Well, we had a 'Futures Group' meeting this week and the Baptist blogosphere managed a couple of mentions! My problem is, for some mysterious, but no doubt devilish reason, my list of blogs disappeared off my mac whilst in India! So, I've been well out of date with what's been put out there by Baptist colleagues. However, whilst I feel I cannot speak out quite as clearly as I would like, I do want to be part of the blog conversation - and I promise to catch up with what everyone else is saying. My main concern, with what I've read so far, is a focus on minor, structural and financial issues, which frankly matter little if we miss the big ones. You can have the best structure possible, but if it's not fit for purpose, what's the point?
Big generalisation, I know, but let me offer this:
We tend, as Baptist Ministers, to operate from a theologically reflective base, which (unfortunately because it's not supposed to work out like this in my view) contributes to our malaise when it comes to making significant change. My feeling is, this is made worse because we have grown accustomed to imbalanced practices among and arising from our local congregations. By this, I mean ‘ministry’ has, in too many churches, become almost exclusively identified with the pastoral and teaching models of Ministry. This is not quite the same thing as saying most of us are pastor/teachers, but there seems to be no denying this is the paradigm which dominates our practice as individuals and structures corporately.
Now, because most of the powerful voices engaged in the national conversations concerning any potential new shape for BUGB in the future, are Baptist Ministers, this is bound to influence us. However, what our nation desperately needs is churches, which are looking in their direction and, therefore, looking out for the people in our communities and places of work and leisure (wherever we find them). This demands an outward looking people. This means church leaders who identify and release people with gifts, which are expressed in loving service for others (how many spiritual gift identification programmes in church life actually result in more gifts being shared beyond our church premises?)
As a locally rooted Minister I used to work continually with three questions:
Wat kind of people is Jesus sending out into this community?
What kind of church creates those kinds of people?
What kind of leadership cultivates that kind of church?
When I became an idiot who no longer knows anything about the mission of God, sorry I meant a Regional Minister, I added another - what kind of Association enables this kind of leadership. What we didn't try and answer, however, following the re-structuring of 2001 was 'what kind of Union releases people, mission, gifts'.....
It seems to me the present context requires the primary shapers of ‘church’ to be far more balanced across, at least, the five-fold ministries spoken of in Ephesians 4. This is why I would advocate the word, which many people seem to dislike - ‘missional’ being promoted. We need to move towards a missional shape for many reasons, but not least because this word best describes the necessary posture of the church in our UK current context.
This was going to be short, but I've only just begun!