Author Archive

By Andy Constable

We have been much in thought recently about how we are going to raise truly indigenous, disciplined young men as the future leaders of Niddrie Community Church. We need to have a long-term plan in place. Our aim is to try to grow men through a structured, football based outreach beginning at 5-6 years old and building an academy through their late teens and into manhood. Our aim is not to produce professional footballers (although that may happen) but to grow committed disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, this week we ran a 3-day football academy for young children on the scheme. We ran it in partnership with a charity called “Kids in the Street” managed by a local man. The coaches all came from a Christian organisation called “90+ Ministries” based in Liverpool. It was a great success and 32 children, mainly from non-Christian families, completed the camp.

On the last day we had an awards ceremony at the church and invited the parents/carers to come. Over 100 people turned up and we were able to give a short gospel talk. Lots of people who live in the area came into the building for the first time and heard the gospel! We were so thankful to the Lord.

Looking to the future we are planning to begin our football school in September. Please pray for us as we go forward with this endeavour. Here is a short video showing what we got up to!

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By Andy Constable

Life in schemes can be tough at the best of times. It is, sometimes, an extremely face paced, intense ministry. I know today as I woke up that I felt tired and distracted. The business of the next couple of weeks clouded my mind. Now at this point I could (a) get on with the day and get as much as done as possible but keep stressing. Or (b) I can commit these things to the Lord and refresh my soul for the day ahead. Now a lot of people will tend to do the former, get their heads down and batter through life’s problems. However, that’s not healthy at all. If we keep doing this we will burn out very quickly. We need to find a spiritual oasis in the middle of this stress. Here are some things I was reminded of as I spent time with the Lord.

Be Disciplined

We need to be disciplined in making time to spend time with the Lord. Some days we won’t feel like getting up early and reading our Bibles, but it’s so necessary. Paul, in his qualifications for deacons, says this in Titus 1:8: “Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.” Discipline is key when you’re feeling stressed because it’s so easy to be lazy or to get distracted by business. Make that time to read your Bible and keep it regular.

Meditate on scripture

Christians in general are bad at spending time taking the Word of God from their quiet times into the rest of their days. We tend to read some verses and then forget about them as soon as we walk out the door. The Psalmist however said that he “meditated on God’s word day and night” This means that he spent time studying the scriptures, processing them and reflecting on them. The psalmist actually spent time taking God’s Word to heart and applying it to his life. This is something that is important for refreshing our souls in ministry. We need to fill our minds with as much scripture as possible in order to find peace, contentment and renewal of mind in the middle of stress.

Leave your worries with God

We need to spend concerted time committing our cares to the Lord. 1 Peter 5:7 says: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” God cares for us and we need to know this in the midst of ministry difficulties. However, what we need to watch out for is that we don’t commit our worries to God and then take them back again. It is important to commit them to the Lord and make sure they stay there. There can also be a tendency to think that God doesn’t want to hear about our silly stresses. We think “oh I’ll sort that out by myself because God has more important things to think about.” This is not the case as 1 Peter reminds us. Cast your anxiety on him because he cares for you!

Remind yourself that you are not God

One of the things that every Christian is tempted to do is play God. In our pride we think we can do things in our own strength. Yet, it is wonderfully liberating in ministry to remind ourselves that God is in control of all things. He saves people, not us. He transforms people’s lives, not us. He works everything out for the good of those who love him, not us. The question is do we believe this? Or are we functionally playing God and trying to sort out all the mess by ourselves. This is both foolish and dangerous.

Remember there is an outside world

I think lastly its good to remember that this is a big, old world we live in. Often when we are stressed we focus on ourselves and think that we are the only ones grafting in ministry. It’s important to get our heads up and pray for those who are struggling all over the world to bring the gospel to their people. This gives us perspective. This reminds us that we have a great and powerful God who is Lord over ALL creation and ALL people!

It’s important if we want to survive in this ministry to put these things into practice. I could have ignored my time with the Lord this morning, battered on with the days activities and ignored Him.  But, instead, I took 30 minutes to be disciplined, meditate on scripture, cast my worries on the Lord, remembered that God sits on His throne, and prayed for some outside gospel ministries. This refreshed my soul and I found a little oasis in the middle of stress.

By Andy Constable

Anger is a problem with which everyone struggles. For some it is such a problem that it is destroying their lives. As Christians we are called to be self-controlled people who sew peace in our lives. But not all anger in the Bible is bad. Anger is a characteristic of God. Jesus was righteously angry in His ministry on earth. There is, therefore, good anger and bad anger. The question is are we channelling our anger in the right way?

