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June 2022 

 

Annual Review1Re: Annual Review 2021 - a review of the review

Pages 2 & 3 of the review set the tone for the whole document. The Declaration of Principle for the Baptist Union had as its focus each church and each disciple. But in the graphic conveying how Baptists Together is seen, the local congregation/church is a very small entity in comparison with the three things which in theory will make the local church “successful”. In reality, National Expertise, Regional Support and Baptist Colleges are mostly peripheral to what is most important in the life of individual Baptist churches – namely, worshipping, witnessing and serving in ways appropriate to their particular situation. Our common life is out of kilter, without the perspective that it is the local that really matters.

Turning to page 5, the heading proclaims, “Our strategy to achieve success”. Success? Is that something for which Jesus told his disciples to aim? Is this a Christ-like aim for any church?

“OUR strategy”? Who is “US?” Of course, “Us” should be the Baptist churches who traditionally have been a “Union” in which church representatives met together locally and nationally to determine “our” business. That has largely gone. Mirroring the business world of executives, we now have regional and national leaders and committees who decide what local churches need. Incidentally, I hope no one missed Alan Donaldson’s point in his sermon to the Baptist Assembly that strategies are not what is needed to produce the fruits of the gospel. What is needed is for people to be “in Christ”; nourished by, breathing in and living out the gospel. As Baker & Ross put it, we need “to nurture a mission spirituality that fuels our life of mission, and to be steeped in the Bible story of mission and especially the life of Jesus as pattern and example” 1. Sadly, that over-riding Christ-centred priority is what is noticeably absent from the “success” ambitions in the 2021 Baptists Together Review.

But what is obviously present, on almost every page (again in keeping with most modern businesses) – is an infatuation with “leaders”. The mantra seems to be that if only we had more and better leaders, we’d be more successful. Instead of, where we have committed workers/labourers/servants in the vineyard there is much fruit and a rich harvest.

No one has ever managed to tell me where Jesus is recorded as telling anyone, “Go and become a leader”. On the other hand, Jesus is recorded as saying to his disciples when they wanted to be first in the Kingdom’s pecking order, “Don’t be called a leader – You only have one leader, Christ” (Matthew 23:10). Jesus’ disciples were called by his words and his example to be servants or slaves. Page 5 of the review declares that “our vision” (????) will be delivered through “investment in Godly leadership” – and to my great disappointment, nearly all the Colleges seem to have swallowed this mantra which is promulgated by officers who were once servants of a “Union” but who have morphed into leaders of Baptists who possibly have never been less together. Baker and Ross wisely note, “The stereotype of a pioneer is of a lone individual, the heroic leader, but this is an unhealthy picture. We have recently been inspired by friends in the Netherlands Protestantse Kerk, whose pioneer training is done for teams together, not just for solo leaders”.2  What we need are co-ordinators, enablers, encouragers and Christ-following examples, not leaders.

However, I take heart, because when I read through the review and note the examples of where gospel fruitfulness is evident, not one of the examples is the product of a “leader”. The Wren Bakery (p.13) is the result of two church members “simply stepping out, pushing doors, to see where GOD was leading”. In Kidlington Baptist Church (p.32) it was the Youth Group who were inspired to take the church to Chad. In Penarth (p.37) Paul James, an “ordinary” church member, felt prompted by God to write a book and then to start digitally sharing the gospel. In Derby (p.17), a group got together with an idea resulting in more impact by a light-hearted presence. I can only hope that our colleges and denominational officers and others might take account of this evidence. It was once fashionable – and right - to talk about the “upside down kingdom of heaven”. I dare to hope that as Baptists we can recover that perspective. We do not need leaders, we need disciples, servants who become co-workers and friends and are open to the leading of God’s spirit (John 15:15).

Where in this review is any encouragement to share the gospel, i.e. the story of Jesus, in the churches and with the world? Where is there any encouragement to train or help “ministers” conduct worship which is marked by genuine humility in the presence of God who is best known in the obedient, self-giving relationships of Jesus and markedly opposed to the success syndrome of business and empires? When I was a ministerial student, we used to have sermon classes in which one student preached for all their colleagues and the college tutors. The late Ernie Moore’s comment after some sermons has always remained with me. He would say, “In some ways that was a good sermon – but you didn’t mention Jesus!!” That is what I feel about our nationally shared Baptist life. “Jesus” is no longer at the heart of it (e.g.Jesus gets scant mention in the Review). It is my opinion and my concern that our common life is not modelled on his life – and consequently our structures and aspirations do not reflect his teaching or his spirit.

1.      Jonny Baker & Cathy Ross  "Imagining Mission with John V. Taylor" SCM Press 2020 p.27
2.      Jonny Baker & Cathy Ross  "Imagining Mission with John V. Taylor" SCM Press 2020 p.26


Ted Hale 
 

Bible Verses For KidsThumbnailRe: 'We want Sunday mornings to be the best part of the week for children and young people'  

Ensuring trainee ministers learn about more than safeguarding and a child protection policy during their three years at college would be a good start to making Sundays better for kids.
Sarah Bingham (via Facebook)

Sarah Bingham we have already reached the point where its more important to have safeguarding training than an aptitude to work with children and young people and develop the skills and knowledge for doing it. But it's more than Sundays. When I was a teenager there was at least three contact points each week.
Agree though that safeguarding should be dealt with in the college experience.
Arkle Bell (via Facebook)


 

Walking8003Re: 'We’d like to develop a walking group' 
Walking is such a great way to share, talk about life and God. Praying for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit as walk with others.
John Tuck  (via Facebook)

Brilliant
Chris Friend (via Facebook)

 

I am becauseRe: I am because you are, and we are
Brilliant, thanks Charmaine
Simon Jones (via Facebook)



 


Talking Jesus800Re: Latest Talking Jesus report now available 
Just Walk Across the Room is still one of the best reads on how to do this.
John Tuck (via Twitter)
 

 



Rwanda800Re: Why I do not support the Rwanda asylum plan

This article is interesting but offers no solution to the death s of such people attempting to cross the channel.

It's easy to criticise the government, but what solution do you have in preventing the channel crossings? This has been a problem for successive governments.
Rob Dyer


 



 

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State matters
Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022)
Fresh Streams leadership statement following summer theology school
Response to Pension Scheme news; Following the Zeitgeist; A Theology of Unity in Diversity
Annual review; walking club; Rwanda
The Queen; does Jesus heal today?; Child Q
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