by Gordon Pettie

Christians in the Firing Line 2

By Dr Richard Scott

Wilberforce Publications, London ISBN 978-9995842-0-7

I cannot remember a book that has made me angry as I read it. This one did … and does. But it is a righteous anger!

The author, Dr Richard Scott, is a practising medical doctor on the south coast of England who believes that care for a patient should be physical, mental, and spiritual.

Christians have faced challenges over sharing their faith in the workplace

A few years ago, he felt it right to offer to pray with a patient, and the patient said he would like that. However, the individual went home and told a member of his family, who created a fuss about what had happened.

Dr Richard Scott has had to defend offering to pray for a patient

Dr Scott ended up having to defend himself, with the help of the Christian Legal Centre, before the General Medical Council. I share that because it shows he knows what he is writing about.

With the approval of the individuals concerned, Dr Scott has been given access to the files of the Christian Legal Centre and has chosen the stories of 21 people who have faced accusation and discrimination for expressing a spiritual aspect in the dealings with individuals. The stories represent a cross section of challenges Christians have faced over sharing their faith in the workplace, talking about same sex marriage, being a pro-life activist, taking to the streets to preach the Gospel, making comments about Islam, even being accused of noise disturbance as a preacher in Perth, Scotland, faced.

Let me share about just one of the stories. Sarah is a nurse, an RGN, ‘Band 6’ Sister. After 15 years of exemplary service in the NHS, Sarah’s boss informed her that some patients had complained about “inappropriate” conversations.

Two months later she was suspended, pending a disciplinary investigation. One of the accusations against her was giving a Bible to a patient and telling the patient she would pray for her.

When the disciplinary hearing was held, she was summary dismissed for gross misconduct. Even worse, she was barred from practising as a nurse.

Sarah sought help from the Christian Legal Centre. It took them two years before a new Nursing and Midwifery Council review took place, when all restrictions on Sarah were lifted and she was declared ‘fully fit to practise’ as a nurse.

One of the accusations against her was giving a Bible to a patient and telling the patient she would pray for her

The book has an interesting chapter on the different ways Christians can deal with provocation. Any Christian facing difficulty from others will find it helpful.

In addition, it devotes eight pages to the current legislation that exists in the UK concerning the Public Order Act 1986; Crime and Disorder Act 1998; Human Rights Act 1998; Racial and Religious Hatred Act 1986; even the European Convention on Human Rights (relevant articles).

I pay tribute to these modern-day faith heroes whose stories appear in the book. They have a passion for the Lord Jesus Christ and are not ashamed of him or the Gospel. Reading their stories will enrich your life and give you pointers in how to pray for our nation and those on the front line of sharing the Gospel.

Pastor who hit the headlines when he criticised Islam

Man with the Mantle, James McConnell

Foreword by R T Kendall

Amazon UK

PastorMcConnell speaking to the press outside court after being exonerated

Not many Christian pastors have had their deaths announced on the BBC news, but Pastor James McConnell was not your normal pastor.

This is how he described his ministry:

“I would get up in the morning thinking about preaching and go to bed at night thinking about it. No matter where I went, preaching God’s Word and Whitewell (his church) is all I considered…Focus is everything and critical in the church. If a minister is not focused, then he’s wasting his time. He will prove ineffective and build nothing. But if a pastor stays focused and anointed, anything is possible.”

This book is not an obituary notice for Pastor James McConnell, who died on 17 July 2021.

It is the kind of book you would put on a coffee table: hardback, lots of colour pictures, glossy, powerful, and full of quotes on how to be a successful pastor and leader. Pastor McConnell was certainly that.

In fact, we are not told who has put the book together; we are only told that it is based on conversations Pastor James McConnell had with John McCreedy, who is one of the pastors at the church, and also from recordings he made with the church’s media department.

A young James McConnell
A young James McConnell

In 1957, as a 19-year-old with the call of God on his life, Belfast-born James McConnell went to North Belfast to establish a new church in the area. He hired the Orange Hall in Whitewell and announced the first service. Ten people plus a few visitors came.

