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THE EVOLUTION OF THE NEW LIFE CHURCHES
OF NEW ZEALAND FROM SOMEONE WHO WAS AROUND AT THE TIME AND WHY I NEVER JOINED
In 1967 we pioneered a Church on the North Shore in Auckland that for the convenience of advertising and banking etc we called it ‘New life Fellowship’.
I fellowshipped from 1957 with the eventual founders of the movement resisting their efforts to ape the American model, but alas my words fell on deaf ears as it slid into the Denomination that is now known by that name.
Interestingly enough even I write the above movement after a paltry few years is haemorrhaging quite badly. Their flagship jumped camp to follow the drum-beat of a different group. They call it restructuring in business circles. I’ve been around long enough to notice that nothing lasts, not even Wall
Street. Permanence is not a feature of the Kingdoms of men. As natural institutions are failing on a daily basis worldwide so also will all these carnal religious institutions assuredly follow suit. It’s not unlike a game of chess where the Kings with their Queens, their Castles, Knights and Bishops seek to out manoeuvre their (brothers???) opponents in an effort to force the opposing King to surrender and thereby lose the war.
BUY THE TRUTH AND SELL IT NOT
“For all those that want something better than what’s on offer”
When we turn back the clock, many of us can recall days of visitation when the Holy Spirit moved among us in great power. It was a time when you couldn’t stop us from gathering to pray, to fellowship, and study the word. We were aglow with the Spirit and overflowing with love for the Saviour and one another. Sadly what we once experienced seems like a dream now. The memory of those times has never left those who were there to taste and see the goodness of the Lord. Its true there can be no going back, but the desire to recapture the fervency of spirit, and experience once more the power of His Holy presence, burns in many hearts. True hearts will never settle for less than what they have known.
Unfortunately many floundering saints have feelings akin to what those the exiles in Babylon felt as they reflect on happier days when God was in the midst. “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, oh how we wept, when we remembered Zion”. Psalm 137:1.
The curse of sophistication and covetousness, with able assistance from the professionals who occupy the pulpits, seems to have choked the life of the Holy Spirit out of our fellowships, to the point that going to church for many couples degenerated into a distasteful duty, as they go through the motions for the sake of their wives and the children. But I have some good news; there is a rustling in the tops of the mulberry trees.
The burden I felt relating to the subject matter of this booklet weighed heavily on my heart. I didn’t want to alienate people, but then I didn’t want to compromise the content in order to avoid criticism. Truly the fear of man is a snare; and so in order to find the right answer I began to ask myself some soul-searching questions, such as:
Have we been called to defend the Master’s intentions? Do we have to make excuses for the truth because somebody may get offended? As I prayerfully considered these thoughts my course became clear. I would speak the truth in love, and leave the consequences to Him.
God is love. The opposite to love is inertia, power without action, doing and saying nothing, inactivity. I’m doing it because I love God, I love His Son, I love the truth of His word, and I love the brethren, His Church. And because I love I hate. I hate what God hates, and God does
hate some things. I hate the spirit that divides the body of Christ and hinders the free flow of fellowship among His saints. I look forward to the day that His body will come together in tolerance and love, with one desire, which is to acknowledge His Sovereign Lordship over the church, which He purchased with His own blood. It’s with a sense of personal loss that I look back at truths we once held dear that no longer matter to some people that I once served with. It’s not easy to put on paper exactly what one feels after the realization sinks in that truth once held firm has been let go.
