Recently I wrote an article for The Gospel Coalition and in this article, I wrote about some of the challenges that I faced leading a church in a small town. My hope is that you’d be able to relate to and learn from our experiences whether you are planting a church or working to strengthen an existing church in a small town.
A few years after planting One Harbor Church, we ran out of seats for the fourth time even with multiple services. We also ran out of parking and kids’ ministry space. Even if God had sent us more people, we had nowhere to put them.
Trying to find another building in our small town, including all of the money, energy and time it takes to move to another building, made us step back and think about what we really should be doing.
I think many of us church planters and pastors have been rightly impacted by the necessity for us to see our town as a mission field just as significant as anywhere else. We are grateful to pastors and thinkers like Ed Stetzer, Tim Keller and others for this mindset. These faithful leaders have caused our eyes to see that mission isn’t just something that happens “over there,” it also happens “right here.”
Many of us ministering in small towns are surrounded by devastation and despair. My state, West Virginia, is leaving a legacy of alcoholism, depression and heroin addiction. [Source] Sound like where you are at? What will it take for the Gospel to leave a greater legacy in our towns than despair and devastation?
My great grandfather started churches in small towns in the early 20th century. He had a third grade education and somehow managed to pull off one semester of bible college on top of that. He was found out by the school and consequently kicked out of college, but not before being exhorted to pursue great things for God in spite of his educational deficiency. “He couldn’t spell ‘CAT,’ but my oh my could he preach, play, and sing,” my great aunt told me. Continue reading “Making Waves with a Pebble – Will Basham”
In chapter three of Small Town Jesus we look at “Small Towns, Big Mission”, which talks about the current brokenness in small towns. This is something I continue to find more and more as I travel and speak with church planters in rural areas. Recently, while in West Virginia, a church planter there told me that the state’s legacy is heroin, alcohol abuse and depression. It’s the same sad story everywhere I go, from the Rhondda Valley in Wales to where I live in eastern North Carolina. Continue reading “Wall Street Journal covers important subject through article, “Is Rural America The New Inner City?” – Donnie Griggs”
Recently one my prior blog posts was featured as an article for Christianity Today. I’m always encouraged when others agree in our desire to see God’s kingdom shared with everyone, even in small, rural, sometimes forgotten towns.
In this post, I write about the need for leaders and what small churches should be looking for when developing leaders from within.
One of my favorite movies of all time is Tombstone. In my favorite scene, Doc Holliday goes to fight Johnny Ringo and a startled Ringo says, “I didn’t think you had it in you!” Then, Doc Holliday famously replies, “I’m your huckleberry.” The saying is slang for, “I’m the man you’re looking for.”
Here at smalltownjesus.com we are sounding the call for men to take the gospel to seemingly forgotten places. As we do so, I think it’s important to share what type of huckleberry it takes. Below I’ve identified four traits that I look for in a small-town planter or revitalizer. Donnie has identified similar traits in another blog post for raising leaders in your church if you are already established. Please check that post out as well. The traits below are specific to the initial planter or revitalizer.
When a missionary is sent to take the gospel to bear fruit in remote villages across the globe, people get excited. In fact, when a pastor is sent to a tiny town internationally:
- We applaud that pastor
- We resource that pastor
- We speak of their tremendous courage and faith
- We celebrate them
Or…. Small Town Problems are Gospel Opportunities
Small Towns can have big problems. While many small towns have a myriad of ideal qualities, it’s easy for locals to become anxious about what’s not working. This personally happened to me after high school. I became cynical and sinful tending to see the worst in my area rather than the best. I became mopey because others were mopey.