Jump! Faith over fear


As I stood at the edge of this particular cliff looking at the murky water below I couldn’t help but wonder what an earth I was doing here? A bunch of friends had recently taken up the hobby of cliff jumping. I love an adrenaline rush, and having an ‘anything you can do I can do’ kind of attitude I decided to join them.

But now standing here, toes curling over the edge looking down, I couldn’t help but regret my decision. I knew my pride wouldn’t let me back down and so all I could do in that moment was stand and  ‘feel the fear’. The fear of falling before I was ready to jump, the fear of hitting a rock hidden beneath the wavy water, the fear of pain if I hit the surface wrong……. but most of all the fear of not going through with it. 

It was fear that paralysed me to the spot.

My mind raced as I mentally tried to reason with myself – ‘I wasn’t going to die’ – ‘it might even be fun.’

I edged millimetre’s closer – the internal battle was occasionally drowned out by exterior shouts of ‘C’mon!’ as my mates willed me to go for it. 

I made a decision . It was time. I was going for it.  I drew on every bit of courage I could muster as I wilfully instructed my body – ‘JUMP!’ 

Something propelled me forward and I began to fall through the air, my heart in my mouth. I could do nothing but allow gravity to pull me down. Finally my feet hit the water and I felt it swallow me. A surge of adrenaline was released and I fought to get back to the surface. As I emerged from the water a scream of victory erupted from within. I felt alive – that was awesome ! I looked towards my friends and smiled – let’s do that again!

God’s preparation process in every church planter is unique. He knows exactly what we need. Little did I know my cliff jumping adventures were growing in me the final ingredient I needed in my season of preparation. Courage to jump.

As I had considered an unexpected invitation to church plant I had by all accounts been ‘feeling the fear’. I was standing at the edge of the adventure of my life and my mind was racing. Fear of moving to a new city where I hardly knew anyone, fear of quitting a job that I loved, fear of failing, fear of not being good enough, fear of mishearing God ….but most of all fear of missing out on His great adventure. 

I knew God had been stirring this in my heart, seeding my mind with jigsaw pieces of prophetic words over the years that were now beginning to make sense. 

As I reflected on my fears I was reminded of a conference talk I had heard many years earlier by Alan Scott. He was talking about scarecrows. 

‘Scarecrows only work because crows are dumb.’ 

He had my attention. 

“Because if crows were smarter they would realise that scarecrows are nothing to be afraid of. In fact if they were smart enough they would begin to realise that every time they see a scarecrow not only is it nothing to be afraid of but it’s actually a sign or an advert for a fruitful field. The farmer only puts out scarecrows where there is something  of value to protect.’

He spoke about how often this is a way the enemy works to scare Christians off the very thing that God is calling them to do. He puts scarecrows in the way of our fruitful fields. But if we get smarter in the things of the spirit we can begin to recognise fear as an advert for fruitfulness in our calling and walk with Jesus. 

As I allowed myself to ‘feel the fear’ I began to recognise the scarecrow. That maybe just maybe there was a fruitful field on the other side of this giant leap of faith.

 I made a decision. I was going for it. It was time to jump.

Nearly one year into this amazing journey I have become very familiar with the process of ‘feeling the fear’ and choosing to jump. God has been strengthening my faith muscle big time. 

And He is so faithful. 

3 weeks after moving we had our first Vision night. 8 people turned up. By three months we had grown to just under 20.

Next I felt a prompting to start Sunday breakfast meetings. Again it felt like a cliff edge. Were we ready for this? What if people didn’t turn up? It was a ‘feel the fear’ moment but I knew we had to go for it. So we jumped. Again, God was faithful. 

Two things I felt God clearly speak at the beginning of this adventure was that as a church we were to ‘host my presence and look to serve the city.’

My biggest desire for our church is that we would host the presence of Jesus in a way that peoples lives would be changed as they encounter Him. That they would be set free from things holding them back in discovering their purposes and identities in God. In these first few months I’ve loved connecting with new Christians and see the faith of some old ones come alive. 

I’m so encouraged by one family in our church whose daughter hadn’t been to church in years. She’s connected with us with her young son and has started coming regularly. She told me recently that we feel like her family and her mum is delighted that after the years of praying she’s finally back in church. 

After several prophetic words in the beginning that our church would be a hospital we have prioritised prayer ministry and worship as we look to build a foundation of presence and freedom. I’ve loved seeing the early fruit of this already in people’s lives. 

As we continue to pray about what it looks like for our church to serve the community we have started a monthly event called ‘Superhero Sundays’. The heart behind this is to begin to build relationships with children and families in our local community and to serve by speaking positive identity over them. Personally I’ve loved dressing up as a Superhero as well as meeting new families. 

