I grew up on a farm beside the Pareora River in South Canterbury. It was a marvellous life, so I left school early to become a farmer. After a couple of years, I realised that I did not have the strength and stamina that farming needs, so I decided to go to university.  While working with sheep and driving the tractor, I had plenty of time to think about the poverty and suffering that were rampant throughout the world. The problems seemed to be economic and political, so I enrolled to study economics and politics.

After four years of study, I realised that I was digging a dry well.   These disciplines did not have the answers to the problems that worried me. The assumptions that economists have to make to ensure their models work are so unrealistic that their theories are irrelevant to the real world.  It seemed that during the first three years of economics, they told you all the solutions, but in the fourth year, they explained why they would not work.  (I noted that my fellow students who went into politics, often only did the three-year course, so they went out boldly assuming they had effective policies).

While growing up, our family had gone to church every Sunday, but for me, it was just a habit. When I reached university and encountered modern philosophy, I gave up my religious habit.  When I reached university and studied philosophy, I decided that I was an atheist. However, I found it is hard to be an honest atheist, because life loses meaning and purpose. So I constructed a safe philosophical god that suited me.

While I was studying for a Masters degree in economics, I had a deep encounter with the living God. He said, “I am who I am. You are trusting in an empty box. If you want to follow me, you need to accept me as I am”. I surrendered to him and decided I would live by his Word and Spirit.

A few months later, I had an exam for a paper on comparative economics. The lecturer was a staunch socialist. Full of my newfound faith, I wrote in my paper that Marx has no solution to the problems of mankind and that Jesus is the answer. I gave a similar response in a second exam paper.

Surprisingly, I passed the course with first class honours. However, at the beginning of the following year, one of my professors asked to meet with me.  He disclosed that he was an atheist, but acknowledged that my faith seemed to be genuine.  He told me that it was not enough to say that Jesus is the answer.  I needed to explain how he could be a solution to the problems that concerned me. He concluded with a telling question: “What would the economy and society look like if everyone was a Christian”.

I could not answer his question, but I knew that I had to find the answer to it.  I did not know enough about God, or his solutions to economic problems, but I made it my goal to find out.

My lecturer suggested that I should enrol in a Ph.D programme and he would supervise me while I developed an answer to that question. I took his advice, but after a couple of months, I realised that I simply did not have enough knowledge to tackle the problem. There were very few books or journal articles to draw on. So I pulled out and moved to Dunedin to study theology in preparation for ministry. However, I always knew that I would come back one day and answer that important question.

In Dunedin, I studied theology and New Testament Greek for three years.  Later I studied Hebrew for two years to get a better understanding of the Old Testament.

Being Church

When I had completed my theological studies in 1978, I was invited to be the minister of a rural church in Southland, NZ. Most of the parishioners were farmers. Having worked on a farm before going to University, I felt comfortable with them and understood the seasons of their lives.

When I arrived in this parish, a verse of scripture quoted in Heb 8:5 really spoke to me.

See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain (Ex 25:40).
I knew that I needed to do everything according to God’s pattern. The problem was that I did not understand what that pattern should be. I had to work with what was already established, so I took on the traditional pastor role.

I enjoyed the preaching and teaching role. People responded well to my sermons and appreciated what they learnt. However, I struggled with most other aspects of ministry, especially providing pastoral care for grieving and hurting people. I was saved by the reality that most farmers are resilient, so they rarely need to go to a minister for help.

My frustration forced me to study the scriptures. I knew it was not just me that was wrong. I realised that there was something wrong with the ministry that I was trying to do. So, I decided to study the New Testament and find out how ministry is supposed to work in the church. I was looking for God’s pattern, and what I found was astonishing. I realised that God needs a variety of ministries in his church. I also discovered that the key ministry in the New Testament is the elder. The body of Jesus should be led by groups of elders with complementary gifts, but bound together by love.

I preached what I had discovered in a series of eight sermons. They were quite radical, so I did not know how they would be received. I needn’t have worried, because the farmers thought they were very sensible. One of them said, “You really ought to put these sermons together into a booklet, so other people can read them”.

I took his advice and put them together in a little booklet called “The Bride of Christ”. I got a couple of thousand copies printed, but they disappeared quickly. Back then there was no internet on which to promote sales, so news about the booklet spread mostly by word of mouth.

Writing this little book forced me to understand that I did not fit the role of the pastor, so in 1984, I resigned from the ministry and moved to Christchurch and took employment as an economist.

A few years later, I realised that some people had not understood parts of the booklet, so I decided to rewrite it to make the message clearer. God told me to take out all the stuff that was negative about the church so it did not distract from the clarity of the vision. I put in several diagrams to improve understanding.

Being Church Where We Live is the message of my eight sermons to farmers made clearer. It is the foundation on which everything else sits. The writing that I have done about politics, economics, God’s plan for history, and the Kingdom of God does not make sense if this book is not understood. They will only be practical if followers of Jesus are being church where we live.

Economics and Politics

After working as an economist for twenty years and reading every book and article that I could find that is relevant to economics and the gospel, I felt that I was ready to answer the question that my atheist teacher had asked, but one more obstacle lay in the way.  I still had faith in political power.  I believed that God’s people could use political power to establish his Kingdom on earth.  I needed to grasp the failures and futility of politics.

