With Rev Dr Fred Drummond,
Scottish Director and UK Prayer Director
The Evangelical Alliance is the largest network of evangelicals in the UK. It has a membership of over 4,000 churches and thousands of individuals, as well as hundreds of organisations.
We believe that together we can make Jesus known more effectively, as we listen, pray, and share together. We bring people together, we also resource – recently, for example I have written What Kind of Follower (a small group resource on discipleship); Wounded Leadership (issues facing leaders post lockdown); and Lament (dealing with hurt and pain). All these are available on the EA website www.eauk.org along with a host of other resources and research.
As well as unity and mission, we also focus on voice. In a rapidly secularising nation, we try to speak for Christian values in public life. That involves us regularly in meetings with civil servants and ministers. So, Unity and Mission, and Voice are our key areas to the biggest unity faith grouping in the UK.
All politicians are interested in votes. However, many have a strong secularist agenda. Also, there is often a lack of understanding of the Christian story and the vital role we play in community life. We have often allowed ourselves to be caricatured as only interested in our own rights, being bigoted and obsessed with issues of gender and sexuality. Because the EA is a large organisation, we do get more access to politicians, although that does not always mean that we get anywhere. However, we must be getting a balance on what we talk about. We need to be telling good news stories of what churches do and, we must also be passionate on a wider range of issues-environment/poverty/job creation (things we are involved in at EA Scotland at the moment).
I get a reasonable amount of online criticism and our Facebook has been targeted a few times by secularist groups. I have also had criticism from time to time from some non-evangelical churches.
As well as being the Scottish Director I am also UK Prayer Director, so I have the privilege of attending lots of prayer meetings and writing a lot of prayer material. Now, I am praying for the church in the UK as it seeks to find a new way forward for a new season. Also, for those who are bereaved or frightened because of covid, for the challenges to many around mental health and, the role we could have in making a difference.
We try to build relationships with politicians and civil servants. We respond to any consultations and at times we build campaigns – bringing together Care, Christian Institute etc to talk and plan. We keep our members up to date with monthly mails. If you are reading this and are not an individual member, I would encourage you to join and help build a strong evangelical voice and church. It costs £3 a month and you can join online via the website.
WE can make a difference in politics firstly by knowing our MSPs and keeping in contact – go see them, drop them a card, invite them along to a project and build a positive relationship. Just contacting when there is an issue does not work. Another way is to get involved in Pray for your MSP Sunday, an EA Scotland initiative that had churches inviting members of parliament along on a Sunday to be welcomed, thanked, and prayed for. Many churches in Scotland got involved, including four in Perth. Lastly, you could feel called to get into politics as a career. A look at EA Scotland’s Public Leader Course might be of help.
Here are three examples of what we have been doing in the lockdown. We have had regional calls for leaders from every part of the nation three times. This allowed leaders to listen to each other, share good practice and pray. Well over 100 leaders from independent church, Baptist, Free Church, Elim, Vineyard and Church of Scotland all joined in.
We collected 100 stories of what the church did in communities up and down the country in the first three months of the pandemic. We worked out the stats and produced a report called “Stories of Hope”. This outlined the number of acts of kindness and types of projects that church was involved in. We gave a copy to the government, opening up some funding for churches and this got a lot of media attention.
We also wrote and produced a resource on the four main challenges of discipleship entitled “What Kind of Follower”. This is now being used by hundreds of churches as either a sermon series or small group material.
There are many Christians involved in politics and public life at different levels. It is a calling just as much as pastoring or education or any other thing. As with any other, we need the wisdom of the Holy spirit, we need to pick the battles and the timing, we need to pray and connect with others, and we need a sense of being in it because God wants us there. Primarily we must live out the gospel in grace and kindness making a difference where we can.
We cannot defend sound doctrine. Jesus works in and through His church to extend his kingdom. We need to speak clearly and with grace about why what we believe is good for the whole of society. We need to get positive tones and create conversation. With wisdom we need to help shape the debate around a positive view of all that life can be. We also recognise that Church is now often a misunderstood minority who are seen as trying to hold society back by outdated views. We need to hold to truth, explain better who we are and pray.
I can’t really comment on the Church of Scotland as a denomination as they are not members. There are lots of individuals and some congregations that are members but not the denomination. I should be clear that to join EA you need to agree with our basis of faith. Not all evangelicals would regard themselves as conservative, but they do commit to a traditional view of Scripture, the cross, personal salvation and, most importantly, the centrality and lordship of Jesus.
The assisted suicide bill throws up many questions, some theological, others legal. Such as God and life and who controls them/ the pressure on doctors /the stress on vulnerable patients etc, as well as the rights of individuals who are suffering. We have been talking to disability groups, some doctors and other faith organisations, listening to what they are saying.
We inform and support our member churches and we have a strong advocacy team. We inform our contact members of issues they should be praying about and sometimes call people to contact their MSPs.
There are lots of voices in the public square, some faith-based, lots of secular, humanist, and LGBT groups, all trying to be heard. There are only three major evangelical voices in Scotland, although there are denominational ones, and each tends to look at different areas with a slightly different tone. Care is a member of EA, and we talk regularly to the Christian Institute.
However, both organisations work exclusively around issues of parliament. For us the key is Evangelical unity to see the gospel flourish. We are as well known for our Public Leaders’ Course, our evangelism resource, and our youth surveys, as we are for being a voice into parliament. For us, it is about encouraging and supporting the church to see the Kingdom of God advance in our nation.
Thank you for choosing to Spotlight the work of the Evangelical Alliance on Tayside Christian Fellowship’s website. If anyone wants to contact me further, you will get me on F.firstname.lastname@example.org