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Where it all began! 2nd October, 2014

Posted by Scotty in Calling.
4 comments

Inside the ChurchA few weeks ago I was sitting with some new friends who asked me to share about my faith journey and my decision to pursue vocational ministry.  There is a very significant experience in my life that was a “turning point” for me.  It’s an important part of my story, and one I have shared many times and in many parts of the world.  When I finished sharing my tale, my friend went back to this part of the story and asked me a question that led to this blog!

Not Happy
About 15 years ago, I was away on a music weekend and was told we had to go to a church on the Sunday.  To my 15 year old self, it was the most excruciatingly dull experience I’d had in a church.  It was a fairly typical church—sandstone building, arched wooden ceiling like an upside down boat hull, two lots of wooden pews separated by a centre aisle, red carpet, organ playing, hymn singing—and I was not very happy to be there (a feeling shared by all my friends!)  I had to sit at the front because I was playing some music, which gave me a unique view.

There is a particular moment during this service that I recall vividly.  The service was moving along as normal, and the minister was speaking, when I, a not-really-a-Christian Christian, began to analyse what I was seeing…

Not Sustainable
As I looked out at the congregation, from my vantage point, I was aware of the 15-20 people scattered down the right hand side, all crowned with grey hair; while the left side was packed with a number of my also-forced-to-be-there adolescent musical peers.  I distinctly remember thinking, as I looked out at the old congregation, “I’m no expert on the whole church thing, but the elderly congregation don’t have a long time left, so if things don’t change, this church will be dead in the next 10-15 years”.

Not Engaging
I turned my attention to the minister who was talking.  I remember his beard, and being repulsed that he wore a cardigan!  I remember him standing talking with his toes hanging over the edge of the step.  I remember a dull monotony to his speaking, random stories from the newspaper, old people drifting to sleep, and young people clearly interested in everything other than being there.  I remember clear as day analysing what I saw: “Again, I’m no expert on church, but aren’t you supposed to be teaching stuff about the Bible?  Why then are you talking about the news instead?  You’re supposed to believe the stuff the Bible says, and so, shouldn’t you be more enthusiastic about what you’re saying, rather than speaking in monotone?  The future of your church are sitting right there—all those young people—and you’re doing nothing to get their attention; even your own congregation is falling asleep.”

Not Honouring
I remember looking over at the organist who was known best for their consistently unpleasant nature—sitting in a robe that looked like Batman’s Bat Cape—and thinking: “I’m definitely no expert on church, but are hymns not supposed to be a way to honour God?  How then can you have a person as horrible as that leading people in worship?  That just doesn’t go together!”

Not Working
And I remember turning my attention back to the minister and having an imaginary go at him in my head: “I don’t get it.  This just isn’t working!  What are you doing?  Your congregation is dying.  You’re so irrelevant, and even you sound bored.  You’re doing nothing to get the attention of these young people who may be the future of your church.  And you have that person leading “worship”.  Do you not know how they treat people?!  [and the part I’m least proud of…] This is a joke.  You are a joke.  This Church is a waste of space!” 

Not Expecting
As I sat back, frustrated by pleased with myself, that’s when it happened.  I couldn’t tell you where it came from—inside, outside, above, below, beside, around, a voice, a thought, a feeling—but something went: “Well, Scott, if you’re so clever, go show me you can do it better”.

Never one to back down from a challenge, I thought with a gulp, “Ok, I will!”

Right then, in that very moment, everything made sense.  All at once I realised: “God is real. His Word is True.  Jesus died for my sins. The Church is His vehicle for reaching the world… and this is not what God intended The Church to be”.

Unconventional
This is not your normal called-into-ministry story.  I cringe as I think about my immaturity and corresponding attitude.  I’m encouraged by God’s ability to use (what appeared in the eyes of the world to be) a failing ministry to lead someone to Him; and I’m humbled by God’s ability to use a potentially-negative-trait—my competitiveness—to grab hold of my heart.  That Sunday morning, I wanted to be anywhere other than in that church.  Today, I dread to think what my life would be like if I hadn’t been there!

