Monday, 27 June 2011

call to plant more churches ....

I’m wondering this week, what impact the recent front-page headline in the Baptist Times “call to plant more churches” has begun to have?

None what so ever?
A U-turn in people’s thinking?
Somewhere in between?

The article was based around an interview with Stuart Murray-Williams, whom I'm pleased to say we are working in partnership with here in the West. Not surprisingly, therefore, I welcome Stuart’s comments and recognise the themes from over a mug of coffee. I suggest you listen to the whole interview on the Incarnate website:  Of course, it’s easy to welcome someone’s points of view when they coincide with your own isn't it? We all need to take a check of our compass when we recognise this, but we're not always headed in the wrong direction and, on this occasion, I think we're on course. On course in thinking, however, is not the same as on course in practice. Herein lies the greatest failing of those of us Ministers. 'I've read it = I'm doing something about it.'
I suspect one thing many Baptists are not going to like, is the suggestion we’re complacent about something, intended to be part of our DNA, that is mission. However, I am sure Stuart’s perception is right on here.
I’ve observed recently in particular how easy it is to get Baptists to agree with a statement, such as, ‘mission needs to become our organising principle’, but how equally comfortable we are with immediately ignoring it. I notice this in conversations with local Churches, Ministers and leadership teams, but also in regional and national conversations.
One complication is our definition of mission because, as is often quoted now, ‘when everything is mission, then nothing is mission’. Unfortunately, the idea of mission becoming our organising principle sounds too much like the latter statement, whereas the reality is very different.
One way of deciding whether any Church, or organisation (like an association, or a union of churches) believes what it says, is to look at where the energy and the resources are actually directed. Once you begin to do this, you begin to see what we really believe and this reveals just how much our structures and frameworks for mission need to change. The answer to helping our churches transition into a more missional way of being is not, I believe, necessitating huge extra sums of money and resources, but it does need a re-focusing of energy and resources (including the money) and a re-aligning of strategy. We need to wake up to the fact we are living now in a missionary context and no longer the pastoral one assumed by Christendom – before the demographics of our churches begin to join the increasing death rate in a few years time.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

congregations learn most from one another

This, amazing photo, was taken during the Vancouver riots following the ice hockey match last week. Apparently it's genuine, not posed - she must be quite a girl!

Sunday saw the last of our 3-in-1 events for 2011. This one was hosted by Clarence Park Baptist Church, WSM.
We're trying to apply the two lessons we've learnt from PMC in a wider context:

i.  congregations learn most from one another.
ii. congregations don't want to learn from one another.

If both of these statements are true and from observation, so far, I'm suspecting they are, then our challenge is a difficult one. Not an impossible one - simply providing an environment in which 'churches' can learn from one another in a non-threatening way. Story telling is the medium were using in this present attempt.

Essentially, a 3-in-1 consists of worshipping, telling stories and listening to God .... together.
So far, the word 'inspirational' has been used by some of the people at, at least, three of the four events. As the person who has preached on each occasion, I need to immediately say I am under no illusions they were talking about my sermon, but about the impact of one another's stories. More accurately, we're looking for the story of what God is up to among them. I know God is not actually so slow in speaking as we often think, but I pray more people among our churches might be catching more of his words, prompts, nudges. I would be concerned if I thought people simply started what the church is doing along the road, without any further reflection, or contextualisation, but I don't think most of our churches would do that, which proves the other point - churches don;t want to learn from one another! I wonder sometimes, if the lesson really is 'Ministers don't want to learn from one another'. Whilst competition is good for innovation, the insecure simply seem to dive for the nearest sand-dune to bury their heads!

Just heard from Emily - in Berlin today on an eleven country inter-rail adventure.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Towards a Missional Association?

We have our association executive and staff away day soon and the above is the title I've chosen for us to look at. Just beginning, this morning, to put finger to laptop on it.
I'm taking a leaf out of Glen Marshall's book today - see his blog - Nah then - where he's invited comments on one of his mission modules. As I realise a good chunk of those who read here are Baptists, I wonder what you'd want to say under this heading?
Rather than put up my points, I'd prefer comments not constrained by those. However, the outline (so far) for the sections we'll take the question in are:

Unpacking the jargon.      -  Theological and biblical framework.
What might it look like?    -  Exploring principles.
Where and what do we need to change?      -  Where in our system are the dams?
What are our implications?                              -  Personal and group reflections.

So any offers?

Monday, 13 June 2011

Saturday, 11 June 2011

partnership for missional church

I'm at our Partnership for Missional Church Cluster today and we're sitting here reflecting on what's going on. It's thrilling to be hearing stories about what God is up to.
Basically, the congregations involved are at the point where they're reflecting upon the various experiments they've set up and been working with for some while now. A whole variety of things  and activities, but was is important, is why? One church are trying to build meaningful relationships with the parents of children and young people they're already involved with - a smallish church, but they have a web of connections with over 80 families. There's been all kinds of things being tried - film clubs, open hospitality in various ways, cafes for parents, parenting classes, initiatives for the 'lonely' and elderly in different communities, etc.
The most crucial thing coming out of today for me is the comment - we're going out now and looking for people of peace and finding they are everywhere in every day. Now, if that mindset could spread across any congregation of God's people, we'd have the kind of cultural shift on our hands we're looking for.
Oh, we meet in West super Mare, but obviously not the photo!