The Baptist Union of Victoria is made up of over 237 churches and congregations throughout the state of Victoria. Churches of all size and in all corners of our state make up the Baptist Union as a whole, as well as the Union Council, Baptist Union of Victoria Coordinating Office and other Baptist agencies and affiliates.
The notion of churches doing more together; strengthening their association and working less independently is something many have sensed the Holy Spirit stirring amongst us over the last 5 years. Baptist churches historically have always affirmed a deep commitment to neighbouring sister churches, based on the apostle Paul’s many injunctions for the early churches to care for one another.
It is clear from scripture that creating a culture of unity within diversity; a culture of inclusion and of collaboration is an important value in the Gospels, building on a deep sense of community at the heart of the life of the people of God in the Hebrew Scriptures. But increasingly as the church becomes more marginalised in society, and the task of reaching our secularised nation becomes bigger, we need to be working together more intentionally in the mission God calls us to. When Peter was charged by Jesus to try to fish once again after a long fishless night, he was unable to bring in the haul on his own – he needed his friends and colleagues to pull in the heavy nets with him. This is a defining image of Better Together for Mission.
We work together because God calls us to do so; we work together because we are enriched in the process by different gifts, personalities, cultures and approaches; we work together because together we can better serve our communities and live out the nature of the Kingdom of God.
The theory is clear, but it is interesting that the Spirit has been moving amongst our churches in Victoria, and the examples of churches sharing life together have grown rapidly in recent years. Our pastors are now meeting more often in cluster groups. The numbers coming together for Gatherings has increased and the number of local initiatives is mushrooming. Interestingly, we are not alone in this - reports from other states reflect a similar trend. It is clear that God is doing a new thing.