25 Years at St Peters

Today we celebrate 25 years in St Peters – I wrote the following article for the St Peters website

It is a humbling and joyful thing to still be here after 25 years – in the joys and pains the Lord has preserved and blessed us.

“Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life. At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.” (Acts 5:20-21)

It was 25 Years Ago…

25 years ago myself, Annabel, Andrew and Becky arrived in Dundee to begin a five-year redevelopment post at St Peters Free Church. I have been asked to write some reflections on our time here and why we are still here. Times have changed considerably in city and church over this past two and a half decades.

Going back 25 years it is hard to convey the situation of the church that we faced. A literal handful of people meeting in a run down building that could seat 900. There seemed little prospect of the church surviving, never mind growing. Any talk of evangelism, growth, and church planting seemed a distant and fanciful dream.

We had come from a small but growing congregation in the Highlands (Brora in Sutherland) which we loved and missed. I had no idea what to do, except what became my mantra, ‘preach the Word and see what happens’. I remember being greatly encouraged on the day of my induction by seeing Donald Macleod, one of the two local elders (there were more assessor elders than congregation at that point!), with his hands down the toilet, cleaning it out. I thought with such humility and service there was great hope.

From the beginning we saw new people coming, and some returning to the church (and some leaving). It was a very slow growth over the first ten years. It was eighteen years before one ready made Christian family moving into the area came to us. Any growth that we had tended to be non-Christians, students and hurt and wounded Christians returning somewhat tentatively to the fold. They said that you couldn’t build a church on students, but they were wrong. Because several of our students stayed on, got jobs, families and have become leaders and stalwarts in the congregation. Within four years we had officially ‘redeveloped’ and I was officially appointed as the ‘real’ minister.

About every five years it seems as though the Lord has shaken up the congregation in different ways in a kind of pruning that has resulted in new growth. It has not always been easy. I do not want to give a false picture of a rosy situation. We have faced almost every problem that human sinfulness can throw up, within and without. But we give thanks to the Lord that he has been faithful and we have experienced some extraordinary and wonderful things. In 2000 there were hardly any children in the church – now there is hardly room for them! The congregation has grown to around 250-300 with it seems new people coming every week. The leadership has grown and the impact on the local community has increased. Now there are Free Churches in St AndrewsBroughty Ferry and Montrose – where there were none. And we have just started a church plant in Charleston. The building has been beautifully rbished and is now a centre for evangelism and outreach. Solas was established. People have been converted. Backslidders have returned. People have been sent out all over the world. Sunday school has developed and grown. Aspire and CAP have been set up. Music and the arts encouraged. But most of all for me is the intangible. How can I convey the sense of the Lord’s presence, especially at some of the evening services in the early years, the communions, and some of the almost miraculous happenings – including my own healing in 2011.

I would like to thank and express my love and gratitude for all the people of St Peters, and the people of this great city of Dundee. I am grateful for the elders, deacons and diaconal assistants, for the staff and for the Lord providing Sinclair Ferguson as an associate preacher and John Ferguson as an associate pastor. Most of all I want to thank my wife and partner in ministry, Annabel, who has been the Lord’s provision for me (and for the rest of the congregation) in ways that are too vast to tell, and for my children; Andrew (Caireen and baby on the way), Becky (Pete and Isla) and Emma Jane, who in the mercy and providence of God have grown up to be fine followers of Christ. Like the apostle John there is nothing gives me greater joy than to see my children walk in the truth!  I came to Dundee with an appointment for five years and a promise to try and stay for ten. Twice I have come very close to leaving or resigning but each time the Lord prevented and indicated there was still a work for me to do here. But what of the future?

I don’t know. I am not a prophet. It could be that we could become complacent and die. Or just forget the Lord whilst professing to worship him, and just fade away. I hope and pray not. All I do is teach the Word of God (which I am more convinced of than ever) and wait to see what happens. I dream dreams and see visions! I would love to see the building paid off (about £600,000 to go!) so that the money can now be spent on outreach, a female pastoral worker appointed, an international students worker, diaconal work amongst the poor, Charleston established, more new churches in and around Dundee, a Christian school, our children growing up to be men and women of the Lord, our students going out to serve Christ in every capacity and our older brothers and sisters finishing better than they began!

But what I would love to see is nothing to what the Lord can do. At the end of the day our hope is not in the church, the building, the leadership, our families – or any of the other good gifts the Lord gives us. Our hope is in Christ alone. To God be the Glory – great things he has done!

______________________________________________________________________________

David Robertson

Rev. David Andrew Robertson is Minister of St Peters, Associate Director of Solas and former Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland (2015-16)

October 2017

6 thoughts on “25 Years at St Peters

  1. Thank you Pastor Robertson. Wonderful article, very encouraging to all pastors who are in the “trenches”. It’s warfare, right? I so enjoy your articles, the Solas, blogs. Praying The Lord will continue to bless you and yours many more years of service.

