The Free Church is growing, changing and developing. Yes – this is really happening, its not just the kind of pep talk that church leaders offer as a type of religious propaganda. I have seen too much to be either taken in by such talk and I would certainly not want to participate in it. So this is not hyperbole. There is something in the air, something happening.
Yesterday was for me a great insight into some of what is going on, showing the growth, variety and potential. In the morning I went to take the first communion in Grace Church Montrose. They are just a ‘baby’ church, several months old, but they have a great set up. Most are ex-Church of Scotland and they are experiencing a freedom and joy that they have not had in some time. They really appreciate the Word and are hardworking servant hearted people. There is so much potential. The next step will be to get a minister.
Then in the evening I drove down through the rain to the new Free Church in Stirling. The last time I was there they met in a scout hall and the whole image and impression for me was that of a 1950’s Brethren type church. It was good and enjoyable but it really needed to develop. This time I was really surprised. They meet in Stirling art gallery with a mini-auditorium circular, lecture hall type seating. I loved it. The venue was superb, there were about 60 people (including a few visitors) and they were reflective of different cultures, ages and nationalities. It was a great joy to preach to them and they too were really enthusiastic. And they are getting a minister – Iain Macaskill will be transferring from Rosskeen in February.
These two new churches are great examples of the contemporary Free Church. One is homogenous, the other multi-cultural. But both reflect the communities they are based in, and both show a level of diversity and willingness to adapt, whilst being wholly committed to Confessional Christianity. Of course, both have problems because they consist of sinful people living in the midst of a sinful world – but the ‘trajectory’ is from death into life, from darkness to light, from despair to hope.
I also heard today of others who are interested in starting up new Free churches in their areas. And the dream of a Tayside presbytery is not now as far fetched as it once seemed. And why not an Aberdeen presbytery? I am very encouraged by this not because I like to see organisations expanding, or new institutions being set up, but because I believe that the people of Scotland need to hear the Good News of Jesus and that the best way to communicate that Good News is through lively, local, biblical contemporary churches. May the Lord grant that the wee shoots I saw yesterday would only be the first gleanings a great harvest!