Ron Brown, along with his wife, Debra, has served for almost three years as a missionary for Foursquare Missions International in New Zealand, and for a year as general supervisor of The Foursquare Church there. This nation of 4.2 million people, renowned for its breathtaking beauty showcased in films such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, is a popular playground for vacationers and those seeking adventure.
It is also a country in spiritual decline, says Ron, a “post-Christian” nation that “proudly claims to be the most secular nation in the world.” The number of those claiming to be Christians has sharply waned in the past 20 years, while other religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, have shown marked increases. Organized atheistic and agnostic movements have also developed strongly.
Foursquare has 12 churches throughout New Zealand, and they are in the beginning stages of launching the Foursquare Bible Institute School of Ministry. Ron and Debra live in Christchurch, the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand and the nation’s second-largest urban area.
How are your efforts in New Zealand focused?
Ron: It is hard to believe, but until seven years ago, there were no Foursquare churches in this country. Prior to deployment three years ago, we felt that our efforts were to be focused in three primary areas.
First, planting churches from a Christchurch base, particularly focusing on the South Island of New Zealand, where there were no Foursquare churches.
Second, launching a Christ-centered recovery program. The abuse of drugs and alcohol is rampant, especially among young people. Although I’m not sure of current statistics, several years ago New Zealand had the highest teen suicide rate of developed countries.
Third, launching a school of ministry for the training and equipping of leadership and pastors. All three of these priorities are currently in process.
What would you like people to know about New Zealand that they may not know?
Ron: New Zealand has proudly declared itself to be the most secular nation in the world. Several years ago, the then-prime minister stated, after neglecting the customary prayer before a state dinner with Queen Elizabeth, that New Zealand is a secular nation and prayer no longer relevant.
Fewer than seven percent of New Zealanders will attend church even once during the course of a year. With many, especially young people, there is a strong rejection of the traditional church. There is a major problem with the abuse of drugs and alcohol, partly as a result of liberal laws and policy. Drinking, and even binge drinking, is a culturally accepted norm.
New Zealand has become a melting pot of cultures in the past 10 years, like never before. A strong influx of immigrants and students from Asian countries, Island nations such as Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, North Africa and the Middle East have brought about strong ethnic diversity, but this has also resulted in a rise of Eastern religions and Islam. The world is coming here … sounds a bit like Acts 2!
Have any teams from the U.S. come to help out?
Ron: We had our first team come in August 2009, from Santa Maria Foursquare Church in Santa Maria, Calif. Under the direction of Pastor Roger Wheeler, they ministered in Christchurch with street outreaches, prayer watches, children’s crusades, teaching an addiction recovery program and conducting services, from one of our churches located in a lower socioeconomic area of the city. They also participated in leadership training workshops in Christchurch and Auckland.
The team was of tremendous assistance, with spiritual fruit continuing for months following their return to the U.S. They were also a huge blessing to Debra and me in terms of encouragement and support.
What is your vision for the future?
Ron: Our vision for the future is for the body of Christ in New Zealand to move as was witnessed in Mark 16:20, with signs, wonders and miracles glorifying and bringing attention to Jesus—and with no man, church or denomination taking any credit for it; for Holy-Spirit-empowered churches with no spectators (see 1 Cor. 12:7); and for leadership who operate with the purpose of training, equipping and facilitating believers to fulfill the ministries to which they are called (see Eph 4:11-16)—not a “pastor-centered” ministry, for lack of a better term; strong discipleship programs need to be functioning.
Our vision also includes a linking of arms with other Bible-believing, gospel-preaching churches, for the purpose of reaching this nation for the kingdom of God; traditional barriers falling; and unified intercessory prayer for communities.
We are also believing for the fulfillment of the prophetic words of Isaiah 24:16: “From the ends of the earth we hear singing: ‘Glory to the Righteous One’ ” (NIV); and for churches of vast ethnic diversity, all worshiping and growing together without regard to race or background.
How to Pray for Ron and Debra:
- Revival in the church, embracing purity and holiness.
- Unity among believers, and the removal of the walls and barriers between churches.
- For an Acts-type move of the Holy Spirit, birthing faith and belief in a nation that desperately needs to hear a message of hope.
- Health and physical covering. In the three years of ministry in New Zealand, the couple has encountered some major physical issues, including an accident that resulted in Ron breaking his collarbone and pelvis.
- Growth in financial resources to further facilitate the expansion of ministry.
- Covering for Ron and Debra’s children and grandchildren back in the U.S., whom they miss very much.
How You Can Bless Ron and Debra:
Our Foursquare missionaries are always encouraged by and grateful for any prayers and correspondence they receive. Whether it’s a gift sent on a holiday, or simply a letter or note of encouragement, you can make a difference by expressing your support in a practical way.
To send correspondence to Ron and Debra, e-mail email@example.com or write to:
Ron and Debra Brown
7 Pandora Street
North New Brighton
Christchurch, New Zealand 8083
Interview conducted by: Bill Shepson, a Foursquare credentialed minister and freelance writer in Los Angeles