“If I find what’s beeping it’s in trouble”

Last night, every 30 seconds or so, I could hear ‘beeping’. Just a few seconds of ‘beeping’. The dog first drew my attention to it as generally he’s a sensitive soul when it comes to high pitched noises, which I’ve noticed whenever I have changed the battery on the smoke detectors. He (dog) leaves the room as if he’s been scolded for one of those moments when ‘whatever’ he’s eaten makes a re-appearance in a form not welcomed (unless of course, its cover for someone else in the room!).

I made a mental note to attend to the ‘beeping’ and this morning after returning from a meeting, I set about the task. “Of course”, I said, “it’s a smoke alarm.” I dutifully attended to each one. Nope. Something was still ‘beeping’. I listened and realised definitely that the beeping was coming from the kitchen. I stood in the kitchen. ‘It’ ‘beeped’ and it clearly wasn’t in the kitchen. I stood in the hall way, and ‘It’ ‘beeped’ and ‘it’ clearly IS in the kitchen. I went through the whole kitchen turning off every device I could find, listened, and once again, this ‘Beep’ was CLEARLY…NOT in the kitchen. “Aaagh!” This ‘beeping’ is now getting on my ‘beeping’ nerves.

With minutes ticking by and that sense of I’m wasting time, I have other things to do today other than search for a ‘beep’ I have left the ‘beep’ and the dog (who cowered in the corner again) and will try and get the ‘bleeping’ thing sorted later.

I left the house, hurriedly and I noticed how my drive to work was more frustrating than normal. Drivers weren’t driving as they should, lights seemed to be on red for longer, mobile phone use in the car in front was making them drive erratically, and the rain….well the rain just kept on coming. Drought, that’s a ‘bleeping’ laugh!

My journey ended upon arriving to find that a ‘bleeping’ person had parked their car in MY SPACE!

All this before 10.30 a.m.

I stopped. Breathed. Prayed. Offered the past hour or so to the Lord, and felt his gentle voice speak into my life. A moment of peace.

I reflected on yesterday. Good meetings, an encounter with a young woman seeking help to find her way back to a faith filled life, and a meal out with 4 folks 2 of whom are looking to be baptised in the near future.

Perspective was restored.

Yes, there are lots of ‘beeping’ things that get in the way, that can distract and frustrate us, but it’s important to take a moment to pause, pray, reflect and gain a broader and better perspective.

The ‘beep’ can wait. We will have family ‘beep’ finding session later, because at my age, it may well be my ‘beeping’ ears.

Have a ‘beeping’ good day

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If you don’t help me…who will?

I’m writing, planning, preparing a day on empowering, equipping, inspiring people in evangelism. Not necessarily as something we go out and do, like preaching on a street corner, or sketchboard, door to door, etc (not that sometimes those things aren’t valid at all) but rather the approach I’m taking is seeking to enable, empower, and inspire people with the confidence to share their story in everyday life, when opportunties emerge. Transitional conversations, etc.

BUT…if you were coming to a day, or recommending it to others, what would inspire you to attend? What would YOU like to see included in the day? The content? The approach?

I don’t want to waste my time so I’m appealing to you to help me. Please respond with your suggestions and comments.

I’d really appreciate your input…I really would.

Thanks

Jon

p.s for those wondering about my next post on Baptist Futures, it’s coming…..

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Futures: some more musings

I’ve seriously grappled about whether I should publish this blog. I am fearful that my words will be misunderstood, misinterpreted and judged. Better to stay silent? Yet, I sense hypocrisy in saying stuff to myself or those around me but not going public. At the same time I wonder whether what ‘I’ think is actually that important, dramatic, mind boggling, or just what everybody think’s?

I’ve been a Christian for 27 years, and a leader within the local church, now lead an evangelism agency, and have been fully involved in Baptist life for the past 20 years serving in Associations, Council, and more. I’ve met many people in all spheres of Baptist Life, some who have become friends, and others whom I just know. I sought the advice of some colleagues out there in the Baptist world for their views on whether I should publish this. They were helpful and encouraging.

I mean no personal malice in what I write, even though to critique can sometimes be received as such. It’s not a reflection on the people involved, many of whom I know pretty well, worked with, and supported, but rather an attempt to find a way forward for the future. It’s perhaps too easy for someone like me to write about others’ jobs and it sounds simplistic to write, ‘The Lord is sovereign’ in all things, yet I do believe that. As someone who was recently unemployed I have learned and am learning to trust that He has a plan. I also confess that I have not supported, served and thought as much about these issues in the past, for which I am sorry.

