On May 21-25 I had the privilege of teaching the Pastor, Church, and World course to Wesley Seminary’s first Pacific cohort. This cohort consisted of pastors from Australia, America, Fiji, New Zealand and Tonga. This intensive course allowed us plenty of time to dialogue in-depth about the joys and challenges of pastoral ministry to the church for the sake of the world. In addition to teaching our new students, I was invited to preach at two churches in Auckland, New Zealand. Preaching among a diversity of ethnic groups on Pentecost Sunday, the day the Church remembers and celebrates the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to make the gospel intelligible to a diversity of people, was a special treat. I have been reflecting on my experience with ministers in the Pacific since my return. There are several takeaways from the trip that will enhance my ministry and, I pray, your own as well.
• The Pacific Church seeks kingdom-building partnerships. The Christian movement in the Pacific is so small and under-resourced that local churches are willing to come together to build the kingdom of God “on earth as it is in heaven.” All too often, local churches in North America are competing with each other or are too busy doing their own thing to partner with other congregations. I sensed a healthy partnership between pastors and members of different churches in the Pacific that challenges the arrogant rugged individualism infiltrating many North American churches.
• The Pacific Church persists in a post-Christian context. The Pacific Church, particularly in New Zealand and Australia, has been wrestling with the challenges of embodying the Gospel in a Post-Christian context for centuries. As the North American Church seeks to navigate the Post-Christian waves we find ourselves riding over the past few decades, the Pacific Church can be an extremely helpful guide to us.
• The Pacific Church intentionally builds multi-ethnic churches. Many North American Church leaders, including myself, long for more local churches that reflect that multiple ethnic groups represented in their communities. There seems to be more multi-ethnic congregations in New Zealand and Australia than there are per capita in America. One of the ways that East City Wesleyan Church in Auckland, NZ, has built a multi-ethnic church is by building a multi-ethnic pastoral staff consisting of a kiwi, an Asian, a Canadian, and a South African., For many years the North American Church has been resourcing and educating the Pacific Church. Perhaps we need the Pacific Church at least as much as than they need us.
• The Pacific Church leaders are committed. I met leaders in the Pacific Wesleyan movement who were Fijian, Tongan, Kiwi, Aussie, and American, men and women in their twenties and sixties and everything in between. There is a keen sense of urgency that leads these leaders to a deep level of commitment. Some of these ministers have left lucrative and comfortable careers to plant a new church or bring health and vitality to an existing one. As I talked with pastoral leaders about their vision for the local church, I perceived a fire in their belly for lost people and hope in their heart concerning the potential of the local church to redeem and restore the world.
Thank you, my Pacific Church sisters and brothers, for re-igniting my passion for Christ and for ministry in his name through the local church for the sake of the world. Lenny Luchetti