In September 2016, pastor John Cameron delivered a sermon series titled Expansion Offering. The name Expansion Offering is a reference the optimistic plans of John Cameron for the expansion of ARISE Church in the form of new church campuses being planted in cities and towns around New Zealand. The term offering is a reference to the method of funding used to achieve this expansion. Many Christians who attend church give a proportion of their income, known as tithing, to the church. An offering is a request by the church to it’s congregation to give over and above what they already tithe for some special cause or purpose. In the case of ARISE church, the cause for this particular offering was to extract from it’s congregation enough money to fund the construction of a 7.4 million dollar new church building in Petone, Wellington. To prime the congregation for this financial sacrifice, John Cameron laid the emotional groundwork in a number of sermons before the day of the actual offering. This post is a transcript from the first sermon. A link to a recording of the sermon can be found here (apologies in advance for the poor quality. John’s message starts at 7:00).
Okay, well good morning to everybody in every ARISE campus. Great to have you with us no matter whether you are in Whangarei this morning or all the way down to Dunedin. Everybody, everywhere, those with us online: put your hands together and welcome someone else to the service today. C’mon, we can do better than that; lift your voice. We like to get a little bit excited around here. If you have a Bible you can go to the book of Joshua chapter three and verse seventeen is our text for this morning. Ah, Andy if you could help me out with the monitors, it will be awesome.
We’re starting a new series this morning entitled Expansion. And if I can put todays talk in kinda one little McNugget for you; as a church we have left behind where we once were and we are in the middle of going somewhere new. And right now having left where we once were and going somewhere new, we’re in the middle of that journey. I want you to know that we are now closer to the future than to the past but the truth is that we are in the middle. With that in mind, let’s read Joshua three: seventeen. It says,
“The priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle…”
Someone yell, “Middle.”
Do better, “Middle.”
C’mon Whangarei, yell, “Middle!”
[Whangarei audience: “Middle”].
Very good. “…while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground in the middle.”
As a church, for us the book of Joshua has always been a very, very important book in the Bible. It is important for us because the nation of Israel were formed when they came out of slavery in Egypt and went in to the wilderness and became now a nation of people, yet a nation without a nation, a people without a land. And after wandering around in the wilderness for forty years they reached the edge of the Jordan River. And on one side was the wilderness; on the other side was the Promised Land, the land that god had promised for them. Hanging out in the wilderness meant kinda just getting by, subsiding, living; God provided for them. But on the other side in the Promised Land was a life that was full of blessing; God’s favour. They were able to signify to the world, “Our God is big, he is alive, he is real, and he is in the middle of blessing his people.” Crossing over the Jordan River was the most important step that Israel had ever taken because it meant engaging the process. When they crossed the Jordan River, they left behind the comfort and familiarity of everything they had ever known. They stepped in to a place that was new and unfamiliar, foreboding, risky; but it presented to them opportunity, the ability for God to prove they could do something great.
When they stepped across that Jordan it meant leaving the old for the new. It meant leaving the past for the future. It meant leaving the known for the unknown; safety for the risky; the possible for possibility. It meant stepping out of their comfort zone. And what’s amazing about our passage-and we’re kinda theming this talk about being in the middle-was when they crossed the Jordan. In our text this morning we read that it was the priests who led the way and who stood in the middle of the Jordan. I love this passage because these priests took the Ark of the Covenant, they put it on their shoulders and they walked down in to the Jordan River. And I want you to know this is a powerful, spiritual message. Every step that they took, the waters receded. We should not wait for open passage for us to step into what God’s got. We obey the Lord and he makes the waters recede as we take steps in obedience. And they took steps, every step they took the waters receded. And finally we find this picture of the priests, in our passage, in the middle of the Jordan and the waters of the Jordan are walled up on either side and the nation of Israel is crossing from one side to the other. The priests stood in the middle with the Ark of the Covenant on their shoulders; they stood in faith; they stood in prayer; they stood carrying the miracle; they stood ready for what God was going to do. They were in the middle while the past was on one side and the future on the other. And in the middle of this amazing crossing we find the priests. What’s powerful for you and me when we consider our journey through life, when we consider our crossing over from death to life, from sin to righteousness, is that in the New Testament we also find Jesus in the middle.
