The priority of evangelism

"Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction."


Tom Allan died before his 50th birthday. In his 18 years of ministry it would be tempting to say that he achieved more than all of his contemporaries in Scotland put together. But on realising that would include the likes of George MacLeod and Duncan Campbell to name but two, one is inclined to be more modest in one's assessment. Nevertheless his impact was considerable, as is his legacy.


Two things about the man himself emerge from his story, commanding particular attention. The fist was the integrity of his personal and family life. One might expect that someone whose gifts were as liberally shared as they were widely sought after, would have been neglectful of his nearest and dearest. But that does not appear to be true; quite the reverse. Those who knew him testify to the happiness of his home and its availability to all who came to enjoy the Allans' hospitality.


The other characteristic of Tom's life and ministry is the priority given to evangelism. Above and beyond all the legitimate aspects of parish ministry and the diplomatic and organisational demands of running national campaigns and working internationally too, soared the imperative of Jesus: "Go and make disciples..." That priority informed Tom's daily endeavours and it shaped his ministry, both in the parish and beyond. Indeed it would not be stretching the point to argue that Tom exemplified the missional priority at the heart of parish ministry: to evangelise the community in which the parish church exists.


The collapse of institutional church has led many ministers and congregations to adopt a "survivalist" mentality, desperately casting around for ecumenical allies, for reasons to justify our existence, for pennies to maintain our cherished habits and the buildings which contain them. Where is the Gospel in any of this? Survival is important and so is nurture. Yet if either of these worthy endeavours will continue to be possible, let alone relevant, we need to rediscover our "raison d-etre": Tell Scotland!

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