Here is a review of the church plant we have been helping out at for the last 6 months. It was written for the Scottish Baptist Lay Preachers Association. Hope you enjoy it and feel free to pay them a visit if you are ever in Carnoustie on a Sunday.
The full article is given below as well:
Until Christ be formed in you
The language we use to speak about a new church being established can be very revealing of the challenges of church growth. When I was weeding my garden last week it struck me that “church planting” is a good way of speaking about starting a new church. Before any planting can be done the ground must be cleared and the weeds removed, there is back-breaking work to be done in digging the hole and then getting the sapling in the right place. It is a hard work and requires our sweat, determination and perseverance. So too with beginning a new fellowship of believers, we know beforehand that we will face struggles and conflict, but until we begin preparing the ground it’s all background reading.
A second powerful image of church growth we see in the New Testament is that of childbirth. Paul repeatedly speaks of experiencing the travails of childbirth in his anxiety for his new converts as they take their first steps in the new Christian faith. As a proud parent, he gets all gooey-eyed over their first faltering steps and awkward words. But he is also quick to correct them where they go wrong. He is a bundle of changing emotions and desires for them – but one thing that underpins it all – the all-consuming desire for Christ to be formed in them and to present them mature before him.
“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” Galatians 4.19
In many ways it is probably more accurate to speak of “church birthing” than planting. For planting gives the impression that once it’s in the ground everything will be taken care of, while the reality is that, just like parenting, the arrival of the new life is just the beginning of the hard work.
For the last 5 months my family and I have been helping with a church plant in Carnoustie. The new church started in Easter this year and is a plant from Central Baptist Church, Dundee – a cutting taken to be planted in fresh ground. Carnoustie Community Church, or The Bridge, as it is more commonly called, began life meeting on Sunday mornings in The Golf Hotel by the beach in Carnoustie. For the first few months this provided a neutral venue for guests and visitors and enabled the CBC team to begin working together on the practicalities of church life. In the summer they then moved to a church building in the centre of Carnoustie where they have recently put up the new sign – “The Bridge, home of Carnoustie Community Church” (http://carnoustiecommunitychurch.wordpress.com/ ). While there have no doubt been many challenges, the abundant provision of God has overruled them all and left a deep impression:
“We thank God for his faithfulness to the work, which has been astounding. He has supplied our needs over and over again, including through the generous, grace-filled provision of the building, the example of people’s faithfulness in their giving and participation in areas they are gifted in and the joy they have expressed at the ministry they have received have all been a real blessing. A lot of the people in the team have risen to the challenges and have served in ways they had previously felt beyond them, in ways they perhaps would not have embraced otherwise. There are green shoots in some areas with a few new people coming in and they appear to be looking to be committed and we give thanks for these and pray about the areas where there is still need in, in the expectation that God will provide in his perfect time. We need to keep praying and to be focused on, and confident in, Christ, concerned about mission, involved in evangelism and to encourage the teaching and growthof the Saints. Look to grow in unity, holiness, humility and hopefully be rewarded by seeing souls saved for the Kingdom.” Jim Leiper
Through it all we are co-workers in the high calling of God in building his church – the life on life, painful, slow, vulnerable work of producing mature disciples of Jesus. Like gardening and childbirth, establishing and nurturing new churches is messy work. We will have to be prepared to get our hands dirty and see our own needs not met, in order to meet those of others. It is this sacrificial leadership that is so needed in our day – and it is this that I have seen lived out in the lives of many in Carnoustie.