Friday, May 15, 2015
Unchanging Truth in a Changing Culture
Written by Andy Hunter on 14.05.2015
In a city with more bookmakers than evangelical churches, there has never been a greater need for gospel-centred churches to encourage one another. Scotland Director Andy Hunter reports on a gathering of FIEC churches in Glasgow which was designed to do just that.
Glasgow, like other large British cities, is a mixture of the poor and the affluent, the built-up inner city and the leafy suburb, the ‘born and bred’ and the newcomer, the religious and irreligious – all making up an increasingly ethnically diverse population.
No single church will be able to reach an area as diverse as the West of Scotland. Rather a range of churches situated in different locations with a variety of ministries is needed if the different communities and cultures that coexist in today’s urban areas are to be engaged with the gospel.
Fortunately Glasgow’s FIEC churches – along with other gospel churches there – are situated in different parts of the city and reflect different aspects of its make-up.
Gospel need and gospel hope
At the end of April six FIEC churches from around the city came together for an evening of fellowship, praise, prayer and ministry. Despite their differences the FIEC churches are united by the great gospel hope they proclaim and hold out. Similarly the many different communities around them are united by their shared need of the gospel.
It was that gospel need and gospel hope that John Stevens (FIEC National Director) brought home in his address to those gathered. He spoke of the unchanging truthfulness of the gospel, its culture and time-transcending power, and thus the need for churches to steadfastly hold on to it and proclaim it without dilution or compromise.
Looking at a number of New Testament passages connected to the church in Corinth, John showed how similar its first century culture was to our own: diverse, immoral, pluralistic and spiritually confused. However, John highlighted that gospel faithfulness was not to be confused with cultural inflexibility. In 1 Corinthians 9v22 Paul writes that he becomes ‘all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some’. The danger of personal preferences and old habits becoming obstacles to communicating the gospel was powerfully summed up as John said:
‘We become in danger of calling people to come to church and be like us, rather than to come to Christ and be like Him.’
Finally, John spoke of the gospel’s enduring power to save and the hope that gives us. Paul was not to give up on Corinth because the Lord had his people there (Acts 18v10) and we must not give up on our own cities and communities today.
Many parts, one mission
The gathering in Glasgow included reports from the FIEC churches on how that gospel call is being put into practice. Iain Shaw (Clarkston Baptist Church) and Al Lightbody (Lenzie Christian Fellowship) represented churches in better-off middle class areas – but they pointed out the huge spiritual poverty there is among those caught up in materialism and who feel no great need for God in their lives.
Raymond Barr (Crosshill Evangelical Church) and Bill Blair (Yoker Evangelical Church) spoke of the challenges of inner city ministry – transient populations, poverty and ethnic diversity.
Philip Teji (Finnieston Evangelical Church) represented a church which is predominantly Asian in its make-up and spoke of its ministry to Christians from Indian and Pakistani backgrounds.
All spoke of the various ways in which their churches are reaching out to their communities, whether through church-based activities (toddler groups, children’s and youth work), direct door-to-door contacts and leafleting, or through community events. These, along with the day-to-day personal contacts of church members, are ensuring that the good news about Jesus Christ is being made known in the West of Scotland.
The event also included a contribution from Alan McKnight (Harper Church) who has been gathering data on the number of gospel churches of all types serving the city. Even considering the most generous estimates, Glasgow’s gospel need is immense with only one ‘evangelical’ church per 7,000 people.
It was consequently great to hear from Pete Stewart (an FIEC Pastors’ Network member) about a new church plant being planned for one of the city’s neediest areas in Barlanark. Pete, along with fellow planter Pete Bell, is backed by 20Schemes and hopes to launch this new work later this year.
Sharing the same Great Commission
The evening was a great reminder of the real unity and fellowship that God’s people share in the gospel. It brought home the challenges but also the opportunities of being a local church in 21st century Britain. Most of all it was a huge encouragement to see a range of churches, different in many ways, sharing and praying together as they carry out the same Great Commission to ‘make disciples of all nations’ for the glory of the same Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Andy Hunter - FIEC Scotland Director
Before joining FIEC in November 2013, Andy worked for Greenview Church in Glasgow for nine years, prior to which he trained at Oak Hill College in London. He is married to Jessica and they have three children.
Posted by Andy Hunter at Friday, May 15, 2015