what was it all about? (summarised)
THE ‘HOPE PROJECT’ — NEW ZEALAND
The below are a few paragraphs written for for a Christian audience, to help someone explain the Hope Project effort so far. What they do not communicate in the ‘balanced’ way I would usually communicate is what is in the second to last paragraph. This project is about an open conversation about hope in the NZ context — at least that is what we are sincerely trying to facilitate. It is the Christian content (noting that we are a decidedly Christian nation in our heritage and values) that is focussed on most specifically here.
The Hope Project is a national Christian media project in New Zealand. The three-phase media project is designed to initiate and feed a conversation about Christian faith, while partnership with churches is purposed to see members prepared to engage that conversation with those they know and meet.
New Zealand is a post-Christian nation, and there is considerable scepticism of ‘evangelism’ not only among non-Church people, but also inside the Christian Church. There are many reasons for this, including a reaction to some who hold onto a ‘confrontational’ or ‘emotionalised’ approach to communicating the gospel that no longer suits the culture, and does not bring sustained results. This project is seeing a wide spectrum of churches again pull together to enable a respectful conversation in the public sphere that is making the message of Jesus known widely, and is gaining respect! This is a pioneer media effort, without comparison here, apart from efforts to put literature in every letterbox (like a tract), the last of which was about 30 years ago.
The build up to enable the first of the three media efforts took three years of work. This included traveling the length and breadth of NZ three times, presenting to combined ministers’ groups, and twice at combined church gatherings in more than 70 NZ cities and towns. Dave Mann (Project Coordinator), who has served in a volunteer capacity like most of the team, has done the majority of this travel, including his family going on the road to enable the travel to take place. This has enabled relationships and trust to be built throughout the nation.
In 2014 the effort included conferences (called the ‘Engage Conference’) held in 10 provinces in NZ on 10 weekends. The result: prior to the beginning of the first of the 3 media efforts in October 2014 there were 330 partnering churches, including churches from Kaitaia in the North to Invercargill in the South. Partnership resulted in equipping taking place in 80% of these churches. Most significantly, much of this equipping took place through the pulpit or in the Sunday service using concise equipping videos, resulting in over 50,000 NZ Church-goers prepared by their pastors to engage the conversations at the grass roots. Since that effort almost another 100 churches have already partnered (as at end-November 2014), the goal for Phase II being 500 partnering churches, and for phase III being 1000 partnering churches.
In terms of connection, the first project connected with 1.7m New Zealanders aged 18-24 through television, over 1.4m homes through booklets, and many thousands through the websites and forums. Tens of thousands of homes were also visited in person by a Christian who went to deliver the booklet with a smile.
A wide range of online media was created, enabling people to engage the conversation to the level they felt comfortable. Like with any conversation, there is not a great deal of openness until trust and common ground are established. For some it was just a conversation about hope — while for others it was an investigation into the Christian faith. All conversations/engagements were authentic, and no ‘trickery’, ‘gimmicks’ or coercion were applied to get people to look at the more specifically Christian content. It was simply available. Phases II and II plan to maintain this trust, providing a pathway that was not there beforehand for people to consider Christian faith should their heart desire!
Its an unprecedented, nation-wide, gospel effort, strategically utilising opportunities enabled by modern media!