Come over with me to Romans chapter eight where the Bible says in verse thirty-one, one of my favourite scriptures in all of the Bible.
“What then shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Now that’s awesome. Let’s now read in verse thirty-four ‘cause it gets even better.
“Christ Jesus who died…”
More than that, whack somebody and say, “More than that.”
“More than that.”
“…who is raised to life, is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us”
That’s one of my most mind-blowing texts in all of the Bible; that Jesus is not idle in heaven. He has gone to heaven but he is at work, he is doing something. What is he doing? I’m glad you asked. He is interceding for you and me. Our saviour is in heaven standing in the gap. This is what an intercessor does. They stand in the gap between present reality and future potential. An intercessor stands in the middle; says,
“Your life doesn’t have to be like it has been. It can be like God wants it to be. You’re not bound by your past.”
Jesus is saying, “No, Father. Look at who I created them to be.”
He is holding up a picture before the Father of future you and saying, “This one day is gonna be withheld for the church.” Jesus is interceding for the church. He’s saying, “Man, the church is not gonna be bound, it’s not gonna be limited. My people won’t live in fear. The church won’t be the periphery, it will be the centre. We are not the tail, we are the head.” Jesus is interceding for the church. That’s what an intercessor does. An intercessor stands as the priests in the Jordan crossing, as Jesus in the New Testament, in the middle declaring that this crossing will take place.
What’s crazy about ARISE right now is that there is a movement of prayer happening across our church. I mean it’s happening everywhere. The teenagers of our church have spontaneously, since ARISE Conference, begun praying one hour in twenty-four cycles, like throughout the week somebody’s always praying for the schools of our nation. That’s amazing. And they believe in God that they can see their friends and their high-schools come to know Jesus.
We’ve got intercessory prayer meetings and prayer life groups just beginning to just spring up, their springing up. People are joining our prayer texts and, you know, getting the intercessory text. Our prayer meetings are growing on a Sunday morning. I can tell you I’m feeling it. Like I’m waking up…on Wednesday morning I woke up at three thirty in the morning and just spent about an hour and a half just praying over our church. But I’m awake. I’m not sure it’s God’s blessing or something else but I’m awake every day before five a.m. at the moment just alive to prayer. Why? Why is that movement of prayer happening? I can tell you why. Why? Is because we are in the middle at the moment as a church and when you’re in the middle, God awakens you to prayer.
Over the last few years of our ARISE journey we’ve been standing in the middle, we have been, right? At the beginning of last year we declared for our church our vision of who we want to become as a church. We declared that we’re going somewhere new, that we’re changing the measurement with which we decide whether we’re doing well or not. And this is what we declared:
We’re gonna build a church with campuses everywhere, with small groups covering an entire nation.
We’re gonna build a church that is mobilizing believers, multiplying disciples, raising a new generation of leaders, rapidly expanding, increasing in influence, and reaching a nation for God.
A church that see’s life to every spirit, love to every heart.
A church that empowers believers to reach their world for Christ.
A church that enables believers to represent Jesus in every city and town in our nation. No city too large and no town too small.
A church of exponential increase, a church of innovation. Are you alive about this?
A church large enough to give voice to the gospel in our nation and personal enough to heal every broken heart.
That’s the kind of church that I want to be part of. Does anybody hearing this wanna be part of that kind of church? And honestly right now we are in the middle, a middle of moving towards that church. In this amazing picture in Joshua we’ve got the Ark of the Covenant, we’ve got the priests and their standing in the middle of the Jordan until the nation has crossed over. And that’s why I believe there is this such strong stirring to prayer in our church because we are in the middle of crossing over. I feel the ark on my shoulders. Anybody else out there? Like there’s just this stirring to pray because we’re standing in the middle while we as a church cross over. And make no mistake, we’ve made amazing progress so far.
