Abandoning Rural Churches?

Admittedly I am a 20th century relic.  When I sensed God calling me to abandon my plan to matriculate into medical school and instead go to seminary to train for pastoral ministry, I had the mindset and posture that He could take me anywhere He wanted, to use me for His purpose. That meant, for my first ministry after seminary graduation, going to a newly formed church (in the 21st century we call them church plants) in a community of 300 in the mountains of California.

This weekend I have been working with three of eight rural churches in the Rocky Mountain District that are seeking their next Pastor/Shepherd/Leader. But, where are these men? Who wants to go to rural America and serve the faithful believers who are providing the rest of America with our food?

As I interview and speak with those trained for Pastoral ministry looking for a church in the 21st century they speak of it as a “job” and a “career” instead of a “calling.” Given the choice between the badlands of South Dakota or suburban well established community within a 45 minute drive of the recreational opportunities of the Colorado Rockies, which do you think they prefer, and, indeed, 99.3% will choose?

Last month I was having a conversation with one who is gifted by God and wired to help struggling churches rebuild and return to a mega church status. He made a comment that “being a pastor today is so hard, so difficult.” I refrained from asking if he had suffered, like Jesus, to the point of hematohidrosis, or the Apostle Paul to the place of imprisonment for the gospel, or what he thought serving a church like the one in Corinth or Ephesus in 60 AD would be like, or going with me to our Evangelical Free Churches in northeast India and becoming the pastor of five or six churches at one time, because there are not enough pastors to serve only one, and be under the persecution and fear of the Hindu or Muslim followers who are burning our church buildings.

Then I reflected on the question, “Are our rural churches in America no longer worthy of qualified Pastors who have strong Biblical education and training, just as our churches in the cities?” Yes, I understand they have seminary debt, and children to feed, and so many other financial commitments that the rural church is not as able to provide as a larger, more established city church.

Is the answer that we simply abandon the churches and believers in rural America? Is it no longer a calling, but just a job or career? What is the future of worship, community, outreach and Christian faith in rural America? But, as I said, I am a relic.

However, if you are interested in this challenge, call me. Operators are standing by.

Every Pastor I have asked from our cities have so far said, “NO.” It didn’t even require a moment of prayer for them.

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