My Heart’s in the Highlands

Several years ago I had the opportunity of traveling to Scotland for an international preaching conference at the University of Edinburgh. I sat near an old Scottish minister who worked in the Highlands. I asked him about his church. He said he had a circuit of three churches that he visited every Sunday. It was a 65-mile loop each Lord’s Day. These churches were in rural areas, up in the legendary Scottish Highlands. He told me that the first church had five members, but there were another five who sometimes attended. On high-attendance days he might have ten or twelve. The second church had seven people, and the third one had an average congregation of six to eight. There was little growth, and the only time he preached to a large crowd was at funerals when the whole town showed up.

I asked him, “Andrew, do you ever get discouraged? Do you have trouble keeping your morale up week-after-week and year-after-year?”  He say, “Yes, sometimes.”

“Well,” I asked, “do you ever think of quitting?”

“Sometimes,” he said, “but I’ve found that I cannot not preach.”

Faithfulness to our work whatever its size is what’s important to God and in the grander scheme of things. It all reminds me of that wonderful little poem by the inimitable John Oxenham:

Is your place a small place?
Tend it with care!—
He set you there.

Is your place a large place?
Guard it with care!—
He set your there.

Whate’er your place, it is
Not yours alone, but His
Who set you there.

(From John Oxenham, Bees in Amber (American Tract Society, 1913), 121.