June 1, 2020

Don’t Overcomplicate Ministry to the Poor

Scotland was once known as the “land of the book”. It was a land of rich Christian heritage, blessed by saints like John Knox, Thomas Chalmers, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Thomas Guthrie, Horatius Bonar, and more. These were faithful men who dedicated their lives to preaching the Word of the living God.

Sadly, Scotland is no longer known for the spiritual vibrance that once marked this great land. Churches have been closing their doors, or abandoning the gospel (the former usually follows the latter), for many years now. The areas worst affected? Housing schemes. Old mission halls that once were like frontier gospel outposts have either gone liberal and abandoned the gospel, or died and closed.

In the scheme of Bingham and Magdalene, there are 3,800 people, a meagre 0.2% of whom would say they are Christians. It’s a spiritual wasteland. I wish this were unique to this one scheme in Edinburgh, but it’s not. You could travel to schemes across Scotland, and you’ll find very similar statistics.

In response to these dire circumstances, many Christians think we need something new. New movements, gimmicks, programs—maybe these will bring revival to these cold, lifeless places?

Nothing New

In reality, such things are ashes to the many spiritually thirsty souls in Scotland’s schemes. They offer no hope to people who are heading for hell. Now I’ll be honest—at Hope Bingham, where I serve as a church planter—it’s easy to feel the pressure to lean towards careless methods of evangelism. In our urgency to see people saved, we could become frantic and panicked, trying every new idea under the sun just to get bums on seats with a half profession of faith and a vague understanding of the gospel.

But that wouldn’t align with Paul’s charge to the young church planter, Timothy, to whom he wrote:

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

(2 Tim. 4:1–2)

As a church plant, our job in being faithful to King Jesus is to pick up the banner of God’s truth and wave it for all to see. We must plant ourselves in the ever-fruitful soil of God’s Word, for this powerful Word has been the seedbed in which Christ’s kingdom has grown ever since the beginning of redemptive history. It has never been defeated, and it never will be. We know that this world will wither and fade away, but the Word of God will stand forever (Is. 40:8).

Always Effective

God promises that His Word will not return void (Is. 55:11). In other words, it is always effective. Always. Think about that—God’s Word never fails. Can you—or anyone you know—make such an audacious claim? Only God’s Word is utterly reliable, because it has been given to us by a perfect, Holy God who has never made even the slightest mistake.

So if churches are to be planted in the schemes of Scotland, they must be established by the Word of God alone. And we who preach the Word must trust the Holy Spirit, the great teacher and comforter, to breathe life into dead hearts.

As we’re in the process of planting Hope Bingham, we’re trying not to overcomplicate ministry. We’re bringing a powerful message to those dead in their sin. These people don’t need more gimmicks or handouts. They need God’s Spirit to convict them of their sin and grant them faith, exposing them to the beauty, majesty, and glory of Jesus Christ. For this to happen, we have to preach the Word (Rom. 10:17). As we preach and teach this Word, we urge sinners to repent and follow Jesus. Nothing fancy, nothing new.


God’s Word is involved in everything we do at Hope Bingham, from our evangelism to our discipleship, from the street to the pew, from the community meal to the pre-plant meeting. It is our reliance on the sufficiency of the Word of the Living God alone that will lead to transformed hearts. Not new strategies, not a ‘10-step guide to a successful church plant’. Only as we point people to the Word will they delight in and treasure Jesus.

The Prophets, Apostles, and Christians throughout redemptive history can say, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:16) Certainly we feel the weight of the task ahead of us, yet whilst we are responsible to scatter the Word and drip feed it to unbelievers in the scheme, it is God who is responsible for bringing life where there were once dry and dead bones. That creates a dependency on God in prayer, for only He can give life to the dead. This takes the pressure off us for man-made results.

When we do an evangelistic message at a community meal, or a one-to-one with a contact within the scheme, or a men’s Bible study, we do so not with persuasive words of wisdom, but in weakness, fear, and trembling. We share from the Word of God, proclaiming Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:1–5). Yes, this is foolishness to the world, but in the wisdom of God it is so that He may display His power, wisdom, glory.

The eternal Word of the living God is timeless and timely. Since it is from above, it is intimate, always relevant, always needed. Since it is the very voice of God, it speaks to all our deepest needs and experiences. It is the bandage for every wound, the remedy for every sore. It is not only inerrant, it is living and active. It gets right to the core of our souls and discerns the intentions of the heart.

Scotland’s schemes desperately need the Lord, and He is to be found in the pages of His Word. At Hope Bingham, we place the Word of the Living God central so that those once in darkness may behold the light and life of Christ, and may “have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Heb. 6:19)

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