Whereas I used to be in seminary, I attended a church-planting convention placed on by Acts 29. One in all my principal takeaways was the strategic significance of planting city church buildings and reaching large cities with the gospel. This all resonated with me. Ministry is about going the place the persons are, and more and more, persons are within the cities.
As I continued my research, I began to make plans to plant a church in Vancouver, British Columbia (inhabitants 2 million), the place I used to be attending seminary. I might see the large want for gospel witness in that metropolis, and I reasoned there was no level in shifting elsewhere.
In God’s windfall, I moved to rural Ohio.
There and Again Once more
God opened the door for me to pastor a small nation church within the city of Sulphur Springs (inhabitants 194). I served 4 years there earlier than being referred to as to a different church Waverly, New York (inhabitants 4,444). Although nonetheless a small city, this group had a special vibe to it. The neighboring city even had a Walmart.
After about three years, my spouse and I sensed God was calling us elsewhere. Having minimize our tooth on small-town, small-church ministry, we thought it was perhaps time to make the leap to city ministry. Maybe not as large as Vancouver, however no less than a metropolis we had truly heard of earlier than.
To make a protracted story brief, we had been referred to as to serve in Snow Shoe, Pennsylvania (inhabitants 765).
Snow Shoe is an previous coal-mining city located on a mountain simply off I-80 in central Pennsylvania. Once we first moved to Snow Shoe, there wasn’t a lot housing stock to select from, so we rented till an appropriate home got here available on the market. Throughout this time, many individuals within the church made it clear they wished us proper in Snow Shoe and never “down the mountain” or in some neighboring group. It was evident this was a tight-knit group the place relations run deep.
I’ll always remember the primary large snow that first winter. It was round 6 a.m., nonetheless darkish out, and I used to be simply waking up. To my nice shock, I observed somebody plowing our driveway. Seems it was our next-door neighbor, John. Within the three years since, we’ve by no means as soon as needed to plow our driveway. Even the time after John had surgical procedure, he nonetheless discovered another person to plow our driveway. Loopy, however that type of benevolence isn’t unusual in Snow Shoe.
One of many issues I really like about our city is there are not any yard fences. Granted, there aren’t many streets, and there may be numerous area, but it surely’s nice to not be confined in a method that almost all city-dwellers are. In all actuality, youngsters don’t hung out outdoors taking part in like they used to, and that’s unlucky. My spouse and I attempt to get the youngsters outdoors as a lot as potential and our yard (together with the neighbors’) offers them loads of secure area through which to discover and have enjoyable.
One other shock for us had been the rattlesnakes. We had been warned many occasions about them, and the one time I did spot one, I stored my distance. However I’ll always remember when our church hosted a “wild game night.” There have been every kind of delicacies like turtle, venison, elk, bear, beaver, wild turkey, and extra. However my private favourite was rattlesnake. “Tastes like chicken,” we had been informed. (Positive sufficient, it did!)
Small Group, Large Accountability
As we turned extra seen in these early months, I spotted that folks in the neighborhood (who didn’t attend our church) knew me earlier than I knew them. I puzzled how, since we’d simply moved. Evidently, phrase acquired round that there was a brand new pastor on the town.
I quickly found that our native grocery retailer, Halls, was an amazing place to satisfy folks. Halls can also be a ironmongery shop, our solely financial institution, our solely “chain” something (Subway), and our native library (the bookmobile comes as soon as per week). It’s uncommon for me to go to Halls and never meet a member from our church or an acquaintance from the group.
This jogs my memory that residing a godly life issues for the pastor (1 Pet. 5:2–4). I don’t need the headline on the group Fb web page to learn, “Pastor flips out on cashier!” As a lot as I crave anonymity and invisibility, it’s not going to occur in a small city, and that’s a superb factor. Each go to to Halls is a ministry alternative. You by no means know who you would possibly stumble upon, and this has given me a number of alternatives for gospel conversations. And I thank the Lord for it.
Many Gospel Alternatives
Many extra tales might be informed about what makes ministry in Snow Shoe each distinctive and rewarding. However the best blessing is with the ability to minister the Phrase of God week in and week out. Three, and generally 4 occasions per week, I’ve the privilege of preaching and instructing God’s Phrase. Identical to wherever (each city and rural), there may be a lot gospel illiteracy, however God has given me a platform to carry his gentle to a folks looking for solutions.
Ministry is ministry, irrespective of the place you go. On the coronary heart of all of it is that this: Individuals want the Lord.
One instance is our annual “Light the Night” group occasion, which kicks off the Christmas season. Our first yr I used to be privileged to offer a 10-minute message earlier than they lit the massive tree and Santa confirmed up. I did my finest to offer a transparent presentation of the gospel to this massive crowd, most of whom had been unchurched. To my shock, after it was all completed, the organizer mentioned, “See you next year, pastor.” I used to be anticipating a “one and done” type of factor, however that was not the case.
I’ve come to appreciate that ministry is ministry, irrespective of the place you go. Identical to any city or church, there are numerous challenges, however on the coronary heart of all of it is that this: Individuals want the Lord. Snow Shoe is a small city, however there are nonetheless many unregenerate folks. A lot work stays.
If the Lord calls you to pastor a small-town church, anticipate to be blessed. Anticipate to be blessed in stunning methods, and don’t see it as a stepping stone to larger and higher issues. Oh there will probably be challenges, little doubt, however preach the Phrase, love the folks, and imagine within the energy of the gospel to vary lives.