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01 June 2010


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Simon Jones

It's probably much more complicated than you or I want it to be, but it seems to me that you're spot on here in your analysis, david.
I'll be asking my new leaders these questions tonight: why do you think people don't come to our church? What would we have to do to be good news to these people?
The questions are simple as you say, but the answers, I suspect, are complicated in the sense that they are costly in ways we don't want to consider. For instance, eing prophetic or edgy will often mean that for everyone who finds us to be good news, a dozen or so will just think we're nutters (admittedly, half of them will be in the church already!)
I think the early baptists had less of a stake in society than we do - either through choice or accident of birth. But I suspect that until we are prepared to lose the trappings that come from being fully paid up members of western culture, we will not be good news in the sense that Jesus and his earliest followers were.
Power in Acts seems to go hand in hand with pooling possessions and ensuring that there was no one among them in need of any kind.
Keep asking the questions, David, and pushing us all for answers.

Andy Goodliff

is part of the question here between a conservative evangelical theology (see the likes of carson, grudem and co) and a more open evangelical theology (so tom wright, nigel wright, grenz and co). I have no time for the narrow theology of the former, but more time for the latter, which still would hold to a view of there is more truth and light to break forth from God's word.

have you read rob warner's reinventing english evangelicalism? i was re-reading some responses today in the anvil journal from two anglicans, i wonder how we baptists might be respond, being the more conversion-activist type of evangelical?

i guess the other question is where has our dissent gone? i'm nervous that within our union, the language of dissent is potentially being claimed by those who oppose women in leadership. i guess part of me wants to see the possibility and space for theological conversation over these issues. we still look for the pragmatic quick fix, rather than a serious thinking of what might a church that is good news (rather than simply having good news) might look like ... perhaps actually some of us no what it might look like, but it might be deemed to costly (financially and in terms of persons), when the church is already losing numbers and has less money around.

David Kerrigan

Simon- I hope the meeting goes well this evening - do share any light that emerges in due course.

I think you're right about the 'stake in society' we stand to lose. This does worry people who would prefer to stay with the status quo, but I do believe this will help us rediscover what our faith was always meant to be - following Jesus the counter-cultural way. Not easy, but ultimately authentic and therefore worthwhile.

David Kerrigan

Andy - yes, this is definitely about expresing a generous, grace-filled evangelicalism that is open to God, open to all God's people and open to the world. Open to God - there is always more to learn as we plumb the depths of God's character; open to God's people - evangelicals have been quick to censure each other and yet the truth is we have much to learn from Christians who are not evangelicals; open to the world - remembering the Jesus who said "I did not come to judge the world, but to save it."

I havent read Rob's book, and at £41 on Amazon, I dont think I'll be doing it any time soon! As for dissent, I do hear dissenting voices within the Union, including it's structures, it's churches and it's pastors. But for me, the Union is 'us' not 'them' and that shapes how I approach my desire to see what this might mean. This isn't simply because I inhabit part of our Baptist structures but because I came to faith in this Union, grew as a disciple here, and have been given opportunity to serve over many years. If God is in this rethinking of what it means to be good news people, then I want as many as possible to be involved in that conversation. The outcomes will be better if we take as many as posible on the journey - all have valuable insights to offer. I certainly dont claim a monopoly on truth!

Simon Jones

I've posted a brief reflection on our meeting last night on my blog.

Joe Haward

Hi David - Thank you for that post, it speaks a lot of truth.
It is a very probing question 'Why does church not seem to be good news?'.
I've been reflecting on this and wonder if some of it is to do with our attitude to people being informed by consumerism? So the way we approach people and our relationships is similar to the way we approach buying a new car or TV. Our culture tells us that we need to get the next 'new thing' and so we are forever buying new things because the old one has served its purpose and is now redundant; it no longer does for me what I want it to do.
Our relationships can be in danger of falling into the same trap whereby we expect people to do for us what we want them to, and once they have served their purpose we move on.

There is a danger in church life, in light of falling attendance, that people within our communities become 'targets' to reach. Once we have hit that target hey then become a 'resource' to use in order to reach more targets. Society now has terms like 'human resources'.

