What is the Scottish Vision?

saltireJohn Drane explores a new spiritual vision for Scotland when he writes….

The first thing to say is that Scotland is not the same as England! We have different legal, educational, and healthcare systems from our nearest neighbours, and soon we might even be a foreign country. Our churches are also different.

Anglicans are Scottish Episcopalians. The national church, the Church of Scotland, is Presbyterian. And whatever you do, don’t confuse the Free Church of Scotland with the Free Churches in England! But the challenges and opportunities with which our churches are wrestling are the same as everywhere else in the developed countries of the western world.

The difficulties facing our churches are by no means unique, though we do have some distinctive historical baggage: in common with other European countries where the Reformation had a more stridently puritanical flavour than in England, Scotland is arguably a more secular country than other parts of the UK and many people are openly cynical about the role of religious institutions. Rapid and discontinuous cultural change has also taken its toll on traditional church life and though there are pockets of new life, in many places the story is one of declining numbers and aging congregations.

More than a decade ago, the Church of Scotland’s Church without Walls report (2001) gave a focus for new thinking about the nature of a missional church. In 2011 another report (Reformed, Reforming, Emerging and Experimenting), which I jointly authored with Olive Fleming Drane, documented the emergence of new forms of Christian faith community and highlighted the need for fresh thinking that would recognise these ventures within the structures of the church.

As the Joint Emerging Church Group of the Ministries Council and the Mission and Discipleship Council reflected on all this, the obvious conclusion was that the Church of Scotland should become a partner in Fresh Expressions. One church leader recently suggested that this is the first time since the Reformation that the Church of Scotland and the Church of England have collaborated on specifically missional issues (as distinct from social and political matters). I have no idea whether that is entirely true, but it is undoubtedly a momentous opportunity for churches on both sides of the border.

Of course, Fresh Expressions has been represented right from the start in Scotland through those congregations that belong to the Methodist Church and more recently the URC and Salvation Army. They will welcome the Church of Scotland’s partnership, not least because the Kirk is numerically dominant over all other Protestant denominations (seven or eight times bigger than all the rest put together) and when it embraces something, that often creates an environment in which others can flourish more easily.

Unlike other denominations though, the Church of Scotland has a presence throughout the country. So this is a significant moment for those who are concerned with the re-evangelisation of Scotland. Central to this vision is an invitation to every parish to explore the possibilities of establishing an appropriately contextualised fresh expression of church by the year 2020 – something that will hopefully be pursued in an ecumenical context.

This will be a major challenge to many congregations, where change of any sort can seem alien and threatening. But a growing number of people have already glimpsed new possibilities and are eager to push forward with a new vision.

Since 2010, more than 200 individuals of all denominations have completed the mission shaped ministry course in Inverness, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen, whilst vision days have taken place in other locations. The new partnerships will hopefully create spaces in which these people will be released to be in the vanguard of the development of fresh expressions in both urban and rural locations.

For there is no doubt that – especially at this time of national uncertainty, as we consider our relationship with the rest of the UK – our people need a new spiritual vision that will take us forward into what by any definition is an unknown future, to hear the gospel afresh in ways that will be comprehensible within today’s culture while also remaining true to the call of Jesus.

All very fine – but what is the vision and more to the point how do we make it happen?

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Want to study the reformation for free?

If you have ever wanted to know more about the 16th Century Reformation and is lasting effect today, why not try the free course at the Khan Academy. It reviews the whole history of that era in a non-partisan way by exploring the personalities, politics and theologies involved. There is also the opportunity to comment and ask questions of this ‘sea-change’ that still influences Christian witness here and now.

 

Here is its link:

https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/history/1500-1600-Renaissance-Reformation/protestant-reformation/a/an-introduction-to-the-protestant-reformation

 

Good studying !

How to break a record today!

k7flipDuring our recent holiday in the Lake District, we saw two exhibitions dedicated to Malcolm and Donald Campbell. The first at the Lakeland Motor Museum had replicas of the Bluebird cars of father and son and the Bluebird K7 boat in which latter lost his life. More poignant, at the Ruskin Museum, were the various fragments of the actual Bluebird boat recovered from Coniston Water after Donald’s crash trying to keep his grasp of his own World Water Speed Record. This display in the village of Coniston also had his helmet and flying suit recorded with his remains in 2001. It is sad to think that when his boat literally became airborne from the glass-like surface of the water he was already travelling faster than any other human being afloat at over 300 mph.

Almost as sad is that this doomed yet heroic attempted seemed to close a era of the daring individual in favour of large teams  of specialists. For I suspect we shall never see such lone endeavours again.

But there is a lesson here for every congregation across Scotland. For the epoch of going it alone has definitely closed for them too. For if we are to face down and conquer the challenges ahead we will team work; team work of a whole congregation contributing their skills and abilities, teamwork of congregations helping across the whole tapestry of the Church’s community and teamwork of all denominations to witnessing the reality of Christ’s kingdom in its communal  word and deed.

 

At the Ruskin Museum I met an Australian who had seen Donald Campbell the day before his successful first attempt at the water record. He said he always regretted not going to see this feat the next day. Let us then not have any regrets of making insufficient efforts now at teamwork since then we will not miss our own record breaking for the gospel’s sake.

 

 

Is the Internet killing the Church?

