Britain is facing a desperate shortage of mission-minded ministers willing to ‘get their hands dirty’ in the country’s most deprived areas. The Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB) Mission Network says churches in pioneer settings are closing because of a lack of ‘risk takers’ willing to ‘break new ground’. BUGB mission department head Revd Ian Bunce said the lack of ministers willing to consider community-based work rather than traditional preaching and pastoral roles is a ‘hugely significant’ issue. Revd John Bayes, a minister and mission enabler in the East Midlands, said that in some situations a community outreach worker rather than a pastorally trained minister might be more fitted to the need.
Source: Baptist Times (27/9)
I am not in a position to speak authoritatively about the Methodist Church in this respect though I have a feeling that this may also apply to many of our itinerant Ministers. However, I have known a few who have specifically asked to be stationed in mission situations and our Deacons always put themselves wholly in the hands of the Church to be sent wherever the need is greatest.
This Baptist report comes in the same week that the President of the Methodist Conference, the Revd Dr. Martyn Atkins, writes an article in the Methodist Recorder with the title 'Doting on Deacons'. He writes, "Deacons also challenge me in relation to their continuing deep commitment to itinerancy. (I haven't moved house in 11 years now!) Of course, most ministers are itinerant , but my personal experience is that deacons I know place 'going wherever the Church sends me' at the very centre of their ministry, regarding it as a signal aspect of obedience to God, through the decision of the Church. I admire them greatly for that.
"This means that deacons are being increasingly used by the Church not simply as 'stop-gap' measures when ministers can't be found, but more properly as those who go where they are needed most: planting churches, supporting projects, ministering to marginalised and disadvantaged groupings in our societies and churches. In this sense they are hugely important in missional terms.
"Lastly, I find their focus on servant ministry very moving and highly attractive. In our cultural context when hierarchies are increasingly suspect and even despised by some, when superiority and elitism are so often so unattractive, real live servants of the servant - Jesus Christ - are vital to healthy Christian witness and service."
Locally, at our recent Circuit Meeting we rejoiced that we have as many as four young men candidating for the Methodist Ministry - one on Foundation Training, two on EDEV (Extending Discipleship and Exploring Vocation) Training, and one Candidating this connexional year, having finished Foundation Training several years ago. In the years since completing Foundation Training, this young man has devoted his life as a Lay Worker and Evangelist to the reclamation of young people who have fallen foul of the Law, giving himself wholly to them and their needs (often at great cost to himself). He has struggled over these years with a call to the Ministry and the conflicting need of the young men he serves to have a firm and continuing friend to whom they can turn and on whom they can rely. This would not be possible if he became an itinerant minister, so he has resolved this dilemma by candidating as a Non-Stipendiary Minister. Many of us are praying that in this way his valuable, costly ministry may continue, changing lives in the process.