The Kirk of Christ in 2012 seems obsessed with church planting. Go to your local Christian bookstore and it will more than likely contain books from Tim Chester, Ed Stetzer, and Tim Keller on how to plant a church. I must admit to being more than wary on the methodology of the missional movement and their seemingly unending list of strategies and check lists. So when I heard about the Irish RP ‘Planting for the Master’ conference I was certainly intrigued. I have now worshiped with two Scottish RP church plants, Glasgow and Edinburgh, and pray for more of the same in our dear nation. So on Saturday 24th November I ventured across the water to the conference in Knockbracken RP Church to understand more of the missionary zeal of our Irish brethren.
The four speakers were Pastors Warren Peel, David McCullough, Professor Robert McCollum, and Mark Loughridge. Pastor Peel started the conference by looking at the foundation for church planting, the Word of God. In his opening address he exposited various passages of Scripture to show that church planting was to be faithful to the Biblical mandate in evangelism. In this address Mr. Peel assured his listeners that to plant a church one must also be faithful to the Biblical model; these church plants must be Reformed, Presbyterian, and Confessional in their worship, practise, and doctrine. This was a refreshing paper as the usual planting conference is filled with vast generalisations and techniques contrary to Reformed practise. The next speaker was Pastor McCullough on who can be a church planter. For Mr. McCullough a church planter is one who is fuelled by a love of Christ, saturated in the Word of God, has a deep heart for prayer, a zeal for the lost, and is self-sacrificial in his devotion to God. As a young saint in a church plant this address was immensely challenging, a time of self-reflection was my immediate response to this paper.
The next address was an experiential paper from Professor McCollum who has had over 30 years in planting experience. Recalling his years in planting really challenged me in my daily outlook in Edinburgh; Mr. McCollum is certainly a man of prayer, and for me a greater dependence on God is certainly needed. The final address was by Pastor Loughridge on how to plant a church. Church planting, at its heart, is quite simple. We are to preach the Gospel and have faith in God’s grace to glorify Himself in the building of His Kingdom. But how we reach the lost was being considered. There are various types of church plants such as: 1) gathering existing Christians in an area and building from there, or 2) a brand new plant with no people. For me the most challenging part of this paper was the faith of expectancy, to have faith that when we build relationships, witness, and preach the Gospel, God will save sinners. Another great encouragement was the focus on discipleship. Justification is not the only benefit of our union with Christ; sanctification is an important co-existent in the duplex gratia. To balance this conference the one point of disagreement was on the nature of the Sabbath worship. I was a little taken aback at the comment that we may not expect even to have a worship service but a Bible study to begin with. I truly believe that corporate worship centred on the preaching of the Word is non-negotiable, even in the context of church planting.
If the motive of this conference was to stir the hearts of RPs to help plant churches, then they have certainly succeeded. The compassion and love for their fellow Irishmen was blatantly obvious and made me search my heart for my own nation. I have returned to Scotland with a prayerful heart for the Island of Ireland, and a renewed zeal for Scotland. With 5 churches in Scotland, my desire is for revitalisation in Stranraer and further planting elsewhere. May we all truly pray that God’s Kingdom is built both in Ireland and our own beloved Scotland.
Craig J. Scott (Glasgow RPCS)