How do you determine the success of something like our 3-in-1 event yesterday? It’s a question I’ve been reflecting on this morning – knowing the office want a comment for the BT sometime soon. Well, it was a relief when it was over – so success could be gauged by the fact I survived! However, I think yesterday represents a growing awareness and willingness for Baptist Churches to gather together around vision and purpose. I didn’t sense people were at Weston yesterday because they felt somebody ‘ought’ to come to represent their church – that could sound like a small thing, but actually represents a sea change in attitude towards any gathering with the word ‘association’ attached to it. Yesterday the ‘business’ of the agm was done in half an hour, but that included two stories of what God is doing among us, as well as some up-to-date stuff on Home Mission. In fact, the whole afternoon and evening was dedicated to ‘making a difference’ and from people’s comments afterwards, many were encouraged by the day. I thought the worship team from Milton, led by Ruth, did s great job and I’m sure many from some of our smaller churches felt significantly up-lifted by being able to worship among around 300 people – unusually I didn’t count. The seminars all seemed to go down well with folk – all based around ‘making a difference’ – among our own personal networks, through our local church and overeas. The focus of my preaching was Jesus’ words to the disciples at the feeding of the 5000 - ‘you give them something to eat’ and I guess it reflected where we’re coming from as a regional team in relationship with the churches of WEBA (as well as being faithful to the text I hope). I’m pretty committed to the whole concept of Baptists re-gaining connection with our DNA as a movement and the reality is, in any case, we shall only ever make an impact throughout this region to the extent that each and every church is willing to engage beyond their own walls.
Friday, 26 June 2009
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Monday, 15 June 2009
Not at all sure what came into your mind when headlines started about ‘ministers expenses’, but I guess I was not alone in having various thoughts about our kind of ‘ministers expenses’. After all, it is almost guaranteed to be one of those emotive issues – even if many find it difficult to have a sensible conversation about them. I often ask questions about such things and have heard enough replies from Ministers and deacons to realise it’s a subject, which evokes strong feeling.
Of course, one thing where we’re at the other end of the scale from the present headlines is in the area of who determines the rules! In the church, it is not unusual for it to be such a challenge for a Minister to be paid expenses for anything (everyone seems to have an opinion and the easiest route is to pay nothing) they give up. Add into this the present financial crisis and even if it’s not an obviously direct issue for a particular local church, it seems to be reason enough to avoid the issue. One of the big problems when deacons talk about ‘what should we do’ is individuals voice their opinion on the basis of their own experience (invariably people seem to feel hard done by and, therefore, 'why should the Minister.....' This can work well for a Minister if she has a group of deacons who have expenses paid a la Westminster, but hardly positive if half are out of employment, or non wage earners. Having said that, the two Churches I've worked for have been good models and I have no personal complaints in this area (OK, one or two!)
My own feeling is that regional and national bodies should be able to set models of good practice. Some of you will be able to imagine my annoyance when being interviewed to become an Area Superintendent I heard no book allowance was paid by BUGB. ‘How, therefore, can we encourage Churches to pay a book allowance for their Minister then, I asked?’ (HM supported Churches now insist it’s part of the package). There seemed to be a culture, which suggested Regional Ministers, as we’re now called, don’t read, or needn’t keep abreast of current thinking, etc. Fortunately, it wasn’t difficult to make a good case when we become a Regional Association for book allowances. (I subscribe to Rowland Croucher’s ‘a leader is a reader’ school of thought).
Having nailed my colours to the mast in terms of books, I’m not quite as daft as to expect every Minister to learn best in such a way (I don’t understand why not, but that’s the way it is and I’m always amazed at actually how little most Minister’s do actually read – maybe cos they don’t get a book allowance!) However, when people start talking about the Church buying equipment or software, or paying for a Conference, or travelling somewhere it can be an even bigger issue.
Ministers expenses? – in the context of the credit crunch, it would be easy to cut them, but when it comes to development and growth of our Minister’s I would suggest it is the best value for money investment any Church can make.
Saturday, 13 June 2009
Great start to the day when Maggie, who was off out to a ministry day for women, brought me the paper and tea in bed before leaving – has to be the start to a perfect Saturday! Followed by breakfast out with Ben, I then had to turn to some DIY – so all downhill from there!
Had a good day yesterday at Didcot – I was talking with BMS about things, but there primarily for an interview with a guy in process of transferring from the South African BU to ours. This is not a Ronaldo type transfer to Real Madrid – for a start he can’t preach! Anyway, I wa scaugth by surprise when at the end of the interview with the typical ‘do you have any questions you want to ask us?’ …. He came out with a ‘I’d just like to say I appreciate the standard of excellence the BU here bring to this process’ – wow – I hadn’t seem that one coming, but it did make me thank God we’re doing well in some things. I must admit when I look at education and some businesses and the resources, comparatively speaking, they are able to throw at things, our staff at Didcot do an amazing job and it took someone coming from SA to spot it – thanks.
