Thursday, January 03, 2019

2019: Seeds of Hope for the British Church


2018 marked among other things the centenary of the end of the First World War. It was a conflict whose most famous quote came right at the start of it. On the evening of 3rd August 1914 the Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey looked out of his office window overlooking St James Park, and noticing the lamplighters starting their work, remarked: ‘The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime’.

It was, of course, a reference to the coming conflict about to engulf the continent. Along with the following physical, psychological and social trauma that followed – many have also seen that war as a great moment of spiritual upheaval. For many it was a tipping point leading to the subsequent great decline in Christian belief in the nation. Its horrors causing a crisis of faith that the British have never recovered from.

The Great Decline
The reality is more complicated and the decline of Christianity in Britain can be traced as far back as the 19th Century. However, whatever part the War may have played in exacerbating
or indeed accelerating that decline, there is no doubt that we stand in 2019 at the end of a 100 years when the ‘spiritual lamps’ (as Revelation describes local churches) in our nation have, year by year and decade by decade, steadily gone out.

In the early part of that process the decline was less noticeable, at times seemingly offset by local Revivals and special events (e.g. the temporary spike in church attendances after the Billy Graham campaigns in the 1950s). However, in the later twentieth century the underlying attrition gave way to cliff edge falls. In Scotland church attendance more than halved in the 30 years prior to 2016 – the drop between 2002 and 2016 equivalent to ten congregations closing every month[1]. The result is a decimated Scottish church - that today is more than twice as elderly as the nation as a whole[2].

As the ‘lamps’ went out, in buildings that are now nightclubs, artisan flats and carpet warehouses, the darkness has increased. The two things go hand in hand.

Flickers of Hope
But thank God, who is always much more merciful than we deserve, it has not been a complete blackout. Indeed in an increasing number of places the ‘lamps’ are being switched back-on again. On the last Sunday of 2018, I attended one such ‘lamp’ – a busy, all-age, joyful congregation, a church where the Bible was opened and preached faithfully. It was a ‘lamp’ that wasn’t there 12 months earlier but is now burning brightly in the heart of gospel-needy community.

It’s one of 5 FIEC Recognised Church Plants in Scotland that began public services in 2018; the Free Church of Scotland are currently supporting 9 Plants and have a vision to see 21 more established in the next decade[3]. On average a FIEC connected Church Plant is being launched every 3 weeks somewhere in the UK. These are just two of a range of Gospel networks supporting such work – not least the growing proliferation of ethnic minority congregations who are starting to ask: ‘How can we reach our white British neighbours?’

Additionally the 2018 study ‘The Desecularisation of the City[4]’ challenges the received wisdom that secularisim is an unstoppable tide – pointing out that between 1979 and the present the number of congregations in London has increased by 50%.

A brighter future
Now only a prophet can predict the future and I’m not a prophet – but it may be that just as the first half of the C20 contained the seeds of decline (e.g. liberal churches squandering their evangelical inheritance) – it may be that the first half of the C21 has within it the seeds of growth.

Like the initial period of decline after the First World War, the coming of growth is not likely to be immediately apparent. Indeed it will be offset, in the foreseeable future, by the continued decline of compromised and aging churches. So we shouldn’t expect any sudden return to ‘Christian Britain’ – if anything the next few decades are likely to be spiritually harder and darker yet.

We can, however, take hope and pray that the decades of spiritual pruning might lead in the future to decades of renewed spiritual flourishing in the nation. Our grandparents witnessed the ‘lamps’ beginning to go out – but we can be part of a work in 2019 that, by God’s grace, may allow our children and grandchildren to see them lit again across the nation.



[1] Brierley, Growth Amidst Decline – Future First (April 2017, Issue 50)
[2] Brierley, Growth Amidst Decline – Future First (April 2017, Issue 50) & www.gov.scot/Topics/People/Equality/Equalities/PopulationMigration
[3] https://freechurch.org/news/church-plants
[4] https://www.amazon.co.uk/Desecularisation-City-Churches-Routledge-Religion/dp/0815348177

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Bringing the Neighbours Together


Reflections on the ‘Transforming Scotland - Tim Keller Event’ (Edinburgh, 25 Oct 18).

Over 100 church and ministry leaders attended the latest ‘Transforming Scotland’ gathering in Edinburgh. The ‘big draw’ on this occasion was the presence of Tim Keller – whose analysis of the cultural and spiritual challenges facing the contemporary church is always worth hearing.

