Evangelizing in Schools: Getting ‘Em While They’re Young

 

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ARISE Church is deeply committed to expanding itself, both in the number of nationwide campuses as well as number of congregants, in their continuation of an ambitious project of saving millions of lost Kiwi souls.Lead pastor of ARISE Church, John Cameron, outlined in a sermon his vision for how they will accomplish this goal.

“We’re believing in these days that we’re gonna build a church of influence not just for a city but for a nation. We’re believing that through changes in technology and strategy that we can now network together a company of believers from the top of New Zealand to the bottom of the South and see this company of believers empowered. Not an up/down model of church but a groundswell model of church that propels life groups to be in every location, everywhere in New Zealand, not bound by geography, not bound by buildings, not limited by any means, but able just to touch people wherever they are. We wanna build the church that puts resources in the hands of believers, that empowers the harvest, that says we can reach that school, we can reach that uni, we can reach that workplace, we can reach that town for Jesus Christ. That’s the kind of church that we’re committed to building. We’re committed to building a church that in every city where there is an ARISE campus, that ARISE campus is large and prominent, and cannot be hidden. We wanna build a church that is so portable that it’s accessible to the smallest of towns in the most remote of locations. It has access to prison’s, retirement homes. It can access people no matter where they are, and we can build a church that through God’s people in a spirit of unity might actually have a shot at changing a nation for Jesus Christ“.

John Cameron has also fervently stated that, 

“ARISE is wholly driven by a belief that we can see New Zealand won for Christ. Our whole passion, our whole passion is to see the church centre stage in New Zealand, to see it again something that people know about, to see the truth of Jesus again proclaimed in a new generation, to see a new generation of New Zealanders living with God’s promise alive in their heart”.

The phrase “a new generation” entails young kiwis, and it follows that if one was to attempt to accomplish this lofty task, one would have to profoundly influence the smartphone clutching kiwi youth on an unprecedented mass scale. A realization of the current social climate and the extreme improbability of a renaissance of religious fervor is apparently absent. Undeterred by certain failure to convert the population of New Zealand to a Creationist, Second Coming awaiting flavour of Christianity, ARISE buries any doubt about the plausibility of their task and plows on with their agenda of evangelism which they have set before themselves. The method that ARISE employs for evangelizing to young people is to target schools, both primary and secondary, as well as universities. As John Cameron stated in an interview with fellow pastor Phil Pringle,

“Outreach to universities is probably the number one trait of our church, and then outreaching to high schools is something that we obviously are very involved with as well”.

In 2012, ARISE started to become engaged with providers of public primary school Christian values classes (also called Bible in Schools or Religious Instruction).

“People might be here this morning, perhaps in Kapiti, maybe here in Wellington, and you’re literally saying to yourself, “I don’t know how I can do that. I mean I would love to be a fisherman on the shores but literally don’t know a single non-Christian”. I mean, maybe you are here like that, or maybe you’re feeling like there’s something more that I need to do. Well you know what, it’s possible through every sporting fixture, every time you go to the gym, every interaction you have. But you know what, there’s also things like Bible in Schools. You know as a church this is for us, I feel, a new season that we’re entering in to, is to make that, you know, Bible in Schools teachers are getting older, while our church is getting younger, and I feel like God’s saying, “Hey church, how about you don’t just look at that, how about you do something about that”. So we’ve been talking to the people who run Bible in Schools across the country, and saying what if we just decided to encourage our congregation to engage in Bible in Schools because, you know, we don’t want the next generation of New Zealanders coming up without knowing that Jesus died for them, that the Bible is the word of God. It’s a huge opportunity. Um, Ivan will be out in the foyer, there’s a big stand out there, isn’t it? You can sign up today if you’d like to. Kapiti, I’m sure you can sign up as well. It’s half an hour a week. You’re just teaching Christian values, the word of God, literally the Gospel, to students. It’s a massive opportunity. And I for one don’t want to see another Dominion Post front cover with a kid in a Catholic School uniform in a Zen meditation posture. We’re going to do something to see a new generation of New Zealanders know that Jesus loves them. C’mon somebody”.

