100 Not Out: Andrew Nicholson Retires
After our Leaders’ Conference this week, Andrew Nicholson will be retiring from FIEC after more than 12 years. He first joined in 2001, and liked it so much that he came back to work for us a second time. Here he tells us about a recent milestone in his ministry as he prepares for a new chapter.
Since returning to FIEC in 2014, I’ve attended services in 100 different FIEC churches, out of the 600+ that are now part of the Fellowship. I’ve covered all points of the compass, from Niddrie Community Church in Edinburgh to Truro Evangelical Church in Cornwall, and from Baglan Community Church in Port Talbot to Community Church Sheppey in Kent.
At times I have felt like a 'worship tourist', and I’ve often missed Christchurch Market Harborough where I’m a member. But I’ve always known that my visits would be part of a relatively short season.
Why do it?
In the past few years, in my role as Associate National Director with responsibility for development, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting churches that are looking to be part of FIEC’s family, not just those that already belong.
Meeting pastors for coffee, engaging with leadership teams long into an evening, and speaking about the mission and vision of FIEC at midweek meetings have all been a blessing. Helping them to see what a journey to affiliating to FIEC might look like has been both a personal and a professional privilege for me.
For most churches, though, a Sunday service is their main ‘set piece’ of the week. It’s an opportunity, when invited by the leaders, for me to engage with the congregation, highlight the ministry of FIEC, and experience at first-hand the church culture and practices. Even better is an opportunity for longer conversations over a church lunch.
And what a variety I have seen! Not just in location, ethnicity, nationalities and social backgrounds, but in music, Bible translations and more. From the first Sunday of a new church plant to churches that were part of FIEC when it was founded in 1922.
I’ve spent time with churches that are in tourist hotspots, and with churches flourishing in university towns and cities. I’ve also visited churches that have asked for help to be revitalised so they can more effectively reach their community with the gospel.
People used to say that there was such a thing as a typical FIEC church. Well, we all hold to common Doctrines but we’re increasingly culturally diverse.
Who has joined?
In the past two years a total of 84 churches have become part of the FIEC family. Maybe you’ve followed the regular ‘Welcome to the Family’ updates on the FIEC website, or the map on the back cover of Togethermagazine showing the new joiners?
It’s been particularly encouraging to see the fruit of the labours of Andy Hunter, FIEC’s Scotland and North of England Director, with 19 churches in Scotland joining in the past five years.
It’s also been a joy to see the increasing number of churches in Wales that don’t just have a gospel ambition to reach Wales for Christ, but want to be part of something bigger. They want to see every community in Great Britain having the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel.
And, as FIEC is comfortable with churches maintaining dual affiliation, we’ve seen strengthened ties with other gospel networks, including the Associating Evangelical Churches of Wales, Co:Mission, Partnership, the Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches, and various regional Grace Baptist Associations.
What really counts?
It’s not the size of the FIEC family, or the number of new member churches that excites me. The figure that stands out is the one we highlighted in our church survey a couple of years ago. Every year more than 1,000 people become Christians through the work of FIEC churches. It’s the size of the Kingdom that really matters, and pastors continually tell me they long and pray for more conversions. Would you pray with me to that end?
There’s a clue in the name – the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches. It’s in our DNA, because we find it in the New Testament, for gospel churches to partner with one another and to recognise they are inter-dependent, not just independent.
We are glad when pastors, elders and Sunday school teachers want to come to our Leaders’ Conference. It’s encouraging when churches report how helpful our services have been. But we are most encouraged when we see organic partnerships developing locally, regionally and nationally.
Although I am retiring, that doesn’t mean we won’t be working to see even more churches wanting to work together to reach Britain for Christ. I’m in touch with several hundred who would be eligible to join and with whom we are seeking to foster links. That will keep us busy for some time to come!
If you’re church that would like to know more about affiliating to FIEC, please get in touch with us.