Baptist dissent should be to be a radical, uncomfortable group that loves in radical and uncomfortable ways.

I finish Spurgeon's in a couple of weeks and move to Newton Abbot to church plant to explore a different model of church than the 'inherited' model. I'm wondering as I approach this if the answer is always love. Time and opportunity to live out real love to others. Have we become so consumed by consumerism that we have forgotten how to love each other?

David Kerrigan

Hi Joe - blessings on you as you go to Newton Abbot. I would encourage you to be ruthlessly radical, outrageous in hospitality, leave nothing in the way of accepting and supporting the people you meet. Resist the rush to judge but point them to the one who transforms lives. In other words the old mantra of belonging - belief - behaviour.

And by the way, I dont know if you are joining an established church and planting from there, but increasingly I feel that bi-vocational ministry could be / should be seen as the No.1 choice for church planting.

Joe Haward

Thanks David - The South West Baptist Association are sending me. There used to be a Baptist church in Newton Abbot but it closed, so SWBA looked to see if it was viable to church plant a 'fresh' model of church into Newton Abbot. God has called me, my wife and 3 year old daughter to go on this adventure! I'm getting Ordained as a evangelist in July and then move to Newton Abbot at the end of July. SWBA are initally providing full stipend.

There isn't a church or group there, we will be starting completely from scratch. I agree, bi-vocational is a fantastic way of ministry. When I started at Spurgeons in 2005 I was in placement at my home church as a evangelist whilst also working for my Dad as a oyster fisherman. I did this for 3 years, but then because I transferred onto the BU ministerial track at Spurgeons I had to stop working for my dad because of time pressure. Those 3 years I was working for the church and my dad proved to be very fruitful.

Thank you for the advise. Meeting Jesus has transformed my life and I want others to know Him for themselves. I was loved by Christians and it was this that led me to consider who Jesus was. And so the adventure began and continues!


As a non-believer, I just thought I would mention that my reason for not attending your church (or a similar church in my area) is not that I find you unwelcoming or that I find the questions you seek to answer irrelevant. Indeed, as an atheist who, until recently, was a "cohabiting neighbour", I know I would be made to feel particularly welcome; and as for questions such as "what caused the big bang?" and "how should I live my life?" to which your faith provides reasonably straightforward answers, these are questions (particularly the latter) which I find very important and spend much of my time pondering. My reason for not attending your church is that I find the answers you provide deeply implausible given the empirical evidence at my disposal.

I daresay that your article accurately describes the views of _some_ who don't attend your church, but I thought I would just make the point that it by no means covers all of us!

Just to push the point home, ask yourself why you don't attend a mosque or the meetings held at the church of scientology? Is it because you fear you would not be welcome or because you find the issues that they address irrelevant? I'm guessing not.

David Kerrigan

Dear Guest, you are right of course. Many people choose not to attend a church because they don’t find the Christian faith plausible. I’ll turn to that in a moment. Most people, however, haven’t examined the issues as you have done and maybe, in the light of changing cultural norms, just see the church as judgemental or even worse, irrelevant. So that’s where I’m starting from.

The issue here then is not primarily the issue of plausibility but the issue of authenticity. Humankind has the obvious capacity to get things wrong and I am exploring here whether we are really living as Jesus would have us live.

On the issue of plausibility, the Christian church is far from monolithic and believe me, there are beliefs held by some Christians that I find utterly implausible too. Don’t get me going on that! But, by faith and reason, we believe there is a plausible and coherent (if incomplete) understanding of creation, the human predicament, the existence of a God who has acted in history, a physical resurrection and a purposive view of history. Atheism, I would argue, is similar insofar as it too is a faith system, though as you’d expect I find it less plausible!

If I link both of these lines of thought together, I believe a more authentic following of Jesus is not just right in and of itself, but it might also earn us the right to defend our plausibility structure. And of course that mustn’t be dependent on getting people into our churches. That needs us to get out of them!

Hey, if you can, keep in touch here. It’s good to have a dissenting voice! Its something we Baptists admire. David

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