Doing Mission in the Dark? Why We Need More Research into Mission in Contemporary Scotland

I don’t know about you, but I find the times we’re living through to be very confusing. Even as a Church leader and researcher, I find it hard to fully understand what is going on, what we should be doing and – most importantly – just what God is doing through it all.

That’s not just due to the complexity of the times, however, but something far more basic and problematic: very few people have tried to find any of this out.

In the Introduction to Mission in Contemporary Scotland, I say this:

Scotland is heavily influenced by the general forces of Western culture. Yet Scotland has a unique history, sociology and political complexion that requires its own study. Scottish sociologist David McCrone recounts that when he studied sociology at Edinburgh in the 1960s, he learned about London, Chicago and a host of other Western cities, but came away knowing nothing about what was happening down the road from him. He was studying sociology in Scotland, yet few had made any effort to find out what the sociology of Scotland actually was. It is much the same with mission. We learn from detailed case studies of church plants in Amsterdam or Sydney, of experiments in fresh expressions in Sheffield and pub churches in Dallas, but know little to nothing about Aberdeen, or Inverness, or Stornoway, or Dundee. One could count the number of works dealing with mission in contemporary Scotland on almost one hand, versus many hundreds from England and thousands from America. With so little knowledge of our nation, we in the Scottish Church are in danger of doing ministry and mission in the dark.

I really wish that wasn’t true. I wish there were reams of detailed case studies, cultural commentary, and cutting edge theology about mission in Scotland. But there isn’t, and that is a very serious problem if we are to adequately respond to our secular context, and serve and witness to our neighbours in new ways.

In the book, I try to offer some of my own analysis of how we got to this point, what Scotland is like as a mission field, and offer examples of good – and not so good! – missional practice.

But that’s just me. What would you find helpful as you seek to understand and respond to your local context? Is it a theology of mission or fresh expressions? Is it more examples of mission projects that ‘worked’? Is it better analysis of our culture, and how the Gospel speaks to it?

Well whatever it is, please comment about it here or on our Facebook page. This site will be evolving over the coming months, and needs to be directed by what people actually want and need. That’s especially the case for the Resources section, which will be hosting unpublished and hard to find research that you – shock horror! – can’t find on Google.

We may be doing mission in the dark but if we work together, we can begin to lighten that darkness, even if just a little.

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