An interview with
Your principal often talks about Carey “loving the church”. What does he mean by this?
We cannot love Christ without also loving his body. Loving the church means not only loving the concept of the church in general, but also these peculiar people in this particular congregation. In order to love the people of God we must learn to love these people of God. Our love for the church stems from our love of Jesus Christ who creates and sustains the church by the Spirit’s power to be the community of the gospel.
What is the purpose of the church?
The church’s purpose is to love and glorify God and give witness to God’s intention for the world. The church exists because God restores creatures to fellowship with himself through his Son and by his Spirit. The church is the human community that is created, redeemed, and upheld by God’s sheer grace to create a people for his glory. This glory comes not from the church itself, but from Jesus Christ who is the head of the church and presents perfected humanity to the Father in himself. Jesus’ own humanity was perfected through his obedience to the Father by the Spirit, and it is the Spirit who perfects the church to be the foretaste of God’s promised end for all things – deep and lasting relationship with God, one another, and all else. Whilst flawed and always in need of reform and renewal, the purpose of the church is to love and glorify God and give witness to God’s promised end for all things in Christ by the Spirit.
Are Carey students connected with the local church during their study?
At Carey, students are mainly those who are engaged in some form of ministry or mission leadership or those who are training towards it. This, along with the staff’s ongoing engagement in ministry and mission, helps us to explore the questions that the church is asking instead of answering the questions that no one is asking. We are passionate to resource the church to be God’s redemptive community of the gospel in our time.
Academics are often criticised for being disconnected from the cutting edge of church ministry and mission. Would this be true of the Carey staff?
There is often the assumption that academics sit in their ivory towers answering questions that no one is asking or care about. This is not the case at Carey. At Carey, our academics are deeply involved in the ministry and mission of their local churches. Many of our teaching staff serve as elders in their local church, or children’s ministry, or church replanting, or Deaf ministry, and many others share their teaching work with pastoral leadership. This engagement in ministry and mission shapes our understanding of the church and the questions we ask about theology as we grow through, and respond to, what God is doing in and through the local church.
What would be one thing that you wish the church in New Zealand appreciated more about themselves?
I wish the church in New Zealand had a greater appreciation of the gospel as good news not only to wider society but also the church. The gospel precedes the church, calls it into being and sustains it in its life. The church is not a collection of people with a shared interest in spirituality or human projects; the church is a creature of the gospel who is entirely dependent on the gospel for its ongoing life. The sum and substance of the gospel is Jesus Christ, and the church is his community by the Spirit. This means that the church does not have to try to orchestrate its own statistical salvation by a sentence of hard labour, we are simply called to walk in the ways of Jesus Christ and trust him to raise up the body of Christ by the Spirit’s power.