Larger churches' conference - report
A gathering for the ministers of some of the UK's larger Baptist churches was characterised by honesty and vulnerability from both the leaders and participants, writes Nick Lear
I have often wondered what the collective noun should be for Baptist ministers. If there isn’t one I would like to suggest ‘plunge’. Recently I was privileged to be at a plunge of Baptist Ministers of larger churches organised by the Faith and Society Team. While there are many joys, blessings, issues and difficulties that are common to all ministers, there are also some that are different because of the size of our churches. Not better or worse, just different.
The plunge with fellow ministers of Larger Churches (must resist the temptation to call us ‘Larger Ministers’) was for 48 hours at High Leigh. It was characterised by honesty and vulnerability from both the leaders and participants. It was a safe place in which God’s Spirit was able to bless, encourage and inspire.
The whole time was a blessing as we explored how larger churches can be navigated through a confusing world covering some deep and difficult topics, but I want to pick out a few highlights:
In three wonderful Bible Studies Steve Holmes led us deep into God’s Word, exploring John 1 in a creative and engaging way that revealed even more of the profound significance of that chapter. I was blessed and encouraged, and I think all of us came away with new illustrations for our sermons too!
There was plenty of praying. It was open, honest, genuine praying for one another, for our churches and for those who are not yet part of God’s family. If I am honest sometimes at Christian conferences the prayer times can feel as if they are interruptions to the conference but here they were the fuel for the conference.
It was brilliant to share some of the conference time with our General Secretary, Lynn Green. As well as one inspiring session in which she shared a vision for our Baptist Union and helped us all to feel even more engaged with it, I know that she blessed and encouraged lots of us in the conversations that happened over meals and in the times when nothing was scheduled.
And that brings me to the final highlight. The informal time was as significant as the sessions. Conversations sometimes led to ‘can I pray for you?’ moments. There were humble ‘what do you think we could do about …?’ conversations. Friendships were established and enhanced.
I came home from the conference to an incredibly busy week. In fact from a diary-management point of view I could have done without it. But I know that from my personal and ministry point of view it was time with Jesus and fellow-followers that was extremely well-spent. It was a prodigious plunge!
The Revd Nick Lear is senior minister of Colchester Baptist Church. He blogs at nukelearfishing
Dates for the 2014 conference are 20th - 22nd October at High Leigh Conference Centre.