As a Catholic my conversion to Christ in a Protestant expression of faith was dramatic to say the least. I am grateful that Catholicism gave me a healthy respect for God that many of my non-Catholic friends never had. When I think of my childhood it evokes happy memories. My father died while I was still a boy of eleven, but my mother was a wonderful woman of great character and strength who made up for that. She counted no sacrifice too great to ensure that her six children had all she could possibly give them by way of a good Catholic education, and a home where they could bring their friends where they would always find a warm welcome. I was 25 years old when the Lord saved me in an evangelistic service in Sydney Australia. I had left New Zealand to go to Australia for a working holiday. I was certainly not looking for religion or anything that resembled it, however as is often the case with many a rebel, God in His gracious love and mercy changed all that and saved me. A young lady friend who attended that same service with me also gave her life to Christ and shortly afterwards she became my wife. A few months after our marriage we left for New Zealand. Over a number of years we were engrossed in a visitation of God in our country that became the envy of many around the world. Right from the time we settled in New Zealand God brought us into fellowship with a small group of believers who were to become like family to us. During those years we enjoyed precious fellowship with the Lord and His people, and were privileged to sit at the feet of some very dedicated, anointed, and Godly men, who taught us the truth without compromise. Our shepherds and teachers had been greatly impacted by the visitation that had broken out in Canada in 1948, which was by then labelled “Latter Rain” and very disparagingly spoken of. That didn’t seem to matter to us as we enjoyed the wonderful anointed teaching of the Word and the challenge to take what we were being taught to our nation and to the ends of the earth.
A brother from our midst began to travel around the country holding tent crusades during the summer months that God blessed in a wonderful way. In time I was given the opportunity to become part of the evangelistic team. Later with another brother we conducted several tent crusades in different country towns. It was a tremendous privilege, and a wonderful experience to feel that you were on the cutting edge of a move of God. People who had attended the tent crusades began to flock to the city that we lived in to attend Bible school during the winter months when the tent meetings were in recess. Whole families came to look for accommodation and employment in order to sit under the sound of the word ministered by Godly men who were moving in “present truth.” Many graduates went out to pioneer and as a result new churches began to spring up around the country; the opposition was often intense, but God’s blessing was undeniable. Other families went as missionaries to different parts of Asia. The move was on as we heard the sound of a rustling in the tops of the Mulberry trees. We were living in visitation, (and never knew it). There was rich teaching on all the restoration truths, such as the laying on of hands, worship, the sacrifice of praise, prophecy, gifts, the bride, the Tabernacle of David, the Feasts of Israel, to mention just a few. A strong emphasis was placed on the autonomy of the local church. The latter was propagated energetically. Each church was distinctly independent. All linked “to” Christ; but only linked to one another “through” Christ. There was no organizational link between the churches. We were committed to this posture on autonomy and guarded it jealously.
The bond that drew the saints together was the networking of the oversight in each local assembly. This was usually made up of a primary feeder that was recognized as such, with others who ably assist him. Their number was determined by the size of the fellowship. This state of affairs worked well for many years when we were in fellowship with the move. Gradually certain brethren came into the circle who felt it was too loose and began to suggest that we would be better served by a central committee to oversee the churches nationally; co-ordinate gatherings on a national level; and assist in setting up a co-operative missionary effort.
Some brethren came among us not because of doctrinal conviction, but because
of interpersonal conflict with former churches they once belonged too.
I am not suggesting that they were all at fault, but I am saying it was not because of any conviction in their hearts of the truths that had been embraced by us during the visitation. I know this because as I look back in hindsight it’s very clear that this was the case. They were in fact bringing into our midst the very things that years earlier we had forsaken. Their sentiments began to be echoed by other brethren in our midst who should have known better. Although it was never said so in as many words the direction in which it was being taken was becoming abundantly clear to some of us. It took several years to evolve, but eventually the fellowships succumbed to accept titles, and other religious trappings and eventually chose themselves a king to rule over them as previous movements before them have done. As often happens when leaders for whatever reason stop leading, a vacuum occurs, and administrators start to fill the void. Administrators are not feeders; but Paper
kings. Slowly but surely they manoeuvre into positions of authority where they can promote sterile programs. Stagnation and crystallization soon takes root and like concrete becomes a permanent fixture.
The jet age had by this time come of age and had been bringing many preachers into the country, in particular Americans. Apart from a few exceptions their influence was negative. The American model of strong pastoral leadership, the division of clergy and laity, their professional approach to ministry soon took hold. Construction of Church buildings for greater permanence became a goal, and gradually took on. It was soon to be followed by Central Government, titles, bible schools; all these became the order of the day. It would become an inevitable slide into apostasy.
