My theme for the year
This website gets its name from my theme for the year as President of Baptists Together. I was asked by the editorial group of Baptists Together Magazine to write a piece explaining and expanding it which you can read on pages 24-25 on the paper version or online.
There are lots of significant stories in this edition. It’s really helpful that this is published now, just ahead of the Baptist Assembly when I am officially commissioned into this role.
I would love as many of our churches and ministers as possible to prayerfully pick up this theme and see where it takes us. The text of the article is also printed below.
Where do we grow from here?
It is a great privilege to be serving as President of Baptists Together from May 2019 – May 2020 and to be asked to explain my theme ‘Where do we grow from here?’ in this edition of Baptists Together Magazine.
Before you read on, however, I should issue a warning.
I am asking you to do rather more than read.
I am asking as many churches, ministers and leaders to prayerfully consider engaging with these words and particularly the key question that I am bringing. ‘Where do we grow from here?’
Effectively, I am issuing an invitation. Of course, you can decline if you don’t believe this theme is right for you and your church at this time - we are Baptists after all!
The role of President links to all four areas being discussed in this edition of Baptists Together. I have the honour of visiting churches, colleges and associations trying to help equip the local church for mission, seeking to support planting and pioneering as well as looking to encourage and enable Baptist voices and action in the public square.
However, perhaps the key part of the role each year is to spend time with church ministers and leaders in a variety of settings thereby investing in Godly leaders. Whenever I do so, I ask them to consider the same question that I am asking you, namely, as a grouping of churches, together and individually:
‘Where do we grow from here?’
Before we jump straight in to answering the question, I’m suggesting that there are five steps within it.
1. A Prayer
Firstly, could we pray ‘where do we grow from here?’ Could we spend time as individuals and churches asking our Lord for guidance on where He would point us towards genuine Kingdom growth. We can be confident that this is a question our Lord would want to hear us ask.
Whenever I pray this question, I find myself needing to take it personally. In other words, I find that I always need to begin by reframing the prayer, ‘Lord, where do I grow from here?’ Ultimately, any ideas or answers we may have regarding where we grow from here can never bypass our own need for personal growth as disciples of Jesus.
2. Identifying ‘Here’
The second element to this question is to take time reflecting, carefully and honestly, on where ‘here’ is. Whenever we are asked for directions, we are most helpful if we have a clear understanding of where our current location is. So, what is the current state of play, the spiritual reality in our church? How would we define ‘here’ for our village, town or city? For the UK, today? If our churches are declining or aging, then that’s part of the ‘here’ answer. If we sense spiritual openness in our surrounding population, then that helps to define ‘here’ too. There will be positive and negative aspects to ‘here’ for all of us but we must face it all with honesty.
3. Who do we mean by ‘We’?
How wide is our definition of ‘we’ when answering the question? If our mindset is just about individual churches then our answers will be limited. If our mindset includes a geographical area or if we picture churches working together then our ‘we’ answer will be bigger. As Baptists part of our perspective should be that we are a family of interdependent churches.
4. Defining ‘Growth’
We should acknowledge three things about growth. Firstly, we are seeking genuine Kingdom growth rather than just numerical ‘transfer’ growth. Secondly, there is more than one type of good growth, we seek to grow as disciples as well as seeking to help grow the number of disciples. Lastly God ultimately creates growth not us, but he calls us to be good farmers, to create the circumstances where growth is most likely to happen.
5. So, ‘Where’?
The last step, having considered the other four, is to look at the ‘where’ aspect of the question. There won’t be a one-size-fits-all answer, but I am convinced that we have a one-size-fits-all Jesus.
Our overall context requires bold experiments to reach out with the good news message we have been given, then we need to share growth stories and invite each other to adapt them for our own contexts. In my own church an emphasis on Whole-Life Discipleship and Missional Communities has been vital for us and I share stories about these on my website and visits.
I find myself imagining what our collective journey together could look like if over the next year or more a significant number of our churches accepted the invitation to work through these five parts to the question ‘where do we grow from here?’
What good news stories would develop and be shared?
Who might find Jesus through our bold experiments?
Of course, I don’t know, but I’m excited to spend the next year and more finding out.