The beginning of April 2022 marked the 10th anniversary of Highland International Church (HIC) and some months ago the church leaders decided it would be good to mark this with a focus on mission and outreach.
This also coincided with the Passion for Life initiative whose aim was to encourage and resource local churches to engage in ‘a month of mission (and a life-time of evangelism’) in the run up to Easter 2022. Passion for Life were also keen to see local churches co-operating and working together in the cause of the gospel.
So, working with Culduthel Christian Centre (CCC) and Smithton Free Church (SFC), we asked Andy Bannister to come north for a few days, to help equip our members for the task of mission and outreach as well as to speak at an event to which non-Christians would be specifically invited.
Andy spoke at 6 different meetings over 5 days. The first two were Q&A sessions where some questions had been submitted in advance, but most were fresh from the floor in an ‘open mic’ style. One of these was held in the Craigmonie Hotel, where HIC normally meet, and the other at SFC. Although the majority of those there were Christian, as it was billed primarily as an apologetic resource for Christians, a few non-Christians were also present.
There was a good range of questions which Andy dealt with honestly and humorously, while also acknowledging that he was not there as some kind of ‘guru’ with all the answers to all of life’s questions!
The third event was held at another hotel in Inverness and consisted of a meal with a talk given by Andy entitled ‘Hope in a time of fear’. The meal was subsidised by two of the churches so that the cost was £10 per person. The idea was that a Christian would invite and pay for their non-Christian friend to attend and it was so encouraging to see the number who did just that.
I can only speak of those I know about, but from our own fellowship we had Christians bring neighbours, work-colleagues, spouses, adult children and other family members – some of whom had studiously avoided attending any kind of ‘Christian’ thing for years.
Andy spoke well and the response on the whole was positive; there was one man who was very dismissive of everything that was said, but he was very much in the minority. Others took invitation cards to attend a follow-up Alpha Course run by Culduthel, a young woman has been attending church services regularly since then (and showing evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in her life), another woman came on a church-organised hill-walk and a man has continued reading through John’s Gospel using the Word One-to-One resources. So there has been much to give thanks for and much to pray on for!
The fourth event was a Saturday morning ‘Confident Christianity’ session held at CCC, during which Andy spoke on ‘How to share the message and hope of Easter in everyday conversation’ and ‘Sharing your faith in a post-Covid world.’
On Sunday morning, Andy spoke at HIC’s 10th anniversary service which was followed by a buffet lunch. His theme was ‘Jesus and the failures of the church’. Again, a number of non-Christians were present including a Buddhist-Agnostic-Quaker (!), whom some of us have been praying for, for quite some time. She was able to speak with Andy after the service and told her Christian friend later that she had been challenged by what he had said.
Andy’s last speaking engagement was speaking at the evening service at Smithton Free Church where his topic was ‘War and Peace’.
It was a blessing and privilege to be able to partner with Solas and Andy over the course of these days. We are grateful to Andy for all his work and energy in preparing to speak, speaking and then speaking to others after speaking! The Lord was gracious in hearing and answering many prayers and we look forward to seeing ‘fruit that lasts’ either here or in eternity.
James Torrens, Highland International Church
You can watch Andy’s talk “Jesus and The Failures of the Church” from Inverness, below.