Wednesday, June 12, 2013

MY CHURCH JOURNEY

....with significant signposts along the way

 
Some of you have been reading Simple Church Letters (SCLs) for a longer period of time than others. Some of you know me well, most of you don’t! The appreciative comments I receive from SCLs readers whom I have never met, causes me to marvel at their faith in accepting – for the most part - what I describe. 
 
So, to you who know little about me, let me give you the headlines of my ‘church journey’. I’ll do this by the years of the events that I will describe.
 
1960. Having completed a three year, part-time theology course at the Hamilton (NZ) Bible Training Centre, I was asked by my National Church Council to become the Presiding Elder (read, “non-paid pastor”) of the New Plymouth Apostolic Church.  Miraculously, as a 26 year-old, (and just a four or five-year-old Christian), I survived and so did the church! While here I learned that God could use even a novice like me.
 
1963. Our church leaders directed me, my wife Averil and our children to a small settlement in the Bay of Plenty named, Waitangi. The church here saw itself a small hub with spokes going out to other centres where predominately Maori churches were established. I was given oversight of four churches and while there we planted another. We also had an outreach to a forest area, sharing the Good News with the workers who lived here. These years were a baptism into Maori culture.
 
1965-1991. After pioneering churches in two NZ cities and pastoring in two smaller towns, we were on our way to Indonesia. We were called by an Indonesian church to teach at a Bible School. We lived and served in this nation for nearly three years, celebrating our 60th birthdays, as well as learning a new language, culture, driving experience and how local churches functioned. Sadly, much of what we saw of the Indonesian church scene was traditional, strongly hierarchical and sadder still, many of the traditional aspects of church life and practice were copied from, or taught by Western churches and preachers. This aspect of church life made me long for a more contextualised Indonesian church.
 
1994-2006. These years were spent visiting churches in Asia as well as between 1995-1997 pastoring a community church on the NZ Waiouru Military Base. Again many experiences (another culture) plus a growing dissatisfaction with the ill health of so many Christian churches. We knew there had to be a better way of doing church, but didn’t know what that was.
 
1998-2004. We moved to Waikanae, where we now live. I knew my official pastoring days were over but agreed to be an elder in the local church I was attending. In the year 2004 our local church began a move in a very different direction. The story of this difficult/exciting journey is recorded early in my blog, “How we got Started.” But this article is about my (and my wife’s) journey from more that 40 years a traditional pastor, to a simple/organic church practitioner.
 
2008-2013. Our local church was now well on the Simple/Organic church path and enjoying the ride. For Averil and me it was a dramatic change from solely shouldering the burden of a local church, to sharing the responsibilities with other gifted elders (as seen in the Book of Acts).
 
2008. The year I started writing SCLs. This began with a desire to help folk I knew who were struggling with their church life; who were not rebels, church-hoppers or backsliders but sincere believers who wanted to enrich their faith and keep alive their fires of devotion to Jesus. The Letters go to more than 170 addresses in eight or nine countries and have had a high degree of acceptance and appreciation. I hear at times that they are also “forwarded” by more people to more places than I know. To God be all the glory.
 
Question: Why have I written this part of our story? Answer: To demonstrate that one is never too old to change – you can teach old dogs new tricks! Also that the particular change I have described is not in any way ‘injurious to your (spiritual) health’. In fact our own spiritual health has blossomed, once we had coped with the inevitable pressures that important change brings.
 
The address of the Simple Church blog is: www.simplechurchletters.com   Finding the address can be difficult as there are other simple church sites! The best place to type in the address is the small, top left space on your Google screen.
 
Jack & Averil Guerin
Waikanae
NEW ZEALAND

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