Since launching our itinerant ministry we have been visiting the Scottish churches I had known in my youth, most of these being Elim churches. The pentecostal and charismatic movements have really grown in Scotland with the Assemblies of God up to over 40 churches, the new church denominations probably matching that and no one can count the numerous independent works, so what a shock as I gradually discovered just how many Elim churches had closed. Alness, Dumbarton, Fort William, Lockerbie, Kircaldy, Kirkintilloch, Northfields, South Gyle, Stewarton, Saltcoats, Torrey and there could of course be more I don’t yet know about. I’m told that every Elim church is insured against acts of God. This list on its own certainly suggests that! However, even in the midst of this free-fall I’m delighted to report there is some hope.
About twenty years ago I was invited to the recently re-opened Coatbridge Elim Pentecostal Church on King Street. The former national youth leader Davie Bell and his family faced an uphill challenge, but they were up for it. Twenty years later, this time with Marian, I was invited back and I’m pleased to say you were hard pushed to find a seat. The facilities had literally doubled in order to provide a community service and the congregation will soon have to hacksaw their platform and rearrange as much as possible to squeeze in more seats. Even then these will fill quickly and without doubt the congregation will either need to start multiple services, plant out or find a bigger building. This is one congregation that has no intention of being thrown to the wolves!
The entire Bell family, children all now grown up, are actively involved and undoubtedly leading by example. It is a thrill to note the wide age range of the congregation and the standard of the services. You sense a reverence and a respect for God, with a joy and lightness to match. You see before you a class free congregation where some folk wear jeans and others a suit as the only dress code is to feel comfortable. There’s a nice splattering of African and Asian colour too. Best of all these folk love God and each other. In short, this is the sort of church you’d gladly bring a friend to if you lived in Coatbridge, so no wonder it is growing!
If you are a pastor facing closure lift the phone to proven ministers who had to struggle to find success as they won’t close you down, they will help you. Fight the free-fall!