Unusual Response
As I was saying at the beginning of this entry, I’ve told my story many times but this time there was something new in the response.  My friend looked at me and said “Have you ever gone back to that church to tell them what happened?  If that church has been struggling along years, don’t you think it would be such an encouragement to them to hear that God called you into ministry during one of their services (leaving out the negative details of course!)?  If you haven’t, you might want to think about doing that!”  And I knew she was right!

A couple of weeks later I was up in Scotland and, with this conversation playing on my mind, I spent some time online working out what church it was that we’d been in and I paid it a visit.  The church building was open but empty.  It was surreal to be back there realising how much has happened since then!  I went and stood where I’d been sitting all those years ago (and took the photo above!)—it looks exactly as I remembered it—and I thanked God for the adventure He’s had me on and the way He’s transformed my life since that day!  It was a special moment.

Unable to speak to someone I did the next best thing I could think of… I found their visitor book by the door and in BIG LETTERS wrote a simple message: “15 years ago during a service here God called me into ministry, and since then I’ve travelled the world for Him”!

I hope they read it and are encouraged.

We’re moving to Birmingham!!!! 6th June, 2013

Posted by Scotty in Calling, Life, Ministry, Travel.
3 comments

ukmap_birminghamWe’re moving to Birmingham!!!

I’ve not blogged in AGES, but that’s because there have been A LOT of significant things happening in the background. Here’s the brief update and we’ll give you more information later:

Firstly, we’ve just finished a major transition and have joined the ranks of The Navigators. They are an organisation I’ve respected for a number of years, and have always had an interest in being more involved. I am excited to move into an environment that is all about discipleship. We’ve already been having some great conversations with other workers within the organisation, and I just love rubbing shoulders with other people who are as passionate as us about this foundational aspect of the Christian Journey.

Secondly, we’re moving to Birmingham (England, not Alabama!!). When we first started talking with Navigators in December, they asked if we’d be willing to move to Birmingham. Initially, we were very reluctant, but as we prayed and our conversations continued, God confirmed to them and to us that this is what He wants. And so it’s looking like we’ll move down there at the beginning of August to dive in to the work they are doing in the city.  Birmingham puts us in close proximity to leadership team, central for a lot of their training, with easy access to a number of key ministries around the UK. This is even more helpful because…

Thirdly, I have begun doctoral studies in Discipleship. After looking at a very specific discipleship-focused degree for the last couple of years, I have finally embarked on that journey. As you know, I love to read and think and write about discipleship, and want to work out ways to assist the Church to become more effective at making disciples. As part of my new role with Navigators, I have been asked to undertake some large research and writing projects…. Which will end up being the body of my doctoral thesis. The doctorate fits beautifully alongside our new roles and will give some added structure to the projects I’ll be working on for Navigators. Not to mention the ways it’s already sparked thoughts for a thousand other blogs on discipleship!

Since chemo God has been refining me, cleansing my heart, honing our calling and bringing more focus to our lives and ministry. It’s always rewarding to see God brings things together and we’re looking forward to seeing what He does in this next season!

I’ll post more soon, so watch this space!

2013 ONE WORD 1st January, 2013

Posted by Scotty in Calling, Challenges, Heart.
6 comments

Last year I tried something new.  Instead of thinking about New Year’s Resolutions, I decided to pick one word that I would ask God to cultivate in me for the year (see my 2012 word and explanation here).  I liked the simplicity and the focus on it so I decided to do the same thing this year.  And so… my ONE WORD for 2013 is:

GRACE

After sitting thinking that perhaps grace should be my word for 2013, I asked Monica what she thought and with only 2 seconds to process, she suggested grace.  So I guess that’s the right word!

