15 Nov, 2022 SWOT Analysis on NZ Church in relation to its outreach
- In a recent interview I was asked for a SWOT analysis of the NZ Church in relation to its outreach. It was an interesting question and challenging question.
- Intriguingly for me, what I’d say today is quite different to just 3 years ago. A lot has changed in NZ in that time.
Here are my thoughts.
I note there could be many more points than this, but the point is a simple analysis, for one person’s perspective – and if you have different thought, please email me. I’d love to hear!
- BIBLICAL – As a general picture, the NZ Church is Biblical. While there are differences in small things, I feel there is broad reaching unity on the important things. I note however that I’m talking about ‘church’, by which I mean the people. (Many churches that questioned or denied the core beliefs of the Christian faith 30 years ago don’t have many people today – even though their buildings and names still exist).
- PRAYING – In my opinion, there is a lot of prayer in God’s Church and its many churches
- GOSPEL AWARE – The Church in our nation is not ignorant of the gospel and it’s importance.
- GOSPEL SERIOUSNESS – It is my feeling that, while we (i) understand the gospel, (ii) believe the gospel and (iii) also know its benefits in our lives, that (iv) the things of this world have overshadowed that. I don’t think we are clear-thinking when it comes to the gospel, or the mission of the Church. We are ‘clouded’ to the point of repeating what we’ve seen and doing what we’re told, rather than innovating to the environment with faith. There is an insufficient ‘burning in our hearts’ to compel us toward the kinds of conversations and innovations I believe are needed amongst us. Many live as if the survival of many small congregations was the mission. Much more than this is possible.
- ENGAGEMENT WITHIN SOCIETY – ESPECIALLY AT THE CITY AND NATIONAL LEVELS – Because we’ve structured ourselves denominationally (Some follow Paul, some follow Apollos – 1 Corinthians 3:4), instead of geographically (which I suggest is the Biblical model), our primary structuring employs no one at all to serve the interests of the Church (united) within each city, or nationally. It is my opinion that many in key positions are, as yet, largely unable to engage in sensible conversations on our united function also because so little time has been given to understanding who we are as the united Church, and the opportunities and dynamics of this type of united engagement. Our potential roles on these platforms are hardly known, and as rarely discussed.
- THEOLOGICAL COMPROMISE – The ‘justice’ gospel (also knowns as the ‘social gospel’) is particularly prominent. It is 90% true to the teachings of Jesus, which is its challenge. The problem is in what is not said. The core truths of sin, and salvation through Jesus alone (John 14:6) are largely overlooked.
- MORAL COMPROMISE – In an effort to remain popular with the public, many are ‘bending’ to the ever-changing morals of our society, overlooking the fact that, once we reject the idea of “God”, objective morality doesn’t exist! Objective morality isn’t a bad thing too – even though it leaves every single one of us a ‘sinner’ in need of a Saviour! If we’re saying the Bible no longer says what it says, our outreach based on the claimed truth of the Bible’s message is unavoidably going to be undermined.
- EXCLUDED FROM THE CONVERSATION – We need look no further than our public media, who are biased, despite the voices of some Christians who say otherwise. I understand the hearts of my brothers and sisters here, and genuinely applaud their ”bridge building” – however if we take Family First as an easy example, they produce reports based on scientific studies, and are now intentionally excluded from the conversation. News coverage refuses to interview them, or mention them – so they never receive that ‘name recognition’. It is blatant bias, it is wrong, it is not journalism, it is a problem, and if we don’t call it out it will only get worse.
- A TARGET OF INTENTIONAL MALIGNING VIA GOVERNMENT, MEDIA AND EDUCATION – Christian views are mocked in these arenas. There is money in this space. There are those who believe our ‘submission’ to global Government is necessary, and for our good. In history, Christianity has always been a problem for these kinds of ‘power shifts’ because it holds to a standard of truth – which makes it a problem. The efforts of Voltaire and Rousseau to undermine Christian religion in the decades leading up to the French Revolution are an easy example. Without their efforts, the revolution would never have happened, because Christian views sustain a clear view of right and wrong, which protects people (which isn’t conducive to power shifts). Maintaining a positive profile, and a presence in the conversation, is going to be a challenge for us into the future, requiring intentional efforts on all platforms, and at all ‘levels’ of our function as the Church.
