Presbyterianism can be a bad way of governing the church. In its worst form it is over centralised, authoritarian, political and bureaucratic. So maybe the best way to govern the church is Independency? After all it recognises the significance of the local church and gives freedom to develop and grow. It’s why some in the Free Church and other Presbyterian churches like the PCA tend to act like independent congregations within the denomination. But Independency has real problems too – not least the difficulty of what to do when things go wrong, and the fact that the pastor is employed by the congregation and subject to the dreaded congregational meeting!
Thats why FIEC (Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches) is so important for Independent congregations. It’s a form of Presbyterianism light. But for those of us who go in for fully caffinated Presbyterianism, what we need is the real biblical stuff! Like I saw last night at the Free Church Presbytery of Edinburgh and Perth. I enjoyed and was encouraged and stimulated by the discussion. And believe you me, it’s not often I have been able to say that about Presbyteries. Why?
In the 1990’s I remember dreadful presbyteries full of procedure, religious legalise, trivia and endless motions, counter motions and appeals. It was embarrassing and depressing. I can’t recall ever discussing any church plants! Last night we discussed several. We talked about Aberdeen and their new building and desire for evangelism there. We talked about a new church plant in Haddington just outside Edinburgh. And we talked about the church plant in Montrose. We heard about the old St Petes church plant in St Andrews. Our daughter church has now grown to such an extent that this Sunday they are commencing a second morning service! Our wee baby is all growed up!
All of this was tremendously encouraging – but none more so than the first item of business – approval for a church plant in Charleston, Dundee. The following is from the Mission Board (please note that it is the Free Church Mission Board – not Missions – there is a reason!) – By the way please check out and ‘like’ Here the Mission Board FB page which has regular updates on the Mission of the Church
Edinburgh presbytery last night gave its enthusiastic backing to a new church plant in the Charleston area of Dundee.St Peter’s, Dundee, pioneered a young people’s ministry which led to a youth club, parent and toddler club as well as various holiday clubs. The time has now come to develop this into a local church.There is a core group of 10 people and it is anticipated that Andy Robertson will be appointed as the lead planter to begin work in September 2017.Charleston will have links with the neighbouring community of Lochee where there is a thriving church planted by Central Baptist, Dundee with input from 20 Schemes.The church planting work in Dundee has been inspired very much by the life of Robert Murray McCheyne, the first minister of St Peter’s. He observed the spiritual famine in the city and wrote in his diary, ‘Accompanied A. B. in one of his rounds through some of the most miserable habitations I ever beheld. Such scenes I never before dreamed of. Ah why am I such a stranger to the poor of my native town? I have passed their doors thousands of times…What embedded masses of human beings are huddled together unvisited by friend or minister! ‘No man careth for our souls,’ is written over every forehead. Awake my soul Why should I give hours and days any longer to the vain world, when there is such a world of misery at my very door? Lord, put thine own strength in me; confirm every good resolution; forgive my past long life of uselessness and folly!’Church planting is resource demanding, costing at least £50,000 ($63,000) per annum for running costs. If you wish to invest financially in Charleston then please get in touch with the St Peter’s office firstname.lastname@example.org
This is our church planter!
(The development of a church planter – youth conference, to student worker, to being licensed by Presbytery and getting married to Caireen).
As Andy (Andrew to his parents!) is my son I will be having very little to do with this plant – other than of course to encourage, pray for and support. In my view he and Caireen are a great couple to do this kind of work. It is a dream come true. To have the Free Church and St Peters do this church plant, from scratch, in the poorest housing estate in Dundee is the fulfillment of a long-term desire. It is only a beginning, but may it be the first of several such new churches.
Which brings me back to where I came in – these things are almost impossible to do on your own – even if you are a quite large church. It’s why so many church plants take place in Middle class/University areas – because they are much easier to become self-supporting and ‘viable’. Here is where biblical Presbyterianism comes in. It is great for mission!
To do this kind of church planting requires the support of interdenominational groups like the excellent Twenty Schemes (who I hope we will work with), support from other like-minded Gospel churches (such as Chalmers church in Edinburgh where Andrew now works), and an outward looking denomination which is prepared to pool resources and work together. This is biblical Presbyterianism. It’s not about books of order, notices of motion and centralised bureaucracy – it’s about gospel co-operation, shared vision, and church discipline in the best sense. Going to Presbytery is going to be an unmissable joy, rather than a dreary chore, if we have more nights like last night – when we really are engaged on the Lord’s business. Soli Deo Gloria!