Dr Keller did not disappoint, he expertly described the huge shifts that have turned Christianity from being the definer of Western culture into now being its very antithesis in many areas. Thus Christianity has to contend with a domineering worldview that sees the very ideas of divine authority, redemption, and self-sacrifice as fundamentally oppressive.

Thinking hard about the future
Regarding where this clash of worldviews would lead, Dr Keller was reluctant to predict but outlined some key areas the church needs to think hard about. This included: (1) Discipling people in a digital age, both in terms of the overwhelming input of non-Christian views people now receive, but also in overcoming the corrosive effects of social media in diminishing empathy and in  relentlessly promoting self. (2) How we effectively share the Gospel with a generation who increasingly have no concept of or agreement with the Biblical presentation of God and sin. (3) The extent to which Western governments might seek to penalise Bible-believing Christians?

However, the gathering was more than a lecture; its intention was that leaders from across Scotland would be able to consider these challenges together and to think collectively about how they might be met. It’s a vision enabled by the generosity of the Maclellan Foundation and its wider work supporting Gospel work in Scotland. Among other things it funded Barna research in 2015, a helpful survey of current attitudes to Christianity and the state of the Scottish church.  

A rare gathering
The Transforming Scotland gatherings are in themselves rare occasions – pulling together leaders from a wide range of evangelical constituencies along with para-church representatives (who often work across those constituencies). Thus there were leaders from more conservative groupings along with those from charismatic and more open evangelical circles. While some might be uneasy at the very notion of this; it is to the credit of Transforming Scotland that they have this heart and are able to bring together leaders who may otherwise have very little contact or knowledge of each other.

The closing section of the gathering was given over to discussion around tables – both to chat about the implications of Dr Keller’s analysis but also how Scottish churches might be more collegiate in meeting the challenges. The limited time meant that any conclusions were roughly formed and sometimes lacked the benefit of a fuller explanation.

Reflections
However, with the benefit of more time to consider the event and its call for those present to seek greater unity, here are some further reflections…

1.  Scottish Tribalism: Dr Keller highlighted what he perceived to be a high level of tribalism among Scottish Christians. Bearing in mind his wide-ranging global experience that is an observation we need to take seriously. At some levels there has been a lessening of congregational tribalism – for example, the Regional Gospel Partnerships established in recent years have brought together leaders from a range of denominational and non-denominational churches. Likewise CLAN (Churches Linked Across the Nation) has brought together people from different churches. However, the churches being brought together in both these examples are typically of ‘a type’ – sharing a similar ecclesiastical personality and theological flavour. Thus ‘tribalism’ (where it exists) tends to be between these groupings rather than individual churches.

2. Loving our Neighbours: among those tribes there are some significant issues of difference – not least, the emphasis given to certain aspects of the Gospel. Additionally there are also some real practical obstacles to joint fellowship (let’s be real). These mean that partnerships are not always going to be straightforward or even that feasible at times – that is a shame, but it should not be an excuse for never doing anything or indeed for a lack of love and respect. As someone has said, ‘We may not be able to live in the same house but we can be good neighbours’. 

In this regard the work of Transforming Scotland & Maclellan is to be welcomed – if nothing else it brings the ‘neighbours’ together and in doing so helps break down points of unnecessary suspicion and division.

3. Speaking Well of Each Other: bringing people together and putting a human face on differences is almost always a helpful thing. It means that having met others personally we are less likely to be dismissive or unkind about them elsewhere. So even where significant differences exist, and formal or structural partnerships are not possible we can at least ‘speak well of each other’. We ought to be cheerleaders for the growth of the Gospel anywhere (Paul was prepared to give thanks for Gospel work even when it was fuelled by low motives, Php 1:15-17). 

Evangelical Christians in Scotland are a tiny minority and we must resist the temptation to become more obsessed about our factional interests than the cause of Christ across the nation. So wherever in Scotland we see Christ being preached and people are coming to saving faith we should bless it.

4.  Brothers not Brands: one practical outworking of loving each other is to resist competitiveness. This can work in two ways: firstly, we must avoid a ‘brand building’ mentality. That is, seeking to expand our church networks or planting regardless of the gospel work of others. We see this in some of our cities – new churches being planted in areas already (relatively) well-served by Bible-believing churches when other much more gospel needy areas are by-passed. Conversely, we must avoid insecure or jealous reactions to the planting of new churches. In a time of such overwhelming gospel our first reaction should be to give thanks for the good efforts of others.

