‘Make sure you don’t get off track, either right or left, so as to make sure you know where you’re going’

(Joshua 1:7. Msg).

Let’s listen to what the Lord is saying to us individually, but let’s also remember this was spoken to the people of God as a whole!

When we start talking about mission in church we often get stuck between our response to the call of Jesus as it applies to us individually and what that looks like for us all together. Sadly, I hear too many (one is ‘too many’ in my view) saying ‘I wouldn’t dare bring my John to our church, it would put him off’. The passion we share, however, is that every single Baptist Church across our Partnership of four Associations should be an attractive signpost to the kingdom of God.

In preparing to preach, this coming Sunday from Joshua 1:1-11, I’m trying to work out what might have been going on, inside the hearts and minds of everyone who put their toes in the water. I’ve been struck again by some of the words the Lord speaks in relation to the people of Israel getting moving again. They’d been wandering around for forty years, hoping one day to enter the Promised Land and now they faced yet another obstacle in their way … a pretty big one in the shape of the River Jordan.

1:2 ‘get ready to cross the River Jordan into the land I am about to give them’.

1:11 ‘three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own’

Then, three days later …

3:15 ‘as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing’.

There are lots of lessons packed into these early chapters of Joshua. Some of them, the people of God could usefully have learnt years earlier. Had they done so they might have shaved some years off their wilderness wanderings, but that’s like crying over spilt milk, or rotten manna.

“Every time we hear the splash of someone being baptised, we’re seeing another step forwards for the kingdom of God.”

For those of us Baptists who are passionate about Jesus and sharing his gospel , our greatest aspirations can be summed up in the two words: missional movement.

A genuine missional movement is something that’s outside our recent experience here in the UK. However, let me highlight one place where you might catch a glimpse of what we’re talking about:

Every time we hear the splash of someone being baptised, we’re seeing another step forwards for the kingdom of God. Jesus is still very much alive, and every person who is baptised is announcing that King Jesus is the One reigning in their life. Jesus is Lord. The human spoken testimony may be nerve-racked, but the angels are shouting out ‘salvation belongs to our God’.

We can almost tangibly hear the Lord’s ‘well done my good and faithful servant’.

Many baptismal testimonies sound something like this: ‘I started working with Ellie and after a while I began to realise there was something about her, which was different. One day I asked her what she had that I didn’t, and that’s the first time I connected the words Jesus with being a Christian’ … Obviously, that’s not word for word, but think about it, or even take notes next time someone’s being baptised. Nearly everyone speaks about an already existing Christian who has been the most obvious significant link in the chain enabling them to respond to Jesus as good news.

Speaking as a Regional Minister, every time I meet a Church which is growing in its capacity to show and tell the good news of Jesus, I join in the angel’s chorus (I think everyone’s grateful I don’t actually sing out loud!). Every time I meet some of the fruit, represented by people filled with joy and love and many other good things, I’m reminded that Jesus is still doing what He promised when He said he would build His church.

Disciples making disciples, making disciples, making … I’m loathe to put a number on it, in terms of what multiple ‘qualifies’ as a missional movement. What I long for is to see more glimpses. I’m looking towards the day when the glimpses have become so frequent and commonplace I expect to see the fruit of missional outcomes every time I meet a group of God’s people.

“I always mentally booked in a baptismal service for a certain date in the future”

I wonder how many glimpses of missional movement, characteristic of the kingdom of God, you expect to see this year? One thing I find is that when I do anything intentionally, more happens and when I’m intentionally looking for something I’m more likely to find it. When I was last serving as a local Minister I always mentally booked in a baptismal service for a certain date in the future, frequently without having a list of candidates in mind. However, we always had at least four baptismal services a year – not precisely at quarterly intervals, which was my prayer, but you don’t care about which Sunday it’s on when someone you’ve prayed for has come to faith in Jesus.

I hope this helps some of you who have asked ‘What is Seventy-two all about?’ to understand our motivation. As Regional Ministry Teams we want to be, or provide, catalysts which connect people, groups, churches into the mission of God.

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Nigel Coles

Nigel is Regional Team Leader of the West of England Baptist Network. He facilitates the life of the webnet team and oversees the missional strategy for the region. He also works to develop missional strategy over a wider geographical area with our partner Associations and Baptists Together. Nigel believes that when Jesus sent out seventy-two others, he meant everyone who was there, and this passion to help everyone find their way in the mission of God is what inspired the development of Seventy-two.