Posts Tagged ‘evangelism’

As voted for by you, the viewing public.

Right, let me get something straight right off the bat. I am not a conference junkie! It just so happened that I squeezed in these 3 during a manic 2 week period. In fact, this is the most conferences I have been to in 10 years! I do not usually like these things. I hate the crowds and the whole “famous speaker” thing but this can usually be offset by a decent book stall!

T4G

This conference was in Louisville, Kentucky and I was the guest of my friends at 9Marks. Some observations:

1. It was huge, almost 8000 people I think. That made it both good and bad. Bad in that it did feel a little impersonal and good that it was so powerful when we were all standing together singing some great hymns. It was such a powerful experience praising God with so many other people in one place.

2. Of the 9 main session: 3 were outstanding, 2 were good, 2 were OK and 2 were a disappointment (ironically, from the 2 speakers I was most looking forward to). As models for exegetical preaching, most of the talkers were poor but, as inspirational speakers, they were generally very good. I found the seminars and talking head things to be generally OK (ish), although they talked about issues which I feel are old hat for us in the UK (or maybe that’s just me). The one on famous pastors, particularly, (ironically chaired by famous pastors and even the guy against is famous for being anti famous) was bemusing to say the least. I think this part was weakened by the fact that every speaker (particularly CJ Mahaney) spent at least 10 minutes introducing each main session speaker by telling us why so and so was “the single greatest influence in my life as a believer and/or is perhaps the greatest treasure to the church today” or words to that effect. I don’t know if it is my European nature but I found this toe curlingly horrible.

3. It was brilliantly organised and there was a seamlessness to the event despite the huge numbers. Amazingly, it did not feel overcrowded at any point. All of the stewards were helpful and cheerful. The free book store was a brilliant idea and there was a massive selection of books to choose from. I only bought 1 because they gave so many quality ones away! I did find some of the stalls confusing. For instance there was a Gospel Coalition stall there which didn’t seem to do anything other than be a meeting place for painfully cool twenty somethings. I saw the odd person being interviewed but was otherwise mystified to its purpose. Other stalls were much clearer in handing out literature and promoting some of their work. Free sweets always works for me incidentally!

4. There was a great 2 day meeting afterwards at Southern Seminary. It was a retreat for pastors who had been invited by 9marks. I found that intense and immensely encouraging and enlightening. These are some Godly, friendly men and I have a real affinity and love for them. The way they invited feedback on the whole conference was a real example of humble leadership and wanting to learn. I bought myself a nodding Al Mohler doll for my shelf of tat at home (he sits alongside Obama) from the amazing on site book shop. The seminary just cracked me up. I noticed they had sold out to satan by allowing a Starbucks to sell their products in the place! It was a sort of theological Disneyworld with Al living in the princesses palace. His gaff seemed a little bit OTT for me!

Mark Dever and the 9marks team are just so open and generous with their time and resources. Truly amazing.

City2City

I have gotten involved with this group largely through a friendship with a guy called Al Barth. I also spent 5 weeks at Redeemer last year doing an intensive training programme for church planters. This particular set of meetings was for ‘network leaders’ from around the globe (sounds so grandiose when you say it like that)! Some observations:

1. I am still uncertain of the point of the event. It not really made clear (to me).

2. There were people from around the world and that was a good thing (in terms of shared ideas).

3. I felt some of the sessions were nothing more than psycho babble, business speak, seminar type things. One guy talked about having a crap-ometer and mine was in overdrive at certain points during the two days (and, ironically, particularly during his session).

4. Tim Keller, Al Barth and a couple of other people (one on prayer stood out) were on the money and spoke with a real authority and a distinct clarity. It was worth coming for that. The rest felt somewhat fragmented and lacking in cohesion. I observed that Tim pretty much disappeared straight away and I find him and some of his team strangely less accessible than Mark Dever and the 9marks staff.

5. It seemed very “American” in its “how to approaches”. In other words, much of what was presented would be a struggle to contextualise into Europe. Certainly, their heavy reliance on corporate models of church and leadership structures does not carry into our British types of churches (the majority at least).

