The YBA Assembly 2016 - Part One

THEY came from the margins of Yorkshire to the centre of Sheffield…

Worship at The WellAbout 140 people turned out for the YBA Assembly, which this year was held at one of the Association’s newest Baptist churches – The Well, in Sheffield. The theme was “From the Margins to the Centre – Discipleship in the Church Today” and the guest speaker was the Revd Roy Searle, one of the founders of the Northumbria Community, a new monastic missional community.
Regional Minister and Team Leader the Revd Graham Ensor welcomed everyone and said it was good to be together because it reminded us how we were part of the wider Baptist family. He hoped people would be encouraged by the stories of life and vitality among our churches.
Worship was led by a band from The Well before Roy was welcomed by Graham.
Hall at Well
Roy brought greetings from the Northumbria Community and spoke about what was happening there. He was encouraged by what he saw on the margins, how people were rediscovering that they needed to be a people of movement.
“The Kingdom of God is more important than a building or a service we run,” he said. He spoke of how he had come to faith from an unchurched background and was thankful for the people who had discipled him, for their passion for God and the desire to share the Gospel.
“Being missional with a commitment to discipleship belong together – like twins.
“The Great Commandment and the Great Commission are imperatives, absolutes, essentials, non-negotiables. But just as it is essential for any team that wants to win the European Football Championships to score more goals than the opposition, there are different ways to achieve these goals and win.
“Likewise when it comes to discipleship; one size does not fit all.”

He said we were in a changing spiritual, moral, cultural and economic climate and three generations had no association with Church.

“We are called to be missional people, here in the North of England. 90 per cent of the British population today are unreached – we must go into the world and make disciples.”
He quoted Rowan Williams, who insisted that church is a verb – active! “It is what happens when people encounter the risen Jesus and commit themselves to sustaining and deepening that encounter with each other.” The Church of Scotland’s Church Without Walls report said the Church was “People on the move with Jesus, going wherever Jesus leads them.”
Jesus’s itinerant ministry was not because of a lack of ability to settle but because other communities needed to hear the good news of the Kingdom of God. He took 12 with him and a larger group of male and female disciples and the crowds who gathered for a time. There were various levels of commitment- all centred on Jesus and mission.
“They see the Kingdom in action as they learn about its way of life and the person at its centre. This is a vision for a church as a community of missional disciples, inviting others into their pilgrimage.

“Jesus told us, as disciples, to make disciples – not converts to Christianity, nor to some particular faith and practice.”
Roy said: “We need to rediscover our DNA. We need to counter institutionalism. Beware the Great Omission – becoming too prescribed, too pre-packaged. The idea that one size fits all is just ludicrous.”

Reasons for the “Great Omission” included:-

  • Forgetting what’s important – how much of our lives and churches’ ministry is geared to fulfilling the two Great Commandments?
  • Wrong priorities – loving other things more than the “main man” – buildings, services, traditions etc.
  • Belief over behaviour – Holding the correct doctrine, yet showing no noticeable difference in behaviour. “By your fruits, not by doctrine, shall you know them.”
  • Too busy – Thomas Merton said “To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many projects, to want to help everyone in need is to succumb to violence.”
  • Being alien,or awkward to the prevailing culture.
  • A lack of inheritance – the cause of many problems in churches was a lack of discipleship and spiritual formation. Dallas Willard said: “When a person begins to step into Kingdom living, they begin to experience the joy of that life, begin to know solitude isn’t a deprivation; fasting is an opportunity to learn about how God nourishes us through his Word…Seek ye first the Kingdom of God. That means: seek meaningful, experiential interaction with God.”
    Spiritual formation was a whole life process dealing with change in every essential part of the person – it did not aim at controlling actions. “If you focus on action alone, you will fall into the deadliest of legalism and you will kill other souls and die yourself” (Dallas Willard). Roy said evangelicals had often fallen into legalism when they tried to obey Christ.
  • Being too prescribed with branded programmes and having a “plug and play mentality.”
  • Wrong means to wrong ends – the purpose of discipleship was not to grow the church – but rather to see God’s Kingdom grow. “It’s not Babel, about building our towers so we’ll become big institutions – it’s about Pentecost.
    ​“It is an issue for not only the local church but for our colleges. I am convinced that discipleship, spiritual formation etc is done primarily through imparting, inspiring, modelling, by example than by giving people information. I was from a non-church background but I was mentored by people who passionately loved God.”

The word “Disciple” meant student, apprentice, practitioner and according to Tom Wright, it appeared 269 times in the New Testament, whereas Christian was found only three times.
"We are apprenticed to Jesus in order to learn how to be like him,” said Roy. “Being a disciple means learning from Jesus how to live our lives in His Kingdom, where he rules and reigns.
“Following Christ is not a matter of being ‘religious’ but of reorienting our life in the direction of God.
“We are commanded to put off the old person and put on the new (Colossians 3 v 9-10; Ephesians 4 v 22-24). We are told to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3 v 18).
“We need to become more Christlike.”

Discipleship meant not only professing faith but applying what it meant to follow Jesus.
“Let generosity not austerity be the characteristic of the church of Jesus Christ,” he said. “Our minds need to be transformed – Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

So what does this look like in the life of the Church? How do we implement these commands?

Make discipleship a priority “Do this as part of being missional – they are twins and appreciate that one size does not fit all. Take a leaf out of the Scriptures and journey with people – start with people where they are at as opposed to where we are and where we want them to be.”
Encourage individuals and communities to discover what it means to follow Christ – Discipling people could involve mentoring individuals on a one-to-one basis. It was important too to appreciate the value of different learning styles – cell groups, formation groups, discipleship groups, Christianity Explored, Alpha – were all good things. But people should not be “branded”.
Appreciate the value of people “Get alongside people and see what God is doing in their lives. Journey with them.”
He highlighted the importance of family, friends, soul friends, spiritual directors, confessors, mentors and formation groups along our journeys.
Roy challenged us to think about not what we were doing, but what were we and God working on at present. He concluded with prayer.

(Assembly Part Two - the YBA AGM stories) - click here

(Assembly Part Three - the YBA AGM financial matters and the afternoon session) - click here

(YBA Assembly Photo Album) - click here

Report by Joolz Walker

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Webpage icon Reflections on the Sam Sharpe Lecture
Webpage icon Your reflections on the Assembly
Webpage icon The YBA Assembly - Part Three
Webpage icon The YBA Assembly - Part Two