Assembly seminar programme
Baptist Assembly seminars explored a range of topics including engaging with millennials, pioneering and mission in a secular world
Engaging with millennials
More than120 people gathered for the ‘Engaging with Millennials’ seminar at this year’s Baptist Assembly. The popularity of the seminar suggests this is an area of interest in many of our churches across the U.K.
Information collected from across our Union would suggest that 18-35s are considerably under-represented amongst our number but that there is a desire to understand how we can be communities that are welcoming, nurturing and empowering for young adults.
The seminar was led by three millennials; Daniel Hatfield (Assistant Pastor for Community & Discipleship at Rayleigh Baptist Church), Ste Sutton (Pastor or Coulby Newham Baptist Church) and Katie McLean (Church Relations Developer for Fusion). Daniel and Ste shared ‘Five Top Tips’ to help churches engage with the millennial generation:
Creating ‘Environments of Grace’
Purpose & Vision
Katie spoke about the outstanding work that Fusion do to help students away from home link with local churches and also encouraged their home-churches to be faithful in their ongoing prayer and support for those that had moved away to University. More about Fusion can be found here - https://www.fusionmovement.org/
The seminar was recorded and can be watched here - https://youtu.be/XY6KkMXEQMw
Carl Smethurst (Regional Minister for Mission, South West Baptist Association) said, 'The response from the seminar has been extremely encouraging.
'Across our Union, churches are beginning to ask how they can begin to put into practice some of the ideas highlighted in the seminar.
'We would encourage those interested in exploring this more to get in contact with their Regional Association and also to keep in contact with the ongoing national conversation about Engaging with Millennials by liking the Baptists Together Millennials Facebook page
Whom shall I send?
Roy Searle and Simon Goddard led a seminar on pioneering and fresh expressions that proved so popular people the venue was full and people had to be turned away! Simon began by reflecting on the pioneering life and ministry of William Carey, and Roy challenged those present about the need for modern day pioneers who will go to the 94 per cent of the population in the UK who are not connected with church.
Together they suggested that the missionary task of this generation was not getting people into church, but rather about taking the gospel into the numerous subcultures which exist within our society and seeing what contextually relevant Christian community (church!) emerged.
Details about the growing ecumenical fresh expressions movement and the role of the mission-shaped ministry course in preparing teams to start new congregations were shared (details of the online version which Simon hosts can be found here: www.missionshapedministry.org/online
The particular challenge for Baptists is to not see fresh expressions as a way of getting people into ‘proper’ church, but to see them as distinct congregations in their own right. Simon talked about a new initiative ‘Multiply’ to help Baptists explore what becoming a multi-congregational church might involve (register your interest at: www.baptist.org.uk/multiply
). Roy talked about some exciting developments in training for pioneers and of the need for more to be done.
A poem by Jonny Baker entitled ‘God Crossed a Border’
, was read as a prayer before the seminar closed with everyone being handed a boarding pass. This had been specially designed for the seminar so that those present could symbolically respond to the pioneering challenge.
On one part were the words “Whom shall I send?”, and when they handed it to the steward on their way out they were given back the stub on which the words “Here am I, send me” were printed. Let’s pray that many will indeed respond to the missionary challenge of this generation.
Mission in a secular world
Secularism pervades western society and has shaped our assumptions and imaginations – including those of Christians. What are the implications for mission in Europe?
Mark Ord, co-director of the BMS International Mission Centre, spoke of three understandings of the secular. Firstly, there is a straightforward distinction between the secular and the sacred; where there are jobs, places, substances, even times that are sacred, and others that are secular.
A mission response to this argument may be a need to ‘rehabilitate the sacred’. The desire to draw everything into to the sacred has led to everything being subsumed into the secular, which in turn has led to a belief that all times are sacred: all places are sacred, all things are sacred, all employment is sacred. But if this is the case, it’s like saying, if everyone is special, no-one is special. So maybe no times are sacred, no places are sacred, no things are sacred, no jobs are sacred. Does that contribute to a loss of feel for a sacred, or the transcendent?
Therefore, do we need some times, some places, some things -god forbid some people – that draw us into a place of meeting God? Is there a need to rehabilitate the sacred; to look again at the sacraments and the mysterious?
Secondly, the secular is a neutral, areligious space. Here, Mark floated the idea that mission is best practiced on the margins, in a piecemeal way, through small and local witness, rather then big plans and all-encompassing strategies, ‘which smack of the secular world.’
Thirdly, and harder to pin down, is ‘living the contestable God’. So your neighbour, may have a similar job to you, same hopes for her children, same political affiliation, same interests… but have no inkling about the sense of your faith. Not interested. They are not atheists, not even agnostics, the ‘apatheists’
There are no easy solutions or quick fixes here, said Mark. Formation is key. A formation that gets the body involved, has practices – of prayer, of hospitality and generosity, of peacefulness, of storytelling and of witness – rather than content. Practices that get us out into the world, rather than sat in church. It’s the slow work of mission.
A Baptist People – distinctive or generic?
Baptists around the world have been, and remain, overwhelmingly evangelical. But is there a way of being a Baptist evangelical that is consistent with our history and principles, that can enrich the wider church, and make us better able to face today’s complex challenges?
Baptists are deeply engaged in this generation’s complexities, a people ‘peculiarly positioned to adapt and respond,’ said David Kerrigan. There is something in being a Baptist believer that offers us and the wider Church ‘the possibility of not just surviving, but thriving in today’s world.’
Download his paper here.
For more on the seminars, visit the Assembly site