When we declared that vision at the beginning of last year we had four campuses, we now have seven. You know, and last year we pioneered two new campuses in one year, Whangarei and Dunedin. Whangarei now has an average weekend attendance of 275 people. C’mon, that’s amazing. We’ve seen 350 decisions for Christ in Whangarei, and 140 of them for the first time. We have 22 life groups in Whangarei. In Dunedin we see now an average attendance of 370 people this month of August. 250 People are now in life groups. You know, we’ve made amazing progress guys. If it’s felt like we’ve been doing more it’s because we have.
The online campus: We launched our online campus only a few months ago. Already, we’ve seen 180 people make decisions for Christ through our online campus. 300 people a week interact with our online campus. On any given Sunday, right now there’s probably, I think, about 140 screens viewing this service through our online campus and many of those represent families and communities gathered together like the Du Pries, who are probably watching this; live on the outer outskirts of the Bank’s Peninsula; participate in our online campus every week. They’re trying to invite their family, their neighbours to attend. They attended ARISE Campus at a conference as a family, the Du Pries, and Tim was serving at the conference. They’re part of our church family through our online campus. We’re touching three hundred people a week though that.
We’ve got life groups now, as a church, in Palmerston North and in Auckland. So far this year, as a church, as a church, we’ve seen 2236 recorded decisions since January 2016. I want you to give the biggest clap you’ve given all service long. That is why we do what we do. We’re here to win lost people to Jesus. Heaven and Hell are real, right? And we are in the middle right now, not only do we have seven campuses, which is awesome, we’re building our eighth right now. C’mon, that’s exciting. The ARISE Centre is also going to be our eighth campus in the Hutt Valley. We will have a new campus of ARISE; still be having services where I’m speaking from this morning in Wellington central at the Michael Fowler Centre. And for the first time in ARISE history, when we open the Hutt Campus, we will be opening a campus in a location, in a geographical area where we already have over a thousand members from our church. So I believe that when we open the ARISE Centre and our Hutt Campus is launched, that we are gonna see the most amazing multiplication of our effectiveness in the Wellington region for Jesus. C’mon you can celebrate that in Dunedin and Christchurch and Hamilton right now. We’re here to make a difference for all of New Zealand.
For those who are in the Wellington region who are listening to this today, on the final Sunday of September we’re gonna kind of go offline from our other locations and we’re going to talk about our vision for the Wellington region as we pioneer the ARISE campus. So the last Sunday of September make sure that you’re in church.
Moving in to this new stage of our vision: What we’ve been doing since January or February last year, when we declared who we’re going to become, has taken more effort than I ever thought possible. It has been bigger than I ever imagined. It’s taken a lot of energy, a lot of learning. It’s challenged our faith. It has kept us relying on God.
For me as the pastor, like I’ve been in much deliberation, lots of prayer, I’ve had to seek out new mentors; we’ve had to go to new levels of faith. We’ve had to think different as a church if we’re going to go where God wants us to go. Well the truth is now, now, because of all of that effort and energy, we find ourselves as a church in the most exciting place we have literally ever been. Like with Israel when the priests stepped into the middle in to the Jordan and stood in it, we have been standing in the middle as a church but now we are really coming out the other side. We are walking through in to something new. We’re not the new ARISE yet, but we are closer now to the future than to the past. We are a long way along this journey and the gap is closing between what we see for our future and what we see in the here and now. That is absolutely the truth. The gap is closing between what we see for the future and what we see now. The horizon is becoming the fore front. We are moving to the new. We are in the middle of a motion as a church. We are walking through the Jordan and the gap between the dream and the reality is getting smaller all of the time. It’s so exciting right now. Whack somebody next to you and just say, “It’s so exciting right now.” It’s so exciting.
Today, today is no small day. Today we have an open day across all of our ARISE locations where people in our church are able, after every service, to go and view a whole bunch of different ways that you can join the team around here at ARISE and help us to expand our capacity to touch more people with the love of our great god because our church grows larger through Sundays as lost people find Jesus. It’s not about bottoms on seats; it’s about effectively reaching more for Christ. We call that encounter. Our church grows more whole through life groups. We help each other grow and find wholeness as we do life in community, in life groups. And we’ve got new life groups growing up all the time. We started in Wellington. This week: three new life groups targeted around freedom in Christ. I think we started one in Christchurch. They’re growing up all the time. You will only become more whole, you will only grow in your Christian faith when you have others in your world. If you are a lone Christian, a Sunday only Christian you are not growing to the fullness of what God has for you. And the third thing that happens: we grow larger through Sundays, more whole through life groups, and more able through people who are part of the team.
