Friday, 27 July 2012

You want to join a movement? Here's how!

Derek Sivers' youtube clip on the subject of first followers: Leadership lessons from dancing guy.

I think this clip on You Tube is great. You may be one of the 1.5m plus viewers and so it'll be old hat, but if not and you're struggling with the growing talk about movement, it might help. Of course, it might not and the only thing I can guarantee is ... some of you won't like it!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

'changing our thinking'?

It was Albert Einstein who said: “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” I’m increasingly coming up against references to his way of thinking. Personally, I think it was John Wimber, visiting the UK in 1981-2 just prior to my going to Spurgeon’s who introduced the term ‘paradigm shift’ to me. Since then, we’ve become accustomed to the ‘post’ (modernity, Christendom, men, etc.) to the point of almost becoming blasé. However, I’m realising more and more how little we’ve taken on board, within the UK Church, over the last thirty years, which my testimony represents.

I regularly meet local Church leaders who suggest they really do believe it’s simply about trying harder at what’s not been working for most of that period.
I do still meet Ministers who appear to think the Church of which they apart (they tend to refer to ‘my’ church) simply needs to buck up and listen to their sermons and all will be well again (like it wasn’t in a previous decade lost in the fogginess of memory).
On the other hand, I meet many people (and I’m suspecting this is now a greater proportion) who have begun to key into their gut instincts the way they’re doing church is no longer making in-roads into contemporary living. This, for me, although maybe not for them, is good news.
However, I’ve been encouraged this week, by reflecting on my conversation with Charles last Sunday. After the morning service, where I’d been introducing my take on the great commandment as Christian DNA, he engaged me in the kind of stimulating conversation, which doesn't happen after every sermon I preach!

Charles was born in the Congo, to missionary parents and named after CT Studd, who dedicated him. He wanted to encourage me, about what he described as ‘the missional genetic code’. Charles was part of the core team planting Worle BC, when I was part of a College team in the 1980’s. He’s now 83, which just shows you don't need to be young and trendy to get what this missional thing is all about. I left encouraged! 

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Christian DNA groups

OK this is all pretty exciting and new to me. This may be the workbook cover, which is designed to get people moving and meeting together in DNA (D for discipleship, N for eNgagement, A for authenticity) groups (preferably in three's, an hour/week).

The first 1000 copies are planned to be a further, but much bigger experiment in cultivating Christian DNA, so I'll be looking for feedback, which I hope will lead to developments in the material, thinking and fruitfulness.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Which path to the future?

When people ask me what my D Min thesis is likely to be called, it’s always a difficult one. What I’ve found myself saying recently is ‘I don’t want the subtitle to become “why we made some really stupid decisions, in BUGB, in 2012”.
That’s because, what began as a relatively straightforward review of post 2000 in the life of BUGB, with a subtext of ‘can any trans-local body really enhance effectiveness in mission?’ quickly becomes a much bigger question, along the lines of ‘can we change the system?’
It strikes me, to ignore the inter-connectedness of our ‘system’ is not only to miss the wood for the trees, but to deny something of the essence of being part of the ‘body of Christ’.
What has become more widely known as ‘living systems theory’ is, I think, what Jesus talks about when he describes the kingdom of God. ‘The kingdom of God is like’ ……. and where does he draw the illustrations from? Human beings (inner and outer integrity), expressions of nature (the habits of God?), human connectedness (relationships), etc.
Margaret Wheatley (I’d like to call her Meg as her friends seem to, because she’s beginning to feel like one) talks about her work in her profession (broadly described as organisational change, or development):
‘when I talked to other consultants, I noticed that if we had an organisational change effort that was successful, it felt like a miracle to us’.
‘we weren’t even geared up for success. It didn't matter that we didn't know how to change organisations. We were all professionals who didn't hope to achieve what we were selling or suggesting to our clients.’
She says this to help describe how she developed some of her subsequent patterns of working.
What I think is really worth grabbing hold of is when she says ‘the real eye-opener for me was to realise how control and order were two different things and that you could have order without control’.
Isn’t this akin to ‘finding the path by walking?’
I’ve lost count how many times Ministers have become frustrated by trying to re-organise their small group networks. I’ve been there too, so it’s not without learning the hard way! How often does control actually work?
People don't often want to meet with X others just because they live near one another, neither does a mini church in someone’s front room, designed to represent the breadth of the whole fellowship, invariably result in genuine accountability, honest sharing and confessing of sin, or mutual encouragement.
However, do Christians generally want to belong and be part of a small group of people, with whom they can share life together? Absolutely!
So if control doesn't actually work in local church life and we think it intrinsically non-Baptist …….

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Back to the drawing board?

