Ministry

Ministers' Conference

Last week, Stephen joined 41 other ministers from Ireland and Scotland at the annual RP Ministers' Conference. The main talks were given by Jeremy Walker (brother of the more famous Dan), pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church

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There were also addresses by David Whitla (David and his family are members of the RPCNA and recently joined us for our Reformation trip to St Andrews), Knox Hyndman and Norris Wilson (moderator of RPCI Synod).

It was a really encouraging few days and those who attended have gone back to their congregations encouraged and revitalised for the glorious work they've been called to do.

"Give them the whole Bible!"

Kenneth Stewart (Glasgow RPCS) preaching at the ordination in Stornoway Town Hall last night

Kenneth Stewart (Glasgow RPCS) preaching at the ordination in Stornoway Town Hall last night

Last night saw the ordination of Stephen McCollum as minister in Stornoway. At an ordination service, one of the other ministers is usually given the task of addressing the new minister and exhorting him in one or more particular aspects of his work.

One such address was given in Stranraer in 1932 by Rev. Andrew Cross Gregg at the ordination of Mr Moffett Blair as minister - and it's still as relevant as ever.

After warning about the mistake of thinking that orthodox sermons are more important than a Christ-like life, the older minister went on:

"Another great mistake we ministers make is that we do not give our people enough of the Bible. We have preached too much and too often from single verses and single clauses, and not often enough from whole passages. I advise you to serve to your people big slices of the bread of life...The late Mr. Struthers once took for his text the 119th Psalm - the whole 176 verses! The sermon was printed, and a fine sermon it is, and not too long either! Give your hearers plenty of the Bible. Give them the whole Bible.

A. C. Gregg, then minister in Greenock

A. C. Gregg, then minister in Greenock

After more than forty years of attempt to preach I regret to have to confess that there still remain large and fertile tracts of Bible material which I have never tried to expound. I have, of course, taken many texts from the great Prophets of Israel, but I have not yet tried to travel right through Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and Daniel, to bring to my hearers some of the rich and luscious fruit of the linked thoughts of those grand, inspired men with their living and creative messages.

I take it for granted that you are a diligent student of the Word of God. Walk through the length of it and the breadth of it, survey its heights and its depths, its green pastures and its quiet waters, and then take your people through that good land and let them feel by experience that it is flowing with milk and honey".

- A. C. Gregg, 'To a young minister' in R. P. Witness (Dec 1932), 279-280.

The Reformer John Calvin also urged the importance of studying Scripture in its context. Commenting on a frequent misunderstanding of Isaiah 14:12 (that 'Lucifer' is another name for Satan), he says: 'When passages of Scripture are taken up at random, and no attention is paid to the context, we need not wonder that mistakes of this kind frequently arise'.

As he concluded his ordination address, Gregg said: 'I can assure you, my dear young brother, that there is far more cause to-day for a happy view of the future of our Church than I have ever seen'. Perhaps some of us could say the same today - but if we do, may it not be because our confidence is in men, but because it is in the Word of God. And not just parts of it, but all of it! 'Give them the whole Bible'.

What does a minister do all day?

Most ministers have probably been asked what they spend their week doing! This blog by the minister of the International Presbyterian Church in Ealing helps shed some light on the question. The review below was written by Stephen for the latest issue of the Messenger magazine. You can sign up on the website to receive digital copies of the magazine for free, or speak to Stephen if you'd like to subscribe to the print edition (£8 per year).

Blog Review: A year in the life of a minister

Have you ever wondered what a minister does all week? This blog, by a Welsh minister, with a Northern Irish wife, pastoring a church in London, helps shed light on that question. The author, Paul Levy, has been minister of the International Presbyterian Church in Ealing (where former Messenger columnist Robert Cromie now attends) since 2003.

Levy started the blog on the first of September and writes every day. This isn’t just a highlights reel – Levy writes about the good, the bad and the mundane. He writes about the days he feels his sermons fell flat, or he wasted a morning or he missed an opportunity to speak about Jesus. He recounts Session meetings, Presbytery meetings, 5-a-side football and meeting up with friends. Levy writes about what it’s like to parent a toddler with Down’s Syndrome, and the account of him and his wife watching the recent BBC documentary on it is especially touching. He’s also involved in a couple of church plants, and the excitement of being involved in a growing denomination comes across.
The blog isn’t earth-shattering or glamorous, but it’s real and it’s honest. Some entries are boring and nondescript, but that’s real life. Whether you’re an ordinary church member or considering the ministry yourself, reading some of the entries will leave you more informed about what day-to-day ministry looks like.
Of course, most of us aren’t living and working in London, so there will be elements we can’t identify with. Levy himself says: ‘I often think how blessed we are to live in a place where there is lots of movement of people and so we have people who move to the church’. And yet whether our churches are in London or Limavady or Leipzig, we find again and again that as Christians we have far more in common than what divides us.
The old joke says that ministers are invisible six days a week and incomprehensible on the seventh; this blog makes the life of a minister a little more visible.

Ministers' Conference 2016

Stephen, along with a couple of the other Scottish ministers, recently had the opportunity to attend the 2016 RP Ministers' Conference in Ballykelly, Northern Ireland. The main speaker was David McKay of Shaftesbury Square RPC in Belfast and the subject was 'Union with Christ' - a topic he also covers in his book The Bond of Love. The opening and closing talks were given by Andrew Lucas of Omagh EPC and David Silversides of Loughbrickland RPC. There was also a talk on John Owen from David Luke of the Irish Baptist College.

It was a great couple of days of fellowship and encouragement. Next year, the speaker will be Jeremy Walker, pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church and author of a number of books.