A large white tent pops up in the middle of a community; invitations are delivered to houses; in the tent at night there is‘old-time religion’-style singing; stories of how Jesus has changed the lives of real people; and a short, sharp gospel presentation – and all of this 6 nights a week! It can mean only one thing: the Faith Mission are in town! And in town they were. From the 22nd May to the 5th of June, Faith Mission Highlands, in partnership with local churches in North Skye, led a Tent Mission in Portree. The meetings were incredibly well attended every night, and the final night saw the mission reach a climax with a packed tent.
What was the point?
The primary aim of the mission was simple – it was to reach the lost. However, in order to achieve this, there was another aim – bring local Christians together; encourage them in their faith, and develop inter-denominational unity, prayer and a missional-focus.
The Faith Mission Team
The guys from Faith Mission were brilliant. We had with us, Donnie MacLeod, Justin Cummings, Nigel Wilson, Andrew Quinn, and John McCartney. I’ve never had any formal involvement with Faith Mission before now, but it was excellent to meet these guys, and work with them. The guys worked incredibly hard over the two weeks, they were diligent in prayer, evangelism and ministry and they really did impart a blessing. They were also a great laugh – the banter was brilliant – and the jokes were hilarious (except Justin’s –his jokes were awful). Joking aside, the guys were a brilliant encouragement. They worked tirelessly throughout the mission in preaching, testifying, door-to-door, and coffee mornings. I was able to invite Justin into the school where he took a number of RME classes. He told his conversion story, so it was a great opportunity for pupils to explore and reflect on the relationship between real life and’ supernatural’ occurrences. Justin’s testimony is a powerful account of God’s sovereign and supernatural intervention in the life of someone who is lost.
Justin giving an account of his journey at the high school
Was it ‘successful’?
‘Success’ is relative. Did we see swarms of unbelievers fill the tent, repent of their sins, and turn to Christ? No. But that doesn’t mean the Mission was a failure, on the contrary, the mission was encouraging and productive in a number of significant ways.
- Local Church Unity
- Empowering Local Christians
- Local Evangelism
Local Church Unity
In order to measure the success of the mission, it’s essential to understand the local context of Portree and North Skye. The church in North Skye is fragmented and disjointed. Historical divisions have weakened the church and the cause of Christ. Church politics have led to splits, and fall outs. Churches, for the most part, are declining – some are healthier than others but none of the churches in North Skye can be said to be in a position of strength, vibrancy and real growth.
In terms of building bridges across churches, nurturing unity, and working together the mission was a resounding success. In the run up to the mission, Christians from various denominations (independent, Pentecostal, CofS, Free Church,) came together to work with Faith Mission in order to bring the Tent to Portree.
The core team was made up of Christians from various churches, and they worked hard to communicate with local church leaders in order to help promote the event. Local church leaders were very supportive throughout the planning process, and the mission itself. Mid-week meetings were cancelled, services re-arranged, and adjustments were made by ministers and leaders in order to enable their churches to support the Tent Meetings.
Judging by the numbers who gathered it appears that there is a hunger amongst a number of local Christians for fellowship, praise and local mission. I think every single denomination was represented at some point during the two week mission. We had Episcopalians, Church of Scotland, Free Church, APC, Pentecostal, Independents, Free Church (Continuing) and Free Presbyterians worshipping together, enjoying fellowship and sitting under gospel ministry. In North Skye, this is very significant. I personally have never seen anything like it in the six years I have been here. One local Christian said to me that she felt the primary ‘success’ of the mission was the fact that “It brought people together. . .People who hadn’t spoken to each other for years were able to worship and fellowship together.” This is tremendous, in the context where the church is struggling; the Tent Mission has helped bring some healing to the body of Christ on North Skye. If this isn’t a reason to praise God, I don’t know what is.
A packed tent on the final night
Empowering Local Christians
The planning for the mission was hard work and it couldn’t have happened without Christians from local churches getting involved. It was brilliant to see so many folk, many of them not in any form of church office, get involved and help to organise the mission. It was great to see men and women come to life and use their gifting. As I watched the various cogs turn in the wheel, I stood in amazement thinking ‘This is more like church than church’. People were envisioned, enthused and committed.
It was not just the planning of the mission that empowered local Christians. Local Christians from various churches were able to take part in leading the praise, sharing their story (testimony), serving teas and coffees, providing hospitality, and helping with the setting up and clearing away of the tent. Local men from various churches were up at 5am to help the Faith Mission team with the practical task of setting up and clearing up.
Alex and Jim grafting
I was also really encouraged to learn, as a consequence of the mission, that one young man is now going to be involved in a Faith Mission camp. In other words, the Mission has opened up doors, and stirred a desire for service and involvement with Faith Mission. In a day when ‘the harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few’ this is encouraging.
How do we measure the success of evangelism? It’s difficult. How do we know if it is the message, or the methods that are turning people away from the gospel? It’s difficult to always say for sure. Some people might say that the mission was a failure because ‘no-one was saved.’ Well, we don’t know if anyone was or wasn’t. I personally haven’t heard of anyone making a profession of faith through the mission.
There were a couple of people who indicated to one of the members of the FM team that they had felt the Lord was speaking to them. It’s good to remember that “the effects always go further than we realise”.
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However, we can’t judge the effectiveness of evangelism on results alone. It is God alone who opens the eyes of the blind and melts the heart of stone – our responsibility is to be faithful in communicating the gospel. And it is in this area that I think the mission was primarily a success. The mission was a success because evangelism happened in an area where there is very little active local mission.
Hyper Calvinism, nominalism and insularism have caused many Churches in North Skye to be inactive in the area of intentional local mission. People are embodying the principle, ‘preach the gospel and if necessary use words’. This is tragic. You can’t communicate the gospel without words. The gospel is news which needs to be announced. The very fact that gospel tracts, along with an invite to the mission was delivered through doors, meant that people were actually given an opportunity to receive a short gospel message in their home, and to make a decision about what they will do about it. On the day of Judgement, this will make a difference. Light, however briefly, shone in the darkness. Further, the Faith Mission team actively followed this up by going round the doors. Again this is significant, the churches on Skye, by and large, are not actively attempting to reach people for Christ. How can we expect the lost to care about their souls when it seems that we don’t?
Did this work? Yes. There were people who came to the tent as a result of personal contact. There were ‘unchurched’ who also came into the tent simply because they were passing by and the tent was there. This didn’t happen as much as I would have liked, but it did happen and for this we should praise God because unbelievers came into contact with God’s people, and God’s gospel.
Seeds have been sown and watered in prayer and a fire has been sparked in the hearts of local Christians. A number of local Christians have expressed a desire to continue to meet for prayer, praise and fellowship. It seems that the Mission has broken up the fallow ground. The meetings may have stopped on the 5th June, but the work of the Spirit, it seems, has only just begun – a group of local Christians are currently putting plans in place for a regular, monthly or bi-monthly meeting where they gather to praise God together, and to intercede for the salvation of the lost. Watch this space, it could well be that God is preparing His people on Skye for a fresh out-pouring of the Holy Spirit.
For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. (Isaiah 44:3)