'Encourage pioneers and pioneering'
Baptists need to be more encouraging of pioneers and pioneering if we are to reach people and make disciples in these challenging times
That was the message from Roy Searle and Simon Goddard who led a seminar called 'Becoming Beacons of Hope - Playing Your Part in God's Missional Adventure.'
Roy explained that in his role as Baptist pioneer co-ordinator he has heard some great stories – but the overall narrative is of ‘not much happening’.
‘The reality is we haven’t caught many people. The reality is we’re an ageing denomination. I’m not saying this to depress you, but to define reality.
‘Carrying on the way we’re carrying on is damaging, and wearying.’
But while we face enormous challenges, the problems can be opportunities: we need to allow the spirit of God to allow creativity and pioneering, Roy said.
And in order to do this, as Baptists we need to be more encouraging of pioneers.
He said God is raising up pioneers – these are our beacons of hope, but we need to give them more resources. Instead, we often try to put them in a box that won’t fit. Roy said he was aware of more than 80 Baptist pioneers who are no longer part of the denomination. ‘We’ve lost them,’ he said, before encouraging delegates to think if there were any pioneers in their church – people who think differently – and ‘be permission givers for experimentation.’ He also mentioned how the Anglicans had recently commissioned their 1000th pioneer – as Baptists we have only commissioned six.
Our task is not to build the church; it’s to go and make disciples. Jesus will build his church, Roy said. Pioneering is not restricted to age - it's about trying something different.
Simon led the second part of the session, and encouraged delegates that in order to take risks and step out, they must be prepared to give something up, ‘something familiar, which may now be unhelpful.’
He focused on the example of Abraham. He said that being a person of faith means stepping into the unknown, as Abraham did. It means imagining what can be – God stirred Abraham’s imagination of what might be, and as the church today, we need to let the imagination ‘stir about how people can thrive and flourish.’
It also means saying yes to God, as Abraham did. Simon cited the example of the Tubestation in Polzheath, Cornwall. It began when three ageing members of Polzheath Methodist Church were willing to release their building in order to reach the skateboarders outside it. They advertised for someone to lead the new venture. Baptist minister Dave Matthews received the call, and the Tubestation is now a café church in the former Methodist building which saw more than 200 people worship there this Easter.
‘I believe we have the resources within the Baptist family we need to resource ministry for the next generation; but we need to be able to release it.’
Concluding the session, Roy said, ‘God is raising up pioneers in this space. I hope we can come back in a couple of years with stories of lots more pioneers.’