They organized some church volunteers to devote time and effort to taking these classes in a number of schools which conduct these classes. Pastor John estimates that they currently reach six-hundred children per week

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“We’re teaching Bible in Schools to six hundred children a week”

In addition to Bible in Schools, ARISE tours primary schools with a fun, engaging Christmas production called the Champions Christmas Roadshow. The goal of the show is to deliver a fun Christian spin on why we celebrate Christmas. Here is what production members had to say about the roadshow.

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The evangelizing nature of the Champions Christmas Roadshow was highlighted when pastor Gillian Cameron declared it’s success in bringing the Gospel to a large number of children

Church! Our church has been busy doing so many great things. We’re giving God praise that we’ve been in schools sharing the Gospel message to over four thousand children in Wellington alone…the Gospel has been going out.

To evangelize to high school students, ARISE adopts a more stealthy approach. In August 2016, ARISE teamed up with US motivational speaker Reggie Dabbs and went on a tour around high schools in Hamilton, Wellington, and Christchurch. The content of the talks which Reggie gave aimed to provide inspiration and hope in the face of adverse circumstances, and addressed topics such as respect for self and others, anti-bullying and others. However, talk attendees were plied with flyers advertising a youth rally later in the week. The prospect of free stuff provided additional enticements for any indecisive youngsters.

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The school talks and giveaways were a ruse so that there would be a larger audience of captive minds present at the rally, which was really an evangelism event primarily designed to get kids to “give their lives to Jesus”. From the perspective of ARISE, positive mindset changes youths may have gained earlier were lost in the metric of how many of them at the rally came forward and gave their lives to Christ. As pastor Ben Caroll said when addressing the ARISE church congregation on the Sunday after the Wellington rally,

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“Hey, do you want to hear some great things that have been happening in the life of the church. On Friday night we had a youth rally with Reggie Dabbs right here in Wellington Central at the Opera House and there were 735 young people that came along, but the amazing thing is that on Friday night 123 people made a decision to follow Jesus Christ. Isn’t that amazing. This week we’ve been in twenty three schools, and a massive shout out to all of our youth team who have done an incredible job in the schools reaching out to high school students, it’s been brilliant”.

To underscore ARISE Church’s commitment to church-building, evangelism, and their desire to influence a multitude of young people, the following are quotes of lead pastor John Cameron taken from some of his sermons. 

“We’re gonna be committed more than ever to reaching teenagers in high school, university campuses, people in work places. Yeah, we’re gonna have a sweaty, smelly, young, loud church and that’s the one you’re gonna be part of, but we’re gonna keep our edge and win lost people for Jesus Christ”.

“See, what makes church exciting is mission. See, Elevate, Elevate exists so that we can win high schools for Jesus Christ. Some Elevaters shout, “Yeah boy!” HUGE! Exists so that we can win university campuses for Jesus, someone shout, “Yeah boy!” But listen, it’s about every age and stage. You know God’s given to our church huge open doorways to teach Bible in Schools. It’s literally in our New Zealand law that churches and people of religion have to be allowed in to schools for thirty minutes every week to talk about religious things. Well I reckon that what they need to see is not just a grandma whose sixty five-although God bless her, I’m not speaking against her- but they need to see someone in their thirties, someone in their twenties, someone in their early forties, whose part of a vibrant and alive church who actually loves Jesus, got some energy, saying to a whole new generation of New Zealanders, “My Jesus is alive, he loves people”. C’mon, somebody needs to be salt and light. We’re on a mission! C’mon. Children’s about mission. Young Inc. C’mon if you’re over twenty five, you’re in Young Inc, you’ve got a salary, somebody shout amen. Enjoy it, enjoy it, and save. But anyway, you’ll never have more money than you do right now, I’m telling you. But, you know, if you’re part of Young Inc., it’s not just a kinda we’re gonna sit round drink cappuccinos, it’s not about that. It’s about the fact that this city has more young worker, people between the ages of twenty-five and thirty, eighteen to thirty, more people in that age bracket than any other city in our nation by an over ten per-cent. This is the young worker capital of New Zealand. And so we have Young Inc. because it exists to win your workplace to Jesus Christ. C’mon, because people move to Wellington, are looking for hope, looking for life, looking for friends, and we exist to win a workplace. Young family life groups. It’s about the fact that you go from someone whose got a whole day to hang out, to basically ninety minute sound bites in between feeds, nappy changes and sleeps. C’mon, if you’ve got young kids you know what I’m talking about. And it can be a lonely stage. So what better than a young family groups filled with people who are great parents, or trying to be, you know, and are also just loving and kind and know Jesus. C’mon we got adult life groups so that we can win communities to Jesus. Young family life groups so we can win young families to Jesus. Young Inc. life groups so that we can win our workplace to Jesus. Young adults ministries so that we can win university campuses, we can win high schools, we can win our world, we’re on a mission from God”.kid-being-prayed-over