More recently our next cliff edge moment was to start Sunday services. I really wrestled with the timing of this but felt the Lord speak so clearly and decided to jump. Again He is faithful as we experienced another growth spurt connecting with new students in the city. 

I know I am still near the beginning of this journey but I am already so grateful to God for what He has done and what He is doing. 

I’m grateful for the amazing church family He’s gathered around here in Stirling, the sense of His presence with us and the opportunities to learn and grow as a new leader.

I know there will continue to be lots of cliff edge encounter’s as I wrestle with those ‘feel the fear’ moments. But I’m learning a new faith to take risks as the Holy Spirit leads. 

I can’t count the number of times I was given the verse in Joshua 1:9 before I moved:-

‘Be strong and courageous . Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord will be with you wherever you go.’ 

People often tell me I’m brave for doing what I’ve done but I think this quote from John Wayne sums it up best!:-

‘Courage is being scared to death ….but saddling up anyway!’  

So if it’s fear that’s stopping you, maybe just maybe it’s your time to –  JUMP!

A bakery not a supermarket

I am an ideas man. That very sentence usually terrifies my wife Mhairi when I come home from a walk or a time praying or being in my own thoughts during a holiday. I tend to be always thinking of ways to make things better, start new things, meet needs or change things to make the outcomes better. When you pair that with church planting it could understandably get out of control very quickly!

We arrived in Inverness nearly 2 years ago now (what?!) and we have seen God do amazing things. We are both constantly in awe of how God has orchestrated the beginnings of our wee church way up in Inverness. Stories of miraculous provision, salvation, healings, the presence of God falling, serving our city, feeding the poor. It’s a joy to be part of.  So much has happened and there is so much still to happen. But alot of what has happened was helped by a great piece of advice that still lives with us in these early days:

“Be a fine bakers, not a supermarket.”

That line has shaped alot of what we did and why we did it in our first season in a new city. Learn to do one or two breads really well, don’t try to do and offer everything at once. This was absolute gold and has to be in the “essential church planting guide 2019” if such a thing would ever exist. I naturally try to do everything at once. I get excited, I see what things could become, I often see the end of the story and  I get carried away and when not reigned in it can be to my detriment, so I need people bringing a dose of reality but also folk who honour that “ideas station” and don’t dismiss it. But doing the one of two breads has allowed us to get them made as God intends, it gave us time in the crazy, hectic, unpredictable adventure of planting and it allowed us to ask God: What are those one or two breads? and then pour everything we had to make it happen.

We felt God say in those early days those breads were 1. serve a really nice breakfast in a relaxed, inviting space and 2. find ways to serve the city. So we started RISE, our breakfast drop in and then we formed a really sweet friendship with a local charity called Gateway who do amazing work with the most vulnerable in Inverness. Nothing more than that for the first 6 months of our church.

2 years in there are now a few more breads that the Lord has graciously added. It’s exciting adding new things, it has brought momentum and breakthrough with our church and it stirs us all in dreaming : what could this really become? Right now we are joining in with other churches longing for a move of God that could produce something remarkable in the Highlands of Scotland! I am still full of ideas and get home most days with another dream/vision/crazy suggestion, but now I  am alot better at entrusting them to Jesus and asking him when its right to faithfully add them to the shelf for the next part of the adventure? We are trusting wholeheartedly that what he has placed in our hearts will come to pass and he is in control of the build – we couldn’t be more pleased about that fact!

Hope this encourages, please continue to be praying for all the new expressions of Vineyard (and other!) churches in Scotland , for the people leading them and the people joining them in the adventure – prayer really does carry us church planters in a way we can’t describe.








No place we’d rather be

It has been just over 6 months since we touched down in Greenock to plant Inverclyde Vineyard Church and what a wild journey we have been on! We wanted to share with you the journey we’ve been on and a few stories!

When we resigned from our jobs in 2018 and put our home in Aberdeenshire on the market we had no jobs here, no team and nowhere to live! I remember that feeling of being totally out of our depth and desperately wanting answers from God. At our sending church we were surrounded by people who constantly encouraged us, prayed for us and often shared remarkable prophetic words with us but it still felt like a huge step out into the unknown. At one point the Lord brought to mind Matthew 13 the story of the man who found treasure hidden in a field and IN HIS JOY went and sold all he had for that treasure. IN HIS JOY! At that time of transition God taught us so much about experiencing his joy in the sacrifice because what was coming would be of far greater worth than any sacrifice we were making. Towards the end of 2018 I was offered a great job in Greenock (the biggest town in Inverclyde) starting in February 2019 that meant I could work as a bi-vocational church planter (I now do 4 days a week for this local organisation and 1 day a week for our church) so that was one big thing lined up however it was only 10 days before our actual moving date that we found a place to live! Around 3 months after moving Abi also found a job working two and a half days a week for a local charity which has also been a tremendous blessing and amazing provision for us. Looking back we can see how God has provided every step of the way and that the stretching of our faith has always been for the strengthening of our faith.

