It is ten years since two Stevenston gospel halls merged to form Townhead Christian Fellowship. We are grateful to God for His grace and guidance since the first meeting of the elders from both Bethany and Loan met to discuss the new beginning. Much has happened in these ten years including Christians from the former Hayocks Gospel Hall joining us in 2008. Two extensions have been built one at the front and one at the back of our hall. There have been some conversions and new members have been added to the church. God has taken some of our Fellowship home to heaven and we miss them dearly but we are assured that they are with Christ which is far better than the best earth can offer. Some Christians have joined us from other areas and sadly a few have left to go elsewhere.
An outreach for children takes place every Sunday in the Hayocks Community Hall. Each Friday there is a coffee morning which is well attended by people from the local community. A Bible class for young people is held each Sunday evening. Praise nights have become a regular feature of the TCF calendar and we are very grateful for the musical talent among the members of TCF (supported by Christians from other churches) which allows us to have lively hymn singing. Our open air services in Saltcoats have benefited from good singing accompanied by guitar playing and sometimes other instruments. An annual event known as Roofdiggers has been organised at Easter time. This weekend has included young people's input to our regular coffee morning, a youth night, well-attended open air services in Saltcoats and Stevenston and praise nights. Literature has been distributed throughout the town. We have also made special efforts to invite the community into TCF using various media such as face painting, a ceilidh band and a local history exhibition to try to bridge the gap between the church and the community.
We have had challenging Bible teaching for the whole church and we have invited speakers as well as local speakers providing Bible exposition on the gospels and Paul's letters to the churches. We have conducted monthly Bible teaching meetings on Saturday evenings throughout the winter months and Christians from other areas have joined us. We have arranged special in-depth Bible studies including a series on the community by Stephen Grant and more recently a week of Bible teaching on the tabernacle from Bobby Jack from Argentina.
Despite my initial reluctance during the discussions which resulted in the initial merger of Loan Hall and Bethany Hall, I am convinced that we are better together (where have we heard that phrase before?) and indeed it is likely that at least one of the Gospel Halls would have closed its doors if TCF had not been formed. I will never forget the first combined breaking of bread service in October 2004. There was a great spirit of worship and praise as we joined together for the first time to remember the Lord. The singing was fantastic. There have been several high points throughout the decade and everyone will have their own favourite. We have had many similar occasions where hearts were uplifted and there has been a fragrance of worship and thanksgiving in the gathering.
If Townhead Christian Fellowship were a small business manufacturing a product, selling goods to the public or providing a service, the management would almost certainly use the 10 years milestone as an opportunity to assess the health of the company. They would want to assess how well the company was performing and what were the prospects for the future. It is perhaps appropriate for us to engage in a similar exercise. When public services such as hospitals or schools try to find out how they are performing they often use quantitative measures as part of the process of self-evaluation. Before 2004 the elders in the former Bethany Hall were very concerned about the declining membership. If we applied this measure, we might feel that TCF was doing quite well if we don't take account of the age profile of the members.
Businesses and public services use qualitative as well as quantitative indicators when they are trying to gauge how well they are performing. We might conduct a survey of members of TCF or we might interview people who attend other churches including those from a similar tradition. All this is very subjective. When people respond to surveys, their responses depend on their own prejudices and how they are feeling on that particular day.
Thankfully, while we should not ignore facts and figures or people's perceptions, it is more important to begin to grasp God's perspective on our spiritual health. God is conducting ongoing assessments of each of us as individuals but also collectively as local churches. We only need to look at the early chapters of Revelation to see God's analysis of seven churches of New Testament times. It makes for challenging reading. The
Lord is fully aware of the true condition of each of these churches.
- Ephesus - "I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance” (Revelation 2:2)
- Smyrna - "I know your tribulation and your poverty” (Revelation 2:9)
- Pergamum - "I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is." (Revelation 2:13)
- Thyatria – “I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance” (Revelation 2:19)
- Sardis – “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” (Revelation 3:1)
- Philadelphia – “I know your works.” (Revelation 3:8)
- Laodicea – “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.” ( Revelation 3:15)
We need to conduct an honest assessment of our spiritual health. Do we love the Lord as we should? Do we love each other as we should? Do we love our neighbours and friends and do we have a real desire to win them for Christ's Kingdom? It would be tragic if the Lord's assessment of TCF is "you have abandoned the love you had at first." (Revelation 2:4)
[All Bible quotations from English Standard Version]