Thursday, 11 November 2010

church planting and/or BU Council?

It's been an interesting week - so far! 
Yesterday was a little fraught. I'd returned from BU Council a day early to talk with a small church about possible closure, or at least that's the language some people have unfortunately been using. 
Anything but! It's a church we thought we were trying to re-plant, so it was clearly going to be catastrophic to end their life together and long history come to an end, even though everyone remaining recognises the need for a very different way of being to reflect and embed the good news in this community.
Not a good start when the car doesn't start! Assumed it was battery, which did have loose leads, but no - starter motor. Good old RAC (and thanks Ian Bunce for the tip off I could use my Tesco Clubcard points for a renewal because I'd only just done it). Left the RAC man fixing the car and I took a taxi to get to the next meeting - £11!! for 4.7 miles. I'm so out of date with taxi fares and I admit I paid Mike nothing for the lift home - but thanks.
Anyway we faced a familiar problem - what do you do about structure, buildings, governance requirements with so few people?
Church planting among Baptists is struggling with the system, which assumes church is what church was - in terms of a Minister paid, a group of people we call a church wanting a life together as it was twenty years ago, a structure of governance revolving around finance and fabric and a Christendom assumption people will just turn up.
Sadly we are still keeping in place a reversal of the idea - Christology shapes missiology shapes ecclesiology. Baptists began, I believe, with Christology. It was the central idea 'Jesus is Lord' which gave legs to the shape of their life together. Sometime later when this movement was messy, vibrant, challenging basic values assumed in society and seeing people know for themselves the lordship of Christ, we developed something now referred to as 'our ecclesiology'. Aspects of this remain as relevant now as the day Conrad Grebel and others were baptised - after all, didn't Helwys and Smyth get he virus from the continent? However, some is a reflection of a later day and is drawn from wider society. Sadly, the desire for Baptist to become respectable and aspire to the same status as proper Churches were influences too. So, what do we do? What comes first the ecclesiology or the Christology? What really makes us 'Baptist' - Jesus or history (and a very selected reading of it). I know which I want to get my vote (!!)
In this particular case, we're trying to find ways forward, which remove some of these obligations from a small group until much later, but this group already have the baggage from the past. Effectively we'll try and build a mission team of twelve (to satisfy Trust requirement) who will have to be the trustees, but their responsibility will be to establish missional discipleship and grow a variety of networked groups. Someone said 'sounds like what a church and  leadership should be' - and, of course, therein lies many of our problems. Separation of structure from purpose, process from outcomes, values from vision.
Now that started me thinking again about the BU Council and where this week I was seeing this thing called Baptist movement most clearly and there I'd better stop.

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