7. The Bible was not really opened and expounded upon enough for my liking. It seemed to lack real theological foundation and punch. Maybe this was because this was not the purpose of the meeting? However, I would expect a room full of church planters from around the globe to get at it with the Word more. Very rarely was Christ and the gospel mentioned and certainly not really from the front.

8. I found it a more helpful trip in terms of establishing my relationship with a fellow gospel worker from Edinburgh, Neil Macmillan. We got to spend time together, (he got offered hookers and coke outside our hotel – always amusing), and we had many opportunities to talk about a vision for supporting church planters of all stripes in our city. That was perhaps the single biggest benefit of the time away for me. I also got to meet a couple of impressive men in the UK, not least of whom is a man called Neil Powell involved in Birmingham 2020.

9. The time away helped crystalise some thoughts about what’s next for me in my ministry and life.

Acts29We

To be frank, this was the one I could have done without. I was exhausted from my US trip (I was back a day and a half before heading to London) and only went along to do a seminar out of respect for Steve Timmis (and because I had made a prior commitment). If I’m really honest, I am not a big Acts29 fan in terms of all the machismo that sometimes come out of the US with this movement (cage fighting and beer drinking etc). I don’t find any of that stuff to be helpful in my context at all. I see the point that men need to be men (and not the feminised girly boys that mark so much of middle class Christianity in the UK) but at the same time I am trying to get guys to stop drinking (as much) and to see “being a man” as taking responsibility for their kids, not beating their girlfriends and/or spending their rent money on beer/drugs. Anyway, I digress. Some observations:

1. Straight off the bat it was gospel centred and it was gospel all the way.

2. The main preaching (I say this instead of ‘speaking’) sessions taken by JD Greear were on the money. By that I mean they were biblical, faithful to the texts and contextually applied to a European audience. This was a man who had done some homework and sought to engage cross culturally. He showed a great deal of humility in wanting to engage with us and not just turning up for the gig before being ushered out the door by his “personal aid” (other “speakers” take note).

3. The leading of the music by a couple of guys from Sojourn was profoundly biblical and extremely reverently done. I am not sure why it couldn’t have been done by someone from Europe but, regardless, outstanding and an example to any and all worship leaders (scrap that, everybody) in attendance.

4. The first day seemed to contain one too many sessions and I found the last speaker on the first day unnecessary in terms of what he had to say and how it fitted in with the overall message of the conference. Maybe I was tired but it didn’t resonate with me and those I was with. I think perhaps the problem was that Steve and JD can preach and, unfortunately, the gentleman concerned isn’t particularly gifted (in my opinion) to the same level (if at all).

5. As an outsider to Acts29WE I didn’t feel that I was given a full explanation of what they are about early on. I think there was a lot of assumption there and their 4 major principles could have been explained more clearly. I know there was a session on this somewhere but I got waylaid by people wanting to talk to me and missed it. Not the fault of the conference, but I would have appreciated this being explained in a session right at the opening of the couple of days so as to set the scene. As it was, Dai Hankey gave me a very good summary at lunch.

6. I am still unsure as to whom Steve Timmis is accountable in this movement. Who decides direction and strategy? Who keeps him from wandering off track? I am assuming his elders at TCH but how this will develop practically on the ground as this movement explodes (and it will) will be interesting. At the moment this looks like a movement largely bringing in those who are already planting churches, so it will be interesting to see how it develops as this first generation begins to birth them. I could smell the potential in the room and he is going to need a lot of support and prayer.

7. I found the seminar I attended to be pretty naff. The guy involved was from the states (a mistake I think) who used lots of illustrations that practically nobody in the room could relate to (he took a survey before ploughing on regardless). Many around me were playing on mobile phones or doing something else on computers. When I leaned in to the guy next to me and asked if he knew what was happening he just gave a resigned shrug. One guy at lunch said it “wasn’t the most helpful” thing he’d heard on the subject (posh speak for crap). It was a bit of a wayward presentation which didn’t seem to have any real connection in terms of application to the UK and/or European scene. I understood where he was trying to go philosophically but I didn’t really care how “Tinkerbell” fitted in to an overarching redemptive metanarrative! This space could have been used far more effectively for a seminar on Porterbrook, for example (see point 9).