“Our hope is that New Zealand will be won, that our families will be impacted, that we will win back a lost generation to Jesus, that teenagers will sweep in to the church, that the church will not become an old accompany of believers, but like our church, the church of New Zealand will be populated with a new generation. C’mon, give the Lord some praise in every campus. That the church will rise as a people of answers to the challenges of Aotearoa, that we will, we will see God’s plan advance. That’s our hope”.

“I believe that this is a season where God’s saying over many people in our Church, “Get you provisions ready.” That he wants you to have more influence in your high school teenagers than you’ve ever had before”.

“…but then I began to realise that there was a greater purpose for my life, began to take these thoughts and channel them towards God, spend time in prayer, spend time memorizing his word. Something came alive in my life and man, then I began to realise that I was on this planet for more than curtains and carpet. I was on this planet to do something for Jesus. Man, I’d pray, and I’d see stadiums filled with people, I saw high schools being won to Jesus, saw shopping malls, saw revival, saw New Zealand covered in fire, knew that God was gonna do something great with my life”.

“You start thinking, “Man, man, if Esther, if Esther can rise to be a queen of her generation then so can I impact this nation for God”. You start saying, “Hang on a minute. I’m not a worthless nobody. I’m not left out. You can throw what you want at me but God put me here for a reason. And you know what? I’m not a nobody, I can change the nation, I can impact a school, I can affect a generation”.13731461_983329691764510_7986356824866170921_n

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“I believe that we can see God do something great in every university, every high school, every workplace, every family, every suburb, every town. I believe that God is on the move in Wellington in New Zealand and if you believe it, give him a loud praise in this room”.

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“I mean, man, we’re believing that New Zealand teenagers are going to connect with God. We’re believing that Whangarei is going to see its teenagers not just partying on a Friday night but worshiping Jesus on a Friday night, on a Sunday that they are going to be in Church. We’re believing for hope and promise for young…Whangarei young people”.

In the vision that ARISE church has for the future, young people play a very central and prominent role. ARISE Church deliberately targets young Kiwis and exploits their innocence and credulity.They deliberately prey upon young people’s innate desire for community and fellowship as well as their internal questioning about purpose and existence. The end goal is to foist upon their impressionable minds a sinister biblical message of sin and hell and redemption under the guise of truth and to inculcate in them ultra-spiritualist behaviour. This is tantamount to intellectual and psychological abuse. Their Sunday church services employ emotional manipulation via both the worship music and the sermons and these can have a powerful effect on young unguarded minds which haven’t cultivated the ability to question and be skeptical. ARISE church is a dangerous threat because they offer false hope to vulnerable persons as well as presenting a false picture of the world scientifically. If you are engaged by ARISE for whatever reason, proceed with caution and do your research first.

