Mission at Christmas

Glenn Innes, our Mission Initiative group chair, gives us some food for thought and ideas for how to share the good news of Jesus with others this Christmas.
Christmas may be the one time of year that the world around us is willing to listen to (a part) of our story.  It is therefore important that we take the opportunities that present themselves. There are lots of ways that we can engage as churches; carol services (both in our buildings and outside), family events, community meals, reverse advent programmes, family film showings and on and on … But there are equally as many ways that we can express and tell the message of Christmas as families and individuals.  Some examples that I have seen around our nation over the past few years are; Have a stranger(s) in need join you at your Christmas dinner table, invite all your neighbours in for Christmas drinks, express generosity in giving to someone beyond your regular circle or simply invite your friends and colleagues to your church events, it’s a very simple step but often this is the best time of year to do this. Let me encourage you, be brave, be kind, be experimental and tell the wonderful story of God becoming human in ways that bring life and light and hope to those around you. It is also not always, however, about what we do, but about how we are in this busy Christmas season. As David Fitch recently observed, “All around us people live in stress, frenzy, anger, anxiety and despair. When someone appears present and unanxious with a smile, it is a stunning encounter. Such a presence opens space for Jesus in a mad mad world.” Might we as churches, individuals and families present this sort of invitation to people around us this Christmas season. Glenn Innes Mission Initiative Group Chair

Newton Mearns Baptist Church plant an orchard for the tree council’s national tree week

People of all ages from Newton Mearns Baptist Church will be rolling up their sleeves and laying down new roots in their community by planting trees in their church garden on Saturday 30th November, part of The Tree Council’s 2019 National Tree Week. With the help of a grant from The Tree Council, one of the UK’s leading tree charities, they will be planting six fruit trees and eight species native to Scotland to encourage biodiversity and wildlife. This year, in possibly the biggest National Tree Week campaign yet, communities, organisations and businesses around the UK have grasped the opportunity to do their bit to reduce UK carbon emissions and improve their communities by planting trees. The Tree Council awards grants to help communities around the country to plant more trees and do something positive for their treescape.  NMBC is one of 55 schools and community groups across the UK that made a successful application for one of this year’s grants. Sara Lom, CEO, The Tree Council, said: “We simply couldn’t survive without trees. With their incredible carbon-busting, habitat-protecting and wellbeing-boosting power, trees can safeguard a green, healthy and happy future for our children and the planet. To ensure a green, tree-filled future, we need to plant many more trees each year, in the right places, and care for them and the ones we already have. Each of the young people, teachers and community leaders planting as part of National Tree Week are truly Tree Champions, laying down roots for the generations that follow and we’re proud to support them.” Andrea Young, one of the orchard planners at NMBC says “We have had an increased awareness of the need to care for creation over recent years – becoming more aware of the impact of climate change on countries which contribute the least to it. Our planting project is one action we are taking to help us focus on what we can do to care for the planet and the people on it.  We are grateful to Eco-Congregation Scotland for facilitating training from The Orchard Project which will help us care for our trees properly. We have other initiatives on the go at church to reduce our use of single use plastic, monthly eco-tips from our Creation Care group, and are involved in local litter picks organised by Crookfur Litter Action.” National Tree Week is the UK's largest annual tree celebration, marking the start of the winter tree planting season (November to March). A list of events taking place across the country can be found at www.treecouncil.org.uk.

God is raising up a younger generation

Sam Donaghey, one of our Invest Trainees, shares his thoughts on a recent Training Hub Leadership Day conference for younger leaders, held at Central Church in Edinburgh. The sun was shining, but it was a crisp Friday morning in Edinburgh. We were making our way through the cold to Central Church for a day of teaching and equipping in leadership. With my mind numbed by the cold (and preoccupied with finding a decent sandwich shop to provide me with a roll and bacon) I was entering into the day with very little expectations. As we walked through the doors of Central Hall, we didn’t know that it would be more than our bodies that would be warmed. Karl Martin led the teaching for the day taking us through the heart and character of Jesus-like leadership. We not only received theory from Karl, rather he was giving us the treasures that are stored in his heart, that can only be tested and formed by the pressure of experience and the grace of God. For me, very little of it was ‘new’, but it felt like it was fresh; Karl sharing ‘old’ knowledge in the way only he can, and with the life experience that he has, brought a greater depth to the truth of Jesus. Holy Spirit revealed a greater depth of truth to me through Karl’s authenticity. As we closed the day we worshipped Jesus. At first, I must say, it felt a bit mechanical; we’ve all been in gatherings where it’s felt more like karaoke than Spirit-led worship. Then, something changed. It was as if we were being lifted by a wave of the Spirit that woke us up to the reality of who we are being led by, and who is empowering us to lead like them. We all sang the lyrics ‘Death is defeated, the King is alive’, and as those words rose like incense to heaven, we went deeper into the revelation of Jesus’ total supremacy that led us into abandonment before Him. In that moment, you could sense any objection to following Jesus into leadership drop to the ground. In that moment, you could feel hope arise with what God could do in us, and through us. In that moment, destinies were formed, and callings picked up. The most exciting thing of all was that around 75% of the room were under-25; these are all signs that God is raising a younger generation willingly abandoning themselves to lives marked by worshipping the death-defeating leader of all leaders.

Assembly 2019 – The Big Birthday Bash!

