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Kentucky pastor leads others to ministry amid Scotland housing projects

A 20schemes church plant in the Merkinch area of the city of Inverness hosts a men's outreach event.

BARDSTOWN, Ky. (BP) – Matthew Spandler-Davison didn’t grow up in a Christian family. But, despite the distance, the Kentucky pastor is helping others minister in what he calls “the least-reached parts” of his native Scotland.

Spandler-Davison planted Redeemer Fellowship Church in 2012 with support from Capitol Hill Baptist in Washington, D.C., where he had been an intern, and through the Bardstown Christian Fellowship Network. Redeemer’s start came with a dozen people meeting in Spandler-Davison’s living room, growing to 120 today. Since then, the church has helped others partner with 20schemes, a ministry based in Edinburgh, Scotland, that works to infuse the Gospel among those living in the country’s government housing.

The schemes, or government housing, of Scotland are the darkest spiritual areas of the country, said Kentucky pastor Matthew Spandler-Davison and where 20schemes has focused its work.

20schemes, of which Spandler-Davison is executive director and co-founder, works in a variety of ways but mainly through planting churches in those areas with the most acute spiritual darkness.

“In Scotland, the term ‘housing scheme’ is the equivalent of ‘housing projects’ in America,” he said. “It’s where generational poverty, those receiving government benefits and the hard-working poor all live in this tight community. I would say 2 million people across Scotland live in them, and they have no access to a Gospel-preaching church.”

Mez McConnell, 20schemes’ other co-founder and director, grew up amid abuse and addiction. An altercation at a nightclub led to time in prison. When McConnell needed an address to where he would be released in order to get probation, a Christian offered his home. That witness, in part, led to McConnell coming to faith in Christ.

Spandler-Davison’s family was invited by a family friend to church when he was 14, but the teen remained indifferent toward Christianity. At 17, he heard a message at his church preached by current Cedarville University faculty member Jason Lee, a former professor at both Southeastern and Southwestern Baptist seminaries. Lee, who at the time was earning his Ph.D. through the University of Aberdeen (Scotland), led Spandler-Davison to Christ and continued to disciple him.

Spandler-Davison and McConnell would go on to enter the ministry – the former going to America and McConnell becoming a missionary to Brazil, where he planted a church focused on reaching homeless children. Both were convicted to minister in their native Scotland, however, so they partnered to launch 20schemes in 2012.

Today, McConnell serves as pastor of Niddrie Community Church in Edinburgh, where 20schemes is based. The organization’s name points to the goal of identifying 20 schemes in priority areas where churches can be planted or revitalization partners can be reached. From there, the organization recruits church planters, female outreach workers and ministry apprentices to those schemes. Leaders also seek out support to help invest in the work and train indigenous leaders.

So far, 10 teams have planted five churches with five others in the pre-plant stage, said Spandler-Davison, who spends much of his time in America raising support and enlisting partners in the ministry.

James Carroll, pastor of Parkway Baptist Church in Bardstown, led in his congregation’s partnership with 20schemes six years ago.

“We’re thankful for the work they do and to be a part of it,” he said. “Planting churches aligns with our mission endeavors and is one of the best ways to reach others.”

Parkway supports the ministry financially and through prayer as well as short-term mission trips. Twice, Parkway members have gone as missionaries for months at a time.

Each person 20schemes reaches has dealt with some form of abuse or trauma, Spandler-Davison said.

“The story we share is that in the Gospel and the local church, we’ve found healing,” he said. “We believe the church, as Christ has designed it to be, is a place where the vulnerable can receive safety and a place of hope.”

So far, the church plants see 20-30 people each week, with growth coming through conversions. Those new converts are being discipled and trained for ministry. The change, he added, appears in many forms.

“Some of the most exciting stories come from those who grew up in a gang, were violent, spent time in prison, were addicted to drugs and then you see this change in them,” he said. “Even their face and vocabulary change. They fall deeply in love with Jesus and the Bible. They begin evangelizing, bringing their friends to church and emerge as a leader.

“We’re 10 years in, but desperately need more people willing to come to Scotland and be a part of the work we do.”

For more information, go to 20schemes.com.