I’ll be honest! I first saw the new logo of the Baptist Union of Great Britain a couple of weeks ago and thought, “That’s nice!” Then I looked at the meaning of the different bits and bobs and thought, “Cool. He who has eyes to see, etc!” Only I didn’t have eyes to see. I needed it pointing out plainly, and then I thought, “Why a new logo? Who did it? What is really going on here?”
I’m glad there are people on this terrestrial ball of ours that can create such logo’s, and in one sweep, rebrand an entire network of churches. I don’t really care that I, as a minister in a baptist church, wasn’t consulted, I’m quite happy to let creativity let loose among us and see what happens. If it resembled a swastika I’m sure I wouldn’t be quite so relaxed, but it isn’t a swastika, so that’s that!
Mike Shaw from Devonport Community Baptist Church in Plymouth draws on his former life as a marketing manager for an international company when he writes here about this rebranding. A question he asks is vital: does rebranding represent a reality on the ground? The reason for the question, I suspect, is partly ironic: no it doesn’t! Why? Because in our fierce independence as Baptists, we have so many churches that are not looking beyond their own boundaries. Mike suggests that suspicion and an inability to look beyond our own problems are the reasons for this.
He makes a point that the fact he hasn’t been invited to preach in other churches is evidence of this. I’m not at all convinced that his lack of preaching invitations is evidence of this. Why would a newly appointed minister expect preaching engagements elsewhere in the city? But, he does say that leaders in general are not in relationship with each other, and this is a much more accurate observation of the problem. Therefore, if we do not relate with others as a given, no amount of rebranding will force this. Maybe if a few of us stopped pretending that our “insane busyness” has been forced upon us, then we’d willingly meet, without consulting our phones every two minutes either!
In any case I quite like the logo. I’m glad it has meaning. And I’m under the impression that logo’s and the like are not merely to reflect current practice but to project a vision of what is desirable for the future in our life together, what the goal and purpose is. In short, it’s a vision – a gospel vision – cross, water, letter, fish. It has everything that the biblical vision of church should aspire to.
The problem as I see it, is that too many Baptist churches have actually become a fulfillment of their own cultural zeitgeist – i.e. individualism. The Church can be a place that counters this, but by-and-large, our British (Western) culture has trumped the Gospel of Christ by a long way. Not only is our cultural gap between the generations monumental, but dead and dying Baptist churches are in part, a death sentence pronounced by the end of modernity and the prevailing postmodern culture we now inhabit. Church culture in modernity relied too heavily on structure and rules and large doses of unquestioning conformity. This comes at a price: relentless church activity and the quashing of spiritual gifts. The upshot of this, simply stated, is poor relating. In this sense, postmodernity and all the challenges it throws up, can be seen as a judgement, the righteous judgement of God on a church that needs to die. We have not related well for decades (if ever, I know the history too), and now the chickens have come home to roost! And what a lot of chickens there are!
Similarly, Andy Goodliff of Belle Vue Baptist Church in Southend, raises other thoughtful observations here. By removing ‘Union’ and adding ‘Together’, he asks what this means for us today? Well, this does in fact highlight the institutional concept that ‘Union’ invokes, to the more relational tone of ‘Together’. In this rebranding Andy says this is an intentional attempt to acknowledge a desire to do things differently. It does indeed, but he rightly asks a follow up observation: this desire is undermined by the lack of wider consultation among the Baptist family. This will be a large stumbling block to many, but in Gralefrit’s humble opinion, I don’t think it needs to be.
Yes, ‘Together’ invokes the Prudential adverts of the 1990’s and our present Coalition Governments tag-line for pretty much everything, “We’re all in this together”. The fact that we all know we’re not will possibly undermine the rebrand in some kind of subliminal way.
Some people will say, “Why can’t we just get on with mission and worship?” Others will wonder why money was spent on this project in this alleged time of austerity. But many others will be grateful the BUGB have some gumption in showing a possible way forward through a meaningful symbol. I can relate to that, though I probably won’t get it tattooed on my arm. What I will do, is work hard for the glory of God in preaching the Gospel and leading a church of His imperfect people, reminding them we are His people, and we should be about His business: Cross, Baptism, Word and Ichthus. If this is our ecclesial minimum, I’ll be happy. But more, I’ll be happy to be present at the funeral of an unrelational modernist church that lived with such ecclesial maximum that it died through consumption and individualism.
The British Baptist Church, in our small part of the wider Church of Jesus Christ around the world needs courageous leadership in these perilous times. I don’t feel up to the task at all, but Christ has called me and he is able. The gates of Hell get very close sometimes but they will never prevail.