What is a missional church?

It’s a new word, and some of us are still trying to figure out what it means for a church to be “missional”. How is it different from being evangelistic? Or just biblical? Tim Keller gives us a clue about the importance of answering this question as he comments on the nature of our post-Christian world.

One of the reasons much of the American evangelical church has not experienced the same precipitous decline as the Protestant churches of Europe and Canada is because in the US there is still a “heartland” with the remnants of the old “Christendom” society…In conservative regions, it is still possible to see people profess faith and the church grow without becoming “missional”. Most traditional evangelical churches can still only win people to Christ who are temperamentally tradtional and conservative. But …this is a “shrinking market”. And eventually evangelical churches ensconced in the declining, remaining enclaves of “Christendom” will have to learn how to become missional. If it does not do that it will decline or die. We don’t simply need evangelistic churches, but rather “missional” churches.”

Clearly the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, in its ministry in Northern Ireland particularly, operates in part of the heartland of the old Christendom. But if Keller’s analysis is correct, we will soon need to adopt a different approach if we are to survive. I haven’t yet figured out all that is involved in being missional rather than merely evangelistic, but clearly a commitment to one’s own area and community is crucial. Continue reading “What is a missional church?”


dsc01787For over 100 years, Scripture Union has organised CSSM at Portrush, as well as at lots of other seaside locations. This year Portrush CSSM was a particularly successful venture, and as the pictures show, the sunset special (with sunshine!) on the east strand was well-supported by children and their parents.

The abbreviation, CSSM, (which stands for Children’s Special Service Mission) is not particularly catchy, but for many grown-ups it brings back wonderful memories of childhood days spent at the seaside. For many people, it was a decisive turning point in their lives as they committed themselves to following Jesus Christ. I am not unbiased; my own children have benefitted enormously from its ministry at Portballintrae, and my son and daughter continue¬† to be involved as leaders . dsc01788

Dr John Gillespie, the leader of Portrush CSSM, has been involved for almost forty years as man and boy, and each year he continues to recruit and lead a great team of dedicated young people. The large number of children and young people attending this year is testimony to the quality of the leadership and the attractive programme of music, fun, quizzes and activities.

There are so many parents and grandparents who are grateful to Scripture Union and CSSM teams for continuing to provide such a significant influence for good and for God in the lives of their children.

Garvagh Museum

img_0170As we travel around on our visits, Patricia is compiling a list of places to suggest to her PW committee for an outing. I’m also looking for possibilities for trips for our Lads, Dads and Grandads. This week we added another real possibility: Garvagh Museum.

You have probably never heard of it and could be forgiven if you thought that Garvagh wasn’t a big enough place, or even interesting enough, to have such a facility. But it really does exist and it is a wonderful visit. At 2 pounds a head for adults it is also great value for money. Continue reading “Garvagh Museum”

105 and counting

105photo1I met a remarkable woman in Garvagh. Anna Gibson is 105 years old, and apart from being slightly hard of hearing, is doing extremely well. She is a fine Christian woman who worked hard all her life on a small farm outside Garvagh, and she maintains a great interest in all that is going on in her home congregation of First Garvagh. It was a great delight to visit her along with Mark Donald, the minister of First Garvagh, and his predecessor, Stanley Lindsay. Also in the picture is Mrs Gibson’s daughter, Mrs Fleck. I have never shaken hands with a 105 year old before…what a privilege!


Ramelton extension

dsc01766It really took me by surprise to see my name on a plaque alongside the name of Francis Makemie! It was a great afternoon of thanksgiving and celebration in Ramelton, in the home congregation of “the father of American Presbyterianism”. The Presbyterian congregation of Ramelton, whose minister is Rev Amanda Best, has extended their church facilities in a most excellent way as they continue their work and witness in one of the most picturesque areas of Ireland.


It was noteworthy that we opened the new rooms on American Independence Day, July 4th, and named them after Rev Dr Scott who had served the Ramelton congregation for over 40 years. Members of Dr Scott’s family had travelled from Dublin and Glasgow to share in the service, and it was a great opportunity to remember Dr Scott and to acknowledge God’s goodness and faithfulness in the life of the congregation.


The original meeting house, known not surprisingly as The Old Meeting House, dating from Makemie’s day is still standing and is now used as the town’s library. The first minister in Ramelton was a grandson of John Knox.¬† It is amazing to be connected with a congregation and a reformed tradition that can trace its history back to the Reformation as well as having such a strong connection across the Atlantic.