By Greg Petrie, District Representative, Northwest District
“Why continue investing in small churches? Why put out the money to keep those rural churches open?”
“If you see no prospect of movement towards being self-sustaining, why not divert those resources to a place with more potential? That handful of believers can go to another church. They’re used to driving a distance for other services anyway.”
These questions could be posed regarding churches and communities that Village Missions continues to supplement and support year after year—-sometimes with the acknowledgment that because of demographics and economics, such churches may never reach the point of being self-supporting financially. Why do we continue investing in small churches?
My response to such questions: “Yes, the believers in those communities very well may travel to a church in another community for worship and fellowship. But what about those who do not know Christ in those communities? Who is going to reach them? Who is even going to know that they are there?”
It’s More Than Investing in Small Churches
Travis and Jennifer Cochran serve as Village Missionaries at North River Church in a field we call “Vesta”. You will find no town of Vesta. There is only a sign next to a very small cemetery along an 18-mile stretch of road that follows the North River near the Washington coast. Most people are not even aware of this valley. Even fewer of those that do know about it realize that several hundred people live there.
The area thrived when logging boomed, but as with many rural areas dependent on the land and its resources, things aren’t what they once were. Nevertheless, many still call this stretch along the North River home.
The Sunday morning worship service at North River Church averages in the low 20s. This small church provides a nice home but cannot contribute towards the salary for Travis and Jennifer to live and minister in the community full-time.
A core value of Village Missions is to have the Village Missionary living and serving in the community full-time. Then they can be available and invest the time and attention to the church and community that it needs. So Village Missions, which has been in partnership with that church since 2011, pays the salary.
A Personal Mission
Travis and Jennifer have lived in Vesta for about one and a half years. Recently, Travis intentionally began venturing up the side roads and driveways of that valley to see who was there. He wanted to meet the people and introduce himself as the pastor of the community.
At the end of one of those driveways Travis came to a small home that some might describe as a shack. Two people lived in that home, a woman and her adult son. The son served in the military and bears some of the physical and emotional consequences of that experience. This home is not connected to electrical service. The two residents are not connected to the community or any social network. It can truly be said that virtually nobody knows they are there. But the Lord sees. And He, I believe, in His divine providence sent Travis up their driveway one day.
As he visited with them, Travis discovered that they have the materials for a pole building intended to keep the young man’s tools and such out of the weather, but he was unable to assemble it himself. Travis decided to talk to the men of the church about going up there to help with that construction and demonstrate the love of Christ to them.
The end of this story is yet to be written. And yet, the theme of this story is someone being obedient to God’s call to leave the 99 (Luke 15:3-7). They seek out the one who needs to experience the Gospel of Jesus Christ, even if that is at the end of a driveway on a road to nowhere. Pray that these two would come to know Jesus through this.
Why We Continue Investing in Small Churches
Why continue investing in small churches like North River Church, in Pastor Travis and Jennifer? Because these two people will not go to a church in a community 20 miles away, and that church will not be there for these two people-—or the hundreds like them along this valley or the thousands scattered across the United States and Canada. They need a church with a pastor in their community to come find them.
Thank you for your faithful and generous support of Village Missions so that Pastor Travis-—and many like him—-can go up those driveways to see who is there and say “Hi. I’m the pastor. It’s good to meet you.”