The town of Dornoch sits in the far north of Scotland and is famous for the Royal Dornoch Golf Course, the exclusive Skibo Castle, and celebrity weddings. Andy Hunter introduces us to a growing gospel witness there.
Dornoch is an hour’s drive beyond Inverness. Madonna was famously married in Dornoch Cathedral but the town is also home to ‘Dornoch and District Christian Fellowship’ (DDCF) which became FIEC’s most northerly mainland church in 2015.
It was founded in October 1994 following a time of much prayer, heart searching and seeking the Lord’s guidance by a group of six Christians. The result of this process was a conviction that God was leading them to establish something new. Beginning with initial house group meetings they were quickly joined by other Christians in town and the communities around Dornoch.
The new church broke with more traditional churches in the area in having modern praise songs, guitar accompaniment, open prayer, informal fellowship and lay preachers. This, of course, reflected changes many churches were making at that time and was clearly a work of God’s Spirit. Over the years as DDCF has itself changed and become established it now works with other evangelical churches in the area.
A growing children’s work
Meetings began in the Council Chambers with the hope of attracting people from the local communities who had no particular attachment to existing local churches. God has blessed this desire and has brought into the church people from across the area. It has been in particular joy to see young families attending and the setting up of a healthy Sunday School.
Now established as a church, DDCF reaches out into the community with a weekly parents and toddlers group and weekly coffee mornings. These activities have been the entry point for a number of people attending the church and coming to faith.
An annual week long football camp at Easter, led by an ‘On Goal’ team from the USA and local volunteers, has attracted up to 100 children. The result is that the seed of the gospel has been sown among hundreds of children over the years and has resulted in DDCF being involved in a youth fellowship initiative.
A real blessing for the fellowship is the way that God has used gifted men from within the membership, together with others from different evangelical backgrounds, to preach God’s word week by week. This brings a sense of belonging to something bigger than DDCF along with a richness and diversity of Bible teaching in the church.
Praying for Dornoch
Looking forward the church would love to find a permanent facility that would be open every day for the glory of God. This has been the fellowship’s prayer for a number of years but so far the answer seems to be ‘not yet’.
Joining FIEC, and being part of family of more than 560 gospel churches, has been a huge encouragement to them.
Pastor Grant Fairns noted a quote from John Stevens expressing the gospel vision that DDCF shares with its fellow FIEC churches:
“It is a dynamic message that is to be lived and proclaimed so that men and women will come to repentance and faith and have their lives transformed by a new relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Please pray for DDCF:
that they may find a permanent building
that their testimony in Sutherland and Easter Ross will be to live and proclaim the gospel in such a way that God would be glorified by them.
Like many others the start of another January means the
start of another read through of Genesis (six days in and so far so good.
Honestly? I got to May last year before getting into major arrears).
Once again though, in those opening chapters of the Bible we
see the foundations of humanity being laid out – its origin, its purpose, its
potential, and its limitations. Man (i.e. Adam) stands upon the earth but he is
alone – a situation that is first identified by God Himself as not being good
(Gen 2:18). The solution we are told is that he needs ‘a helper suitable for
The animals are paraded by but despite all their variety none
of them can be what Adam needs – ‘no suitable helper was found’ (v19). So God provides
Eve – someone of whom Adam can say, ‘This is bone of my bones and flesh of my
flesh’ (v23). Eve is the ‘helper’ suitable for Adam.
But what exactly do we mean by ‘helper’ – after all such a
title could be interpreted as being a little condescending – a bit ‘second
fiddle’, a support act to the main event – the man! For me such thoughts
arise thinking back to ‘helping’ my Dad do DIY – that is, me standing holding a
packet of screws while my Dad did the important and interesting stuff like
using the power drill. So is Eve (womankind) an afterthought of God’s – hastily
put in place to provide an extra pair of hands. Well of course, if it was just about
some extra manpower then some extra men would have sufficed.
Actually the title ‘helper’ tells us more about Adam than it
does about Eve. So throughout the Bible ‘helper’ is a title given to God Himself, ‘The Lord is myhelper’ (Heb 13:6); ‘TheLord is with me; he is myhelper.’(Ps
118:7); ‘My father’s God was myhelper’ (Ex 18:4). And let’s be clear that God is no-one’s
sidekick or go-for.
You see in saying Adam needed a ‘helper’
– God is not so much commenting on Eve but making the point that Adam is not
sufficient for the task He has been given. The issue being highlighted is Adam’s
lack and incompleteness not Eve’s. Adam’s problem was that without Eve (and vice-versa)
he could never have fulfilled humanity's calling and purpose.
Crucially, Eve is like Adam but
different from him – equal but not the same. As John Piper put it you could write
a list of all human attributes and two have columns against them, one for Adam
and one for Eve, and put in the scores for both against those attributes. They might
score differently on each individual attribute but the totals at the bottom of
each column would be the same(i). Thus it’s only in male and female together that
humanity is complete. Distinct but complementary.
The helper we all need
In the same way, to say God is your ‘helper’
– is not to claim superiority but to admit that you need help! It is to declare that I cannot be and do what I need to be and do solo – I’m just not up to that
job alone. It means that if God isn’t your helper you’re doomed to fail and
come up short in fulfilling the point of your existence.
Tragically just as pride and
self-sufficiency created disharmony between the sexes it isolated men and women
from God. So lives are lived dependent on ‘me’, my abilities, my good fortune,
my self-belief – all of which is a very fragile basis for life and which leaves us hanging by nothing more than a thread of our own making.
