The President of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand is formally an Officer of the Baptist Union and takes on the voluntary role for a year. Susan Osborne was elected in November 2023 and is a member of Trinity Baptist Church, Titahi Bay, Wellington. For more information about the President, click here.

New Zealand is a beautiful country, and I am privileged to be able to see much of it as I travel around it this year: From the stunning coastlines to the majestic Mount Taranaki to the sunny Bay of Plenty with its flourishing gardens and amazing walkways. We are blessed to be living here.

I was reminded that this has not always been the case. I was talking to a pastor who was expressing relief at not being confronted by the poor each day as he had been in his previous job. And I knew what he was talking about. As I walked around the streets of Kolkata and Dhaka when we lived there, I was confronted daily with so much need. And how was I to respond? And why did I have to live in this dirty, smelly, noisy environment with so much poverty? Of course, the answer soon came back that this was where God had invited me to live.

As I met the pastors in the Taranaki region, I was reminded of the very different contexts of ministry that God calls us to. It’s too easy to compare our “success” with the church down the road or across town. But that’s not very helpful. God has planted us in a community where He is working, and our job is to identify those areas and join in with God. John has reminded me of this lately with a quote from ‘Beyond Duty: A Passion for Christ, a Heart for Mission’ by Tim Dearborn,

“God’s church falters from exhaustion because Christians erroneously think that God has given them a mission to perform in the world. Rather, the God of mission has given his church to the world. It is not the church of God that has a mission in the world, but the God of mission who has a church in the world. The church’s involvement in mission is its privileged participation in the actions of the triune.” 

Dr. Chris Wright and Lesslie Newbigin express similar ideas. When I first read Newbigin’s book, ‘The Open Secret’, I remember feeling relieved that it’s not up to me to save the world; God has things in hand.

After my trip to Taranaki, I had almost two weeks at home in Wellington and then a quick trip to Auckland for Assembly Council meetings, where there were some challenging issues to discuss. Again, I was impressed with the diversity and expertise within the council. Back in Wellington, I had a much lighter load of meetings, including meeting with my supervisor, which was a very valuable time. It was great to meet so many of the Wellington pastors when Charles Hewlett came to town. We Baptists like a free lunch!

Then, it was off to Tauranga, meeting with the pastor at Taupō en route. I was in the Bay of Plenty area for ten days before going to Auckland for the 1970s Baptist Theological College (now Carey Baptist College) reunion. It will be great to meet with so many friends and colleagues from this time. John and I are facilitating a seminar on “How your understanding/experience of God has changed over the years. Has it broadened, narrowed, changed or been constant?” What a challenging discussion topic! And how to stop so many retired pastors from talking too much!

That is a significant question to ask yourself regularly. What am I learning about God in my present context? Is my understanding of God being challenged? In what ways? In his book, ‘God is not a Christian’, Desmond Tutu encourages us to ask similar questions: Is our view of God too small? Have we made God in our own image?

I pray that we will all ask these questions with honesty and openness, prepared to hear from God His answers.

Photo: Supplied by Susan Osborne

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