Pioneering discussion amongst Baptists: Trajectories from scripture

Scriptural trajectories

Image borrowed from http://crlphotography.com/blog-post/two-golds-at-the-2011-roses-advertising-awards/In the previous post I mentioned two significant ways that Baptists are talking about Pioneer Ministry. In this post I am going to point to some scriptures that may serve as a stimulus for reflection. The nature of this brief post means that a full exegesis of the passage is not possible!

There is never going to be a straight line between reading the scriptures and seeing a direct application into Pioneer Ministry in the UK. The gulf in contexts are always going to present us with problems! However, there can be some observations that are worth making.

Scriptural trajectories for Pioneer Ministry within established churches, leading to engagement with those who are beyond the church:

  • The Early Church grew out of the Jewish tradition and was initially embedded within the Jewish community.
  • Jesus found himself in conflict with the religious establishment on a regular bass. Engrained religious conviction and habit, however well intentioned, did not always lead to a happy encounter with Jesus.
  • Paul always went to the synagogue first. His role was persuading and proving that Jesus was the Messiah. In the occasions
  • when he realized he was going to get no further, he moved on (Acts 18:5).
  • When a local church needs the kind of Pioneer Ministry that facilitates and enables, reflection on Jesus and Paul’s approach may help develop an understanding of their own situation.
  • There is always conflict in church life, it need not be seen as negative! Handling it well,  and openly is often helpful. Peter’s encounter with Cornelius (Acts 11) can be a very helpful source to help both the Pioneer and the local church. When I look at this passage I see the cause of change (direct leading from God) and the outcomes (people coming to a new understanding of their faith) as a route to reconciliation.

Scriptural trajectories Pioneer Ministry that goes beyond the existing boundaries of the church:

  • In the life of Jesus there are some interesting moments when he engages beyond the Jewish faith. The Woman at the well (John 4:1-26) and the “crumbs under the table” encounter (Matthew 25:1-28) are examples.
  • Paul encounters mission beyond the current boarders of the church and responds creatively to the situations he finds himself in. The encounter at Antioch (Acts 17:16-34) is well worn territory when it comes to discussing mission at the frontiers. His encounters in Ephesus (Acts 19) present ethical dilemmas as his Ministry throws the town into uproar.
  • Pioneer’s often report the need to listen carefully to the communities that they are involved in in order that they can use language that is appropriate to the context. Routine ethical dilemmas are often encountered in the course of a Pioneers work. These passages could provide material for Pioneers to reflect on.

The person who is involved in Pioneer Ministry is going to need to develop the ability to reflect on the things the see, say and do. Action/Reflection cycles (Wikipedia article) can be a useful tool. In Christian circles these have been adapted to include a spiritual element and are often referred to as the “Pastoral Cycle” (helpful book).

In the next post in this series I am going to mentioned some ways in which Pioneer Ministry in countries beyond the UK can provide stimulus and opportunity to learn.

Other Posts in this series:

Pioneering discussion amongst Baptists: What is pioneering?

What is Pioneering?

Image borrowed from http://crlphotography.com/blog-post/two-golds-at-the-2011-roses-advertising-awards/In the last post I suggested 3 key things in our recent history that have influenced Baptists to be talking about, and practicing, Pioneer Ministry. In this post I’m going to identify some of the things that I hear people saying about what Pioneer Ministry is.

As with most diverse and eclectic groups, there are a range of ideas and thoughts about the subject. I’m sure I won’t be able to represent them all here. If you think I have missed something important then do mention it in the comments.

I see three different ways in which people are talking about Pioneer Ministry:

1. Pioneering where the church is absent

The Pioneer Collective is facilitated by a group of people who have a vision to encourage 400 new pioneers in the next few years. They have created a definition of what makes a pioneer:

A risk taking Baptist sent to advance the Kingdom beyond the fringe of church in new and creative ways (link).

They add to this pithy description three elements aimed at pinning down the nature of Pioneer Ministry:

Pioneers go beyond the fringe;
Pioneers do something new;
Pioneers are risk takers (link).

2. Pioneer Ministry from an existing church
When I am in discussion with Baptists who have a regional or national responsibility for facilitating mission I hear an affirmation and excitement about the kind of pioneer ministry that the pioneer collective are trying to facilitate. However I also hear a need for a slightly different kind of pioneer ministry. They need pioneers who are willing to go to an established church that is struggling to engage beyond its four walls. This kind of Pioneer Ministry is not only able to be pioneering but also enables an existing institution be become pioneering.