I sense the need to say something. Partly because I’m as frustrated as everyone else who’s left wondering what happened to words like ‘radical’, ‘missional’, or ‘movement’?

An opportunity was missed last week at BUGB Council, but it does reveal the reality of how stuck we have become. If we can face this reality, then maybe we can begin to move forwards again. To be honest, my normal optimism, however, has taken a significant knock.

The saddest thing, for me, was even when the cry of people, through the on-line survey, was for ‘movement’, as opposed to ‘institution’, it was dismissed within a sentence.

The problem, I suspect, is not intentional.
The mistake, I suspect, is unconscious.
The pattern, I believe, is typical.

The problem is we don't really know what it means to organise our life around mission. I see it in local churches, Associations and not surprisingly, therefore, our national way of being also. Of course, when I highlighted the point with the Futures Group, everyone agrees. Of course, we must organise around mission, mission is what we do, mission is what Baptists are all about, mission is ….. well, everything, but doing very much about it, I’m afraid.

The mistake is we believe we are doing mission, lots of it, because we use the word, (even trended it up to ‘missional’ in many places), read the books (not as many as I once thought Ministers read), but are we wiling to learn from our mistakes? I suspect not, except in a minority of situations. The minority, however, is growing.

The pattern is typical. Ministers are especially defensive and the worst examples here. How dare a Regional Minister suggest we need to re-think, re-learn, re-assess, etc.? When in doubt, we’re much happier continuing with what we know is not working, than try the unknown, risk-filled alternatives. If it's taking more and more Christians, to 'make' one more disciple, it is, whatever else, a symptom of a deep seated problem.

Movement. We need to dig this word out from the debris of words from the Futures process. It was buried, but must rise again! Jesus started a movement. The mission of God, at the centre of everything we do, creates a centrifugal force – outwards. Nearly everything I heard, last week, was about looking inwards. Who’s represented on the leadership, who’s deciding this, who has the power, who’s getting money for that? The one thing, I’ve tried to stress, here in the West is: what is God calling us to be and do, with, or without the money?

The genius of Baptists is the place we give to the local Church. We’re not unique, but this is where our energy is best placed. Trans-local bodies, called Associations in our case, can be very helpful, as long as they don't get in the way of what God is doing, or wanting to do. I believe some regional strategy and some local energy provides a healthy mix and can, at least, bring some encouragement and empowerment to the gift-mix in most local churches - Ephesians four is, after all, a local church text.

The structural changes around 2000 set us down two particular paths:

A regional pathway. We had become institutionalised - seeking to be too much like the other denominations, in our desire to move up the social strata of a previous generation in Christendom. We’d become too centralised in our thinking  (not a swipe at Baptist House – I see plenty of local Ministers who don't appear to have read Ephesians 4 and exercise a centralising ministry). Superintendents were ‘officers of the Union’ – no wonder I never applied for the job! Moving from 29 to 13 Associations meant we could connect the whole Union of Churches around one table (admittedly quite a big one, but it become possible to have a meaningful, proper, conversation). However, the job was left unfinished. It was akin to the kind of car you'd give your daughter for her seventeenth birthday. I didn’t! Had I done, I’d have gone for a small engine, and preferably one with dual controls, where I could apply the brakes! That's what we did and I'd hoped, last week, we might take the brakes off. That said, the proposals do allow Associations to direct much more of our HM giving. This is a healthy step, in the right direction. Not far enough, in my view – I’d let them control all the HM giving from their churches and merely pass on a small percentage, for national use, or to share across their boundaries. Get it wrong - local churches will soon let you know. Get it right - the money gets to those who will multiply its benefit for the kingdom.

A missional pathway. Of course, in 2000 we didn't even use the word ‘missional’. Personally, I don't think we understand the word much more now, but we think we can be missional, because we use the word. One virtue in the new ‘m’ word, is it builds a bridge between what we separate: ministry and mission. At heart, I believe, British Baptists were a discipleship movement originally, more than a missionary movement. The same, I believe, is true of the continental Anabaptists, of whom I am much more comfortable being a descendent of. However, at the heart of the previous round of re-structuring was the desire for more effective living out of the great commandment and the great commission.

Both pathways lead us back to ‘local’ Churches. I’m not always convinced ‘local’ is what we are, but if communities of God’s people who live out, together, the life of Christ are called local Churches, that’s fine by me. I once led a seminar on ‘accessible’ churches – trying to be clever and talk about making the gospel accessible for every people group. The place was stacked out with people interested in disability access to buildings!

This week, I'm thankful to God. Our Trustees in WEBA are supportive of our journey ‘towards a missional association’. This supports our purpose to make a difference across the West of England. To this end we have stated we shall accept the decisions made by BUGB Council, which help this trajectory, but politely try not to be held back by those, which hinder.