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.
Aaron Morrow, the author of Small Town Mission, and I had an interesting start to our friendship. If you compare the titles and covers of our two books, you will notice a ton of similarity. Truthfully, we only found out about each other’s books after our respective books were out. Additionally, we both found out about each other’s books through friends who were suspicious that the other had stolen the idea. Thankfully, we were both pretty Christian about it, and chose to communicate directly with each other rather then blast each other from the cannons of our social media platforms. It’s not a new idea, Jesus instructed us to do so in Matthew 18. 😉
The really important comparison is that Aaron and I both wrote our respective books because we were feeling desperately burdened and convinced that the massive need to plant churches and do gospel-centered ministry in small towns far outweighed the material to equip church planters and pastors to do so.
A pastor or church planter that wants to make a long lasting impact on their community will need a strategy to develop good leaders. Here are some of the qualifications I find vital when looking for new leaders in a small town church.
Leaders Who Are Reliable
“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV
Ed Stetzer’s blog on Christianity Today’s website is often filled with photos of marquees with bizarre attempts by churches at being relevant or catchy. You can Google search, “funny church signs” and waste hours laughing at other people’s mistakes, or crying because your church marquee is one of the ones highlighted.
Here’s the thing: all of those marquees are in small towns. As far as I can tell, this is not something large city churches do. It’s our fault that there are this many kooky marquees out there. However, many of your church buildings will have a marquee if you are revitalizing an existing church. So, you have a church marquee, what should you do with it?