8. The American contingent were extremely Godly, helpful, humble and insightful throughout the 2 days. They were a great example to some of their fellow countrymen who can sometimes present themselves in the opposite light when dealing with other cultures. I think Steve Timmis chose very wisely in this and, again, only strengthens my view that he is the right man for this type of movement from a European perspective.

9. The Porterbrook teaching material was there at a table but I felt it could/should have been given more prominence (there was a short talk given but it could have been clearer). There were some good interviews with planters and maybe an interview with someone using the material and how it has benefitted them would have been really helpful. This is a great tool for those of us trying to plant and train planters and I thought it deserved to be pushed more.

10. The interview(s) procedure(s) got various feedback. One of my friends found the chat intimate, friendly and helpful and another found it adversarial, aggressive and a bit hostile. Yet another, somewhere in the middle. It seemed to depend on “who you got” (and, to be fair, what stage you were at – all 3 were at different stages). As a person looking to perhaps join the network as a partner, I am not sure about this method (is there some universal questions to follow or is it more ‘organic’? – I suspect it is the latter given the feedback. I may be wrong!) and it’s purpose. It made me a little uneasy and hesitant to continue the process (more so for my shy wife than myself!).

11. Without doubt I would give the Acts29WE conference 11/10. I would have liked it to have gone on for more days and I left greatly energised and encouraged by God’s Word and the presence of so many planters out there with big dreams, battling in hard places. Steve and his team are to be congratulated for this.

In summary, T4G was a great experience. The pastors retreat afterwards was truly excellent. I love spending time with Mark Dever and his people. He is just such a great and supportive man. City2City was OK but often baffling. However, it gave me time to review what I was doing and the direction of my own ministry. Acts29WE was immensely encouraging and without doubt Steve Timmis will do the business. He is definitely the right man for the job. There were some great men there battling away in difficult places and it was a real pleasure and a privilege to get an invite. This is a movement that is going to grow and it will only be good for our continent and for the glory and fame of the Lord Jesus Christ. I would say that I left it with a confidence that Acts29 may have hit the jackpot in recent months with changes in personnel and the addition of Steve Timmis and those around him. Oh, and not a beer tasting competition or a cage fight in sight. Just good old-fashioned pubs and footie. Bliss!

I will be posting on the various talks in the coming weeks and trying to contextualise them for our housing scheme ministry. Watch this space!

Advertisements

Football is the language of the schemes. Almost everybody here has a team. In Edinburgh it is Hibs or Hearts. In Glasgow it is Rangers or Celtic. Of course, here teams are divided down religious lines: Catholic or Protestant. Regardless, people love their football here in Niddrie and it has been a good medium for me over the years to share the gospel. In about 2 weeks time we have Gavin Peacock coming to Niddrie. Throughout a distinguished playing career in England, Gavin Peacock’s faith was an integral part of who he was. Upon retiring from the game, the former Newcastle, Chelsea and QPR star realised that his future lay in Christianity and in spreading God’s word. Hear his remarkable story in ‘Gavin Peacock: Leap of Faith’. 

Gavin Peacock’s footballing life

1967 Born 18 November, Eltham.

1984-87 The midfielder begins his career with Queen’s Park Rangers, making his debut on 29 November in a 2-2 home draw against Sheffield Wednesday, aged 19.

1987-89 After a brief loan spell, he completes a full transfer to Gillingham, joining his father, Keith, who is manager. Peacock Snr is sacked soon afterwards but Gavin remains with the Gills for nearly two years.

1990-93 Following a year under Harry Redknapp at Bournemouth he is signed by Newcastle United. Peacock plays a crucial role as they win the 1992-93 First Division title, scoring 12 goals. Despite promotion to the Premier League with the Magpies, he joins Chelsea in the summer for £1.5m.

