By Skip Pullen, District Representative, Northeast District
Rural America Needs Small-Town Churches
Small-town churches and their faithful pastors face a BIG need. In over thirty years as a church elder, pastor, and now as a District Representative for Village Missions, I became greatly aware of the need for the country church and the rural ministry of pastors. A small church is not insignificant or problematic or unhealthy. Small churches and their pastors can meet needs in a way that larger churches cannot.
Part of the problem we face when it comes to the small church is that it is often viewed as out-of-step or not keeping up with the times, so people no longer attend. Far too often people have made the mistake that church attendance is optional or not needed.
Years ago, a gentleman attended the church I served as a young pastor. He was primarily self-taught, but he did have quite a degree of understanding. He had the tendency to talk down the small gatherings of believers in our area. At one point, he told me, “No pastor can teach me anything.” I had to agree with him, only not for the reason he assumed. He was so full of pride, he would never listen to anything, thus he didn’t have a teachable spirit–no pastor would probably be able to teach him anything.
I run into some believers today that think the same way. They think church and Christianity exist only to tickles their fancy or for knowledge gleaning. We can easily think we know it all and no one can teach us anything. If we are not watchful, we can miss that church or Christian fellowship is more than attending an event. We can assume that Bible study is solely about gleaning information or knowledge.
Small-Town Churches: A Gift
This morning in my devotions, I read in Ephesians 4.
It says, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:11-16 NKJV).
This passage tells us that the LORD gives us pastors and teachers. I think we all could agree that God gives nothing unnecessarily. Every believer needs the qualities outlined in Ephesians 4.
What Is The Purpose of Small-Town Churches?
Small-town churches exist to equip the saints (you and me) to do the work of the ministry and to edify the body of Christ. I don’t know about you, but it is difficult to edify, encourage and build up the body of Christ without being a part of it. We find it difficult to love others at a distance. Have we been taken in by the trickery and cunning craftiness of the world? Let me ask, “How can every part do its share and cause growth in the body and be disconnected from the local church?” Our arms, our legs, our eyes, our internal organs, all of these are important if we are to survive and to grow.
Today, people judge churches by the wrong rubric. We should not focus on the songs we sing, the buildings we enter to worship, the type of seats we sit in, the instruments used, or what the church/pastor/service does for me.
There is no such thing as do-it-yourself Christianity. When it comes to my physical body, I do what I can to take care of it. I exercise, try to watch what I eat, brush and floss my teeth, but I still have regular checkups to be sure that I am not missing things.
You and I can read the Bible and pray, but we still need regular participation in a local body of believers for our spiritual health. The small-town church can help believers to live the Christian life, for life is what we are about.
Small-Town Churches Care for Souls
Christianity and being the church isn’t only about practicing some religious rituals or giving a nod to some stated beliefs. It means living them out. As living souls, we need help to care for those souls and to be sure they get the right care. Christians need each other, and most of all we need pastors to feed us from God’s Word. Just because a church gathering is small, doesn’t make it insignificant. We need those who will remind us of what Jesus taught and to share the full counsel of God and not just what we like. We mustn’t miss how our presence and gathering together encourages and builds the body of Christ.
Let’s never miss how often Christ ministered in small communities.
For 30 years, he lived and worked in a small town, one that didn’t have a good reputation. Since Christ cares about small communities, there is a great need for small churches and faithful pastors to proclaim Christ in those places.