The thing about Christianity is that you get it for free and then God asks you to spend your life giving it to others. And the moment you get Jesus that gift is free, and then he says, “Now would you use what I have blessed you with to bless others. Would you help a redemptive community to touch many more people?” And we’re…I’m inviting many people this morning to be part today, to be part of our open day and to be able to see what we do as a church community so that you can join the team and help us with this mission.
But, you know, as exciting as all of these steps are, as we come out of the Jordan in to the new ARISE, the ARISE centre, the ARISE centre that were building and the funding of that ARISE centre, I believe, is our Jericho. For Israel, Jericho was the first large obstacle they had to conquer when they came out of the Jordan. They came out of the Jordan and then in front of them is a massive, they’re like, “We are in the land of opportunity.” And I think as a church we are starting to see that there is a land of opportunity.
The church can be the answer in the twenty-first century in New Zealand. People who love God can love others and together we can bring the love of God to thousands and millions of people in the nation of New Zealand. Do you believe that it’s possible, to build God’s house in the twenty-first century? C’mon. I expect you to get as loud in this building as they are in Whangarei. C’mon somebody. We believe we can build the church, right? C’mon Hamilton, let me hear ya.
And as we do this the funding of the ARISE centre, the building of the ARISE centre is our first big challenge. Why? I wanna tell you why. I’m so happy with the ARISE centre. You, know, we’ve spent weeks and months of prayer and planning to make sure that the building that we’ve built is the right building. Oh man. I can’t wait for the open day that we’re gonna have in two Saturdays time, but it’s exciting…or next Saturday I think, ah next Saturday. It’s gonna be so exciting for just a few people to get to walk around it. I’ve been taking all of our campus pastors through it this week. But man, the ARISE centre is our Jericho for one huge reason. It is the first big challenge that unlocks everything else. For Israel, once they crossed they Jordan they saw that big city and the moment they took down Jericho then everybody else was easy to overcome. For us, we have a building. It’s our first building that we’ve built. And when we’ve built this building not only will the ARISE Centre help us but as it becomes a freehold building, as we own it, and own it without any debt, then we shift our entire position as a church away from rents and leases-and that’s kinda like the wilderness where you’re just getting by and living hand to mouth. We wanna move towards the point where we’re empowering our ability to move forward in to future campus buildings and increased opportunities. We have intentionally designed a building that is not cost expensive, that is not going to create a burden of debt. Now we’re rallying our community to say, “Man, ARISE, let’s not just build it. Let’s pay for it because if we own it freehold then we are gonna be able to not just build it and then nurse a mortgage. But then we can turn lease payments and hireages into savings for opportunities that will open up for us in every ARISE campus that doesn’t yet have a building and every place that we are yet to go. Every dollar, every dollar that goes in to the ARISE Centre speeds up the future building of everything we’re gonna do in the days that are to come. We have worked so hard, this building is in my opinion, we have done a really good job and I want you to know that it takes a lot for a very, very self-critical person like me to say that. But we have worked very hard to deliver a performance building, you know, where you can have literally…it’s like a theatre right; for a per square meter rate of only three thousand dollars. This is a very cost effective building; a building that will expand our ability to function enormously in the Wellington region, enormously in the Wellington region.
