Inverness Vineyard Church: Calling

Our story and calling in becoming church planters has been eventful! As we begin planting Inverness Vineyard church, we look back to 2006 when we started dating in Inverness,  and when we eventually married in 2009 in the city,  we knew even then that God had spoken to us about returning one day.  So we trusted God with this word, and kept it at the back of our plans until he would see otherwise. And decided as a couple we would embrace the adventure, and see what God would open up for us as a couple, and made a choice to be open handed and available.

Its a dangerous prayer to pray because a year after being married came an opportunity to become youth pastors with City Church, a one year fixed contract, which would mean me (Thomas) leaving my job as a mortgage adviser. We debated many an evening, came up with ways to make both jobs work, until it became apparent it was one or the other. I remember so clearly us in a small room with the church leadership team and Mhairi receiving Psalm 23 as a word for her “The Lord is my Shepherd…he leads me…he guides me…” We both excitedly wiped away the tears and said: Let’s do this!  What we learned as a couple early on was that being all in can be a scary, vulnerable prospect but when you begin to see Gods provision and direction after taking the step there is no better place to be.  3 years later we had another “all in” decision to make when City Church became a multi site church, when we were asked if we would lead a church site in Ellon. It was honestly never in question, we moved to Ellon a year previously and fell in love with the town, even though we felt out of our depth (recurring theme!) we knew it was right. And so came 4 of the best years we have ever had seeing countless people come to Jesus, becoming parents to 2 brilliant boys and seeing a small group of 18 adults and 4 kids grow in number, impacting and loving a town for Jesus.

Then about a year ago, we started to get abit unsettled. Our Ellon site was thriving and full of life and countless God stories, we were settled in a lovely home, there was nothing to suggest things were going bad and we needed to go. But church planting was being spoken about more and more and our hearts were beginning to be pulled towards the thought.  We had an instance being prayed for at the NLC conference in 2016 in Nottingham,  were  there was a call to anyone who thought Church planting could be part of their journey. We knew returning to Inverness one day would be great, so responded. Why not?!  Then the man praying for us had worked in Inverness for 20+ years and with tears in his eyes said : “For your first service, I will be there, cheering you on.”  I remember walking back to my seat, shaking and blubbing and laughing, knowing this was the start of another chapter. Then word after word (some awkwardly from our own church family!) further re-iterated the call to move north to Inverness. It was happening….

And so here we are, a couple of months in, rolling our sleeves up and ready to get stuck in for the next season ahead. We just couldn’t be more excited.  We have had our challenges along the way, but the God stories make it all worthwhile – thats why we do what we do, why we battle, why we persevere, why we don’t give up, why we have tried to say Yes more often than No. We love Jesus and his church and want to see many more encounter him. Mhairi and I often chat about our older years (in our 80s God willing!) when we are sitting having a cuppa, reflecting. We didn’t want to be saying: “Imagine if we had went to Inverness….” we want to be sitting with a glass of bubbly celebrating reflecting all that God has done in this city saying: “Imagine if we didn’t?!!”

If you take one thing from our story and calling, please let it be to say YES, be all in for Jesus and take some risks for the kingdom, you will almost always feel out of your depth but he will never, ever let you down. Who knows where you will go and what adventures he will take you on.”You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

With love,
Thomas & Mhairi

Inverness Vineyard Church: 3 Month Update


Hello everyone,

Here’s a wee update 3 months into our church planting adventure, the quickest 3 months of our lives!  After getting to know a small core team over September, we felt Gods prompting to get going in gathering. So, in October we launched two weekly gatherings. RISE is our Sunday breakfast drop in at a local school, with a heart for friendships to be built and for opportunities to share about Jesus. We have seen new people from all backgrounds visit us every week from the local community, from as far away as Tain, which has been amazing – we love how something like breakfast can connect with a community.  Jesus loves to meet people over their coffee and croissant!

Our Thursday evenings are called ORIGIN, we dedicate this space to worshipping together, opening the Bible and praying for each other. These have been such precious nights, and it feels like these evenings are increasing in significance and will be the place where big dreams are birthed and chains are broken … bring it on! For Christmas, we have a carol service planned as well as an acoustic cafe evening at a local coffee shop partnering with Gateway (The Highland Homeless Trust). The entry ticket to the evening is bringing a food hamper which will be given out to those in need in the city. We are thrilled to be meeting a practical need in the city so early on in our journey, and are excited for future opportunities.

It’s been an exciting few months getting to know the city, other charities and other organisations to find out how we can stand alongside them, cheer them on and join in to serve and love the city. We have also shared many coffees  with other local church leaders to introduce ourselves, hear more about the amazing work they do, and establish strong friendships. Inverness is served by some fantastic kingdom-minded leaders who have inspired and encouraged us in our early days.

Our vision is that Inverness Vineyard Church is a place where people come alive, and we have so loved that we get to play our part, only 6 weeks in. Its amazing what God can do with a little, and we know as the church grows and we enlarge the tent, that we will look back at this season of new beginnings rejoicing in the faithful few in a small living room, to impact the many of Inverness and the shire.

So there we go, only 3 months and what an adventure! W e wouldn’t change any of it for the world, and we’re so glad we took the leap of faith. Here’s to 2018.

With love,
Thomas & Mhairi

Useful Resource

For anyone sensing a call to participate in the adventure of church planting, it’s important to absorb as much wisdom as possible. There are lots of theorists, and many idealists, but wisdom from practitioners wins every time.

