I read an article a little while ago.
Well, actually I have read a few more than the one. This particular article was written to express that rural ministry is worth it. I wondered what the “it” was. Time? Money? Manpower? Prayers? The premise of the article I’m sure was to bring to light a need in a community that most have forgotten about. It reminded me of a conversation I had a few months prior. A Christian leader talked about how the concept of rural ministry was likely to become a new trend. I had to digest that for a little while.
In the end, I was a bit offended by both the article and the statement.
For the fifty-eight to sixty-two million people (equivalent to the number of residents living in Great Britain) living in rural communities, we already knew that we were worth ministry. Frankly, we are not sure that we want to become a ministry trend. Those seem to last for a handful of years. You see, when we determined that God had placed a call on our lives, it was only a matter of where he would send us. Somehow, in our cultural evaluation of whether a ministry is valuable, we have forgotten that God does not evaluate the worth of ministry based on population or location.
Jesus went out of his way to a well in order to encounter one woman of eternal worth. God transposed Phillip from what amounted to a revival in Jerusalem in order to win one Ethiopian official on a road through a desert. For our God, ministry to the one lost sheep has always been something he does.
This phase of our ministry development has been exciting. It has allowed us to meet and share love stories with leaders, pastors, and students from rural communities. Whether it is a fifty year old with memories of the days when men went to work in the mines, thirty-two year olds who recall the day that the crop was bumper, the eighty-three year old that remembers when the football team went to state, or the sixteen year old that can’t wait for the county fair in the fall, these are stories of love. The smell of the combine dust, the vision of the sunset over the herd of whitetail, the sounds of the stands filled with cheering classmates are tales that resonate more deeply than a sonnet.
There is plenty of nostalgia here. Maybe there is more than in most suburban places. After all, families have names on road signs and class pictures filling school hallways. These rural places are home. They are valuable. They are filled with history and hope.
You see, whenever you take the time to hear the stories, some tragic and some wry, you see the value of the ministry. It happens when a shepherd falls more in love with Jesus. The shepherd begins to chase the sheep into the hills, women of ill-repute to out-of-the-way wells, and Ethiopians to the edge of deserts. It is always worth whatever cost the love demands.
I can’t wait to hear the end of the story.
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.