In 1974 there was a small group of Christians who came out of various churches because of errant and modernistic teaching in local Whangarei churches.
The group began to meet in the home of Loxley Jensen, and consisted of his family, Mr. Ian Cutforth’s family and the Moffat family. The Rev. Loran McAlister of East Tamaki Bible Baptist Church, was asked to preside over the meetings. He travelled from Auckland once a fortnight for meetings and the group used tapes on Sundays. These meetings continued for fourteen months.
The Rev. David Moody was contacted in Christchurch in view of starting a church here. He shifted to Whangarei the last week of July, 1975, and became the church’s first pastor. The first service was held on 3rd August, 1975 in the Silver Band Hall. The first baptismal service was held on 8th January, 1976; Brian and Julie Cutforth, and Julie and Louise Jensen were baptised. The second baptismal service was on 9th June, 1976 when Terry Jensen, Garry and Margaret Jensen, Sheryl Cutforth and John Birkin were baptised.
For a period of time the church rented the Church of Christ building (now Maunu Dental). They moved to the Raumanga Intermediate School Hall in February, 1976. On 21st May 1976 the church was officially organised.
Pastor Moody resigned to return to missionary work in the Philippines in August, 1976. The church then called the Rev John Young as their pastor. Pastor Young was preaching for Rev McAlister in East Tamaki at the time of his calling. At first, he came up once a month for Sunday services and once a fortnight for Wednesday services. He did this for approximately ten months. John Young became the church’s full-time pastor Christmas Day 1977.
Pastor Young led the young church in what would be it’s most pivotal decision -choosing a permanent location. The early days were hard. At one point most of the original members left, and the work had to restart. But Pastor Young and the few that remained, were confident God wanted a church in Whangarei that would accurately preach and preach the Word of God. And God honoured their commitment. While meeting in the Raumanga Intermediate School the church started looking for a permanent location. Various sections around town were considered, before settling on the purchase of our present property on Maunu Road. A deposit of $2000 was paid on 21st September, 1978 and the section was purchased.
The church then purchased a former science Lab from the Auckland University, through Dick Holdaway, who moved the building onto the section. After thirteen months of hard work the church had their official grand opening of the new building on 14th October, 1979. There were seventy-seven in attendance Sunday morning, and forty-six in the evening service. The building now had an entrance foyer, toilets, kitchen and windows. The East Tamaki Church donated the seating for the new building. Rev Loran McAlister and Rev. Shelby Mayo of East Coast Bays Church preached the morning and evening services.
Following the shift to Maunu Road, Pastor Moody returned to pastor the church in 1980. During this time the church started a youth club that continued into the mid-nineties. It was always well attended and averaged between twenty and thirty teenagers every week. It was also during this time, the church built it’s first Sunday school addition. On 29th August, 1981 the church had the official opening of this addition. A fellowship meeting was hosted on the Saturday before. Dr. Collins from Los Angeles was the guest preacher. There were 114 people in attendance coming from the East Coast Bays, and East Tamaki churches. It was a great day with special singing and preaching from several pastors and Bible students.
When Pastor Moody left the second time, Pastor Dennis Loyd served as pastor for two years until February 1984.
Following Pastor Loyd, Bob Wakefield pastored the church. It was under Pastor Wakefield’s leadership the church changed it’s original auditorium layout. The original layout was opposite of it’s current layout. The current platform and the “infamous” red carpet was added at this time. This is also when the church gained one of it’s greatest assets -the manse. In 1984, the church decided it was time to consider building a manse for the pastor’s family. The majority of the construction was done by the church members. In addition, all the timber was providentially donated. It was completed in May 1985. Pastor Bob Wakefield and Garry Jensen led the construction of what would be the home for all the church’s future pastors.
The year 1986 was a difficult time for the church. Pastor Bob Buckley and his family joined the church 20th Apr 1986. But due to poor health he was unable to remain as pastor very long. Pastor Bob McLain came as a missionary-pastor from the States in September 1988 and served as pastor for nearly six years through the early nineties.
Pastor McLain’s’ leadership brought great strength to the church:
- He was the first pastor to serve more than two consecutive years.
- The church doubled its SS capacity, by building the fellowship room and the first creche’.
- The baptistry was built by Pastor McLain and Garry Jensen.
- The church name was changed from “Bible Baptist” to “Calvary Baptist.” (24/9/89)
- The Calvary “cross” was added in the front yard.
- The youth ministry grew tremendously.
- Sunday morning attendance averaged 60-65 people.
Believing the church was strong and ready for national leadership, Pastor McLain resigned the church to pursue a church planting ministry in other parts of the country. The McLain’s left Calvary Baptist of Whangarei stronger than it had ever been.
The Valentine family came immediately following the McLain’s. Brother Valentine served as a interim pastor for a short time.
Martin Hammond was a Bible student who brought his family and worked with the McLain’s for a time at the church. After the McLain’s departure, he was called to pastor the church. Pastor Hammond and his family brought great promise to the church. He led the church into the mid-nineties. During Pastor Hammond’s tenure, the church began faith-promise missions giving. The church continued reaching youth through the AWANA programme. Many youth were saved and baptised, including many of their families. The front carpark was added during this time as well. But the Hammond’s tenure at Calvary only lasted a few years, and their departure came unexpectedly.
