REENGAGE, REIMAGINE, REALIGN
These three words are our theme for this year. They reflect the heart of our current strategic plan.
In the 12 years since Ivan James presented his review to the 2009 midyear Assembly, Tasmanian Baptists have been on a journey. The review noted how Tasmanian Baptists had reached a "crisis point" and more was needed than just "to rearrange the deckchairs for the comfort of the passengers on the SS Tasmanian Baptist as we sail in ignorance toward the fatal icebergs of cultural and generational gaps."
Prophetically he wrote, "We are called to be servants of the God of mission, which means every one of us should be a missionary reaching out to the generations in this State that we have failed to reach to date. To do this, we must be intentional, innovative, relational, caring and involved in the community and not isolated and aloof from the people around us."
"We must be intentional, innovative, relational, caring
and involved in the community"
Since then, the world has changed, the church has lost even more ground and the mission imperative even more urgent. In the 2016 Census, 38% of Tasmanians and 40% of Hobartians said they had no religion, the highest of any State or capital city in Australia. With just under 50% of Tasmanians, and only 47.3% of Hobartians, calling themselves Christians. For the first time since white settlement, Christians are a minority in Tasmania, with church attendance the lowest on record.
Although the world has changed rapidly and we acknowledge Tasmania is a mission field, the way we think about and do church has not kept up the pace. Young people, who started leaving churches in the late 1960s, have never returned. Today younger generations are almost absent from our churches.
The words reengage, reimagine and realign, capture the need and our desire to be a movement of churches, ready to adapt to the changing community and its needs. Just as Jesus acknowledged you cannot "pour new wine into old wineskins," we, too, are aware that "newness" cannot be contained in old patterns of doing church. It is not a matter of rejecting the past, but fulfilling it. Tasmanian Baptists is missional at its heart, and while we maintain a respect for the "old garment" and the "old wine", our focus is on being both relevant and prophetic for our time, place, and people.
Jesus calls us to be salt and light for the good of the Tasmanian community. The best future for our state lies in God's response to the prayer Jesus taught, "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth at is it is heaven." It is nothing more, or less, than the biblically infused vision of shalom, where people live in wholesome, peaceful community with no one forgotten or despised.
This is our call. We are each called to be agents of the Kingdom who pray and work for its shalom. May God fill us with the Spirit so that our churches will be centres of care, havens of hope, places of peace, and beacons of light for all Tasmanians.
May God continue to bless you and the ministry of your church.