Since 1840 when New Zealand became a British Colony and embraced British law and customs, New Zealand has had an open door for the preaching of the gospel and this liberty still continues to our day.
The Lord in His commission to His disciples said, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel.” In Acts 1 He identified the expanse of this commission as beginning at Jerusalem, to all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. I think the term “uttermost part of the earth” aptly describes New Zealand. It is situated in the south Pacific and its nearest neighbor, Australia, is 1600 kms (1000 mi) away or a 4 hour flight by plane. Our grandparents had to spend 5 months in a sailing boat to reach the antipodes; today London is 27 hours by plane. It is a testimony to God’s amazing grace that the pioneers brought with them the gospel to New Zealand and that many others had to travel such a long distance to hear the gospel and find Christ as their Savior. Truly it is a land of many testimonies to God’s saving grace and of the simplicity and godly sincerity of faith in Christ.
The country is long and narrow, made up of two main islands stretching 1500 kms from north to south, and possessing much beautiful natural scenery. It has a population of 4 million people: made up of something like 75% Europeans, 15% indigenous Maoris, and 10% non-European migrants. It is noticeable that new immigrants from non-European countries are more receptive to the gospel. It would have to be said that, generally speaking, the people are materialistic, sports-loving, and indifferent to the gospel.
Assemblies were planted very early in this country so that at the end of the 1800s and early 1900, New Zealand was blessed with many faithful gospel preachers, some of whom were unique men of God and greatly used by God in the salvation of souls. They relied not so much on series of gospel meetings but on personal visiting. There are many records of these brethren going to a new district, having some cottage meetings, and after two or three months and some baptisms, planting an assembly with 15 or more newly-saved souls. Few towns would have been without a Gospel Hall or a company meeting in a home. Also many of the well-known preachers of that era visited New Zealand. There were men like James Campbell, whose Bible bag bore the words, “Is your soul saved?” He trod the clay roads with mud up to his knees to reach the people for Christ. Our days are different, but we still have to give testimony to the gospel.
The last 50 years have seen a great decline in church attendance in general and a more careless indifference to the things of God so that men are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. Also assemblies have not fared too well; many have gotten smaller and many have closed down. There is a move to abandon assembly testimony as it once was. Many small regional testimonies have closed in favor of mega-churches. These are considered to be more neighbor-friendly so that those whom they call “unchurched people” (unsaved) can comfortably join in with their form of contemporary worship. Needless to say the gospel has suffered so that a clear testimony to man’s lost condition as a sinner and his great need of salvation through personal faith in Christ alone has lost its edge and force in many places.
While there are changing conditions in the world with abounding lawlessness and ungodliness in general and much worldliness among Christians (New Zealand is no exception in this respect), thankfully there is liberty to sow the good seed and many day-schools are open for Christians to conduct “Bible in Schools” with the children. On a more local basis, regular Sunday activities include Sunday Schools, Sunday evening gospel meetings in the hall preceded by an open-air meeting, with preaching and tract distribution in the city center. At times, we have distributed Seed Sowers texts in the city and surrounding districts and also have held special nightly gospel meetings. While these and other activities see some limited interest, anything of a sustained interest is rare; personal witnessing is still invaluable in the work of the gospel.
The Lord Jesus said, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35). It would be easy to close our eyes and say “there are yet four months, then cometh the harvest.” Yes, we could say there is too much indifference, the people don’t want the gospel, the laborers are few, we have no preachers, (I know of no evangelist in this country having regular series of gospel meetings); but no, the Lord said to look on the fields, look earnestly now; we must keep the light of testimony burning. The seed in the parables of Matthew 13, is called “good seed.” It is a good message and the good gospel needs to be preached; it is “glad tidings” to lost and needy mankind.
In summary, New Zealand, like so many other countries, is wide open to the gospel. The need is great. There is much work to be done, and we pray the Lord of the Harvest that He will thrust forth laborers into His harvest.