I was asked last week by someone if I felt any pressure with all this church planting stuff and I can honestly say that I do not feel any pressure at all. God's called me to pray and lay good foundations so I'm trying to be obedient, the rest is up to God. My Principle Nigel Wright at Spurgeons often spoke about a church's DNA (he called it their angel) and how throughout the life of a church there is often reoccurring behaviour because of this, sometimes good, sometimes bad. These early stages here in Newton Abbot are key as the DNA of the church is formed, which is why the attitude to prayer and mission, love and justice is so vital. We want good church DNA.
Talking about DNA, I've had a few chats recently about church 'initiatives' and whether we miss the point sometimes.
There are always new initiatives coming out for churches about how they can impact their community. Things get branded, marketed and 'sold' as the next new thing that will help the church reach their community with the good news of Jesus.
Such is the mission mindset or DNA of the church that everything is event based (I was told the other day that some churches in Devon want to hire a stadium and get Franklin Graham to come and speak...*sigh*). So each new initiative is event based so that the church can roll it out for a set period of time and then reflect on how it has been involved with mission and evangelism. What concerns me with all these new(? more like recycled) or 'big ideas' is that it might dis-empower churches to ACTUALLY be a part of their communities. If we keep peddling that an event every 6 months is serving our community then the churches end up ignoring or being ignorant of the needs that are going on in our communities 365 days of the year.
The Baptist Union often gives churches ideas for various initiatives to help them with evangelism and mission, yet I wonder if the ideas coming out from there are grounded in the reality of what is really happening with the people in our communities. Looking at what BUGB are putting out there I find it pretty irrelevant and out of sync with where are culture is at. And it is all so SAFE. Go here and have a look and see how safe it all is. Where is the risk and the adventure? And a cursory look at other headquarters websites tells a similar story.
Now I recognise that many Baptist churches are engaged in amazing ways within their communities as are many churches in general up and down the UK, but if we keep putting initiatives out there rather than encouraging and pushing our churches to get stuck in with the nitty gritty of community life so that we can give away life and share the love of God in powerfully prophetic ways, then we will have many Christian communities struggling to make head nor tail of what is going on around them in the lives of the people around them.
Sounds like I'm having a bit of a rant, so my apologies, but I believe we should think in different ways, more risky ways, more sacrificial ways when we are engaged in mission because I'm sure Jesus said something about a Cross when He calls us to follow Him...