Within a couple of weeks of being here we had advertised our first ‘Walk and Talk’ in the park by our home. The nature of planting as a family of three (our son being 2 years old) and without a team of people with us was that we needed to just get out there in the community and start meeting people. There were 9 of us on that first rainy morning and we were so relieved to finally be here and sharing our heart for this area. After that we had a number of different socials which we advertised and invited people to (meet up in a pub, kite flying, etc), a worship & prayer night and then in March we launched a mid week gathering in our home called ‘Foundations’ for an evening to worship, wait on God and an opportunity for Abi and I to begin talking through our vision and values as a church. By then we had gathered around 10-15 people who we started to journey with and we were looking towards some kind of gathering on Sundays.

After some time searching for a suitable venue we found one and on 28th April we launched ‘Connect Breakfast’ as a fortnightly gathering on Sunday mornings where people could grab a coffee and some breakfast and find out more about our church in a really informal setting. On the very first week we had over 20 people show up and 2 guys gave their life to Jesus over a croissant and cuppa! Incredible! Beforehand we had doubts about whether breakfast alone was enough and should we be having more ‘church’ content but God showed us again that he can have his way regardless of the set up!

We’ve had such precious times with the people that we’ve gathered, with laughter, tears and time together we’ve grown together as a community. We’ve had a lot of fun thinking of creative ways to love the area like a free Easter Egg Hunt, town centre chocolate giveaway and we made up some beautiful gift hampers for individuals and families in the area facing a really tough time. Our longing is to do more to see Inverclyde and its people renewed and restored.

For a while a prophetic word we were given prior to us planting had been on our minds from someone who didn’t know we were planning to move and plant a church. The guy shared with us that he saw us leading a church with an empty building then as I got out my guitar and started worshipping more and more people started coming. This kept on coming to mind so by June we decided to introduce a short time of worship at our Connect Breakfast and also interview someone who had been coming regularly so they could share their testimony about how Jesus had changed their life. That very first morning a local resident walking past saw our team needing a hand putting up an outside banner so she offered to help then she came inside and by the end of the morning gave her life to Jesus! We’ve been so amazed at how God has brought some people in without us even inviting them. After a break for the summer in July we re-branded our fortnightly Sundays as ‘Connect Sundays’ and started having a longer time of worship and a short message from the bible which has brought a little more structure to the morning as well as hanging out over breakfast.

We love the journey we are on. It is both challenging and rewarding in so many ways. We experience doubting moments, answered prayers, unanswered prayers, victories and loss but there really is no place we’d rather be!

Don and Abi Thomas


Speak it out

Sunday past at Inverness Vineyard was a great morning. It was our first Sunday back after a break through July. Throughout the month we served our city by litter picking, gardening and giving out free gifts on the streets. It was a really great time.

It was also a great morning for another reason. During the worship time I had a tap on my shoulder. I didn’t know the man who was speaking to me but he thought he knew me. “Were you in Nottingham at the leaders conference a number of years back?” I said yes. Then it clicked……a number of years ago there was a call for prayer for folk who thought one day that church planting might be part of their story.  I went forward, why not? I might do it one day….

The man who prayed for me that day at the leaders conference asked me where I would go? “Inverness…my wife is from there and we love the city”.  In that moment of speaking it out, we then found out this guy knew Inverness really well, and was eager to pray for me. There was lots of tears and I knew at that point something had happened. There was an acknowledgement that God was up to something exciting.

Fast forward many more words and God moments and eventually taking the next steps going through the church planting process – moving house, changing jobs, moving house again, starting Inverness Vineyard Church, nearly 2 years on, I got this tap on my shoulder. The man who prayed for this church, for us as a family, for the dreams I spoke out was worshipping with us. He was there and I was there – It was a sweet sweet moment.

Its taken me a wee while just to appreciate and process that moment, and the importance of that prayer time. The significance of him knowing Inverness well in the mix of 1200 other people, of me speaking out the dream (however crazy it seemed at the time), and looking at what happened since. It is so important we speak out the dreams and the plans that we think God may have in store for us , however crazy they may seem and we must encourage others to do the same.

