Each month we’ll be hearing from one of our Regional Ministers, to encourage us along the way as we continue empowering missional disciples in our communities across the West of England.
What’s our purpose? How much difference does our/my contribution make? Surely we should simply let God be God? What’s our role, as a network of churches, as a regional ministry team and as local churches?
A little insight into some of the questions we’re grappling with at our Regional Ministry Team meetings. I’m recalling recent conversations around do we opt for equipping, encouraging, or empowering missional disciples as our strapline?
Equip: to prepare (someone) mentally for a particular situation or task
Encourage: to stimulate the development of (an activity, state, or belief)
Empower: to give (someone) the authority or power to do something
I hope you’ll agree each of these options are vitally important.
Equipping is attainable up to a point, but as a team we have insufficient resources to achieve this.
Encouraging is attainable, but there’s no built-in assumption it will result in sufficient change, which results in a significant enough impact.
Empowering is definitely beyond us and for this reason alone, it’s the word I’m leaning towards us adopting, as part of our strapline. Why would we adopt something which is beyond us? Here’s my rationale:
We need to remember we are in God’s hands. ‘But God’. Whenever the Bible uses these two words together, I hear two things in particular:
God is able where we are not. Peter preaching at the beginning of Acts, the birth of the church, reminds us: You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. (Acts 3:15)
God’s grace is deeper than our sin: Paul repeats regularly our reliance on the grace of God: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
We need to remember Jesus Christ is Lord. He is Lord and all authority is his. We don’t make up the rules. Baptism remains amongst the most counter-cultural acts possible in our post-modern secular culture. He is Lord and sends us all in his authority. If we are to make disciples, we must be disciples: ‘Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’. (Matthew 28:20) A phrase I heard regularly when I first became a Christian, but seldom hear today was ‘if Jesus is not Lord of all, he is not Lord at all’. We should need no reminding of this truth which is so foundational to the global Baptist movement, but sadly we do. We must wake up and stop pretending our post-modern, liberal, secular context is conducive to Christian faith.
We need to remember it takes a church to grow a Christian. One of the big lessons all of us who have engaged with the Re:Imagine process are learning is who we are shouts louder than what we say. We are suffering a reaction from decades of thinking simply because we believe right doctrine, our lives automatically support and amplify our beliefs. The reality is our lives support and amplify our lives and only when they’re well rooted in the life and character of Jesus do they reflect him. Put us together as a church, the message of our collective lives is amplified even more. However, the kingdom, positive, powerful, impact of a church pursuing life in Christ in all its fulness together is huge. Jesus speaks of our hearts as good soil. When the culture of our church reflects the culture of the kingdom of God, we become a greenhouse for good soil. If the pandemic has taught us anything, we need each other.
We need to remember we need God. Despite the challenge of the global climate emergency, the global pandemic and now the renewed threat of another global war, we still need reminding! My conviction is the church in the UK is in desperate need of spiritual renewal and this is something only God can do. I’m aware there are over 1000 discernible movements to Christ still gaining momentum around the world, at the present time and one colleague comments: ‘every Disciple Making Movement we have the privilege of witnessing traces its origin to intense intercessory prayer and fasting’. I recall David Garrison when he visited Bristol telling me the same: ‘the harvest we are now reaping is the result of decades of believing prayer’.
Whilst we all wrestle with the tension between our contribution and God’s sovereignty, if every church across our network acted as a greenhouse for the kingdom of God there is no doubt our collective impact would be much more significant. At our recent Webnet Pastoral Leaders Conference we explored Cultivating a Culture for Discipleship and my contribution was to challenge every one of us to do what we can to provide such a greenhouse. As we frequently recognise in Re:Imagine, as the leadership are, so the church will be.
With love in Jesus’ name
Regional Team Leader