Truth was sold for expediency, or ignorantly traded off for carnal reasoning. This certainly is what happened among the fellowships that we had so cherished and dearly loved. It has always been a strong conviction of ours that church life should be based on God’s word and strength, not ours. It’s so easy for us to organize God out of His own church! Our expertise and schemes can mean that God is not needed. When the leaders of fellowships came together in earlier day’s brother’s contribution was important, and no one person owned the floor. If someone had something to share that they felt God had given them, they were free to bring it. There was no order of service, no hidden agenda set up beforehand by clergy who felt they had been appointed by God to speak for all the churches. We did not feel the need to have to import outside voices to tell us what we should be doing. We prayed together, wept together, strengthened one another, and opened our hearts and the doors of our fellowships to each other. Nobody was under any pressure to conform to tenets of a central committee. Each local church was free to follow the dictates of their hearts. Our form of government wasn’t perfect, but neither was it dictatorial. You may say that well we do that now, and this may be true over some issues, but eventually all have to say shibboleth or suffer the inevitable consequences. Administrators gradually get their and put the screws on freedom and liberty.
I am of the same opinion as John Newton when he said, “In essentials I agree with them all, and in circumstantial details I differ no more than they differ among themselves. They all confess that they are fallible, and yet decide with an air of infallibility, and they all in turn expect me to unite with them if I have any regard to the authority and honour of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Head of the church. But the very consideration they propose restrains me from uniting with any of them. This writer has frequently been asked, “Do you intend to join us?” I do not believe that I should honour the headship and kingly office of Christ by acknowledging Him as the Head of a party and subdivision of His people to the exclusion of the rest.
Every party uses fair words proclaiming their liberty and freedom, but when an explanation is made it always amounts to the same thing. They will give liberty to think as they think, and to act as
they act, which to me, who claims the same right of thinking for myself and of acting according to the dictates of my own conscience, is no liberty at all. I stand firm on the convictions I have on my understanding of the word, and conclude that I will hold friendly intercourse with them all, so far as they should providentially come across my path. And I might add so far as they will allow me! But that I would stand fast in the liberty in which Christ has made me free, and bow neither to them or their creed. If others seek to honour Christ by laying great stress on doubtful matters then let them. But I will honour Him by endeavouring to show His kingdom is
not of this world. Nor does it consist in pleading for conformity to tenets and parties, but in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything with God but a new creature, and the faith that works by love.”
How quickly we forget that the just shall live by faith. This is the course that this writer has diligently sought to follow since first coming to Christ. But I find it baffling and even amusing if it were not so sad, that
some who once walked this way have fallen into the same sectarian trap, as
those they once criticized and labelled as Babylonians. And now we find ourselves having to explain why we do not wish to join their sectarian groups no matter how loudly they may boast of their broadmindedness and free spirit. We have found everywhere we have been the ecclesiastical barrier is as impregnable today as it has always been. That no church circle, or company of professing Christians is prepared to really welcome into their midst and extend the right hand of fellowship, (no matter what his reputation and credentials) to
anyone who is unprepared to join and limit to their party and pronounce all
In so far as these matters are concerned “let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” But as far as this writer is concerned he values his Christian liberty far too highly, and considers it sufficient being joined to the Lord as a member of His many membered glorious body. I do not see the need to join anything more than this. Therefore I have no intention of locking myself up in some ecclesiastical prison to become excluded from fellowship with my brothers and sisters scattered throughout the world.
From the newsletter publisher:
This is our last newletter for 2008!
My hope is that those of you that can, have an enriched time with your families
over the coming few weeks and new year. This year is ending on a somewaht
interesting note, particularly with the economic uncertainties at hand. Rest
the Lord is up to something! "The God of Israel never slumbers nor sleeps",
He is at work in the hearts of His people.
"there is a rustling in the tops of the mulberry trees"
In His wonderful name.