The Baptist Steering Group - October 2015
General Secretary Lynn Green shares key messages from the October gathering of the Baptist Steering Group
Our time together this month was most definitely grounded in encountering Jesus through scripture and in hearing the stories of ministers on the frontline of mission.
We began with some extended reflection of Jesus sending out the 72 from Luke 10 by Richard Nicholls using a Lectio Divina approach. The richness of this passage in terms of discipleship and mission spoke to us deeply and became a significant backdrop to all that we were considering. We continued to listen to the Lord and capture what we heard throughout our time together; "Give me your hands and I can change the world through you" was one of the things that was shared. We also sensed that we need to remember that we are inviting people to join the mission of God.
Vision and culture - we agreed a document titled, "clarity" that expresses in summary form our vision, culture, priorities and what everyone needs to do to in order for us to achieve them! We will be sharing this with Council and all teams to gain further feedback. This is a response to feedback that people do not understand clearly who we are and what we do as Baptists Together.
Ignite - we received the final report and would like to express our great appreciation to Phil Jump and the Ignite team for all the work they have done and drawn together to help us gain a much clearer picture of the sort of ministries we need for the future and the ways that these need supporting. The full report will be soon be available in the Ignite section of our website, together with the supporting documents that underpin this work.
The report offers 17 proposals (appendix 6 of the report) and we spent some time reviewing these and considering how we might prioritise further work and development given the limited resources we have. We identified that there were some foundational areas that needed attention first and these are Marks of Ministry (proposal 4), Covenant for churches and ministers (9 & 10), Ministerial Recognition Committee training (2), future personal development plan for NAMs (7), database development and office systems (1 & 11). Some of these are already underway or are relatively straightforward to implement; other areas need further reflection. We agreed an action plan to move these forward.
Specialist Team Leader for Ministries - the first draft of this role description was discussed and agreed and this will now be refined so that we can advertise for this post in the near future.
40 Days of Good News - we are excited to get behind this initiative from our Regional Team Leaders. For the 40 days from 10 April through to Pentecost 2016 each Association is committing to hold at least three "reaping events" to encourage a focus on evangelism among our churches.
Pioneering mission - it was exciting, exhilarating and moving to hear the stories of three pioneer ministers from the Eastern Baptist Association who came to share with us - Dan Sutcliffe-Pratt (57 West); Ivan King (Shared Space) and June Love (Gunton Baptist Church). All three are ministering among marginalised communities and we were inspired by the ways that they were communicating that, "the Kingdom of God is near you" (Luke 10:9) by being there and staying there.
All of them are growing communities of faith, where people are being baptised and being serious about discipleship. We were particularly struck by the costly nature of these ministries; costly both in terms of personal commitment but also costly in terms of our home mission giving. "The only way GBC will ever be able to reduce their home mission grant is by closing!"
In areas of such social deprivation we need to stand alongside these churches over the long term in order to enable them to be and share good news where they are. We were also struck by the openness to seeking and depending upon God that was evident and the significance of the support networks that surrounded each of these pioneering situations. These ministers told us how important being part of the Baptist family was for them; they told us how deeply they appreciated all that has been given to them through Home Mission. We were challenged by all that we heard and we were so grateful that leaders like this are part of our team. We gathered round, laid hands on them and prayed for them.
Baptist Together Mission Forum - we affirmed the criteria that has been developed by the Forum for deciding how we spend the income from the Newington Court Fund and were encouraged with the range of projects being funded. One highlight was a significant grant for pioneering ministry among the deaf which is a great example of how we are living out our renewed culture.
Same sex marriage act – as part of our commitment to continuing the conversation we continued to listen to feedback from churches and Associations. We reflected further on how our Declaration of Principle is our basis for engaging with this issue as Baptists Together and the need to listen to and understand how Jesus is being seen through Scripture. We continue to recognise the concern of what might put a church outside of the Declaration of Principle and we also gave some thought to how we are “guardians of the truth” in our way of being church as part of planning for Council in March 2016.
Loaves and Fishes (releasing money for mission) - We clarified our foundational principles in relation to giving - Our God is a generous God and all that we have comes from Him. Giving is part of our worship and we seek to imitate God's generosity in our own lives and communities. Our giving is a sign of our belonging and commitment to Baptists Together; it is both a privilege and a discipline to express our support of one another though our giving.
We pool our giving in order to share it to enable mission across England and Wales; we want to feel like one team. We decide together and as locally as possible how to invest our giving for mission. Not all mission that is supported will become self-sufficient, in many areas ministry is costly in every sense of the word. We primarily invest for mission in people and small projects. The resources of our Specialist Teams are freely available to everyone in Baptists Together. We are committed to interdependence and recognise that higher than average costs of governance are an implication of our way of being church.
This will form the backdrop to further discussion and action at our next meeting.
Giving - we noted with concern that giving is currently down by 5 per cent compared with last year. A new Home Mission Update is currently being distributed sharing four great stories of how lives and communities are being transformed through our giving.
In response to feedback that people are unclear about how their giving is spent we looked at a pie chart representation of our spending over our four key areas: pioneering and planting, equipping local churches for mission, investing in Godly leadership and having a voice in the Public square and agreed that this could be a very helpful tool in communicating where our giving goes. We agreed to do more work on this to improve it further.
For prayer – we are seeking the right people for a number of key leadership roles now and in the near future; Regional Team Leader (South West Baptist Association), Specialist Team Leader for Support Services (Finance Director), Specialist Team Leader for Ministries, Regional Team Leader (London Baptist Association), Treasurer, Regional Team Leader (East Midlands Baptist Association), together with various trustee opportunities.
Please pray that we will discern the right people for the right roles, and also look out for emails and on our website for more information.
The Revd Lynn Green is General Secretary of our Baptist Union