Something was brought into reality in that short prayer time. Faith levels were heightened, and the adventure was unfolding. What would have happened if I never went for prayer? If he never prayed for me? I wouldn’t like to imagine. I am glad I said yes to the nudge of God,  I love that God always has a plan and that he orchestrates and plans every little detail.

So if you have a dream, speak it out, pray it through with folk who are for you, say Yes to the nudge from God and who knows the next big adventure might just be taking shape!


Just say yes..

A couple of weeks ago, we were at a Scottish Leaders Conference in Glasgow and we were asked to share our story. How we came to be in Inverness, leading a Vineyard church (we still find it baffling!) and to encourage anyone who felt church planting might be part of their story to take the next step.

It was as we were preparing for this that God drew something out of our story which I want to share in this wee blog. And it’s never to underestimate the power of your yes. In our walks with Jesus and as a couple we made a commitment back in 2010 when I decided to leave my job as a financial adviser to become a youth pastor, to try and say yes to God more than we say no. And here we are. We have had seasons of amazing highs and God breakthroughs coupled with the tough walking through treacle, battle seasons. The two go hand in hand when we partake in work of Gods kingdom. But we wouldn’t change it for the world.

What I want to share in this blog is we all have a part to play in writing a new story for the church in Scotland. You might think you would never church plant, you might be right but you still have a part to play that is no less important. Our yes really does matter when it comes to the future of the church in Scotland. There will be a whole load of different people reading this, different stories, ages and stages, church backgrounds and dreams – we all have a part to play.

Zechariah 4:10 says “do not despise the day of small beginnings.”

We must not as followers of Jesus  belittle and dismiss or compare with others what he puts in front of us to bring his light and love into because it all matters and who knows where it will go….

I was asked a few years ago who were the 3 most influential people in my life. A great question, and the first person that dropped into my mind surprised me. It was my old youth leader. Me and my sister were the only young people in our church growing up and we used to travel to youth group in a nearby town. Now I can’t recall a significant God moment or encounter or remember a significant conversation or prayer time but as a moody, insecure teen this youth leader every Sunday night would welcome me, come and shake my hand and ask me how I was. Every single week, without fail. He was interested, consistent, he cared and he noticed me. And looking back was such a source of stability and comfort as I navigated the choppy waters of teenage years.

After I mentioned my youth leader to my friend who asked me the question, he said “you should email him and tell him.” I hadn’t spoken to him for 15+ years but managed to get his details, and I encouraged the life out of him. I let him know the impact he had, how it may have seemed small but it mattered that he noticed me, that he shook my hand and that we would have these weekly chats and I shared what we were doing now. As I was typing I found myself crying over my keyboard and I think God was just giving me a snippet of the heart he had for us as a youth group – it really mattered to him. He brought his yes faithfully.

He replied and was so touched I took the time and loved hearing how we were getting on in Inverness. I am so glad I got in touch. On reflection looking at our planting adventure I like to think that his yes in faithfully loving us crazy, wild teens brought me to where I am today, that God was in the throne room back in 1996 orchestrating something beautiful with this spotty teen and a man who just wanted to let us know everything would be OK. That something was deposited in me in that season that was brewing for 15 years, that those years mattered even if I didn’t see it at the time. That Johns yes in caring for us teens has played its part in Mhairi and I playing our part. I am beginning to learn how important every part of the body is, it is all needed to work as it should.

It all matters – whether we plant a church or not isn’t the point, it was never our intention 10 years ago when saying yes to becoming a youth pastor (though that might be your yes to take that step after reading this), what really matters is we just keep saying yes to what God places before us, to trust God is always at work and he has a plan. Our yes now might be part of unlocking the church planters of tomorrow, the leaders of our country, the mover and shakers of the kingdom for the next generation – let that sink in. It all matters. Youth groups, coffee mornings, logistics teams, small groups, dance groups, prison work, business start ups, counselling, phone calls, hand-shakes – it all matters.

And here is hoping 10, 15 years down the line we might just get a little email to hear of its fruit for our nation and the nations.

(PS Maybe you have someone you know you need to send an email to…)

With love,


Before you go…


The season before you embark on your church planting journey whether that is part of a team or leading is so important for a number of reasons. We thought it would be useful to highlight a few of our experiences to help a number of you who maybe feel you are in that season and also to help build a clearer picture of the adventure in front of you. Here’s what we tried to do in the run up to going :


When we knew we were going, we chased down anybody who had went before us. We visited churches, we zoom called churches up and down the country, established churches where we liked what they were doing, church plants a year ahead of us, people with great stories in planting. We were maybe abit of a pest!  We wanted to build a directory of courageous people who went before us and we could draw on their faith when ours is running dry. We wanted to hear stories that stir us and allow us to ask – what could Jesus do here in Inverness?! . We wanted to make friends with people who get it. What was striking was that everyones story in planting is uniquely theirs, yes there is similar themes and struggles but its unique to them. Even back then, Jesus was whispering:  “stay in your lane and I will do the rest.” 

