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REVIVING THE CHURCHES OF RURAL AMERICA

Intercede for the churches and pastors in Rural America. Pray for joy, peace, and hope in Jesus Christ, as well as practical provision and blessing on their ministry.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Rom 15:13)

A lot of us want to do great things for the Lord. But great doesn’t necessarily mean big.

We’re all familiar with Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep, in which a man leaves his 99 sheep to find the one that is missing. But a lot of pastors today, in their understandable passion to minister to the 99, have left the one all alone. I speak of the forgotten sheep of rural America.

The great missionary statesman William Carey once said, “To know the will of God, we need an open Bible and an open map.” And the open maps of today are telling us that there is a massive shift to the cities from the countryside….

In America, the trend is even stronger. According to the USDA, overall, the country’s “non-metro” areas have lost an average of 43,000 residents every year since 2010. Job prospects in the countryside are falling, and poverty rates are rising. According to one report, deaths are now outpacing births in hundreds of rural counties.

So it’s hardly surprising that urban and suburban ministry is a focus for so many. But what about the lost sheep scattered in the countryside? Well, as you might expect, their churches are shrinking and their pastors are disappearing. The National Congregations Study finds that the percentage of rural congregations has plummeted from 43 percent in 1998 to 32 percent in 2012.

And what about the pastors? With so many churches struggling to keep their doors open, fewer and fewer can afford to pay a pastor, and thus many of them are going without.

Well, that’s where an innovative and yet back-to-basics ministry such as Village Missions comes in. Village Missions, which was founded in 1948 by an Irish Presbyterian pastor named Walter Duff Jr., has sent out hundreds and hundreds of what it terms “missionary pastors” to the lost sheep in America’s rural areas—places like Volga, Iowa.

According to a great article by Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra at the Gospel Coalition entitled “Reviving the Dying Small-town Church,” Volga, a farm community of about 200 people, has four churches. Jeremy Sarver, a graduate of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, was sent by Village Missions to revitalize Volga’s Calvary Bible Church, which had 12 members when he got there. Zylstra says none of the other churches had a single full-time pastor at all.

Ministry in the countryside may be on a smaller scale than a lot of pastors are used to, but it allows them to really get to know their flocks. Village Missions requires its missionary pastors to invest about 20 hours a week getting to know the locals in order to become a part of these often tight-knit communities.

“I could put up office hours all day long in rural America, and nobody’s coming,” Sarver says. “But if I sit in the combine with them, or go to the coffee shop, or watch a volleyball game with them—they don’t want me to use the word ‘counseling,’ but we talk through things.” After this kind of slow relationship-building, the church doubled in size—to 30 members.

And each of these sheep is precious…. (Excerpted from  “Reviving the Churches of Rural America” in the Christian Post by Eric Metaxes, Originally posted at breakpoint.org)

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5 Replies to “REVIVING THE CHURCHES OF RURAL AMERICA”

  1. Thank Thee Lord for such GREAT initiatives to help these rural churches, to help Your people.
    May You continue to help them, lead and guide them, and fill them with Your Spirit.
    Take up RESIDENCE in these places, in all places, so the enemy has no places.
    In Jesus Christ’s Most Holy Name.
    Amen.

  2. Father, our small communities are facing hard problems; rampant drug use, drug related deaths, suicides, children born into single parent families, broken families, poverty, no jobs, little hope, and more. Many communities have few resources to handle this and dwindling numbers of pastors to come along side these suffering communities. Father, please send out a call to your laborers to come to these places to bring your wisdom, compassion and power to affect these places and bring revival. We call for grace and mercy to come to our rural American homes. In Jesus name we ask.

  3. Good morning Father, Creator of heaven, earth and all living things. Lord I come to seek unity for your children whether near or far. I pray Father for an ending to all divisions, wars, violence, neglect and abuse. Father so many are hurting, sick, struggling, grieving, needing just the basics of necessities like food, clean water, shelter, clothing, medical care and the knowledge of you, your love, presence and Light of Jesus. Help us Lord to love, accept, lift up, encourage and help anyway we can our brothers and sisters. Father you love, offer forgiveness, mercy, grace and salvation to all people and I thank you that nothing can separate us from your love. Thank you Lord for your healing and provisions you are creating for us all in Jesus name, amen. The peace of Christ be with us all. Blessings and prayers Sandi

  4. You came for everyone Lord, we ask you that your Presence be in this small countryside places, and that in some way be part of these hurting communities , we know Lord that you love them and your desire is for them to have your blessing in every way , material and spiritual.
    We pray to send laborers to these forgotten places to make them know that you love them.
    In Jesus Name. Amen

  5. Families build communities, communities towns. Lord we come against this cityizing of rural America. Lord, bring back the small farms, the Cowboys. Bring back jobs for the rural man, help the rancher/farmer to make ends meet. And bless those that Shepherd these rural flocks. Bring revival to the Mellennials Lord, and may they hear your call to minister to the rural communities. In Jesus name, Amen

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