The New Wine Needs Fresh Wineskins
Three particular events have got me thinking this month:
In Brecon, a Saturday gathering of 14 small churches in South Wales – to listen, share insights and pray
In Stockport, Cheshire – a Sunday evening cluster event brought together 14 different churches – small and large - in a similar way
Visiting Urban Expression projects in Manchester and London – small, fragile... but making a significant Kingdom difference to communities
The Shining Like Stars was clearly evident in all these places – whether in helping to build a community playground, fresh ways of telling the Gospel story, a Baptist leader making a public stand with a Muslim imam in a community of great racial tension, offering parenting courses, creating a network for widows, drop in centres for young and old.... the list goes on. There is much light to celebrate.
Amongst the small churches, there was realism and openness. 'Where will your church be if current trends continue?' is a tough question. Some of our churches will not be sustained and there will be sadness there but also genuine thanksgiving for witness down through the years. Under 'Hopes and Dreams', one small group said: 'we have to be willing to change, yet value the past'.
It was encouraging to hear of the Camarthen Declaration (signed on 8 March 2013) where Baptists in Wales committed themselves to 'covenant, pray and work together over the next two years, seeking God's wisdom and guidance about the ways in which Baptist can best work together for the sake of the mission of God in Wales'.
Around half our BUGB and BU Wales churches have less than 40 members. I ponder the notion of 'being willing to change'....
It's been good to hear more talk again about 'networking' and partnerships (all trying to express the rich New Testament word 'fellowship' – Philippians 1:5) but we need to move forward in more active expressions of this
'Together in Christ for Mission' must be rediscovered in creative partnerships between smaller and larger churches
Prophetic pioneering is being actively discussed across our Baptist communities and we need to support this
Through focused and fervent prayer, our minds and hearts will be expanded to make space for fresh initiatives
Spiritual leadership in many forms is needed – as inspirers, mentors and accompaniers – as we seek to break through into fresh ways of 'being church'
As faithful followers of Jesus, we hear again his words: 'The new wine needs fresh wineskins'
(Ernie has prepared a series of six Bible Studies ‘Like Stars in the Universe’ based on our Assembly 2013 theme: ‘Reclaiming Philippians for Today’s Church’. Copies of this are available from the online store – priced £3 + p&p. Ernie encourages churches to join a conversation based on the themes of the study – see the Like Stars website throughout this year)