We so love our movement, last year I bumped into a church leader who I Skype’d with for an hour about a year previously. I thanked him, and the sense of unity and encouragement was tangible as though we had known each other 20 years. I can’t explain it, but it stuck with me. This movement called the Vineyard is rich with stories and wisdom and love and its there for us church plants to receive – so go fishing!


Before we went , we went through the vineyard discernment process which allowed us to look at the vision of the church and the values, what our DNA would be as a church along with other assessments we had to do. Its all good stuff but we knew God had given us a specific vision but we wanted to dream. We wanted to dig abit deeper, to go beyond ourselves and ask What if? To ask God what if? Mhairi and I  have a dream in our hearts that is so God, so beyond ourselves that it will be his doing , his provision, his power and we love that because the pressure is off us. He needs to come through. You can’t go to plant a church with a vision and plan that is achievable by man, a 5 year plan that is safe, strategic and structured. Yes we need to be careful, but we also need to be risk taking. We are aware its risk that has got us here,  that needs stay alive.

What are you allowing yourself to dream that is a little crazy, that people say is ridiculous?  Write that down and pray. Write that down and be intentional. Write that down and go back to it daily to Jesus.


I remember Steve Nicholson saying at a church planting training event : ” Get ready, its a war out there.” He couldn’t be more true.  This has been a massive learning for me personally.  There is a massive spiritual dynamic to planting. (Ephesians 6:12) Taking new ground, another vegetable in the stew in your city/town that is going to share the hope of Jesus. The enemy hates it.  Our experience was helped by leading a site for afew years, where we encountered and journeyed through some tough stuff so we had an awareness. But this has felt different. We have had some significant battles to overcome in the short time we have been here. We have had to be aware of the small things that look to derail family life, marriage , friendships, time with Jesus. It can be so subtle to begin with.

Also it brings to the surface any stuff you carry that is not of Jesus very quickly. We need to guard our hearts. Love the church, the whole church, love our people, all our people in spite of what is going on, remember who God calls us and not what the world calls us.  So if you know anything that could surface, anything that could take a grip , any niggles in your heart that you know is not healthy -bring it to Jesus now, bring it into the light,  speak about it with your church. The reality is it won’t stop and be dealt with there – there will inevitably be other stuff in the years to come as we keep short accounts but that will be one of the most important steps in preparing for the battle. Don’t let the enemy have an inch in the run up, because he will take a mile. Worship with all of your heart, immerse yourself in his word, receive prayer at every opportunity. Have someone to keep you accountable, Speak to Jesus to anyone and everyone when you get an opportunity, take risks for Jesus even when everything within you shouts no.  Get prepared for the battle.

These are just a couple of things but hope they help paint a picture of our journey and speak into your situation.  And as always we would love to connect if that would serve you in any way.

Ephesians 6:20: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

With love,










Don’t worry about it

As we plant Inverness Vineyard Church , we are on an unpredictable, joyful, life-giving journey. It’s loads of fun, its messy, it has its seasons of busyness, its full on. We see Jesus doing what only he can do and his kingdom coming in Inverness as it is in heaven. It is an amazing journey, and alongside the celebrations and breakthroughs and salvations there is so much other “stuff” to navigate.

One of the main things for me personally has been my journey with worry. The enemy this last year has had a knack of distracting me and consuming me, in the small stuff, in the little things that actually will have little impact on the bigger picture. Isn’t that so true? It’s almost like the enemy whispers: “look at this..” and when we look he holds a magnifying glass to it to make its presence bigger and appear more harmful than it is or more important than it really is. He is cunning, and will steal our joy and  our gaze on Jesus at every turn if we let him. And on occasion this last year, I have let him.

Here are some of the areas in this last year where there has been tough moments, and my prayer is that my story might maybe even help where you are at right now, whether its a church planting context or something completely different.

