I've been having an interesting exchange on Twitter with some good friends and colleagues over the future of our movement. Thanks to Neil for the initial stimulus and to Andy and Anthony for the provocation thereafter. I feel need something more than 140 characters to set down some thoughts - hopefully to stimulate further conversation and creativity.
We baptists stand at the crossroads - we've been here for a while - and at the forthcoming Assembly (which I'm unable to attend), some sense of the new direction in which we will be travelling will become clear with the appointment of a new General Secretary. God will need to give this brave soul great and continuous supplies of wisdom, creativity, stamina and chutzpah.
As well as this strategic appointment, Neil pointed to the creaking structures of finance needing a thorough overhaul. He suggested the current model could remain in place for a while; I'm not so sure, though it depends on how long the 'while' turns out to be.
Undoubtedly the church in the UK needs to change. It's older, more set in its ways and less nimble on its feet than most of its neighbours; and for that reason fewer younger, agile people see it as essential for making sense of their lives - and hence are not joining.
My church needs to change. And thereby lies the problem. When I outline dreams that suggest that what so many people mean when they say 'church' will be replaced by something more flexible, more missional, more responsive, more dynamic, more connected with our neighbours, I can smell the fear; I can see the anxiety in people's eyes, hear it in their (often supportive) observations and questions.
Like Dorothy at the start of the Wizard of Oz, the realisation that we aren't in Kansas anymore is unsettling. Everything that has given comfort and security, the familiarities of home, has been caught up in a tornado of change and we have been deposited somewhere we don't recognise even though we are waking up in our familiar beds.
So, we need pioneers - and a movement that is supporting them - but we need to find stories that help those who do not feel like pioneers, rise to this fresh challenge. This is because Neil's second point is as true for local churches as it is for our movement as a whole, namely we need change to be bankrolled by the very people who want things to stay the same while we are exploring new ways of funding the kind of mission we're called to do and the communities that such mission creates.
As a minister paid by the church, I can smell my own fear about that!