‘Here’ has changed around us
It was great to be with the London Baptist Association (LBA) churches last week. They were so very encouraging of us and each other, hugely supportive of the new regional team and incredibly positive about my theme and message. It genuinely felt like a poignant and significant time to be with them.
I learnt a lot from them too. Sue and I tried to listen to as many of their stories and experiences as possible and one of the most consistent stories - one I am still reflecting on -is just how rapidly their local context has changed around them.
No two stories were the same but many talked about how their church hasn’t moved but their context has – dramatically so – within the last few years.
Just a few examples - those sharing talked, in a variety of ways, of how their part of the capital has seen either dramatic regeneration and gentrification or progressive changes in the ethnic diversity mix or how local age profiles have changed too, affected by house prices.
If my question to churches and leaders is ‘where do we grow from here?’ Then their ‘here’ has changed around them.
I applaud them for recognising and articulating the changes - one of the key things we work through in considering where we grow from here is identifying where ‘here’ is. You have to be outward looking to notice changes in your neighbourhood. They had noticed and were praying.
I pray for them as they consider new approaches to the new mission field outside their church door.
The wider implication for us as churches elsewhere in the country is at least two-fold.
Firstly, some of the changes that have happened rapidly in London and the surrounding areas will happen or are happening in our locations too. We can learn lessons in advance from our brothers and sisters in the capital.
Secondly, so many of our Baptist Together churches are located in and around London (300 out of 2000) that we will need them to play a significant role – alongside other areas and associations if we are truly to see positive answers together nationally to the question ‘where do we grow from here?’
Please join with me in praying for and cheering on our LBA churches.