Church Planter (20Schemes) - Glasgow, Scotland
After serving as a full-time youth worker in the Scheme of Barlanark, Pete, along with Pete Stewart, is now beginning a church plant in that same community with the hope of seeing a sound, gospel-centered church established. Their church planting efforts are part of the ministry of 20Schemes.
Testimony of Conversion
Hello! I’m Pete Bell. I’m 29 years old (as of 2016). I have a beautiful wife called Cara. I’ve got 3 kids, all boys. I’m a church planter in the East End of Glasgow. It blows me away even just to write these brief sentences! It is testimony to God’s grace alone that I can write these things, and it is all because this grace has been made known to me in Jesus Christ and his glorious Gospel.
I grew up in the south side of Glasgow, in a fairly nice, middle class part of the city. I never really had much want for anything and was a pretty contented child (I think, although my parents might say differently!). The biggest privilege of my upbringing is that my parents are Christians. I have three older siblings who are also Christians and were great examples to me as a child. Growing up I was always taken to church services, Sunday School, and youth groups, so have been immersed with teaching of the Bible and an understanding of Jesus Christ from a young age. As a result, I have had the thankful privilege of growing in belief as I have grown physically, at various times realizing more and more the gravity of my sin and the need to submit my entire life to Jesus.
As a young boy, I can remember sitting in a Bible study group at my church’s holiday club (VBS) and being told that I needed to believe in Jesus to be saved and go to heaven. I remember praying quietly in my head in response, knowing that the alternative was an eternity in hell. I felt the burden that I longed to be with Jesus in heaven. On another occasion, a few years later, I was at a Scripture Union holiday camp where I was told that just going to church, or having a family who were Christians, didn’t make you a Christian, but actually trusting Jesus myself and living for him was the key. Again I remember praying quietly in response, feeling concerned that I had been living as a Christian on Sundays but not the rest of the time, but being sure that I wanted to be a Christian, to be forgiven of my sins and to live for Jesus.
In my teens I was always involved in the youth groups at my church, although I didn’t always feel that I was living as a Christian. On the surface I looked like I was a Christian, even involved in ministries and some leadership, but underneath there were always sin issues to be dealt with. I played a lot of rugby (the best sport in the world!) until I was about 16, but found it a huge challenge to be a Christian in that context, and often compromised in order to be accepted by my rowdy rugby mates. At church I would put the face on and be able to give the ‘Christian chat’, but inside I knew there was a disconnect between the faith in Jesus that I professed and the way I was living.
I’m hugely thankful for all the teaching I received and friendships I built with Christians during this time, but I lacked deep accountability, probably due to my own stubborn heart wanting to hide my real issues. However, the Lord has been gracious to me and during those years I grew in my knowledge and understanding of the Bible and was baptized and joined the church as a member when I was 18.
Just after this I went to Strathclyde University to study Electronic and Electrical Engineering. At university I felt like I was just being swept along by a tide, and eventually dropped out of the course after two years. Following this I had a number of months of unemployment, laziness and downheartedness. At Christmas time in 2006 I was lost, confused, angry and bitter. I felt a million miles away from God and without any kind of purpose or direction. I would beat myself up for not living up to the standards I knew I should as a Christian. I remember feeling completely empty and crying out to God to rescue me. By this point I’d been dating Cara for 6 months, and she was a great help to me, continually pointing me to the Gospel and Jesus. The turn of the year was a turn in my perspective, as I felt a renewed sense of God’s presence and purpose as I let go of my sin, pride and fears. I got a job in an office and began to think through my long term future.
The catalyst for this was an evening sitting at my desk in my bedroom, crying out to the Lord and reading his word. I remember vividly reading Ephesians 2:1-8 and 2 Corinthians 5:17 and the words coming to life in my soul. That I was once dead, but had been made alive in Christ was a reality that only just hit home at this time. My hope of heaven wasn’t just something to wait for, but to see partially here and now in a transformed life, and it was all because of God’s bounteous grace. I was a new creation, made to live for Christ here and now. I had been made to live! I had been made new!
In those moments I knew that I had been wrestling with my old sinful nature, entertaining it rather than putting it to death. I realized with greater clarity that my heart was the issue. While I had known truth from a young age, I battled a horrible combination of self-righteousness and self-condemnation, not fully appreciating the depth and impact of the gospel.
Looking back, I can see that crashing out of university and hitting rock bottom was utter grace. It allowed me to see where I was trusting in myself rather than in Christ. It shook me from my laziness and self-pleasing and made me realize that only Christ can truly satisfy. It freed me from the burden of not feeling good enough, and showed me that no one is good enough. It brought me to rest in the wondrous work of Christ on the cross to save me for eternity and change my life now.
