As many of you are aware, I have recently returned from the USA launch of 20Schemes. I suggest you click on the link if you do not know what that is. 20schemes is partnering with Bardstown Christian Fellowship in the planting and revitalisation of gospel centred churches in some of Scotland’s poorest housing schemes.
As I was there for 5 days of intense meetings, lectures and preaching I observed several things.
1. The BCF churches – Grace & Redeemer – are relatively small churches compared to the rest of the USA. Grace, the largest, is about the same size as Niddrie Community Church (my home church). Both congregations are not poor but nor are they rich. In other words, small churches coming together on both sides of the Atlantic can actually, with God’s help, make big things happen. The vision for 20 schemes has not grown from a mega church and yet far outstrips many in the scope of what we hope, by God’s grace, to achieve in the next decade. Never fall into the trap of thinking that because your congregation is small they cannot have a part to play in world mission. The remarkable generosity of brothers and sisters in the USA never ceases to amaze me. They have such an openness to share time and resources. Leaders who have never met me have been so supportive of 20 schemes and have been going out of their way to help us to succeed in what we are trying to do. This flies in the face, often, of many in the UK who are suspicious of ideas like this and are often very negative and critical about whether it will succeed or not. This ‘can do’ attitude of so many stateside is a real breath of fresh air.
2. Partner organisations and individuals have just been unbelievably kind and generous to us. 9Marks have been a first rate example of this. Many of their leaders have given us such invaluable input and advice across a broad range of areas from branding, marketing, theology, finances and overall strategy. They have even offered to help us train our leaders through their own weekenders and printed material. Dr Jeff Walters at Southern Seminary allowed me to go into the classroom and teach a group of MA students for 2 hours on the vision of 20 schemes and the challenge of church planting in housing schemes. Another brother I met for the first time was Brian Croft who blogs at Practical Shepherding. He is not only sitting on our board but also offered us help in terms of fundraising, raising the profile, training young pastors, resources and allowing me to blog on housing scheme issues monthly on his site. I would like to thank all of these people who have been such a good example to me and I hope, one day, when 20 schemes has the means, to be able to offer the same level of help and practical support that has been shown to us.
3. I have admired the attitude of my elders at NCC and the elders of Matthew’s church at BCF. Both sets of men have graciously freed us up to pursue this ministry on behalf of both our congregations and without this kind of forward thinking we would not have gotten this far. This is a vision shared by both our communities and we hope it will grow in the hearts and minds of many over the coming years as we engage in this exciting gospel partnership together.
Finally, can I thank our Advisory Board Members who skyped together across three time zones for the first time this week. We hope in the years to come they will continue to ask us hard questions and offer us helpful counsel as we seek to serve the poor in Scotland for the sake of the glorious gospel of Jesus. I have listed them below.
Dr Jeff Walters (SBTS)
Robert Briggs (Scottish Pastor, Sacramento)
Mark Schenk (Scottish pastor, Edinburgh)
Marc Surtees (NCC elder)
Brian Croft (Pastor, Louisville)
Steve Robinson (Pastor, Liverpool)
All have are current pastors and between them possess broad experience in church planting cross culturally, church revitalisation work and an understanding of the current problems in Scottish housing schemes. Please continue to pray for us as we keep you updated on our progress.