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Network head urges evangelicals out of the corners and into the light

If we learn some of our theology through the songs we sing, then those who gathered at the Matamata Union Parish on January 31st knew ‘Jesus Bids Us Shine’, concludes with the words ‘You in your small corner and I in mine.”

The occasion was the commissioning of Matamata Union Parish minister Rev Nigel Hanscamp as superintendent of the Evangelical Network of the Methodist Church of NZ. Present were Methodist Church leaders, members of the Matamata Parish, and evangelicals from around the country.

In commissioning Nigel, Methodist president Rev Dr Lynne Frith noted that the Network was a gift to the Church. It makes evangelical culture available to the whole church, provides a place of healing and support, and is a space to explore an evangelical style of contemporary worship.

MCNZ vice president David McGeorge, Te Taha Maori Tumuaki Rev Diana Tana, Tauiwi executive officer Rev John Murray and general secretary Rev Jill van de Geer were among those present at the service.

In his reflection Nigel raised the issue of ‘small corner’ thinking. “Do you think Jesus had this in mind?’ Nigel asked, “I in one corner and you in another? Corners are too easily places to hide. The Network’s not a hiding place. It should be known for what it stands for, rather than what it stands against.

With this in mind Nigel challenged evangelicals not to get so caught up in worship that they forget prayer.

He urged them to find better ways to communicate the gospel and encouraged Methodist and Uniting Churches to find ways to be missional congregations that are true to their liturgy and practice and use the gifts of their people. One of the goals of the Network is to continue to reconnect with people in congregations. They are called to be salt and light to one another.

In drawing from the scripture reading (Matthew 5: 13-16) Nigel reminded us that salt is noticed only when it is absent because it is in such close contact with the food. Christianity that stops at the church door is no use to anyone. Salty Christians need to be in close contact with those outside the Church.

The Network sees many opportunities ahead. There is a sense of anticipation as it seeks to engage with the Church and the world rather than retreat to a “small evangelical corner.”

Several speakers thanked Rev Marion Peterson who was superintendent for the past three years. Marion and her husband Brian take up appointments in Tuakau and the new Meadowlands Community Church in East Auckland.