Presbyterianism seeks to expand its witnes

Church planting is to be the focus of an Irish Presbyterian church conference today aimed at enhancing the denomination’s long and rich history in establishing new congregations.

By Billy Kennedy
Saturday, 7th May 2022, 10:04 am
Updated Sunday, 8th May 2022, 7:21 am
Rev Martin McNeely at his church in the Ballykeel estate

The ‘Time to Plant’ event in Dundalk will bring together church representatives from congregations in both Northern Ireland and the Republic, with a vision to examine opportunities to establish a Presbyterian footprint in new and sustainable locations.

The conference is organised by the Presbyterian council for mission in Ireland, which has specific responsibility for developing PCI’s strategic priorities in all-age mission across the island and new church development.

The Rev Dr Martin McNeely, minister of Ballykeel Presbyterian Church in Ballymena, which was itself planted in the early 1970s, is co-convener of PCI’s church planting panel.

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He will be one of the conference speakers.

“This one-day conference is open to all within PCI who are interested in church planting”, says Dr McNeely. “We are really excited about how God might use today’s event, prayerfully, hoping that new expressions of church and Christian witness may take root and those recently established by Presbyterians will flourish.”

Those attending the conference will hear from Presbyterians who are currently building new communities of faith. These include Balbriggan in Co Dublin, which began its weekly services in 2020; Central in Belfast, which opened its doors in 2016, and another expression of Christian witness in West Belfast - Grace and Hope community church.

Those involved will talk about their experiences, sense of call, the challenges and the joys of being part of something new.

Dr McNeely adds: “Over the years, society north and south has changed, becoming more secular with fewer people attending church. However, the Biblical mandate to make disciples of all nations, which includes our own, has not gone away. People still need to hear the ‘good news’ of the gospel.

“Across the world, Christ’s church is growing and there is a genuine desire within Irish Presbyterianism to expand and grow too, reaching those in new ways who have yet to hear the Gospel. I hope our conference will inspire those who have this call upon their lives to build new expressions of church, and so introduce new people in new places to a new life in Christ,”

Those attending the conference will also hear keynote speaker Scotty Smith, author and founding pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee.

Mr Smith is part of the leadership team of West End Community Church in Nashville, which is partnering with Liberty Church in Dublin and its work in the Republic capital’s inner-city. He has written and spoken extensively about church planting.