We had Vision Night on Wednesday night. People were there until midnight; were packing down the venue. It will expand our ability enormously in the Wellington region. But most importantly, this is a building that we can, with faith and prayer, own freehold either when it is open; that’s my faith goal, it’s a crazy one by the way so don’t judge me if it doesn’t come off. But it will either be: freehold when we open it; optimal position. But listen. Worst case scenario: it will take us two to three years. That’s like, that’s like nobody gives. You all decide the Expansion Offering giving is not for you anymore. We’ll still get there in two or three years time. And man I’m excited. We’re not talking about decades of debt. We’re not going to mortgage our future with an ostentatious building now. We want this to be our first building but it is not going to be our last building. We’re gonna move this church forward. We’re gonna reach millions of people. We’re gonna build campuses up and down New Zealand and we are gonna touch Aotearoa for God. Who is with me in that bold pursuit? C’mon, we’re gonna build this one. Then everything we were spending, we’re gonna save it. Plus future savings are gonna join it. And then the nest egg’s gonna grow faster. Then we’re gonna build the next one. Then we’re gonna take all of that and funnel it for the future one. It is gonna empower us to move faster forward in to what God’s got for us.
You know that the shift we’ve taken as a church towards the ARISE Centre now means that out of every dollar that comes in to ARISE, we are living off sixty-four per cent of our income; runs the church, sixty-four per cent of what’s given runs the church. Investing in this building, which; stay with me, that’s investing in to our future; that’s capital accumulation; that’s not interest; that’s capital accumulation: twenty-eight per cent of our income. And we give externally, because we want to be a blessing as a church, eight per cent of what you give. So know that. And it’s gonna grow to ten. So everything you give us, we’re gonna give ten per cent away. Once the ARISE Centre is completed we are then gonna be in position where we can move more steadily in to our future. Funding the ARISE Centre is taking down Jericho. Why? Because every dollar given to the ARISE Centre is a dollar given to every building. This building is the next building. It is the critical step that moves us over. Every dollar is to every building. This building is every building, the next building. It is empowering us to do everything else that we are going to do. And right now we are in the middle of that movement.
Hey, check out the slides so you can see where we are at as a church so far. Ah, they’re gonna chuck it up on the screen. As you can see, the number of seats that have already been given; Lord, bless our media team, let them have it, let them have it. In Jesus name, let them have it. Please O Lord. Thank you, thank you. Fantastic. We made it. You can see right now that if you combine the yellow, which is seats that are already paid for, with the grey section, which are seats that people have already said, “We will give those seats.”, we are getting close to halfway. With the giving from this year’s expansion offering, that’s literally what you see is last years. If we combine it with the same giving this year then you can see there’s a very small slither left over at the end. Is it possible? Yes it is. Is it within our reach? Yes it is. Can we build this building and own it freehold, either next year or the year after? We absolutely can. And you know what? I believe that God wants us to go after this bold pursuit because here’s the thing. Not only does it represent our future, but for every seat, one seat is one soul, one year. Every seat represents somebody that’s gonna find Jesus every year. How do you know that? Because already two-thousand two-hundred and something people have found Jesus and we’re just entering September. I believe that we’re gonna see something amazing with this building and something amazing as a church beyond this building. We build the ARISE Centre, we keep building. Not grandiose buildings but low budget, cost effective, excellent but not ostentatious, debt free buildings. We keep moving forward with a growing commitment to reach every person who needs the love of God in our country.
Growing companies go out to market and they say, “We’re looking for investment partners. Our company has a proven model. We believe that…” This is what they say. They say, “Our Company has a proven model. We’re already returning profits…” That’s their focus. “…and if you partner with us then we’re gonna grow this company faster and you will then get a dividend. Well here’s the thing. ARISE is touching people, we’re touching people. We are increasing in our ability to reach New Zealand. We’re not after bums on seats; we’re after souls in eternity. Are you with me? It’s not about the size of our church; it’s about the size of heaven. That is what our primary driver is all about. That is why we get up in the morning. That’s what motivates us to do what we do.
And the thing is, you know, we are looking for investment partners. We can’t give you a return on investment. There is certainly never gonna be a dividends cheque that’s gonna come from church. But God is a really good returner to all those who put their heart to follow him and be a blessing to his work. Has anybody experienced that? Jillian and I were totalling up what we’ve already given over the last two years to this building and, to be honest, I was comparing it to the size of my mortgage. But I was realizing, I was realizing that the two were quite similar but I was also realizing that I would never have been able to give that if I hadn’t had made the decision to give that because God has supernaturally provided. Seriously, I mean, you can doubt that all you want, but I believe God has supernaturally provided for a supernatural contribution that we’ve been able to make. And you know what, as much as we’ll never give you a dividend cheque but God will look after those who build his house. For every dollar you give that’s one seat, one soul, one year. And we believe that the church is the hope of the world, right. We believe that our cars don’t go to heaven but people do, right.
