Posts Tagged ‘Scotland’

St_Martin's_CrossMuch of the American conversation among church leaders focuses on the challenges in big churches! As I thought about the questions that I see regularly addressed in minister’s blogs, many of them came with assumptions about their churches that were uniquely American and perhaps unintentionally, but nevertheless, big church questions.  For instance

  • Which is a better kingdom-building strategy, a mother church planting daughter churches, or the multi-campus single church strategy?
  • Which is a better leadership model, a staff-led church or a member-led church?
  • Is Sunday school still the best model or should the teaching of our children be returned to parents and small groups of parents?
  • Worship styles / Seekers worship / and all of those questions.
  • Staffing questions: large hired staff versus volunteers—with all the ensuing involvement questions
  • Ethnically mixed churches versus homogeneous ones—with accompanying language and cultural issues.
  • Leadership issues brought on by generational differences, especially as millennials (and pre-millennials) move toward the first arenas of ministry leadership.

One of the things I love about mission work is that when you are on the real front line of evangelism, it clears the air.  I was just with a small church in Scotland.  You know, I didn’t hear any of these questions on their lips.

Scotland is a country of about 5 million people with a Christian heritage dating back to the second century, though without much history until the sixth or seventh centuries. John Knox led the Scottish Christians out of Roman Catholicism and into the Church of Scotland during the Reformation, so while there is no established church in Scotland, these are still the two largest groupings.

No, that’s not quite right!  While 42% of Scots claim the Church of Scotland and 16% are Roman Catholic, 28% claim no religion. And although 42% claimed membership in the Church of Scotland, the church itself could only account for about 12% of the population as members.  The number quoted to me was 2% of the population attend any Christian worship service on any given week.

It’s not that the Scots have run off into non-western religions, which are represented mostly by the Muslims, Asians, and Indians living in Scotland. And, yes, there is a smattering of occult and even blatant pagan religion, but that’s not where most Scots seem to be.  No, they just are . . .not religious—secular!–not unusually immoral or uncharitable—in fact, there are charity stores and posters everywhere.  And their public schools not only permit, but encourage religious activities and instruction from Christian groups.

I had breakfast with the minister of this small Christian church in Scotland, and I was the guest of a family in this church. Both husband and wife are leaders there as well.  And in none of the hours of conversation that we had, did we talk about any of the questions listed above.

Here are some of the topics with which we wrestled:

  • What do we do when two of the three leadership families in the church have to move away in the same year?
  • How do we give our children what they need when there are only 5-6 children and they are of all different ages?
  • How can we reach out to young families when we are so few young families ourselves?
  • How can one paid minister (only partially from this church and with part coming from the US) take care of the spiritual needs of the members and reach out to seekers?
  • Do we need to recruit workers from America to help out? If so, how would we use them?
  • Where will our children find Christian friends? Who will they marry?  (All of these questions suggest the difficulty of engendering faith in children who grow up where none of their peers believe, of course.)
  • If everybody in the church is involved already, how do we create new growing edges that might encourage growth?
  • The church members, though few, come from every direction across the city, so how do we have strong fellowship and ample opportunity for Bible study and prayer together?
  • How do we integrate the foreign Christians whom we are glad to welcome, but who bring different perspectives, both from their culture and from their home churches that can be very disruptive?

Now, these are not unanswerable questions—nor are they unique to Scotland, but they do seem to be questions of a more basic nature than sometimes make the headlines among Christian thinkers.

And aren’t most of the Christian churches in the world more like the Scottish than like the mega-churches of America?

It won’t hurt all of us to drop back and make sure we are addressing foundational questions, even as our churches grow!

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Why would missionaries’ kids become missionaries when they grow up?

Haven’t they seen how living in a foreign place makes you weird?  Haven’t they experienced the long, heart-rending absences from family, baseball, and apple pie?  Don’t they know how insecure they have lived their whole lives with their parents’ income entirely based on the charity of people they hardly knew and who hardly knew them?  Don’t they know how much better they could have lived if their dad had had a real job?

But everywhere we travel in the world, including Scotland where we are today, we meet our frontline missionaries, and an unusually large number of them are the kids of missionaries.

Today Sherrylee and I spent several wonderful hours with most of the members of the mission team in Falkirk, Scotland.  About eighteen months ago, they began arriving to plant a new work in this small but important city which lies about in the middle between Glasgow and Edinburgh. One dad and mom with four kids are on the team, two single women, and two young married couples.

Currently, about 30 people gather weekly in Falkirk—which is the sign of a blessed work among western European church plants.  Among their latest attempts to reach out to those they live among is to invite an LST team for this coming summer.  The Scots do speak English, but many of the immigrants and international students in Scotland do not, so this team sees them as an opportunity—and I think they are right.

One of the characteristics of growing mission churches throughout the world, as I have observed, is that they are not jealous of their national identity, but rather have completely open doors and open hearts to whomever God brings them.  This team loves the Scottish people, but they also love the Polish people and the Chinese, and the many other nationalities that God has brought to Scotland.  They believe and are acting upon Acts 17:24

 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.  God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

Robin and Chrissy Vick are members of this wonderful team. Robin is the son of missionary parents, and his love for the mission of God is evident. He talked about his commitment to Scotland, that he declined opportunities to join mission teams to other places, that he and Chrissy prayed and prayed for team members to join them, but were committed to go without others if so called.

Why do missionary kids become missionaries?  Here are a few of the reasons as I see it!

  • They learn very early in life that God loves the whole world, not just the U.S., not just the western world, not just the free world, not even just the Christian world, but the WHOLE world!
  • They learn the special skills that are needed to navigate foreign places. They know that languages, dialects, accents can be learned and used appropriately. They understand about visas, and negotiating foreign airports. They are not put off when their money is not green and the coins have pictures of foreign rulers on them with holes in the middle.
  • They are not afraid of other systems. So what if their kids go to European schools! So what if they have socialized medicine! So what if their country has a parliament and a queen instead of a president and a congress.
  • They know the answer to the question that so many potential American missionaries hear: why do you need to go over there? Don’t we have plenty of people here that need to hear the gospel?  They know that not only does Nashville have plenty who still need to hear the gospel, but there are thousands of Christians living in Nashville with huge resources to do that work.  And how many are living in Falkirk? And what are the resources.  That’s why they choose Scotland!

Not all missionary kids become missionaries.  But many do—and we should all give thanks for them and for their parents!

And some of you young parents might want to think about moving!!


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