ICRC Report #4 – The Reformed Churches of New Zealand.
Over the years, the denomination with which our denomination has had closest ties is easily the Reformed Churches of New Zealand. As we continue this little series of meditations, which are aimed at casting our prayers further abroad, our focus for this week is our beloved brothers & sisters “across the ditch.”
Like our own denomination, the RCNZ began post-WWII as folk from Holland immigrated to New Zealand. Our connection with has been strong! Many of you will have numerous friends in New Zealand. We actually get visitors from the RCNZ reasonably regularly here at Box Hill. There are previous members of Box Hill in New Zealand, and there are some of our folk who have previously lived there. One of our own elders hails from the RCNZ! Our denomination has also “cross-pollinated” in terms of ministers, with teaching-elders going to and fro at relatively regular intervals. We have an obvious interest in the RCNZ, and should be praying for them.
So how is the RCNZ going just now? And how can we best pray for them? The RCNZ as it stands has 21 congregations, 3 church plant projects, 3000 members, and a goodly number of ministerial candidates. The Lord has been good! Similar to our own denomination, the RCNZ is also facing an inter-generational shift within the ranks of its pastors. Many older teaching-elders are reaching retirement age, which is just the same as us. In fact, this will continue to be a point of pressure for both denominations in the near future. In the CRCA, at current rates of retirement and candidate development, it is predicted that we will have 20, perhaps even 30 or more, vacancies in 10 years time. That is a sobering statistic. Certainly, we should be in prayer for both of our denominations in this regard, that the Lord may send workers out into the harvest!
Along these lines, we may give thanks to God for the recent call of the Rev. Reinier Noppers to Bishopdale Reformed Church in Christchurch, and we should also uphold Dovedale Reformed Church, and other vacant congregations in prayer. Dovedale is particularly near to my heart, as I had to decline a call from them to come here and serve at Box Hill. Let us pray that the Lord will hastily provide a pastor for them in their time of need. And let us pray for the rising generation of teaching elders, that they would stand firm upon the heritage that they have been given, and would build upon it as well.
New Zealand is also an obviously difficult society in which to live as a Christian. Australia is becoming more and more difficult, but New Zealand has excelled beyond us in terms of moral corruption. Many of the prayers that we pray in our own context will thus readily apply as we pray for our RCNZ brethren. Let us pray for the increase in God’s Kingdom in New Zealand, which very desperately needs strong churches and a mighty gospel witness.
Another point of prayer for the RCNZ is the ecumenical isolation they will feel. Here in Australia, we have various other reformed and evangelical denominations. We can work with them, particularly the Presbyterians, and have a sense of kinship with them. In New Zealand, faithful evangelical churches are sparse, and the RCNZ carries the reformed flag almost alone. Let us pray for them in this regard, that the reformed faith would flourish, and that the mainline Presbyterian denomination would repent of its liberalism.
Finally, one other bond that binds us together is the Reformed Theological College. I made friends with a number of New Zealand candidates while studying, and there continues to be a point of contact between our denominations through the RTC. Let us continue to uphold the RTC in prayer, and pray that it may continue to be a blessing to both of our denominations.
And so, in the week to come, let us pray…
Giving thanks to God for our long friendship with the RCNZ;
Giving thanks to God for upholding the gospel in New Zealand through the RCNZ;
Giving thanks to God for the healthy number of RCNZ candidates;
Giving thanks to God for the 3 church plant projects that they have, and praying that these plants would become established and grow mightily;
Giving thanks to God for the blessing that Box Hill has received through the RCNZ;
Praying that the Lord would meet the approaching needs of the CRCA and RCNZ for more teaching-elders;
Giving thanks for the call of Reinier Noppers to Bishopdale in New Zealand;
Praying for Dovedale Reformed Church in Christchurch, that the Lord would hastily provide a pastor for them;
Praying that the gospel may greatly prosper in New Zealand as a country, and that the Lord would help our RCNZ brethren in their part of that task; and
Praying for the Reformed Theological College, that it would continue to be and grow as a sound, reformed, gospel-centred college for the training of pastors.