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: http://incarnate-network.eu 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.