Bristol’s been in the news on two fronts this week which are both a keen interest – football and Banksy. We’re making a bid apparently, for a part in the 2018 World Cup bid. I must admit, it’s the kind of thing which could keep me here as a Regional minister for a good while! However, whilst I admire the vision, I feel like one of those church members responding to their pastor – great idea, can’t see it myself. One thing I can see, though, is the Banksy exhibition which opened last night at the City Museum – it’s on till the end of August so no rush, but …. If you’d never though of Bristol as a weekend destination I suggest you change your mind in the next few weeks. I began thinking last night, whilst doing my DIY jobs, I haste to add, that Banksy would make a great Baptist Minister – subversive, anti-authoritarian, creative, anonymous – but, of course, as no one knows who he actually is he could be one already!!
Try www.banksy.co.uk for a trailer, or the same on you tube.
Tuesday, 9 June 2009
So, what’s going on? The headline which has hit the national press is ‘the Church of England is turning away trainee clergy for the first time in history after £1.3 billion of its investments were wiped out’. Of course, because the Anglicans pay for people’s training this will inevitably be more of a problem for them than others, as an institution, during this recession. As far as I’m aware, no charitable organisation (Christian or not) is immune from the challenges of seeing investment and savings income effectively wiped off our balance sheets. One of my own colleagues in another Association has already been made redundant and, additionally, we have more of this years leavers not yet settled than usual, from our own Baptist Colleges. The gap between posts available and supply seems to be widening.
So what’s going on?
We have a problem.
We are not immune.
Stipend costs have increased more than inflation due to the demands of the pension scheme.
There are going to be some casualties and that is not going to be easy for anyone involved to understand, or possibly accept.
However, can we learn anything and/or is God actually speaking into this situation in the wider sense? I’m being prompted in my questions on this theme by ‘The Call & the Commission’, which I’ve been asked to review for the BMJ. It’s sub-title is “equipping a new generation of leaders for a new world.” It raises some big questions and I just wonder whether it could be the financial crisis we’re wading through might be able to help us answer them more effectively than the days of plenty. Scary thoughts though with massive implications.
Monday, 8 June 2009
Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Now here’s two giveaways so none of my friends can say I never give them anything! Of course, however, they’re not really from me.
The First Voyage of the Coracle (The community of Aidan and Hilda – courtesy of my friend Ernie).
Brothers and Sisters, God is calling you to leave behind everything that stops you setting sail in the ocean of God’s love. You have heard the call of the Wild Goose, the untameable Spirit of God; be ready for him to lead you into wild and well-worn places in the knowledge that he will make them places of wonder and welcome.
He is giving you the vision of a spoiled creation being restored to harmony with its Creator, of a fragmented world becoming whole, of a weakened church being restored to its mission, of healed lands being lit up by the radiance of the glorious Trinity.
In stillness and storm, be always vigilant, waiting, sharing, praising, blessing, telling. Sail forth across the ocean of God’s world knowing both the frailty of your craft and the infinite riches of your God.’
The other is a free audio download available during this month, from christianaudio.com of Eugene Peterson’s book ‘Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places’ - so if you haven’t read it, listen to it.
Monday, 1 June 2009
There’s a renewed interest in coaching, which I find fascinating. In times when we’re beginning to explore far less structured, network based forms of church communities we still need the leadership factor. However, the style and approach is a crucial fit to make today, which is, it seems to me, why ‘coaching’ presents itself as a helpful model as an aid to our discipling of others:
Ed Stetzer.com talks about coaching in these kinds of ways:
1. Clarifying Calling--coaches help leaders practice their "first order calling" of knowing and following Christ (being) and their "second order calling" of serving Christ (doing). As coaches we assist leaders gain discovery and clarity about their personality, spiritual gifts, skills and passion. As leaders get clarity about God's call for their lives, they can give the best of their time and energy where they fit and flourish in their walk and work with the Lord.
2. Cultivating Character--ministry is often hindered or forfeited by character issues in the lives of leaders. Emerging leaders often come to ministry as broken people with visible character needs and no desire to pretend. Coaches help leaders identify character issues that are negatively affecting them, apply Biblical standards to the issue, develop a game plan to address where God wants them to grow and be accountable for change.
3. Creating Community--coaches come alongside leaders to help prioritize, create and experience authentic community both inside and outside the formal church fellowship. Healthy relationships are the highest value for emerging leaders. Old paradigms of coaching often focused on developing and maintaining programs. Our new approach focuses significantly on healthy Christian community that includes both Christians and pre-Christians.
4. Connecting with Culture--coaches help leaders produce devoted followers of Jesus who engage and transform their culture by living among, listening to and meeting needs...not for the sake of church growth but for the kingdom of God. Many leaders know how to "do church" but not how to become great missionaries...coaches help leaders be intentional about meeting needs so people can meet Christ. We're called to make disciples, not just hang out with fellow believers.
Bryn Hughes has written a helpful book too: ‘Discipling, Mentoring, Coaching’ – he was ahead of the current rise in interest, but I was surpised this came out in 2003. A great bloke Bryn.