1993-96 Peacock scores on his Chelsea debut, a 2-1 home loss to Blackburn Rovers, and is one of the star performers in an otherwise disappointing league campaign for the Blues as they finished 14th. Peacock hits the bar in the 1994 FA Cup final as Chelsea suffer a 4-0 loss to Manchester United at Wembley. He goes on to make over 100 appearances for the club.

1996-2002 Moves back to QPR for £800,000 following a loan spell. Goes on to make over 200 appearances and score 39 goals in total for the club, but was unable to help the side back into the Premier League. Has a brief spell on loan in 2001 at Charlton Athletic, where his father Keith was assistant manager, before retiring at the end of the 2001-02 season.

Here’s the highlights of one of my favourite games against my beloved Man Utd. Enjoy Gavin’s reaction to the penalty at 1:31. Then we see him again with a tame header at 6:27. All that hair must have put him off balance 🙂

There is a great article here published on The Gospel Coalition website here. Missions, training and church planting, particularly, do not have to be the domain of large churches. We are one of the smallest churches in the city (60 members) and I would hazard a guess that we offer one of the largest training places in Scotland for our type of ministry (9 full time trainees/workers and 1 church planting family). It’s hard work and messy but it can be done! Matthew Spandler-Davison (the author) and I are in the process of forming a new mission – Urban Impact Missions – with the sole purpose of recruiting, training and sending our church planters and women’s gospel workers into the housing schemes of Scotland. We want to see a gospel movement started in these desperate and forgotten places. There will be more to follow on this once we establish in more detail our aims and objectives and register our charity on both sides of the Atlantic. Please pray for us as we seek God’s glory in dark places.

Beautiful. Glorious. Deeply challenging.

I found this online recently. The rationale behind some of the apologetic approaches is fascinating from a natural scientific perspective. Tellingly, Ham was consistently bringing things back to Scripture as our starting point for dealing with people.See what you think.

watch?feature=player_embedded&v=zgueGotRqbM#!

Shouldn’t we focus our attentions on those who ‘deserve’ our kindness in housing schemes? There are so many people in our world who are in a terrible condition through no fault of their own. Yet on our housing schemes there are 100’s who will not work. They choose to live off the government system. There are so many blaggers and chancers and lying manipulators out there that it is easy to become cynical after a while. Who, then, deserves our kindness and our help? The ‘deserving’? What do they look like? How do we decide who is who? Do we forget the indolent and just try to focus on the others?

Christ loved us, was kind to us, and was willing to relieve us, though we were very evil and hateful, of an evil disposition, not deserving of any good…so we should be willing to be kind to those who are of an ill disposition, and are very undeserving…If they are come to want by a vicious idleness and prodigality; yet we are not thereby excused from all obligation to relieve them, unless they continue in those vices. If they continue not in those vices, the rules of the gospel direct us to forgive them…Christ hath loved us, pitied us, and greatly laid himself out to relive us from wickedness. We foolishly and perversely threw away those riches with which we were provided, upon which we might have lived and been happy to all eternity.’ (J. Edwards)

Romans 5:8 reminds us that, ‘God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’. Let’s not forget who we are. Undeserving sinners saved by a glorious work of grace bringing the treasure of the gospel to an undeserving world.

The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern (Prov. 29:7).

Shalom has become a popular buzzword in certain evangelical circles, particularly around the whole ‘justice for the oppressed’ debate. What do we exactly mean by the word Shalom? Tim Keller has certainly written more material on this than you can shake a stick at and there is also an interesting little book by Kevin De Young entitled, ‘What is the Mission of the Church’? Clearly, both ‘sides’, if I can call them that, have both their fans and their detractors.

