This year's Mission Board Report to the General Assembly highlighted some of the considerable work which has been carried out across the denomination over the past year through Church Planting, Church Development, Church Equipping and Global Mission.
Mission Board Chairman, Rev Bob Akroyd, began the 2019 report with a reminder of the Church's mission as well as some of the challenges currently being faced.
"We want to see established congregations strengthened, new churches planted, Christians of all ages built up in their faith and equipped to serve while partnering with the global church to fulfil the Lord Jesus' Great Commission. Thankfully we do not need to determine what our mission is."
"However, we do need to consider how best to marshal and deploy our existing human and financial resources into a harvest field that is already ripe for harvest. One pressing need may outstrip all others; namely that we need more workers to go into the harvest field. The need is perennial, but our present level of personnel cannot meet the needs of existing congregations nor resource potential church plants. So please take this report, read it and pray about all that it contains that God might be pleased to use our small denomination in the outworking of the great commission."
Currently, there are eight Church Plants around the country under the oversight of the Board: Govan G51, Stirling, Cornerstone, Esk Valley, Charleston, Christ Church Glasgow, Haddington Community Church and Merkinch. These plants are showing positive signs of growth and momentum within the communities they serve.
The Board was pleased to receive an application from the Glasgow and Argyll Presbytery in relation to the Stirling church plant, led by Rev. Iain Macaskill, becoming a fully sanctioned charge. It was the recommendation of The Board to the General Assembly that their request is granted.
In October 2018 Rev. Neil MacMillan, Rev. Dr Robert J Akroyd, Rev. David Meredith, and Mr Nathan Olson attended the UK Partnership in Boca Raton. To date, Church Plants, in the Free Church, have received $296,000 through the UK Partnership,
The report made mention of several highlights which resulted from the trip:
• Spanish River Church in Boca Raton, FL, has asked Charleston to apply for funding
• Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church hope to give further funding to Christ Church, Glasgow
• Resurrection Church in Knoxville, TN, gave $2000 to Cornerstone
• Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church also in Knoxville, TN, pledged $9000 to Cornerstone
• First Presbyterian Church Starkville gave $5,000 to Haddington, with a potential of further support to Charleston and
Haddington Community Church
• Redeemer Presbyterian Church New York City is looking to send a mission team to Scotland in 2019
• Rev. Neil MacMillan met with several other large churches to speak about partnership and support
The Board were grateful for the "Gospel generosity being shown to Church Planting in Scotland."
In 2017 the General Assembly approved the Mission Board's strategy document, 'Going, Making, Growing', which included a "commitment to providing a tool-kit and a range of resources to support revitalisation and development of existing congregations." Since then the Board has launched the Development Track, a support network for ministers who are in the process of developing existing congregations. The group comprises of twelve ministers who receive training and support in specific areas relevant to church development.
The Board was "delighted by the number of congregations involved in the track and hope that it is proving to be helpful to Ministers, leaders and congregations. Applications will be open in June 2019 for the new term of the Church Development Track. The Board encourage congregations and Presbyteries to think about who would benefit from being involved in this track for 2019/2020."
The report also reiterated a desire by the Board to see "local congregations and Church members actively involved in evangelism." To assist with this, two new initiatives have been set up: Generation19 and Gossiping the Gospel.
The Generation19 initiative will run from the 1st to 10th September 2019. Congregations are encouraged to instigate locally driven evangelistic events. The Board will provide ideas and visuals to help local congregations in their thinking and planning.
The proposed 'Gossiping the Gospel' course will feature a series of four video programmes with relevant teaching and is primarily designed for church mid-week or small groups. It will take the form of teaching and interviews, with an opportunity for discussion in groups. It is hoped that this will prove to be a fruitful course for congregations to make use of. The Board anticipates the content will be available from Autumn 2019.
The Board reiterated its commitment to encourage and facilitate the continual training and equipping of the Church to serve and share the Gospel in whichever context God had placed them. Over the past year, many of the regular events and conferences from Free Church Youth Camps to Leadership Bootcamp were successfully delivered.
Commenting on training Mission Director Rev. David Meredith said, "Health and leadership are basic to mission. We have helped a number of congregations to look at culture change with a view to being more mission-minded, and we are happy to report that there has been a degree of success."
"We have found, however, that there is a reluctance with most of our people to be personal witnesses. Even at the basic level of sharing their story, there seems to be a paralysis brought about by a combination of fear and a sense of lack of skills."
"We have put together a short training course entitled ‘Gossiping the Gospel’. The course is limited because, so far, it has been delivered by me and we have limited time to do this. We have decided to make this course available in video form which will enable it to be taught in local congregations over a four-week time-frame."
As part of their current Global Mission strategy, The Board agreed to financially support a wide range of projects including work in Nepal, Europe, Africa, Central Asia, Israel and India, totalling over £200,000.
Over the past year, The Board has also discussed and reviewed its current policies, strategies and direction on Global Mission. From this, The Board recognised changes in giving methods and a change in how local congregations actively engage with mission. In order to address these issues The Board agreed to, "have discussions with each Presbytery on Global Mission finance, strategies and funding; carry out an audit of mission within the Free Church [and] to facilitate a discussion on Global Mission at the 2019 General Assembly."
The General Assembly acknowledged and thanked the Mission Board for their continued work as well as the "members and adherents of the Church who by their prayerful interest, financial contributions and ongoing interest in the sharing of the Gospel throughout the land and overseas."
Click here for the full report.