This blog was first written for the BU web site and you can read the original post here.
Who in their right mind would plan a Big Hearted Tour in a season when we are painfully redefining how we do what we do? Come on, let’s face it: we are in a phase where our diminishing common purse has forced us to chop and change structures that ultimately mean members of our family will lose their jobs. Big Hearted? Heart ache more like.
Yet, as I ponder this presidential year thus far I’m surprised to feel that perhaps the timing isn’t as lousy as it seems. Could God be speaking though the absurdity of a tour of an evangelist with a message that we should be generous enough to let others in on what we’ve got?
Baptist Union Council recently affirmed the need for change so that we may become a much more ‘mission-focused movement.’ Yet, it’s hard to be a movement when budgets and structures keep us paralysed. But we need to. We urgently must dare to believe we can become people who do mission rather than simply speculating or reminiscing about it to keep us going in hard times. We need to take action as I am deeply concerned that all this mission talk could just become rhetoric to cover up the pain of necessary cut backs. This year, imagine if we truly became a movement of mission like we have never experienced before. It’s in these hard times that, I believe, God wants to reveal more of his power and splendour, to take us further on as a Baptist family and to be people who demonstrate His Kingdom more and more. Could this be our time to actually do far greater things then we could have imagined, to change this world for Jesus? Here are three simple things we could do together to help us on our way to become that mission focused movement:
Firstly, at least once this year cancel our Sunday morning service and instead, perhaps at our church anniversary, hold a party with, and for, the community. Instead of having a service and a meal for yourselves, serve those around you. In my EBA leg of the Big Hearted Tour I visited Carlton Rode Baptist church in rural Norfolk. It was a special day. The church set aside their morning service to celebrate with the community their 200 year anniversary. It was a fun time, church and community partied together well: free barbecue, bouncy castles, fun games and I had an opportunity to do some family magic shows and balloon modelling. It was such a treat to see that most of the guests weren’t church members but rather people who didn’t have a clue about the Christian faith, but learnt something new and vibrant on that day. Imagine if 2000 plus Baptist churches up and down the UK threw a party for their community at least once this year!
Secondly, when we fellowship together in small groups, let’s go and meet in public! Last week as part of my tour I joined a bunch of people for lunch down one of the cafés in South-end (pronounced caff- not cafe’, you know that kind of place), a Turkish/English greasy spoon which the team from ‘Church from scratch ’ often meet in for church during the week. It was hard to work out who was part of the church and who wasn’t, a glorious mix of people who welcomed me and my travel buddy Daniel Hatfield with such warmth. This kind of ‘church out there’ approach was also seen at the EBA Assembly where most of the delegates went out on practical evangelism workshops including three groups of attendees who met in cafes and pubs to undertake a Lyfe Bible Study, designed for meeting in public rather than hiding away in a church building. For many this was out of their comfort zone. Yet, they were willing to do something to show their faith and ‘have a go’ at something new.
Thirdly, imagine if each one of us personally committed to showing someone something of our faith. I was encouraged by the example of regional minister Richard Lewis who brought a friend along to an event where I was the speaker who ‘didn’t do the church thing’ but was happy to share in a lunch and listen to a short talk on how I seek to connect people to God. Who is it that you could bring along to an event or spend time with showing and sharing what it means to be a follower of Jesus?