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10 thoughts on “Evangelizing in Schools: Getting ‘Em While They’re Young

  1. We have similar problems in the UK. UK schools should be inclusive and open to all
    If the UK is to be a truly democratic society then the Government must be open to changing its views on particular issues when it is clear that its current policies are against the wishes of the majority of its citizens are increasingly a non-religious society as is shown by poll after poll, and the favoured approach is a secular one in which the Government upholds the right to worship but gives no special favours to religious bodies in general and the Church of England in particular. Unfortunately we are a long way from that position and Churches enjoy a range of privileges from automatic inclusion in the legislature and the, not unconnected, exemption of Churches from laws that apply to everyone else.
    However it is education in which a lack of secularism impinges most on the lives of British citizens. Schools with a religious character, or ‘faith schools’ as they are commonly known, account for around a third of our publicly funded schools. This seriously limits choice for parents who do not share the faith of the local school and do not want a religious education for their children. The National Secular Society has been campaigning for many years against faith schools which are a major divisive element in our society at a time when more than ever polices should be directed towards cohesiveness .
    Totally ignoring this need and in the face of public opinion, it is extraordinary that our Prime Minister, a devout Christian, has chosen to put her own opinions ahead of those of the public at large by announcing the establishment of another hundred faith schools and changing the entry criteria to allow these state funded schools to take in only pupils of their favoured faith. This is a retrograde step of the first order.
    By all means let us have variety in school provision but whatever their source or specialisation they should be inclusive and open to all.

  2. Earlier this year I was invited to an Arise service by a friend who I had met at university. Initially I was open to the idea of attending an church service, having never been to one before as I come from a secular family. However, I later changed my mind and politely declined as I reconsidered what it would mean to myself and my true beliefs. I felt that it would be wrong to be standing in a church, simply for the purpose of ‘trying it out’.
    Looking back, I can see that my invitation to the Arise service was stealth evangelism – which was discussed in one of the articles on this website. In reflection, it is easy to see now how people can be lured in. Especially if it comes from those who you consider close and at similar stages of life to yourself. I wouldn’t have considered my friend to be the type of person to practise stealth evangelism but I guess that for some, they may not even consider or realise that they are doing it. The influence of Arise Church goes a long way as I have come to realise.
    Thank you for highlighting and writing in depth about some of the messages Arise sends out to their church members. I look forward to reading more.

    1. Hi Gabriela,

      I commend you on your resolve to maintain the integrity of your beliefs and not relenting by attending a church service just to appease your friend. I think that even if you attend a service out of good will to your friend, you can’t escape the feeling of hypocrisy that exists due to the misalignment that occurs between what’s being said in church and what you already hold to be true.

      I hope this event hasn’t estranged you from friend. I think it’s important to maintain an open, friendly dialogue with friends who are also people of faith and have a mutual respect for each others beliefs. Ask your friend how she arrived at her belief in the truth of Christianity. A favourite question that I like to ask is, “Is faith a reliable method by which one comes to know something to be true?”. If your friend answers in the affirmative then follow up with, “Then that would mean that people of different religious beliefs have just as legitimate claim to the truth of their beliefs as you do because they arrived there the same way you did, by faith.” Getting people to question is a great way to plant a seed of skepticism and doubt which can often create a snowball effect of further questioning.

      ARISE Church strongly advocates to their members for them to invite their friends to services. This is because once you are in the environment of the church service you have the potential to be open and susceptible to the emotional stimuli that they subject the congregation to. ARISE Church are experts at crafting a service to manufacture the illusion of a legitimate divine encounter. It is a formula that works with lucrative effect, and your friend is a testament to that. For new converts, ones perception of Christianity is based on the initial emotional experience. This experience is what gives the belief in Christianity validation and reinforces the truth of its claims.

      People can be “lured in” as you put it, especially young people who haven’t developed sufficiently the ability to reason honestly and to not have their intellect subverted by their emotions. Religious organizations like ARISE Church know this well which is why they deliberately target young people, even down to primary school ages.

