Can you still see the person you were called to become when Jesus first said to you ‘come follow me’? Can you still see the church you were called to become when you first caught hold of Jesus words ‘I will build my church’? Honest responses so far suggest any clarity of vision, either individually, or collectively, is growing dim for most of us.

Happy new year! Re-imagine is the name of the missional learning community process Seventy-two facilitates; it has revealed to us over the years that the need to ‘re-imagine’ is a desperate one.

How many of you remember waiting to hear the outcome of the annual statistical collation of church statistics? I imagine every denomination or stream still collates their annual returns or whatever format they use, but we tend not to hear much about them these days.

On the Baptist planet I live on, no-one has a national brief to inform the rest of us what the national picture looks like with any regularity. To talk about a missional movement in the current climate is … well how would you describe it? Naive? Wishful thinking? Deranged? Visionary? Personally, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said something akin to ‘we cannot be described as a movement if we are not moving’ in conversation when talking about where Baptists feature in the whole scene.

I confess, it’s done nothing at all for my popularity! It strikes me that some people do not wish to hear bad news, others believe describing anything other than in positive terms is debilitating to faith, and still others prefer to bury their heads in the sand. Some time ago we reached the point where the majority of sectors of the church became so accustomed to the on-going numerical decline of the UK church, that they stopped asking statistical questions, because ‘it’s not about numbers’ (anti church growth), or ‘it’s quality that counts’ (pro church health), but now the assumption of decline appears to be the framework within which so many operate in. Assumptions are the death of imagination.

However, if I dare make a positive assumption, my hunch is readers here will want to respond and ask ‘so what shall I do?’ As it’s a question I’ve been asking myself, I offer a few pointers which I hope will help re-direct our best energies:


  1. I/we need to live a real life. When I faced some health challenges, I welcomed the tests so that I could know the reality. The clearer we are about our real situation, the more appropriate our next steps are likely to be. What are the facts?


  1. Where am I/are we going? If things carry on as they have been, where will I/we end up? I was grateful to Kay, who at a church meeting was reviewing the present situation last week announced ‘we need to be clear about one thing, if we carry on as we have all been doing for years, we won’t have a church much longer’. She made the point much better than I as an outsider could possibly have made.


  1. What am I/are we allowing to drive me/us? Today is the greatest predictor of tomorrow. This is where we need to place our assumptions under the microscope. What is currently shaping who I am/we are? Identify them. Name them. Own them.


  1. What can I/we imagine God’s preferred future can become for me/us?


  1. What do you we want to shape me/us? This is where the rubber hits the road. If we don’t see where we fit into God’s big picture, we’re going to struggle to let Him lift us out of our darkness.


I’ve returned to Daniel at the beginning of this year and shall be dwelling in this text at least weekly until Easter. If you’d like to join me, you can find our Dwelling In Daniel series here on our home-page. Look out for weekly updates to the post.

Daniel and his friends didn’t merely survive but thrived in an alien culture. I love the title of John Lennox’s book ‘Against the Flow: The Inspiration of Daniel in an age of Relativism’. I need to get in the flow of God’s current and I need to draw my inspiration from God so that my imagination is fed and enlarged.


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.