The Church Scattered

Carey alumnus Mike Warring has a passion for the church and mission here in Aotearoa. But it’s not through the gathered ‘attractional model’ of a Sunday worship service, where for many the focus has been in recent years. Rather, it’s through churches as they are scattered throughout suburbs, regions, marae, and online. “Wherever people meet during the week,” says Mike, “that’s what we should be exploring.” Imagine, he says, what church would look like if we equipped people to do their own spiritual development in families, in households, in smaller pockets of the faith community as they come together – doing life together, doing discipleship together, and then doing mission together.

The question is how do we do this well? How can we resource the people in our churches to live out their faith each week as followers of Jesus in a way that is contagious and engaging? COVID has provided a really interesting opportunity for us to think differently. Everything we’ve held as “normal” in terms of our gathered Sunday worship was thrown up in the air when for weeks and weeks we had to go online. What we found is when we stopped meeting together for six weeks the church didn’t fall apart. We’re still here as a community; we’re still able to function, albeit differently. What would it mean for us to do church differently going forward?

It’s big questions like these, with inspirational and transformational new models of leadership and church, that has drawn Mike to his newly appointed role of Regional Leader for the Baptist churches in the Wellington region. Mike is excited. The new role “is really different” he says. “I’m appreciating the opportunity to engage with church leaders, offering support, listening, and helping with resources. I’m really excited about what’s happening with the denomination, where Charles Hewlett (Baptist National Leader) is leading, and how we’re focusing on strengthening our regions. For us to be effective we need to be exploring different forms of mission and different ways of doing church.”

Mike’s held down a few positions over the years. He’s driven buses, managed restaurants, worked in wine stores, and driven concrete trucks to fund his training as a youth worker, before working full-time as Youth Pastor at Otamoetai Baptist Church. It was a conversation in 2005 with the then Principal of Carey, Paul Windsor, that sparked Mike to consider full-time training in Pastoral Leadership at Carey. “Paul had found that in his time those youth pastors who had not done theological study soon find their options close in as they get older.”

Although he never had any ambitions to become a senior pastor, Mike found himself in the Senior Pastor role at Northpoint Baptist Church in New Plymouth, a position he held for ten years. “I loved it,” he says. “God really led us down that track and told us that’s where we were supposed to be. I saw the main purpose to provide a church environment where young people and children were celebrated and resourced and mission was taking place. I really believe that’s the primary purpose of the local church: we’re the vehicle God has given to see mission take place in the world.”

Mike’s training at Carey has had a massive impact on his various ministry and leadership roles. When you’re preaching regularly and providing spiritual direction to people, he says, the training at Carey is so valuable. “The major thing I’ve found is the reflection on leadership. Asking the questions like ‘What does it mean to be a Christian and spiritual leader?’ ‘What does it mean to empower others?’ It was therapeutic. I came out with a much clearer picture of where I was going, what I valued, and what I saw in terms of leadership and ministry.”

Going forward he sees lots of potential. I think Carey has the opportunity of equipping, encouraging and resourcing the people in our churches for discipleship and mission. Mike’s favourite passage of scripture is Luke 4:18–19: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”

Jesus has called us to participate in this ministry of his, not just as the church when we’re gathered together, but when we’re scattered each week through our communities. Mike says, “I’m really excited to see what will happen as the church finds new ways to engage in this kind of gospel transformation.”