Minister’s Letter – May 2018

I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you.
You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob,
honour him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
(Psalm 22 NIVUK)

I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you.
(Psalm 35 NIVUK)

I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, Lord, as you know.
I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.
(Psalm 40 NIVUK)

This month sees another first for me: as a commissioner at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. As such, I decided to look up the various occurrences of the word “assembly” in the Bible. The word appears in the NIV translation of the Bible 161 times. Three of these caught my attention, and I’ve quoted them above: all from Psalms written by David.

In these 3 quotes, we get a sense of the purpose of assemblies of God’s people. When we gather together, we are to praise God; we are to give thanks to God for all He has done; we are to proclaim that our God is one of salvation, faithfulness and love. These are wonderful reasons for assemblies of God’s people: they focus on God and remind us of His goodness to us.

While the General Assembly meets for several reasons, it is still a gathering of God’s people; therefore, one of its primary purposes is to glorify God in the way David describes. I think this is why I am sometimes disheartened by the Assembly: there are elements of this gathering which seem far removed from the glorification of God (and I don’t just mean the decisions which go against Biblical principles, although these are obviously troubling).

The Assembly retains, for whatever reason, the pomp, ceremony and pageantry from decades (even centuries!) past. This strikes me as, at best, an institution trying desperately to hold on to tradition; and at worst, self-glorification. These things should trouble us: they appear to have no connection to God, the Gospel, or our call to minister in this world and build His Kingdom.

The Assembly is, however, at its best during those moments when God is glorified, the Gospel is proclaimed, the Church is equipped, and God’s people are called to go into the world and build His Kingdom. As such, and in keeping with our theme of prayer, I wonder if you could pray for the General Assembly this year? Some suggestions:

  • That God, and His glorification, would be at the heart of all the Assembly does;
  • For wisdom, clarity, and stamina for myself and the other commissioners;
  • That the decisions this year would equip and empower the Church in the spread of the Gospel.

Thank you for your prayers, and may God bless you,