So many of the churches we serve are missional. They just don’t know that’s what people call it! Suppose rural churches realized that they are missional and started building on this inherent strength of theirs! It would not take any finances or other resources. They simply need to realize that we are to help each other grow in Christ and we are to be Christ to the community around us.
From Rural to City
Sarah was in kindergarten when we moved to Red Feather Lakes, CO as Village Missionaries. Red Feather Lakes, elevation 8500 feet, is a fifty-mile drive from Ft. Collins, the location of the nearest bank, doctor, and Wal-Mart. The only sounds we heard at night were the coyotes, the owls, and the wind. Talk about being far, far removed from city life!
Our daughter now lives in and loves Los Angeles! I wonder what we did wrong! Seriously, we’re quite proud of her, a teacher at an inner-city school. She does retain, however, some vestiges of rural life—she loves the outdoors and she attends a small church.
Missional Community Defined
Her small church intrigues me because they call themselves a missional community. As I understand it, they seek to support one another in an experience of true Christianity. They seek to help each other grow in Christ. They desire to reach their neighborhood for Christ, primarily by showing Christlikeness to those around them. If you would like to read some articles explaining missional community, you can click on this link and this link.
True Missional Community in the Rural Church
I like to kid Sarah so I often tell her that her church could witness true missional community by visiting a church that Village Missions serves. No greater place exists to be in “community” than in a rural church! Moreover, no greater opportunity exists to be in relationship with those who don’t know Christ than in a rural community. Her congregation has to work at achieving what comes naturally to the rural church. Of course, I’m biased!
What Is Missional?
Recently, I’ve been thinking about the truth behind my kidding. We may be uncomfortable with the new terminology (missional community). But if missional means seeking to help each other grow in Christ and intentionally seeking to reach those around us for Christ both by modeling and by witness, than I’m on board. If the above defines a missional community, unfortunately, most churches would fall short. Churches seem content to take a programmatic approach without much in the way of true community.
Rural Churches Can Excel in Being Missional
To some extent, the rural church buys into this programmatic model, often producing feelings of inferiority. The rural church can never achieve the glitz and glamor of the urban/suburban churches. However, the rural church can excel in missional community and set the example in doing so.
Imagine how effective missional community would be with the web of relationships we already have within a rural community! Members of the church we served in Red Feather Lakes, myself included, interacted with the community in numerous ways. For instance, many were part of the Fire Department, the school, the Historical Society, and the Lions Club. Church and community members interacted at the local restaurants, walking, golfing, fishing, and the local stores. Annual activities such as the 4th of July parade and fireworks, Fire Days (fund raiser for fire department), and the Greening of Red Feather (too complicated to explain) brought us all together. We already were missional largely without realizing it by distributing food, ministering to children, and helping people in the community in need.
An Example of a Missional Church
Carole and I recently attended the dedication of the new church building in Jennings, MI. Over two hundred and fifty people were there for this wonderful celebration of God’s provision and working in Jennings. When Village Missionaries Larry and Kathy Shetenhelm arrived in Jennings in 2006, they found a congregation of eight people (see the video). They emphasized being a missional community as well as preaching the Word of God.
When they picked up people’s yards and hauled off their trash, they were missional. Obtaining a grant for playground equipment, establishing a food pantry, all were missional activities! Additionally, they reached out to hurting people, loving and accepting them—people like Jeff, who had been arrested for drugs, and his family. In so doing, they sought to be a community of Christ followers. No one ever used the phrase during the dedication but I heard repeated stories of the Jennings Community Church being a missional community.
Another Example of a Missional Church
Another recent example is the Chalk Hills Community Church in Scotia, NE, served by Village Missionaries Jeremiah and Elizabeth Knoop. I asked Jeremiah to send me a list of some of the “missional” things his congregation is doing (video of Scotia). Here is a list of some of those things:
*Jim & Sara: renovated their basement to house a homeless woman.
*Richard & Tenise: adopted some boys from Haiti.
*Roger: auctioned off nearly all of his worldly possessions and gave proceeds to the church. He also gave his VERY NICE car away to a missionary family and gave his truck to be sold and the proceeds given toward families in the church who are adopting.
*Bill & Judy: turned down offers of renting their town home, using it as a mission home instead.
*Elizabeth and I took in three foster boys and are also in the process of adopting another child from Africa. Last summer we also housed a homeless mom and her three kids.
*Tim and Shelly have organized their home to be used for the same purpose if the Lord opens the doors.
*Four families have signed up to be respite care providers for the foster system.
More Examples From Chalk Hills
*One of the women started a “Meal Ministry” where she organizes a group of women in the church to provide meals for families/individuals who are going through a hard time.
*Several families are boxing up all our excess clothes, coats and blankets and are utilizing our contacts in bigger cities to personally distribute them to the homeless.
*Our council voted to double our missionary giving and designate every fifth Sunday as Village Missions Sunday – where we send all the tithes/offerings to Village Missions.
*Several of the women in Chalk Hills just recently returned from their first oversees mission trip.
*Some individuals have started home Bible Studies.
What would happen if the rural church realized that her great strength is “missional community” and did everything she could to build on her strength?