Provision –  When we felt called to Inverness and made the move, God was teaching us a whole new level of his faithfulness and where our security should be rooted. We were worried. Jobs, houses, friends and money -we have to start again. I remember when we were in Aberdeen having dinner in the run up to us moving, boxes everywhere, one of our friends whilst praying for us felt God saying to him “give them the money in your wallet”. At that point a tenner was thrust into my hands and the words “God has got this side of things and you don’t need to worry.” It felt a significant moment and we kept that tenner as a reminder. We got sent out with generosity stamped on our luggage and our hearts from our church family in Aberdeen with a significant cash gift to start the church and arrived in Inverness. There has been countless, perfectly timed reminders that God has indeed got this and still countless moments where we wobble and wonder how it will continue. Then nearly a year to the day of us being sent from Aberdeen marked with generosity, we received a one off gift to our church totalling over £20k!

There was one evening last week I was out walking and  praying and dreaming where the church will be in 10/20/30 years time. I have lots of ideas and dreams and constantly get ahead of myself. Right at that moment I saw a ten pound note floating down the street- I never find money. God has it in his hands, and I try to remember those stories when worry visits in the area of provision. We must remember where God has carried us in the past, where his hand has been so evident as we step forward into battles. I love a wee quote , and one I often remember “Remember in the dark what God spoke in the light.” As we plant Inverness Vineyard church, just over a year in I need to remember we are called, we are sent, we are filled with his spirit and we have only just got started and he will provide.

Perspective- Often the things I worry about 1. I can have very little impact personally to change it, 2. Are areas and things that I find myself down a rabbit hole of imagining the worst possible scenario that looks so different to the initial worry 3. Steal my joy and impact my day/week/season. 4. Can distance me from God.

As we have planted, having someone who can speak perspective into situations is pure gold. Protect them with your life. We are not immune to this kind of attack. One or two people we love dearly from the outside looking in, they see it like we often can’t as we are attached to it in a different way and they can speak over us the words we need to hear (or sometimes don’t want to hear!)  We all need that.  I  have a friend I meet every couple of months not connected to our church who loves Jesus and  asks me how I am really doing. As well as people who point you to Jesus, the most important rhythm in times of worry or doubt and insecurity is to make sure you have time to be with Jesus. Thats been invaluable. To climb a hill, or drive to a quiet spot and listen to him, speak to him, tell him how I feel. When I don’t have that, I can lose perspective.

Who is allowed to speak perspective and point you to Jesus in your life? (in the words of Woody from Toy Story which is THE most played movie in our house with our boys at the moment….”if you don’t have one, GET ONE.”)

Pressure – One other learning for me this last year has been around pressure. Things will look different, and it needs to and that’s OK. When we started out, everything needed to look a certain way and the dream needed to become a reality down to every little detail –  what I am learning is the dream will be built upon step by step, and I have learnt to go easier on myself. The church planting guru that is Steve Nicholson spoke into this exact area at a church planting day saying: “Don’t worry about everything going right all the time, just keep doing the right things.” Each time we are gathering I would put a focus and pressure on what went wrong. What I learned from Steve that afternoon was that every week something will go wrong, it’s a given. That was so refreshing to hear, and brought me such a freedom on the pressure I was putting on myself each time we planned something or ran an event. God is in charge, he has got it and he will use it – even if the projector screen collapses mid sermon (it did and I saved it just in time!) These moments of real life are also often the moments that resonate with people, and help them belong in a whole new way so learning to not put so much pressure on myself has been massive.

Hope these experiences help paint a picture of our journey so far. It isn’t easy, it comes at a cost but boy has it been worth it.

With love,


Matthew 6:26-34




Children & Church Planting: What we’ve learned so far


Since moving north, we have learned so much and every week (or day!) seems to bring with it a fresh challenge to navigate or another learning point to take on board. We feel its important to highlight these, either for future church planters, teams of church plants or for people to hear in a bit more depth the journey we are on right now.

One of the great things about our breakfast drop in launch last October was that we could get up and running quickly, connecting and getting to know folk in the city – now that has shifted dramatically! We are 8 months in since our end of April Sunday service launch and its going brilliantly. One the main joys and successes has been the launch of Vineyard Kids and Vineyard Tots- and alot of that is down to our team being just brilliant!   Being able to create a space for our children and little ones to encounter Jesus has been amazing and we have learned the importance of this space as the church has grown. Here are a couple of things it has taught us:

  • Understanding and appreciating the impact this adventure has on our own and all other children:  Mhairi and I had a wee moment afew months in when we were aware that although the upheaval on us was huge,  for our kids it is  just as big (if not bigger!) and we must ALL make sure we have spaces to look to Jesus, thank him and cry to him for help. Everything we are going through our brilliant little boys are journeying with us, so it is the family business. At the turn of the year, we were quite conscious that how we were running Sundays wasn’t working in its current format with regards to our children and the planting teams children, and visiting families. We were running our weekly breakfast drop in, but we didn’t have a program for pre-school age kids or primary age kids. (we had some games and a soft-play area) In time this made the morning quite a challenge for us as parents and also the children. We felt although we had some games and activities it wasn’t the same as feeding them spiritually in an intentional environment.  We are passionate about our children “being filled and sent out”, to be singing songs of worship in their weeks  and recounting stories of Gods love and power but what we were doing wasn’t allowing that to happen.