More importantly, what does the Bible teach? Is it the same as the word ‘peace’ such as ‘he is our peace’ in Ephesians 2:14? What about in Numbers 6; 24-26; Isaiah 9:6? The Lord is our Shalom. Look at Isaiah 57:7 and how is it used there? The context is light. What about Ezekiel 37:26? How is it used there? The connection to a future spiritual blessing. Interestingly, Shalom appears in the Hebrews about 250 times and not once in the NT. It does have a Greek equivalent though, eirene (eye RAY nay). In fact the word irenic means peaceful. We find it in Luke 2; 14, Acts 10:36, Ro. 1:7 where it is used as a greeting. In Phil 4:7 it is used to bless the people of God. Of the 90 times it used in the NT is it almost exactly in the same way that Shalom is used in the OT.

But, Shalom is also used in unusual ways. It is mentioned in the context of war in 2 Samuel 11:7. Breaking down towers in Judges 8:9, and punishment in Isaiah 53:5. It is a hard word to get to grips with, if we are honest. Because it has such a broad meaning across the Scriptures, I am always wary when people try to push for one urgent meaning of it and seek to particularise it to apply solely to the debate around the poor and the oppressed. Let me give you an example of what I mean concerning interpretative issues with regard to the word. Often our English Bible translations don’t do their job well. Genesis 43:27 being a good case in point.

“And he (Joseph) asked of them (his brothers) concerning shalom, and he said, ‘Is your father shalom?'”

That is good idiomatic Hebrew, but it is not good English, so the New Revised Standard Version translates properly.

“And he inquired about their welfare, and said ‘Is your father well?’”

In other words, we do well to look at this issue with a King James Version of the Bible in one hand and some of the old school concordances in the other. Regardless, we must do our homework and check out whether it is shalom and/or eirene that lie behind the translations we are being pointed to. It may seem petty, but we must do it if we are going to be making big etymological claims and building whole theological foundations on these ideas.

Tim Keller has defined shalom in the following way:

The webbing together of God and man with all creation to create universal flourishing and wholeness. In Ps. 102 God has made the world like a garment with billions of entities interwoven to make up the beauty of all that is created. Sin has come in and torn a whole in the fabric.

In other words, the shalom is in need of repair. He goes further and pinpoints three types of shalom:

1. Physical Shalom

When all the parts fit together in a body then we know something of ‘Physical Shalom’.  So, for example, when you have cancer, you experience a loss of this physical shalom.

2.  Psychological Shalom

When the mind, conscience, and passions tell me to do and I do it, I experience psychological shalom. If you want to do something and the conscience says “no” and you do it, we lose psychological shalom.

3. Social Shalom

When those who have connections are threading this throughout the community then there’s an inter-wovenness. This breaks down when people feel excluded from society. they are in fact experiencing a break in social shalom.

Now, it is clear that I see the breakdown of shalom, as defined by Keller, in Niddrie. That is without any doubt whatsoever. Certainly, it doesn’t take a theological genius to trace the original fault line back to the fall and the terrible, physical, psychological, social and cosmological effects that this has had for our world. The real question comes when we ask: ‘what are we to do about the breakdown of shalom?’ Should we just ignore the issues going on all around us and just proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ? Or, should we seek the welfare of our scheme by looking at ways we can ease the pain and restore some of the shalom back to our neighbours? Should we be seeking to make Niddrie a safer place to live, a happier place to live and a more peaceful place to live? Or, should we be seeking to remain faithful to the great commission which charges us to preach Christ and make disciples?

These questions aren’t new to this site nor to the people who read this site regularly. The NT offers us no imperatives with regard to actively repairing any of the above ‘shaloms’. Timothy, for example was urged to continue preaching the Word in season and out of season. In Ephesians we read that the main gift set given to the church; preachers, teachers, apostles etc were all Word based ministries. In Jude we are challenged to contend for the gospel. Romans is clear that it is only the gospel that has the power to transform any believer and thus, by definition, society. So the answer, surely, is to preach the gospel first and foremost. Yes we care for one another, we love one another, we feed and we shelter the ‘alien’ (those outside the covenant community) but these are as a result of hearts of faith expressing themselves through love (Galatians).

For example, I preach Christ in Niddrie to Mr. X who has a history of alcoholism, burglary and abusing his partner. He comes to Christ. What happens?

