25 July, 2012

Passing the Baton

The Olympics are about to start, but I can’t wait for them to end!  Not because I don’t like these games, but because I love the last track event; the 4x100m relay.  4 runners. 1 baton.  3 tense changeovers in which the race is won or lost.  Coaches spend a lot of time working on the changeovers.  As one coach has said, ‘A race is not won because you ran faster than anyone else, but because you passed the baton well.’

The same can be said of the gospel.  From Christ to the disciples, and on throughout the ages, the baton of the gospel has been passed on.  And each church that we represent is running a leg of the relay.  The question that I believe is asked of every Scottish Church in this day and age is, ‘will this baton make it through the next exchange?  Are we working on the changeover?’

In Matthew 9:36, Jesus surveyed crowds of people and saw them as harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  As I survey Scotland, that’s what I see; an unparalleled need - without a shepherd, sheep die.  If they have no-one to lead them to good grazing or to fend off predators, they’re dead meat.

But alongside this unparalleled need, Jesus presents an unparalleled opportunity.  In Matthew 9:37 Jesus describes the same helpless sheep as a plentiful harvest ready for reaping.  The people we see might be in danger but they’re not without hope.  What is needed?  Jesus tells us; Gospel workers!  Pastors, Planters, Women’s Workers, Biblical Counsellors and the like.  But there’s a problem.  The workers are few.

We live in a time of steep church decline.  Only 2% of our population actually believe the gospel and hold to the authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures.  We live in a time of theological confusion, with core truths of the gospel tossed around playfully as if they’re up for grabs.  We live in a time when the workers are scarce.  The question is, will you be a part of the next generation of gospel workers by becoming one?  Or will you, church leader, make it your ambition to train the next generation of gospel workers for the harvest field?

Jesus set us an example to follow.  Train up!  Send out!  That’s what he did with his disciples wasn’t it?  And the example Jesus set was the pattern the church adopted.  Take a look at the relationship between Paul and Timothy and you’ll see that.  Paul even instructed Timothy to ensure that he wouldn’t drop the baton or be sloppy in the changeover. 
The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.’ 2 timothy 2:2 
In only a few words, this shows us how the gospel gets from Paul to the 3rd generation of gospel workers and beyond.  Train up and send out. 

Every one of you, if you truly believe in Christ, are gospel workers.  You must pursue godliness and proclaim Christ.  You were never intended to be a terminus point for the gospel, but rather another runner in the relay.  Pass the baton on!

We must be strategic and intentional in raising up the next generation of gospel workers because this nation needs pastors, planters and the like. 

Philip Jensen once said, ‘I have 4 policies when it comes to church leadership’
1)     Preach the gospel and pray for gospel workers
2)     Plant new churches
3)     Actively recruit, train, and send out your best gospel workers, no matter how painful it is to lose them from your church.
4)     Change everything that gets in the way of the first 3!
That’s great advice in light of a great need in Scotland.

David Robertson, of St Peter’s Free Church, said a couple of years ago that even if we planted 7000 churches of 100 people each we’d only be back to where we were 25 years ago.  Well, I say we, across Scotland, make that our 25 year target!  In Edinburgh, we at Charlotte Chapel, figure we need to plant 222 churches. 

‘Impossible’, I hear you say. 

Between 1831 and 1838, Thomas Chalmers was responsible for training up and sending out pastors and planters as part of a nationwide church planting initiative.  Do you know how many churches he planted in 7 years?  222.

And by 1843, within 12 years of starting his ministry training in Edinburgh, it was said of Chalmers that he could walk from the far north of Scotland to the southernmost point of Scotland and spend each night in the manse of a man he had trained. 

Let it be so for us, Lord Jesus. 

Reach out, build up, send out, and pass the baton well.  This is Christ’s concern for his church, and it must be ours.

10 January, 2012


Saturday February 25th

What Time:
Charlotte Chapel, Edinburgh
Who is it For:
Anyone in leadership of a church, anyone aspiring to be a leader in a church, anyone exploring a call to be a leader in a church or anyone looking to understand what leadership in a local church looks like.
How Much Does it Cost?:
£10, but that pays for your full attendance at the conference (at which you get over 10 free books on leadership and church life!).