  • Since launching KIDS and TOTS we are seeing more and more visitors: Its no coincidence that when we have started regular spaces for our kids to worship and meet Jesus , we have seen more and more visitors and families join the church. When we place value on our children, and run spaces that are more than babysitting but that teach the Kingdom and have time for them to encounter the Holy Spirit in significant ways, stuff happens. Our children teach us so much, I am in awe of my eldest sons  (he’s 4) hunger for praying the sick – we adults have so much to learn!


  • Its placing value on our kids I mentioned in a previous blog who my eldest boy who is 4 said a number of Sundays ago at bedtime “I loved church today”. We want our children to love and follow Jesus, and love going to church to meet with him. So we want to pull out all the stops to make the best we can, and to make sure the program we have includes lots of fun, lots of space to be themselves, lots of mess and lots of Jesus. They are not to miss out!! We had a boy who was invited by a friend about 4 months ago, wasn’t dancing or participating in our Kids programme. 10 mins later he was jumping up and down, singing the songs and joining in the games. On one of the games, I heard him shout: “THIS IS THE BEST CHURCH EVER!.” He has been coming since. We want our kids to gossip the gospel, and gather their pals to hear about Jesus.  A question I want us to revisit regularly as a church plant is : How do we make Sundays the highlights of our childrens weeks?!


  • We continue to learn/adapt/make mistakes.  We are always learning and making mistakes. Our services are going great, seeing heaps of kids come along, and that then means they come to RISE. We don’t have a dedicated programme for Kids at RISE yet (Tots still runs weekly for pre-school) and we are relaunching RISE once a month into 2019.  Although we can be proactive in planning ahead,  we have learned we have to see what God is wanting to do, and be reactive to that quickly to facilitate it and let it flourish – forever adopting a learning posture.  We aren’t afraid of making mistakes, its often the mistakes that are rich in learning to push on and try something else. 


  • Everything is in the room: There are obviously also lots of practical factors in starting up kids work that can’t be ignored (Child protection, PVG, DBS, References etc) that need to be considered and also have a team that are passionate in leading, participating and going “all in”, we have been blessed from the outset with this and we know that is not always the case. Our learning and advice would be the minute you can bring the bare bones of a  programme together for children, you sense you have a couple of people that could get behind it – don’t hesitate and get going! It was daunting for us seeing the children coming along and thinking how on earth do we start?!? We remembered something our previous pastors would tell us “everything is in the room”  the people are always there, God has it! That has always been the case.  God has used Vineyard Kids and Tots mightily in these first 8 months of Sunday services for us and we can’t wait to see what he is going to do next.

We hope these wee blogs are helpful in providing an insight, any questions we would love to connect,




Preparing to Plant : Changes


We thought it would be good to share with you on this blog post some of the  changes we have had to journey as we took the step to move to Inverness to set up a new Vineyard Church. So we are both going to share a little what has been happening, what God has been doing in us personally and what we are celebrating! We hope it gives a little insight into the last year for us.

Don’t do it alone

It has without a doubt been the quickest year of my life! I said in one of the last blogs about the early days of starting to work on the church, coming from a large staff team to just me. those first few months were tough, and lonely at points. So I have to be intentional in my week in meeting with folk at church for coffees, having 1 or 2 coffee shops you visit regularly to work, meeting with folk outwith church, having friends to play snooker with or hit afew golf balls. Having connections is vital church planting and they don’t fall on your lap. The Vineyard movement and other churches in the city have been terrific. I can honestly say you can contact any Vineyard church and they are so open handed and supportive, its super special. What has been so important for me also has been that one or two people you can say how you are really feeling, what is going on in your spiritual walk and what Jesus is saying to you personally, not the church. That has been so important for me.

