A Monthly Message from our Minister, the Rev Dr Neil Dougall - February 2020

In many theatres you’ll find opera glasses in a holder between seats, especially in the upper circle. In these seats you are a long way from the stage. Details of the scenery may not be visible. Facial expressions can be difficult to read too. One solution is to pay £1 to release the glasses and watch the show through them. Another solution is to book early and pay more money to get a better seat.

On the whole, the closer we are to the action, the better it is. We see more, we hear better, we enjoy a richer experience. Quite naturally, therefore, we conclude that it’s like this with Jesus. We look around the church. We see others who seem to have a deeper experience of Jesus. Compared to them, we feel like we’re sitting in the upper circle watching the action from a distance.

I don’t think Jesus looks at things this way. I don’t think Jesus cares tuppence about where we’re seated. He’s not worried about whether we’re in the front stalls, the back stalls, the dress circle, one of the boxes, the upper circle or even the balcony. I think what Jesus is interested in is the direction we’re moving in.

One day Jesus found Matthew sitting at his desk. He said, ‘Follow me’. Matthew did and he became one of Jesus disciples (Matthew 9:9 ).

Today Jesus calls people to follow him. When we say ‘yes’, we too become a disciple. We commit ourselves to learning, living and serving as Matthew. Being a disciple is not for a month, a year or even a decade. It is a lifelong commitment. We are invited to explore what being a disciple is about. We are encouraged to deepen our discipleship. As we do this I am convinced that the direction we are going in is more important than the place we are.

Let me illustrate with this diagram.202002

Person A is new to discipleship. They look around and see lots of Christians who seem to know so much more about faith. They feel pretty inadequate in comparison. At the same time though, they are hungry. They are eager to experience more of Jesus. They are trying to live out their faith, even if they keep falling on their face. The arrow shows them going towards Jesus.

Person B has been a Christian for many years. They know a fair bit about the Bible and are involved in ministry. They are committed to Jesus, but they’ve become stuck. They are not moving towards Jesus and they are not moving away from him. Their faith is neither growing or declining. It’s static.

Person C is very active in the church. They lead a ministry and people look up to them because their faith seems active and passionate. They are still doing the things they used to do. They attend worship, they read their Bible, they pray, they give generously and they talk the talk. But deep down something’s changed.  They know, and Jesus knows, they’re drifting outwards.

Which of these three positions is the best one to be in? I think it’s A.  I think it’s A because what matters to Jesus is not where we are but the direction we are going in. It’s better to be at the edge and heading in than to be near the centre and drifting out.

Keeping faith fresh and vibrant as years roll by is a challenge. If this describes you, you’re not unusual. It’s something I and many, many others grapple with.  The solution is both simple and demanding. It is simple because every day the invitation of Jesus comes again to us. He says, ‘Follow me’.  It is demanding because it takes effort, imagination and determination to find new patterns and fresh approaches so that our following doesn’t become stale.

To all of us, whatever stage of faith we are at, no matter how long we’ve been a Christian, the invitation to be a disciple comes again.  How might you explore what this means for you at the stage of life you are at?  How might you deepen your discipleship this year?   

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip he said to him, ‘Follow me’. (John 1:43 )


Will you come and follow me,
if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know
and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown
in you and you in me?

Lord, your summons echoes true
when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you
and never be the same.
In your company I'll go
where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I'll move and live and grow
in you and you in me.

(John Bell and Graham Maule)

To see other messages from Neil, click on the appropriate month in the table below.

February 2019 March 2019 April 2019 May 2019 June 2019 July 2019 September 2019 October 2019 November 2019 December 2019 February 2020
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