Re: Baptists and leadership
I thought the article was good & then I realised who had written it....and then recognised the same wisdom I have come to love over the years. Thank you Nigel.
Other good articles too.
".....leadership requires being with people, knowing them and loving them, listening attentively to them, understanding what they are capable of at this time and in this place, interpreting the Christian gospel to them and among them, and then seeking to interpret back to them what the onward call of God might be." (Nigel Wright)
Worthing Baptist Church, via Facebook
Thank you for trying to tackle the subject Nigel.
"if it is leading, let him lead with diligence" Romans 12:8 . . . Leadership is a gift from GOD, or am I missing something.
I have no problem with leadership within areas of church ministry. I would make a distinction though. I got saved into one of the restoration churches mentioned in the article in the 80s and was there for 14 years. I have to say there is much misunderstanding of how they really operated from those looking in. They weren't quite as controlling as made out here, but by today's standards they would be seen as having leadership styles that created a culture of reliance on 'direction' when it came to church members making decisions. Like most churches they had their unspoken rules, and one was 'getting things checked out' on things like house moves, etc. The principal was innocent enough (get a second opinion), but it could stray into a kind of employer/employee type relationship - on a bad day. Quite directive. I've since been in a number of different types of churches over the years. I hope I've seen enough and compared it to the New Testament, to have come to a fairly biblical stance on church leadership which I see as through a 'plurality of elders', maybe with those elders employing key worker(s), be it a pastor, teacher, evangelist, even a prophet (shock) or messenger (church planter) on behalf of the 'flock'.
One thing I no longer have any time for is the executive pastor model which can be seen in some of the more independent charismatic churches. I see that as 'cart before the horse' and this model encourages dominant behaviour and a lack of accountability.
I also do see a place for a key spokesperson for the elders of a church, and maybe that would be the one who has most talent for communication and inspiring others.
Think plurality, Paul appointed elderS in each of the churches. That's elders with a capital 'S' not with a capital 'E'. Elders sit as the level headed ones in ancient communities and have a good balance of opinions as a kind of council. The New Testament church seemed to take that type of organisation as a 'given' way of a community functioning together.
We dispense with the biblical patterns of church leadership, elders, deacons, etc in favour of 'leadership teams' with an executive type leader, etc at our peril. That's just another case of 'we've come to know better these days'.
Nigel, this is most helpful. Perhaps I might raise two questions.
1. Within our Baptist structures - although this might equally apply to churches with different ways of organising themselves - to what degree do you think that Ministers (or, preferably, Ministers and Elders/Deacons) should take the lead in setting the congregation's direction of travel or strategy? Clearly they can and should listen to the ideas and reflections of the individual members; but do they have a particular responsibility in discerning the larger picture and inspiring the congregation to em brace it?
2. I have sometimes been concerned by the adoption of secular models of management (and its language!) by churches - this seems particularly to apply to larger churches which may contain more people whose day jobs are in business or finance. While I accept that some churches could do with a good dose of re-organisation and good management, is there a danger that Christians may too readily accept these models without thinking through the aims, values and culture which are embodied within them? Can the use of such management models mean that decision-making in churches becomes so focussed that it loses the "fuzziness" and discursiveness in discussion which can actually be beneficial in discerning the mind of Christ?
I agree with you, Andrew. The church is NOT a business, and should never be 'managed'. No matter how good the 'system'. There is a place for good administrative skills, especially if the church has quite a social wing to it, but that should be wisely handled. The Holy Spirit is first and foremost. He directs and guides the elders and deacons, and will often use 'prophets' (plural) within the congregation to confirm matters, or even to instigate a vision.
I basically agree with your argument, but I think you underestimate the potential benefits that secular leadership and management techniques could bring to the local church. To my mind the main benefit lies in the circular process of establishing vision for the future, establishing how and when this vision is to be enacted and evaluating how much has been achieved in a given time frame. This then enables the church to adjust its vision and plan.