Modern economics is mostly politics.  The solutions dreamt up by economists can only be implemented by a government with coercive power, so economics becomes a servant of politics.

Modern economics and politics are hard to separate.  Economic principles get caught up in political power.

Jesus refused to use political power to advance the Kingdom of God (Luke 22:25-26; John 18:36).  Political spirits and government spirits have used political authority to leverage their power on earth.  Evil cannot be used to accomplish good.

When I studied this issue seriously, I discovered that God had already given a system of government to Moses that does not rely on force and coercion.  I described his system of local judges applying his law and voluntary military leaders protecting their community in a book called Government of God (2017).  It explains how Kingdom Communities can function without political power.  They can voluntarily provide all the services that human governments promise, but fail to deliver.

Once I understood the problems of political power, my understanding of the nature of economics changed dramatically.  The policies of modern economists cannot enter the Kingdom of God because they need to be imposed from the top by human governments with the power to make people do the right thing. I began seeking a politics-free economics.

I discovered the Instructions for Economic Life that God gave to Moses.  I also found that Jesus had validated these instructions in his teaching about economics.  God’s instructions allow a community of people to develop an economy that can function effectively without the need for political power and coercion.

The advance of the gospel by the power of the Spirit should produce a radically different economy.  The most significant change is that there will be no human government to enforce economic policies.  Economic change will come as more and more people choose to follow Jesus and are prompted by the Holy Spirit to obey his commands.

The Big Picture

A series of five books that all fit together to tell God’s plan for his people and his earth.

Being Church Where We Live explains how a group of people who have chosen to follow Jesus can support each other in a neighbourhood church by giving and sharing.  By living close together, they will establish a place where the authority of Jesus is acknowledged and the spiritual powers of evil are squeezed out.

Each neighbourhood church will be led by a team of elders with complementary and balanced giftings: one will be prophetic, at least one will be an evangelist and several will have a shepherd gifting.  They will be bound together by love and submitted to each other for spiritual protection.   They will watch over those who have chosen to follow Jesus.

Neighbourhood churches grow and multiply by sending apostles into a new neighbourhood to establish a new community.  These communities of love are the essential foundation that makes possible everything described in subsequent books.

Kingdom Authority describes God’s plan for getting back the authority lost to the spiritual powers of evil and establishing his Kingdom on earth.  Human politics are an obstacle to the Kingdom of God because they use Imposed Authority which empowers the powers of evil.  Government-spirits have leveraged their feeble power by controlling political and military authorities.  In contrast, God refuses to impose his authority on earth using force and coercion.  He rejects all forms of political and military power.  Instead, he calls people to serve him and freely submit to his will because they love Jesus.  This is Free Authority.

Times and Seasons describes how human governments seize more and more power to deal with the economic and social crises that their mistakes have created.  They will collapse under the weight of their pride and hubris, which will provide an opportunity for God’s people who are prepared.  During a season of distress, they will work with the Holy Spirit to proclaim the gospel and bring in the Kingdom of God.

Government of God explains the perfect system of government that God gave through Moses when he was leading the children of Israel into the promised land.  This alternative system of justice, welfare and defence relies on Free Authority.  It does not need the coercion and force of Imposed Authority.  The book describes how God’s people can prepare for the collapse of human government by applying these principles within Kingdom Communities.

A neighbourhood church becomes a Kingdom Community by providing everyone living in their neighbourhood with the services that governments promise, but fail to deliver.  They will provide social support, justice and protection for everyone in their neighbourhood, regardless of whether they have chosen to follow Jesus.  When people submit to the wisdom of the elders of a Kingdom Community to obtain these benefits, they are part of the Kingdom of God even though they have not chosen to follow Jesus.

The Kingdom of God is the goal of everything, but there are no kingdoms left on earth, so the word “kingdom” is not very helpful to modern people.  The best way to understand the nature of a kingdom is to think of it as a “government”, so I often refer to it as the “Government of God” to make its role and nature clear.   This explains the title of this book.

God’s Economy is the final book in this series.  Everything on earth belongs to God, so all our economic activity is part of his economy, whether we acknowledge him or not.  This book describes the Instructions for Economic Life that God gave through Moses.  Jesus confirmed this guidance and adapted it for people who are loving one another in a Kingdom Community.

All economic and business activity is part of God’s Economy.  Applying the Instructions for Economic Life will completely transform our economic behaviour and business activity.

As the gospel advances, followers of Jesus will form Kingdom Communities that implement his system of justice, protection and welfare (as described in Government of God).   God’s economy will emerge as these communities apply Jesus’ interpretation of the Instructions for Economic Life.

God Economy describes the changes to economic activity that will occur as the Government of God comes to fullness.  It seeks to answer the following question: “What would an economy look like if most people chose to follow Jesus and the Holy Spirit was able to establish the Government of God?”.  This is the question my economics teacher asked me back in 1975.


I still live in Christchurch, New Zealand, but I have retired from employment as an economist. I am married with three adult children and six grandchildren.

I blog on these topics at Blessed Economist. I comment on a variety of economic and political issues from a Christian and biblical perspective.