Good anger’ is an emotional response to things like sin and injustice. It is a slow, self-controlled anger and is motivated by love. This kind of anger does not control us. ‘Bad anger’ is the opposite. It is explosive, irrational and, ultimately, destructive. So, what causes this bad anger in us? James 4:1-2 gives us some answers:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and you do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.”

The key is that our passions (or desires) are at war within us. The root of our anger is desires that spring from idolatrous hearts. When these desires are threatened we often react with anger. We all have things that we love more than God in our lives – these are called idols and the problem is that they can rule our hearts. Then, when these idols are poked and challenged by people we often react with anger.

When we get angry, it is important, therefore, to be looking below the surface and into the heart of the issue. We live in a culture that likes to blame outside circumstances for our reactions. We say things like “he made me react like this.” But the Bible says that our reactions to life’s situations simply reveals what we really love most in life. They reveal something sinful about us. So how do we begin to address our heart issues?

I always say to people that our ‘bad anger’ will never be totally eradicated in this life because we have layer upon layer of idols. But, what we can work on, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is how we process anger and repent of it. Some questions to ask yourself are: 

When do you get angry? How do you get angry? Why do you become angry? 

Take a situation when you last got really mad and process it. Break down the situation and work through those questions. Then when you get mad again, repeat. Try to identify what your real heart issue is.

The key to all of this, of course, is repentance. We need to repent of the things that we love more than God. Then we need to run back into His merciful arms. It is only His grace, given through the gospel, that can truly transform our hearts. Only the gospel can challenge our hearts and teach us to love righteousness at the same time. This is key in our battle against ‘bad anger’.

The problem that most people have is that they don’t (or don’t want to) get to the heart of their issues. As James teaches, we get angry because “we desire and do not have.” But, these desires must be challenged and rooted out by the grace of God if we are to channel our anger towards sin and injustice. Sometimes I look at my own anger and wonder why I can’t get as passionate about my sin as I do about losing control or comfort. The problem, again, is my idolatrous heart and the things that I love more than God.

Allow the Holy Spirit to challenge the heart, repent and we will sew peace and self-control instead of unrighteous anger.

By Andy Constable

Last week we started by looking at some of the things we need to know when we are discipling drug addicts who have come to Christ and are rebuilding their lives. We looked at some of the things that you the discipler will need to look out for. This week I want to look at some of the things we need to teach our new converts. What do they need to know from God’s Word? What do they need to learn quickly? This is key in our discipleship because what we teach can really give them a foundation to walk with the Lord.

The first thing we need to teach former drug addicts are the tools to say ‘no’ to temptation and the reminder to run to God’s forgiveness when they mess up. Every Christian is faced with temptation and a drug addict’s temptation is very prevalent with drug friends and dealers all over the place. We need to be teaching that they can say ‘no’ to these temptations because the Holy Spirit is now living in them. The good news for a drug addict is that Jesus Christ liberates them from bondage to sin. He gives them a new heart and desire to love God more than anything else. This is a great encouragement to someone who has come to Christ and has been heavily addicted to drugs for a long time. Jesus Christ sets us free and gives us the tools to keep us free from slavery to sin.

Alongside this, we need to teach our disciples a deep thankfulness for the grace of God when they do mess up. This is inevitable because we all fall, but the problem is that we often don’t teach people how to come back to God after a slip up.  We teach our new Christians that the bar is high for every Christian as God calls for total devotion and obedience to him. He says ‘be perfect as I am perfect’. But, we also teach that when we mess up to run to the grace of God. We teach them not to hide sin with religious works and language but to flee to the forgiveness that is found in Jesus Christ.

Secondly, we need to give our disciples the doctrines that lead to godliness. One of the things that we find in housing scheme ministry is that people working in these areas often ignore teaching people the doctrines of God’s Word. They say: “just give them Jesus not all that dusty theology stuff.”  When Paul is leaving his church in Ephesus he says this to the Elders that: “he did not shrink from declaring to them the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27) Paul didn’t just teach them the bits of the Bible he enjoyed or thought they could grasp but he taught them the whole counsel of God. Sometimes there can be a presumption that people in housing schemes are not bright enough to learn the doctrines of God, but that is not the case at all. I find that it’s often the s0-called ‘mature’ Christians who don’t really understand the doctrines very well and so can’t explain them properly to new believers. We should not shrink back from teaching the whole counsel of God to people. New Christians are thirsty for the truth.

The main reason for teaching doctrine is that Paul says in his letter to Timothy that it leads to godliness. The knowledge of the truth of the Bible empowered by the Spirit helps us to grow. For example, if we are teaching about the need to be selfless then we can teach them about the Trinity. We can show our new Christians how that selflessness is rooted in the very being of God. We can teach them how Father, Son and Holy Spirit selflessly serve each other and bring glory to one another. It’s a doctrine that leads to godliness. We want to give them as good a foundation from God’s Word as we can!

