Wednesday, May 21, 2014

New Growth Counselling

An article written for FIEC. 

Encouraging New Growth

There is a growing interest in “biblical counselling” here in the UK. New Growth Christian Counselling in Edinburgh are seeking to put that model of counselling into practice as they work in partnership with local churches. Andy Hunter tells their story.
Encouraging New Growth primary image
David Armstrong is one of our Pastors’ Network members with a passion to see counselling shaped by the gospel and firmly rooted in the Bible. It’s possible for counselling done by Christians to become detached from the gospel and employ essentially secular models of therapy in helping people with life issues. In contrast, genuinely biblical counselling should be ‘a rivet’ that connects the gospel directly to life and doesn’t shy away from applying God’s Word.
David ArmstrongOne key biblical truth is the need for the church to be the community in which people can be cared for and work through problems. However, due to the complexity and depth of some problems, a component of church care may sometimes be the involvement of specialised counsellors. David wants to ensure that such counselling is not about solving problems in isolation but about discipleship – demonstrating that the gospel is something that helps us to face all of life.

Serving the church

It was with these desires and convictions that David, along with Louise Macmillan (from the Free Church of Scotland), started New Growth Christian Counselling in Edinburgh last year. The service is supported by both Charlotte Chapel and Bruntsfield Evangelical Church – support and connections that are an integral part of New Growth’s philosophy. Those using the service need to be referred by church pastors or must be willing to make positive connections with an appropriate church.
New Growth logoDavid is very clear that New Growth is not a substitute for the wisdom and care of church elders but exists to assist and compliment their shepherding. An emphasis that should reassure anyone who fears that such counselling might point people away from the church in seeking solutions to their problems. Rather a Christian’s relationship with a local church is key in helping them view their lives biblically.

Trained to help

In preparing to start New Growth, David and Louise have each spent a number of years undertaking training with CCEF (the Christian Counselling & Educational Foundation), which is centred around an ethos that is biblical and church-connected. David has also completed the Cornhill Training Course and his work as an elder of Charlotte Chapel gives him plenty of hands-on experience in church ministry.
As counsellors, David and Louise seek to help people struggling with a range of issues including addictions, marriage issues, fear, anxiety, guilt, shame and depression. While doing this they always work with other health and care providers where appropriate. The desire in all situations is to see people re-orientated in their thinking; to have greater confidence in God’s love and Christ’s sufficiency for them.

Future opportunities

Changing Hearts conference 2014
David recalls attending the Changing Hearts conference in 2013 and being struck by how many people were there (you can read Richard Underwood’s report on that conference here). He saw the huge appetite that exists for this kind of ministry. The CCEF model of counselling is something that is relatively new and undeveloped in the UK, but hopefully it will be increasingly useful to the church in the coming years.
Please pray for David and Louise as they develop this ministry – especially for connections to those who they could help. Pray that it will be a great blessing to the wider church in Edinburgh and will lead the way for similar ministries elsewhere.
Find out more about Biblical Counselling UK, including details of future conferences, at
Andy Hunter photo
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.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Light on the Black Isle

There are two things you need to know about Avoch on the Black Isle. Firstly, it’s not pronounced Avoch (think ‘Aw-ch’); secondly it’s not on an island (the Black Isle is a peninsular just north of Inverness). 

Nonetheless it was to Avoch Congregational Church that John Marker was called in 2011. John was studying theology at Highland Theological College (HTC) and had visited Avoch CC as a student. In 2011 the church was down to less than 10 regular attendees and surviving on a single Sunday morning service with no other meetings and activities. Despite this, the challenges of rural ministry and having a family brought up in Stoke, John and his wife Julie were sure Avoch was where God wanted them to go.

Early on John was convinced that prayer needed to be the priority and quickly established a church prayer meeting. In the beginning the numbers were just the ‘2 or 3 gathered together’ and occasionally it would just be John on his own. Another big concern was identifying a reliable fellow Bible teacher to cover John’s ‘free Sunday’ once a month (as John 'officially' works for the church on a half-time basis). But the prayer focus was honoured by God and an early answer was the provision of Arthur, a retired minister living nearby, who was to become John’s fellow elder in the church.  John began to take the church back to its Gospel roots through consistent Bible teaching. This was met by some consternation on occasions as people were surprised to be taught Biblical truths sadly long neglected – ‘we’ve never heard that before!’ For some John’s ministry was a cause to leave – but as John reflects, this meant in some instances the removal of some negative influences including Free Masonry.

A church with vision!
Despite the need to withdraw from its previous Congregational network due to doctrinal concerns, the church’s vision remained one of being connected to other Gospel churches in order to strengthen themselves and other like-minded churches throughout Scotland. Thus the decision was made to affiliate to FIEC.

