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Why Keep Planting?

It is a drop in the ocean, but just to put you in the picture, let me explain: St Columba’s is a small, Presbyterian Free Church of Scotland in the centre of Edinburgh. By God’s grace, we have planted a church in Morningside (Cornerstone) and in Midlothian (Esk Valley Church) And, although we are not sure how; we want to plant lots more.

There is a simple answer to the question posed in the article heading… for us, it has clearly been God’s idea! I am an ordinary church leader – I’m a semi-strategist, a half-baked planner, and a barely competent visionary. Generally, I don’t like Conferences, and I’m not big on the latest church fad. I don’t do trendy or funky, and I couldn’t tell you who is the next big Christian theological celebrity whose message is going to be life transforming.

I’m a simple kind of guy, and in St Columba’s we like simple. In 2001, when I became the minister here, the congregation was on its knees. But, we believed God had brought us together for His purpose, and we believed He had many people in this city. The city we love.

As the years have passed, we have been amazed that God has always been one step ahead of us. Our strategy is inevitably playing catch up – therefore it isn’t our master, and it's usually far too limited! God has constantly amazed us with his patience, wisdom and generosity.

We have no secrets, and we certainly have never seen church planting as a fad. In fact, it really annoys me when people cheaply analyse it as such - it is such a dismissive and ignorant statement. We always believed that reaching out with the gospel into the city where there are so few Christians would involve lots more Gospel focused churches – not less, and not just cramming full our existing churches. We just weren’t sure how to do it - practically.

So we just did it. We planned for it, taught about it, prayed about it and, yes, even made up strategy documents – but we still have no real idea. We knew we simply had to take the plunge, and learn as we went along. Experiencing God’s guidance and grace as we stumbled forward has been so amazing.

We did realise two things… St Columba’s was a city centre, gathered church, with a limited influence. It would be very hard to reach lots of people from Johnston Terrace. Secondly, we wanted to reach ordinary people in communities throughout the city, and we knew that the New Testament model for that was to take the Gospel and the church to them.

So, what has God done? Well, he gave us a vision for the city. He brought together a wonderfully willing people, and a dynamic, growing leadership team in St Columba’s who love the Gospel and Jesus, and were willing to take risks. He placed church leaders throughout the city with a burden to turn this city upside down for Christ, and who love each other without any ecclesiastical snobbery (some of whom formed the EoSGP!). He provided links with really generous hearted churches (many from the States) and individuals who gave us the financial support that was invaluable, and clearly God sponsored. He gave us a building for our first church plant from Godly Christians who wanted to pass on the Gospel baton, and there is so much more – including, of course, the sacrificial commitment of Neil MacMillan and Tom Muir and their families and teams, who have taken the hit of leaving the security of established ministry behind, to lead these church plants. We pray for many more like them.

So that’s it really. The local church is God’s New Testament model for delivering the Great Commission. We want to be part of that in Edinburgh, and as he opens doors, we will endeavor our very best to walk through them, and plant as many churches as we can. We will try and do it prayerfully, wisely, strategically and sensitively. In whatever way God uses us, and enables us to be part of a much wider vision for Edinburgh we are utterly convinced of one thing… this is no fad. This is of God.

Published on October 11, 2016 by Admin