Another holiday snap - it's sun causing the shadows in case anyone's forgotten! I am a big supporter of the BUGB ‘encouraging missionary disciples’ strap-line for our strategy. I’ll leave the fact that the ‘strategy’ isn’t a strategy on one side for the time being. One of the good things about it is how it potentially enables us to focus on something which could re-energise Baptist Churches into being a significant movement for mission once again. If, for example, it means we could begin counting the growth of our Churches in terms of those who go out of our doors as ‘missionary disciples’ rather than those who come into our doors as ‘attenders’ we could enter an exciting chapter together.
According to Brafman and Beckstrom who wrote The Starfish and the Spider, a decentralised organisation stands on five legs (very convenient if you’re a starfish!):
i. Circles. These don’t have hierarchy or structure – they just work out the shared values in whatever ways.
ii. The Catalyst. Leaders are needed, but not the top-down ‘do-it-my-way’ – more the catalyst (circles invariably don’t form on their own.)
iii. Ideology. Values/ethos/community – these all seem to be important words here – what makes people want to join?
iv. The Pre-existing Network. There needs to be a network – part of the problem of our relatively fruitless evangelistic efforts is related to the lack of proximity and real relationship - Christian/not yet Christian
v. The Champion. Most of my good ideas never get out the shower – you need champions who can translate ideas into actions.
Baptists have a Declaration of Principle which states we are able, as individual Churches, to discern the mind of Christ without reference to others. There are, however, a couple of very significant boundaries attached to this: Jesus and the Bible. One of the things this is telling to me is that we have in our DNA the life giving potential to release a whole load of missionaries. In my estimation this is just not happening (not exclusively, but not on a significant scale). I don’t think the barriers to us realising this are to found with discovering anything new, or trendy, but rather in dusting off and seriously applying some old truths.
There is a part to play for a national union of Churches, regional associations of Churches, diverse local Churches and individual ‘missionaries’. So much depends on whether we can focus on the end-product - ‘missionary disciples’, or not. I regularly use three questions with Churches:
What kind of people is Jesus wanting to send out into the world?
What kind of Churches produce those kinds of people?
What kind of leadership produces that kind of Church?
To these we could add:
What kind of association enables such leadership?
What kind of Union enables those associations?
If we start with the end in mind maybe, just maybe, we can come up with a way of being (sounds better than structure to me), which enables us to re-connect with the lost. My hunch is that the starfish, and the spider, and our Baptist heritage; all have something to help us find how the flow of the Holy Spirit from the heart of God, into the lives of ordinary people, through the Church can get going a bit more.