by Craig Heidenreich
I feel blessed to join the LCA/NZ team in Cross-Cultural Ministry and would like to share my heart with you. During these early months in the position, two passages of Scripture have come alive for me.
The first is Numbers 13. Remember those 12 spies who go into the Promised Land and come back with a mixed report?
In verse 30, Caleb counters the doubt with this stirring statement of faith: ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’ I can imagine Caleb shouting this out to the people who were listening. He and Joshua saw the reality of the promise, but the other spies saw only problems.
What does the ‘Promised Land’ mean for us? Is it our future heavenly home, or is it right here?
Jesus has been given all authority from his Father and he is establishing the kingdom of God among the nations. He has given his church the gift of the Holy Spirit and calls us to participate with him. Let’s say with Caleb ‘we can certainly do it’!
The other passage that has resonated strongly with me is John 21:1–11. The resurrected Jesus appears to some of the disciples while they are trying to fish without success, telling them to cast again on the other side of the boat (v6). The net ends up ‘full of fish’ (CEV).
As I reflect on this, I remember that when we fish for souls, it’s a corporate endeavour. We are net fishermen and our net is made up of all the threads of our loving relationships and our interdependence in the body of Christ. We work hard to mend the holes by guarding our relationships (John 13:35) and, by God’s grace, our net of love effectively ’catches’ those whom the Lord gives us.
I am also aware of the times when we cast a perfectly good net and catch nothing all night.
Can you hear what I’m hearing? Is our Lord saying, ‘Cast your net on the other side of the boat and you will find some’? Is this the time to try something new and fill our nets to bursting point?
I note in John 21:11 the statement: ‘Even with so many [fish], the net was not torn’ (NIV). I believe we are about to take in a big catch as we reach out in love to people of other cultures. This might strain our capacity to stay united, but our relationships will not be torn.
Our net is made up of all of us, with our different gifts and callings. Men, women, young and old, pastors, lay leaders and the rest of the body – introverts and extroverts, we are all needed to take in a catch.
And I’d like to exhort some of the threads to play your part.
You are key leaders and key threads in our net – strengthening the strands around you.
Will you take up the slack again and cast into unknown territory? Will you risk the challenge of ‘cleaning’ all those extra fish? It might get messy.
Will you help us keep our eyes on Jesus and urge us to ‘have a go’ – even if we almost tip the boat over in our enthusiasm?
Will you remember how good it is to tailor your message for new converts? Will you preach and remind us that it’s always been God’s plan that Jesus receives his bride from every tribe and tongue and that we have the joy of being part of this great ingathering?
Thank you, dear ones, for staying the course when others have left or gone to glory. We need you in our net. We need your wisdom and your endurance.
Perhaps your bodies are tired, but please pray. Pray for soft hearts inside and outside the church and, ‘Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’ (Luke 10:2b).
Even if you have ‘fished all night’ would you help us cast again? Would you be willing to be an honorary grandparent to a migrant family? You might feel like your race is nearly done, but maybe there’s a final lap to go.
I can hear you say – or at least think – that Australia and New Zealand are being overrun by strangers.
You may have had thoughts like:
‘I have to work with people I can barely understand.’
‘I wish those Muslim women wouldn’t wear headscarves.’
‘Those African young fellas look a bit menacing.’
‘Gee those census figures are a worry and I wish the “Christian” numbers would stop dropping.’
‘Maybe we can fix it if we vote in a Christian government?’
I’ve had all these thoughts and more!
Aussies and Kiwis, we need you in our net!
Would you lean into our Lord again and catch a glimpse of what is meant by John 3:16: ‘For God so loved the world’?
Can you give up some of the comfort of living among familiar people, imagining that, just maybe, our Lord has brought some of his special ones from other countries to live among us?
When we start to connect with these strangers, would you give your best to help them understand what makes Australia and New Zealand so good?
Pray for the Muslim woman when you see her at the bus stop wearing a headscarf. She may be lonely and a smile might go further than you think.
And those African lads – they’re probably just a group of friends (who stand out a bit). A fair percentage of their parents are probably Christians who are praying hard for their kids. Perhaps you can get through to one of them – while someone else reaches out to your kid.
Let’s feel the wind of the Spirit in our hair while we grasp the net again and say with Caleb, ‘We can certainly do it’.
We want to hear from you if any of this resonates. Our LCA/NZ Cross-Cultural Ministry team is small in number, but we would love to do the journey with you and hear what you are doing. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and make yourself known – we are looking for champions.
Craig Heidenreich is the LCA/NZ’s Cross-Cultural Ministry Facilitator.