This week the blog is sponsored by 20schemes and this post is written by Mez McConnell, 20schemes’ Executive Director. Mez reflects on the past, present and looks to the future of this ministry to reach Scotland’s poorest communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
20schemes is the joint ministry of two local churches, Niddrie Community Church in Edinburgh, Scotland, & Redeemer Fellowship Church, Bardstown, USA. It is often mistaken as a para-church organisation when, in reality, it is the church planting and revitalisation ministry of both churches.
I first had the vision for what is now 20schemes in 2009 when I came across a newspaper article concerning the fifty poorest housing schemes in Scotland. I read the article and began thinking about the impact a gospel church would have in each of those communities.
20schemes was officially launched in November 2012 in the kitchen of the Niddrie Community Church manse by Sharon Dickens, Matthew Spandler-Davison & myself. We had less than £500 in the bank and a dream to reach Scotland’s poorest communities with the gospel of Jesus.
The early years were very tough because nobody had heard of us and those that did thought that we were a passing fad. Many churches across the UK were wary of supporting us and, although we gained some support from faithful Scottish & UK Christians, the majority of our giving came from the USA.
I began to travel around the UK speaking about the vision of the ministry. Many people were sympathetic to the work, but that emotion didn’t translate into hard cash or volunteers. This led us to turn to the USA and this is where Matthew Spandler-Davison stepped in to help us recruit and raise money. Mark Dever and 9marks were massively helpful to us during this time by promoting our ministry and giving me opportunities to speak at some major conferences. Slowly, but surely, we started to gain a little momentum as more Christians rallied to our cause and began to support us financially and prayerfully.
We have been through some lean and trying times and we have skirted the abyss of financial meltdown on more than one occasion. Yet, through it all God has used these times to deepen our faith and dependence upon Him. Here we are 10 years later, still skirting the abyss, but alive and functioning to the glory and praise of His name!
Today, on our 10th anniversary, here’s where we stand:
To date, we have either planted or revitalised churches in eleven schemes across Scotland. We have theologically trained men and women who are now engaged in gospel work across Scotland. We have more than a dozen books available in seven languages that have sold hundreds of thousands of copies. We have started dedicated Women’s, Music and back-to-work ministries, and it has been a great joy to inspire and support similar ministries in England, Canada, America, and Africa.
Even as I write these words, I find it incredible what God has done over the past decade. He has just been so good to us. There is no way on earth that 20schemes would exist today were it not for our kind and gracious God. Every one of these ministries aforementioned is subservient to the greater vision of planting and revitalising churches among Scotland’s poorest.
There is not a week goes by when we don’t hear of somebody, somewhere being saved in one of our schemes. Of course, we hear bad news in our communities too. Sometimes dark and evil stuff. But, the darkness can never extinguish the light of the world and each church plant is a testament to that great biblical truth.
10 years ago, three people sat in a room in the scheme of Niddrie and prayed. We could not have dreamt that the Lord would bring 20schemes to where it is now, and for that we praise Him.
I am often asked what we will do if and when we hit 20 schemes. My answer is, ‘I will let you know when we get there!’ One thing is for certain, there will never not be a need for gospel churches in Scotland’s poorest communities. Glasgow and its greater area alone, have just short of 100 schemes, the vast majority without the settled Christian witness of a local church. The need for pastors, planters and gospel workers remains as critical as it did when we began this ministry.
We are still looking for men and women of all ages and skillsets to come to the schemes of Scotland and to give their lives to the work of the gospel in these dark and needy places. We need more money, more people, and more prayer. This mission field really is ripe for harvest. Therefore, we must keep pushing forward for the sake of the gospel and the holy name of our God.
One of the ways I encourage all of our planters is by reminding them to look up from their own schemes from time to time and rejoice in what God is doing in schemes across Scotland. People are being saved as the gospel is being preached.
It’s the way it’s always been and it’s the way it will always be. We have no grand strategies other than proclaiming the good news of Jesus to the least, the last and the lost, discipling the saved, and equipping them for future service.
Somebody asked me recently if I thought 20schemes will outlast me. I hope so, otherwise I’ve been doing it wrong. It will last just as long as God wants it to last. It will last as long as faithful men and women refuse to let the apathy of the wider church discourage them from our Scottish mission field.