Thirdly, we need to teach our disciples that we are there for them. One of the things that new Christians find in schemes is the lack of community. Many churches meet on a Sunday and then on a Wednesday. This is not enough community for a person who has a lot of time on his/her hands. Many former addicts find it difficult leaving their drug addict pals behind because they were constantly there for them. The drug community often do community better than Christians. They look after each other, they listen to each other, they are eager to help and spend much of their lives together. When we are discipling former drug addicts it’s going to be important to give them care, support, and friendship. Not once a week, but regularly. In Niddrie we try to have regular meet ups and have lots of community events centred on food. This gives a natural arena for new people to come into and get to know their new Christian family.

Let me end with a challenge from Paul. He says this in Acts 20:24: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me- the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Pray for us as we continue to minister amongst drug addicts on the scheme. It is a joy to see them saved and leave their lives of addictions behind. But, remember in your ministry, to teach them the tools to say no to temptation and run back to Jesus when they get in trouble, to teach them the doctrine’s that lead to godliness and to be there for them in constant loving community.

By Andy Constable

We live in a community that has been heavily damaged by drugs. Most of the people that we work with have a steady diet of prescribed as well as street (unprescribed) drugs running through their system everyday. We have seen a handful of addicts over the last few years saved by the gospel and wonderfully changed by God. Is there anything that we need to watch out for as we disciple them? Is there anything that is particularly important? I want to spend the next few weeks blogging about the things that I’ve learned about discipling drug addicts who have come to Christ.

One of the first things that we have to watch out for in discipling addicts is that we don’t come in with a ‘saviour complex’. We need to watch our attitude and know that we are not going to sort people’s problems out with some sort of magic wand. A saviour complex is dangerous for both the wannabe savior and those they impact. The wannabe savior will collapse under the weight of the world’s problems because there are so many. And their ‘disciples’ will end up followers of the wannabe savior instead of the actual savior – Jesus Christ.

It is of utmost importance in any discipleship of fellow Christians that we continually point people to the gospel. The gospel alone has the power to transform people’s lives and is the only way that people will produce long-term fruit. This doesn’t feel as good because people won’t depend on you as much but it, ultimately, brings glory to God. When people walk with the Lord Jesus we don’t end up burned out thinking that we have to solve everybody’s problems. The people that we are discipling will tend to want cling to us but its important to keep pointing them to Christ! It’s like raising a child. We don’t want them clinging us for the rest of their lives. We raise a child so that they will be independent and make good choices because we have given them a good foundation. This is what we must give people when they come to Christ from an addictive background. If we have a saviour mentality then we must repent and teach people the Bible properly!

Secondly,  know in discipleship that its one step forward and then three back! This is something that you will have to learn quickly. New Christians will slip up. They will seem like they are doing really well and then out of nowhere (or so it appears) they royally screw things up! This is part of discipleship. The key is to show people how to get back on to the horse after they have messed up. We teach our new believers that they will mess up (we all do) and when they do they need to run immediately to the grace found in Jesus Christ. We teach them not to hide their sin under religious works and language, but to admit sin regularly and appreciate God’s grace all the more. Our job is to pick them up, dust them off and then point them towards Christ again. We have to do this again and again and again. This can be discouraging at times but the key to remember is that we are not the one who is changing them but Jesus through His Spirit as we minister to them through His Word. We can easily slip into the mindset that we are sorting them out and get downhearted when they do. Remember its one step forward and three back (sometimes)!

Thirdly, we have to watch closely for lies. Those who have been addicted to drugs for a long time will be in a pattern of lying, deceiving and manipulating. They will look you straight in the face and tell you something and yet it will be a complete and utter lie. They are masters at it. One of the most painful forms of deceit is emotional manipulation. Most particularly, we need to watch out for false waterworks and the, “I haven’t got any money line.” We must, of course, help where help is needed but a lot of the time they have wasted their money on drugs and just not bothered to save enough for their food!

When we are disciplining a constant liar we need to be constantly on our guard. We need to be watching and challenging where we see lies. We also need to be teaching them that lies (even small ones) are from the devil because he is the father of lies. This is difficult sometimes because the person who is lying to you seems charming but, still, we need to see through the charm and challenge them when they are being deceitful. They will blag you over anything and we need to be firm, gracious and honest with new believers. We need to point them towards Christ and pray that God would root out their lies.

Its amazing seeing someone from a drug addicted background saved by the grace of God. But someone who has abused drugs for a long time will have a lot of baggage. We need to make sure that we point people to the amazing saving grace of Jesus at all times. We need to be patient with those we are discipling and remember that it is a long-term process. Finally, we need to watch closely for deceit and challenge our new converts to love the truth in Jesus Christ! Pray for us as we continue to disciple our newer converts that they would be transformed inside out by the grace of God!

