Struthers Memorial Church and the hogging of the platform


Some members of SMC have been sometimes accused by the SMC leadership of a terrible sin they call "platform seeking". It seems that sometimes ambitious and foolish people think that they have something worthwhile to communicate and see the platform as a means to express their views and get into the limelight.


There is also a slightly bizarre line of talk from the platform in SMC, where it seems it is essential for leaders to frequently and vehemently attest that they did not ever want a call to leadership and the platform, and that they have only reluctantly accepted it because it was unavoidably the call of God on their lives – but never something they wanted.


So - a challenge




Stuthers Memorial Church leaders. Take some time off.


Have a holiday. Take a 6 month sabbatical. Many of the well established, successful Christian denominations in Scotland well understand the good sense of allowing pastors and leaders to take time off for study, writing, to visit the foreign mission field, travel, spend valuable time with family or take planned rest to prevent stress related illness. We invite you to step down from day to day leadership and the platform for a while.


This should not be hard for any of the current leaders as you have often expressed how reluctantly you agreed to accept this call and how the platform and leadership in themselves are not the true centre of your Christian life. Take some time to live just in that unseen inner place with no outlet for service - the same position you teach that many of the people in your church are called to be in. Not in public - but just as committed and deep.


We invite you to spend some time able to focus on that more important inner place and let others decide what happens in the church. Let others preach. Let others minister. Let others ban people from attending. You take a deserved break.


Perhaps at the end of this break you will be fortunate enough to be blessed again with permission from the Lord not to come back into public leadership. You can live out your remaining years in a pew, honourably retired, preaching once or twice when invited, but free of all these public roles you never wanted and do not value at all – in themselves.


All Christian leaders need to have good counsellors who can help them check and comfirm if things have changed since they were first called. Leaders can begin to enjoy the buzz they get from being in charge. They quite like the control they are able to exert from being at the front. They can decide who is given time and attention, and those they think need some humility or an attitude correction can be ignored. They have the power to ensure that people hear from the platform what to think of the people who have recently left the church (never named but everyone knows who is meant) and publicise their lack of spirituality. They like being able to pick the right people, who come up and testify only of things which refer to them, their important church and their special vision. They get to the point that they cannot imagine not being able to do that any more. They can not even imagine how their life would be with out being able to wield all this authority. And they are afraid of the silence they would have to deal with if that flow of warm public attention was turned off. Some have no discernible Christian life outside of being a leader.


Some of these leaders teach that others (who are not called to be at the front) should be complete in Christ without needing to have any outlet in Christian service such as they have. In fact they go further. They say that those un-noticed in the pew should be seeking the same depth and anointing supporting the leaders, as leaders seek for their public roles. If a leader really believes that,  we challenge them to get back in the pew for 6 months and see if what they teach others is true for them. Or is that teaching just convenient for them as it keeps them in charge, the focus of everyone's attention and feeling important?



We would genuinely recommend the present SMC leaders each consider taking a break from being in charge and let others grow and expand their leadership skills and ministries. Then the church will be more ready for the future once each of the present leaders is gone. There are many stories in Christian literature about those past retirement age, who hold onto their ministries for too long and contine to lead after the point the Lord desires them to move on. The problem is very widespread in newer, independent churches because there is often no proper, well thought out, biblically endorsed structure for succession.



Stuthers Memorial Church has a particular and, as far as we are aware, almost unique problem which makes this situation worse, because the only ways to step down from leadership in SMC that we are aware of are:


  • to step down from leadership and leave the church knowing you will be regarded by all as a failure


  • to fall into public sin that cannot be covered up easily, resulting in resignation of leadership and leaving the church


  • to die in post

The only other place where this last option is written into the succession approach of a church is in the case of one senior role within the Roman Catholic church. That of Pope.








So we call on the SMC leadership


  1. To each take a sabbatical and review your role for the good of the church, the work of God and your own soul.


  1. Come back if that is your call and only if that is your continuing call.


  1. Agree with the SMC executive as soon as possible, a date on which each of you will retire from public leadership. We recommend strongly, on the basis of long experience of problems in this area with other independant churches, that this should be well before and certainly not later than your 70th birthday. By this we do not mean you would never preach, teach, or be active in any other aspect of your Christian call. You just won't call the shots any more. You will still be around to be asked to do things from time to time by others then in charge. Public leadership should always have a planned ending for the good of the people and the health of the church. Also it will benefit the health and wellbeing of the aging and respected leader. We believe much suffering and physical and mental hardship would have been avoided for an earlier generation of leaders if this had been done properly and in good order.


We would ask members not to place the outgoing leader’s feelings of fear over their loss of status (which they have regularly assured us do not exist) before the needs of the membership, the future of the church, and the need to give time and space to the development of emerging leadership ministries within the congregation.






We genuinely believe this proposal would be good for the future success of SMC in fulfilling its mission. We also believe it would be very valuable to the leaders concerned to take some time to get a healthy perspective on God’s ongoing and developing call for their lives.


Alternatively – if you hold that the current practice is correct, justify it and live with its consequences:







  • State publicly that it is your belief that God wants all SMC leaders to remain in their present roles until they die, no matter what circumstances. Justify that teaching from scripture.


  • State publicly that if the way you limit platform access to an elite few means only some favoured or well connected people can develop their gifts and ministries that is God’s will. Indicate that all who are supposed to be involved are involved. Tell any others who feel God is calling them into a more public role that they are in error and they will have to accept that situation or leave. Justify that teaching from scripture.


  • State clearly and publicly that if anyone wants to step down from a leadership position in advance of their death, they are failing the call of God on their lives and to step down from leadership would be sinful. Justify this from scripture.