Having done both kinds of pioneer ministry I think both are needed.

3. All Ministry is Pioneering
This view suggests that Baptist Ministry is at its heart Pioneering Ministry. To an extent I agree, a quick look into Baptist history will reveal Baptists being at the cutting edge of social innovation. Our theology and Christocentric practice motivates us to act. I’m not sure I can agree that all Baptist Ministry is Pioneering. Some of it is perpetuating a style and approach to mission, ministry and ecclesiology that perpetuates a culture rather than pioneers into new cultures.

Our amazing history cannot be a reason for inaction.

As Baptists we have a history of trying to ground our practice by reflecting on the scriptures. The next post is is about who is a pioneer and will reflect briefly on some scriptures to try and illustrate the point.

Other Posts in this series:

Pioneering discussion among Baptists: What has got us here?

What has got us here?

Image borrowed from http://crlphotography.com/blog-post/two-golds-at-the-2011-roses-advertising-awards/

Here are my observations on what has got us here. This is not well researched, more of a participant-observer’s reflections on the past few years. As part of the Christian scene in the UK, Baptists take their part in a picture of a society that is moving beyond a Christendom mentality where Christianity took its place in the structures of power and thought in society. When other historic denominations were beginning to think about how to respond in the face of seemingly terminal decline, Baptists were lapping up the reality of showing signs of growth, whilst not paying much attention to the causes of growth or the areas of decline. Over the past few years the issues of what kind of mission and evangelism we need, as we look to the future, have come into focus. I can see three significant markers in this journey. There are probably more, feel free to comment below.

  1. Grassroots moves towards contextual approaches to mission and church planting.
    There has been an organic community of people that have been discussing the nature of mission in the UK. The debate has gone under different names and mission shaped fads. Names like Contextual Church Planting, Emerging Church, Incarnational Mission, Fresh Expressions and Missional Conversation have come and not quite gone.  In the Baptist family part of that discussion has been held through the emergence of the Incarnate Network. It started its life as a network of church planters and worked as a ginger group campaigning for contextual church planting within the Baptist Union of Great Britain. BUGB Council adopted a resolution about church planting (which has presumably lost any significance in the restructuring, there is certainly no reference to it on the BUGB web site). While there is no empirical evidence to prove this point, the Incarnate Network has been in existence for about a decade and has been a consistent voice into Baptist life. Behind the voice of the Incarnate Network
  2. Financial issues within the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the reality of decline among Baptists.
    For the three Baptist Unions in the UK (Scotland, Wales and Great Britain) there has been a decline in numbers. For the Union in England, this decline has been masked by new member churches keeping church and membership numbers more or less even. There is nothing that focuses the mind quite like the threat of extinction. It seems to me that the financial crisis in the Baptist Union of Great Britain was not about a decline in numbers but a decline in confidence. A number of factors collided to mean that there was a significant shortfall in finance. That led to an extended consultation before the reality of having to restructure. The restructuring created the opportunity to rethink and now you can’t move very far within the BUGB without hearing the words “pioneering mission” (or something similar).
  3. Growing influence of moves towards contextual mission in the UK church.
    Other church streams have different ways of tackling the reality of mission in the UK. Some confidently affirm the patterns they have relied on and are being successful is showing signs of growth. Others have encouraged the development of mission in established churches. Perhaps, most notably, in the face of decline the Anglican’s and Methodist’s invested significantly in the Fresh Expressions project. Fresh Expressions have offered inspiration for worship and mission. The profile of Fresh Expressions in the UK has been large and has had an influence much larger than the two denominations that established and funded it.

These three things have, in my view, been significant influences on why there is a big emphasis on pioneering mission at the moment. However, it does beg a question “What is pioneer mission?” I will have a stab at some definitions in the next post.

