I have decided to try and embark on a series of interviews on Mondays with church planters form around the globe. The aim is to try and get different perspectives form different types of work to see if we can learn any lessons that will help us promote the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It will also be helpful in terms of encouraging one another to pray. Now there aren’t too many people planting in inner city schemes in Scotland (or the UK) so the ‘pool’ is quite shallow at the moment. I am hoping that will change in the future as I make contact with more people engaged in this specific type of ministry.
Today’s person is Neil MacMillan who works for the Free Church of Scotland and is based in Edinburgh.
Tell us a little about yourself.
44. Scottish. Married. 4 bairns.
Tell us a little about the area you work in.
Training church leaders for mission and church planting. I previously led a church in Gallatown area of Kirkcaldy for 16 years. Gallatown is the poorest community in Fife and suffers from many of the issues related to poverty.
Tell us a little about how you got involved in ministry in this area.
I always felt angry at the injustice in society. Many of my school friends came from difficult backgrounds and I could see the negative way it was affecting their lives. It annoyed me that the church in the UK has so little interest in working in these communities. So I wanted to give it a go.
Tell us a little about some of the difficulties of ministry.
Isolation. A multi class congregation. My lack of insight into the needs of the community and how to minister in that context. A lack of flexibility in my denomination’s expectations. The sense of impotency and sadness at the self destruction I witnessed in people I ministered to. People coming to faith and then backsliding.
Tell us a little about some of the blessings of your ministry.
Made many great friends. Moved the congregation from a place of suspicion and fear towards community to one of commitment, love and service towards community. Seeing the gospel touch lives and some people flourish spiritually. Never got my head kicked in.
Do you have a team or do you work alone? Why?
Worked alone but with a very supportive congregation. Had one couple who came and worked with us for 1 year, 7 years into the ministry. Working alone was tough but it was just the way our denomination worked and I lacked the imagination to change this. For the last two years I was there we employed a full time community worker.
Do/Did you have a plan or a strategy for reaching out with Christ?
Yes. It was to build relationship with people in the community through a variety of methods and to work towards helping the community address its own needs. We did this through just walking the streets and knocking on doors to chat to people. We did kids work. We ran a café. We ran drop ins, lunch clubs, etc. We helped with emergency food parcels. We did gardening. Our church building was the only decent building in the area and so we extended it and opened it up for lots of different agencies to serve the community in areas where we lacked expertise. Eg Breast feeding clinic. Also addictions services, employment and retraining. Cooking classes and nutrition groups, tenants groups.
How do you do discipleship?
Did a lot of one on one or small group bible study. Plus groups for different kinds of people eg men with addictions or young mums.
What are the best resources you have come across?
Tearfund stuff was great for teaching a congregation how to think and live in a missional way in that kind of community. That had the biggest impact for us.
How important is training leaders for this work?
Massive. It’s the only way to sustain and multiply this kind of ministry in the long term.
My thanks to Neil for taking the time to do this for me. Next week I have a report from a man who has been involved in a church plant in Boston for the past 3 years.