The Discipline of Proclaiming the Gospel

As I bring ministry to a close at HBC, we’re following a series exploring disciplines that shape the life of the church in the world in a way we can carry and proclaim his presence in the world. I prepared this simple hand out for the church to reflect on which may be helpful to some.

Jesus trains up his disciples for the practical work of mission and sharing the gospel.  In Luke 9 we see he sends out the 12 disciples.  Hands-on training for his key soon-to-be movement leaders.  In Luke 10, he sends out the 72 on a very similar mission.  By the time we get to the day of the ascension of Jesus, Matthew 28 gives the command to all of the disciples to live on this same mission.  So, how does Jesus’ insight help us with our own task?

1.       PRAY (Luke 10: 1 – 2)

All of Jesus disciples, regardless of circumstance, can engage in this first principle: pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers.  We need to pray that God will raise up the church to bear witness to his name.

2.       EXPECT SOME OPPOSITION (Luke 10: 3)

Jesus expects that, as people opposed him, they would be opposed.  The good news is good news to those whose hearts are ready, but an insult to those who are self-sufficient.  We need to toughen up and be prepared.

3.       GO SIMPLY (Luke 10: 4)

Many turn the simple work of the gospel into a multi-thousand pound enterprise.  Jesus tells the disciples to go simply.  This is, firstly, a reminder that as they go they will be guests to people, not hosts.  Secondly, it is a reminder that we have a people centred gospel – it’s all about relationships.

4.       SEEK THE PERSON OF PEACE (Luke 10: 5 – 6)

Jesus is saying that the Spirit will have prepared people to hear the message.  Seek after them – don’t be too disheartened or distracted by those who are not in the place to hear.  Pray!  A person of peace can open up opportunities to particular groups of people, families or places, so the gospel can often be spread to more than one person.  Note it is a household that Jesus instructs the disciples to engage.

5.       LONG TERM VIEW (Luke 10: 7 – 8)

Note, again, that those who share the message are guests.  Mission happens on the turf and terms of those who are receiving.  We are so bent on an invitational mode that this can be a challenge for us to know how to ‘go’.  Where are the places God might be sending you to go to build up relationships on the long term, eating and drinking as you go?

6.       IT’S GOD’S MISSION (Luke 10: 16)

Don’t take rejection personally.  The gospel can be a hard pill to swallow.  Those rejecting you will be rejecting Jesus and His Father who sent him.  We are but the messengers.  Out invitation is to keep heart and move on with grace.

Questions to consider

1. Could you set an alarm on your phone at 10:02 (mirroring the verse numbers) to remind you to pray to the Lord of the Harvest about the harvest field and home and abroad?

2.  Do you feel equipped to be able to speak for the Lord?  Could you explain the gospel to someone who’d never heard it?  Could you lead someone through a confession of faith and help them have a ‘good birth’?

3.  Are there people in your life who may be ‘people of peace’ – people who would be open to hearing from you?  If not, how can you move into places where this is a possibility?

4.  If you are really unable to engage person–to–person, are there other ways you can work?  Could you increase your giving to enable mission?  Could you put pen to paper or use your social media creatively?

5.  Reflect on what it is that stops you taking the steps in sharing faith.  Having identified them, what steps might you take to over come them?  You might like to speak to a pastor or other trusted leader who could guide you.

Shrödinger’s Pastor

Yep – I’m in that ‘neither here nor there’ place. I’m seeking to do what I can to fulfil and round off ministry at HBC and also got half an eye to work that I’ll pick up in Arran in August, whilst also thinking through logistics of moving, somewhere to live, and all that. It’s definitely not that there’s a lack of stuff to do, but these in between spaces are very strange places to inhabit. You’d think I’d get used to it, but you really don’t.

There’s something very resonant in the scriptures about this in-between place. The Israelites ate the passover in their travel clothes and wandered the desert for a generation. We read that the Son of Man had no place to lay his head. We read that we inhabit the Kingdom of God which has come but not fully. We are ‘in Christ’ and ‘seated in Heavenly realms’ but also living fairly regular lives here on earth.

We are in-between people.

