“So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”Hebrews 13:6
Have you ever felt down or even depressed about the challenges facing congregations in rural and small-town America? It’s altogether too easy to fall into that trap. Between the perceived shrinking populations, the aging congregations, and members with competing interests, it can seem difficult at best to carry out ministry, at least to carry it out the way we’d like to or have in the past. These factors often bring about a lack of hope and a sense of fear of the future. Yet, it’s helpful for us to remember that the Lord of the Church always has work for us to accomplish.
There are so many opportunities for us in rural and small-town congregations. There is still an enormous mission field all around us. Out of 6000+ LCMS congregations, some 3,136 are in rural and small-town settings. These numbers show us that there are nearly 17,000,000 people living in and around these congregations. With a conservative estimate of 50 to 60 percent of those folks being unaffiliated with a church or a faith of any sort, the possibilities for outreach are most assuredly there. Not to mention that there are studies which show us that in many of these areas there is beginning to be a positive net in-migration of people and even a “Brain Gain” of sorts, where in the past it was mostly a loss.
Of course, we must deal with the realities of our age. But we simply cannot forget that the Lord of the Church has it all under control according to His will. Bear in mind what we are told at the close of Hebrews 13,
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Contributed through the LCMS Rural & Small Town Mission monthly newsletter by the Rev. Todd Kollbaum, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Madison, Neb. and director, LCMS RSTM.