Jesus’ main task for the three years of his ministry was training leaders for a new movement, and training leaders remains a crucial task for all churches today. It is one to which many are giving considerable resources and prayer. Alan Jamieson of South West Baptist Church tells us why training new missional leaders is so important.
God is doing new things again and that’s exciting. One of those new things includes forms of church variably called ‘intentional community’, ‘missional community’, ‘local community’ ‘redemptive communities’ and ‘presence-based church’. These names reflect a church of people who are intimately involved in their local neighbourhood. They are connecting with other Christians and those from other perspectives in their local communities, and seeking to see the kingdom come in these people’s lives and their shared communities.
When God raises new things, new ways of training leaders are needed. Preparing leaders for these ways of being church calls for unique skills. It needs leaders who connect well with their local community, listen to opportunities and needs from a local’s perspective, lead through collaboration, and yet know that conflict resolution will be their primary skill.
These leaders are humble, because in community life they have been humiliated through facing their weaknesses, brokenness and sin as others have pointed it out to them. Instead of denying, justifying or ignoring their ‘stuff’, these emerging leaders have genuinely changed—through prayer, hard work, honest conversations, counselling and supervision—and their community can tell you about it. Of course, these leaders need biblical depth, ingrained depth in prayer practices and a depth of courage. No one comes through the wringer of community leadership without lots of support, encouragement and intentional input. In this context, leadership development is critical.
Training opportunities for missional leaders
Training leaders is becoming one of South West Baptist Church’s key tasks as we seek to become a presence‑based church. We are partnering with Carey Baptist College and others to create formal training opportunities including a diploma programme, block courses and our annual neighbourhood hui. More personal and grass‑roots learning like visiting other communities and sharing learnings, and importantly sharing our stories, is also included. It is amazing how encouraging and insightful it is to hear the long‑staying leaders in missional forms of church sharing their mistakes and their humiliating character-building moments. It encourages us that God can shape us too.
It takes competent leaders to inspire, lead, support, encourage and influence a local community. They are the sort of leaders who take people with them, share their daily lives and walk against the individualistic, consumerist, me-focused culture of our times, towards another kingdom. This is the kingdom of God, where treasure is found in unlikely places, small beginnings lead to surprising changes in people’s lives, and ‘wells’ are found where modern-day Samaritans can share drinks, speak honestly and encounter surprising acceptance and hope with Jesus’ people. That’s the sort of leaders we need to train, so seeking to create encouraging spaces for leadership development is crucial for us.
Story: Alan Jamieson
Alan is Senior Pastor of South West Baptist Church. The church is offering their leadership training programme, including block courses, to Carey Baptist College students and to others. To find out more contact Alan.
Carey intentional community
In March 2017, Carey Baptist College launched a new training initiative for developing community-facing leaders. Up until this point, ministry and mission training remained separate. Ministry Training was for church-based students while Mission Track was for students directed towards missions. But with this new track the two paradigms would be bridged.
If our neighbourhoods and communities here in Aotearoa New Zealand are mission fields, then our churches need missionary pastors and pastoral missionaries. How this might look in practice is what Carey was hoping to explore.
Three students were chosen—two from Carey’s Pastoral Leadership track and one from Carey’s Mission track. We were the college’s pioneering guinea pigs, with each of us leaving behind homes and church communities to venture out into the unknown.
We were connected with Māngere Baptist Church and given a simple task: find a place to live. Not so simple when your city is in the middle of a housing crisis! Our temporary residence was the home of a Māngere-based Carey lecturer who was overseas at the time. There we began practising household rhythms for our common life together. One such rhythm was walking the streets of our neighbourhood together prayerfully, noticing the things we see and listening to what God could be saying through them.
As we went out early one morning we came across a street lined with houses without any fences. We looked at each other in disbelief. It was as if God had led us directly to this street filled with homes opened up to each other. That same day we received a message from another church member. She had also been out walking the same street that morning. The message contained a photo of a ‘For Lease’ sign outside a three-bedroom house. God was literally sending us a sign! We applied for the house and within a few weeks we were moving in.
Ever since then we have committed ourselves to living together in community. Coming from a culture where individual autonomy is tightly guarded, we deliberately bound ourselves to one another, forming a household covenant that holds us accountable to our shared values and household rhythms. Through these rhythms, including eating, praying and walking together, we seek to connect relationally to one another, spiritually to God, and missionally to our neighbourhood.
As we go, God has been opening doors for us. From the doors of a local marae, joining us to their whānau for worship, to the doors of a Samoan family over the road who invited us to attend church with them and even offered to mow our lawns! Each day is a new opportunity to participate in what God is up to in our neighbourhood.
Our household has changed over the time since we began. One of our group returned to her family home. Two of us got married and our spouses joined us. We are now multiple households living in the same block, endeavouring to live in community together. We have begun new rhythms with additional households from our church who live nearby. Together we seek the same three things: relational connection as we share breakfast together each Saturday morning, spiritual connection as we pray with and for one another, and neighbourhood connection as we look for what God is doing and the doors he is opening all around us.
Story: Andrew Meek
Andrew is a third-year Pastoral Leadership student at Carey Baptist College. Newly married to Alicia, they live together in community with other Carey students and members of their church in Māngere, South Auckland.