We are in the midst of a crisis of leadership. Whilst I have my own perspectives on Brexit, Trump, North Korea, the EU, Russia, etc, right now I’m particularly concerned about my own Baptist family, although this issue spans all the historic denominations in the UK.

I’ve had the privilege (most of my friends do not see it this way) of being on the inside of some of our systems for a long time. I’m not sure whether this enables me to see things more clearly, or whether it makes things more blurry!

I’ve recently had to have two new pairs of glasses … no longer can I get by with just a pair for reading. I’m still getting used to needing to change my glasses, which I only realise when I begin to wonder why everything beyond 30 cm has gone blurry!

So I confess up front, that my lens is one of ‘missional leadership’. That’s my focus and I realise other emphases will appear blurry to my eyes … maybe you can meet my confession with forgiveness? However, missional movement needs missional leadership if we’re to get anywhere.

I see the symptoms in the Baptist settlement system of which I am a part, both in terms of numbers (a simple supply and demand measurement) and things such as character, capacity, competency, charisma (I’d say gifting, but it doesn’t begin with ‘c’!).

In the time prior to my involvement, there was a general issue around the difficulty for many of our larger churches being able to readily identify obvious potential candidates to take on their pastoral leadership role. Whilst that has remained consistently the case, this problem has spread to the point that it feels endemic within our system. Today it can be difficult to send the profiles of more than two obviously capable Ministers to any church at any one time when they request them.

I see the symptoms in many of our local churches. I hear regularly, of their difficulty in finding new leaders, elders, deacons. This tends to be a mix of discerning appropriately gifted people, but more often it’s a perceived reluctance of people to take on leadership responsibility.

Put these two things together and it’s clear we will not solve this crisis by simply going around the cycle of the pastor/teacher v apostle/evangelist/prophet debate again and again. My contention is that we need every one of these five facets of the ministry of Christ, and our energy needs to be going into developing all five, for every church, rather than maintaining a focus which perpetuates the idea one person can become the provider of all.

This, for me, is helpfully clarified by a focus on missional leadership, as opposed to a focus on one, or two, particular facets of Ministry. It’s much more about ‘leadership’, than it is about ‘leader’. I heartily recommend 5Q by Alan Hirsch (you can hear Alan at the Baptists Together Mission Conference in September). 5Q has at its heart an exposition of Ephesians 4:1-16, which Alan (and I) agree holds a key to activating the body of Christ.

No crisis is dealt with easily, or quickly. Consequently, we need to recognise that we’re not talking about simply tweaking our system for training Accredited Baptist Ministers.

If we are serious about seeing a missional movement (and at this point the ‘we’ is all of us) and if ‘leadership is influence’, then we all exercise influence (although do we need to flex our muscles a little more?). Society is drifting without the moral compass you can provide within your circle of influence.  Church is drifting and the answer is not to put down the ‘anchor’ as ‘church’, but to hoist our sails to go wherever the mission of God takes us. For this, we all have a responsibility, titled role, or not; to live on purpose in the mission of God.

A question for summer reflection:

Leaders with responsibility: where do I need to do things differently, so my message and life are more clearly aligned in pursuit of my purpose?

Leaders without portfolio: where do I need to do things differently, so my message and life are more clearly aligned in pursuit of my purpose?

Regularly use Ephesians 4:1-16 as your dwelling in the word passage and become attentive to what God is speaking into your life.



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.