It has been an amazing few weeks with great success for GB and Northern Ireland at the Olympics and Paralympics. Together we can celebrate 214 Medals – 91 Gold – 62 Silvers – 61 Bronze.
We witnessed great individual success, Hannah Cockroft and Mo Farra for example, and great team success like women’s hockey or men’s wheelchair basketball. But it was the success of Team GB as a whole that surprised me.
People whose sports keep them away from one another most of the time combined to form one team at the Olympics. Swimmers inspiring cyclists who had never met, cyclists inspiring sailors who they would walk past in the street as strangers ordinarily, all of them inspiring a hockey team. It has been amazing to hear how these strangers were brought together into one team, inspiring one another to succeed.
For me it spoke of what we dream of for our Union of churches. Most of the time we are rightly pursuing the tasks that God has given to us in our own geographical locations. With diligence, commitment, hard work and sacrifice we devote ourselves to loving the Lord, loving one another within the local church and loving the communities we serve in. Our paths rarely cross and we are not always aware of what God is doing 5, 50 or 500 miles away.
And yet if we were, it may encourage our faith, hope and love because God is at work in Baptist churches across the nation. We, like team GB, can celebrate the success, achievement, growth and development that others are experiencing.
Currently Scottish Baptist Churches have attendance figures way above membership figures and these figures are growing. Our churches are also increasing their service in the local community: food banks, social work partnerships, Street Pastors, teaching English, money courses, parenting support, youth work, toddlers groups, refugee and immigrant worker support, elderly care… you name it, we have people across the nation growing these compassion ministries.
In the last year there have been 5 major building projects completed by Baptist churches. These regular multimillion pound investments in infrastructure are a continued sign of confidence in the gospel for our time.
Currently we have 5 new church plants, campuses or congregations on the go. We have 36 ministers in their first 3 years of ministry, with over half of our ministers having started in the last 10 years. We are excited about these sorts of figures as they speak of hope and a future.
In the last year one of our smallest churches almost doubled its membership up to 27. A middle sized church of 86 members has an attendance of 200 and is now looking to church plant. Some of our larger churches are seeking to multiply through releasing missional communities and new campuses.
Like Team GB, when we begin to gather together the stories from around the country and add them to our own, our faith and expectations of what God can do are refreshed, renewed, enlarged.
In 1 Cor 12:24 – 27 Paul writes:
But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
The passage talks about honouring one another but it also talks about suffering together. Within our family of churches there are those who success will be measured in terms of numerical growth but we pray that we will all be known for the faithful way we walk with one another, especially those wounded by changes in our society. The way we serve, hold, carry and support churches that others have left behind may demonstrate our Union’s desire to be intentionally relational more fully.
Next month we have the opportunity to come together as Team Baptist Union of Scotland at our annual Assembly. It is a time to listen to one another, to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice, to build one another up and to encourage one another to step out in faith again, believing that the living Saviour is still at work in our nation.