Chris Davidson planted Merkinch Free Church in a historically rich area of Inverness, Scotland, in February 2023. Their church longs to bring the hope of Jesus to the hurting, weary, and needy—a tangible need for most who walk through their doors. The church is a safe haven for many people struggling with poverty, substance use, and unsafe home environments.
Merkinch is one of the oldest areas in Inverness and is home to around 5,000 people. Chris describes Merkinch as warm and welcoming, but it remains one of the most impoverished areas in Inverness. It’s ranked as the eighth most deprived area in Scotland. The gospel need is great in Merkinch—and this church plant is working hard to share the good news of Jesus with all who are willing to listen.
Meeting People Where They Are
Merkinch Free Church officially launched with a church family made up of new believers, people who had moved to the area to see a gospel church planted, and those from the community that wanted a local church. Their average attendance for a Sunday service is around 40 people, but only about 15 of them are Christians. This presents a real need for mission-focused discipleship and evangelism.
Their small congregation meets on Sundays, and they offer other opportunities to gather throughout the week. On Thursdays, they open their doors for a few hours as a cafe for the community and offer a free hot drink to anyone in need; they advertise it as a bacon roll and “banter,” a Scottish word for a fun, free chat.
In small and simple ways, they serve the people of Merkinch while maintaining a focus on sharing the gospel. Their hospitality is a gateway for welcoming others into their family of faith, and their presence in the community helps foster trust, which enables them to share the gospel message. This sort of generosity is more than just philanthropy—it's gospel-centered community. Click To Tweet
Many people in Merkinch didn’t grow up in a church environment and have little knowledge of God or the Bible. Those who do have a church history are often adverse to Christianity because of past wounds from unhealthy churches. Chris says it isn’t unusual for him to have to stop in the middle of a sermon and answer questions. Sometimes people will raise their hands, but most of the time they’ll just shout their questions. This has led the church to build a time in the service for people to freely ask questions and hear a response. Chris takes it in stride—knowing it’s a gift that people feel safe enough in that environment to even ask questions.
He says this may not be for everyone, but it’s a welcomed challenge for their church. They’re sharing the good news of Jesus in a way that’s true to Scripture, but also relevant to those in their community.
Part of the Community
Chris and his team encourage church members to live in or near the impoverished area of Merkinch so they can offer a tangible, gospel presence in the area. When they meet new people at church, it’s often neighbors and friends they see during the week, which makes conversation and relationships easier to navigate. Merkinch, like most places in the Scottish Highlands, is post-secular in culture and in great need of churches to share the gospel of Christ. Chris and the members of his church are determined to faithfully carry that message to those around them.
One of their core values is to see that “all members will never go through life with unmet needs.” This is reminiscent of Acts 2:45, when the first-century church sold their possessions and belongings to ensure everyone had all they needed. While the members of Merkinch Free Church may not be selling everything, they’re surely sold out for seeing the gospel permeate their city. This sort of generosity is more than just philanthropy—it’s gospel-centered community. The church is a safe haven for many people struggling with poverty, substance use, and unsafe home environments. Click To Tweet
As Merkinch Free Church grows, they’re focused on caring for their community and discipling new believers. They continue to pray for new conversions and opportunities for their members to grow in faith and knowledge. Through Acts 29, they’ve connected with two partner churches in the US that provide financial support and encouragement. Chris said their Acts 29 missional partners “feel more like family because we share a deep desire for global mission.” We long to see more churches planted like Merkinch Free Church, who make a lasting impact in their community, whether it be down the street or around the world.