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Gospel Needs in Scotland

Paul Clarke

Paul Clarke is the Senior Minister of St Andrews Free Church in St Andrews, Fife. Paul is married to Emilie, and they have 3 children – Fred, Archie & Sophie, and one dog – Willow. Paul joined St Andrews from St Helen’s, Bishopsgate in 2013 where he had worked for 14 years. He enjoys playing golf, going for walks with friends & family, and eating good food. 

Readers of the 9:38 blog know well that ‘the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.’ The latest global statistics continue to challenge us and drive us to our knees. The Joshua Project website tells us that of the 16,862 people groups in the world, a staggering 6,996 are ‘unreached’ (defined as a people group with less than 2% Evangelical Christians). That leaves over 3 billion of God’s image bearers without access to the saving news of Jesus Christ. ‘Pray earnestly therefore to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’

a country with an immensely rich Christian heritage now teeters on the brink of itself being classified unreached once again

Less familiar perhaps, but equally startling, is the realisation that a country with an immensely rich Christian heritage now teeters on the brink of itself being classified unreached once again. But so it is that the land of John Knox, Thomas Chalmers, Samuel Rutherford and Robert Murray M’Cheyne (to name but a few!) finds itself with an Evangelical Church attendance of just over 2%. Throw in the fact that the average age of Church Ministers in Scotland is 57 and the crying need for a new generation of gospel workers is clear. 

Against this backdrop, and as a newcomer to Scotland, it is highly encouraging to observe the seeds of a renewed commitment to training in Scottish Churches. I am told that only 10 years ago there were very few churches running Apprentice Schemes of the kind that have benefitted so many individuals and congregations in other parts of the world. But thanks to the establishment of Cornhill Scotland, the sacrificial work of the Bonar Trust, a new sense of Gospel partnership between Churches, the flexibility of Edinburgh Theological Seminary and the tireless work of a few pioneering Church leaders, much has changed and the opportunities for young men and women to be trained as gospel workers have multiplied.

A growing number of Churches (Baptist, Independent & Free Church of Scotland) now offer two year Apprentice roles alongside four or five year Leader-in-Training posts (a combination of degree level theological education and on-going ministry training in a local church). It is thrilling to see those who have benefited from this new model of training now being deployed as Church Ministers, women’s workers and Church planters right across Scotland. 

Our own Church family are delighted to ride on the coat-tails of others. We have learned that God has ordained the local Church as the primary centre for the training of gospel workers; we are only a small Church but we cannot leave it to ‘others’ to do this vital work. We are benefitting greatly from the presence of three Apprentices (we call them Ministry Trainees) and two Pastors-in-Training in the congregation. But as much as we love having them with us, we are most excited to see where God will take them and how he will use them when they move on from us to serve elsewhere. Our prayer is that through them the gospel will bear fruit not just in Scotland but all over the world.

There is and always will be great gospel need all over the world, but it would be wonderful if a few who read this post might take the time to pray for Scotland.

There is and always will be great gospel need all over the world, but it would be wonderful if a few who read this post might take the time to pray for Scotland.  The Christian landscape is changing significantly here as mainline denominations move decisively away from the authority of Scripture and new gospel Churches are planted. No-one knows what the Church will look like in 30 years. But we know that God delights to work by his Spirit through his word to bring new life, and therefore that the training up and sending out of gospel workers remains vital for the future health of the Church. Please pray for more workers, and maybe even consider being part of the answer to your own prayers!