Monday, 3 November 2014

Survival is not enough ....

I've been on holiday, reading Ezra and Nehemiah and facing the reality survival is not enough ...

Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 1:2 NIVUK)

Some survived, but ....

They said to me, Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.(Nehemiah 1:3 NIVUK)

cf story of Ezra too:

Now honour the Lord, the God of your ancestors, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives.(Ezra 10:11 NIVUK)

NB this is where Ezra's recorded episode ends not where it begins.

Who can blame either group of people for thinking 'we just need to get through this', whether they be exiled in the strange land of Babylon, or the no longer the comfort zone home-land of Israel?
Certainly not Baptists who seem to have adopted a survival mentality. 
I'm hearing the same messages in different ways all over the place.
'We have enough money to keep going at this rate of deficit for the next X years .....'
'Our numbers have kept up more, or less (that last word is always worth further investigation) the same for the previous two Ministers.'
'We're looking for a sustainable future, so we won't be reliant on the giving to sustain our Ministry.' (usually equates to a full-time stipendary Minister).

My fear is, in too many places, we're settling for survival. 'Survival as and for what'? We could move to a financially sustainable model as a national (Baptist, but probably not exclusively so) resource with our present resources, in my opinion, which is not at all dependent on whether we maintain, or increase the number of churches, or not. We could continue down our trajectory to become a Union of Ministers, more than churches. We could maintain the number of academic learning institutions, which carry the Baptist name, whether we have any ordinands for Baptist Ministry, or not. We could maintain the organisation of a number of Baptist Associations, whether we maintain, or increase the number of churches, or not. Many churches will continue for a good number of years from now, whether anyone is added new into the kingdom, or not. 

If we started with 'why', when did we forget to keep asking the question?

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