I have had major questions and issues with the process, the survey, and the make-up of the futures group. Sadly this has manifested itself within me and others as mistrust and suspicion of that process which in part remains, though softened through engagement in my previous blog.

A comment on the process: What is the difference between ‘listening’ ‘understanding’ and ‘engaging’? I believe the current process requires more engagement and openness. I want to see emerging leaders and those speaking out engaged in discussion with the Futures Group… soon please, face to face. I don’t think it’s enough to leave it to the Futures Group and Council (especially when some Council members have stated that they are frustrated with how it works – or doesn’t). Without engagement and involvement in the process, not just assent to the outcomes, then many of those who could be supportive and involved in enabling mission in the next 20 years or more, will become disillusioned and walk away. Ownership and loyalty will be lost. (It’s not a threat) Even if that engagement doesn’t prove much use, and very few new ideas are found, at least try.

I admittedly write with some ignorance of the whole picture (I’ve not seen the survey and haven’t asked for it) so in my naivety there is every chance of me being simplistic.

I don’t pretend to understand the financial and practical applications of all this and therefore perhaps these musings are unhelpful, though I do think some of the idea saves some money and establishes a different way of working.

I hope these help. I really do…. Here goes.

1. I’d like to see a much closer relationship between BMS and BUGB reflected in a number of ways including;

a. An agreed shared vision and core aims of the Baptist Union and BMS. A vision which enables Baptist identity and values to flourish. (This doesn’t mean a joint organisation but an agreed vision, aims and objectives.) We have much to gain by working more closely but words alone are not enough. Working much more closely will not mean distinctiveness is lost but enriched.

b. Our colleges and IMC working ‘closely’ together to agree and achieve the aims of that vision. (Should some colleges close and excellence pooled?)

c. Within that a commitment to theologically re-examine what we mean by: ‘The gospel’ (i.e. the words we use as much as anything), the church, associating, covenant, and the nature of leadership. Particularly a recovery of the deep importance of associating. We need to get to grips with what this means and how it could work. The weakness of the last attempt at restructuring was surely a lack theological work on clustering? The need for a long term strategy to change the culture of associating reflected in a much deeper commitment to mutual submission. Structural change is simply not enough. If we don’t see a change in the way we associate then we will have lost this great opportunity.

d. Training for regional teams that supports and equips them for their crucial roles. I believe we need many more Association Ministers out on the field strengthening and encouraging Ministers in the local church and mission projects, and enabling new stuff to emerge.

e. A deeper commitment to ensuring that all Ministers are in cluster type relationships which focus on accountability and growth in personal discipleship. Should this be a requirement of accreditation?

f. Close the Mission Department and instead employ a ‘Missiologist’ who; advises the union and BMS, creates and points to resources, highlights  what is going on out there, links agencies engaged in mission and evangelism, and become a signpost to those agencies for churches to use.

g. Close the Faith and Unity department or at least slim down to an advisor who supports and advises on faith and unity and other public and policy issues. Shared with other denominations?

h. The Communications Department of the Union be downsized and  amalgamate with BMS Communications Department. What an amazingly creative and dynamic team that would be!

i. A commitment to keep asking the questions about how effective the structures that are put in place are, and monitoring how time is actually used in line with the vision and objectives.

2. Does the National Settlement Team process need to be re-examined? Can we not move to advertising posts? How much time is spent on settlement?

3. To reflect on and challenge ‘the impact of representationalism’ across our union. The seemingly incessant desire to have the right age, colour, race, gender, etc, in much of what we do. How much of our time is spent on this rather than finding the right people through prayerfulness? (I have lost count of the number of times in meetings where prayer has been squeezed out…and I am just as guilty). In my experience most committees spend a few moments in prayer and loads of time talking. Sometimes it feels more democratic than theocratic. A very gifted pastor offered his services for council. He’s gifted, is enabling creative stuff to happen. The response? “You’re the wrong side of 40, male and white. It’s not going to happen.” I believe there does need to be balance but is this right?

4. Is it time to radically change the way our Home Mission grants are distributed so that there is a priority given to churches which demonstrate a desire to ‘do’ and ‘be’ church differently, rather than prop up, (sorry) outdated methods? Some churches should probably close and the resources re-allocated for newer initiatives. Are there some statistics that reflect how effective Home Mission grants have been over the last 20 years? It’s time to be radical and implement some new criteria. We are facing a crisis not simply financially but in membership, and our work with children and young people is reducing. It’s time to do things differently, make tough choices and be courageous.

5. I believe that Assembly should be less presentational and more focused on listening, praying and engaging together. I’d like to see a lot more passionate debate and rigorous questioning. It seems that a culture of control has overwhelmed Assembly in recent years? I believe we need to recover the art of debate which includes listening.