By Andy Constable

Last week we were at a conference for gospel centred churches who are working in housing scheme/housing estate ministry. The conference was focused on the book of Titus and the main speakers did a great job at expounding it for the context of estate ministries. One of the things that struck me at the conference was Titus 1:1: “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.” Duncan Forbes spoke on this passage and made a great point that we are to explain the truths (or the doctrines) of the Bible to new believers (in fact all believers) because they lead to godliness. One of the doctrines that we need to know well is the doctrine of the Trinity and its application to believers. Here are a few things that I’ve learned about this important doctrine for our lives.

Firstly, the Trinity challenges us to be gracious people. Before the world began there was no, ‘you and me’. There was no world, no stars, no galaxies, absolutely nothing. There was simply God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit in perfect harmony, unity and love. There was perfect serenity and peace. Ed Sanders calls this the ‘Happy Land’ of the Trinity. God was happy and satisfied and needed nothing else because He was and is completely sufficient in and of Himself. And then God spoke and He created this universe and, eventually, you and me. He didn’t need to, and didn’t have to, but He did because everything is an overspill of His great love. All creation is an act of grace. Our lives are an act of absolute mercy. The world and all its fullness is not something that we deserve to have but its something that God created because of His great love. This is the very core of His character.

This grace is further shown in the fact that He then sends the eternal Son to die on the cross to buy back a people that He had originally created for his glory. The cross shows what has always been at the center of God’s character – grace. Everything we have, including our salvation, is undeserved. He doesn’t need to save us. But He chose to save us because He is gracious. This challenges me deep down. We live in a culture that is inherently self-centered. We give us little as we can away and keep as much as we can for ourselves. We are to reflect a God who is constantly giving to us by giving to those around us in time, energy, and finance.

Secondly, the Trinity challenges our individualistic society. Father, Son and Holy Spirit live in perfect harmony with one another. They are one and three, three and one. God is a community. And then God created humans to reflect this community. The Trinity says to itself in Genesis 1:26: “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” As one famous person said: “no man is an island.” We cannot live a full life without a network of relationships around us because we are wired to be in relationships. We are created with community in our DNA. In contrast, we live in a society that tries to push people away. We live highly privatised lives and try not to share too much with those around us. This has taken root in our churches. We see each other on a Sunday and a Wednesday and try to bypass people in between. And we wonder why nearly 1 in 4 people suffer with depression and isolation? In Acts 2:42 we see the model we are called to reflect as the Apostles met regularly with the people, preached, prayed and everyone shared everything with one another. The is something that challenges my way of life and the choices I make.

Thirdly, the Trinity challenges our selfish nature. The Godhead lives to serve one another and love one another. The Son is obedient to the Father and wants to bring Him glory. The Holy Spirit wants to point people towards Christ. They don’t live to serve themselves but each other. This is a challenge to a human race that looks after number one first. We sort ourselves out first and make sure we are all right but Father, Son and Holy Spirit are other centered. They are all co-eternal and co-equal. Think about this verse from the gospel of John (chapter 17) when Jesus prays to the Father: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Now think about the conversations that we have everyday. We want respect. We want glory. We want adoration. We want to serve ourselves. But Jesus Christ came to earth and wanted to glorify His Father and carry out the work that He had been given before the world even began! God’s very nature challenges us to serve and to not look to our own interests first. God’s very nature challenges us to bring Him glory alone!

The Trinity is a complex subject but at the heart of understanding as much as we can, there are deep truths that we can use to apply to our lives. Let us continue to study God’s very nature not simply so that we can know God but so that we can reflect His character in our lives. He is a gracious God who calls us to be gracious people. He is a communal God who calls us to live in community. And He is a selfless God who challenges us to be selfless people. These doctrines can change churches and housing schemes and nations.

By Andy Constable

One of the words that is dirty among the newer generation of Christians is the word ‘doctrine’. Christians of my generation think that doctrine hinders our ‘worship’ of God rather than helps. Doctrine is something that we don’t have to think about because worship is more about our experience of God with our emotions than what we think about with our minds. However, the Bible is very clear that doctrine is very important. Here are some reasons why.

Firstly, God cares about the truth. God calls us to love the truth about him in 2 Thessalonians 2:10. Jesus says that the truth will set us free in John 14:6.  God wants everyone to come to a knowledge of the truth in 1 Timothy 2:4. God reveals his wrath against those who suppress the truth in Romans 1:18. And Jesus says that he will send the spirit of truth to us in John 16:13. Therefore, God deeply cares how we view him and how we worship him. This is where doctrine helps us out. It helps us get a grasp on biblical truth and how God wants us to see him. Without doctrine we would simply create a God that matches the idols of our hearts and not the truth about him.

