In December my wife and I made a trip to Russell to celebrate my birthday. I must say that in the end being able to leave Auckland after four plus months of lockdown was probably as appealing as the birthday celebration. The Bay of Islands is one of my favourite areas to visit and we have done that many times as it is usually within easy striking distance of Auckland. We typically base ourselves in Paihia, so it was a nice change to be staying in Russell.
I had been to Russell before, but it was good to have a closer look around. Now I am one of those people who likes museums and reads every sign or plaque on a wall which does not always endear me to my wife. I found the history on that side of the harbour fascinating with the churches and Pompallier House.
As I approach this Waitangi Day, 182 years after the signing of Treaty of Waitangi, I think about those pioneer missionaries who travelled halfway around the world in extremely difficult conditions in the name of Jesus. They made a marked impression on their times and were extremely effective in the spread of the Christian Gospel. They worked as teachers, preachers, peacemakers, Bible translators and doctors, being hands and feet for Jesus. The Treaty itself was written in Māori by missionaries.
In 1814 Samuel Marsden arrived on New Zealand shore and preached his first sermon on Christmas Day in the Bay of Islands. By the 1830s a large number of Māori had taken up the Christian faith, such was the effectiveness of the missionaries. In 1837 the New Testament was first published in Māori. An increasing number of Māori were literate due to missionary activity. Literacy was seen as possessing great power amongst Māori. With 60,000 Māori New Testaments in circulation by 1845.
In 1844 the Gospel had been preached in the bottom of the South Island. Now stick with me, I know this is lot of information. My simple maths tells me that it is 30 years from Marsden’s arrival in 1814, to 1844, covering the country with the Gospel. The question that challenged me is how effective are we are today with the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20?
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
I am confronted this Waitangi Day to look at my own activity in my community in making disciples and teaching them to observe all the things Jesus has commanded us. Am I as zealous as my forbears? Do I care enough? The answer could be similar to some of my high school report cards…. “Could do better”. How would you answer those questions?