No one gave this motley bunch a second glance, but God spoke in those first few services and promised that through his servant a mighty work would be established that would see thousands brought into the Kingdom of God and the church would be known across the world.

Over the next 57 years of ministry Pastor McConnell and the “Whitewellers”, as he affectionately called them, built three church buildings, all in the Whitewell area of Belfast. Each building was bigger than the last as the congregation grew each year.

In addition, Pastor McConnell organised outreaches and crusades across Ulster, from leisure centres to football stadiums, to the largest auditoriums such as the Kings Hall and Ulster Hall. At other times he held tent missions in East Belfast and Ormeau Park, culminating in an evening rally in Ravenhill Rugby Stadium. Thousands of souls were brought into the Kingdom of God.

He did not want to sit, day after day, feeling sorry for himself

How did he do it? Consider these two stories recounted in the book:

“Not many leaders will be happy to know he had a holiday in the south of Ireland with his wife Margaret, in 1958. His next one did not happen for 20 years and then only because his church elders demanded he took time off!”

If you think that is extraordinary, consider this story.

James McConnell would meet with his leadership team to pray and talk about church business every Monday morning. One Monday, they had finished praying. It was time for the tea and pancakes.

“Listen guys”, said Pastor McConnell, “I have just realised I missed Jim and Valerie (not their real names) yesterday. Did anyone spot them?”

“All of us were speechless”, said one of the other leaders. “We lead a megachurch, not a tiny Gospel hall.”

At the time the Whitewell attracted 1,000s to its services. With that, Pastor McConnell grabbed his coat, asked one of the leaders to accompany him, and rushed off to visit his missing parishioners.

He hit the TV and news headlines in 2014, after a sermon telling his congregation that “a new evil had arisen” and “there are cells of Muslims right throughout Britain”.

James McConnell described Islam as “heathen” and “satanic”. Charged with a hate crime and taken to court, the 78-year-old faced the real threat of prison.

Victory came when the court found him not guilty of making “grossly offensive” remarks about Islam. Outside the court he told the waiting press: “There was no way I was out to hurt them [Muslims]. But what I am against is their theology and what they believe in”.

A remarkable man and an amazing book. It will stay on my shelves for years to come. I am sure every time I look at it, I will be challenged again by this spiritual warrior and general and his work for God.

Faith, family and rural life from a Holocaust survivor

The Pheasant Called out of the Thicket

By David Bennett

Available from Amazon and other retailers

This is a little gem of a book that David Bennett has written. It is only 42 pages long but a lovely and encouraging read.

Let me tell you a story. Lorna and I present a church service on Revelation TV on Sunday mornings. A few weeks ago, I read out a letter we had receive from a 95-year-old man.

After 60 years of marriage, his wife had died. In his loneliness he started writing poetry and I read out one of his inspirational poems.

“His next holiday did not happen for 20 years and then only because his church elders demanded he took time off!”

A few days later a package, post-marked from Suffolk, arrived at the office for me. In it was a book and a letter from a man called David Bennett, who told me he had heard me read the poem and it encouraged him. He too is in his 90s and after 64 years of marriage, his wife had also died. David had wondered what to do with his life. He did not want to sit day after day feeling sorry for himself. David believes God spoke to him and told him to “write a book”. He had no idea about things like typesetting, formatting, and publishing, so he asked his grandsons for help. It took him a year to do it. With the letter was the finished book, available from Amazon and all good booksellers.

“I would get up in the morning thinking about preaching and go to bed at night thinking about it”

The book tells his story. What a life he has lived – tragedy, murder in the family, marriage (of David and wife) in Dachau concentration camp at the end of World War 2, but also about faith, family and rural life.

And why the title of the book? David relates how God used a pheasant calling out of a thicket to confirm his will for David’s life. But you will have to read the book to discover how it happened!

Gordon Pettie and his wife Lorna
Gordon Pettie and his wife Lorna

Gordon, along with his wife Lorna, is part of the leadership team of Revelation TV, a 24/7 Christian television station that broadcasts in the UK on Sky 581 and Freesat TV 692, and throughout the world via the Roku Box and Apple TV. Gordon’s passion is writing and he is the author of eight books.

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