Being Strong and Courageous

Mt Field Crossroads Tas. Photo credit Jo Sinclair (Being Strong and Courageous)

reengage | reimagine | realign

Tasmanian Baptist Leadership Development Coordinator Jenna Blackwell grapples with being strong and courageous in our new paradigm.

Can you remember a time where you found yourself at a crossroads?

You know the path you think you should take, but you find yourself reverting to a familiar one, with well-worn tracks, common distractions and quite possibly even the same destination that you’ve been to before.

Sound familiar?

It takes courage to move beyond your experiences and presumptions and enter something new.

The Courage to Change

Mt Field Crossroads Tas. Photo credit Jo Sinclair
Being Strong and Courageous
“There is always inherent risk when stepping out of the known.”

Over the last year, Tasmanian Baptists have encouraged individuals and faith communities to reengage, reimagine and realign with God’s mission.

This is a nice concept, but to implement these in our lives takes a lot of courage!

Even fearless entrepreneurs, and those who love change, find themselves tripped up. Maybe the path is different, or a replica of a previous one. But regardless, the formation of experiences, beliefs and values impact the current experience and the end result.

Often we don’t know what stops us getting the desired outcomes. Other times, we might know why we’re getting those results (or not getting), especially in personal leadership and spiritual development. However, we can lack the courage to face our fears and failings needed for different results. The fact is, we usually delude ourselves with defence mechanisms and excuses.

It takes courage to move beyond your experiences and presumptions and enter something new. There is always inherent risk when stepping out of the known. But, isn’t this the faith journey?

What does it look like to walk with courage?

A decade ago,  “courageous faith” probably meant talking to a stranger about Jesus.

While this still takes courage, many people are coming to realise there is courage required to lead oneself to God. This is where it all starts – personal leadership and spiritual development. No matter what your daily life looks like, these are foundational aspects of courageous faith.

So then, what is meant by personal leadership and spiritual development?

It is taking ownership for our contribution to a surrendered life to God. This includes personal times of stillness, practicing listening, inviting others to journey with us (especially in our brokenness), and loving our families and those around us.

This is by no means an exhaustive list.

Being Strong and Courageous

Like a weaned child I am content...
Being Strong and Courageous
Like a weaned child, I am content

Lately, I have reflected on Psalm 131. Verse 2 reveals a picture of a trusting child coming into the loving embrace of a loving and trustworthy parent. This provides an example of how we can come into the arms of God – to rest, to be still, to be loved.

But I have calmed and quietened myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.
Psalm 131:2

But allowing yourself to be truly loved takes courage.

It requires entering the desert and owning your brokenness in order to realise how dearly loved you are. In that stillness, you are (maybe after a time, if you have run without reprieve), strengthened for the journey ahead, by coming into your identity in Christ Jesus.

As it is a journey for the glory of God and the sake of others, this journey also takes courage, which requires surrender.  

The Courage to do it with others

Tas Baptist Assembly Oct 2021 Photo Credit Gabi Dunn
Being Strong and Courageous
“There are some very courageous people in our Tasmanian Baptist community.”

It is also a journey requiring other people. You are not called to a life of individualism, but a life of community. It is in loving one another and doing life with others, that we are sharpened and find a more full picture of God.

It is difficult to make changes without the support or community of others. But changes do occur when other people are invited into the journey. This takes immense courage, for it requires revealing your brokenness. Without such courage, it is possible to remain on familiar paths with familiar outcomes. The wheels keep turning but the endpoint remains the same.

There are some very courageous people in our Tasmanian Baptist community. No doubt you can identify people in your community who you would call courageous. The question is, how do you walk with courage as we reengage, reimagine and realign with God’s mission?

Where to begin

Perhaps it begins with being still – coming into your identity as God’s beloved; entering the desert and facing your brokenness; and quietening your soul. By doing these things you are strengthened for the journey ahead, which is for the glory of God and the sake of others.

If this article has left you challenged, encouraged, or questioning, the Mission and Leadership Development Team would love to hear from you.  

We encourage you to invite others on this courageous journey as you digest the implications of this article.  

Jenna Blackwell


Jenna Blackwell
jenna@tasbaptists.org.au
Tasmanian Baptists Mission and Leadership Coach


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Being Strong and Courageous

Tasmanian Baptists’ Theme for 2022

(en)COURAGE

It takes courage to take hold of Reengaging, Reimagining and Realigning

By Mission Director, Stephen Baxter

2022 is upon us, but it in Tasmania, it hasn’t been the easiest of beginnings.

Jenny and I were blessed to attend our daughter’s wedding in Spain in late December. While we were away, Tasmania’s borders opened for the first time in 18 months, paving the way for the COVID virus to re-enter our state.

