Pastor David Dishroon Co-Senior Pastor Changepoint Church,
Tauranga New Zealand
My wife Linda and I have been pastoring here in our beloved city of Tauranga for nearly 30 years. When we started with our church in 1991, our city was half the population we are presently. We were a city of 65,000 people, and had approximatley 70 churches. I heard many say that our city/region had too many churches, to which my reply was “in relationship to the number of Christians in our area, perhaps the answer is “yes”. But if we change the measurement to numbers of churches in relationship to the numbers of people in our city/region that are not yet followers of Christ (80% in 1991) then, we need more churches. Tauranga is now the 5th largest city in NZ with approximately 145,000 people. There are now more than 120 churches, with a number of unknown house churches etc. The estimated number of church attendees once a month, on average, is approximately 20 to 25,000. It may sound impressive, yet measured against the number of people who are not yet followers of Jesus, that number is too low. With the largest churches in our city’s history, and more churches being planted we have not, from my view, gained ground but lost ground in regards to the percentage of followers of Christ in Tauranga Moana.
This leads me to ask some questions the answers to which I personally may not like. Why is it we are losing ground with the highest number of churches, plus the largest, in our city’s history? Why is it we are losing ground in relationship to our population and the number of followers of Christ in our city? My friend Dave Mann, of the Hope Project New Zealand, who lives and ministers from Tauranga has several thoughts on this matter. Many of his questions and answers that he provides in his books, talks, articles, challenge the ‘status quo’ of putting most of, if not all, our eggs in one basket ‘the local church’.
First of all, I believe in the local church and still co-pastor one. I don’t hear the Lord saying stop or get rid of this expression of ‘ekklesia’. However, when you think of the word ekklesia in Matthew 16:18, “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” That word in scope can range from two or three gathered in my name, to the universal worldwide ekklesia.
For me, I struggle to get my head around how to identify with the international and national level of church. I think there are times when God can call for something nationally, and even globally. However, the two expressions of church that I think are most significant today are the local church and the church of that locality (the city, town or region).Each local church has authority to bring a measure of breakthrough in their city or region, yet not be able to move or shift entrenched powers, cultural thoughts, or patterns in a particular region/city/town. A wider ekkklesia is needed to serve the governance of the Lord and take action at a city/regional level.
The Elms | Te Papa Tauranga, one of New Zealand's oldest heritage sites. As a place of early contact between Māori and Pākehā, this historic site remains at the centre of Tauranga’s history and identity today. https://theelms.org.nz/
Our city has a history that to be honest had very good beginnings with the gospel, and missionary involvement with the unsaved, including local Maori. And yet it came apart. Since then division has been at work in our city for 150 or more years. This division pattern has persisted in a number of ways; in church life and now front page news locally and nationally with our city council falling under its influence. To shift these types of entrenched powers, a relational city/regional ekklesia, centered around Christ is needed to release the Lord’s authority into that area.
Another scripture that I wrestle with in connection with ‘ekklesia’ is Ephesians 1:9-10. “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an ‘administration’ suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.” NASB
The word ‘administration’ is the Greek word ‘oikodomia’ which means ‘stewardship over a household.’ God has a plan to pull together ‘all things in Christ’. He has been patiently working on for this for millenia towards a time called ‘the fullness of the times.’ The word ‘oikos’ is a relational term that has a sense of family. The idea in verses 9 and 10 is this; God knowing the beginning to the end, has planned in the last of the last days, a relational administrative construct of people who will come together around a stewardship responsibility that is in line with the Lord’s desire to “sum up all things in Christ in heaven and on earth.” My question is simple; does the local church on its own, have the suffiient ‘oikodomia ‘ to handle this? My conclusion: No it doesn’t. It has a measure. Therefore, we need an approach to church that is both local and city/regional wide so that ‘ekklesia and a olkodomea’ can work with the Holy Spirit in the ‘summing up of all things in Christ.’
To that end I labour and support the efforts of those who are endeavouring to be and do, ‘both/and’ in regards to ‘ekklesia’ and ‘olkodomia’ in my city/region towards this relational construct. To encourage it in Aotearoa New Zealand! One of those ways is through ‘City by City’, where we seek to serve leaders in communities across Aotearoa, to help build the ‘Ekklesia’ in a city/town/region.