‘If you can do it on your own, it’s not big enough’, was the strapline of a recent FIEC Mission Day held in Edinburgh – but it could equally be the motto for all churches and groups with a heart to see Scotland reached for Christ. The Fellowship of Independent Churches is one such group and is delighted to share that ambition with the Free Church of Scotland.
FIEC is a UK wide network of over 560 Independent Churches (including Brethren, Congregational, Baptist, Missions Halls…) who are united by strong evangelical convictions and a vision to see local churches strengthened and supporting each other. In other words while FIEC churches are ‘independent’ as regards their governance they know that being separatist or existing in isolation is not a Biblical model.
In Scotland, which historically has had a relatively small constituency of independent churches, there are currently 23 affiliated churches along with another 30 pastors connected to FIEC’s Pastors’ Network. It is nonetheless a growing network and encouragingly includes four new Church Plants in Huntly, Buckhaven, Glasgow (Barlanark) and most recently in Orkney. Other churches who have joined in recent years include Harper Church in Glasgow, Niddrie Community Church and Charlotte Chapel in the capital.
A proliferation of new Independent Churches
A key FIEC conviction is that there is no substitute for healthy and outward looking local churches if the gospel is to flourish again in Scotland. In recent years while there has been decline in some sections of the church there has been a proliferation of new Independent churches. New churches that will be increasingly needed in evangelising unreached areas and new communities. In this FIEC exists to help connect them with each other and to a big vision for gospel growth across the whole nation.
Almost every Independent church would want to see Church Planting and Revitalisations taking place nationwide, they would want to see new gospel workers being raised up and well trained, and they would want to see those gospel workers being supported and cared for. The reality is however, that such aspirations are often beyond the capacity of individual churches and remain unachievable for them. Alternatively a group of likeminded churches partnering together have the potential to give those gospel desires concrete expression.
FIEC means that an Independent church on the Black Isle can help a Church Plant in Glasgow get legal help setting up its constitution, a church in the borders can support the training of a student in Edinburgh, or a church in Shetland can help support a sick pastor in Ayrshire. In short FIEC allows Independent Churches to have something of the vision and capability of a gospel denomination like the Free Church.
In practical terms this is being worked out in initiatives such as the Certificate of Independent Church Ministry at ETS. The course is designed for students and others who are considering ministry in Independent Churches and gives an appreciation of the history, ecclesiology and practicalities of serving in a self-governing church. Along with this has been the FIEC initiated Pathways Conferences for men and women thinking about vocational ministry options. In the past two years these events have helped almost 100 men and women think through issues such as ‘the Call’, the character, and the challenge of Christian ministry today.
Care of Workers
FIEC pastors and church leaders are connected together in a ‘Link Pastor’ network to help ensure that no-one need feel isolated or out-on-a-limb because they serve in an Independent church. Additional support in this area has also been provided by pastoral retreats and day conferences which provide refreshment and fellowship for those in the front line of church life.
The big challenge for all gospel-hearted people is, of course, the desperate spiritual state of the nation. With over 90% of the Scottish population lost and increasingly ignorant of the gospel the need for Bible-believing Christians to stand together and clearly proclaim Christ has never been greater. Because no one group, however dynamic, can meet that need on its own – all are needed and all have a part to play. FIEC is just one of those groups and thus we particularly value our deepening friendship with the Free Church and its big hearted gospel generosity towards us.
So please pray for FIEC and its work supporting Independent Churches – pray that such churches will have a big vision for the gospel, that being Independent won’t stop them partnering with other committed evangelicals, and that their part in the great task of making Christ known in the nation will be a fruitful and God-glorifying one.