By September 2007 I had been accepted to go back to Strathclyde University, this time to do math education. I’m thankful that Jesus saved me from that too! :) Around that time a number of people had mentioned the idea of Bible College, because I had a keen involvement in various youth activities in the church. I applied to International Christian College to study Theology. This was only a week or so before the course started, but I was interviewed, accepted and signed up in time to get going with the rest of the new starts. At this point I had a renewed sense of purpose and of God’s presence through the Holy Spirit. I never knew quite where I was going but knew that it wasn’t me that was in control, but the Lord. I was pretty green theologically as I entered into full time study and wasn’t much of a reader, but I loved the challenge and it reinvigorated my faith.
I married Cara in August 2009 and graduated from ICC in 2010. I’ve since been a youth worker for 5 years and am now in the process of planting a church. Continually I am humbled and aware that I am completely dependent on God’s grace found in Jesus Christ, and comforted by his perfect timing, knowing that he has a sovereign plan and is in control.
Call to the Ministry
Growing up in church and being involved in lots of youth groups gave me a passion for being involved in Christian ministries, and an admiration for those who were in leadership. From around the age of 16 I have been involved in some form of leadership. Looking back over my life so far I can see that the Lord has lead me gently along the way. If I had been told 10 years ago I would go on to be planting a church I would probably have ran in the opposite direction like Jonah!
My first role was as a Sunday School assistant, where I gave one to one support to a young boy with a disability and played guitar to lead songs for the whole group. I’m thankful to the Sunday School leaders for identifying gifting and giving me a role to lead in a small capacity.
As time went on I became more involved in different youth ministries in my church. I went from being a Sunday School assistant to a class teacher, I lead a youth club outreach as part of a team and was also part of a team leading the youth fellowship, which was more about discipleship for teenagers and young adults. In each of these ministries I was encouraged to undertake a variety of speaking opportunities. I gave short evangelistic talks and also did some teaching and preaching for the youth fellowship.
All these things happened quite naturally for me and I never had to go seeking opportunities, but rather they came across my path. I’ve never been someone with a huge desire to be a leader, but I’ve felt increasingly aware that the Lord has blessed me with a capability that I must use to his glory.
In May 2006 I left university, disillusioned, confused and angry. I was restless and irritated. The Lord, in his grace, brought me out of that pit, and since then I’ve been increasingly sure that I should be involved in some form of church ministry. The Lord changed my perspective, brought a renewed sense of hope and purpose, knowing that in all things I have been justified and called to live to the glory of Jesus. It was around this time that my church were seeking to employ a worker with the aim of lifting some of the administrative burden off the elders. I put myself forward for the position, and although the elders thought I wasn’t the suitable man for the job at that time, they gave me a real encouragement to consider doing some further theological training with a view to more full-time ministry work.
I went then to study a Theology degree for 3 years and continued to have involvement in my local church, leading in the various youth ministries. When it came to graduating and considering what to do next, I had heard that the church my mate Pete Stewart worked for was going to appoint a second youth worker, but I hadn’t really thought it would be something for me. One afternoon Cara and I went to visit Pete to see how things were in Barlanark, and we both left with a sense that we should start praying and thinking about the possibility of working there. I applied, was accepted, and spent 5 years working as a youth worker there, all the while learning valuable lessons for ministry.
At the end of 2012 we met Mez McConnell, and began some involvement with 20schemes. At first it was with a view to supporting us in our youth work ministry and it took a long time for us to come to a point of considering planting a church. In January 2014 we met with Mez and Andi Mathieson, who both asked Pete and I independently what we wanted to see in Barlanark. We both responded with “a healthy, Gospel-centred church.” From then, it became clearer that we were the ones to do that.
Over these past 8 years I’ve been struck by the Great Commission and the need to go into the world to make disciples. My passion has always been for ministry here in Scotland because I see a great need for churches to be active in disciple-making and for Christians to make a united stand for the Gospel. Sadly the church nationally is in decline because it has neglected this vision, and I long to see church growth in my home country. To that end I’m realizing the need for my own faithfulness to plant a Gospel-centred church here in Barlanark, that we as a church may also send others around Glasgow, and Scotland, to plant more Gospel-centred churches and have an impact in our nation to bring glory to Christ. Almost all the time I feel out of my depth, but that’s great because it pushes me to further rely on Christ!