June 21, 2013

Is 20schemes Really Necessary In Scotland?

So, the critique of 20schemes gathers apace in some parts of the Scottish church. “Over reliant on American money”,“going to swamp our country with ghastly Americans”, “an unnecessary organisation given that every scheme has a Parish church”,“they suppress women”, “they're going to ride roughshod over existing church initiatives”.

When we launched 20schemes last November, nobody was talking about church planting and revitalisation in housing schemes in Scotland. Now, it seems, everybody has an opinion on us and what we are trying to achieve for the kingdom of God. Even though the (national) church is in decline, with aging congregations and fewer and fewer men and women entering into ministry, there seems to be a denial in some quarters about what is really going on in Scotland. Yes, there are pockets of encouragement but, largely, the national church is in trouble, and it is almost completely irrelevant in large swathes of our poorer areas.

Let me be clear. Having a church building in or around a scheme does not equate with local people having access to the life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ. Running a food bank, having infant baptisms, funerals for locals, and the odd kids club—whilst necessary—is not the same as a growing, gospel ministry where people of all ages return to the local church and indigenous converts are equipped and trained for evangelism and service within a redeemed community.

20schemes is about gospel renewal, and our aim is to strengthen gospel churches among Scotland’s poorest people. We are not a threat to the local church, nor will we be a hindrance. If you are an evangelical church working in a housing scheme, we would love to hear from you and offer mutual support, encouragement, and resourcing. If you are an individual or part of a small body of people struggling along, we would love to find ways in which we can support you. Our aim is not to plant groups of “20schemers” but to shore up, strengthen, and help existing gospel ministry. Again, we will plant if we have to but we prefer revitalisation.

20schemes is not parachuting into any area uninvited. So far, we have had contact with 11 schemes and/or poor areas (some places are hard to define as schemes) and in every instance local people (or churches) have invited us to come and meet with them. If, during discussions, we discover that there is an already existing church plant or a local evangelical church (that is happy with our statement of faith) our preferred approach is to find ways we can strengthen them (if they want to). There are many, many schemes without gospel churches and so we don’t intend to waste too much time replicating ministries that already exist.

Is 20schemes necessary? Anybody with an open mind can see it is. If you find it hard to believe, my suggestion is to visit as many schemes as you can in this country, find a local church that is preaching the life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ, and assess what is going on. Don’t assess what they do. Ask these questions: Are they growing? Are they reaching local people of all ages? Are they training and discipling a new generation of young men and women to be future leaders? Being busy and being fruitful are two entirely different things. Your scheme and my scheme may be OK, but what about the millions of people in our land living and dying without Christ?

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