So we’re all about building the church. And this is what brings this whole thing to a rest, everything home to rest. Everything we do guys is to reach people. Everything we do is to touch a lost world for Jesus. Every seat in the ARISE Centre is about a soul that finds its way in to heaven. We are all about making way for the next generation of New Zealanders to have heaven as their home. We’re about making it possible for future generations. We’ve built a wonderful church in the last twelve, thirteen years, however long. But man, in the next thirteen years of my life, I wanna be part of this team that together builds a church with a young generation that’s coming up, are gonna be so ridiculously resourced with buildings and equipment and facilities, that they can get out there and reach thousands of people without having to raise a whole lot or work till midnight. We can win a lost generation for New Zealand. If you believe that give me a little bit of love right now. Yeah, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon. The band can join me in every campus.
The other day I was in our Wellington five-o-clock service and a girl who’s in the front row of this morning’s service-her name is Maddie Foster; She’s twenty years old-received an offering. I watched this girl take this offering and I was like, “My gosh.” At twenty years old I would’ve been dry mouth, stuttering, fearful. But we’ve built a church with an incubator, like this hot-house environment optimal for growth. Well how about we now build the kind of church where this young Maddie Foster has got an ability to minister to teenagers. How about Juanita Randall in Whangarei, who I think is one of the most bold and courageous young women I have ever met; stepped out in faith, moved away from family, went up there to Whangarei and is now touching about seventy teenagers a week with the team in Whangarei. Let’s build a place where her gift is able to flourish. Let’s build the kind of church, where we’re resourced and Tom Foster, who does an amazing job in Kapiti running our youth, volunteers full time to make that thing happen. How about we build the kind of church that’s gonna release him to be able to put his gifts and talents to work; Will and Robbie in Hamilton, who are seeing an explosion of growth. Let’s build the kind of church where they’ve got the resources they need to move forward; or Harry here in Wellington; or Analise, one of the greatest leaders of our church in Dunedin; or Andy Coyle in Christchurch. We can create an environment in these next few years where these amazing young leaders are not limited by resources or budgets, but the answer is a yes. If you wanna do it, go for it. We’re not held back but you’re empowered. I want the hot-house to get a whole lot hotter. Who’s with me? I wanna touch a nation for Jesus. Does anybody wanna be part of that? How about we decide we’re crossing the Jordan, we’re taking down Jericho. We’re gonna believe for New Zealand to discover the love of our great God. And if you’re with me no matter where you are, stand to your feet and let’s give God one great praise in every location. Praise him in your bedroom or you lounge room right now. C’mon. Amen
Oh, wow, man, we’re breaking forth into song right here. C’mon, we’re gonna pray together and then we’re gonna release every location and here in Wellington we are absolutely gonna sing while Kurt just burst forth in to song singing. But I don’t know about you but I reckon the future’s looking bright, aye. Anybody feel like wearing sunglasses to church ‘cause the future is looking real bright. Who’s with me? Amen. C’mon, let’s pray together. Father, we thank you in the name of Jesus for every…you don’t count us by number, you count us by name. We’re throwing out a few numbers, but Lord, they’re all names; they all matter to you. And we get out of bed with a motivation in mind that we can touch lost people; help them to find the love and healing of our great God. And God, we pray over this next Jericho, this ARISE Centre. We’re praying for supernatural provision. We’re praying for blessing over your church, blessing over your people, blessing over the building process. We’re praying for supernatural favour and open doors in every city that we’re currently in; from Whangarei to Hamilton to Kapiti, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin; every city that we’re yet to go to. Give us supernatural blessing and favour. Pour out favour over your church in the mighty name of Jesus. And somebody in every location shout aloud amen, amen, amen.
We’ll see you guys. C’mon lets sing.