Building bigger people
We all have something to offer in mentoring others – and a biblical mandate to do so, writes Clive Burnard
Over almost eight years, Andover Baptist Church (ABC) has experienced a God-given phenomenon: 23 people have been sent out into ministry and mission with 35 more completing our internship training programme - the Joshua Challenge.
All glory to Christ Jesus, who gave ABC members a vision to ‘Build Bigger People before Building Bigger Premises’. This is a vision to empower everyone in our Church Family to become Whole Life Missionary Disciples.
Jesus gave some ‘to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some to be pastors and teachers’ (Ephesians 4:11a). He gives these people to his Church not to do all of the ministry but to embrace a clear purpose: ‘to equip’ (NLT) or ‘prepare’ (NIV) ALL of ‘God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up’ (Eph.4:11b).
‘Building Bigger People’ involves: helping them to ‘reach unity in the faith and become mature’, maturing - ‘to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ’ (Eph.4:11b).
Father God wants his Family to reflect the Christ-like Character of his Son and also his Charismatic Competence. By calling, teaching, empowering and sending his12 apostles and the 72 (or 70) disciples (Lk.9:1-2 and 10:1), Jesus provides the supreme example… and Jesus equips his Church to empower ALL of his people, as the Holy Spirit gifts them too, so that ‘the whole body… builds itself up in love, as each part does its work’ (Eph.4:16).
If our Baptist Union is to become a truly missional movement, this may require a deeper understanding of how our whole Baptist family might be empowered for such service. Compassionate pastoral care and a faithful ministry of ‘Word and Sacrament (or ordinance)’ remain vital.
However, it is my humble conviction that pastors, elders and deacons (and others) could more fully embrace this equipping ministry. Even though people sometimes leave their churches claiming a lack of care, they seldom complain that they were not mentored, or empowered sufficiently.
Church should not merely be a cosy Sunday morning club or a sheep pen. Our congregations would be better described as worshipping communities, training centres, and even fishing boats, populated by Whole Life Missionary Disciples. We gather to worship God and to be encouraged and empowered for service and mission as we are scattered into our communities.
Neil Hudson, and the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity have helped ABC to recognise our calling as Whole Life (Missionary) Disciples living for Jesus on our ‘Frontlines’:
How can we equip others so that they maximise their redemptive Kingdom potential? Let us take the word ‘EMPOWER’, to help us reflect upon some simple ways in which ministers and members might embrace this equipping mandate together:
Equipping people necessitates an intentional Mentoring (discipling) of people, through Personal (relational) contact, by offering divine, structured Opportunities to grow. Such mentors need to exercise godly Wisdom in terms of the questions they ask and the opportunities which they provide. They give tangible, loving, prayerful Encouragement to enable others to grow in Christ, Resourcing them in diverse and creative ways.
These key elements enable us to EMPOWER others:
Equipping: is not merely about imparting propositional Biblical truth, vital though that is. Journeying prayerfully with others as they live out and reflect upon experienced truth is indispensable for true discipleship.
Mentoring: at ABC, this involves pastors, small group leaders, peer mentors, personal mentors (and a tutor, as well as teachers, for our interns). We have organically and structurally grown a culture of intentional mentoring. Genuine mentoring enables a personal and transformational experience of Biblical truth.
Personal: effective equipping through mentoring will, at best, be relational. Jesus did not do professional detachment. When we know someone personally, we are better positioned to understand not only what they need to hear but how best to share that.
Opportunities: Perhaps the best leadership decision I ever made was not to lead. I asked 21 year-old Andy Fitchet to lead a team of seven people, which I was part of when ABC partnered with BMS and travelled to Kolkata, India, to serve with Big Life minstries. Andy is now minister-in-training at Whitchurch Baptist Church, a Home Mission Church, which he is leading into genuine growth. Another team member and his family were just commissioned at ABC to be sent to India with BMS. Such outcomes followed Andy’s opportunity to lead and learn. I needed to be there for him, but I had to ensure that I allowed him to actually lead.
Wisdom: involves asking the right questions. Mentors help best by wise questioning, encouraging deep reflection. Wise community discernment is also vital in testing calls to ministry and mission. It has been a wonderful, faith-building, journey seeing 23 people raised up in our midst for ministry and mission. ABC has developed a culture of equipping and the Church Family embraces its role in all these ways.
Encouragement: is critical. Folks need ‘Freedom to Fail’ when given opportunities, plus honest constructive feedback. But, they thrive on detailed encouragement. Regarding preaching feedback, we operate an unwritten ‘Three Day Rule’. Only positives after the preach, and other observations no less than three days later!
Resourcing: Our own Association (SCBA) runs the excellent Footsteps training course in partnership with Regents Park College. All our Colleges provide flexible courses. ABC’s Joshua Challenge requires our interns to have a project which they must lead: www.andoverbaptist.org.uk/media/videos.php
Is such empowering only possible in larger Churches? Absolutely not! God loves his flower garden of Churches: small, mid-sized and large. All are beautiful to him and are unique and distinct.
But all need more equipped and empowered people released into service and all of us have something to offer in mentoring others. Smaller churches may even provide greater opportunities: they are sometimes healthier than larger declining churches and it is healthy churches (of any size) which are most likely to grow and impact their communities.
If we Baptists Together are authentically committed to ‘Growing Healthy Churches in Relationship for God’s Mission’, we must pray very hard and we must also empower a whole new cadre of younger, pioneering leaders and passionate disciples of Christ. This will equip our denomination to become truly effective as a missional movement.
As I anticipate, with excitement, relocating to serve the people of Mutley Baptist Church and the great city of Plymouth (September 19th 2015), I remain convinced that the re-evangelisation of these islands depends, in part, upon the rediscovery and intentional implementation of this core aspect of our God-given mission and ministry. So, please - let’s EMPOWER others!
Clive Burnard was the Senior Pastor, Team Leader of Andover Baptist Church, Hampshire, before moving to Mutley Baptist Church, Plymouth, in September.
He mentors leaders in a variety of contexts, serves with the BWA Ministry Commission, and his doctoral thesis describes Transformational (Visionary) Servant Leadership in a Baptist context
This reflection featured in the Autumn 2015 edition of Baptists Together Magazine
(with the BMS sign) Andy Fitchet (centre) was asked to lead the ABC team which visited Kolkata with BMS World Mission by Clive Burnard (right)
Dr Hannah Leach GP - a Joshua Challenge intern - learning how to serve Jesus and his Church through technology (on the ABC sound desk)
Benjamin Brown - leading worship at an interns-led worship service at ABC