Jenny Wilson reflects on this year's special 150th Anniversary Assembly. 
This year’s Assembly had a very different feel to it. It started off like any other Assembly with a time of worship led by Thomas Dean and Friends, an opening address by Elaine Duncan, CEO of the Scottish Bible Society, Communion led by Rev Jack Quinn and then on to the AGM and National Team reports. Martin Hodson gave his first report as our General Director. A particular highlight was his encouragement for our Union to be about transformations, generations and innovations. He noted the need to innovate and encourage the development of smaller expressions of church to sit alongside more traditional expressions of church. We also said farewell to Alan and Ruth Donaldson, including a lovely video tribute from a number of churches and colleagues across the country. After a shorter session exploring some questions with our friends from the Fellowship of Baptists in Britain and Ireland, Assembly went into full on celebration mode! A non-alcoholic drinks reception with live Scottish music courtesy of David Purves and friends ushered delegates and guests in to the 150th Anniversary Gala Dinner. After a note of welcome from Martin Hodson, grace was said by Rev Bill Slack, former General Director of BUS. Delegates enjoyed a four-course meal after which there was a fantastic after-dinner speech given by Douglas Inglis, from Newton Mearns BC which left us all in stitches! The evening was rounded off by singing a worship song to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, ably led A Capella by Dr Lina Toth from the Scottish Baptist College. It was lovely to see a gathering of over 300 people feasting and celebrating this milestone in our Union’s history. Saturday morning saw Celtic Worship leading opening sung worship as well as Rev Martin Clarke giving the keynote address. After lunch, the Live Stream event took place with various streams for all-ages. One of the highlights was 4Front Theatre’s performances of The Fisherman’s Tale, which was very much enjoyed by both the young and not-so-young! There was also an Amazonia Outreach event for kids with giant snails and many other fascinating creatures! Face painting and balloon modelling also took place. The lovely ladies of the Scottish Baptist Women’s fellowship put on a fantastic afternoon tea, which saw many cakes and bakes being munched!  In another area there was an all-age interactive prayer space and in the main auditorium a ‘One Show’ style magazine show was hosted by Glenn Innes, chair of our Mission Initiative group. The Scottish Baptist College also hosted a number of short ‘TED-style’ talks ranging from Mental Health and the Church; Singleness and Marriage within the church and also the scientific breakthrough on gravitational waves. The Assembly finished with an all-age service, with sung worship led by Celtic Worship; a wonderful skit by the 4front Theatre group; an all-age talk by Rob Fraser-Binns and an interactive prayer response led by Martin Hodson and Ruth Kelso. During this closing session we had the privilege of congratulating the newly accredited ministers; commissioned Martin Hodson as General Director and welcomed Lighthouse Central, Prestonpans into Union membership. Phew – there was a jam-packed programme throughout the Assembly and it really was a special way to finish off our year of celebration of our 150th anniversary. We want to say a massive thank you to everyone who was involved in the planning and delivery of this special Assembly – there are too many people to thank individually, but each person brought their own unique and special contribution to the whole event.

A Season to Celebrate

Jim Purves brings Christmas greetings on behalf of the National Team. What a glorious time of year! It was, I think, a touch of genius that caused our forefathers in the faith to elect a date proximating to the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere in order to celebrate the season of our Saviour’s birth. The coming of the Christ, arriving in our human flesh to walk a perfect path that results in our redemption. A light bursting into the darkness, heralding a hope that warms the heart when cold and chill can so easily cause despair. As we come to Christmas and enter a New Year, we want to emphasise three words within our Union, words that will punctuate this new chapter.  Transformation. Generations. Innovation. Firstly, we hold confidently to our God’s resolve and commitment to transformation. Transformation of our heavenly Father’s children, in the power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection: a work begun in each of us now, through that spring of living water that our heavenly Father has located in each of our souls, to irrigate and inspire each one of us, through the presence and empowering of the Holy Spirit. We delight in being caught up in this divine decree, that we are being fitted for eternity; and we delight in knowing the resolve of God to transform not only us but the whole of the world we live in, heralding the New Heavens and the New Earth. We delight that this work has begun in us and, by the power of God’s Spirit, is flowing out to quench thirst and quicken hope in a barren, broken world. Secondly, we look to learn from God and implement how we might better equip all generations of disciples to bless and evangelise those who are strangers to the Gospel, the Good News of God’s Kingdom come among us in and through Jesus Christ. Reaching the lost is at the top of our agenda. We prayerfully look for seed to be sown and sprouts to shoot up as we anticipate a fresh Spring, a rising of God’s glory across our nation, thawing the frost of indifference and proving God’s faithfulness and resolve that people be saved and enter into the beauty of a summer where the light and radiance of Jesus Christ fills their lives and floods across our land. Thirdly, in the best sense, we look for innovation to be birthed and bear fruitfulness to God’s glory. Innovation birthed the first baptist churches in Scotland and the Baptist Missionary Society in the eighteenth century. Innovation brought our Union of churches together and generated a new wave of evangelistic activity spreading across Scotland in the nineteenth century. Innovation led to church planting and growth in the twentieth century. Our heritage in one of innovation, built on the DNA of Biblical Gospel, Godly community and missionary endeavour. We have looked in the past and now look towards a new chapter, intensifying our pleas and cries to God in prayer, that He will pour out His Spirit upon us, creating new and exciting expressions of church and mission in the days, months and years that lie ahead. Our God’s faithfulness never fails.