When the Hammonds left, there wasn’t a man available to be called as pastor. It was at this time, the church would seek leadership from within. The church needed someone to “stand in the gap.” Ian Cutforth was a founding member of the church. At an impromptu business meeting on 17th of August in 1997, the urgent need for stability and leadership, led the church to ask Ian to consider “filling in” as pastor for twelve months. Though having no ministry training or experience, he embraced the challenge.
As often happens, membership wained during these difficult times. The next decade would prove to be a time of testing for the church.
Pastor Ian Cutforth led the church through these difficult times. During his tenure, the carpark was in need of resurfacing. This was no small feat for a struggling congregation. But the task was done. They also updated the creche’, and the children’s outside play area. In addition, they continued their outreach and youth ministries even if on a smaller scale. Ian challenged the church to continue their missions giving even at the expense of increasing his salary. Because of his sacrifice and leadership, the church persevered.
Later, during Ian’s tenure, the former pastor of East Coast Bays, Bro Shelby Mayo contacted Ian and asked if the church was in need of assistance. This was seen by Ian and the men of the church as the providence of God. Bro Shelby Mayo returned from the States to assist Ian in leading the church. The Mayo’s deep love for this church they had helped birth, was obvious. While here, the Mayo’s renovated the inside of the manse with a new kitchen, spa bath, wallpaper and carpet throughout, all at their own expense. Bro Mayo also helped the church update their constitution. The Mayo’s spiritual and physical love for our church continues to impact our church today.
Sadly, Bro Mayo had to return to the States permanently in June 2006. This was due to his ongoing battle with cancer, and he is now in Glory. But the guidance and wisdom he poured into Ian, helped carry the church through these difficult times.
Ian continued to carry responsibility of pastoring the church. After nearly ten years Ian officially resigned from “filling in” and Clive Lankshear accepted the call to pastor Calvary Baptist Church on 17th Oct 2007.
Under Pastor Lankshear, the church sought to rebuild spiritually. Sunday morning attendance steadily grew in number averaging around sixty. Members were added. They also took on major building projects such as remodelling the church’s kitchen, painting the church building’s tin roofs and installing a playground on the church property. At the same time, they continued reaching out to the young people of the community through teen activities and camps. Missions giving increased. In 2012, some of the men took a mission trip to Tonga to help build a sanctuary for the Buster’s ministry. Mrs. Lankshear brought a resurgence of fellowship to the church through various senior, couples, and ladies events.
Clive Lankshear remained as pastor for five years. He is one of only four men who have pastored the church for that long a tenure. Due to health reasons, Pastor Lankshear resigned on 20th June, 2013. Knowing the church’s history and the importance of leadership, the church sought a man who would be committed to the pastorate long term. After unsuccessfully finding a man within New Zealand, the church began looking for qualified men overseas. It was at this time, they were put in contact with Pastor David Smith.
Pastor Smith came to candidate for the position in December 2013. In his words, he knew immediately, this was exactly where God wanted he and his family. The church voted unanimously to call Pastor Smith as their pastor on 19th January 2014.
Despite this call, it would take the Smith family sixteen months to fully embrace their role, as they continued raising funds in the States to make their shift to Whangarei. Despite the physical delay, Pastor Smith took responsibility for the Sunday services, and began preaching live via Skype. He also began leading in church business meetings and discipling members despite the physical distance. This was a tremendous relief to the men of the church who had been taking turns preaching for over a year at that point.
Pastor Smith has led the church now for over five years, and has every intention of staying “’til the Lord comes.” This has provided much needed stability to the church. In this environment, the church has been challenged to take new steps of faith and recommit themselves to the Lord’s work. Under Pastor Smith’s guidance and care, new families have been added. Faith Promise Missions has been reinstated as the missions policy of the church. The church’s giving has greatly increased from a church struggling to meet it’s monthly operating expenses, to operating a $100,000 annual budget in less than six years. This has enabled the church to invest in it’s facilities as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
The church has also expanded it’s children’s ministry. In December 2016, the church purchased a twenty passenger bus to bring children to church on Sundays. The church has also done extensive renovations to accomodate for more children. In 2016, the church began hosting an annual men’s meeting. Over sixty men from the North and South Islands attend the Faithful Men Prayer Advance each year. The church now has an annual revival each Spring, and special emphasis meetings throughout the year.
Pastor Smith also brought a desire to share God’s Word with the region. The church has been involved in extensive letterboxing throughout Northland and Whangarei. Since August 2015, the church has distributed over 42,000 John and Romans. This has resulted in people being added to the church.
God has truly blessed Calvary Baptist Church of Whangarei through it’s forty-five year history. Through the many victories and struggles, there has always been a remnant faithful to the Word of God. Through it all, God has always remembered His church in Whangarei. This anniversary is a celebration of that fact. Despite those who have come and gone, the many difficulties the church has endured -God has been faithful. Today, we remember His faithfulness to us!