The Stockethill Story

The Church Planting Team

Community and relationships have been at the heart of Stockethill’s understanding of what it means to be the church. This emphasis has been reinforced by the fact that we don’t have our own building, but there is probably a more immediate cause. The church planting team for Stockethill Church was not merely a task group, a team, but the seed of the future church community.

The Members of the Team

Ian’s call was in and to the Church of Scotland. His probationary training took place within Renfield St. Stephen’s, Glasgow. During this period, Sarah, Ian’s fiancé, was taking a year out after university to work in Whiteinch Church. Whiteinch was a church plant from the union of two parish churches. After the union, the joint members had realised they only came from one half of the parish. The Whiteinch church plant had been created to minister in this area of the parish. Both Ian and Sarah were therefore connected with both established and innovate forms of Church of Scotland ministry.

From the experience of these two churches, themes developed of concern for the poor, for justice and the importance of being a healing community. Whiteinch, in particular, was a charismatic church, grappling with the task of starting a church from scratch.

At the same time, Gail, an old family friend of Sarah’s was moving back into Aberdeen. [More here.] The fourth member of the team, a friend of a friend of Ian’s, was also moving to Aberdeen and looking for a church. Gail’s spiritual life had been formed under the ministries of John Stott and D.M. Lloyd Jones and her church experience ...

The team looked for others to join them, feeling their vulnerability, but no one wanted to join them at that time.

Being a Team

There was never any question for Ian that a team was necessary for church planting. Both the scriptural examples of Jesus and the twelve, Paul’s church planting activities and the five-fold ministry of Ephesians 4:11, and the practical observation that solo church planting was unsustainable meant that Ian and Sarah would always seek to build a team for the work.

It was significant for this team that they were beginning this work all with a sense of the importance of the task ahead, all feeling inadequate to the task but also all with an expectation that God would provide. The feelings of inadequacy in part drove the desire for the recruitment of more members for the team, but it also drew the team together in prayer and mutual support.

Further Reflections

For Ian and Sarah, two aspects of their preparation proved essential. It was incredibly helpful to have received training in the tradition of the Church at Renfield St Stephen's. While New Charges may in many cases be innovative, they are still intended to exist within the community of the Church of Scotland. Being able to understand the history and tradition of that community allowed the team to benefit from it and to communicate with it. It almost goes without saying that innovative church practices, if they are to benefit the wider church, need to be communicated by someone who understands and is not without some appreciation for the established forms. A further source of tutoring was found at the feet of church planting practitioners in Whiteinch. Church Planting is demanding, it requires vision, insight into a local community, determination and support. Seeing the practice of Church Planting at first hand provided inspiration and wisdom for the task at hand.

The church planting team had all been nurtured in evangelical spirituality. Even so, Despite this, there was a variety of experience amongst them, both of different expressions of evangelicalism from the conservative to the charismatic, and also an appreciation of different denominations and styles of Christian worship. It seems remarkable that this variety was gathered around and committed to planting a church within the Church of Scotland. This commitment to the denomination but variety of experience would allow the church to react flexibly to the culture and community before them, choosing a form of church that seemed most suited, while serving within the wider church.

The team turned out to be well-suited to each other and the task ahead. Ian was obviously a teach and leader, Gail was deeply pastoral in approach and had a deeply rooted prayerful spirituality and Sarah was able to provide musical, creative and prophetic gifts. This, however, wasn’t planned and only in retrospect was it ever analysed. [Something more here?]

It’s significant as well that from the start, although the team bonded closely, it had a missional nature: the community of the church planting team itself was open and ready to embrace others. Yes, the roles of leadership would be occupied by the initial team for some time, but their shared life together would soon be opened to others.