Thoughts From Scotland

Edinburgh at dusk, as seen from Calton Hill.

For those who were not aware, I spent the past two weeks in England and Scotland, attending a leadership conference with Christian Associates and then visiting Scotland on a research and observation trip. It was an amazing 14 days that proved to be just as emotionally enriching as it was informative.

I started off at Summit, an annual gathering of church leaders, in Hoddesdon, England, about an hour north of London. It was four days of meeting new faces, reconnecting with familiar ones, learning new names and hearing about the church in various parts of the world. Summit was simply amazing. I felt like I belonged. Christian Associates is a big, accepting family more than an organization. The “parents” and the “kids” all want to have a lot of fun in the midst of spiritual growth and missional living, a philosophy that matches mine perfectly. Don’t I enjoy having fun in the midst of ministry? I hope so! Throughout the conference I got a really good “inside” look at CA and I really felt their concern for their staff members and associates. In many ways, CA operates more like a church than a parachurch organization. Like all organisms, CA has its shortcomings, as well, but it is acutely aware of these flaws and is constantly seeking improvement. That’s a sign of a healthy organism.

Scotland was amazing, too. I had been to Edinburgh once before, 14 years ago, and it lived up to my expectations. But what exceeded my expectation was Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland, and place I’m wanting to launch my Scottish life. Glasgow is to consumerism what Edinburgh is to tourism — a center of attention. It doesn’t have the ancient history of the capital but it is an excellent place to see everyday Scottish life. I spent a number of hours walking about downtown Glasgow, soaking it in and making cultural and spiritual observations. I identified several potential mission opportunities and had the great joy of meeting and worshiping with Mosaic Community, CA’s church plant. Glasgow is a very multicultural city. It also has an active nightlife.

Edinburgh is postcard Scotland. It was the seat of kings and queens and still is Scotland’s religious center. However, it has a spiritually dark side. People these days seem to be drawn to what I call “paranormal spirituality” — a strong belief in the afterlife (after-death existence, but not necessarily heaven and hell) that is evidenced through ghosts, evil spirits and medium connections with the dead. Because Edinburgh is so ancient and inspired some of the best “spooky” writers of the past 300 years, it is a pilgrimage site for people interested in the paranormal. There are catacombs and burial places all over the old city and tours launch every day from the area around St. Giles Cathedral — Scotland’s Westminster.

But I also saw glimmers of revival in Scotland’s biggest cities. The Church knows it needs to be proactive in mission, so it is intentionally breaking down denominational and religious barriers to see all of the different demographics reached for Christ. Morningside Baptist Church, for example, has planted 11 different cell groups in Edinburgh. The Free Church of Scotland (not to be confused with the Church of Scotland) has also expressed interest in reaching Edinburgh. Wes White from Mosaic and I met with a Church of Scotland pastor who has a missional heart for Edinburgh. And Christian Associates is exploring the possibility of partnering with these groups and starting a community in Edinburgh. My desire is to eventually be part of this outreach.

When I was staring at a sign for a “ghost tour” I realized that it only takes one light to put an end to a dark room. One small light renders darkness powerless. The more lights, the brighter! Perhaps the best way to reach Edinburgh and Glasgow is to plant lights among in the various groups of the city. These groups include interest genres like artists and philosophers and athletes to ethnic groups to expatriates.

It was a very good trip and I saw the hand of God everywhere. I have a better idea of what I might be doing once I move and the things I’ll need to focus on once I get settled. Finances are still a major obstacle to my being able to transition to Glasgow, as is the visa. I will need to raise at least $3k a month of pledged income. Some of that will come from Highland Productions, my media company, but probably not as much as I want. So I will be relying on you, my friends and associates, a lot over the next few months and into my time “across the pond.” It would be such a great honor to have you partner with me in planting another light in either Glasgow or Edinburgh.

Thank you so much for allowing me to go to Hoddesdon and Glasgow. It was a marvelous trip that I pray will pay dividends in the future.

— John