It was with terrible sadness that I learned yesterday of another huge earthquake hitting the New Zealand city of Christchurch. It has only been 2 months since we left that city and we have many dear friends there. The first earthquake last year had no fatalities but this one looks to have many dead and injured.
I want to share a few things about our time in Christchurch that left me quite disturbed and concerned when we left. But I want to be sensitive because of the terrible sadness associated with this new quake.
As some of you know, one of the main things that I hoped to do in Christchurch after the first quake was to organize a large open worship event in the city – to praise and glorify God that nobody had been killed even in a huge 7.1 earthquake. I found that no such event was being planned, but there were thousands of evangelical Christians in Christchurch, and I felt very strongly that it was important for us to publicly glorify God for the miracle of surviving such a disaster with no-one killed. The place was traumatized and it was obvious that a sensitive Worship event would do much good – and even many non-Christians would likely attend. But sadly it was not to be. And this is the disturbing part.
I have organized large events before, so the Christian Radio network knows me – and quickly agreed to promote the event for free. The PA sound people also agreed to supply excellent sound for a very low cost. And the Christchurch City Council couldn't have been more helpful. Everything was looking good. But then we ran up against the Christian leaders.
One of the main "networking" Pentecostal leaders in the city told me that we could count him OUT of any support for the event. Then I spoke personally with the Dean of Christchurch Cathedral who told me that we could NOT use the main Square in Christchurch for a worship event for the whole Body. (Today this man's Cathedral lies in ruins. It had survived the first quake, but it did not survive this new one).
I called a number of prominent pastors and worship bands around Christchurch. I said we had the support of Radio, the Council, the sound and everything. No response. Worship bands not interested.
Pastors not returning calls. (You might think they were busy after the quake – but remember no-one died and Christchurch was up and running pretty fully after only a couple of weeks). I simply couldn't understand it. The evangelicals of Christchurch had made no public acknowledgement of God at all – no public worship for this miraculous escape – no public glorifying of Jesus. Even the secular News and the politicians were calling it a "miracle". People were traumatized everywhere. Wasn't it a "no-brainer" that we should be doing such a thing? Doesn't God deserve public praise after protecting so many people from harm?
In fact, it was such a no-brainer that the secular people themselves decided to do something. A number of the top bands and musicians from New Zealand came down and gave a free concert in the park for the traumatized city. It was heavily advertised on Radio – and
20,000 people showed up. Of course it was a secular event – not Christian. The Pentecostals, Charismatics and Evangelicals of Christchurch had made virtually no public sound at all.
I felt strongly that I could not push things any further without some basic support from the church. We managed to hold a couple of outdoor concerts for the homeless, and got involved with distributing "care packages" and things, but I was so disappointed. In fact I was more than disappointed – I was alarmed and deeply disturbed. I even told some friends that it was "dangerous" to offer no public praise after God has just so obviously saved your city. I felt so strongly about it – and deeply saddened for the state of the Body of Christ.
But I could do nothing more.
On December 17, 2010, my family departed from Christchurch. On December 28th we boarded a plane for Australia. I believe it may be some time before we ever return.
My heart truly goes out to the people of Christchurch – and to all the world so poorly served by the church of our day. This was truly one of the worst "lost opportunities" that I have ever witnessed in all my years with the church. And Christchurch was truly one of the most beautiful cites I have ever seen. The people are so dear to us. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, my friends. May God bless and protect you all in these dark times.
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Yours with great sadness,