      I am intrigued by your comment “The influence of Arise Church goes a long way as I have come to realise”. Could you elaborate on that a bit more. I would be interested to know how deep the influence of ARISE reaches in regards to your social circle.

      For a look at how the lead pastor, John Cameron, implements coercion to get people to “say yes to Jesus”, follow the link below. It is fair to say that the tactics employed by ARISE for conscription have a cult-like resemblance.

  3. Well i would like to see you cultivate your own ability to reflect critically and “skeptically” on your own world view. The pervasive nature of atheistic secular ideology within new zealand is forgotten not because it is “stealthy” but rather because it is everywhere. For the same reason a fish doesn’t feel wet.

    The mere fact that parents teach their children a world view they believe has the most explanatory power in relation to their experience of all lifes different facets (e.g. Christianity) shouldn’t be surprising. You don’t seem to appreciate that humanist secularism is another ideology (like the Christian worldview) that is also foisted upon unsuspecting children in education, mainstream media, and the exclusion of Christian voices from the public square. And i would argue heavily that the Christian worldview stands head and shoulders above any naturalistic explanations for the data of our experience (the physical and mental lives we know).

    1. The importance of taking a scientific worldview is so that you have the freedom to think logically, can consider scientific facts and perceive reality as it is, rather than blindly accept on faith alone whatever the religious conman is shoving down your throat involves a few universal rights, that of freedom of religion involves freedom from religion, the right to an education involves the right to be free from brainwashing.

      In my days at school, I would routinely wag assemblies rather than recite “the lord’s prayer” by compulsion at assembly time in a state school.
      It’s not like the christian bores in my classes got any mates by arguing over the fine points of the bible in lunchtime, the rest of us told them to get a life to no avail.
      The thing is, we all know why the religious are so keen on religious instruction as early as possible for children, and it’s so that the kids won’t be critical of the nonsense the adults waffle on about a “magical sky-fairy in the sky who watches everything you do, so he can judge you for trivial offences in your life, because the sky-fairy alone is perfect.”

      I would argue that fairytales about imaginary friends from grown adults deserve to be excluded from education, mainstream media and public life. But of course, I am rational.

    2. I cannot comment on your ‘experience’ Neal, but I can assure you that the fundamentalist worldview as prescribed by a church such as Arise most certainly does NOT ‘stand head and shoulders above’ other explanations for MY range of life experience. The fundamentalist view is a narrow one. Some people lead narrow lives, and prefer to do so. You may well be one of them; I am not.

  4. My partners nephew is a teen at Naenae College. His parents are from South East Asia and are Buddhist. Arise Church has been running buses into Wellington and presumably advertising at the school. This has certainly caught many young followers from the Hutt and the peer pressure to attend their events has worked well for Arise.
    For the last few months we have not had any response back from him and understand that this type of evangelist church can cause estrangement from family.
    Arise appears to promote biblical explanations over scientific understanding to youth, this is a great concern in what is supposed to be a modern secular country.
    Their views casting judgement on same sex relationships would also appear to be adversely affecting what were great family relations.
    The exclusivity of this church’s teachings also concern me for his cultural traditions and Buddhism which are supplanted by fervent
    worship of God/Jesus.
    It is like a new form of Evangelical American inspired imperialism and is using well tuned worship indoctrination, free stuff and soft rock to extensive effect on impressionable or vulnerable kiwi youth.
    Thanks a lot for your efforts to raise awareness of all this.

    Rj

    1. Hi Rj

      My condolences for the current situation regarding your partners nephew. I’m glad to be able to provide a service that allows people such as yourself to have a greater awareness of the objectionable aspects of ARISE Church. You are correct in your observation that the style of church which ARISE models itself on has been imported from the USA. The style of music, the charismatic style of the pastors, and the fundamentalist variety of theology all derive from there.