Further, everyone has a doctrine whether they consciously think about it or not. The word doctrine literally means ‘what is taught’. It is the set of beliefs that a person (or a church) holds on who God is and what he is like. Every person is forming a view of God as they understand it and by necessity teach others because people are constantly sharing their views about God with people around them. Everyone has a doctrine and so it’s deeply important that we think about how we are portraying God to those around us.

Secondly, if everyone has a doctrine then surely it’s important to have good doctrine. Paul writes to Titus: “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” Paul encourages Timothy to be very careful what he teaches others about God. He says refute false teachers and encourage others by sound doctrine. How can we have good doctrine? We need to study God’s perfect and infallible Word. This brings in another word that is dirty these days and that is ‘study’. It takes disciplined and patient study to grasp the truths about God. The problem is that we live in the ‘McDonalds generation’. We want a life changing devotion in 15 minutes everyday. We open our Bibles and get bored when nothing grips us after 2 paragraphs. But, disciplined study is good and helps us build good doctrine that honours the Lord.

Thirdly, our emotional experiences are wasted unless they are based on biblical truth. Regardless of what we think or feel, there is not authentic worship of God without a right knowledge of God. As John Piper writes: “The apex of glorifying God is enjoying him with the heart. But this is an empty emotionalism where that joy is not awakened and sustained by true views of God for who he really is.” God is to be honoured as he is revealed to us in scripture. If the truth of God from his word isn’t driving your worship then you are worshipping another god with your emotions. It is wasted energy and doesn’t bring glory to the Lord.

Then there are those who love doctrine more than God. They use it to boost their intellect and don’t allow it to impact their hearts. What I mean by that is that the knowledge of God doesn’t move their souls towards a greater love of Christ. This is very dangerous because those who love doctrine as an end in itself become self-righteous and disconnected from God emotionally. We are to worship God with our hearts and minds. Anything that we learn about God should fuel us to love God more and glorify him with our lives. When you look at the Apostles in Acts they were men who knew God’s Word very well. They taught the people the Old Testament and the truth that it points people to Christ. They knew their theology and doctrine and that set them on fire to share the gospel and glorify God with their lives.

The goal of revelation from God’s word is to change our lives. Religion through doctrine won’t change your life. It can command us to love God but only the truth of the gospel of grace set on fire by the spirit of God can change our hearts to love righteousness. We are to have doctrinal depth but revival happens as people are set on fire by these truths. We need to feel them in the very core of our souls and this causes us to love Christ more than anything else in our worship. Don’t reduce doctrine to just your minds but allow it to affect your hearts! Tim Keller writes this:

If we don’t find that our affections have been moved away from earthly idols toward God, we haven’t worshipped….if I leave Sunday mornings having had no emotional connection whatsoever, I haven’t worshipped. I must allow my heart to be touched to worship.”

In conclusion, doctrine is very important to God because he cares about the truth, and commands us to care about it also. Every person has a belief about God and the Bible is clear that we need to have good doctrine in order to worship God with mind, heart and soul. Our emotional experiences will be empty unless they are sustained by true views of God. Therefore, let doctrine fuel your worship AND let the truth about God set you on fire to treasure God more than anything else!

by Andy Constable

I am very privileged to work in an environment that is gospel focused. I came onto the Niddrie team 2 years ago and one of the reasons for doing so was because Mez’s vision was and is to bring the gospel to bear in his life, the life of the church and into the community of Niddrie. I haven’t had to build a gospel community because the building blocks were already in place when I came and God was and still is blessing and using that gospel vision. Here are some things that I have learned that are key to building this sort of gospel community.

Gospel Centred Leaders. If you want to build a gospel community then the leaders driving that vision must be gospel centred. Leaders as much, probably more, than anybody else in the church need to live and breathe the gospel. This means that leaders need to preach the gospel to themselves each and everyday. The gospel is what excites them. The gospel is what drives them. If a leader isn’t gospel focused then they will either burn out or build a community that is religious. As leaders we need to guard our souls and make sure that we remind ourselves daily that we are not justified by the amount of work we do, the amount of meetings we attend, how good our sermons are or how nice we are to our congregation, but by the blood of the lamb. We are justified by the good news that on the cross Christ bore the punishment for us and died the death we deserved to bring us to God.

