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Baptists Together: who we are, why we exist, and our four key areas of shared work  

 

By General Secretary Lynn Green 


Baptists Together 4 key areas
 

“Why are we here?” and “What do we do?” are among some of the key questions that healthy movements need to keep asking themselves. Questions like this are especially important for organisations with a long history – the why might not have changed that much, but the what and the how needs to be articulated and owned for each generation. 

 

The desire for change and renewal 

I recognise that for many of you, the years leading up to 2012 will seem like ages ago. But for me, visiting the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park recently reminded me of all the excitement surrounding London 2012; the sporting events, the buzz and the unforgettable experience of being in the main arena for Richard Whitehead winning the 200m at the Paralympics! 

But that wasn’t the only thing that was exciting me at the time! Between 2010 and 2012 a real desire for change and renewal emerged across our Baptist family and was nurtured through what became known as the Futures process.  What sort of movement of churches did we need to be in the future to be able to respond to all that God was wanting to do in the UK?

In those days I was a local church minister and my imagination was captured by all the conversations and passion that was being shared through initiatives like Beyond 400 and in Baptist Union Council. Baptists were a people on the move with a heart for God and His mission to the world and I wanted to be part of that. This was one of the main reasons I responded to the call to step into the role of General Secretary in 2013. Somehow, I wanted to do what I could do to fan into flame this desire for change and renewal. It felt like a new era was beginning and I had a strong sense we were ready for generational change.   

Well, I am still excited and count it a privilege to be serving such an incredible Baptist family. As you read all the amazing stories in this magazine, you will see why, and I hope you will be inspired too and want to be part of what God is doing in and through Baptists today. 

 

Why Baptists Together? 

So, out of the ferment of hope and change of 2012, we set out together to make vision, reality. Encouraged by Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Advantage, the Baptist Steering Group wanted to make progress on this journey by expressing clearly how we are answering those fundamental questions in this new era. 

The first and most fundamental question was, and remains, “Who are we?”  With all the misunderstanding about The Baptist Union of Great Britain just being the Didcot office, the new term, Baptists Together, was coined to signal that it is all about 'we' and not about 'them'.  So, Baptists Together is a Union of nearly 2,000 churches, 13 regional Associations, and 6 Colleges, supported by 3 Specialist Teams. We each have our own unique contribution to make, but we choose to covenant together so that through our relationships and partnering together we can embody God’s Kingdom and be part of his mission more authentically. 

And that takes us, neatly, to the next key question, 'Why is it that we exist?' What is Baptists Together here for?  Well, quite simply, we all work together (churches, Associations, Colleges and Specialist Teams) to grow healthy churches in relationship for God’s mission. We are primarily a movement of local churches and so we want to see existing and new churches and missional communities growing in depth of discipleship and in seeing new believers following Jesus. We do this together, in partnership with each other, so that through our relationships we can make a Kingdom impact that is far more than the sum of our individual parts. And we want to be inspiring each other to be part of God’s mission in the whole of creation, whatever that looks like in our different contexts. 

Another important area that we wanted to work on was to capture and intentionally embrace a renewed culture with shared values that would serve as a constant call to us about being the sort of people that we aspire to be in Christ. So we believe that we need to be a people who… 

Seek to be a movement of Spirit led communities. As those who have encountered the living Christ, to intentionally seek his will and purpose for our local churches and every expression of our shared life. (Galatians 5:22-25) 

Embrace Adventure – being serious about discipleship, willing to take risks, pioneer and move out of the comfort zone of familiar ways of doing things.  (Matthew 28:18-20) 

Inspire others – with a generosity of spirit, energise and motivate people to be all that God created them to be. (Ephesians 5:1 & 2) 

Feel like one Team – celebrating diversity; valuing, respecting and trusting each other as we work together in partnerships - making sure everyone feels included and listened to.  (I Corinthians 12:24b-27) 

Share a Hunger for God’s coming Kingdom – nurturing a 'holy discontent' that arises from our desire to give practical expression to our vision of God’s purpose for creation - confronting evil, injustice and hypocrisy and challenging worldly attitudes to power, wealth, status and security both within and beyond our Union.  (Matthew 6:9 & 10) 