Is the Internet killing the Church? it was a question posted on a Christian forum recently. And it doesn’t half make you think! However having so done – I would say no. Firstly, the question was asked and then debated over none other than the World Wide Web. Next, I know that mini-football, Sunday shopping and the thousand and one morning choices are certainly reducing worshipping congregations to pretty nominal levels. But I don’t see the Internet has having a particularly large role in that equation. But maybe most important of all is to think what the ‘Church’ is. Is it a building that to many teenagers is the 3Bs – big, brown and boring? Is it an institution with all the faults and failings of national and multinational corporations? Or is it the verb of doing worship and community together? If indeed it is the latter then, to a reasonable level, interaction with each other over the Net is not just a possibility but an essential aspect of future Christianity. Certainly we want to do better with this new medium than we have achieved with television!

Has it happened before? Yes, when the printed book appeared in the middle ages it was embraced by the Church and made its own. Let us now do like wise.

Thanks for meeting me on the Net.

A Marketing Strategy

Luke 10.1-9

Acts 3.1-10

Not so long ago Black & Decker were preparing for a large promotional campaign. And to get the angle just right for their advertising, they sent out market researchers to find what ‘Joe soap’ actually wanted. They returned with the discouraging news that people didn’t want drills they wanted holes. In other words, they weren’t interested in power tools only what they can do for them.

Now that was not a surprising discovery really. Few of us get on a bus to have a ride in a Van Hool special – we get on to go somewhere. And here is an important point for the church. Because it is often said that those in church don’t want to evangelise others they just what full and vibrant services. On the other hand, those outside Christianity don’t want uninvited missionaries selling them religion on their door-steps. Where then is the answer?

Well let’s have the courage to do a little honest market research. Let’s ask what those out there want from the church in here. Would it be someone telling them how bad they’ve are and how they can be as clean as the driven snow – possibly? Would they want a group of worthies mouthing various platitudes about changing the world – possibly? But what about the offer of healing, what about the offer that their lives could genuinely be better – what about the possibility of throwing aside the meaningless sleep– work – TV – sleep cycle – for a life full to the brim with hope, opportunity and harmony?

Now, I suspect we are cooking with gas! Because sure as eggs are eggs, the crippled beggar wasn’t in the market for a character assignation – he had enough on his plate for that. Neither was he fussed about a dissertation on the woes his economic situation. After all – he isn’t one of the much lauded ‘hard working families’? No what he was desperate for was the healing of his situation and the lifting up from his disability. He wanted real quality of life. And in Peter – he got it. In that disciple sent out by Christ, the cripple found what he wanted to buy. In fact, he got what he needed not what someone else thought he needed. And as a result he understood the true meaning of the kingdom of God.

Yet what about the people in churches? What about us here? How are we going to get what we want? Well, often we are harangued to get ‘out and about’ evangelising – we vaguely chatter also about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ – we even whisper in fear and trembling about taking the gospel out to the people. But the problem is we haven’t a clue how to do it. We have no marketing strategy to sell what we find valuable in our faith. We have indeed no real idea what every woman and man wants.

So what is to be done?

Have you heard the story about the elderly woman who lived in a small country town? Well, one day she had car trouble on the way to the supermarket. Her car stalled at a stop sign. She tried everything to get her car started again, but no luck. Suddenly, a man in a van came up behind her and with obvious agitation started honking his horn at her impatiently. She redoubled her efforts to get her car going. She pumped the accelerator, turned the ignition, but still no luck… the man in the pick-up continued to honk his horn constantly and loudly. So very calmly she got out of her car, walked back to the van and motioned for the man to lower his window and then politely she said: “I’ll make a deal with you. If you will start my car for me I’ll be happy to honk your horn for you!”

Now she certainly handled that very difficult situation well. But, more importantly, she handled it by knowing what he and she wanted. He wanted her car out of the way and she wanted to get her car started. And so she sold him their common need – and low and below -they went on their way together in peace.

Now Christ knew what he wanted and that was to bring people into the Kingdom. He knew too what people wanted and that was what all that the kingdom could offer them. So he sent his followers out to find those who needed their message – those who were willing to hear their good news – those who were looking for something more in life. They were then to bring peace beyond all the world’s troubles– they were to bring solutions to all that needed healing and they were to bring fulfilment to life in all its dimensions. The outcome was that not only were doors opened but so was that big one to the Kingdom of God. and so, in a nutshell, they went on the way together.

What then was the kernel of this marketing strategy of Jesus Christ?

It is well illustrated for us in this story.

A man fell into a pit and couldn’t get himself out. A subjective person came along and said, “I feel for you down there.” An objective person came along and said, “It’s logical that someone would fall down there.” A Pharisee said, “Only bad people fall into a pit.” A mathematician calculated how he fell into the pit. A news reporter wanted an exclusive story on his pit. A fundamentalist said, “You deserve your pit.” A government official asked if he was paying taxes on the pit. A self-pitying person said, “You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen my pit.” A charismatic said, “Just confess that you’re not in a pit.” An optimist said, “Things could be worse.” A pessimist said, “Things will get worse.” Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and lifted him out of the pit!

Well, if today we want to be true evangelists – if want to offer the Kingdom that is near – if want bring healing to life –let us do as Peter did by lifting the beggar– let us do as Christ did in that story by lifting up the lost – let us rediscover the church’s unique selling point – and do likewise.

Amen

HYMN