“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Micah 5:2
About 8 years ago, God began stirring my heart for church planting. Previously, I had zero desire to be a senior pastor or to plant a church for that matter. I was content to find my niche in a role that allowed me to activate the church toward local and global missional engagement.
As usual, God had other plans and through a series of events, our family moved to Somerset, WI to launch a Jesus-centered, Bible teaching missional church.
The population sign for the village of Somerset reads something like 1,542. It’s quite a bit more than that now (somewhere around 6,000 for the village and the town), but being a spread out rural community struggling to find it’s identity, we experience small town dynamics.
I’ve been swimming in the discipling and missional community stream for a few years now, heavily involved in the global movement of 3D Ministries (www.weare3dm.com). One of the questions we are asked periodically is about the effectiveness of missional communities in smaller towns.
Remember in school growing up you did those diorama’s? In many ways I feel like that’s what The Bridge Bible Church is becoming for people wondering about MC’s in smaller communities. While there are unique challenges, we are seeing God do some really neat things through our network of eight MC’s (and I believe two more are in the chute).
I’d like to share a few things we’re learning and are experiencing over the next couple of posts. (Plenty of challenges to be clear).
Two things for now.
One about me, one about you, both with a challenge attached ; )
1) ABOUT ME: While working on my master’s degree, I served part time at a small country church in New Ellenton, South Carolina. My pastor and dear friend Gary Fleetwood was a bi-vocational pastor who worked full time at the Savannah River Site and part time at this lil’ country church. When they asked Gary to come and consider taking on this, in their words “Small dying church”, Gary came anyway. But he told them “You are not a dying church, you are a dead church.” Gary has faithfully and fruitfully pastored this church with a steady stream of people coming to know Jesus through the years. I gladly served along his side and many Sunday’s the presence of God was overwhelming as we worshipped and served together. This experience of seeing God show up in a small country church opened me to even consider moving to Somerset, WI because: GOD MAKES A BIG DEAL OUT OF LITTLE TOWNS! C’mon now, Bethlehem (which in Hebrew means “house of Bread”) became host to the Bread of Life! So here we go, you ready? STOP THINKING SMALL IN A SMALL TOWN AND DREAM BIG! God’s not limited by your population size or lack of influence as a town. As Neil Cole likes to say, “The problem is not the giants in the land, but the grasshoppers in our mind.” God wants to make a big deal out of your little town.
2) ABOUT YOU: ONLY YOU KNOW YOUR CONTEXT Be confident as a missional leader in a small town. You will likely be making decisions that wouldn’t make sense in an urban context, but don’t feel bad about that. You own it, God put you there. Listen to Him, partner with Him and He’ll do His deal. For example, we meet weekly for our Sunday gathering. I would be confident going on record saying that in our smaller town, mid-west context, I believe we’d be missionally sinning if we didn’t do this. Now, I am passionate about the fruit of our discipling huddles and missional communities. My eggs are in that basket for the fruit of discipleship and missional living. But, I have friends who lead churches that meet monthly for gathering and weekly in missional communities. If that works in your context, great! But don’t be a hater about what others are doing as if they are watering down the pure vision of discipleship and mission.
More to come, but as a next step, to broaden your vision for what God can do in small communities, read the outstanding:
Big Dreams in Small Places by Tom Nebel