Archive for the ‘Websites’ Category

Happy New Year to one and all! Can I start off my thanking those of you who take the time to log in and read some of my thoughts from time to time. I am constantly amazed at the numbers who read this blog from around the globe. It is with this in mind, alongside the launch of 20schemes, that this will be my last week blogging as Niddrie Pastor. I will leave this site active as a place to log on and find archives but, as of the 7th January, I will be blogging from my 20schemes site. I will keep you posted over the next week as I make the change. Can I encourage those of you who subscribe to the site to consider following me over to this new site. Thanks so much!

Now, the blogosphere is awash with reading plans for 2013 and, perhaps, the most comprehensive can be found on The Gospel Coalition website. Please click on the link here to find reading plans galore! There is also a great blog post form Matt Smethurst on the dangers of being sucked into Bible reading Plans with the wrong motivations. Worth a read here.

The Ligonier blog always comes up with the goods! Happy hunting for various plans here.

The 19th Century Scottish minister, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, (sometimes spelled McCheyne) who lived from 1813-1843, prepared a plan for Bible reading to take readers through the New Testament and Psalms twice a year, and through the rest of the Bible once each year. His plans can be accessed easily here.

Tim Chester has some great words of advice on his blog and his reading plan(s) can be accessed here. What I like about Tim’s is that it has a communal element to it (although to be honest every plan could be communal if you wanted it to). Worth a quick look though.

For a helpful perspective on the whole reading plan thing, Garrett Kell offers some honest and wise words on his provocatively entitled blog post, “Why I Plan To Read Less Of The Bible This year”. Check it out here.

My own personal plan is snappily called: Professor Grant Horner’s Bible reading System. Google it or you will find it on most of the blog sites above. I have been using the system throughout 2012. Basically, I read 10 chapters a day from various parts of the Bible. I have worked out that I have read the entire Bible at least 3 and a half times this past year. That’s probably more than I did in the whole of the previous 5 years! I admit that the early weeks were a struggle but, with perseverance, I managed to stick to the plan with amazing ease. I have found it particularly helpful to be able to download the plan onto my iPhone. You can download that here. As usual, the great Tim Challies has produced a list of resources to go along with the plan. These can be found here. Finally, for mutual encouragement and accountability you can access the Facebook page here.

No, it hasn’t made me Godlier or holier and no I don’t think Jesus likes me better than  people who’ve struggled through their devotions this year. At times it has been a chore but after the first few weeks I really got into the groove. Now, I didn’t use it devotionally but instead just read the chapters through at normal reading speed. Like a spiritual shower if you will! Besides this reading I followed my own personal, spiritual routine which enabled me to soak a little longer in the bath! I just found the habit of constantly reading scripture daily nice – that’s all. What I found helpful, particularly when I went through a spiritual ‘dry patch’ in terms of my own devotions, was that I was at least reading huge chunks of scripture as a matter of coarse even when I didn’t really feel like it. Make of that what you will but the point is my head was in the Bible rather than in the TV when I was having some tough times. Remember our faith rests in Christ and not on how we do in these things. Let’s all guard our hearts and watch our motivations.

I hope that we will all grow in truth and grace in 2013 as we wait for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As you can tell I am using lots of video fillers for the Christmas season. Tomorrow I will start the countdown on my top 3 blog posts of 2012 (statistically). Then, early in the New Year I will be leaving this blog and starting over at www.20schemes.com. However, I will give plenty of notice about this and hope that all of my followers and subscribers make the move with me!

I cam across this resource some time ago. They are definitely worth checking out but I can’t claim to give 100% backing to them because I haven’t watched them. However, worth checking out as a potential resource.

http://www.bradhambrick.com/griefseminar

About 5 years ago, in response to the countless Christmas Family Newsletters we receive each year, we began our own ‘alternative’ version. It was partly due to my irritation at being told how good ‘Rupert’ was at the trombone now or how ‘Felicity’ had been voted the ‘Best Drawer In A Decade’ at the local infant school. That accompanied with said children in various poses around the piano or with a book of sonnets tucked under their arm made me want to vomit (a lot). So, I produced my own version. Oddly, over the years, the amount of Newsletters we receive has dropped off considerably! Also, without fail, every year I will get at least one email from somebody congratulating me on the amazing exploits of my family! So, what’s true and what’s false? You decide. I will give you a clue though. I do not know anybody with children called Rupert or Felicity! Enjoy this year’s offering.

McConnell Christmas Newsletter 2012

Seasons Greetings Campers!

Miriam and I have discussed in-depth this year about how we ought to be wording these yearly updates. It seems that some people are intimidated and have even been offended by the content of previous years. We can only sincerely apologise if that has been the case. So, in order to assuage these individuals, and to show just how considerate we are, we have decided not to include a family photo this year. This is so our friends, particularly those with ugly children, are not embarrassed by the shining beauty of our glorious offspring. That’s the sort of love and Christmas spirit we are bringing to the table this year! And what a year it has been in the McConnell household. Thrills and spills galore. Strap yourselves in and get ready for the ride of your Christmas season.

