NEWS | Kaley Payne
Wednesday 1 July 2015
If it was up to John Beckett, we’d all know our purpose and be living it out. Previously the national coordinator of Micah Challenge, a Christian campaign movement that aimed to half poverty by 2015, Beckett is no stranger to trying to change the world. These days, though, he’s looking at ways to change the world one individual, or one organisation, at a time.
He’s just launched Seed, an organisation that aims to match up faith and life.
“Many Christians are frustrated that their faith feels disengaged from the world and disconnected from their life,” says Beckett. He wants to see Christians at the forefront in finding solutions to a world that is clearly not as God intended it to be. But he believes many Christians today struggle to find their place to be able to do that.
Beckett says we need to start to think more creatively about what “embodying Christ really means beyond the space where justice is obviously needed.” Not everyone can work in a not-for-profit specifically seeking to reduce poverty or proclaim the gospel to the unreached corners of the world. What does living out your faith look like if you work in the fashion industry? Or as a financier? Beckett wants to help answer those questions.
Seed is currently working with Baptist churches in New South Wales to do this on a church-wide level. The Baptist Association in NSW has developed a new vision for its movement, seeking to impact culture and positively engage in society. Ken Clendinning, the Director of Ministries within the Baptist Churches of NSW and ACT says historically Baptists have been at the forefront of some of the biggest changes in history.
“Right from the beginning of our movement – from the abolition of slavery to the birth of the union moment, to the creation of civil and human rights – Baptists have been influential,” Clendinning told Eternity.
“In Australia, the first Baptist church here and [its] pastor was influential in establishing the Aboriginal Protection Board and the temperance movement (which wasn’t a total abstinence movement, by the way), as well as being quite missional.”
The influential history of Baptists in public life is something Clendinning wants to reclaim for the present. He says that as the Baptist movement grew in Australia, the church branched out into social welfare and global aid. “But it became the role of the [Baptist] agencies rather than the role of the local church.”
“Part of our renewed vision is that we want these things to be taken up by our congregation members, not just something that’s done by our agencies without reference to those in our church communities,” he says.
That’s where John Beckett and Seed come in. In 2015, Seed is working closely with the Baptist Association in NSW to regain what was once a great strength of the Baptist movement: public engagement.
“We’ll be looking at the public voice of the Association. The Baptist movement doesn’t have a traditional hierarchical structure, so there are sometimes challenges with how to engage with a united voice in the public square,” says Beckett.
According to Clendinning, one of his concerns with that “public voice” is that often the only time church members hear from the leadership of the movement is “when we’re speaking against something”. He wants to see a more positive movement, “helping [church members] engage and work for the benefit of society as a whole, and bringing a faith perspective to that.”
So Beckett is seeking to help equip both pastors and members of congregations to be more effective in speaking out about local issues and local need.
“The first step is to build a movement around your idea. You want to tell your story and identify clearly the change you seek. And then the third step is about identifying and engaging with leaders in power, or key influencers. That’s how you start to influence.”
Beckett doesn’t think that Christian engagement with society is getting harder. Scarier, maybe, but not harder. In many ways, in fact, it could be getting easier.
“Because we’re being pushed to the margins of culture, it might be easier to stand out if we live a particular way. That way of living can create opportunities to give a reason for our choices and our lives – which is the gospel. I sense that it is more scary to live in a way that aligns with God’s purposes for us, but there’s also just great opportunities.
“If we’re living a life that is aligned to where God wants us to be, I think that’s what the Bible refers to as the blessed life. That’s far from an easy life. But living for God in the place he has put us, I think that’s the primary concern.”
Image: baigné par le soleil on Flickr, used under CC License.