1. His physical shalom begins to improve under the influence of the Holy Spirit as he stops poisoning his body.

2. His psychological shalom improves as he bows the knee to King Jesus and seeks to live under his rule.

3. Social shalom kicks in as he stops abusing his neighbours, burgling houses on the scheme, shoplifting from the local store, beating his partner and tormenting his children. Instead of contributing the to breakdown of social shalom he begins to become a force for good.

All of these things are as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a person who has heard the Word of God proclaimed first and foremost. It is gospel above all and then shalom comes not as a means of personal evangelism but as a proof of God’s Spirit at work in a person and a community. By all means let’s pray for the shalom of our schemes but let’s remember that without a return to fearless, faithful gospel proclamation these places and people are going to remain in darkness; lost and broken.

We press on.

This is an emotive issue for many on our scheme. Much of the old housing and tenements have now gone from what was, historically, regarded as ‘old’ Niddrie. In its place are green fields, building sites, new flats, houses and a variety of government agencies and voluntary services. Almost everything feels new and shiny. The school, the doctor’s surgery, the new library being built, the mini Asda and even our church building. Even the blocks of flats near us are being given a facelift. The council is busy digging up the local burn (river) and putting in a road system leading to the new children’s hospital. It’s all looking good. Regeneration, at this level, is our friend. And then..

It appears that ‘community life’ has now been pushed to the fringes. For instance, real ‘Niddrons’ congregate at the local miners club and socialise together. The new, young, up and coming middle class, on the other hand, would not be seen dead in there. But, then again, you do have to be recommended By a ‘local!’ The local community centre runs the odd club for the young and the old but not that much for the hundreds of unemployed in between nor for the new working/middle class. The immigrants just lock their doors and keep their heads down at night. In all the building work there doesn’t seem to be much thought given as to how we bring all these new social groups together. The indigenous locals have a strong sense of ‘community’, the arriving middle class have brought a strong sense of materialistic individualism and the immigrants have imported their commitment to maintaining cultural identity. Even early on, tribalism is evident.

Sociologists talk up regeneration as an opportunity to ‘reinvest’ in communities. But reinvest what? Building firms are getting rich, certainly. Grants are being handed out to every social issue pressure group you can think of – so they are doing very well for themselves. There are many here who work in our community but are not in any sense a part of it. Niddrie, in many ways, has become a giant socio-economic experiment and a sort of proving ground for progressive urban policies. Refurbish the place, build some decent(ish) homes, attract young, first time buyers, hand out a bit of social housing and ensure a place for the city’s growing immigrants/emmigrant populace. Generally, all of this at the expense of the poorest. Where are they going? That’s my question. All of our social issues are not being resolved by regeneration here in Niddrie. They are just being diluted and, like chess pieces, problem people are being moved around the board that is Edinburgh City.

For instance, many of the ‘new community’ meetings I have attended have been run by outsiders. Likewise, many of the ‘old community’ meetings I have attended are attended only by cultural insiders. There does not seem to be a real consensus nor a merging of the two worlds the powers that be have foisted on one another. Positively, the drug problem has abated somewhat (although it is still very much prevalent). The streets do seem safer, certainly cleaner (in parts) at least. On the other hand, the poorest are being removed from homes they have lived in for generations. Many are running scared by forces outside of their control that are telling them to either keep up or get out. For many of the residents it feels like they are merely hedgehogs in the face of the massive steamroller of social change. Bob Lupton agrees:

Resisting gentrification is like trying to hold back the rising ocean tide. It is surely coming, relentlessly, with power and growing momentum. Young professionals as well as empty nesters are flooding into our cities, buying up lofts and condos and dilapidated historic residences, opening avant-garde artist studios and gourmet eateries. If market forces alone are allowed to rule the day, the poor will be gradually, silently displaced, for the market has no conscience. But those who do understand God’s heart for the poor have a historic challenge to infuse the values of compassion and justice into the process. But it will require altogether new paradigms of ministry.

