Denominations Hold the Key

Tena koutou katoa (Maori language = greetings to you all). It's a privilege to share how God has led us in New Zealand to a vision for greater cooperation among the denominations to reach our nation.

New Zealand, in the South Pacific, is a western democracy of 3.5 million people. There are 60 million sheep. Our islands are similar in size to Great Britain.

In the 1800s New Zealand was settled as a British colony. Through an amazing people movement the Holy Spirit swept most of the indigenous Maori people into the kingdom of God. New Zealand was churched by the transfer of Britain's major denominations: in order of size the largest groups are Anglican, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist. New Zealand has sent out possibly the highest number of missionaries per capita in the world. Our largest city, Auckland, has one million people.

Our population is: 75% British or European origin, 12% Maori, 6% Pacific Islanders, 7% Asian.

A dramatic recent religious trend has been the huge increase of people who claim to have no religion, to about 25% of our population. The historic mainline churches are losing many nominal Christians to secularism. Mainline denominations are undermined from within by liberal theology. The Church is attacked (or ignored) by a media loyal to secular humanism and homosexualism.

In 1987 a DAWN (Discipling A Whole Nation) Strategy was launched. Research showed that the Baptists were growing, and some of the newer Pentecostal denominations were growing rapidly. A DAWN Congress in 1989 brought some church leaders together to set church planting goals. However, DAWN did not capture the attention of the larger mainline denominations, nor of the many parachurch or specialist agencies in New Zealand. There was no common vision.

At the Lausanne Congress in Manila in 1989, the Lord showed us the need for a second phase of the DAWN Strategy, with a new name, and that although church planting had to be encouraged as a priority for the denominations, we needed a comprehensive approach, that included church planting among many other ministries.

In 1990 a meeting of about 70 representative leaders agreed to some very important principles, and Vision New Zealand was born: to call the Whole Church to take the Whole Gospel to the Whole Nation.

God has led us in New Zealand to a vision for greater cooperation among the denominations to reach our nation. Our Mission Statement is as follows:

Vision New Zealand has a two-fold focus for the Decade of Evangelism:

  1. We will study obstacles posed by our secular society to the advance of the Kingdom of God, and seek ways to overcome these.
  2. We will encourage Christian leaders to strengthen the quality and multiply the number of growing, caring, Christ-centred churches until there are sufficient to affect the spiritual and social climate of New Zealand. The task of evangelizing New Zealand will be attainable when there is at least one such congregation sharing Christ within easy access geographically, culturally, and linguistically of every person, i.e., approximately one for every 500 people. We will encourage every denomination in their commitment to growth, and every specialist ministry to assist denominations and churches in mission. Together we can do it!

Our Convictions

  1. Together we can evangelize New Zealand. Together, we have the resources.
  2. The evangelization of a nation is a Process, not an Event, which must be indigenous to New Zealand, inclusive, affirming all ministries, based on sound missiological principles, and consistent with the DAWN Strategy (conduct research, have leaders agree, set goals, evaluate progress).
  3. Denominations, old and new, hold the key to multiplying congregations and preaching the gospel to every person. If they can catch the vision, they have the resources, the manpower and the money.
  4. Periodic Congresses are needed to bring every agency into a goal-centred process. Our first Congress was held in January 1993. We prepared a special research publication: New Vision New Zealand, which is available at GCOWE. The Congress addressed strategy. We limited the platform to New Zealand speakers, to affirm that God wants us to be responsible for the evangelization of our own nation. Since then evangelicals in the various mainline denominations have started new movements to bring theological renewal, and minor denominations have become more focused on church planting- evangelism. We have a long way to go!

We see, from John 15:1-6, that God is throwing unfruitful vines into the fire, and pruning fruitful vines to make them more fruitful. Our next Congress is in July 1996, to review what God has done, and what we must do next.

Bruce Patrick, New Zealand
Chairman, VISION New Zealand
Senior Pastor, Auckland Baptist Tabernacle