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  2. Just an observation. You seem restless, maybe not.
    Weighing things in the natural. What differs then from now. Can pastoral ministry marry evangelism.
    Carl Trueman, it seems, wasn’t able to continue to divide his twin roles of pastor and seminar professor,for the accumulated toll. How did Sinclair F do it in America and for how long. How do others do it if they do such as Alastair Begg and his uptake of invitations – though from what I’ve seen/heard he’s not on the evangelist side of things. And while travel may seem glamorous, you will know it’s not. There are still the broken and hurting locally. And this is deeply personal- kudos and platforms not pulpits to be pondered and please, please don’t take this the wrong way as I don’t know you at all, can you turn down invitatations, do you even want to. Can recall Adrew Wilson writing that one year one of his key aims was to turn down invitations to speak.
    Over the last year/6 months even taking into account your health and due sabatical, where has your most time and energy been focussed?
    Recently I attended a Saturday FICE affliated church 70 anniversary. Jonathan Lamb (JL)was the guest speaker. He just returned from Malawi, ill. As a Keswick convention minister at large and trustee his text was 2 Corinthians 4. I don’t know if any of his ministry in Malawi would have been what would be regarded as or peruasive evangelism – there were plenty of shouts of Amen though..
    I’m still uncertain where peruasive evangelism fits in general with preaching the good news as it seems to often require long term drip, rather than isolated talks. There again, you might not see the fruit. JL said that up to the point that he and his schoolfriend left for University, JL to Exeter, friend to Bristol, his friend always rebuffed JL’s conversations about Jesus. JL was miffed to find his friends conversion through Bristol Uni’s CU. Fruit of the gospel may not be visible or delayed.
    And this tinture, of who gets the credit is present in all/most of us. It comes into view now and again. In a way it’s a little like copyright for Christians ( and I know there are pulishers reasons) and while we should take credit for something that doesn’t emanate from us, uniquely, why should we be personally concerned if we aren’t credited, but pleased that it is passed on, disseminated all for the glory of God. Indeed we might make reference in pasing without recalling who or where it came from,
    One of the reasons Alpha is said to bear fruit is it’s format over weeks over meals, communal and personal, but meeting over meals may be alien, even off putting to some working class poor.
    A bit rambling I know, but how do you discern. Have you Christians around who can offer wise, confidential, Godly counsel and influence, without a purpose of their own to serve, non more so than your wife.
    Burn-out and with it, what you describe as “It could be that we could become complacent and die. Or just forget the Lord whilst professing to worship him, and just fade away” is an ever present danger for any Christian, who’s been there done that, got the tee shirt who is neglectful of Communion with God a la John Owen.
    And as you point out in different words, it’s not how you start it’s how you finish,
    Rewards differ, but all (wonderfully all) any of us hear is “well done, good and faithful servant”, nothing about brilliant and successful, even if some are in the Lord’s economy.
    And since your operations your sense of your own mortality seems to have greater prominence than it did previously.
    Someone once said to me that you can’t stop to smell all the roses.
    What is certain is that I don’t have any answers, not that you are asking for any and this is far too open a forum.
    And I’m still not sure about the internet, It can be very helpful with Christian discernment to buid -up, but of the atheists that engage most do so with no intentions of good faith.

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  3. PS, the aim of Christianity in the public square has it’s outworking in the workplace for the the vast majority of christians and I’m not sure the question of how to be a christian in the contentious workplace can be adequately addressed be those in full time Christian ministry. Can recall Keller in one on line talk somewhere, saying that that he was asked a how to be a pilot at work by a commercial pilot. Land the plane was the answer. Yes, read and absorb Keller’s books, for example, and with the application of wisdom and discernment, and sometimes keeping your powder dry, and, yes, questioning the questioner and question would go a long way.
    Can recall in the NHS, when having a good death, was strategic aim in public, from which came the discredited Liverpool Care Pathway came and there was wide ranging high level discussions taking place. What about this have yiou thought of this? Non of them had even contemplated that death wasn’t the end for Christians through the death and resurrection of Jesus and were flumoxed : it couldn’t be gainsaid without insulting Christianity. where everyones views are equal in the enlightened NHS culture!?
    So there are ways that different work role play senarios, practical examples from workers could be address and taught.
    And there were some in the Mental Health field who would advocate non intervention with someone wants to or is in the throes of committing sucide, arguing dominion over self and choice, a right of self- determination, a right to die. Do we talk about loving neighbour, the golden rule and what if you beleive in the reality of hell from which, in love, is where you wouldn’t want them to go.
    There will be many, many more examples that the likes of Peter Saunders and Glynn Harrison could raise and provide practical Christian guidance’
    Just a bit more cud for Christian ruminants to chew in the public square.

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