It is hard to work out what NOT to say here, because our every-day work is in identifying, revealing and leveraging opportunities. Here are some highlights
- PEOPLE ARE HUNGRY FOR SPIRITUAL REALITY – IF WE CAN CONNECT WITH THEM – While we might be the third most ‘secular’ nation on the planet according to a recent international study on religion, we’re still almost as spiritual as we ever were. Most believe in a spiritual realm of some kind. It’s traditional Christianity they’ve rejected, and most have made this transition without ever having the core reasons we might believe this faith to be true explained.
- NEEDS ARE INCREASING – WHICH IS OUR OPPORTUNITY – Every great civilisation has a start, a middle and an end. Our civilisation became the most prosperous, equality-based, charitable and free in all of human history because the Christian faith became inter-twined with it. We have rejected the Christian faith. A tree doesn’t last long without its roots. As the demise continues, people will be more and more broken within themselves. Even in the next few years, harder economic times are coming. If international powers succeed in gaining greater leadership influence over our nation, tougher economic times might also come from some clearly stated objectives. Our light will shins most brightly in the darkness. This is all ‘opportunity’ for God’s Church!
- OUR SIX STRATEGIC PILLARS REPRESENT 6 AREAS OF OPPORTUNITY WE HAVE IDENTIFIED, WITHIN WHICH WE WORK
- Public media engagement – this is still possible with Christian messages, and these freedoms are protected for all by their use.
- Conversational outreach equipping – The key to great conversations is great questions. It is possible to thrive, even in a hostile environment (look at Jesus). All churches can engage with the ‘conversational outreach’ teachings and resources created – and do better. Anyone can engage a conversation, and it’s our best strategy – together!
- Leadership approaches – Habit based approaches to equipping and mobilising outreach in local churches are possible. This makes our efforts sustainable – as compared to something a pastor feels passionate about for a year and then forgets, or that’s built by a pastor for 6 years, but then he/she moves on, and the outreaching focus falls over.
- Youth and outreach – All the above points re outreach equipping and leadership apply to youth ministry, youth leaders could unite in each place and achieve more, united outreach events would strengthen things, and school groups are still possible where Christian youth unite to pray and ask God for ideas. There are huge and largely untapped opportunities here currently.
- NZ history as a vital component – We have TWO areas of history in which Christianity is foundational. The smaller is our bicultural history, which wouldn’t exist if not for the gospel, and which has many ‘heroes of faith’ in it. The larger is our ‘values history’ – from which our values as a natoiiin come, like limitation of Government powers, freedoms of speech and religion, end of slavery, equality of races, equality of genders, value of human life, concepts of charity, healthcare for all, education for all, economic freedom (‘capitalistic’ freedoms – but within the constraints of Christian charity and grace – which is the only way it works without falling over due to greed), and more.
- United effort – the four ‘pistons’ of our function as the Church are via the individual, small group, congregation and combined effort. All pistons are needed. The combined effort is only possible where church leaders can ‘see the city’, and will serve the people and needs of the city – rather than only serving the interests of their own congregation within the city. pastors’ groups then need to shift from relationship, to prayer, to strategic united, doing together the things that they cannot do apart. It’s all possible.
These were my thoughts – noting again that I selected a couple of points for each, rather than the much longer possible list.
What do you think?
- What things might we be wise as churches to be discussing more?
- What areas might we be wise to be innovating more in together? And how could that happen?
- What patterns of behaviour could we all embrace – to generate changes through our wide-reaching networks and memberships, into society, for good?
These are the kinds of questions that I believe ‘senior church leaders’ should be discussing – and I lament the deafening silence. I don’t mean to be unkind in saying this.
I concurrently thank God that a growing number see the opportunities, certainly including many at the grassroots of our local churches nationally, and are ready and willing to act ‘as one’ for their city or town, and our nation (Philippians 1:27)!
God’s people are amazing!
DAVE MANN. Dave is a networker and creative communicator with a vision to see an understanding of the Christian faith continuing and also being valued in the public square in Aotearoa-New Zealand. He has innovated numerous conversational resources for churches, and has coordinated various national nationwide multimedia Easter efforts purposed to open up conversations between church and non-church people about the Christian faith, with stories about the specifically Christian origins of many of our nation’s most treasured values intentionally included. Dave is the Producer of the ‘Chronicles of Paki’ illustrated NZ history series created for educational purposes, and the author of various other books and booklets including “Because we care”, “That Leaders might last” and “The Elephant in the Room”. Married to Heather, they have four boys and reside in Tauranga, New Zealand.