This article was first published in Ministry Today — Ministry Today 54.
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A Place to Belong
Ministry Today 54 (Spring 2012) 3-4
Over the years I have experimented with a variety of ‘strap lines’ for our church in
At one stage, for instance, stated on church publicity were the words, Central Baptist
Church – going Christ’s way and making disciples. Perhaps for church people this
constant reminder of our mission statement was helpful, but frankly it must have meant
very little to people outside the church.
More recently, we used to say on letters going out from the church: Central Baptist
Church – transforming lives and changing community. No doubt for church people this
constant reminder of two of our values was helpful. Furthermore, it would have had some
meaning for people outside the church. It was not, however, an attractive statement. True,
it might have attracted Christians in other churches to be part of our community, but I can’t
see it holding much attraction for people of no faith.
So I dreamt up another strap-line: Central Baptist Church – a place to belong. Ideally I
would have preferred to have stated: ‘Central Baptist Church – the place to belong’, but
some of my colleagues felt that was over-egging it! This surely is a much better strap-line
as far as Jo (or Joe) Public is concerned. In a world where many are lonely and are crying
out for community, people want to belong to a group where they feel loved, valued and
affirmed. On reflection, we need to make more of this strap-line: we need to create well-
produced car stickers for people to use!
Of course, there is a danger in using such a strap-line. People within the church could be
lulled into believing that this is the sum purpose of our being. If, for our members, church
is simply ‘a place to belong’, then very rapidly we adopt a club mentality. This in turn leads
to the terminal illness ‘fellowshipitis in extremis’. It is at our peril that we forget that our
mission is in fact to ‘go Christ’s way and make disciples’.
The fact is that, for internal purposes, we need mission statements. We need to remind
ourselves that ‘we exist to go Christ’s way and make disciples’. We need vision
statements such as ‘We want to be a strong and vibrant town-centre church where every
member is passionate for God, passionate for one another, passionate for others,
passionate to grow in the faith, and passionate to serve Jesus’. Indeed, we need value
statements: ‘In our life together we seek to reflect the following aspects of a genuine Jesus
community: warm and welcoming, risk-taking and God-trusting; excited and enthusiastic;
sacrificing and resourcing; transforming lives and changing culture’.
For those outside the church, however, we need an attractive strap-line, such as:
‘Central Baptist Church – a place to belong’.
What about your local church or Christian community? Do you have such a strap-line
which works for you in your place of ministry? If so, why not share it with the rest of the
Ministry Today network. We’ll publish the best in a future edition of Ministry Today.
Meanwhile, this edition is full of good things, including a major article by Clive Jarvis about
how we welcome visitors and newcomers to our church gatherings. Our editor, Alun
Brookfield, whose early adult life was spent teaching music, has written a provocative
article about how we attach divine value and provenance to our musical tastes.
If you’re planning a retreat, there’s a sample lectionary for devotional reflection, and a
sample Code of Practice for ensuring that communications within a church community
always maintain the highest possible standard of effectiveness and integrity.
And, of course, there are the usual host of book reviews.
Do write and tell us what you think of our journal, offer suggestions for improvement or
send articles. But most of all, enjoy Ministry Today.
Paul is the chairman of Ministry Today, as also the College of Baptist Ministers, and from 1993 – 2014 was Senior Minister of Central Baptist Church, Chelmsford. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
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