I have not traveled often beyond the North American continent, but when I do, the truest joy is not in seeing the sites or getting a glimpse of the culture. The truest joy is in worshipping with fellow believers. Last fall I was able to worship with Christians in Dubai and India and was deeply moved. Yesterday, on this vision trip with 20schemes, I worshipped at two different churches in two different cities in Scotland and they highlighted both the past and the future of what Christians are trying to accomplish here.
We began the day at Niddrie Community Church. Mez McConnell became pastor here six years ago. When he arrived it was a church in long decline. There were believers here who genuinely loved the Lord and longed to serve him, but the members were intimidated by the people in the neighborhood and were making few inroads into the scheme. The church building was a constant target of vandalism and the pastors were being oppressed and intimidated.
Yesterday there were well over 100 people in attendance, many of them new believers and the majority of them saved in just the past few years. There were children all over the place, young couples, singles young and old, and some elderly. The church has seen a complete reversal and an exciting revitalization under Mez’s leadership.
The service could have been copied and pasted from my own Grace Fellowship Church where I worshipped last week or from Redeemer Church of Dubai where I worshipped last fall. They sang, they read, they prayed, they preached and they went their way. There was nothing fancy about it.
There is no great trick to Mez’s ministry and no secret to the church’s successful impact in the neighborhood over the past few years. The people have moved into the scheme, they have built relationships, and they have preached the gospel. They’ve left the results in the Lord’s hands and he has done amazing things. There are people here like Ricky (who is tracking toward church leadership) and Paul (who is doing his first paid work in 17 years and scrubbing toilets for the Lord) and Natasha (who has taken such good care of us over the past few days). Each of them testifies to the Lord’s work in their life and each of them shows clear evidences of his grace.
We joined in the church’s fellowship lunch and then went on our way.
The evening took us to Grangemouth, a sprawling scheme about 45 minutes away, on the outskirts of the city of Glasgow. This is a church whose best days are in the past. Six seniors gather on a Sunday evening to sing songs and to hear a sermon from one of elders of Niddrie Community Church. The sanctuary with seating for well over 100 people sits empty and they meet in a tiny little room off to the side in order to save money on heating. Our little group tripled the attendance and added more than a little volume to the singing.
This church dates back over 60 years and at least a couple of the founders are still here. They have seen the church climb to 200 in attendance and then shrink back to nearly nothing. They have not had a pastor since the 80’s; it has been far longer since they have seen a convert. And it is, literally, the only gospel-preaching church in the scheme.
The building is beginning to show signs of decay. Shingles are missing on the roof, plaster is crumbling inside, and paint is losing the battle with mold. And yet this building is surrounded by people—literally thousands of them within a stone’s throw. The building is available and its members are asking for help. All it needs is the right pastor and the right team to come, to plant themselves in the community, and to begin to tell others about Jesus.
Grangemouth stands in stark contrast to Niddrie Community Church. And yet Niddrie gives hope that this church, too, can be revitalized and that it, in turn, can become a church that saves the lost and the sends the saved to do the Lord’s work. Niddrie proves that the schemes are reachable, that God has his people there, and that no church is beyond hope when the gospel is preached. And this is exactly what 20schemes believes.
We have people with us this week who are asking the Lord if he would send them to a place like this, and perhaps he will. Or maybe that work will fall to you or to someone like you. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”