Last fall, I was invited on staff with Christian Associates International after a candidating/application process with the intention of moving to Scotland and work towards planting missional communities there. A “missional community” is another name for church, except these churches are driven by mission — that is, the way they do discipleship, worship and community is driven by their mission to proclaim and demonstrate the kingdom of God on earth. These churches are about people intentionally implanting themselves into a community and reaching out with the love of God, demonstrating (and validating) their faith in daily life.
There is no greater witness to the reality of Jesus Christ and power of the Gospel than the witness of a transformed life.
I’ll admit that I had never thought of Scotland as being a potential mission field until I came across this simple prayer request on a missions-related website in April 2011:
“Pray for Scotland. Pray that the Lord will raise up men and women inside and outside of Scotland to be a witness for Him there.”
I then started researching the country and its spiritual health. What I found discouraged me. Sadly, all the statistics show that Scotland has backslid in its Christian culture so far that all mainline denominations are shrinking in size and influence. Atheism and apathy is the dominant philosophy in Scottish culture, just as it has been in Europe. Nowhere is this departure from Christ more evident than in the younger generations, largely missing from the Church. Without the presence of young believers, the Scottish church is dying with each passing year. Apathy and humanism have taken over as the main religions of Great Britain, leaving Christianity fighting for relevancy.
Of course, Scotland has always been a mission field. No country ever is fully “reached” or “spiritually healthy.” America is a mission field. Mexico is a mission field. Canada is a mission field. I just happen to be focusing on Scotland, a country I love and care about.
Scotland has been one of my heart’s great passions for many years. My father’s family has deep roots in Scotland. My ancestors were highlanders, from far north and west of Scotland. Like most highlanders of the early 19th Century, my ancestors moved to America during a period of drought and political persecution to find work, land, and freedom. It just so happens that my Scottish kin very soon found their way to Texas and became part of the shaping of this land. Come to think of it, Texans and Scots are a lot alike. We’re both proud people with an independent past and independent-minded present, stubborn to a fault, and unique in culture and history. Old England doesn’t care for the Scots; New England doesn’t care for the Texans. And we don’t care what they think, just as long as our salsa isn’t bottled in New York City.
My heart’s passion is to see Scots energized by the Gospel of Jesus in reaching out to those who are dwelling in the fringe parts of Scottish society. In the arts and entertainment realm. In the sports and literary realm. Among the intellectuals and environmentalists, the history buffs and pub crawlers. Everywhere people gather and in every cause they’re passionate about, I want to see the presence of Jesus Christ through His disciples.
Biblically Faithful, Culturally Relevant
After witnessing the great decline in denominational and traditional church presence, many church leaders have concluded that a new expression of the unchanging Gospel story is needed in Scotland. The format of big buildings and centralized worship was great in a bygone era but now it may be standing in the way of church growth, especially among younger generations. There are many objections to the church among my generation, including questions of relevancy, judgmental tendencies, coldness of spirit, and hypocrisy in faith. All of the objections to “church” need to be torn down one at a time. The only way to do this is not through lecture halls and church programs (no matter how good they may be) — it’s through relationships. When people see Christ in you, it will make a difference.
So I’m heading to Scotland to see how the Lord might use me in reaching those who have soured on what they believe to be “church” and Christ. My desire is to be part of ministry in Scotland for years to come. I’ve found that there is a growing tide of revival starting to build in Scotland, started by Scots who see the same decline that I do. Established churches are begging for new missional communities to form in their cities to reach those who are on the fringe of society. I sense that denominations are finally willing to work together to see every soul reached with the Gospel. It’s an exciting time and a perfect time for Christian Associates to come into Scotland, partner with existing church communities, and we’ll see our God move in amazing and wonderful ways.
Can You Help Me Get There?
What I am asking for is prayer and support.
- I need you to pray that God will clear the way for me to get a visa and find housing, etc. in Scotland. The visa process is not easy right now. Until that time, my “on-the-ground” effort in Scotland will have to be in the form of shorter-term trips, which can be expensive.
- I also need you to pray that I will be able to wrap up my affairs here in Texas so I can move debt-free and without the weight of great possessions hindering me. Will you pray for that?
- Another need is for monthly ministry partners, men and women to commit to supporting me and the work of Christian Associates, financially. You’ve read about my heart for Scotland. Will you join me in ministry? If you feel led to give either a one-time gift or become a monthly supporter, please log on to https://dlq4.donatelinq.net/qv10/default.aspx?MerchantID=ChrisAssoInter&lnk= and click “Give Now” to the left. Enter your info, select “Missionary” from the drop-down menu and then “John Newton,” account #41434, and whatever amount you choose to give. It will be a great blessing to me. All donations are tax-deductible.
Thank you for your love and support and, as is my usual farewell, “Be God’s!”
— John Newton