Gospel Centred Preaching. If a leader is gospel centred then by necessity their preaching should be gospel centred to. The Bible is one big story unfolding God’s redemption story culminating in Jesus Christ. This means that all of scripture points to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We need to set the agenda for our vision by preaching the gospel from the pulpit. We do not want a congregation who are little law abiders but have no deep change in their hearts. But we want people who are being changed daily by the grace of God. We want a people who are recognising their sin daily and their need for repentance but also a people who know the love of God shown to them in Jesus Christ deeply and intimately. We set the agenda through our preaching and it must be gospel centred. The gospel is not just for non-Christians but for Christians too. As Tim Keller reminds us “the gospel isn’t just the the ABC of the Bible but the A through Z.”

Gospel Centred Evangelism. If we are preaching the gospel to ourselves and to our church then, by necessity, our evangelism will be gospel centred as well. We need to proclaim to all we meet that there is judgment to come unless people repent and believe the good news. We need to proclaim this good news with sorrow in our hearts for those who are perishing but also with great joy because it is good news! Many Christians are not set on fire by the good news of Jesus Christ and so find it hard to get excited about the gospel. But it is good news to those who believe. It liberates the captives and is the only way to salvation!

Gospel Centred Discipleship. It is easy, particularly in schemes, to preach the gospel and then give people a whole load of laws to follow after. For example with a drug addict we can slip into legalism by sharing that they are saved through Jesus Christ and then give them plan x, y and z to get off their drugs. We want to be very careful that those who come to Christ are then counselled through the gospel. I really recommend CCEF material here as they are gospel saturated in their counselling approach. We must remind ourselves that it is the gospel that brings us to Christ and then continues to transform us. It is the only thing that can truly transform our hearts. If we teach people gospel + legalism then we will create a lot of self-righteous disciples. Eugene Peterson calls these Christians iatrogenic* disciples. They come in with one problem like drugs but then they pick up another – self-righteousness. They go around thinking that because they have come off their addiction that they are suddenly better than everybody else. They become legalists. If we want to build a gospel centred community then our counselling needs to be gospel centred to.

Gospel Centred Fellowship. The gospel should characterize us when we meet socially as well. If we want to build a gospel church then we need to spend concerted effort getting to know each other. Too many churches meet on a Sunday and Wednesday and then don’t see each other between. The early church was characterised by praying together regularly and sharing everything they had so that no-one is in need. When did we turn community into this individualised thing where we never meet! If we are gospel focused then we should meet regularly and share fellowship because we love Jesus and we love each other. This again is something that can’t be forced by telling everyone from the front to have fun and hang out with each other. This is something that happens organically as barriers are broken through the gospel and as leaders model it. We should not be scared to meet socially and hang out and have fun. We are a community of sinners who have been saved by the grace of God and are called to love each other. This happens as we spend time with people’s families and in people’s homes.

I am encouraged at Niddrie because I am seeing these elements worked out in the life of the church. We are seeing people come to Christ. We are seeing people having their lives changed. We are seeing a greater sense of community as people move into the area and get to know each other. This is not our work but God’s of course but he blesses the foundation of the gospel that is being preached and lived. Pray that we would continue to hold dear to the gospel in Niddrie and that this would continue to build a community that reflects the church that God’s wants us to be.

*this is a medical term describing people who come into hospital to get sorted for one problem and then pick up another problem while they are there e.g. MRI virus!

By Andy Constable

It can be tough working and living in a scheme at the same time. There are the ‘normal’ ministerial pressures like preparing sermons, counselling and driving the vision of the church forward. And then there are the added stresses like reaching out to the people on the scheme and discipling new converts from very difficult backgrounds. It can be even more intensive because if you never leave the place you work and minister, family and friends become one big melting pot. In the midst of the stresses, pressures and intensity it can be easy to collapse beneath the weight of it all if we aren’t careful. I’ve been learning the hard way in recent months as I’ve felt the tiredness kick in emotionally, spiritually and physically. It goes without saying that we need to guard our souls but what are some other practical things that we can do. Here are 5 things I’ve learned.

Firstly, find time to rest from work and do things that help you relax. As leaders we can often feel guilty taking time off. I know in my time working on schemes in the last 3 years that I’ve felt unjustified in taking days to rest. This was driven by a constant desire to justify my existence and ministry. I needed to repent of that and remember that I am saved by faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone. We are not capable of being self-sufficient and need to rely on the grace of God. We need to find a sensible rhythm of work and rest. I recently went through a period when all my nights were filled with some sort of ministry and so I decided to take a step back from some of these things. This has been great for reducing my stress levels as I am able to chill and get my head together every now and then! Remember we are no good to those around us if we are spiritually tired. So take times to rest!

