15th February 2023

Sorting some papers recently, I came across the result of an exercise by a group of about twenty-five ministerial students. They had been tasked with explaining in just one sentence what they considered was our Christian mission to the world. Not surprisingly, there were twenty-five widely differing answers. Each person saw the question through the filter of their own personal experience and understanding.

Reducing what we think or believe about something to a short paragraph, a single sentence, or a meaningful catch-phrase is a task which severely tests any writer or preacher. Just as difficult is the job of the reader or hearer in trying to see what might lie behind those few, distilled words. Why were those particular words chosen, and not others? What else might they imply? What baggage do they carry with them?

We were asked recently by our local Baptist association to consider a statement of faith from a particular wing of the Christian Church. This is far more wordy and detailed than the declaration of faith which has served the churches of the Baptist Union for many years. This reminds me of a book on my shelves, written by someone highly-rated in some Christian circles, but so complex and intricate, reading it was like grappling with an impossibly-tangled ball of string. ‘Complicated’ couldn’t describe it. The more it went on, the more the picture was clouded by its complexity.

The first statement of faith in the Early Church, declared by those who joined by being baptised, was ‘Jesus is Lord’ – that, all Christians can share in saying! Less is more?

David Bell