My wife Heather and I have been involved in the hobby of exhibiting poultry for some time; over 45 years to be a little more precise! We have had a lot of fun, occasional good wins and made a lot of friends. It has been a rewarding missional part of our lives together.
Showing poultry has a lot more to it than just showing up on the day and putting a chook in a pen and hoping for the best! There is a lot of work involved and it all backs up to good birds, good eggs and chickens. Believe it or not, there has to be a means of incubating fertile eggs so that you get chickens. The trouble is, to rely on 'broody hens' is somewhat fraught! Broodies never go broody when you want it seems. So, for a number of reasons we have an incubator and that helps us get chicks on the ground, when we want. It is a great aid to good management.
You may not be aware, (I hope you are) that the Mission Leadership Team (MLT) is in the process of establishing three incubators to assist the desire that we have as a movement, for our churches and faith communities to be involved in mission.
I decided to check a dictionary definition and found the following. "Incubator... noun... apparatus for hatching eggs or for rearing children born prematurely or for developing micro-organisms. Incubate verb... bring forth young birds etc. from (eggs) by sitting on them or by artificial heat; cause development of bacteria by creating suitable conditions"...Collins.
The purpose of an incubator is to hatch and to bring new life. I like the idea also of an incubator being something that creates suitable conditions. That is exactly what the establishment of the three incubators is meant to achieve.
If you are not aware yet of the three incubators that have been proposed they are:
a) A 'Pioneering Incubator'
b) A 'Revitalisation Incubator'
c) A 'Palliative Care Incubator'
The Pioneering Incubator led by Rev Scott Jones, is looking at being a resource group to help churches that are seriously aiming at embracing new and creative initiatives into mission.
The Revitalization Incubator led by Rev Stephen Hendricks is tackling the need that many of our churches have of renewal and refreshing in order to achieve a greater missional effectiveness.
The Palliative Care Incubator led by Pastor Stephen Baxter will assist churches which are involved in taking seriously, the matter of their longevity and to help in determining the best outcomes for their future.
There are a couple of important matters that I would like to highlight for our churches.
The first is this. It is up to each church to self-identify where it is in terms of the above definitions. Having done that, each church, if so desired, can contact the MLT with the objective of working out a way forward. If a church is having difficulty in identification, MLT is available to assist in the process of determination.
The second is critical. Just thinking about your church and where it is currently, involves a great deal of resolution. For instance, it is not easy to face up to the reality of a possible church closure. Or, even though church may be ok, it may well be in need of revitalization and new life. It takes courage to face reality. But to do so, can be game changing.
I recognise that each of our churches is autonomous and as such, there is nothing mandatory here. Churches and leadership groups may be involved as they want. On the other hand, there is a certain amount of reality fronting us right now as Tasmanian Baptists.
Our aging demographic, the struggle that many churches are having in engaging missionally with their communities, the push back from the world in which we live, the seduction of many of our younger people, possibly even those raised in the church and who see no relevance in Christianity, let alone the church and so on, should be matters, I suggest of great and grave concern for us.
MLT is very much wanting to work with and alongside of our churches in 'creating conditions' where mission will flourish. We will be praying that through the initiative of these three incubators our churches will experience forward momentum in the desire they have to engage the world around with the wonderful message of the good news of Jesus.
If your church or your leadership group is interested in learning more, please contact the Mission Leadership Team. We are looking forward to hearing from your church and talking with your church as to your plans for the future.
I conclude this article with a strong plea. It is time for us as Tasmanian Baptists to get serious about these things. Without a significant turnaround almost immediately, we could see up to half of our churches close in the next 10 to 20 years, some perhaps, much sooner. Now is the time to act or in that familiar phrase, 'carpe diem', let us seize the day, now is the time of opportunity.
The MLT and Tasmanian Baptist Council are deeply concerned that we move forward.
The MLT is here to help you face the future of your church with reality, courage and faith.
May God bless you, your church and our movement as we seek to move into the future God has for us.
Rev John Smith