Despite the inevitable ‘ups and downs’ of ministry, the commitment to the Word and Prayer is producing fruit. Three years on from attendances of six people on a Sunday morning there are now regularly between 40 and 60 present. The weekly prayer meeting is regularly attended by between 15 and 20 people – remarkable in these days for such a small town. Some long standing members have got saved and been baptised, and local Christians are discovering a local church with a renewed Gospel vision.

Refurbishment Plans
In the coming weeks work will begin to refurbish the church sanctuary with new seats, heating and décor. John described the apprehension about whether funds could be raised for this as they set an initial target of raising £5000 on a ‘Gift Sunday’ – only to receive ‘out the blue’ the sum of £25,000 four days beforehand. This summer a football outreach week is being planned to connect with the children of the village.

Humanly, many would have ‘written off’ Avoch CC as a viable church with any great future three years ago. That it’s growing today, John is very clear, is not because of human ingenuity but a testimony to what can happen when churches renew their trust in the power of God’s Word and prayer.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

FIEC Scotland Representation - Assisted Suicide Bill

FIEC Scotland letter to the Scottish Parliament (Health and Sport Committee) in response to the 'call for evidence' for the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill. Submissions must be no more than 2000 words and be made by Friday 6th June 2014. 


12th May 2014

FAO: The Health and Sport Committee
The Scottish Parliament

Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill – Call for Written Evidence

Dear Sir / Madam


The Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC) represents 18 churches throughout Scotland with over 1000 members in total. In addition FIEC represents a number of other Scottish church leaders and pastors affiliated to our ‘Pastors’ Network’. In the United Kingdom as a whole FIEC is made up of over 500 churches and exists to support independent churches and represent them at national levels.

As a significant church grouping representing many Scottish citizens we wish to express our deep concerns about the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill currently under consideration by the Health and Sport Committee. We believe that the proposals in this Bill to allow the intentional and proactive taking of human life on the grounds of health is a hugely dangerous step.

As churches and pastors we are often deeply involved, and witnesses to, situations of great suffering and human tragedy. We are very conscious and sensitive to the pressures, heartache and pain that people face at such times – both those directly afflicted and those close to them. It is in such circumstances that people need the greatest care and support; the provision of pain relieving medication and other palliative care by the NHS and other care providers is something we are deeply thankful for, and whose funding and provision by government is a mark of a caring society.

Indeed it is at the very heart of our society’s ethics that medicine and medics should only ever be employed to sustain and protect human life (we note in this regard opposition to this legislation by many parts of the medical profession[i]). Such care, of course, is demanding and can be costly but it is a mark of civilised society that every human life should be cherished (regardless of its condition) as of utmost value.

We believe that for the State to sanction the taking of life on the basis of its perceived ‘value’ or ‘quality’ would be to fundamentally change the balance of power between citizens and government. Government, we believe, should hold it as sacrosanct never to countenance any involvement in the killing of any of its citizens on such a basis. We realise that there will inevitably be cases that will test such a principle due to their harrowing nature – nevertheless it is a principle that once overturned will inevitably result in demands for further pragmatic extensions.

Indeed it would be highly naïve to think this legislation would not in time lead to wider applications. The issue of Abortion is a case in point: the legislation for this was introduced with assurances that it would be a measure only for the most desperate cases and would be rigorously monitored and controlled. Last year over 12,000 abortions[ii] were performed in Scotland (over 190,000 in England and Wales in 2012[iii]). Regarding Assisted Suicide it is clear that where provision has been allowed elsewhere the trend is one of increasing and widening use over time – such as the recent extension of such provision in Belgium to include children[iv].

We are also concerned that Assisted Suicide provision would, over time, create cultural pressure on the most vulnerable in our society to end their life rather than be a perceived burden on others. Legislating for people to commit suicide shifts the dynamic, for those suffering, from a situation in which choosing to live would be as much a choice as choosing to die – in such a situation it is not hard to see how people could begin to feel (or be made to feel) they are choosing to be a ‘burden’ and thus being selfish by continuing to live.

A number of other arguments against Assisted Suicide have been cogently made by The Christian Institute and Care Not Killing which we would share and support.

For all these reasons we ask that the Committee reject this Bill, and in doing so uphold the moral foundation of Government (and indeed medicine) in only ever seeking to sustain and protect the lives of its citizens. We appreciate that this will be hard for some, with whom we would want to stand, to support and to pray for, but believe that there is a greater principle at stake concerning the very sanctity of life.

Yours faithfully,
Andrew T. Hunter
Scotland Director (FIEC)