Granted, he is talking out of an American context but I still think his point travels. In all of the council’s concern for urban regeneration and the ‘betterment’ of our scheme, this does not extend to any spiritual element whatsoever. Better buildings and facilities won’t make a jot of ‘real’ difference to the lives of many here if the middle classes see community investment in purely (and only) financial terms. If, then, they won’t invest wholeheartedly in the community, we Christians need to. We need to do more than just move in to these areas. Indeed, moving lock, stock and barrel into the community has to be more than about some vague, incarnational idealism and more about investing into our community in a comprehensive manner. What could that look like?

  1. Christians should seek to join community committees and boards (schools, neighbourhood watch, community festival etc). We should have a stake in local discussions and decisions. Within this we should be living by the justice principles of the Bible in seeking to speak up for those who perhaps cannot speak for themselves or find trouble communicating effectively. I sit on some boards and people trust me to speak up for them because I live in Niddrie, and I love the people and my community.
  2. We could offer night classes for training and development. Do you have a particular skill you could pass on? We should be passing whatever skill set we have on to those around us and looking at ways at which we can share this within the community for the benefit of all.
  3. We should be innovative in how we do our personal outreach. Of course, the gospel and the local church must remain at the core of this. We should be feeding our members a good, biblical diet, but encouraging this broader community mindedness. Of course, the church must not get caught up in social action for the sake of social action. Our mission is much more eternal than that. But, we must not use the mistakes of the past to justify an intellectual ‘Word only’ approach to our community living. The gospel primarily, the Word centrally, and mission constantly should be our motto.
  4. Christians must work harder at trying to build a rich and authentic community, that starts with us. We must be the catalysts for bringing people of all stripes together. We must model it in our fellowships and we must beat the drum in our communities. People will only buy into that which they see in action first. Look for ways in which your church can do this.

For all the talk of ‘missional intentionality’ in church planting circles, we must be intentionally biblical and gospel focused as we work out how to respond to these issues which, for us, though painful, are not going away.

I often get asked how and why we have so many contacts and have so many unchurched people attending our services throughout the week. The answer is quite simple:

1. We pray for people. Are you really praying for people in your area, consistently, specifically an intelligently. when I first came to Niddrie I started an early morning prayer meeting on my own in order to pray for more contacts. I then prayed for the salvation of the contacts I made and then continued this process for the last 4 years. Now, even though I am not present at many of these prayer meetings, I have a team of people who meeting every morning to pray for our area (and beyond). We pray for: contacts, salvation, openness to the Spirit to surprise us with opportunities and for boldness with the gospel. above all other strategies and plans we must be praying.

2. We all love people but play to our strengths. That seems so obvious that it shouldn’t need stating. But do you find yourself drifting naturally toward a particular kind of person? I do. Therefore, we have to check ourselves. Is our evangelism and outreach skewed. Are we loving all? Are we attempting to reach all people on our scheme? That’s why we need to build a team of different kinds of people, united under the gospel, who will reach a broad base and love all. Instead of guilting ourselves over the people we cannot reach, we should be celebrating the diversity of a team approach to this ministry. I have a mix of single parents, young couples, middle class people, an international person, an indigenous person (soon to be plural) and myself and we are all reaching people the others cannot. A one man band on a scheme may have success if his personality and gifting allow him to but sooner or later he is going to peak and the church is going to stagnate. Building a team helps forward momentum and keeps thoughts fresh.

3. We speak their language. “The transcendent love of God is inescapably drawing you to Himself in an act of cosmic grace.” We reach our people by grounding gospel truths in everyday language. This is not the same as ‘dumbing down’ the gospel message. Nor is it ‘over contextualisation’. We communicate the truth in a way that is comprehensible to our listeners. If you are a cultural outsider to schemes then take some time to listen to how people talk, what are some the common phrases (apart from the usual litany of swear words), the stories they like to tell and the humour they employ (super important). Then bring the gospel ‘home’ in ways they can relate to. God’s Spirit will do the rest (or not).

We continue to preach the glorious gospel of Christ in all of its simplicity and fullness and we pray in faith that the Holy Spirit will draw God’s elect to the Heavenly Father for the glory and honour of both His name and His Word.