Building a mission legacy
One challenge facing local churches is demonstrating their relevance to the wider community. Ahead are large-scale opportunities for community involvement, the 2012 Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations being just
two. Churches have a chance to join together and utilise
moment after moment, building their outward focus. The Baptist Union is in full support of national initiatives More than Gold and HOPE, which encourage the UK to do local mission.
A group of pensioners expanding their knitting circle or hosting a drop-in; youth clearing gardens or daring to get involved in street evangelism; a group of churches holding a fun day or sports-themed kids club,
creating friendships on an estate or developing partnerships with the council. All these things, whatever scale or variation, are the local Church living out its mission and responding to the call to know God and make him known.
Roy Crowne, Executive Director of HOPE, is encou
raged by the current appetite for mission. “All that has gone before, big missions, Street Pastors, Soul in the City and HOPE 08 have paved the way and inspired the Church to demonstrate God's love in their communities with a new passion. We caught a glimpse of what is possible. Whole areas can be changed, people come to faith and very different Christians find one another. Now we must go for it together and use every single opportunity open to us to share the life-changing message of the Gospel with our villages, towns and cities.”
David Willson, More Than Gold’s CEO, agrees: “HOPE and More Than Gold are wonderfully complementary. More Than Gold builds on the legacy of HOPE ’08 and will deliver a legacy as HOPE goes into the future. We are delighted that HOPE a
re contributing to our festivals programme in 2012 by highlighting opportunities to make the most of the Queen’s Jubilee Celebrations”.
Being part of, marking or celebrating events which grip the public can be effective ways for Christians to be visible and relevant. The Royal Wedding in April saw hundreds of churches host screenings, join street parties and find creative ways of involving God in celebrations e.g. marriage vow-renewal services.
The 2012 Olympics and Paralympics provide churches with an even greater opportunity to reach beyond their walls. More Than Gold helps churches respond to the Games through programmes of outreach, hospitality and
service. They offer support with everything; from running big-screen community festivals marking the opening ceremony, to sports quizzes and kids clubs.
HOPE is also about churches working together for the purpose of mission. What may impact a town may not suit a village or city, so listening to God is key. HOPE will highlight mission ideas for calendar moments, such as Easter, Harvest, Summer fun, and Christmas, building towards a big year of mission in 2014. The Queen’s Jubilee celebrations and Big Lunch in June 2012 is another chance for Christians to be visible, share hope and build community.
David Pile, London Baptist Association's Olympic and Paralympic Church Engagement Co-ordinator, said: “We are helping Baptist churches, make the most of the discipleship and mission opportunities that surround the Olympics and Paralympics coming to the UK. My co-ordinating role goes beyond 2012 and we are encouraging the people of God to consider what sort of legacy God might be calling them to create.”
More than Gold and HOPE both have local Church and community at their heart and support comes from a wide span of denominations, organisations and Church streams. They share one same vision: to see the Church living its mission and being visible, relevant and engaged in community.
Rev Ian Bunce, Head of Mission Department, Baptist Union said: “There is a danger that some church leaders could feel initiative overload but once they see that it is all part of the same purpose to let the Church be the Church, then it makes sense. These mission movements are not in competition but part of a bigger thing that God is doing. I believe the UK Church could look different in four years time – with a clearer purpose and outreach even more central.”
To see local churches move forward and become more mission-minded requires prayer and action from the ground - ordinary people who live extra-ordinarily in the place they are committed to. Let’s build to a whole year of mission in 2014 and be part of a Church that does more together, through words and action, seeing lives changed and communities transformed.