Where do we grow from here?
That’s the challenge and invitation posed by new Baptist Union President Ken Benjamin
Ken, the senior minister of Chichester Baptist Church, was inducted as Baptist Union President on Saturday evening.
His theme for his presidential year is 'Where do we grow from here?', and is directly linked to our vision of 'Growing Healthy Churches in Relationship for God's Mission.' It's a question that he hopes our as many churches and ministers as possible can engage with.
'Where do we grow from here?' can be summarised by two “what if” questions, Ken explained.
Firstly, what are things likely to look like for our grouping of churches our denomination in the next 10-20 years if we simply keep doing what we are doing now?
The answer is not likely to be positive overall – there’s not likely to be growth overall; and not likely to be seeing growing numbers to faith, especially from younger generations.
‘We can’t be ok with that happening on our watch, when it need not be so,’ Ken said.
He proceeded to break down the “Where do we grow from here?” question.
He wants to invite churches to pray through "where do we grow from here?"
Then to consider who we mean by ‘we’ thinking: more Kingdom than individual
Then to prayerfully and carefully consider the current state of play in our churches and society, which is to say, where here is.
Then to recognise that we seek real growth from God in all the forms he describes in his word, rather than just numerical growth which might be at the expense of others, and let’s recognise that he does growth ultimately not us.
Then, when we have done that we can look meaningfully at the where question.
Ken explained that part of the answer in his own church has been emphasising whole life discipleship, particularly picking up resources from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. He highlighted the new resource Frontline Sundays, launched at the Baptist Assembly on Saturday.
Ken also spoke of the importance of alternative gathering, or missional communities, at his church. One Sunday a month, members are encouraged to do something in the community, in a variety of contexts and locations, instead of attending the more traditional service. These gatherings are aimed at reaching those who foreseeably won’t come to any of the churches in Chichester.
Different churches will have different answers to the questions. He said he hopes the responses will reflect ‘our great diversity’, but added, ‘I suspect there will be some common themes and transferable lessons.’
The second ‘what if’ question is more positive: what if a good number of churches prayerfully engaged with this question? Could we see a real momentum shift for the better as we go for bold experiments together and share lessons learnt along the way?
‘My prayer,’ Ken concluded, ‘is that great growth stories emerge from surprising places.’
He invited delegates to take this question, invitation, and challenge; make it a prayer; and take it back to their home churches.
Resources to engage with the question can be found on the “Where do we grow from here?” website: www.wheredowegrowfromhere.org and on the Baptists Together website
Follow him on social media @kenlenben