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January 2015

Untold stories
Dear Sir, I am compiling a book of untold stories - testimonies regarding Christians whose service for Christ went largely unnoticed and unreported. I am seeking stories of unsung people that will inspire and encourage; people who never sought the limelight or achieved any degree of fame, yet who lived out their faith in impressive ways.
I would welcome such stories, and while I do not promise to publish every one I receive, I do promise to read and consider them all. My aim is to tell one hundred stories of service and witness. Your help in publishing this letter would be very much appreciated, and your readers should feel free to contact me by letter.
Many thanks.
Stephen Poxon, 5 Wetherall Mews, St. Albans, Hertfordshire. AL1 1AS.

Re: Uppingham Road Baptist Church, Leicester

Now that it is confirmed our building is up for sale and the fellowship closed, I have been asked to use the medium of The Baptist Times to express our thanks and gratitude to all the many Lay Preachers and Ministers who have helped us by leading our worship over the many years since our last full time minister left.
Ted Peall (final pastor) 

Re: What does Paul say about poverty?
Thanks Simon this is really helpful. 
The article seems to infer that Paul's economics were determined primarily by his reflection on the OT principles of distributive justice (and grace) in the context of his world... Does the booklet give us more on his reading of these principles and his reading beyond them in the light of Jesus and Jesus' teaching on the economics of the kingdom?
Be great to hear you speak about this... Do you plan to do so anywhere soon?
Ashley Lovett

Hi Ashley - great question!
The booklet doesn't go into detail because of the limited space. I'd like to have explored the OT origins of Paul's thinking in more detail - maybe I will sometime. And I think it's true to say that the booklet contains nothing on the relationship between Paul's teaching and that of Jesus. The reason for that is (again) space but also the complexity of charting those relationships in modern NT scholarship. Again, it would be good to explore them.
I'm always on the look out for opportunities to explore these topics in front of an audience but I have no plans to do so in the forseeable future - except in classes at Spurgeon's.
Simon Jones

Re: Assembly recognised for gender balance 
I suppose we are reduced to looking for whatever culturally applauded positives we can eke out of our slow march to denominational irrelevance. Mr Bunce et al. would be better to concentrate on an intentional policy of bringing attenders instead of balance. We do not know the gender balance of the Day of Pentecost. It really doesn't matter.
>If the Holy Spirit fell only on men on the day of Pentecost then I think it does matter. We would have a big problem with our theology. But if He/She was given to men and women then we better try and make sure we listen to both equally. It matters!
Phil Warburton

Disagree with Steve Holmes assumption that 3:28=50:50. We want the men and women who have been called by God to deliver His Word and truth. 50:50 has absolutely nothing to do with it. Its a sad day when we are reduced to replicating society's values in the church.
Paul. What value is it that you do not want replicated?
Phil Warburton

Okay this isn't a bad thing. We want to be inclusive, but there should be a far greater inclusivity we are interested in as Baptists - the ratio of the time given to the Baptist hierarchy as opposed to the grass roots churches - sadly that is now 1:0.
I'm old enough to remember the days (pre-the flirtation with the hugely expensive Spring Harvest style assembly) when the assembly was a time when Baptists got together to discuss the things that concerned them - when it gave some credence to the idea of being Baptists seeking God’s will together rather than relying on a non-representative Council. Sadly not anymore, now no such place now exists.
I hate this because as a minister I face day to day pastoral issues I want help from my God given brothers and sisters to understand. God has given me you, but sadly the lines of communication have been torn down.
Sorry guys, my folks who went (sorry I don’t go because I can see nothing of value in it I can’t get from a spreadsheet) enjoyed the sales pitches from BMS and Home Mission, but as to being inspirational it came somewhere below a blizzard in Skegness (apologies to Skegness).
Pete C
There were voices from the grass roots centre stage at last year's assembly. But your post is a good reminder that we need to listen to our churches (as leaders), to our fellow ministers and our regional ministers. We need each others wisdom and correction.
Phil Warburton

I wonder what Steve Holmes thinks about 1 Timothy 2:12. After all it is scripture.
Alan Taylor
>Whilst all scripture is scripture not all scripture is equally important.
Phil Warburton

Isn't it interesting in this discussion that there appears to be a lack of women? I wonder why?
There are more women than men in our churches and yet it appears that men have much more of a platform as speakers, preachers etc.
We are living in 21st century not the 1st.
Come on ladies lets hear your voices.
Wild Haggis

