by Rob Howlett, Minister, Burnham on Sea Baptist Church
I am so excited to share the news that after four years studying at Bristol Baptist College I have finally finished my training (and my theology degree) as an accredited Baptist minister. Now the fun of Christian leadership can really begin!
As Christian leaders it is essential that we all live authentic lives for Christ, demonstrating “marks of ministry” as we lead the folk that have been entrusted to us. It is not only a huge privilege to be called to Christian ministry, but it is also an enormous responsibility and one I take very seriously. And it is one that BUGB take very seriously when training their ministers to lead local churches and serve in their local communities.
Our Baptist colleges assess each new minister on these “marks of ministry” during their training and before they are accredited by BUGB as fully-fledged Baptist ministers. And as part of our ongoing training, we are encouraged to regularly reflect upon these marks.
These marks are not a test we need to pass but are fundamental to what it is to be a Baptist minister with a life-long commitment to our faith, our discipleship, and the role we have been called to.
So what are these marks?
· Mature disciple of Christ
· Relational approach to leadership
· Kingdom focused
· Servant hearted and sacrificial
Mature Disciple of Christ
To be a Christian leader, our lives must be rooted in scripture, with a clear love for God. How can we possibly disciple others if we are not a disciple first? Developing our spiritual disciplines, living authentic Christian lives while deepening our relationship with Christ is paramount to being a Baptist minister.
My discipleship and maturity as a Christian is a journey but if I cannot demonstrate my reliance on God, and my love for Jesus then what hope is there for the church I lead? First and foremost, I am a disciple of Christ.
While the Baptist structure of church is different to others, it is not unique in its thinking. Similar to a congregationalist approach we believe in the autonomy of the local church and that under the headship of Jesus, the church meeting (the church membership) is responsible for the decision making within the local church. Crucially we covenant with each other and with God to be accountable to each other at a local church level and as a wider Baptist family.
Relational Approach to Leadership
The Bible is at the centre of all we do as Baptists. To discover what leadership should look like in a church we must simply look to Jesus as our role model. Jesus had humility, understanding, self-awareness, the ability to inspire, to encourage, to bring about change. But most of all, Jesus had love. Love for his heavenly Father and love for his people. That is what distinguishes him from any other leader and surely something we must aspire to as Christian leaders today. To first and foremost love God but also to love the communities we have been called to serve.
Where is God already at work in our communities and how can we join in with him? Building safe places of peace, sanctuary, love, fairness, and kindness is a Baptist priority. Challenging the status quo when we see injustice, discrimination, and inequality. Getting involved in community projects, education, supporting those in most need from outside our church.
Bringing God to the party and helping to build and grow his Kingdom in our communities. What we do on a Sunday morning in our church building is important but perhaps more important is how we demonstrate the love of God to those in our towns and villages who see themselves as outside of the church.
Servant Hearted and Sacrificial
As Christian leaders we are called to put others first. We are called to serve God with a servant like heart, humbly, faithfully, and with a generous spirit. And this will cost. It is not an easy task, and we will get hurt along the way. But I believe it is a price worth paying. To serve my God and all his people as a Baptist minister is the highest honour I can imagine. But in my own strength I will fail.
It is by God’s grace I have been called, and by God’s grace I shall succeed – ‘Yet not I, but through Christ in me.’
 Yet Not I but Through Christ in Me, © Farren Love And War Publishing, Integrity's Alleluia! Music, Cityalight Music