I suppose it was too much to hope. In this internet age the news was never going to be kept quiet. Last week I told my elders that after almost 27 years in St Peters I was giving six months notice and would be leaving in July 2018. The congregation were told yesterday. Before I got home last night there were numerous messages, not just from people within the congregation but from many other places throughout the world. The trouble is that when you say you have resigned there is immediate speculation as to why….so to avoid all of that here are the reasons for this change.
- Annabel and I have been in St Peters for 27 years. We are both in out late 50’s and at some point we were going to have to move on anyway.
- The congregation has grown to the extent that it requires a fresh start – with new leadership and someone as senior pastor who could devote all of their time to it.
- As the congregation has grown so has my wider work – (secular media, evangelism and writing – including this blog and the Quantum Podcast )
- With both areas growing – (the way I describe it is that my method is to throw several darts at the board hoping that one or two of them will stick. In recent years almost all of them have been sticking) the workload has increased to an unsustainable level. Something had to give.
- For several months I have agonised about this but we came to the conclusion that there was a wider work to do, and it could not be done in conjunction with being the senior pastor of a large and growing church (at least in Scottish terms!).
- I have been offered a post with City Bible Forum in Australia to help them develop an evangelistic outreach called Third Space – seeking to use cultural engagement and what I do, to help the Australian churches reach out. This will be done as part of a team. The team aspect for me is very important because I am not a big fan of being a lone ranger. Sometimes ministry can be very lonely – not least when you are engaging a hostile culture.
- For various reasons (which I may elaborate later!) it is not possible for me to do this kind of outreach in Scotland. I hope to return in a couple of years – perhaps to do the same kind of work – but at this stage that is impossible. I hope that will change.
- The hardest part in this whole decision for us both is leaving St Peters. I have a deep love for the people here and it will be a wrench to leave – but we have to follow the calling of the Lord. Of course how we know what that will is, is the question! I believe that he has guided myself and Annabel this way. The warm (but sad reaction) from the congregation yesterday was a confirmation. It was a bittersweet day.
This is the congregational letter:
St Peter’s Free Church
December 9th 2018
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am writing my ‘annual’ congregational Christmas/New Year a wee bit earlier than usual – for reasons which will become clear!
Firstly I want to thank you for your support, fellowship and love in the Gospel over the past year. It has been an encouraging year in the midst of an increasingly challenging and confused culture. We continue to growth and many new people coming. For me the gatherings for public worship on the Lord’s Day remain the highlight of the week and the foundation of all that we do as a congregation. I will miss it and you all. Because I am writing this letter to let you know that this week I gave the Kirk Session notice that I will be resigning as minister of the congregation at the end of June 2019. Annabel and I have been here for almost 27 years so this has been a hard and difficult decision to make. At some point in the not too distant future we were going to have to move on anyway.
I wanted to write and explain to you a little of why we have made this decision. As St Peters continues to grow I have also found that the other work I am involved in (secular media, evangelism, writing) has also continued to grow. The trouble is that with the building deficit limiting our finances we are less well staffed than we have been for several years. Ten years ago when the congregation was about 80 we had four staff (thanks largely to missionaries), today we have less than three for a congregation that is almost four times the size! For the congregation to grow and develop St Peters needs a senior pastor that is full-time here. My decision was whether to give up the wider work and concentrate solely on the congregation. I’m afraid that I could not do that because I feel called to the public engagement and evangelism.
Annabel and I have agonised and prayed about this for months but at the end of November we finally came to the decision that it would be better to move on. I have therefore last week accepted a post as the director of a new evangelism project in Australia – looking to evangelise Australia’s cities. This is a two-year post and we hope to return, hopefully to do the same kind of thing, in Scotland. Of course we remember James’ warning that we are but a mist and cannot boast about what we will, or will not do, in a years time!
I decided to give six months notice in order to help with a smooth transition and to allow the Kirk Session to begin the search for a new minister immediately. This also allows me to spend the next six months with you – I hope it won’t just be a long goodbye! Please feel free to talk to me and let me know any concerns or questions you may have. Meanwhile can I ask you to remember and pray for the following:
Charleston – the work that is going on here is very encouraging. But we must be fervent in prayer. Please support Andy, Caireen and the whole team working in a challenging but exciting situation. You can support through prayer, giving and asking any of the team involved about what is happening.
A New Minister and Assistant –We are intending to petition the General Assembly for a full-time assistant. If that is granted it will mean that we will be looking for two new ministers. Please pray for the Lord’s guidance and the willingness of suitable men to come. Also pray for the elders/deacons as they lead the congregation.
Evangelism and Outreach – There is a danger that with a full church a degree of complacency can creep in – but the vast majority of the people in Dundee and environs have never heard the Gospel. Pray for Crawford and the events team as they planned an exciting series of outreach events.
Annabel and I – As we wait for visas and prepare for this big change.
I thank my God every time I remember you.4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)
Your Pastor in Christ