(en)Courage
Wedding photo
AJ and, our daughter, Alice, with their parents. It was an Australian-Nigerian event!

By the time we returned home in the first week of January, so much had changed. Mandatory mask-wearing had become the norm, and a careful hesitancy by people meant our streets and shops felt somewhat empty.

Tasmanian churches changed over that time too. Facemasks are now mandatory for church services, although it has been the norm for many around the world for quite a while. Not surprisingly, attendance numbers are down as many, for various rational reasons, have chosen to stay home preferring online services instead.

God’s promise to us

It is no understatement to say we live in trying times — for both our communities and our churches. Yet, it is in such a time like this, that God promises not to leave us but to be with us. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul says God is the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles”. We are all thankful for that.

May God comfort you amid all the disruption and uncertainty you are experiencing at the moment.

This is a prayer we can pray for ourselves and each other. It is certainly my prayer for you. May God comfort you amid all the disruption and uncertainty you are experiencing at the moment.

I also pray God will use this time to continue the transformation process for all of our churches. The Bible is full of times when God has used difficulties, struggle, and even suffering, to renew the people of God.

Whether it was the wilderness experience of the Israelites fleeing Egypt for the Promised Land, or their exile experience in Babylon, or the persecution of the church in the early days by the Roman Empire, God is always at work in times such as these. Indeed, for Jews and Christians at all times, God never wastes hard times. Comfort and renewal are at work side-by-side. I trust that is true for us too.

Reengage | Reimagine | Realign
(en)Courage

Three critical words

In 2021 at our May Assembly, we endorsed our new strategic plan which included three key strategies: to Reengage, Reimagine and Realign.

These words are designed to help us understand and commit to what we sense God is doing among us –

  • To reengage with the mission of God in our communities,
  • To reimagine what church might look like as we take seriously that we are to be salt and light in our communities, and
  • To realign the resources of our churches and union to enable us to be the church God calls us to be.

It seems to me that God is using this “COVID-moment” to help move us along the transformation path as expressed in our 3 Rs (Reengage, Reimagine and Realign). If that is correct, we can be comforted God is at work amid the challenges. And our response should be a resounding “Yes” to cooperate with God in this transformational work.

I’m not suggesting this is easy. It takes courage to say “Yes” to God.  

It takes courage to trust, and courage to keep going. It takes courage to accept God’s compassion and God’s comfort. It takes courage to live with and open heart. It takes courage to love, accept and forgive. And it can take courage to comfort others. As Paul goes on to say, God comforts us, “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (1 Corinthians 1:4).

(en)Courage one another

Our theme for 2022 is (en)Courage.

It is an encouragement to take courage, to embrace what God is doing amongst us, and to receive God’s comfort at this time. All with a view to not just receiving courage, it but passing it on into our communities.

We’ll share more about this in the months ahead. But in the meantime, this is my prayer for you, and I trust we may pray it for each other:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ
(1 Corinthians 1:3-5).
Stephen Baxter

Stephen Baxter
Mission Director, Tasmanian Baptists
stephen@tasbaptists.org.au


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Annual Assembly 2021

Reengage | Reimagine | Realign
Advance Header

Engaging with the “3R’s”

Tas Baptist Annual Assembly
22-23 October 2021, Longford

By Kate Barnett, Newstead Baptist

Reengage, Reimagine, Realign

On Friday night at the Annual Assembly 2021, we gathered with other Tasmanian Baptist church representatives. It was a time of sharing what has been happening in our different fellowship communities.

Prof. Patrick Parkinson with Mission Director Stephen Baxter. Annual Assembly 2021
Prof. Patrick Parkinson with Mission Director Stephen Baxter

The Mission Director, Stephen Baxter, reflected on the year past which demanded so many adjustments associated with the impact of the pandemic. But also, more broadly in the context of our changing society. He considered how this relates to being the body of Christ – His church – and how this looks very different from past years.

Our guest speaker, Professor Patrick Parkinson, explained many enlightening statistics. These included how changing family structures, and the decline of marriages over recent decades, has led to increasing challenges for children, parents, and our communities. This provides so many opportunities for Christians to reach out and care in relevant ways.

Morning Sessions

On Saturday we explored further the “Reengage, Reimagine, Realign” vision for Tasmanian Baptists. We also participated in a very short business session.

Denise Stephenson
Denise Stephenson

Denise Stephenson (LifeWay, Lymington) spoke of her experience of growing up deeply within the Tasmanian Baptist church community. Finding herself dis-engaging in her teens, she later returned to the Baptist church network in a new ministry capacity.

This has led to her reaching out to people in day-to-day interactions within her local neighbourhood. Now, she seeks God’s guidance for next steps with fellowship at the “long table” she and husband Mark have installed in their new home.