Secondly, we need to learn to spread the work. Some ministers put so much pressure on themselves to be at every single thing the church puts on. They think that without them that the church will collapse. However, we need to learn to delegate responsibilities. We are in charge of driving the vision of the church forward but that doesn’t mean we have to do everything. By delegating we are able to reduce stress and also bless others by allowing them to use their gifts to serve the Lord. Do not think that you are superman and that you have to do everything! Again this drive to be involved with everything the church puts on is often driven by self-justification or pride. We need to be humble and trust the Lord.

Thirdly, its good to meet up with friends who have nothing to do with our churches. This is great because outside friends give you perspective. When you are living in the place you work it can be very easy to become introspective and forget that there is an outside world. One of the things I’ve found helpful is meeting up with friends away from church and the community because it helps you to remember that you are a person (and not just a leader) and also reminds you that there is a world around you with needs and concerns. Sometimes, just having a laugh with friends is a tonic for our souls and gives us the impetus to keep going.

Fourthly, take time to exercise. Its scientifically proven that sport of any kind helps release endorphins that make us happy! To use the old cliché, ‘healthy body, means healthy mind!’ When you are feeling like work is getting on top of you take time to work your body and don’t get lazy.

Finally, take time to read. Reading keeps our minds stimulated and fresh. Reading gives us perspective and spiritual encouragement. I find it really difficult to put this into practice so I have a reading plan for the next 6 months so that I’m working through a variety of books covering different topics. This helps me move through books systematically and will keep me focused.

If we want to be leaders in schemes for the long haul then we need to think through practically  how we are going to do this. These are some of the things that I’ve found helpful – reading, exercising, resting, hanging with friends and delegating jobs. Please pray for us as we continue to work in Niddrie and please think about how you are going to survive working long term in a very stressful environment.

By Andy Constable

This week I was privileged to attend the Acts29WE conference in London. Mez is going to write a report on what he learned from the main sessions, but I thought I would share one of the seminars that I attended on ‘engaging with Muslims’. It was taken by J.D. Greear who spent 2 years planting a church in Indonesia (a place that is 99% Islamic) and now has a church in America but continues to engage Muslims where he lives. The seminar was informative, insightful and J.D.’s burden for the Islamic world really was there for all to see.

The talk was split into five parts. Firstly, why this issues matters. Secondly, reviewing some of the primary obstacles to Muslims coming to faith in Christ. Thirdly, contextualising the gospel. Fourthly, how Muslims come to faith and, finally, the challenge and the hope of this mission field. I will go through each point and bring out the main themes.

I. Why does engaging with Muslims matter?

J.D. began by sharing with us that there are 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide. They make up 50% of the 6600 unreached people groups, meaning 1 out of every 3 unbelievers is Muslim! This is, therefore, a global issue and needs to be thought about by Christians. If we are concerned by the state of people’s souls then, by necessity, the Muslims should be on our heart as there are so many. He also said that there has been a major revival in every age since Christ came (Romans, Catholics, Buddhists, Communists) but there is yet to be one amongst the Islamic people. J.D. said that he wanted to be there when God does something great amongst this people group and he believes firmly that God is going to sweep across the Islamic world.

II. Primary obstacles to Muslims coming to faith in Christ

J.D. explained to us some of the primary obstacles to Muslims coming to faith in Christ. This he split into three areas – doctrinal confusion, misconceptions about Christians and costliness.

1. Doctrinal confusion

There are three major areas of doctrinal confusion:

A. Muslims think that Christians worship three gods because of our belief in the Trinity. The Koran is very clear that there is only one God and Allah teaches them to worship only him. The whole concept of the Trinity therefore baffles the Muslim. The way to overcome this obstacle is by insisting that we only worship one God and to show horror that they would think we worship 3. We believe in one God in three persons. This needs to be explained with great nuance. J.D. said a great example of how to explain the Trinity to a Muslim is to use an example given by Bishop Timothy 1st to a Muslim Caliph in the first recorded apologetic between a Christian and a Muslim. Timothy said that the Father is like the mind that conceives a thought, the Word (Jesus) the expression of the thought, and the Spirit the voice that carries the voice along. All three are separate in person but essentially one. J.D. said that this was a particularly good analogy for Muslims because they are already familiar with the title “Word” for Jesus as the Koran calls Jesus just that.

B. Muslims have a deep respect for the Bible and count the Law, the Prophets and the New Testament as part of their holy books. However, it is widely thought amongst Muslims that the Bible has been corrupted and that it has changed over the years. We can challenge this misconception on 2 fronts. Firstly, we can prove historically that the New Testament Mohammad pointed Muslims toward is essentially the same one we use today. Secondly, we can point to the many places in scripture where God has promised to keep his word (Psalm 119:89: Isaiah 55:11; Matt 5:18). A Muslim again has a deep respect for God’s word and so would respect this.