Yes, it is that time of year when, once again, we McConnell’s bring a little colour into the drab, greyness of your uninteresting, sad, little lives. We hope you enjoy!

What news of the Girls?

Keziah has grown up ever so quickly this year and had the opportunity to enter university early, at the age of 11. We were somewhat miffed at the slowness of her educational development but she has assured us she will apply herself better in the coming year. We are currently investigating courses for her in trumpeting. At the moment we are deciding over Cambridge, Oxford or Harvard. She is being swayed by the latter’s course on Intellectual Renaissance History. We have no idea what it means but a degree with the word intellectual in it sound almost too good to pass up. Obviously, we will keep you all fully informed. Even if your own child is not as gifted as ours, and it is highly unlikely, fear not for you can live vicariously through our own supremely gifted progeny.

Lydia has developed a keen interest in environmental issues this year. She has taken to sleeping on a bed made entirely of hay rather than a bed ‘manufactured in factories that don’t adhere strictly to the Kyoto Treaty guidelines’ (her words, the little poppet). She has also decided to live off food that has only fallen naturally to the ground and been captured on a bed of duck feathers, so as to minimise the suffering of her personal sustenance. Also, this year, we took her for an IQ test this year and, sadly, they were unable to give us a fair indication because she was, quote, ‘off the scale’. Perhaps the favourite answer she gave during her interview came out when asked what, if any, unfulfilled ambition she has. ‘To write a mould breaking, genre-busting and philosophically world shattering series of novels.’ It’s that complete lack of pretension that constantly brings a tear to my eye.

What news of the adults?

Miriam continues to blossom, under the headship of Mez, like a Rose planted in a bucket of the finest manure. This year she entered the UK National Crochet Championships and initially finished second. Thankfully – and to avoid the shame of being tagged a ‘loser’– our complaint about the legitimacy of the other competitor’s ‘Granny Square’ was upheld and she was awarded the first prize. You should have seen the look on the face of the lady who was disqualified – it was priceless – especially when we tipped her out of her wheelchair and did a victory dance in front of her tear stained face. It was certainly a highlight of our year! We also gave each of the other competitors a tract on the meaning of grace. Many of them looked like they could have done with some – talk about sore losers!

Mez was approached this year to play a part in the upcoming Hobbit trilogy. Unfortunately, he failed on his audition as a dwarf (too short, apparently). They informed him, in writing, that they will keep him on file should The Smurfs ever make it to the big screen.

Serious Stuff

It’s been a particularly busy year for the church. We have recently seen 10 baptisms and have more planned for early next year. God has been so good to NCC and we are immensely thankful to Him for all He is doing here. One of these was Keziah who has really been growing in her faith in the last year. Lydia has decided to wait a while to make sure that she is really ready.

We have also launched a new ministry in the church – 20 schemes (www.20schemes.com). We also have a facebook page – please like us on there if you can. This is a ministry dedicated to planting and/or revitalising gospel churches in 20 housing schemes in Scotland over the next 10 years. We are operating in partnership with Bardstown Christian Fellowship in Kentucky, under the leadership of Matthew Spandler-Davison. Please check us out online and pray for us in this new venture. Anybody who would like to support this work financially can contact me at mez@niddrie.org.

We have seen a number of people come to faith throughout the year and, thankfully, all of them seem to be going strong. JRH is full to capacity with 4 men most of whom having been saved out of drug and crime backgrounds. Their testimonies are available to watch at www.niddriepastor.com. Please continue to pray for our work in the community and for our very busy Christmas outreach programmes.

Can I wish you all a great and restful Christmas and a Happy New year!

Mez Miriam Keziah & Lydia.

I haven’t posted to ‘Ordinary Pastor‘ (one of my favourite blogs) for a long while. So, here you go! A mini series on church planting. Enjoy it here.

Note: Re-posting doesn’t always mean 100% agreement. 🙂

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.

I have been away in the US for the launch of 20 schemes and so I have been a bit disorganised with my posts.  Tomorrow, I hope to post a review of my trip overseas. But, for today, I will link to two posts that struck me for different reasons.

John Stevens link here.

A really helpful (and in-depth) article on the gay marriage debate. Please take the time to read it because it has serious implications for all of us who take the Bible as the full and authoritative word of God.

Telegraph Article here.

Not a Christian response but a fascinating insight into the mind of our secular culture.

Another great resource from 9Marks as Mark Dever delivers a sermon on the requirements for pastoral office. Download it here.

I was encouraged to see Thabiti Anyabwile give a shout out to the work of 20Schemes on his blog recently. Check it out here. We are praying for a new wave of gospel workers and church planters to come and help us establish healthy, gospel centred churches in Scotland’s housing schemes.

I came across this site recently and wondered if it may be helpful for those of us who work with people who have little or no reading ability. Worth checking out here.