5. All shapes & sizes
Integrity means each will rightly hold onto their convictions, and if we value the pursuit of Biblical truth we can’t simply homogenise and give-up those beliefs. However, humility equally accepts that no church grouping is without error and blind-spots. No one church grouping is going to reach Scotland on its own – we need, to borrow the Dunkirk analogy, ships and boats of all shapes and sizes for this rescue mission. As Dr Keller noted, God in His wisdom has used a surprising array of Christians and churches to extend His Kingdom over the centuries – and praise be to Him that He does.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Not one of his bones will be broken

I’ve always been curious about the apparently strange Biblical injunction that the bones of Passover lambs were not to be broken. After all these lambs were slaughtered, their blood poured out, roasted and then incinerated – so why the preciousness about not breaking any of the bones?

The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it...
 46 “It must be eaten inside the house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. (Exodus 12ESV)

It’s one of those curious details which like a lot of Old Testament ceremony, would be easy to skim over - were it not for the fact that it unexpectedly takes centre stage at the very climax of the Gospel – at the Cross itself.

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs…     36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,”  (John 19, ESV)

Escape Route 
Now, of course, the Gospel writers (and the Apostle Paul) want their readers to understand Jesus’ death in the light of the Passover. The fact that the Crucifixion happened during the Passover feast was not a coincidence – but was divinely ordained. Just as the original Passover sacrifice signalled the opening up of an escape route from judgment & slavery – so the sacrificial death of Jesus opens up the escape route from eternal judgement and spiritual slavery. As Paul put it, …Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed’ (1 Cor 5:7).

So we can see how Jesus being left with his bones unbroken resonates with the Passover – it’s a comparison that strengthens the sense of connection between the two events. But is that all there is to it? Is this detail and its greater manifestation no more than device to link Jesus and the Passover – but without any deeper significance? A kind of, ‘Oh that’s a bit like that, how interesting’, and then we move on.

Rabbinical thoughts
Surely not – but why then were the Passover bones not to be broken? Rabbinical explanations include that it was to emphasis the urgency in leaving Egypt – i.e. they were not to waste time extracting the marrow by breaking the bones. Others suggest it was a statement about the freed Israelites new status – they were not to suck out the marrow as poor people would do (i). But these explanations flounder being based on only part of the story.

Call-back
During this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe one comedian made an apparently ad lib joke that beautifully connected with a previous section of his show. Indeed the joke only made sense and had impact because of the earlier material (it’s what’s known by comics as a ‘call-back’). He then (again seemingly ‘off the cuff’) quipped that the whole show had been ‘reversed engineered’ in order to make the joke work.
  
In the same way the strange Biblical injunction about the bones of Passover lambs can only be properly understood retrospectively. Not of course, that there’s anything funny about it, but the original material only makes sense in the light of subsequent events. The question therefore is not, 'Why not break the Passover lamb’s bones?’ but, ‘What point is being made by ensuring that Jesus’ bones remained intact?’

Surprisingly dead
Well the reason that crucified people had their bones broken was to speed up their death. The effect of breaking the legs, as the guards were instructed to do, was to collapse the body and cause suffocation. However, in the case of Jesus – such measures were unnecessary – He was already dead. Indeed surprisingly so, the expectation being, that like the thieves crucified on either side, He would still be alive. For a man in the prime of life His relatively quick death was something of a shock – so much so, that a spear was thrust into his side just to make absolutely sure.

The point of this unusual turn of events, was not that Jesus was weak but that no-one would take his life from Him. He decided when to give it up and did so at the exact time of His choosing – ‘Jesus said, ‘It is finished’. With that he bowed his head and gave up his spirit’ (John 19:30). The moment of Jesus’ death came only when He had completed the work of sin-bearing and made salvation possible. No-one would take his life before that moment and there was no need to prolong it beyond that point.

Who's in charge?
At the start of Matthew 26 we are presented with two statements of intent regarding the death of Jesus. In v2 Jesus states that He will be crucified during the Passover. In v5 the chief priests and elders state that they will not kill him during the Passover. Well guess who was in charge!

