An ‘updraft’ in meteorology characterises a storm’s early development as warm air rises, eventually bringing the rains that offer sustenance and life. Rick’s hope for this monthly updraft column is for it to be a catalyst for change, ultimately contributing to the transformation of our faith communities. This regular column first appears in the Northern Baptist Association monthly newsletter, ‘Northern Lights’.

In last month’s Updraft, I made the statement, I think we can hear the word of God through [the prophet] Isaiah as a real and alive word for us as his people today, ‘see, I am doing a new thing.’ Historically Baptists have been a radical, path-setting movement that sets us up well to respond to the ‘new thing’ God is doing. As Paul Fiddes (a British Baptist Theologian) notes, ‘one of the marks of Baptist life is the ability to adapt to the present and constantly to seek to reinvent ourselves.’ As I consider these aspects converging at this point in time, I get incredibly excited about what lies ahead for our Baptist movement in New Zealand. A time when we seek to be a collective of faith communities, bringing gospel renewal to people and places in our local neighbourhoods. 

There is a challenge I see for us as a movement of Baptist Churches as we look to adapt and reinvent ourselves for the next stage of our journey. This challenge is how we embrace the freedom of the local church while walking together as a collective of diverse Baptist faith communities. In this, we see the importance of us being aligned and moving together, a vital aspect that emerged from conversations at our recent two-day Regional Leadership Retreat. 

In recent years it would be fair to say that we’ve trended towards embracing our freedom (or living autonomously). This trend often neglects to recognise we are part of a larger regional and national movement of churches. Becoming aligned and re-establishing the health and vitality of our movement requires us to reconnect. This means building relationships with one another, both individually and communally (across our region and our nation). 

As we consider the important need for reconnecting, I want to ask a couple of questions I hope we will each take time to pause, reflect and respond to. Firstly:

How am I (as a leader / Pastor / Chaplain / Elder / Church or Faith Community member) relationally connecting with others across our collective of Baptist faith communities?

For many, the response to this first question will be at our National or Regional Hui. Clusters may be an added connection point for others, particularly registered leaders. Secondly:

How are we as a Baptist Faith Community relationally connecting with other Baptist Faith Communities and ministries?

Recently, the answer to this second question may generally be, 'we’re not.' There have been some examples where churches have shared preaching series and perhaps had pulpit swaps. There has also been the PressingOn initiative, where up to eleven Baptist churches were journeying together, sharing resources and programming ideas. However, the instances of us intentionally collaborating have recently remained low. This needs to change!

Next month I’d like to share four ways in which I see us re-envisioning, strengthening, and growing our relational networks across our region. I’m sure there are many more ways that we as a collective can identify and look to embrace. I’d love to hear your ideas and responses to the two questions above. How we navigate this time together will directly impact how we embrace the ‘new thing’ of God and continue to be an effective path-setting, diverse movement that is bringing gospel renewal today.

Rick Pierce is Minita-a-rohe mō te Hauoratanga me te Whakawhanake, Network Pastor, Health and Development, Northern Baptist Association. You can contact Rick by email: [email protected]

For more editions of Updraft, click here.

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