4 key areas Chris Duffett imag


Having got the why and the who clear and identified our values, we then wanted to express clearly and simply what it is that we do together. No more vagaries about what Baptist Together does, I wanted everyone to know what we are about and to be able to say that confidently! Now, our Constitution does define our charitable objects, but the formal language there is neither contemporary nor easily memorable. So, in a back of an envelope inspiration at Council a few years ago, I suggested that what we do as Baptists Together can be summed up in four key areas of work: 

 
  • equipping local churches for mission,  

  • pioneering and church planting,  

  • investing in Godly leadership 

  • enabling Baptist voices and action in the 'public square'



This magazine is designed to give you an insight into some of the incredible things that are happening across Baptists Together in these four areas. 

As you will see, equipping our existing local churches for mission is very much at the heart of what we do. Whether that is local churches encouraging and inspiring each other as peers or Regional Associations walking with churches as they listen to the Lord and discern what discipleship and mission looks like in their context, or our Colleges offering pioneer formation and training for local church leaders, or the Faith and Society Specialist Team gathering and sharing inspiring stories through social media and our website… What I pray for regularly is that every single one of our churches is clear and passionate about God’s call to them in their context, and is wholeheartedly participating in the mission of God. 

As a grassroots movement of local churches, we are also passionate about planting more churches and pioneering new things in new ways. This is part of the continuing, urgent, mandate we have been given by Jesus in the Great Commission. With more than 94 per cent of the population of the UK not yet following Jesus, this is no time to be barricading ourselves within our churches! This is a time for courage, innovation, risk-taking and the embracing of adventure.  

Scripture tells us that God blesses the church with those who serve through offering leadership and so it is critical for us to continue to invest in Godly leadership. Again, our leaders are a regular part of my prayers. I pray that every leader, in whatever sphere, will be captivated by Jesus and first and foremost be a disciple who is growing in Christlikeness. I pray that as our leaders nurture the spiritual gifts that God has given them, attentive to God’s call and the leading of the Holy Spirit, then healthy churches and disciples and communities will be nurtured as a result. We celebrate and are deeply thankful for all those ministers and leaders who have served us like this in the past and continue to do so in the present. But, we also need to be praying and asking God to raise up a new generation of leaders and ministers who will challenge us and inspire us and enable us to shape a Kingdom future together. 

We believe that justice concerns belong at the heart of our faith, and a hungering for righteousness is therefore at the heart of our shared work as we seek to enable Baptist voices and action in the public square. The local church has a vitally important role to play in public life, and we seek to encourage our churches by equipping them with relevant information, stories and resources. 

Being part of a much bigger family means that Baptist voices can be amplified and heard regionally, nationally and even globally. Additionally, through our membership of the Joint Public Issues Team, we are able to share our concerns and findings with the Government of the day.

 

In the vanguard… 

I remain convinced that God wants to do a new thing in and through Baptists today (Isaiah 43:18&19).  I believe that as we seek to welcome and make room for Jesus and establish Beacons of Prayer up and down the country we will see existing and new churches and missional communities being Beacons of Hope, shining brightly for Jesus.  God is breathing his renewing fire over his church and it is time for the Body of Christ to rise up and be all that he calls us to be. 

In 2017 Jonathan Oloyede (National Day of Prayer and Worship) offered me this Word from the Lord: 'In prayer, I saw the Baptist Family in the vanguard of an upsurge of faith and expressions of the Gospel of the Kingdom. It was remarkable, and I believe that your denomination has the grace to help move the church forward in the Nation.'

With Jonathan, I do believe that we are called to be in the vanguard of what God is doing in these days and I certainly want to respond to this Word with faith, willing responsiveness and wholehearted obedience.  As Mary prayed, we too can pray, 'We are the Lord’s servants.  May it be to us as you have said.' (Luke 1:38).   
 



Image | Chris Duffett

 

TogetherSum19Lynn Green is General Secretary of our Baptist Union.

This article appeared in the Summer 2019 edition of Baptists Together magazine  
 












 
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