Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Permanent Revolution & Beyond 400

More, or less, finished The Permanent Revolution by Alan Hirsch & Tim Catchim - a very timely book for anyone interested in Baptist Futures beyond 400.

I found this paragraph, the penultimate one in the book, before the conclusion, very pertinent to where we are right now;

"Putting aside the Christendom heritage and how that still biases our organizations, most denominational templates were formed following the model of the central management systems of the industrial era, models that are now rightly considered defunct my most corporations. We believe it is well past time for us to return to our most primal and effective form: the apostolic movement..... Leadership needs to look beyond the expediences of the status quo and make choices to design for advance and health."

I can add a hearty 'amen'.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

LICC launch

What was I hearing yesterday at the LICC launch of Imagine Church?

Even LICC, who have a, rightly, good name among us as being extremely well presented, have problems with their PA & vision system – the solution to this is quite simple – go Apple.

We owe a significant debt to LICC. They persist in what was described as an uphill struggle, in attempting to awaken the UK Church to the missional context we are living through, but not in! They need our applause and our encouragement, because we’re not too dissimilar, in the British Church, to the British press and we tend towards knocking, rather than building one another up. So, well done Mark, Tracy, Neil, no doubt others too, who have brought the resources focused on today into the light of day.

The agenda set out before us has become familiar language to some, but this remains a small minority.

-       My great fear is the increasing usage of words, which I wholeheartedly support, such as ‘missional’ and ’movement’ are merely words.
-       I am concerned, even among those who are using these particular two words, they are simply replacements for ‘mission’ and ‘organisation’ and the engagement, with their fuller meaning, is largely superficial.
-       If the above two points are cause for concern, then an even greater concern must be the whole-life discipleship ‘agenda’ is not even on the radar of most (vast majority if measured in acting on implications) church leaders and members.

Christians across the denominational and new streams tributaries share a deep and common concern around this issue. Not many of us, it seems, but there are some and they have some significant places of influence among them – just from looking around the room. Regional Ministers from four of our own Associations were there, with Andy getting the prize for the earliest train at 5.20 am.! It is na├»ve for Baptists, or anyone else for that matter, to imagine they have a monopoly on the wisdom, or adventure required right now. Just listening to Martyn Atkins speak about the Methodists, is evidence enough of that - how the mighty have fallen. The challenge, especially for those of us engaged in looking at Baptist Futures, must be to translate what we understand to be on God’s heart and in his purposes, into streams of energy towards and through local and accessible missional communities around Britain. It would look something like 'stupid' if we simply scale down who and what we provide and don't take the opportunity to re-align the core with our missional direction and desired outcomes.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Please pray for marriage this Sunday.

I have just sent a prayer request to all our churches, in the West of England, and post it here too, in the hope many others will join us:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

I am taking this opportunity to call us to pray together, as a Baptist network of churches, made up of over 7000 people in the West of England.

This week the Coalition Government is expected to present its consultation paper on the proposed change in the legal definition of marriage so as to open the institution of marriage to same-sex partnerships.

I do not believe it is necessary for me to outline the understanding of marriage held by, what I am convinced is, the view of the vast majority of Baptist Christians. Neither is this intended to be regarded in any sense as negative towards people who consider themselves to be homosexually oriented. However, I do think it is a time to pray for the distinctive nature of marriage, between one man and one woman, to be upheld.

Our origins as a Baptist movement arose from a recognition neither the king, emperor, or Prime Minister, or coalition government, is Lord of the Church, but Jesus Christ is, both King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Just as our forebears were willing to make a stand regarding who decides whether people are baptised in the Church, then we need to be prepared, to both pray and speak up, in this situation. This is not an argument for a blurring of the separation between church and state; rather recognition our government is threatening to cross the boundary lines of their own arena of authority.

You may consider passing on the details of the Coalition for Marriage, who have started a petition, on www.c4m.org.uk , or consulting your local MP., but it remains your prayers I am primarily asking for.

Lord, we pray for those given responsibility in governing the laws of our land: help them to seek wisdom, which is above and beyond their own, from you.
Lord, we pray for those who will speak up for marriage, as we believe you designed it, this week: give them humility, but help us all not to avoid our responsibility.
Lord, we pray for those who regard marriage as a right for all, but disregard its nature as a gift of God and especially the giver.
Lord, we pray for those whose marriage holds together by a too slender thread: help them to know the presence of Jesus, who turned water into wine.

Lord, disrupt our silence, fill our words with grace and may our actions be as yours. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

from permission to intentionality?

I've been somewhat sidelined from blogging recently, but need to air one or two things, which I sense we need to grapple with more than appears to be the case.

I spent some time with the Eastern Baptist Association Ministers last week and really enjoyed my time among them - they're not so different to their Western counter-parts!  Much of the mealtime and coffee conversation revolved around the stuff I was talking about, although I tried to say too much in the first session, so suspect a lot was lost. However, one thing, I acme away from there thinking, is how much we need to move from simply permission giving to intentional empowerment.

'As Baptists, we don't need permission to do anything'. I've heard it, you've probably heard it. This may be true, but it has clearly been an issue for Anglicans. It has often been cited; one of the reasons Fresh Expressions has taken off, along with various other initiatives in their wake, is because of 'the permission of the Bishops'. The Baptist response is 'we don't need permission' and specifically in relation to FE 'we do these anyway'. So, my questions, at this point, are:

-  'If we don't need permission, why are we such conformist non-conformists?'
-  Are we actually experimenting (very much) with new patterns and forms anyway?

Last week, I was exploring Ephesians 4: 1-16. My take is this is, primarily, a 'local church' text. It's not usually sufficient for whoever the key leader is to simply say to the apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic types, 'you have my permission'. It either doesn't happen, or you get chaos! In other words, you still need leadership, but of a particular ilk.

However, as we await the unfolding thinking of the Futures Group, we need to be careful and ensure we also embed such leadership in every strata of whatever structures we go for. Simply, saying 'you have our permission' will not cut it. We do need intentional empowerment - of regional ministry and local ministry. This only happens if we're clear about direction and outcomes. This needs more leadership than management.