On Monday afternoon (25/9) Pastor David had the priviledge of sharing FRONTIER with New Zealand Luthern Pastors as they gathered for their Pastor’s conference in Auckland. It was a wonderful opportunity to share the FRONTIER journey and vision, and to discuss with the New Zealand Pastors a way in which FRONTIER could be a blessing to their ministry and the missional opportunities in New Zealand.
“We really want FRONTIER to be a blessing to the whole church, and that includes New Zealand” Pastor David said to the New Zealand Pastors. “But we are aware that some of the things which make FRONTIER a unique and affordable opportunity within Australia do not carry across the Tasman to New Zealanders, so we’re open to a discussion about how we can work with you and make it possible and affordable for your people.” Under Australian Government regulations, things like AUStudy/Youth Allowance and FEE-Help are not readily available to New Zealanders. While they could gain access, the rules are very tight and limits opportunity. It was also little surprising that the mutual congeniality that once existed between Australia and New Zealand in other ways, such as health care, no longer offer reciprocal opportunities for citizens of our two countries. Finding a way around this problem is something FRONTIER is keen to do.
Some of the possibilities open to New Zealanders who wish to do FRONTIER include using sponsorship money FRONTIER has received from the LCA, working with Melbourne School of Theology and using their fees to offset other costs, New Zealand sponsorship out of their collective funds, congregational sponsorship, or opting to audit the Dip or Grad Dip rather than undertake the full degree program. New Zealand participants, like all FRONTIER participants, can still gain the full benefit of participation without having to do the Dip or Grad Dip. The opportunities for part-time work within the Albury region is also possible, as such work options were already built in as an important aspect of FRONTIER. The key point is that money shouldn’t be a barrier that prevents people realising the possibility that God might be calling them into mission.
During the conversation, the question of contextualising mission and how applicable things learnt in Australia were to New Zealand were also discussed. Embedded in the FRONTIER vision, is the conviction that everything we do in ministry and especially mission has to be contextualised. An approach to mission and church planting in Sydney will be far different from that in Melbourne, Brisbane, or Perth. The key is not to learn a single model or method and generically apply it, but to learn how to have the conversation between theology and practice, in the context of the mission that is happening. FRONTIER is intentional about facilitating these conversations as part of the life-long, community of practice, learning model integral to FRONTIER. This applies not just to cities or regions, but carries across socio-cultural groups.
Also embedded within the FRONTIER approach is the desire to empower the missional conversation with the local church from which participants come. Such an approach not only encourages the local church, drawing them into the missional vision, but it empowers the larger community as different shared stories become part of our missional network. Participants will be in regular communication with their local churches, sharing what they are experiencing and learning, and exploring how these things might apply within their home congregation. During session breaks, participants will go home with the challenge to discuss with their local Pastor and church what it might look like for them to do church planting or mission at home. This important engagement caps off the contextualising of mission to the local church no matter where it may be.
The question of methodology and approaches were also discussed, and the application of these into different contexts. While FRONTIER will work around the missional incarnational approach, a variety of other church planting models will be experienced and explored during the program. The importance of understanding fundamental principles, and developing competence around one method, provides a foundation upon which adaptability and flexibility can be learnt. In mission, such adaptability and flexibility are vital as the context in which church planting and mission practice are quite fluid and prone to cultural shifts. How these would then be employed back in the home church, or within a specific cultural setting like New Zealand remains an open conversation FRONTIER’s methodology enables as the life-long learning kicks in and continues the missional formation of participants beyond the program.
It would be wonderful to see places like New Zealand blessed by participation in FRONTIER. To see churches planted and growing, rather than shrinking and dying, is the sort of energy that creates hope and enthusiasm for the future. St Luke’s and FRONTIER have a heartfelt desire to be the catalyst for such a movement in the church, whether it is in Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland or Wellington. So we look forward to the possibility of New Zealanders participating in FRONTIER and provide future hope and blessingto the church.