Grace has never been my strong point, both in relation to myself and others.  I have always held myself to a really high standard.  When I fall short of that standard I beat myself into the ground.  And over the last year I realised that I secretly hold other people to that same standard.  Neither of these things is good!  Perfectionists, like me, don’t grasp grace!  There’s no room for error in a perfectionist’s world.  But God has been reminding me that Jesus Christ was the only perfect person and that He specialises in working through broken people.  He has been softening my hard heart, and teaching me the importance of grace.

2012 was a tough year–a year of trial and testing.  Through each trial, God has been teaching me more about my heart and much about His Grace.  We have been brought to our knees on numerous occasions and it was experiencing Grace that set us back on our feet.

God has shown me that:

Grace is God’s strategy for reaching the world!

So for 2013, I’ll be asking the Holy Spirit to make me an instrument of grace.  I want to grow in grace towards myself.  I want to be better at receiving grace from others.  And I want to be quick to extend grace to others.  Just as the one who is forgiven much loves much, so the one who has received grace much should extend grace much.  We want our home and our lives to be environments of Grace where the grace we’ve received can overflow from our lives to bring healing to others.

Lord, I thank you for Your Grace.

2012 ONE WORD 2nd January, 2012

Posted by Scotty in Calling, Challenges, Heart.
2 comments

I’m not one for doing New Year’s Resolutions.  I tend to choose things all through the year that I want to work on rather than lumping them all at the start of the year. Regularly as I encounter things in Scripture or traits I see in others that I want to emulate I journal about it and seek to incorporate it into my life.

In my first year at Multnomah, we were having a special worship time with all the people from our year and Prof. Carley Wecks handed everyone a little square of paper and asked us to think through the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) and to pick one that we would choose to pursue growth in for that semester. I liked that concept and have done a similar thing at various points over the last 6 years.

Well, I recently read something (I can’t remember where or I’d direct you to it) that had a similar (simple) approach to New Year’s Resolutions…  Pick ONE WORD that summarises how you want to grow/change this year.  I like that idea and so… my ONE WORD… for 2012 is:

DISCIPLINE

I felt like this last year I really sagged in this area compared to years past.  With everything from time-keeping to blogging to exercise to spiritual disciplines… I was a bit flabby.  So… this year I’m going to praying for the Grace to be better disciplined again, and will invest my energy in building good habits back into my life.  Feel free to check up on me.

What is your ONE WORD for 2012?

Is this really my life? 2nd August, 2011

Posted by Scotty in Calling, Life, Ministry, Support.
3 comments

Is this really my life?

Every now and then I have a moment where I see my life through someone else’s eyes.  In the moment, I’m just living my life doing what I do, then all of a sudden I see things differently.

Right now, Mon and I are in the States, travelling up and down the West Coast speaking to churches and church groups, sharing about God’s work in Scotland, calling people to surrender their lives and pay the cost of discipleship, and all the way through seeing God move mightily, provide generously and sometimes miraculously.

A few days ago Mon and I had just got done speaking with a group of students where we exhorted them to take discipleship to the next level.  It was the fourth or fifth appointment of the day and we were tired but loving sharing our lives with them.

As we were driving home we were suddenly struck by this life we’re living.

Is this really my life?

I’m a MISSIONARY!
I have an amazing wife.
I have an amazing team.
We live by faith, trusting God for our needs.
God moves other people to support us financially.
He moves the most unlikely people to lend us their possessions.
People invite us to speak at their churches.
He gives us unique opportunities to challenge and encourage people.
We’ve ministered in several countries and several States.
We’ve preached or shared in a different countries and to many churches
I even flew across the ocean to do a wedding.

But most exciting of all… God moves in people as we do all these things.

It doesn’t feel real!  Is this really my life?

This really is my life! 

If someone had described this to me 10 years ago I would have laughed.

I admired people who lived this kind of life.
I read biographies of those people.

Now we are those people.

What an exciting and humbling realisation.