Though not understood at the time, those unbroken Passover bones in Egypt were pointing not only to a Saviour who would give His life for sinners - but also to a sovereign King who was in total control even as He gave it up.   

i. https://thetorah.com/searching-for-the-meaning-of-the-passover-sacrifice/


Friday, May 04, 2018

Revitalising Scotland

Written for FIEC

Can the ageing Scottish church be saved? Andy Hunter calls for a new generation of young bi-vocational pastors to lead the charge.
Revitalising Scotland primary image
Much of the Scottish church is dying of old age. According to 2016 figures, 42% of Scottish church-goers are over 65 years old.1 By contrast, the proportion of the Scottish population over 65 is only 18%.2 This means that overall the church in Scotland is more than twice as elderly as the nation.
One church I visited recently had 18 members and the following age profile: 4x 90s; 4x 80s; 8x 60s; 2x under 60 but nobody under 50. This situation is replicated in many places. It represents a demographic time-bomb that will close scores of churches in the next decade.
Let’s be honest, in some instances those closures will be overdue. The community the church used to serve and witness to is simply no longer there. In some cases it’s been physically demolished, in others the church has become so fossilised culturally that it’s no longer accessible to anyone outside itself. Sadly, some churches have just lost any concern or vision to reach those around them.
However, many aging churches are in places where there is still a community to be reached – where if there wasn’t a church you’d want to start one. The congregation still yearns to reach out and see people saved. Where there is an openness to make changes, uncomfortable changes, these churches can once again be places of gospel growth.

Vision, energy and a future

The problem is: how? The buzzword is revitalisation – and much great work is being done to help churches through that process. But it doesn’t take long to see that at the heart of any successful revitalisation is the issue of leadership. That is, leadership with vision, energy and a future.
None of that is to disparage the extraordinary service and sacrifice of many who lead aging churches. But vision (a plan and goals for gospel growth, beyond just maintenance), energy (leading from the front, enthusing others, getting things done), and a future (here is something we can potentially get behind for the next 5,10, 20 years). These are three things, even with the best will in the world, aging churches generally struggle to provide.

Good news, bad news

So while there are doubtless exceptions, successful revitalisations typically happen where there is leadership with those three characteristics. This means we need younger well-trained leaders who can be deployed into valuable but aging churches.
Here’s the good news: there are many such leaders coming out of colleges and training programmes every year. Leaders with gospel vision, energy and who have (God willing) prime years of life to offer.
Here’s the bad news: they eat, have families, need homes – and thus require a level of financial support that smaller aging churches often can’t provide.
But there is an opportunity here – as there are few churches without any income (indeed smaller churches often accrue substantial reserves precisely because of their low overheads). Often the income of a church with low overheads (e.g. no staff) is usually less than its potential – after all people generally give what is needed and not for what isn’t. Thus even a small church should be able to muster some support – a part-time salary for example.

Bi-vocational advantages

For younger leaders/potential pastors this could be supplemented by bi-vocational working. Actually bi-vocational ministry has a number of benefits besides just meeting financial needs. Local employment can help embed someone in their community, establish contacts and create extra gospel opportunities. This can be a good use of time especially when the congregational needs of the church are relatively small.
The hope, of course, would be that the church will grow and over time meet more of the pastor’s financial needs – allowing him to attend to the correspondingly increasing ministry needs.
So we need many more people ready and able to enter ministry on that basis – as otherwise many current churches simply won’t survive for anyone to work in regardless of finance. Obviously some jobs lend themselves to a bi-vocational pastorate more than others and some jobs will pay highly for even part-time work. But for those whose main options will be less well-paid work, churches need to consider asymmetrical remuneration – e.g. paying relatively highly for two days’ work, on the basis that the pastor’s bi-vocational income won’t provide an equal share of what they need to live on.
There is a real need for smaller aging churches to solicit these discussions and be ready to take some risks here if their future is not simply to be one of continued decline.

Wider church back-up

There is another important consideration in all this – one which is often more of a problem than finance. That is, the wider ministry support given to pastors in such situations.
It can be that in churches where there has been a long period of decline there is no longer a good working model of leadership – or where the model has become dysfunctional. The fear (and experience) of many is that sending younger pastors into such situations is to ‘throw them to lions’ re: ministry pressures.
The problem is compounded by the scarcity of assistant pastor positions where younger pastors can ‘cut their teeth’ and prepare for solo pastorates. This result is, whether we like it or not, many younger/newer pastors will need to go solo from the start and in more challenging churches – if they are (a) to find positions and (b) meet the great need of revitalising smaller aging churches.
So here’s the radical bit. Could established pastors and larger churches support newer pastors serving in smaller churches? Perhaps adopting them as ‘remote assistant pastors’ – giving them pastoral and ongoing training support in the way a mother-church would to its Church Planters? This would help prevent newer pastors being left to ‘sink or swim’, make the option of going to smaller aging churches more attractive, and increase the likelihood of such ministries succeeding.

