I am currently in Kenya and have been able to spend the last couple of days in prayer & study preparing for our team to arrive later this week. It has been refreshing just to sit and worship, read, write and mediate on what God is doing and saying in this hour of time.
For the last eighteen years, Pam and I have given ourselves to the small rural churches in very small to medium sized towns literally all over the world. I have heard the brokenness and frustration from pastors and leaders as they navigate the changing culture, the transfer and migration of people to larger towns and cities, and the pressure they feel from others who have moved to urban areas and they come back and judge the rural church by what they have seen happen in the bigger cities. This is producing a despondency in many rural leaders hearts that God wants to heal.
While it is true, many rural churches are stuck in a time warp and they think it’s still 1975 or if you are lucky, 1995; there are many, many rural leaders who still are called to the rural areas, that have a vision for what God can and WILL do in the rural areas if we would get back to two simply but important tenets Jesus laid down for us:
If you are a pastor or leader in a rural church, or a church in a small town and you know God called you to that assignment I want to encourage you these thoughts:
1.Keep seeking God for His will for this assignment.
Everything we are doing, believing, preaching, teaching and living today is preparation for the next season in God for your area. You are setting the foundation for the next generation to stand on. If you give up and quit, what will they have to work with in the next season after you are gone? It’s very important we get our doctrine right, but most important, we must keep our hearts right and remain tender with the Lord and embrace the place where He has us.
Trust me, everybody will NOT move to the big cities! And not every pastor will lead a mega ministry. But there will always be people for you to reach, for you to touch, and for you to pastor even if you are in what seems to be an isolated rural area. Seek His face, receive His word with fire in your bones and people will still come, (even in rural areas) to watch you burn!
2. Don’t be ashamed of where God has called you to minister.
In the feeding of the five thousand, I am always amazed when I read how Jesus meticulously cared for the people in the back rows as much as He did those on the front rows. The front rows represent those in the major cities who have the biggest churches, the biggest budgets and are seemingly able to lead the biggest outreaches. The people on the back rows represent the rural areas of the world; and trust me, there are those who live in rural areas that are very hungry for God. I too would like to preach in large churches, in large cities and receive large offerings, and be connected to some of these large ministries. But God doesn’t love city churches more than the rural churches. It’s not us vs them; it’s us together, winning the battle of faith for the entire nation. And that includes the rural area.
3. Be willing to allow God to give you a new strategy.
Be willing to make patient, incremental changes. I know it’s hard at times to convince people in rural areas or small towns that God ordained change is good, but if you are the right man or woman, then God has thoroughly equipped you to be the change agent for that area. With more and more of the population moving to the urban areas (or urban areas overtaking rural areas), we must be open to Holy Spirit to give us the strategies that will help us pastor and lead the rural communities into a deeper level of faith.
In the days and years to come, we will most likely see mergers of congregations, even mergers of different denominational churches in rural areas in order to adequately care for the people in that area. The main thing is that we seize this moment we have, seek His face continually, stop comparing our ministries with other ministries and embrace the grace for our place in His Kingdom.
Because we are not building our legacy, we are building His legacy.