Are baptists ready for change?

Next weekend’s (BUGB) Baptist
Assembly 2013 is an important moment, not least because a new General Secretary
is appointed.

Whoever it is takes on a
challenge. Can they gain the trust and support of the people who work in
Baptist House, forge a great team ethic with the Association team leaders and yet
be a person whose primary gifts enable them to connect with the wider Baptist
Community? Get it right and they will play a critical role in leading the
denomination forward. But fail to get to grips with the complexity of the Union,
or demonstrate the intellectual depth to grasp the theological, strategic and
cultural tests we face, or the communication skills to speak with clarity and conviction
to the church and wider society…….. it could become akin to William Hague’s
leadership of the conservative party (so no pressure then!)

In my view the two biggest
challenges we face over the next five years are transitioning to a pioneering
missionary movement and finance.

Pioneering missionary
movement because unless we change radically we will wither away. The challenge is
doing this without abandoning the legacy churches that make up the bulk of our
Union at present.  We have a number of
great people doing pioneer mission and leading various initiatives who we need
to support and encourage helping us to become a mixed ‘economy’ of risk taking,
spirit inspired, missional communities.

Finance because my personal
view (a minority one at present I think) is that the existing structure of Home
Mission is past its use by date. Sure we can keep the same structure of
centralised giving and spending for a while yet, and we can keep on pumping out
the messages of giving that will continue to bring in resources for some years.
But the horse has bolted and it is time to go back to the drawing board.

Or maybe put another way,
the message for our
Union is this, “whoever wants to save their life will lose
it, but whoever loses their life for me and the gospel will save it”

9 thoughts on “Are baptists ready for change?

Add yours

  1. I’m not (yet) proposing an alternative for the existing Home Mission system, though it is in the back of my mind. My observation is simply that it was designed for a world which no longer exists.

    However, I want to challenge the notion that the current system is one where the better off churches are supposed to help others. First the suggested contribution rates are the same for all churches no matter whether rich or poor, big or small. Secondly Home Mission grants given to churches to enable ministry are not given on the basis of a church being made up of members who are on benefits / retired but to respond to mission opportunity. Third the majority of Home Mission money is spent on National Resource and Local Associations, not on grants to churches.

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  2. Mission shouldn’t be in isolation. We need church leaders to recognise their God given role as “Fathers of the City” and work together for solutions to benefit the whole community. Until that level of unity happens we won’t see the church making a difference to the unchurched, nor will we see the people of God empowered to go by their leaders. We are still hung up on denominational differences and focused on our programmes and liturgy and the Sunday morning experience (important and necessary but within the context of wholehearted mission). Prayerful, city wide strategy led by Godly men will empower women to nurture and help young people and children to respond. Tough love but someone’s got to do it, and God designed the church for such a time as this with Jesus as our teacher and the Holy Spirit as our guide.

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  3. Sandra, thanks for stopping by. Whilst I understand the sentiment about wholehearted mission and wanting to see our cities reached for Christ you hint at a number of themes which I’d want to question. Most notably the notion of church leaders as ‘fathers’ and not ‘mothers’, and the relationship between church ministry/leadership and civic responsibility. The picture you paint of being hung up on denominational differences, programms and Sundays may have some emotional traction but certainly doesn’t reflect the church I’m the minister of.

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  4. thanks for kick starting this conversation, and moving beyond twitter. I concur with your thoughts about the new GS, and regardless of the specifics of their role certainly believe it is a key, and very tough remit they take on.

    I’ve commented similarly over on Simon’s blog, but I do want to question this dichotomy between pioneer movements and existing church. I think pioneers are needed within the existing church model to help to re-shape, which I think you might be alluding to. I think this is key partly for those who are committed to existing church models but are not being discipled through them and can’t imagine or conceive of alternatives. But also to help sustain pioneer ministries that (in part) enrich and influence the existing church. Hopefully the existing church will be inspired & attracted towards the pioneers but also have been pushed from within to reconsider their approach.

    And I agree an overhaul of finances is needed, whether this can be done through home mission or takes place through local partnerships I’m not sure. But increasingly think the financial challenges facing churches will force innovation and reconsideration of existing models.

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  5. Hi Anthony. You are right to question the pioneer bit and as you or Simon mentioned on Twitter it is sloppy language on my part. I certainly don’t want to draw the distinction too sharply. I hope that the church I’m part of here is committed to pioneering; both because we are gradually changing and because we are willing to resource others trying new things.

    It probably warrants a blog post of its own but, for me, it is critical that BUGB uses what resources it has to encourage the pioneers. My fear (which may prove unfounded) is that we are too comfortable with the status quo and not prepared to be radical enough. Whereas we need the willingness to keep innovating and reshaping the church as part of our ethos.

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  6. Neil I’m not sure I borrow the second paragraph above, I know of too many ministers/churches who thinking through what it means to be church at this present time and that is largely independent on HM funding … how true is it that HM grants go to funding status quo ministry … its a broad claim I’ve heard a number of times from peoples, just not sure how true it is in reality …

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  7. Andy – I’d want to draw a distinction between status quo ministry and the Union being too comfortable with the status quo. My experience of Home Mission grants is that some are given to churches where it is unlikely that the church will be in a position to pay for a full time minister without the grant in the foreseeable future. That doesn’t mean the church and minister are not working hard at growing the church, but it does raise a question of whether this is the best use of HM grants. Whereas I think we need to be more pro-active in giving grants to help innovative mission ideas.

    That’s very broad brush, and I continue to ponder it. At some point I will blog a bit more about it but want to think through some aspects a bit more before I put it in the public domain. Whilst the essence of blogging ought to be a place to raise questions, trial ideas etc; my experience of the grief you get makes me cautious!

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  8. Since Lynn Green has been appointed, it seems only fair to say that I think she has a track record of getting to grips with the complexities of Union life, she is someone of ability who can grapple with ideas and get on top of them. I’m sure she will quickly gain the confidence of the staff at BH, will work to develop a good team ethic with the Team Leaders, and will communicate well with the constituency.
    Overall I suspect her leadership style will be as a gatherer and facilitator. I wish her every success.

    Early on in the process I named three people I would be happy to see appointed, and Lynn was one of them.

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