Tipping point

The statistics are clear, the next two decades will be a tipping point for much of the Scottish Church. A whole raft of congregations are set to disappear and leave whole communities without any gospel witness. However, there is an opportunity to see many smaller aging churches turned around and start growing again.
That can only happen if (a) there is a willingness by those churches to change, to spend and take risks, (b) younger pastors are prepared to choose bi-vocational working options, and (c) the wider church gives those leaders the back-up they would otherwise miss out on.
The clock is ticking!
Footnotes
1. Brierly, Growth Amidst Decline - Future First (April 2017, Issue 50)
2. www.gov.scot/Topics/People/Equality/Equalities/PopulationMigration

The Impossible Dream

Article written for FIEC. 

In March, leaders from 20 churches gathered together in Gateshead for a Mission Forum hosted by FIEC. Andy Hunter was there and reports back on the purpose of the day.
The Impossible Dream primary image
“In order to accommodate just 1% of the North East’s population we need 130 churches with at least 200 people in each.”
That was the challenge and stark reality facing church leaders from 20 churches – the largest of which has just over 100 members at the FIEC North East Mission Forum. For many present, including a number of very small, struggling churches, this might have seemed the very definition of an ‘impossible dream’. 
The North East of England has a population of 2.6 million people and has seen church attendance drop by 36% over a 30 year period. Many churches have an age profile that is twice the age of the surrounding population and the number of people identifying as ‘non-religious’ is steadily growing. Even the most generous estimates still mean more than 2.5 million people are outside of Christ.
It’s not all doom and gloom of course. People are still coming to faith, some churches are seeing growth, and a number of a new churches have been planted, especially among ethnic minority groups in the region.
Nevertheless the challenges are huge – making the need for gospel churches to support, encourage and partner with one another all the more necessary and important. Hence the vision behind this gathering of leaders at Tyneside Central Church.

Church Revitalisation

The day began with the recognition that, humanly speaking, the options for new initiatives were very limited. Not even all the needs raised by churches present could be met, never mind across the entire region.
However, it might be possible to do something and make a difference by working together where possible. That, of course, would require humility, flexibility and generosity – for some to give way, others to give away, and perhaps for one or two – to get out of the way.
Phil Walter speaking at the Forum
FIEC’s Church Revitalisation Coordinator Phil Walter shared his experiences of helping struggling churches to make needed changes. He noted this was often hard to do and there were no quick-fix easy answers - but where there was a heart to put the gospel first there had been some great examples of renewed growth and transformation taking place.
Hugo Charteris, Pastor of Christchurch Heaton, is one of many church leaders who, while not born in the area, has committed himself to trying to reach it for Christ. He has been in Newcastle for 15 years, raised his family there and fully expects to be buried there!
Mission Forum
Hugo’s heart and vision for the area was expressed in ‘5 little things’ that could make a big gospel difference:
  1. Keeping your local church healthy;
  2. Being ambitious for the region through prayer and partnerships;
  3. Praying for the formation of ‘hub’ churches who could resource wider gospel initiatives in the region;
  4. Sharing experiences and expertise; and
  5. Seeking the creation of a regional training centre.
A significant part of the day was given over to discussion groups where local situations, encouragements and needs could be shared. Common themes emerged including the difficulties of doing outreach with small numbers, the social challenges in many areas, and the lack of good readily-available training.

Outcomes

Positively there was a widespread desire to try and do more working together. In particular to make such gatherings a more regular occurrence in order to share needs, pray and strengthen relationships. Dave Lovelock, former pastor at Welbeck Road EC, closed the day with apt pastoral thoughts from Psalm 22 on the subject: ‘When you’re up against it’.
This Forum was just a tiny step in tackling a colossal challenge – but by small steps significant advances can be made! 20 small churches needing to become 130 large churches just to reach 1% of the population may be ‘an impossible dream’ – fortunately God is the God of the impossible.
Please pray…
  • That struggling churches will be revitalised;
  • That new Church Plants will be established in unreached areas;
  • That existing churches will have strengthened relationships;
  • For local church leaders not to become weary in well doing;
  • That a good regional training centre can be established.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Gavin McAllister Obituary

Written for FIEC Website. 

For Glasgow, Scotland and the World

Andy Hunter pays tribute to former Scottish President of FIEC, Gavin Burns McAllister, who was called home in February. Gavin was also Scottish Chairman of the Zambesi Mission and Pastor Emeritus of Finnieston Evangelical Church, Glasgow.
For Glasgow, Scotland and the World primary image
Gavin Burns McAllister
11 February 1919 – 21 February 2018
February 2018 marked the passing of two faithful servants of Jesus Christ – both converted in 1934 and who died a day apart aged 99 years old. Two men who for more than 80 years preached the gospel, served the church and led missionary outreach across cultures and continents.
One, of course, was internationally famous and whose passing received worldwide media coverage.
The other was little known outside a small inner-city church and a dwindling group of compatriots. Nevertheless Gavin McAllister, like Billy Graham, can have been assured of a wonderful welcome into the presence of the Lord.