You write about working in the church and not on it. I think there is need for both. Well trained visionary, purpose driven leaders/ministers would equip and enable their congregations to better reach out into their neighbourhood with the gospel.
Re: Where is your faith
Lynn thank you for these reflections. On a retreat late last year, I was struck by the occasions when Jesus friends and disciples asked him 'Lord don't you care that...' both during the storm on Galilee and by Martha as she was busy preparing food and Mary was sitting at Jesus feet. On neither occasion did he answer the question but answered with a question of his own, 'Where is your faith?' and a comment to Martha, 'You are distracted and worried by many thing.' I guess both expressing the same lack of focus on Jesus. I shared these reflections with my congregation last year, and so your thoughts here have much resonance with me, thank you.
Re: Reclaiming your virtual self
I had to smile. I was reading this when the bleep on my mobile went off, I reached out to pick it up as I read "we need to break our Pavlovian conditioning around smartphones" No I'm not a youngster - I remember the excitement of getting our first land line and B&W TV.Media is vital to keep in touch with a scattered family but it can cause challenges. Thanks for the article.
Re: How I Changed My Mind About Evolution
In the early 1980's I too exclaimed, "How I Changed My Mind About Evolution" - and came to realise the fallacy of believing evolution to describe the world around us. Indeed, evolution is not scientifically based at all, for if it were, it would no longer remain a theory but be embraced as a law. As evolution is neither a science nor a scientific fact, this will never happen.
Moreover, I thank God for the men - the very few men - who stood firm against the popular tide and helped me see Genesis in a different perspective: one focussed on His-Story and evidenced by science and geology in the earth today; and to see the theory of evolution for what it truly is: a religion of belief fully opposed to God.
Decades later I can still vouch that those men really did speak with wisdom.
Re: Multi-ethnic Churches: a gospel imperative in a post Brexit world
Are you going to issue the same challenge to the many 'ethnically exclusive' churches in the UK such as Chinese or Iranian churches which only cater for particular ethnic and cultural groups? Or is it only 'white' churches which are expected to be culturally diverse? What happens if ethnic minorities decide that they prefer mono-ethnic, exclusive church communities?
"If Brexit is dividing people into us and them, migrants and British
citizens, elite and uneducated, racist and accepting of others, how
should the church respond and handle these differences ?"
Not sure how you can so easily make these generalisations. I voted for Brexit but am neither uneducated or a racist. My concerns about the EU were democratic ones. However, I do also believe that every nation should have the right and ability to control its own borders.
Interestingly, the first point made by Ricayboy was made by the London Baptist Regional Minister David Shosanya on an article here a year or two back. He speaks of research he did about the steps which African and Caribbean heritage churches might be taking to reach white indigenous communities with the Gospel, and said that some church leaders "had made significant attempts to modify their styles of worship to be more appealing to white individuals", had "taken on board comments about their style(s) of preaching and its incompatibility to the indigenous population" and had "explored different forms of prayer that might more easily resonate with white communities."
However he noted that, in some churches, these changes led to "severe setbacks". In particular, these churches felt that they were losing their identity and this reduced their capability to stand against racism. However there was a real awareness of "the need to genuinely and sacrificially incarnate in a manner that is contextually relevant to white communities".
Whether the same is true of other "exclusive churches" - which may be not only Chinese, African or Caribbean but Swiss, Norwegian or Hungarian. Often, of course, such churches function as the hub of their particular communities and draw congregants from a wide area. To suggest that the congregations should be multi-ethnic leads one into the wider issues not only of "homogeneous units" and their worth in proclaiming the Gospel, but of the relative merits of multiculturalism and integration in the whole of society.
Personally I feel that churches should always reflect as diverse a spread of people as possible, as I believe this is the pattern implicated in the New Testament and the experience we shall all share in heaven! And the divides that should be crossed are not only ethnic but also encompass age, education, wealth, social background and much more. Even in rural and relatively monoethnic communities churches should try to be as inclusive as they can be.
But it won't be at all easy!