Baptist Steering Group - May 2017
Once again I will shake the heavens and the earth…
A complete silence fell over the city at 11am on Thursday as we stood to pray for those killed, injured and affected by Monday’s suicide bombing. The fact that we were meeting at Luther King House in Manchester for BSG/All Team Leaders (ATLs)/National Settlement Team (NST) on this occasion felt like part of the mystery of God’s purposes. At different times during our gathering we were able to pray into this situation and also pray in response to requests from our Chaplains at the Manchester Royal Infirmary and with the Police. I was able to share messages of solidarity and assurances of prayers from brothers and sisters in Christ from our worldwide Baptist family. At the same time, Northern Baptist College were discerning together with some who were exploring a sense of call to ministry and you can read Glen Marshall’s reflections here.
It also felt significant that the Lord had brought us back to this place because I realised that this was the first time that we had returned to Luther King House since I first shared the Beacons of Prayer vision with BSG in June 2015. After I had shared my sense that God wanted to do a new thing among us and that we needed to make space for him to speak and move among us we all knelt and prayed together. Having been brought back to this place, we all knelt once again and renewed our openness and trust to God once again in prayer.
Beacons of Hope
During our time we listened to two ministers who are Beacons of Hope in the North Western Baptist Association.
Stockport Baptist Church
‘Jesus saved my life’
Steve Hough shared an inspiring story of how God unfolded a plan at Stockport that he nor the church could have ever foreseen. Steve joined three and a half years ago on a temporary six-month appointment when the church was reflecting on who to have as their minister. Steve ended up being invited to be their Pastor with a unanimous call. That was the first stage in God’s plan, the second was when there was a knock on the church door…
"You baptise me" were the first words from this young middle eastern man who greeted Steve when he opened the door. He was a refugee who had been moved temporarily to Stockport and walked across town to find the church. Apart from his story of escaping where he had come from, he was an ex-drug addict who was given a Bible in rehab. As he would be moved quickly the church baptised him, and four words in his testimony said it all: "Jesus saved my life". He was moved to Nottingham where he is now a very confident evangelist.
He was the first of what would become a very significant ministry to refugees. The church visited the temporary holding centre in Stockport and blessed those there with the essentials they needed. Many started coming to church and soon nearly half the church were refugees, leading to 40 baptisms. Steve and others in the church have been supporting their asylum claims in court, doing their best to explain that these people are indeed Christian and should stay here.
God’s plan was to give Stockport Baptist Church a whole new community that added diversity, support and blessing in so many ways. Steve and the church opened the door and accepted that with open arms. The photo below is the fruit of that.
Melling Baptist Community Hub
‘By your fruit you shall be known’
Melling is located in Merseyside, and is home to a new estate where Jo Hassoun and her family moved to over nine years ago. Her aim was to initiate a community ministry, and bring a Christian presence in a commuter settlement without much centre. The Melling Baptist Community Hub can be described as 'a church without walls', or '24/7 church', and has gone through both good and bad times. Despite difficulties and great challenges, anyone involved with helping run the project can’t deny that God continues to bless it.
They are very different to a traditional church, for example they don’t meet on a Sunday. What may be viewed as their main time of worship is their Gospel Choir. They meet on a Monday night in a local pub with which they have a close relationship. Recently they decorated throughout for them as an expression of that friendship. The choir is a real mix from the community and very close knit. Jo sees their growing relationship with God through changed behaviour, asking for prayer and emotional response. This experience is also being seen and felt in the other groups they run. This includes a coffee morning, watercolour class, photography and a toddler group. They use the pub, a local scout hall and anywhere else they can gather.
They also have a very close relationship with a local school. They do festivals, choirs and a holiday club there. They also ran a project called ‘Walk through the Bible’.
Last Easter, Jo managed to hire a stately home and had a hugely creative and successful time. 150 people came and were blessed by the choir, knitted chicks and Easter walk they went on.
Melling Baptist Community Hub is an example of trusting in God’s call and the North Western Baptist Association creatively supporting through Home Mission.
More can be read about Jo’s story here
Prayer – we praise the Lord for lives and communities being transformed and for faith being expressed through baptism. During this week of prayer, 'Thy Kingdom Come', we continue to pray that people will come to know, love and follow Jesus and ask, “more Lord!”
In the light of the shaking in our nations and also yet more amazing stories of how our churches are being Beacons of Hope, we continue to be concerned about the financial challenges that we are all facing. As our Treasurer, John Levick, shared at our Assembly, Home Mission giving is in slow decline. Funds are needed to address the pensions' deficit. Many Associations are running at a loss. Costs are increasing for all of us because of inflation.
He said actions have already been taken and more are planned, but called on support from churches. He said one simple action was to review giving to Home Mission: many have standing orders in place which have not been reviewed for years.
‘The implications of all this is that there will be less money to go round,’ John said. ‘We cannot afford to do all we do at present unless our income grows.’
It was also confirmed that, after consultation, the standard stipend for 2018 will be raised by 1.1% to £22,750.
Growing healthy churches in relationship for God’s mission…
The ATLs continued their work with a facilitator looking at how we can be the best that we can be to fulfil our part in God’s mission. We explored various approaches to address some of the priority areas of concern identified by Council and are planning further evaluation of these approaches when we meet in June.
Prayer – that we would be attentive to the Lord, continuing to bring ourselves, our churches and our whole movement in step with His Holy Spirit.
Investing in Godly leadership
National Settlement Team (NST) continue their work and have facilitated the settlement of 38 ministers so far in 2017. It remains the case, however, that more churches are looking for ministry than the ministers who are available and, again, this dearth of leaders is an issue for us in making our vision for mission a reality across Baptists Together.
As she retires next month, great appreciation for the ministry of Viv O’Brien (Deputy Team Leader and Ministries Advisor with the Specialist Teams) was expressed. Simon Werrett has been appointed as Specialist Adviser – Ministries, and will start on 5 June to enable an effective hand-over. This role has been reconfigured to free up more time for Andy Hughes (Team Leader, Ministries) to devote to lead and enable the implementation of the vital Ignite Project.
We received the encouraging report of the peer review of South Wales Baptist College and its recommendations for further developments. Peter Morden also shared the Colleges’ commitment to engaging with the Ignite report as it relates to ministerial formation.
Prayer – Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:38)
Lynn Green May 2017
The Revd Lynn Green is General Secretary of our Baptist Union
Please share this update with your church.