Maddy Svoboda
Rev. Maddy Svoboda

Maddy Svoboda shared about the journey Summerhill Baptist has been on as it seeks to value the transition period.

He spoke of the “liminal spaces” where we step across into the “not yet known” – where God is at work. And of trusting God with the unknowns which are known by our Sovereign God.

Annual Assembly 2021, attendees
Annual Assembly 2021 Attendees, 23 October 2021

After Lunch Electives

After lunch, we chose electives. I appreciated participating in Jenna Blackwell’s workshop, which provided personal reflection time on the 3-R’s. In addition, Michael Henderson led a group reflecting on how churches can reengage, reimagine and realign. And a third group looked at the future implications of Covid for our churches in light of new vaccination policies.

In the workshop, Jenna posed a series of questions prompting us to Reengage as we described in our own words God’s Big Story, the Good News. Then exploring our own response, considering our strengths and passion, significant life experiences.

Questions prompted us to Reengage as we described in our own words God’s Big Story, the Good News

We then moved to Reimagine what God might be saying to us in how our own lives are being lived. And then, to Realign by considering what may need to change in our lives to Reengage full circle with God in the now!

At home, I’ve been sorting and “culling” all manner of stuff to make room for our daughter and her family. They are moving from interstate and will be living with us. This exercise reminded me to “let go” and to “make space”, so God can do his transforming work of Renewal! 

That renewal is what God does in our lives. It is what we can see happening in many of our Tasmanian Baptist churches. I was so encouraged by our Annual Assembly 2021.

Kate Barnett, Annual Assembly 2021

Kate Barnett
Newstead Baptist Church


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Bringing the Kingdom of God to Tasmania

Reengage | Reimagine | Realign
Advance Header

mission-shaped:

It’s time to …

“Reengage Reimagine Realign”

What the newly adopted strategic plan might mean for us as Tasmanian Baptists

Seeing Tasmania infused with the salt and light

When Jesus taught about the kingdom of God (or kingdom of heaven in Matthew) it was more immediate and grander than just securing a place in heaven for people after death. The kingdom of God is the rule of God here on earth. It exists in part now and will exist in fullness when Jesus returns.

Jesus taught of something new entering into our broken world. His presence among us, along with his miracles and healings, was evidence of God’s rule coming to this planet. After his resurrection he charged his disciples with the responsibility of keeping the project going. Ever since, when the Church has been at its best, it has been an agent of this kingdom.

What we hope for

We acknowledge it “is not the church of God that has a mission, but the God of mission who has a church” [1]. God has a job for his church in Tasmania. As Tasmanian Baptists, we are committed to becoming a union of churches who willingly “lay aside our personal preferences for the sake of the community being served” [2].

It “is not the church of God that has a mission, but the God of mission who has a church”

Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury.

This is the heart of the new vision that we adopted at our May 2021 Assembly. It is to see “Tasmania infused with the salt and light of the kingdom of God.” We believe this is God’s hope for the state of Tasmania; it is our hope too.

The Church needs to adapt

The vision goes on to note that our contribution to the realisation of this vision will be through “facilitating and developing innovative, diverse, and transformative member churches and faith communities living out the Gospel.”

By stating this, we acknowledge how many in our communities do not consider the Church a place to go to for assistance with the issues they face. Our inherited form of being and doing Church needs to adapt to the changing world. This is not a something new for God’s Church. At many points during the past 2000 years, the Church has undergone renewal and reformation as the Spirit has remoulded it for successive generations.

Three key strategies: Reengage | Reimagine | Realign

With that in mind, the newly adopted strategic plan outlines three key strategies: to assist our churches and members to reengage in God’s mission, to reimagine the church for our time and to realign our resources (time, finances, buildings, organisational structure) towards these ends.

This is no mean feat and will not happen overnight. As I’ve said a bit lately, it took God weeks to get Israel out of Egypt, but 40 years to get Egypt out of Israel. Like Israel, we can fall into mourning the loss of the past, rather than embracing the opportunities God has before us. Yet this is the call of the journey of faith, to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us [by] fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith”[3].

“run with perseverance the race marked out for us [by] fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith”.

Hebrews 12:1b-2a

We live in a profound moment in the history of the world. In declaring Jesus is Lord, and praying that God’s kingdom may come, and that God’s will may be done in Tasmania as in heaven, we are not only aligning ourselves with God’s purposes in our world, but asking God to use us.

I trust you can say “Amen” to that.

Stephen Baxter
Stephen Baxter

Stephen Baxter
Mission Director, Tasmanian Baptists
stephen@tasbaptists.org.au


[1] Former Archbishop Rowan Williams

[2] Church of England, charge for candidates for Pioneer Mission

[3] Hebrews 12:1b-2a