Twitter recently threw up a podcast that I’ve found really useful. I haven’t listened to all the content, so I can’t vouch for it all, but the content by Terry Virgo and Geoff Surratt was brilliant.

Why not check it out?

Broadcast Church Planting Podcast

Essential Training

We want to set up all our church planters to win. And so we have developed a brand new course for potential church-planters that, in our church context, we believe will equip you with the minimum skills and experience that you would need to plant a Vineyard church, and give you a good start in church leadership. We are unbelievably excited about it. It will help you get off the starting blocks in the best way we can conceive of at present. Clearly further coaching and training (and perhaps study) may be required as your leadership journey progresses.

The link to our course, the City Church Leadership Academy is here. We find it very hard to imagine releasing and commissioning any church planters who have not engaged with this course on some level.  The course is open to anyone over the age of 21 from any church, subject to selection, and there are full-time and part-time options.

Why plant churches?

So my friend Andrew McNeil sent me this amazing paper by Tim Keller, that I’m sure we’ll come back to a LOT. Here’s the first paragraph for your delectation:

“The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for 1) the numerical growth of the Body of Christ in any city, and 2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city. Nothing else–not crusades, outreach programs, para-church ministries, growing mega-churches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes–will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting. This is an eyebrow raising statement. But to those who have done any study at all, it is not even controversial.” Tim Keller

What kind of churches will we plant? (Part 2)

So…. why, if Jesus loves all kinds of churches, are we only planning to plant ones that carry the Vineyard DNA and immediately become card-carrying members of our movement?

The answer is that we want all the churches that we plant to thrive. The dream is for a growing number of growing, healthy churches to be established in our generation, that will outlive us and serve their communities for many generations to come. We believe that planting Vineyard churches will give each church a really great start. Here’s why we believe that:

Track Record
The Vineyard movement has been established for 40 years, and has grown from a handful of churches in California, to a gloriously diverse group of around 2,400 churches around the world. The Vineyard knows how to plant healthy, growing Vineyard churches and draws from all those years of experience every time we plant a new church.

Quality Assessment
Having learned much from the successes and failures of church plants over the years, the Vineyard has developed an excellent discernment process for potential church-planters. This means that if anyone in our church family feels called to plant a church, the Vineyard brings a huge amount of expertise to the table to ensure we only release people when (and if) they are ready.

Great Training
There are a number of pieces of the training jigsaw which will come from our Vineyard family. A Cause to Live For, Hub, Vineyard Institute (theology), Church-planting intensives (like boot camps) are all easily accessed.  Of course there are also about 120 other churches in the UK and Ireland family from whom people can learn.

Expert Oversight and Coaching
One of the main reasons that we joined the Vineyard in the first place was because we couldn’t imagine how City Church could be solely responsible for loads of other churches. The glory of belonging to a church-planting movement is that all pastors and church-planters have the opportunity to be overseen, coached and mentored by people who have been there, seen it and bought the t-shirt.

Perhaps the most significant reason is much less about pragmatics, and much more about belonging. For many years our church was independent. And whilst we didn’t feel lonely (because we had friends) or vulnerable (because we were fairly self-sufficient), we did often reflect on a longing for a wider family. Since joining the Vineyard we have LOVED being part of a family. We have been the recipients of all kinds of encouragement, blessing and banter (as well as some pretty direct conversations) that only happen in families. We want that for all our church plants.

What I’m really saying is that if we were to send out anyone to plant a church which was not to be a Vineyard, we could have little confidence that it was going to thrive. On the other hand, by planting Vineyard churches we give each one a great chance of health, growth and longevity.

What kind of churches will we plant? (Part 1)

I was sat in on of our church services recently, and I was struggling. I couldn’t put my finger on what the problem was exactly – to be honest, I was probably just tired (and therefore grumpy).

To me, the songs all sounded like they’d been slowed down – as if the wrong speed had been selected on the record player. It probably wasn’t the A-team of worship bands. The guy behind me was singing VERY loudly and horribly out of tune. There was all kinds of disruption happening in  the room – a guy on the other side was very drunk and causing a bit of scene; a baby was screaming at the top of her lungs.

I remember saying to myself, “I don’t know what to make of this today, but I don’t like it.” And I’m pretty sure that Jesus responded, “I LOVE it.” He apparently wasn’t phased by the tuning of the chap behind me, nor the drunk guy on the other side. He just loves it when his people worship him. I realised then that our preferences aren’t his preferences. I might prefer middle-of-the-road 90s soft rock worship. Others may choose choral evensong or Gregorian chanting. And Jesus loves it all. He sees beyond the melodies to the heart. He loves the diversity and variety of the Christian church which, come to think of it, reflect his nature.

Having said all that, for very practical reasons we are only planning to plant Vineyard churches: churches that carry the family DNA; churches that join the movement from their inception, that belong to our family.

Inverness Vision Evening

We are desperately excited about sending Thomas & Mhairi Urquhart to plant a brand new church in the city of Inverness. They’re already gathering a team, and if you’re interested in hearing more (no strings attached!) then do come along and hear them talk about the vision on 22 June, at 7.30pm in the Gilc Park downstairs hall.

Introducing Thomas & Mhairi

Thomas & Mhairi Urquhart will be launching Inverness Vineyard late 2017.  They have two wonderful boys, Joshua and Struan.

We are so excited to announce that later this year they’ll be packing up and heading to sunny Inverness to get settled and knitted into the community.