‘The Bishop of Flotta’

The second of three boys, Gavin was born in Glasgow, the city he loved and gave so much of his life to, in February 1919. However, it was in the Highlands that he came to faith aged 15 before quickly becoming a ‘boy preacher’ in his early Christian years.
Like many of his generation the Second World War called Gavin into Military Service where he served he served in Dover and Orkney as a supply clerk and as a Telecommunications Engineer. Throughout these years (1940-46) he so stood out for Christ that his fellow servicemen nicknamed him ‘The Bishop of Flotta’ (after one the Orkney islands).
After the war Gavin graduated from Glasgow University and became a Chartered Accountant working in the NHS. It was an occupation he excelled in and gave him many opportunities to share his faith in the wider world. On one hospital visit he was told he could not eat with the senior staff but would have to lunch with the nurses. Gavin was utterly unfazed by this having no pretensions or desire for status – indeed it quite amused him as the previous day he’d dinned with the Duke of Edinburgh while visiting elsewhere.

Finnieston

If there was one place that truly had Gavin’s heart it was Finnieston in Glasgow – an inner city dockland area on the Clyde. It was here that he assisted his father Walter in outreach work to its predominantly working class men and women. This included the ‘Muffler meetings’ – mufflers being scarfs worn by the many unemployed men to hide their lack of clean shirts and ties.
1961 was a special year for Gavin, he became the founding pastor of what was to become Finnieston Evangelical Church. It was also the year he married his beloved Jean, who was to serve with him until her own passing in 2016.
Finnieston Evangelical Church building








Being Scottish, Gavin’s most significant memory of 1966 was not football – rather it was eating his first Asian meal, the first of many! The 1960’s saw the beginning of what would become a large Asian community in Glasgow. Most were from Muslim and Sikh backgrounds but a number came from Indian and Pakistani Christian communities.
Gavin was quick to welcome them and the church became a spiritual home for Asian Christians who today lead the church. His gospel heart was seen in his willingness to adapt the services to be as accessible as possible to this new group – including translation into Punjabi and Sunday lunch becoming curry and pakora. He would later become Chairman of ‘The Fellowship of Faith for Muslims’ in Scotland.

Home & Abroad

While firmly rooted in local church ministry Gavin was not parochial but possessed a big vision for gospel work both nationally and internationally. He served on the Scottish Council of the Zambesi Mission becoming its chairmen in the 1970s. After ‘retirement’ he visited Malawi and preached around the country.
At the heart of his national gospel concern was the desire to see independent gospel churches, like Finnieston EC, work together for the cause of Christ. Key to this for Gavin was FIEC.
He served as our Scottish Treasurer and then as Scottish President on three occasions (1980-81, 1988-89 & 1991-92). In these roles he travelled throughout Scotland visiting churches and encouraging leaders and congregations alike – a ministry still remembered as far north as the Shetlands where his teaching was particularly appreciated.
Along with all this he was a self-taught pianist, he undertook theological training, and rose to become Chief Financial Accountant of Argyle & Bute Health Board (with responsibility, for the then new, computer accounting across all West of Scotland Health Boards). The effect of the latter was that Gavin undertook all his many ministry responsibilities, as he himself put it ‘free of charge’.
He was blessed with a long-life and good health, he lived modestly and never flagged in using all he had for the advancement of the gospel. Even in his 98th year when it was suggested that renewing his FIEC Marriage Celebrant status might not be necessary – he thought it would be handy to retain it.

Ahead of his time

Gavin McAllister showed throughout his life a love for Jesus Christ, a concern for the church and a passion for mission. He was ahead of his time in many ways – seeing the opportunity to reach out to new minority communities and being willing to change in order to do so. He saw the need for independent churches to be connected and have a vision bigger than themselves. He worked ‘bi-vocationally’ using his wider skills to support his ministry work.
Gavin and Jean McAllister








He and Jean had no children but their legacy is a spiritual family crossing generations of men and women, from a diverse range of backgrounds and cultures, who were brought to faith, pastored and inspired for Christ.
Heaven is a vibrant multi-ethnic and international place – Gavin will love it there.