Far from the bustle and concrete byways of the city lies a place of mystery to many people. Though geographically this place dwarfs the footprint of the cities, suburbs and exurbs, its inhabitants are but a fraction of their population. This place is known by many names, some derogatory and insulting, some more indicative of the labors that take place there…
The countryside, hinterlands, sticks, farm country,yokeldom and hickdom, the tall corn…
Those who live in this area by choice or calling are similarly caricatured. They are simple, unsophisticated, a bit rough around the edges and lacking the panache and polish of the urban and suburban brothers and sisters. Their tastes tend toward gingham, heavily laden plates, trucks and events involving livestock.
Of course, none of these are true and all of them are true.
People are people regardless of their proximity to the urban core. They live, love, sin and repent. They are theologically complex and in some cases, artless. Some have a desire to know the Shalom, the peace of a life lived in God, The Peace and others choose their own path to peace.
It is in this rural context to which I’ve been called to minister. The challenges are unique and complex despite the stereotypes and little in my formal training prepared me to engage this culture. Yet minister I do because these are God’s people and I love them. To be their shepherd is a privilege that I do not take lightly. They have taught me much and from their ovine counterparts that I pass each day I am enlightened.
Much is made of those with sufficient fortitude attempt a ministry in the inner city as though this is the ultimate ministry field, filled with dangers and challenges unmatched in any other ministry field. We rightly admire those whom God has called into these stations but we should also avoid denigrating those who God has placed in the suburbs as well. The tract home holds its share of unique problems as well.
God calls some of us into the countryside to minister. We worship with top-notch musicians and deeply spiritual people whose prayers move your soul. We preach with all the fervor and sophistication of our urban cohort. We marry and we bury and we equip His people to minister on their own. We are not here because we were unable to make it elsewhere or because we are running away from something, we are here because we are obedient to God’s calling upon our lives.
We are here because we love God’s people and His people are here.