Rural and small town churches are victims of their own success.
Again, rural and small town churches are victims of their own success.
Furthermore, Satan makes them feel like failures.
I grew up in a rural southern Indiana Methodist church. As a traveling music evangelist, I walk into rural and small town churches, look at the bulletin board and see the list of missions and missionaries they support. In most, a Gideon Memorial Bible Plan rack hangs on the wall so that congregants can celebrate special events or the passing a friend or family member with a donation of Bibles. The building is typically spotless and well loved. The grounds are well maintained and the grass has been cut. John 3:16, and the Great Commission appear prominently in one or more Sunday school classrooms. Sometimes, the second half of Acts 1:8 (KJV) is painted as a border around the room:
“…and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all
Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
The members have raised their children in church, taught them the Word, raised them to believe and be disciples. A high school or college education or a military career led the young person to a larger town or a city for employment, and she/he is faithfully serving the Kingdom in that location. Some rural and small town churches have a roster of the young men and women who are serving the Kingdom in pastoral ministry or missions. Yes, there may have been a scoundrel or two along the way, but overall, each church has a sterling record of service and a reputation as a force for good in the community. They have sent missionaries from their local Jerusalem to a regional Judea and Samaria, and even the uttermost parts of the earth. They have been an overwhelming success!
Then Satan slithers in to whisper, “But that was yesterday….”
Grief. Lack of employment and rural depopulation have left some rural and small town congregations to grieve: ‘We don’t have the numbers that we used to have. We’re older. We don’t have as many young people.’ Some churches wonder, ‘Will we be able to keep going? Can we sustain the church financially? Will we continue to be a force in the local community?’
Poor Self-Esteem. As they look at declining attendance and an aging congregation, they wonder why it seems God has abandoned them. A church with poor self-esteem sees little future for the church. New ideas are rejected for a lack of resources. In some rural and small town churches, the problem is not a lack of money but a lack of vision.
Unfortunately, some rural and small town churches close. The vision, the dreams, the hopes, the prayers, the labor, and the people disperse and disband. The building may be repurposed as an antique store or a barn and, over time, decays into rubble.
What can be done?
My mission is to play music and tell stories that Encourage, Restore, and Challenge rural and small town churches, and their pastors, to reach out into “their local Jerusalem” and satisfy their mission and calling.
Encourage. Individuals, pastors, and congregations may be discouraged by their circumstances and challenges, but they still have a part in God’s plan for this world. Encouragement helps people lift up their heads, strengthen their feeble knees, and remember that they are on God’s starting team.
Restoration. Restoration helps people look beyond their circumstances, outside their four walls, and beyond their means to see what an all loving, all knowing, all seeing, all powerful, all compassionate, providential Heavenly Father God wants to accomplish in their lives, in their church, and in their community. Restoration can be described in Christian terms as the word Revival. Restoration is the art of rebuilding faith, reminding people of the power of God, as expressed in the Bible and in the history of their church, and their mission. Restoration of faith brings hope that God has not only not forgotten and abandoned them, but He has an amazing plan for their future inside and outside the four walls of the building (Jeremiah 29:11). Restoration establishes a missionary mindset for reaching those who stand outside the church.
Challenge. Challenge, in this context, can also be called vision casting. The needs of mankind haven’t changed since the beginning of time: we all need to feel safe, loved, and exactly where we’re supposed to be (a sense of community). These people know the culture, language, traditions, and the people in their neighborhoods. They know who has moved in, who still resides in the community, and who has gone on to their eternal reward. The body of Christ doesn’t need to send missionaries from a foreign country, a big city, or the suburbs, because He can empower and rely on these rural and small town congregations to reach their neighbors. Challenge goes beyond recruiting and paying a pastor, maintaining a building, and opening the doors on Sunday. No one can compete with the message of love and the presence of Jesus when people pray and reach out as a positive influence in their communities, as they return their focus to “their local Jerusalem.”
If you know of a rural or small town church in Central Indiana that might benefit from Encouragement, Restoration and Challenge, might you recommend my website, AcousticSincerity.com?