Monday, 30 January 2012

I hope you're getting in on the Beyond 400 conversation - 5 posts, all stimulating our imaginations, so far. I confess, my blogging has slowed down for various reasons recently. One is, I'm conscious I've been invited to contribute (on 5th February, which is when our own Ministers' Conference starts) and I haven't been able to decide what to put into the mix. Consequently, every blog post has been shelved 'in case of need' - I'm up to six now, I think!
So, here's one I prepared earlier, because I've decided to raise the question of missional movement now for Beyond 400. Every blessing.

‘All change’’. Last week, on the London Underground, (this photo, you may guess, was not taken then, but it is a train!) 
I wasn’t expecting it. To be honest, I’d thought it was something, which didn't happen anymore. I’d just settled back into my book, assuming I had fifteen stops to go!

‘All change’. Pandemonium. Bodies, cases, children, everywhere. It’s disorientating because I thought I knew where I was going. I wasn’t expecting to get off right here, right now. It’s unwelcome, because I’ve settled, I haven't finished the chapter I’m on, I don’t want to get up and move, not right here, right now. It’s unexpected, it’s twenty years since I lived in London, it happens everyday, I’ve simply forgotten it might affect me, right here, right now.

Sometimes, I naively think we understand change. We are, after all, still living through a prolonged period of rapid, discontinuous change, with no signs of it slowing down. However, I realise, whenever I engage with churches on this issue, we live in a dualistic world – change is for …. ‘others’ – person, church, fill in any blank, not ‘me’! Bob Dylan sang ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’. He’s still quoted, but he was ‘old’ when I was young! He wrote it in 1963 – nearly fifty years ago.

So what’s this £1 million deficit all about? If you listen to some people, it’s simply about recognising we all need to give more to Home Mission. Spread across the total membership of BUGB, it’s peanuts, quite literally. For me, it’s about the coffee people are waking up to smell! Facing reality, something Jesus needs us all to do when we first meet. It’s the opportunity it presents. It’s the questions it is posing.

Reality: The system is stuck! The system is not working according to its design. Chris Duffett is right in his observation “For all the finances and resources that we share, very little face-to-face good news sharing happens.” This puts the finger on our biggest issue in the UK church. The practices of the church are out of synch with its stated aims and objectives. The genius of the Baptist system, is everybody matters. We are more Wikipedia than Encyclopedia Britannica. Our ‘declaration of principle’ has few words, but says much: it is the duty of every disciple to bear personal witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to take part in the evangelisation of the world. Working with churches, I observe we can change all the words, whether they be written in church meeting minutes, or vision statements, but if the culture does change, the practices remain unchanged. If we cannot return to disciples making disciples at our heart, then all are lost.

A question: What is God is up to? I loved the line in Rowena Wilding’s poem:
“I thought our leadership came from the Teacher.”
We say Jesus is our Teacher. We say Jesus is Lord of His Church. It means precisely that ….  consequently we are not! The time to re-calibrate according to Jesus is here. Everywhere: locally, regionally and nationally. Discipleship needs to return to being our core business, in reality.

Sadly, it has taken the money we are told, by Jesus, not to serve, to make us stop, look and listen. We can both serve and use money. We cannot both serve and use God. Can we face reality AND ask the big questions, which might lead us to address our challenges yes, but also rise to the opportunity this situation presents us with? Only, I suspect, if everybody changes….

As local churches, we gather momentum on the transition from doing mission to being missional.
As regional associations, we cultivate an environment in which pioneers are, not simply given permission, but intentionally grown.
As a national resource we cut the power lines trying to become a proper denomination and re-wire according to the original design for being a missional movement.
As Baptist Colleges we stop asking how can five survive and start asking how can we equip the whole people of God?
As Baptist Ministers we stop pretending we’re professional experts and start learning how to release the ministry of the whole church.
As ministerial recognition processes, we re-establish character as our priority, but that will mean being non-conformists.

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