The gift of the in-between is the gift of being able to hold things lightly – to recognise the impermanence of everything around us. Soon not only our location, but our roles, our relationships, our priorities, and pretty much everything else will be in an entirely new place. Not only are we evaluating our physical stuff – what we will take – but I’m also evaluating ideas, ways of being and thinking, modes of mission and ministry…even various aspects of theology that are long overdue a revisit.

I’m having a right good clear out – and that feels good. I’m a fairly eclectic person in that I appreciate all sorts of things from all sorts of traditions, backgrounds and perspectives, but there are times when that feels very cluttered. Spiritually speaking, I’m in a season where I’m after a new simplicity. It’s not that I don’t want to think things through or become close-minded…what I mean is that I am in a season of holding many things more lightly, but delighting in the simplicity of the things that just are.

For me, theologically, that’s the Lordship of Christ and obedience to him. It’s his saving and sanctifying grace, the power of the gospel as real good news, and the privilege of co-mission with God. For me, that’s the foundation of everything – the foundation for discipleship, marriage, family life, ministry and everything else. There’s a great freedom in this.

I’m in-between all sorts of things, but Jesus is the solid foundation.

The Right Hand of Fellowship

There’s lots of transitions and significant moments happening in life in general right now, but it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t take time to write a few lines on my experience of being welcomed, given the ‘right hand of fellowship’, and commissioned as a Fully Accredited Baptist minister this weekend at the Baptist Assembly in Bournemouth. My stay in the Baptist Union of Great Britain will be very short as I transfer to the Baptist Union of Scotland in the summer, but it was so good to mark this stage of my journey in ministry. In many ways, I always had a sense that going through the process of accreditation here in England was, at some point, always going to be a hopeful gateway back to ministry in Scotland – both unions have reciprocal arrangements for the transfer of ministers between the two organisations in the wider Baptist family – and its another one of things that has fallen into place in the most timely manner for this next season of life and ministry.

The process of accreditation was a reasonably simple one for me, having been in ministry for 22 years and transferring in from another denomination. Yet, a short module of study on Baptist History and Principles and a series of interviews led to being added to ‘the list’ back in October 2021 and the welcome on Saturday 14th May in the evening session of the Assembly. It’s a blessing when others can hear and affirm your journey, and humbling that they ‘let me in’ without any sort of probation or need for any ‘extra’ requirements to be filled.

It was great, too, that the new Baptist President, Rev Hayley Young, was one of the hand shakers! I’ve had the pleasure of being Hayley’s colleague when she was pastoring a church in the next town to us before moving to another role up North and taking on the presidency of Baptists Together. Totally wonderful to know there are women of my generation like Hayley offering bold leadership in these days.

The ‘handshake’ from the Rev Hayley Young, President of Baptists Together

If you’d have asked me back in 1998 when I was starting out training for ministry at the International Christian College in Glasgow if I’d ever thought I’d end up a baptist minister, I’d have laughed with incredulity. Not only because I was a committed Salvationists at the time and couldn’t imagine life outside the Salvation Army, but because I was always so impressed by the strong faith, commitment, theology and heart of my baptist friends. I always felt a little inferior, and still the ‘impostor syndrome’ kicks in! Bit, it is a privilege to serve and I’m looking forward to getting to know the Baptist family in Scotland having been away from there for some time.

Yet, here we are. After a long theological, practical, and ecclesiastical search and exploration since leaving the Army I’ve found a new spiritual home for the long haul. There’s something radical at the heart of the baptist charism that sings to me – the simple covenant commitment to the Lordship of Christ, being a believers church discerning God’s voice and direction together, and that deeply missional pulse at the heart of it all. Like other families of Christians it has its own unique challenges, but there is no group of Christians who doesn’t have that…just ask the apostle Paul!

I’m so thankful to all the folks who’ve encouraged me on the journey: the fellowship and leadership team of Hertford Baptist Church; Spurgeon’s College; Churches in Communities International, and especially the Rev Trevor Howard and the Rev Agnita Oyawale; the Central Baptist Association; the Revs Geoff Colmer, Stephen Copson, Simon Carver, Maureen Hider, Andrew Hemmens, Simon Cragg; the Rev Martin Hodson of the Baptist Union of Scotland; the fellowship of Arran Baptist Church…and countless other friends who speak into my life with encourgment and challenge. Here begins the next chapter.