The following is the transcript of an interview which John Cameron did with Pastor Phil Pringle from Australia. The interview was conducted in September 2014.
PP: Hi. We’re here today with John Cameron all the way from Wellington- often known as windy Wellington-in New Zealand, the capital city of New Zealand. Has built an amazing church called ARISE. How long have you been doing that job?
JC: We’re about eleven-and-a-half years in to our journey now which has been exciting
PP: Yeah, so how old were you when you started?
JC: Twenty-nine, twenty-nine years old.
PP: So you’re like forty-one now.
JC: Yep, Forty-one years old, yeah.
PP: And your church has grown?
JC: Yeah, it’s grown great. We started of with, ah, seven people in a little drama studio and now it’s four different campuses ah, different parts of New Zealand. Wellington’s still like our mothership, so it’s the biggest of the lot and it’s been an exciting journey.
PP: So, what, like more than ten-thousand people in the whole thing?
JC: Ah, ten-thousand people involved in the church and then on a Sunday we’d get about five-and-a-half thousand.
PP: Okay. So you went to Christchurch and you took the entertainment center down there.
JC: Ah no, not in Christchurch, in Wellington we meet in the entertainment center, that’s fine, and ah, in Christchurch we meet in a performing arts theatre which has been a really big God thing because all of the entertainment center precinct of Christchurch is gone after the earthquake so…yeah praise God…yeah.
Phil Pringle: Amen. And so, the average age of your congregation?
John Cameron: Most people…we’re about, you know, sixty seventy percent…no, maybe more, about seventy percent under thirty.
Phil Pringle: So, in terms of where you get those people from, is it high schools or college or…?
John Cameron: Yeah, 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; but when the church really began to take off was when we started reaching university campus’s and that’s still where probably about seventy to eighty percent of my staff have come come out of, university outreach. It’s like a giant youth-group.
Phil Pringle: Incredible because, because like most people would think that is the most difficult crew to reach because they’re kinda getting cynical and getting such a wide world view. So how have you done that?
JC: Well for us it’s just about service and building friendships. I think that um moving to a city and becoming part of something new is um, you know, daunting, and so we’re trying to be there as a friend at the moment. But, I mean, we just haven’t found that to be the case I guess, I mean, you know, I guess, your expectation determines, you know, what you think’s gonna happen and I guess I’ve just always saw it as being a massive harvest field, and for us it really, really has been.
PP: Incredible. So people at that age are kind of searching and finding.
JC: Yeah.Yep, open, very open to everything, not just Christianity and then ah for us, you know, relationships is definitely the pathway to finding Christ.
PP: Incredible. So you get a lot of people, first time decision for Christ
JC: Absolutely, yeah, and even…it’s wonderful now, and our staff, you know, we’re doing a building and so we hired a guy full time-he’s an architect, got a masters, but you know, comes from a totally un-churched background and found Christ through our university outreach and that’s a very common story.
PP: So if I was asking you to help me reach that generation as a pastor and a church, what would you say.
JC: I would say, I would say make relationship your key, not proclamation of the Gospel, especially outside of your church services. Obviously in church preach the Gospel but outside of it build relationships. Serve, build relationships, be real.
PP: What are some ideas for doing that?
JC: Of what?
PP: Creating a relationship.
JC: Well finding doorways you know. Jesus touched present needs. So for us, you know, Jesus was a physician to a generation that was ill, you know. And I think today he would touch, to not just physical healing but I think he would touch mental illness. I think if Christ was alive today, he’d be known as calming anxieties, dealing with, you know, phobias, and helping people to be free, so I think we just gotta find felt needs and then…and touch people where they are at, you know, and then out of that.
PP: So in the university campus you’d go in there and create a group…
PP: …and then talk about this sort of thing?
JC: Yeah, exactly.
PP: Okay, so, ahh, so if I was to do that instead of…what would I do? I’d go to the university leaders and say, “Can I start a group on campus”?
JC: Yeah, best way to do it is through students, so you need just one or two but if they can get you access then really the Church just becomes ahh, the pool that funds it, you know, so I think our job’s just to, just to resource it from behind, we work with the leaders, we create the culture.
PP: ‘Cause, ’cause people that age, you know, I think young, young adults are lookin’ for a cause…
PP: …and ahh, and definitely you’ve given it to them. You, you are quite well known, very well known for two things that I can think of besides your phenomenal church and that is your preaching and disciple making and, ah, and so in the disciple making arena what, what is it that you do that accomplishes that in such a great way?
JC: Um, I don’t know. Um, one thing I’m really bad at is teaching people skills, so I’ve never been good at that. I’ve never written a manual, we’ve never had a leadership training track but my focus has always been on discipling hearts; so I want unity, I know what a church needs to create so I’ve always really focused on making sure that the hearts of those who are part of our team are in the right place and any issues to that we’re gonna, we’re gonna work on it real quick and focus on those issues. And then I guess we’ve always just tried to work with Igals, work with Daniels. One of our themes is to try, you know, Nebuchadnezzar was the most successful rulers the world has ever seen and the reason why was he chose young people who are handsome, without any physical defect, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and he bought them real close. So we’ve always made that our focus.
PP: Amazing. Yeah, so in preaching; last question. Ah, what’s the key to being a great communicator.
JC: Learning from you.
JC: You tell me. Um, I don’t know. I think, um, you know, you should be who you are. You should never calm down, I mean, you know, sometimes people commentate on my preaching and say, “Oh, you’re really passionate”, like passion is like a fashion accessory, you know. It makes me really mad and I have to be careful because they mean it sometimes complimentary but passion comes from in you. It’s not a necklace, it’s a state of being.
PP: Would you think that passion and enthusiasm and excitement are all the same thing?
JC: Ah, I think enthusiasm is just an enthusiastic person. I’m actually not enthusiastic by nature, I’m cynical by nature, um, but I definitely, for me, I think when I gave my all to Christ, that has never left me, you know, and so I definitely believe that what we’re doing is gonna change the world and change me, you know.
PP: Well that’s awesome. Thanks John, thank you.