I briefly mentioned last week that I had the opportunity to meet Athole Rennie while I was at the ARP Synod. He gave a presentation at the Outreach North America (the home-mission agency of the ARP) sponsored breakfast on his work to plant a church in Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland. He shared with us some of the history of the town, some of the resistance he has encountered (including resistance from other "churches" in Scotland), and some of the hopes that he has for this work. I highlight the work of Pastor Rennie not only in hopes of bringing it to the attention of as many people as possible, but also because the approach he is taking to planting a church is rare these days.
Instead of starting with a core group of families from an existing church, Pastor Rennie is "starting fresh". The "core group" is he, his wife and their infant son. Pastor Rennie expressed some frustration with trying to reach the point of having a core group. He talked of giving presentations at churches that are friendly to the idea of a new biblical and reformed church in the area and asking members of those churches to join him in this work, but not having seen any fruit from those requests, yet.
I sympathize with Pastor Rennie. Certainly, the work he has been called to is not an easy work (from a human perspective). He is going about things in a way that most denominations and churches would view as "all wrong". And yet, I see plenty of biblical examples of exactly what he is doing. Paul, on his missionary journeys very rarely came into a city that already had a group of believers present. Paul was not used planting a church using a "core group" but more often than not, had to build up to having a core group in the first place. Pastor Rennie's model of church planting is also reminiscent of missionaries going into areas that have never heard the Gospel, that do not have established churches, and trusting God to bless the work and save souls. I suppose the difference is, we do not think of Scotland as being such a place, and yet so much of that nation's Christian heritage has been lost (as Pastor Rennie testified to during his presentation).
Finally, I want to point out another brother taking a similar approach to church planting, but in Texas. Pastor Carl Miller is working to plant two churches: one in Waco and one in Houston, and he is doing so without the aid of a core group. If you are in either the Waco or the Houston areas, go over to these works and give Pastor Miller a word of encouragement. Also, remember the work of Pastors Miller and Rennie in your prayers.