The idea of the rural community as a mission field is right on! For more than 30 years, Dr. Hunter, a rostered LCMS pastor, has been helping churches big and small work toward the effective transformation of the Lord’s Great Commission to make disciple of all peoples. I have heard him say time and time again that the United States is the third largest mission field in the world. I have often heard him say all the same things stated in this article and I, personally, find that we can start to effect change by sharing our own story with others–how God has impacted our lives. We strive to work with individual churches but also strive to work with judicatories to help us help their churches.
We welcome the opportunity to share what we know about reaching the lost! Thank you for getting the word out. It is an attitude shift – for sure!
The April 2008 cover story, “Revitalizing Rural Churches,” led me to believe I would find articles inside that our rural California church could identify with and learn from. I anticipated articles giving examples of several churches around the country and their challenges, and maybe one with some suggestions on how to actually “revitalize.”
Instead , I found just one article on the topic and a short message by the managing editor–even the President’s column ignored the topic. The lone article was a nearly blatant advertisement for the SPIFE program located at St. Paul Lutheran High School which itself, incidentally and conveniently, has two articles covering four pages with nary a word about rural churches. If you were going to spend this much space on the school and its program, why not put it on the cover?
Where were the articles covering inadequate new membership classes, new member mentoring tips, or the difficulty in recruiting leaders after burning out the precious few who always serve? What about 50-, 75-, or even 100-year old churches that are physically falling apart and there is no money for repairs? What about the members who have lost faith in their rural churches for the aforementioned reasons and have moved on to non-denominational churches with modern warehouse buildings and bulging sanctuaries? Instead, we get a few facts about one town of a few thousand people in one of the preferred “heartland districts,” reinforcing the feeling that those of us in the outer areas are out of the loop and on our own to fix our troubled congregations.
A final thought: “Ablaze!” should have been preceded by a year or more of “Prepare!” Messages, relationships, and the Holy Spirit may truly bring the unchurched to know God’s love, but when they encounter the typical old rural Lutheran church to learn more of God’s Word and receive the Sacraments, they’ll be confused and frustrated–gone in a few weeks. We are not ready to provide a proper worship home to 100 million people.
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