Baptist Steering Group - October 2018
Baptist Steering Group and All Team Leaders met for the first time at the Focolare Centre for Unity in Welwyn Garden City which proved to be very hospitable.
At this gathering we gave much space to prayer. We shared about what God was doing in our own lives and prayed for each other. We prayed for our churches and our forthcoming Council meeting. We listened and prayed together, seeking to perceive what God is doing among us. Marjorie Allan led us in praying to keep ourselves rooted in Christ and Graham Ensor led us in reflecting and praying about God’s outrageous grace from Luke 7.36-50 and our reaction to that generosity. It asks the question 'how am I a grace filled person?' Following a brief update from the recent European Baptist Federation meeting in Ukraine, we also prayed into specific needs and issues raised there.
Sharing where we see God at work
As we shared together, a clear sense emerged that there was a noticeable increase in hunger for God in our churches and that we are really seeing God’s new thing springing up from the grassroots. We noticed that this seemed to reflect the prophetic words that Lynn has been sharing with Baptists Together over recent years; the call to be beacons of prayer because God is doing a new thing (Isaiah 43:18-22), the word from God that he is breathing fire over his church (Luke 13:34-35), that he is wanting to do more than we can contain in our current structures (Ephesians 3:20) and that it is time for the body of Christ to rise up (2 Corinthians 6:2). Some of the particular themes that we perceived were:
Growth and accelerated growth
God at work among Iranian people
Seeing fruitfulness on the margins
Receiving favour in the community through things like civic awards
Significance of prayer
The desire for networking
Longing for belonging
Spiritual battle – in the midst of the good stuff there is also pain, conflict and decline
Hope and increasing confidence
The richness of our increasingly international communities
Overall, we noticed that God was at work in both breakthrough and brokenness and that yielding to him in all things was so important.
The Millennial Generation
Phil Knox, who has recently been appointed by The Evangelical Alliance as Head of Mission to Young Adults, came in the evening and shared with us.
Phil explained the impact of the digital revolution that contained three distinct revolutions that have impacted those aged 18-35:
An Information revolution
For previous generations, the task of finding information meant an organised trip to a library. Contrast that to today where we have more information at our fingertips than was ever thought possible. Information however is not the same as wisdom.
Technology has had a profound effect on relationships, satisfying a craving for connection. However, this craving for quantity has been at the expense of quality relationships.
Attention deficit is very real.
‘[The internet] chips away at the capacity of concentration and contemplation. Whether online or not, my mind expects to take in information the way the net distributes it, in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along like a guy on a jet ski.’
Nicholas Carr, The Shallows
Eight out ten millennials sleep next to their phone, there is also a phenomenon of ‘continuous partial awareness’, where phones at all times distract to some degree.
Mass to social media
Just think how television has changed. It has gone from one person leading a show with a fixed outcome to shared leadership and the television audience decides. Viewing at home has changed as well. In any family home on a Saturday evening, it is very common to find everyone on a screen of their own as well as half watching the television.
I create therefore I am
The Millennial generation are not only consumers of society but create as well and are very entrepreneurial. The thought of a YouTube star being on Strictly Come Dancing would have been unheard of just a few years ago.
Redrawing the cultural architecture
For Christianity, these revolutions and cultural shifts mean a rejection of institution, but not necessarily faith and Jesus. Integrity, humility and passion are what millennials look for in a leader. We need to redraw the cultural architecture and Phil shared these thoughts for doing that:
Creating spaces for deep and authentic relationships to flourish
Changing the way we communicate
Is Sunday the place for that? For Phil it was his Thursday night group. Churches need to pour as much energy into the small and midweek as the Sunday.
Do we need to rearrange the furniture? Are circles more conducive to making disciples than rows?
Young adults desire high trust with high accountability. There is plenty of that in our churches which creates mutual blessing.
Think ‘Experiential Participatory Image Rich Connected’ (EPIC)
Tell stories. Millennials are desperate for context, narrative is the wall paper of their lives. Much of our communication is linear.
Visual, creative, intuitive responses have redressed the balance of a left-brain bias of preview generations.
Contrast Alpha which is very interactive to a largely passive Sunday morning. Consider what is participation.
Aesthetics of the building are very important – buildings, lights, seating, imagery.
Web presence of church is essential in starting the conversation.
Phil concluded that he wants to speak to leaders and walk alongside local churches. Do contact him if your church is interested.
We talked together about how we could respond to the insights he shared. The need for Baptist Together to continue becoming more flexible, agile and responsive was clearly recognised. We also spent time praying for Phil and his new role.
It was good to hear an update from the Mission Forum and the feedback from the pilot of the Listening project that Carmel Murphy from UE has led. We were also encouraged to hear that the Firestarters conversations will involve 127 churches this year, and that there are plans for continuing the conversations for two more years.
Once again we touched on the perennial issue of how we relate across the nearly 2,000 separate charitable bodies that belong to each other as Baptists Together and sensed together that it would be helpful to revisit our biblical identity as Baptists and the unique gift we bring to the wider church in these days. The image of a spider’s web was shared by Beth Powney as a picture of our interconnectedness and strength.
The Revd Lynn Green is General Secretary of our Baptist Union
Baptist Steering Group offers collaborative leadership through co-ordinating the effective development and implementation of the broad strategy discerned by Council.
The purpose and role of All Team Leaders (Regional, College and Specialist) is to work together to develop and shape policies and plans to enable us to achieve our overall vision and strategy.
Please share these messages with your church