C. Muslims contest the doctrine of penal substitution and see it as immoral and illogical. The Koran states that it is impossible for a person to bear the sins of another. They also think that God does not need a sacrifice to be able to forgive sins. They say that Allah’s mercy is able to forgive any sin without the need of a sacrifice. The whole notion of a vicarious atonement makes no sense within the Muslim worldview. J.D. said that we need to spend time thinking through why penal substitution is logical but also find other ways to explain why Jesus had to die.

2. Misconceptions about Christianity

A lot of Muslims simply have a warped view of Christianity. They look at television programmes and see rappers with crosses all over them, or Madonna and any host of pop stars and they immediately think that Christianity is corrupt. J.D. told a funny story about a girl who came to him in Indonesia and asked him if he could throw her a Christian party. J.D. replied: ‘what do you mean?’ and she said “well Muslim parties are boring, we all just sit in a room together, but I want a Christian party where you listen to gangster rap and grind up against each other.”

Another problem is that Muslims think that Christianity and the West are synonymous. In their culture the whole concept of splitting religion and state is alien. Allah produces the law and the citizens obey it. All they see of the West is the wars that they wage against Muslims and so they think that the Christian God has told them to do this. So you have to put patriotism to the side and look to God’s Word.

3. The costliness of conversion

The apostate law is a living reality in Islamic cultures. If you turn to Christ then you will be at the least ostracised from your family and community and, at worst, killed. It costs you everything to follow Jesus. J.D. said that Islam is like being imprisoned. You can’t even change if you want because of social and cultural pressures.

III. Contextualizing the gospel

There are 2 areas that J.D. touched on here:

A. J.D. said that in the West when we share the gospel there are three words that we focus on – formula, forgiveness and death – and that we should look to replace these words to contextualise the gospel better. He said that in the West we like to have a logical, formulaic presentation of the gospel, whereas with the Muslim the use of story can be far more effective. Islamic culture is very similar to Jesus’ time and so the use of parables and stories works far more effectively. We also focus on the forgiveness found in Christ (which he said is of course right). However, due to their concept of Allah forgiving without substitution, it’s often better to talk about cleansing. He said that they make the connection far better. Finally, instead of focusing on the death of Jesus, we should focus on the resurrection of Christ. He said that we don’t, of course, shy away from the death of Christ. Rather we put the death of Christ in the context of the resurrection and the victory that God has over death. Muslims see Jesus dying on the cross as impossible for God to do and makes him look weak. We know that the resurrection shows God’s power over sin and death.

B. The second area that we need to focus on is the grace of God. J.D. said that Islam is the ultimate religion of works/righteousness. This is extremely oppressing and gives a person no assurance at all. It is widely reported that even Mohammad himself admitted to one of his closest general that he wasn’t sure if he would end up in paradise. If he was unsure, then where does that leave the average Muslim? The gospel is the complete opposite. We can have assurance of salvation not because of our good works, but because of Christ’s perfect sacrifice. Religion leads you to question your salvation, but grace gives us assurance. We need to focus on the gospel!

IV. How Muslims come to faith in Christ?

J.D. said there were three ways that the Holy Spirit seems to use to bring people to Christ. The first is through the Word of God. Many Muslims want to study the Bible because it is one of their holy books, but they don’t have anyone to explain it to them. This can be a big way in for Christians and J.D. said that many of those who came to Christ in Indonesia came through reading Genesis. Secondly, Muslim’s to come to Christ after being exposed to Christian community. Much of Islamic culture is based on shame whereas the Christian community ought to be distinctly marked by grace. If Muslims can be exposed to Christian families then this can be a great way in. Thirdly, J.D. can tell many stories of people who have been visited by a supernatural dream or vision.

V. The challenge and the hope

The Islamic world seems like a very hostile place for the gospel. However J.D. reminded us that the power of God can break through any culture (Ro. 1:16ff). God promised Abraham that he would have children from every nation and so we await the day when the gospel breaks through in the Islamic world like wildfire. However, it will happen at the cost of the church. Whenever any major breakthrough in the church has happened, it has occurred through times of great persecution. J.D. reminded us from the Bible that it was ordinary people that took the message of the gospel through the Roman world and he thinks that this will be the same means that God uses to reach this culture.

This seminar by J.D. reminded me to pray about the Islamic world and to think about whether I am called to go there. For now I am to share the gospel with the Muslims on this estate (and we need to find ways at being better at doing this). But, we should be praying and interceding for the millions of Muslims who are perishing without the gospel. If you want to find out more on this subject then J.D. Greear has a book entitled, “Breaking the Islam Code” which will provide a fuller explanation of some of these issues. For now, we press on with a growing Muslim population in Niddrie and we are praying for opportunities to serve Christ by loving them and bringing the true gospel of hope and salvation into their lives.