Stats can be really useful - if we dare release them. Could I put in an appeal for more stats about the assembly - for example: How many of the Union Churches sent representatives last year? What was the gender balance of the attendees? What was the balance between laity and clergy attendance? These stats should be of fundamental importance to us. If we do not have a forum which is trusted by the churches to be relevant and representative then surely we have ceased to exist as a Union of Churches in anything but name. If that is the case gender balance on the platform is about as relevant as the colour of the deckchairs on the Titanic.
Peter Cook

Re: Letters to Muslim, Jewish communities
I know Baptists aren’t particularly good at responding in this way, but something strikes me as ever so odd about this letter. Then again, why am I surprised? In what way are we “fellow people of faith” – what kind of politically correct tosh is this and from Baptists of all people? Now, I grant that some things might be shared in common, but much which is fundamental is not. Concern and love for our neighbour should not be at the expense of our fellow believer in Christ. I suppose being mindful of those living in fear is some kind of recompense, however, for our Christian brothers and sisters in so many places who face daily persecution and violence from their Muslim neighbour. Maybe the Muslim Council of Britain can join us in a similar letter to their ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other brothers and sisters in the umma, explaining to them that Islam after all is a religion of peace and roses, with everyone holding hands and singing Kumbayah or something similar.

To what extent is our speaking out and upholding the right of speech and belief to be reciprocated? Certainly even a cursory examination of the Qu’ran, Hadith and tafsir to which Muslims are bound, don’t exactly fill one with confidence. A commitment to live in peace is fine and welcome, but at what price peace? If the very heart of Islam, rooted in the supposed revelation of a false god and its so-called prophet, is violent, what can we truly expect the fruit to be? I seem to remember a great leader saying once “by their fruits you shall know them.” How can we speak well of each other with real integrity? Dialogue and love for one’s neighbour are one thing, but truth is truth and we forget this at our peril.
Steve Cleary

Re: Theological conference at Nazareth college
Theology sounds good. Would that be Replacement Theology, Liberation Theology of Bible Theology?
Michael Beer

Re: Empire - or Kingdom - building?
A couple of years ago I visited Paraguay. I also was challenged by very clear purpose of church planting. Every Baptist congregation is expected to be attempting to plant another. If a church is not planting, then it is the exception. Even churches of 50 members are thinking of planting. In fact, it's seen a little odd. Of course churches should be planting. if you're not, you're functioning properly as a church. Maybe they are right? Maybe our focus is disfunctional, in terms of what a church should be. This article has reminded me of the challenge I felt upon my return and it is a challenge I and the church should still be addressing...
Chris Ruddle

HTB and Vineyard in London and elsewhere are doing a great job of planting (or replanting churches). They must be applauded for it. However they are not (on the whole) reaching the margins. They are incredibly resource rich in terms of pre-existing plant (buildings), and people. And they tend to be clones. All good but that will not work everywhere - we need small teams of people who can develop local forms of community, worship and mission. That's the way towards kingdom not empire. We can be inspired by and learn from our brothers and sisters in Ecuador but we must be careful not to unthinkingly transplant a model that is working there back to this pre-Christian, post-Christendom land.
Phil Warburton
>Phil, I 100% agree on your comments about HTB and Vineyard clones. The Vineyard church I mentioned planted initially planted into Bedminster (where I was a student minister) a traditional white working class area on the edge of the city, which had seen massive church decline, but as soon as an opportunity came up they moved to Clifton, an area of Bristol that was already over loaded with large churches!
I think my point was about intent and about mindset, Vineyard churches have a culture of planting, and that is something we have somehow lost. I lead a church in Plymouth that was planted 14 years ago by Mutley Baptist, but if a new church was to be planted now it would most likely be Association led, rather than church led, and it would involve an individual Church planter rather than a team.
The culture of church planting is one we need to rekindled; when a building becomes too small, the idea of church planting is often ruled out in favor of second services or larger buildings. Our first thought should be - can we plant and if so, where is the need and how can we support it until it is able to support itself?
Michael Shaw

Re: Libby Lane: celebrating a great day
Splendid article Phil, and one which takes us along a different path to the usual stale arguments. Now, if only we could get rid of the implicit prejudice which still exists in many of our own churches ...
Andrew Kleissner

Re: Is God's justice different
I've always believed that God's justice and judgement are perfect, which means that they are far different than ours. They are also based totally on love because God Himself is love. Thanks Steve. Good article.
Alan Hamilton-Messer

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