Thursday, 30 January 2014

Burning questions for mission agencies today

Looking again at Patrick Johnstone's superb 'The Future of the Global Church'.
Pondering his "burning questions for today' on page 234 (there are quite a few others elsewhere):

"Breakdowns in relationships between agencies, theological trainers and local churches have harmed the cause of world evangelisation. There are many instances of broken promises, misunderstandings and pain.

-  How can missions become more sensitive to local churches?
-  How can local churches become more missional in their vision?
-  How can trainers become more aware that academic excellence is no substitute for godliness in those sent out to serve in churches and missions?

I'm reflecting on all three of these, this week, asking questions in our 'ministerial recognition' group, nurturing more risk taking in local church planting and trying to nudge forwards greater BUGB-wide missional cohesiveness. An interesting week!

Monday, 27 January 2014

The Canary is not too well - on a good day!

Canaries used to be used, in coal mining, as an early warning system. The most common toxic gases, which could threaten the life of the miners, would kill the bird before affecting the  miners - hopefully giving enough time to take evasive action.
Within the church we don't like early warning systems. More likely we respond with denial. Our default evasive action is to turn up the volume of our own way, which is usually a past way. Look what happened to the canary!

So when our Home Mission giving, from WEBA churches, is down over £16k and 7% from the previous year, is it the canary …. not yet falling off its perch, but certainly not singing a new song?

On closer look we've seen five churches, previously among our most generous givers, have given over £25k less last year than two years ago. In other words, if they'd maintained their giving, we'd have hit our 3.5% increase target, which we were looking for as a sustainable model going forwards. These were all large churches, once upon a time. Between them, just a very brief look at figures, suggests they've declined by over 200 members during the last ten years. Home Mission giving doesn't keep increasing in those circumstances.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Not if, when ….

When Jesus said 'I will build my church', he didn't put any time limit on it. It's because of Jesus, I am optimistic about the future of the church. So, whilst I don't sit comfortably with the doomsayers, who suggest the body of Christ, in the UK, is likely to disappear, I am able to read the signs of the times and think it highly probable the denominational landscape, as we know it, will look very different in twenty years from now. It means, however, whilst every congregation of the body of Christ can look forward positively towards Jesus' church being alive, in our nation, none can make any assumptions concerning their place with it, in even ten years time.

Evenso, the future of the Church is not an 'if', but a 'when'. What will it look like is becoming a growing question within the consciousness of the mainstream, rather than simply the adventurers. The ferment this is creating will hopefully prove to be sufficient to prise many of us (here I'm using 'us' for Baptists) away from our assumed traditions. 

Maybe we can use preaching as an example? I don't read in my Bible the suggestion preaching is something which happens according to any particular style. What I do read, however, are some clear convictions concerning the word of God.

Do we need people who can articulate and open up the word of God, for the people of God to implement authentically in discipleship, engaging among the people groups they inhabit? Absolutely.

Do we need Ministers who simply assume because they 'preach', but make no attempt to root this word in the ordinary lives of people, who can live it out, their particular congregation will continue to draw from the wellspring of life? 
Absolutely not.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

We're getting back to where we belong.

Happy New Year everyone! I hope those who receive my Christmas letter noted I resisted any comments about Liverpool's resurgence. 
New Years resolution: stop pretending to be someone else!