Here I am, once again sitting on a train, reflecting on this past weekend… Good opportunity to take five and mull over what I’ve seen…
I’ve just got back from a few days in Dundee with the Baptist Union of Scotland general assembly which was also hosted by BMS world mission. I’m finding it hard not to draw parallels between my experience there and the concert I went to with my wife Ruth when I returned and we saw a classical concert in Cambridge. Tchaikovsky no less. An orchestra made up of over 150 people, shockingly brilliant. And good brownie points for me as it was a birthday treat for my wife. It was a vibrant performance and perhaps that is why I’m considering both experiences and making parallels of Dundee with my cultured Cambridge evening.
However, let me go on, albeit with some clumsy metaphors: Firstly: At the assembly I was given a clear remit for the few days which played to my strengths: 1. enthuse people for the creative possibilities for mission and evangelism, 2. Look after a bunch of young people on one of the afternoons and lead them in creative ways to share faith and lastly I was asked to do a bit of a family friendly show. Great fun, akin to Mr Tumble in it’s silliness.
At the Assembly I noticed I too wasn’t the only one who played to their strengths. Like a highly skilled Oboe player Glen Marshall unpacked the scriptures from Luke which reduced people to tears. (In a good way-honest!) Delegates were touched by the honesty and openness he showed and like the emotion of Gabriel’s Oboe, Glen skilfully unpacked the person of Jesus as shown in Luke’s gospel.
Karl Martin preached his heart out like some concert hall operatic in the evenings. I witnessed the response by many, this time I was reduced to tears! Many people literally fell to their knees and asked for prayer in response to his message of ‘stop living for Jesus and start living with him.’ Powerful stuff, seeing pastors who have served for years and years crying out to God on their knees, hungry for more of Him.
And what about Alan Donaldson and his role as General Director in Scotland for the Baptists? He did his lead fiddle role and enabled his team in their strengths and abilities, back room staff had a clear remit as did those in various departments leading and hosting the programme in a fun, natural way. He seemingly led those around them so they could play their part in serving the delegates. It did feel like an orchestra just getting on with their role, and in the process loving it! Good job all round; yes, I know I’ve only seen a snippet for a few days of how things are run, but it certainly looked healthy. As I observed the team work together it brought to mind recent questions I’ve heard about leadership in various meetings I have sat on and how we as baptists in BUGB lead. Questions of power and suspicion of control seem to pop up whenever the topic of leadership is brought up. Shame. As a graduate from the Arrow leadership program It has been with a sad heart that I have observed where ‘leadership’ has been a dirty word among some fellow brothers and sisters I hang out with. Yet what I observed in Dundee was people led with the skill set they have been gifted with, but under clear leadership of a team who clearly lead. Arrow taught me that we need to be leaders who lead more like Jesus, more to Jesus and closer to Jesus.
One of the ways I was encouraged to lead and was a highlight for me in my role at the assembly was taking young people ‘out there’ among those who wouldn’t have a clue about Jesus let alone what it means to be a baptist! We did the classic free fruit (of the Spirit) giveaways. Teams also had freedom to be creative. One of the teams I sent out decided to give away chocolates. I watched how they got on and they soon attracted a bunch of people around their generous act. One guy got talking to me and pulled out beneath his jumper a cross he had bought recently. He told me how his friends had been teasing him about having a ‘stupid cross.’ I asked him if be had been thinking of becoming a Christian. He shared that he had been and wondered what it meant to be one. A thought crossed my mind that I should offer him the New Testament I had in my pocket… He was so chuffed. As we left he thanked me for the gift of the bible. He looked so happy.
My prayer for us as a Baptist family in Great Britain as we seek to become more of a movement than an institution is that we may empower those who lead, to simply lead us. And those with specific orchestra- type roles to play their hearts out- for the glory of the one who conducts us. Right, that’s it, orchestra related metaphors over now, I promise. That’s the last. Like the 6th Symphony was for Tchaikovsky. Oh no, I just can’t stop!