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Missionary Spotlight-Religious patterns in New Zealand

February 2003 | by Wynford A. Davies

Christian life and witness in New Zealand is a very mixed bag. Most of the traditional Protestant churches – Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist – are in a state of decline. The Baptist denomination is the most evangelical of the mainline churches.

The declining churches reflect doctrinal indifference, a strong feminist influence, and differing attitudes towards the ordination of practising homosexuals.

Charismatic influence

The growth of Pentecostal and Charismatic influence has been striking. Pentecostal churches are well established in most parts of country and the major cities have large congregations.

Many have extensive networks of home-group fellowships during the week. They represent a broad spectrum of social and ethnic New Zealand life; Maori and Pacific Island people are prominent among them.

They are experience-orientated, and often lack a sound biblical foundation for their worship.

There is a constant procession of overseas speakers, especially from Australia, the USA, and UK. While much of what they do indicates a shallow, extra-biblical emphasis, genuine conversions are occurring in some Pentecostal churches, and there is some evidence of spiritual growth and zeal for evangelism.

Lacking foundation

‘Charismatic renewal’ has been one of the most influential movements during the past twenty years in the major denominations. All age groups have been affected and many now seeking ministerial training are charismatic in outlook.

The Charismatic movement lacks a solid theological base for its experiential emphasis, and tends to dismiss past revivals and patterns of worship.

Few folk have any knowledge of, or interest in, the rich tradition of hymnology represented by people like Watts, Wesley, Newton and Toplady, whose knowledge of Scripture was so full and whose experience of God was so deep.

There is also a failure to recognise the difference between revival and renewal. There remains, therefore, a great need for heaven-sent revival.

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