      ARISE focus a lot of attention on recruiting teens. They’re very good at marketing themselves to young people, and know how to exploit their vulnerabilities. ARISE maintains their appeal with youth by remaining relevant as culture progresses. They operate a Friday night youth service which is part dance party/part sermon/part emotional appeal to find Jesus. These services attract enough teens from some schools (such as Naenae College) that the phenomenon of peer pressure has kicked in and teens must now attend to meet social obligations.

      ARISE have honed their techniques to make these Friday night services as lucrative as possible in regards to the number of teens who “make a decision for Jesus”. The following is the method they use to recruit and keep new members:

      1. ARISE manufacture a service to give the illusion of a legitimate divine encounter. The various parts of the service are deliberately designed to elicit an emotional response from an attendee and lay the groundwork in preparation for the finale. Most services culminate with an appeal for non-Christians to “give their lives to Christ”. Coercive cult recruitment techniques like suggestion (“you may come from a broken family but with Jesus your past doesn’t define your future”,”fear and pride are holding you back from saying yes to Jesus”) are used as tools of persuasion. In this hyper-emotional moment, people (especially teens) can be helplessly swept up in the current of their own emotions and are compelled to “give their lives to Jesus”. That’s the hook.
      2. A person’s perception of Christianity is based on this initial emotional experience. This experience is what gives the belief in Christianity validation and reinforces the truth of it’s claims. After that they are progressively introduced to the Bible and progress along the path of religious entrenchment.

      ARISE Church subscribes to the doctrine of Biblical Infallibility. This means that they adhere to a literal interpretation of the Bible. They believe that the universe was created in six days, that all humans are derived from Adam and Eve, and that there was a flood that covered the entire surface of the world 4500 years ago. They oppose same sex marriage and advocate for no sex before marriage.

      When a person makes a decision for Jesus, they “die to their former self” and the church becomes a kind of “spiritual family”. ARISE even uses the phrase “A church to call home” to describe themselves. Members often use this home/family language in a positive way when talking about their relationship with the church. ARISE advocates narrowing down your group of friends to only include Christians. They don’t deliberately advocate becoming estranged from family who aren’t Christian but the spiritual home/family rhetoric may be received as a mixed message.

      As I said in a comment below, I think that it’s important to try and maintain an open, friendly dialogue with people who are close to you and who are also people of faith. Try to instigate a discussion where you are sincere and honest; hopefully he will reciprocate that sincerity/honesty. The best antidote for faith-based beliefs is to have what’s known as a Socratic dialogue. Ask your partner’s nephew how he arrived at his belief in the truth of Christianity. If the discussion moves to faith then ask him if faith is a reliable method by which one comes to know something to be true and also mention mention that people of different religions have just as legitimate claim to the truth of their beliefs as he does because they arrived there the same way he did, by faith. Hopefully you get an opportunity to engage with him. For more info on this method of dialogue, please visit https://streetepistemology.com/.

      Also, this Reddit post you might find interesting

      https://www.reddit.com/r/newzealand/comments/51xspw/anyone_countrywide_ever_had_negative_experiences/

      Another great website is http://www.bibviz.com

    2. Well said. I too am concerned at the cult-like brainwashing with frequent biblical messages through their phones, and repeated peer pressure to only socialise with Church (ie. cult) members. This church does not encourage dialogue, critical thought, or independent thought. It punishes dissent, and bombards the participants day and night via technology.

  5. I really enjoyed this article. As an ex-Christian, I was involved in ARISE church as a young teenager, and on reflection I have realised a lot of the methods they use to evangelise young people are actually disturbing. I was well and truly indoctrinated as a child via kids camps with a similar purpose to ARISE and I am still affected to some extent by these experiences I had as a kid – in terms of the guilt and shame I learned with regard to sin etc… I write about this on my own blog if you happen to be interested 🙂

    Now as a humanist/atheist young adult, this kind of religious instruction in primary and high schools scares me. Particularly as a future teacher, I would love to know how I can be more aware and involved in protesting this kind of spiritual abuse to children.

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