To enable the building of his church and the extension of the gospel, God has appointed leaders within the local church.  But what does biblical church leadership look like?  All too often, deficiencies in the church regarding the importance or style of leadership and the biblical responsibilities of leaders have sentenced churches to immaturity and aimlessness.
God’s desire, however, is for churches to experience the maturity, stability, and fruitfulness that result when leadership and care are extended by qualified leaders who understand The Call to be shepherd’s of God’s flock.
If you are in leadership of a church, aspiring to be a leader in a church, exploring a call to be a leader in a church or looking to understand what leadership in a local church looks like, then join us for a day of biblical teaching, practical insights, interactive panel discussions, and resourced with a myriad of helpful leadership tools.
The Shepherd’s Soul: Jeremy WalkerThis session focuses on the leader’s spiritual condition realizing the necessity of any leader to daily and intimately walk with God to be a qualified, effective leader in the church.
The Shepherd’s Ministry to the Church: Brian CroftThis session discusses the practicality of ministry within the church in areas such as visiting the sick, facing death, caring for widows, discipleship, prayer, accountability and others and how to be most faithful and biblical as we labor in those tasks.
The Shepherd’s Ministry beyond the Church:  Matthew Spandler-DavisonThis session discusses the Christian leader’s practical ministry outside of the church in areas such as evangelism, mercy ministry, training and sending pastors and missionaries, pastoral networking, local church association, and how to be a faithful display of the gospel as we engage with other churches and the world.
The Shepherd’s Call:  Dr. Ray Van NesteThis lesson looks at the call of the shepherd to faithfully love the Lord and love the Lord’s people.  We will be challenged to lead with the heart of a shepherd.  We will focus on the call of God for Christian leaders to faithfully feed, lead and protect the people of God.
Breakout Sessions: 
  • Shepherding the family:  Liam Garvie
    Liam will lead this discussion on the trials, challenges and joys of shepherding your family.
  • Feeding the Sheep:  Dr. Ray Van Neste and Jeremy Walker
    The shepherd is primarily tasked with feeding the sheep.  Join these two seasoned expositors as they discuss together the nature, joy and challenge of preaching.
  • Test, Train and Affirm:  Brian Croft and Matthew Spandler-DavisonThe church is to be a training ground for pastors, elders and church leaders.  Brian and Matthew will share their experience of developing an internship program at their churches.

01 December, 2011

Dever - the Great Commission & Church Planting

The Great Commission and Church Planting (Matthew 28:16-20)
Mark Dever
March 25, 2011
Plant Conference (Glen Mills, PA)
Introduction: “I want to pose six questions to help us think about the Great Commission and church planting.”
Question 1: How are we to fulfill the Great Commission? “A true church is marked by the right preaching of the Word of God, and the right administration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and the preaching of the gospel. In the lives of those baptized and coming to the Lord’s Supper then a corporate witness begins to appear. A church is planted as people begin to see this group of people as followers of Jesus.”
Question 2: What is the big picture? “We find that the big picture in the Bible, from Israel to the redeemed in heaven, seem to show us a pattern of God wanting to be known as faithful and having community around him which knows him and praises him as one who is faithful and just and true.”
Question 3: What has God done? “So God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is involved in church planting far more profoundly than any person in this room will ever be involved in church planting—far more profoundly than the Apostle Paul was involved in church planting! The church is not something which in the most fundamental sense is a human idea or a human creation, but it is fundamentally God’s idea and God’s work. This is what he is about. God is a great church planter.”
Question 4: What did the apostles understand? “Friends, the sort of church-centered ministry where you go out and evangelize, but you do it specifically with the hope and trust and understanding that God intends to bring these Christians back together in local churches, is what this book of Acts is full of.…The New Testament shows the Great Commission being fulfilled by church planting.”
Question 5: What does that mean for us? “Here are eight practical exhortations and implications aimed at pastors of churches:”
  • Focus your mission efforts on church planting.
  • Consider who you are sending out.
  • Consider what you have trained them to do.
  • Consider how you are going to support them.
  • Build into your church culture a desire to see the kingdom of God expand in your area and beyond.
  • Encourage other evangelical church planters around you.
  • Consider reclaiming existing churches.
  • Pray for the spread of healthy churches.
Here are five things I want to build into the culture of our church:
  • Discipleship
  • Personal evangelism
  • Missions
  • A desire to strengthen other churches broadly
  • A desire to encourage gospel growth in my own area
Question 6: What is our goal in fulfilling the Great Commission? “The glory of God in the church.”
Conclusion: “The local church is where the authority of Christ is exercised. The local church is where disciples are made and baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The local church is where Christians are taught to obey everything Jesus commanded us. To this end, Christ promised us his Spirit until he returns. And so we see that church planting is the normal business of the local church. The Great Commission is normally fulfilled through church planting.”

12 July, 2011

The Glory of our Adoption

As a church, we have recently started a series in Ephesians and last week I was reflecting on the significance of our adoption in Christ.  As i thought about what it means to be saved by God, brought into his family and given the rights and privileges as sons, I came across this quote from For the Fame of God's Name (ed's Storms and Taylor).

Packer asks us this question in his book Knowing God:   If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father.
If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all... To those who are Christ’s, the holy God is a loving Father; they belong to his family; they may approach him without fear and always be sure of his fatherly concern and care.
This is the heart of the New Testament message... Adoption is a family idea, conceived in terms of love, and viewing God as father. In adoption, God takes us into his family and fellowship—he establishes us as his children and heirs. Closeness, affection and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is a greater.