So in 2017 you need a Helper – you need
God. You need what only Jesus Christ can provide – a Saviour and Friend to
enable God’s purpose and calling in your life to be fulfilled.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
Andy Hunter introduces us to the ministry of FIEC (The Fellowship of
Independent Evangelical Churches) – a grouping of more than 550 churches across
It’s essential to have a
vision for the gospel.
That is, a godly ambition to
see the gospel of Jesus Christ flourish in our day and setting. That desire for
better things and better times helps drive us on in making Jesus known and serving
the church with the best of our energies.
It stops us from settling
for second best and becoming complacent or even negligent in our Great
So we serve, we plan, we
expend our energies, we invest our money, we go out, we speak up, we keep
pressing forward. Why? Because we want to see people reached with gospel,
become disciples and live for the glory of Christ.
Everyone agrees on that
kind of vision and the need to be active if it’s to be realised. But equally we
also know that to be achievable it needs to be broken down into bite sized
Three Questions for Independent Churches
1.Does your vision include seeing the next generation of
gospel workers being raised up and equipped for service in churches like yours?
Would you want your next pastor to be well trained and have a genuine and
tested call for such service?
2.Does your Vision include seeing gospel workers in
churches like yours being well supported, cared for and in good fellowship with
others in similar positions? Would you want pastors and leaders to have some of
the pastoral back-up enjoyed by those in formal denominations?
3.Does your Vision include seeing unreached communities
of Great Britain being evangelised and having their own gospel-centred
churches? Would you want churches (like yours) to be encouraged in that task,
and in the mission of church planting?
If the answer to those
questions is ‘Yes’: what are you doing to make that Vision a reality rather
than just a godly sentiment?
Is it even possible for an
Independent Church to have such a vision? After all, how can a local church in
the north of Scotland help a struggling pastor in Devon, or contribute to
training an evangelist in Liverpool, or be assisting a church plant in Glasgow
– and vice versa? It’s not feasible, is it? Isn’t Independency the poor
relation of large centralised denomination when it comes to thinking big?
Well actually many Independent
churches who have a big vision are actively making it happen. They’re involved
in supporting hundreds of pastors across Britain, helping to raise up and train
scores of men and women for gospel service, and enabling dozens of new church plants
to become established. They do so by being part of FIEC – a family of more than
550 churches, who work in partnership to make possible what they simply couldn’t
It means that an
Independent church of whatever size or locality can say, ‘We’re contributing to
the care of gospel workers; supporting church revitalisation and church
planting; providing guidance and training across the nation’.
Because of their FIEC
affiliation a potential women’s worker is receiving financial support to go to
Bible college, a sick pastor is getting care and practical help, a church plant
is getting legal advice on its new Constitution, and a trainee pastor is learning
how Independent churches govern themselves. These are just some of the ministries
that simply wouldn’t exist were it not for the commitment of FIEC churches to
turn a big vision into concrete reality.
Of course there are other
ways to express such vision but for many Independent churches it is belonging
to FIEC that enables them to realise a big vision for the nation.
What about your church?
Andy Hunter is the Scotland Director for the
Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC) and you can find out more
about their work and ministry at fiec.org.uk
It’s often hard for pastors and pastoral workers to genuinely take time out of ministry to pray, reflect and study. That’s why the Scottish FIEC Pastor’s retreat takes place each summer. For Alan Guy, this year’s retreat promised much but delivered even more.
One of the advantages of a 24 hour retreat is that nobody expects you to do anything, and being held out of town at a neutral venue means no one from church can ask you to do anything either! You even get your own room with a key so that your time is genuinely your time.
With the hubbub of ministry bubbling away in the background, the retreat provided me with time out for personal reflection as well as enjoying good food and great fellowship.
We arrived around lunchtime on the Monday and straight away we were fed in every sense of the word. We enjoyed a great meal together and pastors from afar chewed the fat over ministry highs and lows which was to be an essential component of our time together as we learned from each other and encouraged one another to press on towards the goal.
Learning from Habbakuk
After this we sat down to be fed spiritually as Andy Hunter lead us through some first-class devotions on the book of Habbakuk which continued the following day. The call of chapter 2:20 (“the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth fall silent before him”) was apt for our purpose and especially for someone like me whose mind is like a bag of popcorn approaching three minutes on the timer!
Four hours of free time ensued (yes, this is a ministry gathering where you get four hours of free time!) and like Paul of Thebes I slipped out hermit-fashion and retreated to my room to read theology (yes, a ministry gathering where you can actually read some theology!). A time of prayer and personal reflection helped me to focus on the Lord and after this I did what any good pastor would do… I slept.
Learning from Experience
Later, after a brief walk, we had our evening meal together and if you thought things couldn’t get any better you would be wrong. We spent the next two and a half hours in a Q&A with experienced pastor Derek Prime (yes, a ministry gathering where you can actually speak to a top Christian leader without elbowing your way past the groupies!).
Derek gave us the benefit of his great wisdom on subjects such as organising your ministry week, dealing with difficult people, ministry dangers, seeking the Lord’s guidance when considering ministry options, and keeping going over the long haul.
The following morning we finished our time together with a closing devotion from Habbakuk and were sent back into the real world and told to get on with it.
I would recommend the pastors retreat to any full time Christian minister who is looking for some simple time of refreshment. It can often sound like a good idea but is difficult to get round to. The mixture of time out and fellowship is a powerful combination that helps to reboot and recharge the batteries.
It is hoped that we will organise similar Retreats in the future so look out for further details in 2017.
Alan is a former Police Officer who took up full-time theological studies at the International Christian College in Glasgow in 2008. He graduated in 2012 having completed a BA Theology degree and an MTh in Biblical Interpretation and has been the full time Christian Worker at South Glasgow Church since January 2014. He has is married to Ashley and they have two children.