6. Introduce a monthly national day of prayer and fasting for all.

I’ve tried to say things carefully. Nicely. Speaking in love. Forgive me if the words on a page express anything other than that.

Prayerfully, Jon

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Are we all just too nice!

Some musings and questions on the BUGB Futures process, with apologies for repeating myself!

1. I remain convinced that unless the emerging leaders and NAM’s are strategically involved in the futures process that any vision or strategy won’t be owned by them now or into the future. Given the perceived lack of response from the under 40’s to the Future’s survey, should there not be a determined effort to respond to this?

2. I have come to a place of believing that Baptist Identity is still important and that we need a reminder or even fresh theological examination of what we mean by covenant, association, and the nature of leadership, and associated themes.

3. We need to look carefully at how Baptist identity is taught by the colleges and how the colleges, associations, and national resource agree and work together to shape the culture for the future. A strategic long term view of the values that we believe are essential in achieving the vision.

4. I believe that role of the Assembly and council needs revisiting. Starting from a blank page, with completely new people involved in looking at what could happen. Fresh imaginations?

5. Please can the BU council debates be streamed online so that those who are interested and committed can listen and engage?

6. Can there be a ‘Spin monitor’ to challenge those who don’t answer questions with transparency and openness?

7. Is there a real fear of being honest in sharing our opinion for fear of reprisal, being sidelined, labelled or leant on, even if what we want to say could be tough to hear? Is it OK to express a lack of confidence in people?

8. Should there be a national and regular day of prayer and fasting each month across the Baptist church?

I hope I have been helpful. I try. Shalom

JS

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Danger! Rabbit in the headlights?

Questions I’m reflecting on…..

1. Is there a danger that when faced with a crisis that initial decisions made are not strategically thought through? A knee jerk reaction? A must do something? That in responding to the initial and limited understanding of the crisis, practical shortermism misses the opportunity for long term strategic change?

2. Is there also a danger that in the rush to make pressing (?) decisions the need for careful communication and collaboration is missed? Which in turn leads to disillusionment and frustration?

3. Is there a danger that a lack of perceived transparency about process can lead to a suspicion, lack of ownership, and disempowerment?

4. Does fear of what may happen close the door to what could happen?

JS

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Could cyncism get the better of me?

I have been wondering about the BUGB future. Right now there lots of different voices saying stuff and there are lots of discussions too. And now here’s my voice. Another one.

I can hear that voice in my head that says, ‘turkey’s don’t vote for Christmas’ and ‘is this the right process?’ and are all the ‘right people involved in this anyway?’ and ‘maybe this time the emerging leaders will be heard?’ and the killer voice that says, ‘what difference will it all make anyway?’ (I could go on…there are lots of voices you know.)

To quote a Clash song, ‘Do I stay or do I go?’ – Do I stick with it or just get on with my ministry, my world, and just get on with stuff? Mmmmm.

I can hear another voice in the midst of it though; the voice that says, “stay with it” The voice that says “pray, read, listen, talk, imagine, seek creative insight…” A voice that calls me/us to hope, trust and pray that what emerges is more prophetic and radical than what we can see; that draws us to a new landscape. The voice that says “don’t give up, keep on going.”

In the midst of it all what I have come to realise again that what is needed at this critical and potentially amazing moment for the BUGB is…..

…..courage.

 

 

 

 

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yes, yes I’ll lose weight, eat less chocolate and pray more…

I have never been particularly successful with New Year’s resolutions. I look back now and can see that if I had my life would have been better. Not just because I’d be fitter, leaner, healthier, and have a liver that smiles at me, but because I would’ve taken more time to rest, pray, relax and be. I lived life at a pace that thrilled me, but nearly killed me.

Burn out is a paralysing experience in more ways than one. The loneliness of failure is at times overwhelming and the daggers of others words feel way to close at times. The last 2 to 3 years have been tougher and more discouraging than I could’ve imagined.

So I am grateful to God that I am alive, loved by the most important people and have a future in His hands.

So what awaits me in 2012? Here’s some resolutions…ish

1. I will live one day at a time and forget trying to do the Lord’s job of planning my future for Him. What He wants with my life is up to Him. I’ll just try and trust Him.

2. I will read the bible in a year. (join me? Bible366)

3. I will take regular sabbaticals, weekly, monthly, yearly and make sure my family gets the best of me.

4. I will read, reflect and write more about the stuff that inspires me.

5. I will pray with others, lots!

Oh, and I’ll lose 50 Ilbs in weight, drink more water, and walk the dog more than I did in 2011.

There you go, it’s public. Hold me to account if you wish. But be warned, I’ll ask…….How about you?

JS

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