Other Posts in this series:

 

 

Pioneering discussion amongst Baptists

Introduction

Image borrowed from http://crlphotography.com/blog-post/two-golds-at-the-2011-roses-advertising-awards/There is a significant amount of discussion amongst the Baptist family about pioneer ministry.  I find the discussion fascinating as we try and imagine what mission is going to look like as we move into the future. As Baptists, particularly those within the Baptist Union of Great Britain, try to imagine what mission and evangelism look like in the next decades we have adopted the word pioneering. Perhaps we have chosen to link the word “pioneering” with the concept of mission because we can define it and invest meaning in it. What interests me is that the different groups I mix within are trying to find a definition that suits their circumstances and needs. I hope that the term does not become nebulous and without meaning.

What I hope to do over the next few blog posts is to make some simple observations about what I am hearing in the debate under the following titles:

As a participant in the debate, I enjoy these discussions and am aware that my reflections and observations form part of the debate. More that that though I am looking forward to seeing the debate mature and the practice that comes out of it affect local communities as people’s lives are transformed.

Contextualisation and the bible

http://www.flickr.com/photos/phil_bartle/When we look at the scriptures we see a reflection of what we call contextualisation. The term emerged in the 1970′s so you can’t do a quick search for “contextualisation” and hope to find some texts that refer to it. A local church will naturally want to understand how the concept of contextualisation relates to the scriptures.

I have pulled together a primer around how passages from the bible reflect the notion of contextualisation. This primer is designed to help someone who is wanting to help their church engage with the concept and the scriptures (examples might be through house group material or a sermon series).

You can find the primer here: Primer: Contextualisation: 3: Biblical Reflections

I have written two other primers on the subject:

BMS World Mission have a whole magazine on the subject: Mission Catalyst: How far is too far?.

When is a backslider a better missionary?

There is a fascinating story about Johnathan Livingstone’s missionary exploits in Africa. He engaged a tribal leader called Sechele who accepted the Christian message and was converted. Livingstone had not thought through the difference between an African context and his British one and tried to induct his convert to a Western style of Christianity.

Although Livingstone eventually gave up on Sechele, he developed a unique approach to Christianity and shared it among many of the local tribes. The BBC article on the story goes on to say:

He returned to rainmaking, considering it a political necessity, and late in life returned to polygamy, marrying a young woman for what do not seem to have been entirely political reasons.

Missionaries also strongly objected to his use of traditional charms and purification rites, and the list of his ancestors on the church wall.

And yet, even the ones who most hated him admitted, “he reads the Bible threadbare”, and when confronted he ran scriptural rings around them.

This months “Mission Catalyst” is about the issues of contextualisation and syncretism. I have been involved in discussions about appropriate changes and developments in expressions of church life since my teens. The subject is an important one for Christian’s to grasp as they engage with a changing world.

Mission Catalyst: How far is too far?

I have written two primers on the subject:

I am planning a third around the subject of contextualisation in the bible (link to post).

3 Months on… how is it going?

I am now three months into my new role as UK Field Leader with BMS. The work is becoming clearer and I have put together this short Prezi to help describe the trajectory I am on:

Here is the basic outline of the presentation:

  • There are five areas of work that have developed in the first 3 months of the role:
    • Research
    • Unions and Associations
    • Individual churches
    • Colleges
    • Mission Agencies
  • Three time limited projects have emerged:
    • A “Learning from World Mission” teaching resource for various groups.
    • Experiments in missiological reflection (for Ministers and leaders).
    • Exploring a round table discussion around creative approaches to rural mission.

Feel free to get in touch if you would like to discuss any of the things I am involved in with me.

What do you do?

People keep asking me what my job is and how will it develop. Here is a brief attempt at trying to explain that!

Traditionally BMS traffic has been one way with regard to the UK. We have informed churches about our work and they have responded with generous funding. There has been an increasing sense within the BMS that there might be a unique contribution that BMS might be able to make within the UK mission scene. That will mean that BMS’ relationships within the United Kingdom will become two way. BMS have recognized that they need someone to coordinate their response to the United Kingdom. Hence the creation of the post of “United Kingdom Field Leader”, and my appointment to it.

As no one has done my job before it means that there are going to be two phases to the way my role develops:

  • Learning, listening and creating the scope of the role.
  • Setting direction and strategy for BMS response to its developing role within the UK.

So at the moment I am in the first phase:

  • I am learning about the organisation, the work we do and what makes the organisation tick.
  • I will be networking within our supporting churches, associations as well as other mission agencies working within the UK.
  • I will also be developing the partnerships that are already in existence.

Pinin' back me lug'oles!