Embrace the crazyness

Alongside Mhairi working 2 long days a week as a nurse, and looking after our two boys 2 days a week (3 and 1) and prepping for Sundays some weeks are a blur, and our teams now understand why we serve such strong coffee on Sundays! ha. But we are OK with that and have learned to go easy on ourselves, but also whilst setting faith filled goals. That’s got to still happen otherwise we rely on ourselves and we just tick along. We want to do our best , but God understands and will move through our best offerings, inspite of the weeks we have had. He is gracious. Nearly everyday since we have moved we have said to each other : We are crazy aren’t we?! And we both agree we are! You need that little recognition of the crazy, sacrificial cost church planting carries, and that there is no earthly reason that makes sense for such an adventure. We actually find it comforting to remind ourselves of that – its not in our strength. The amount of times I have whispered under my breath before speaking on Sundays, before conversations or when looking at the finances: “Its over to you God.” helps us keep the main thing the main thing in these early days. He knows the stresses and struggles and insecurities…And he still uses little old us ! And that’s what makes it worth it, time and time again, he isn’t looking for polished and perfect, he just looks for our obedience.

New season with Jesus

This last year, I have found a new and exciting season in my walk with God. Its like I am rediscovering afresh who he is and who I am in him. And I feel this is benefiting me in my walk as a follower of Jesus, and pastor, husband and father. Still get it wrong, still get the balancing everything wrong but have around me some great mentors, coaches who speak life encouragement and gold into my life. Worship has been the most precious thing for me, and being in the highlands Spotify and an hour roadtrip into the hills is good for the soul and I find so much refreshment in that. So that is exciting and the church…I am biased but its the best , I love it , I love the people, I love seeing people come alive, I love meeting new folk, I love looking out and seeing God so what only he can do. I love seeing our boys toddle off to Vineyard Tots and sing songs of hope the rest of the week, I love hosting and dreaming and scheming with folk that we would never have had the opportunity to meet had we not moved, I love receiving email after email of little God moments, and stories and encounters and encouragements. That’s the biggest joy. And even though we have had some tough stuff I say…..imagine if we didn’t do this?! Even 10 months in, the amount God has orchestrated has been remarkable and we just know it is the beginning!

Here’s to the immeasurably more!

With love,






Preparing to Plant: A different kind of build

We thought it would be really useful to put together a wee series of blogs called “Preparing to plant”.  As we are now around 10 months since moving and a couple of months since starting regular Sunday services, there has been a lot learned along the way that we hope will serve those who will lead a church plant or be part of a church plant in the future. And also so for the many people who are praying for us, to give a snapshot of what we have learned or encountered as we have moved up north.

I think one of the major things God has spoken to us about is building, and that the church planting journey for us has meant how we grow, begin and build as a church community looks really different to our past experiences. When we first moved to Inverness, one of my biggest challenges was that first Monday morning -the transition from a large bustling life giving church staff team of 20+ people, to me sitting down at the end of our parents spare room , with a desk and a chair from the garage. This was my “office”, and Inverness Vineyard was up and running. I know that not everyone planting churches will have had that experience but wherever you have come from, things will look dramatically different. That example highlighted for me very early on, that this was going to be a different experience to anything that had went before us. And that journey has been quite challenging for me, to adapt to new surroundings and to carve out a “new normal”. Things slowed down, emails were abit quieter, phone not as busy, it was like someone had hit reset on the life we were used to! It felt hard, but more importantly even at this very early stage a significant God moment, a call to get the sleeves rolled up and get connecting.

This has extended into all the areas of Inverness Vineyard, where previously we would have structures/policies in place to support ministries, events, ideas, we are now in the position where the structures need to be built from the beginning and the policies need to be written. Where we would propose budgets for our ministry areas  previously we now look at the church as a whole, every part and and every penny. Where we would collect our Sunday resources on Friday from the church office, we have had one or two mad dashes to our 24 hour ASDA to get grape juice for communion or gunge for Vineyard Kids. The build looks very different.

And after an initial panic at the magnitude of that, we are good with it. Alot of the initial panic came because I am a visionary, ideas man, and have lots whirring around my mind in terms of where we can go and who can be involved. Thats my kind of building….that is still there but with church planting, but  I realise the foundations need to be right. So right now, its what can we build that can stay built, that will remain upright , that will stand the test of time and who are the key people that will go the last minute dash to ASDA, check the policies and crunch the numbers to support us. The right people are so important in the early build, they set the groundwork and right now we are finding that so important. As we continue to grow and increase momentum we are trying to increase the number of people we release to take stuff on to look after a piece of the building project.

We learned so much from our time at City Church Aberdeen, they have been amazing at supporting sending stuff our way and we have taken many great ideas and structures and will continue to be in touch – but Inverness Vineyard is a different build. Its bespoke, its uniquely God breathed and its going to look different, and we are SO excited about that! To see where God leads us, what is to come and what he will use in to further his kingdom. Its been a learning curve, but one that we wholeheartedly believe God will use for Inverness Vineyard to play an innovative, significant part in being a part of the revival of the Highlands.

We are ready, bring on the next stage!

With love,