The cross-cultural ministry of Mountainside Lutheran Church in Auckland is essentially outreach ministry or evangelism, says Rev Dr William Chang, pastor to the Chinese congregation there.
He says the social landscape of New Zealand, especially in a city like Auckland, is essentially multicultural.
‘Evangelism is often done across cultures’, Pastor William says. ‘Mountainside, like most churches in New Zealand, is becoming more and more multicultural because of Christian migrants and migrants who become Christians joining the church.’
Traditionally a congregation of people of mostly German and other European heritage, Mountainside over the past 30 years has welcomed members from different countries, ethnicities, and cultures and currently has more than
20 nationalities represented among its people.
In April 2019, Mountainside called Pastor William to serve as its cross-cultural ministry pastor to establish a Mandarin-speaking congregation and outreach ministry. Over the past 10 years there has been an influx of Chinese people from the People’s Republic of China (PROC) to Auckland and, most recently, immigrants coming from Hong Kong, mainly due to the escalating political tensions in their homeland.
‘Our Mandarin-speaking congregation started ministry targeting Chinese from the People’s Republic of China and, in the past year, our focus has shifted to immigrants from Hong Kong, who have come in bigger numbers and at a faster pace’, Pastor William says.
‘Our English-language classes have been our main ministry to the Chinese people from the People’s Republic of China, who are mainly elderly parents coming here on the reunion program offered by the New Zealand government.’
Due to the changing migrant mix in the area, Felix Tong, who is an elder at Mountainside and is serving the Chinese congregation, says the church’s leaders also felt compelled to offer care and support to new arrivals and other migrants from Hong Kong.
‘In May 2019, the leadership team of the Chinese congregation felt the need and a sense of burden to reach out to Hong Kong immigrants with the gospel and the opportunity to experience God’s love through our caring service in helping them with their settling in’, Felix says. ‘God led us to a fellow Christian brother, who is the administrator of a Facebook group of more than 3000 Hong Kong migrants already in and coming to New Zealand.’
The Mountainside Chinese congregation leaders organised job-seeking workshops and dinner gatherings, as well as celebrations for Chinese New Year and other festivals, to attract believers and ‘pre-believers’ alike.
‘We challenged our members and some Christian migrants on our network to intentionally reach out to pre-believing migrants with the gospel through friendship evangelism’, Felix says. ‘On the church level, there was a small-group outreach effort in the form of a holistic living workshop – it’s a platform to share in-depth feelings about spiritual needs and friendship-building. We thank God that a couple of our participants have started attending our worship service and actively participating in our programs and activities.
‘Our holistic approach of sharing the gospel in word and deed has been effective in reaching out to the migrants.’