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Christian Chronicle launches ‘Rural Redemption,’ a new series on rural churches

In the latest print edition of The Christian Chronicle, we launch a new series on rural churches called “Rural Redemption.”
The first installment of the series features:
A front-page story on the West Liberty Church of Christ, a 156-year-old congregation in Iowa farm country that epitomizes the challenges faced by small, rural Churches of Christ across the nation.
An Inside Story column on a little Texas church that defies expectations.
An editorial on putting a focus on rural churches, including details on how readers can offer feedback and ideas for future “Rural Redemption” stories.
A guest column by Becky Wooley exploring “close encounters of the country church kind.”

  • Feedback
    I was invited to spaek at a small church in Maragrte, Alabama about 3 weeks ago. I had never heard of Maragret or even knew where it was but a brother in Christ rode with me to show the way.
    Up on arrival I was amazed at the beautiful white building. I was told it was built in 1935.
    Once inside I looked at the attendance last Sunday was 6 and today was 8. With my wife and my friend we had 11 at the afternoon service.
    I spoke about the work in Haith that Healing Hands International is doing and had a lot of questions.
    They made a nice contribution and will be supporting the work monthly the remainder of this year.
    God is good.
    Harry Hames
    March, 5 2013

    It has been noted in numerous places that rural organizations are much more conservative than urban organizations in secular society.
    In your research do you find this to be true in Church of Christ organizations?
    Ken Kemp
    March, 6 2013

    I have preahed for large metropolitan churches as well as rural ones. The possibilites are great in both. Each has their uniqueness. Today, I preach at rural Hardy, Arkansas and I doubt I have ever preached for a a congregation that is as evangelistic as this one. It was almost dead and this year they expect to fill their meeting house. They love the fellowship, getting ready for Heaven and serving the Lord.
    Don R. House
    March, 6 2013

    I attended a rural church about 1.6 where I live. I also have filled-in preached and led singing at rural churches. Rural churches are needed because some people are not able to drive long distances to larger churches that may have more specific church programs. Also, in some ways, relationships can be easier to develop because often people are attending church with someone they live near. In rural churches, some people get chances to serve where they may be lost in a bigger church where only a selected few get to teach, lead singing, or serve in other ways.
    A problem in some rural churches can be tradition thinking based on customs. We had 16 people my age at the church I attended. Only 4 attend church at all today. It was the attitude by some that young people don’t need to be entertained and young people should be seen and not heard. At one church, two different members told me it did not matter what the Bible said, I should do what they say because they were old. In rural churches, it is easier for certain members to try to control things in church because there are fewer people they have to allie themselves or possibly intimidate.
    A large problem in rural churches can be that some people may know certain people in the church that are neighbors and be turned off by that neighbor’s behavior that they don’t attend that church.
    Johnny Mullens
    March, 7 2013

    There is a church in Cullen, La; a town that is riddled with illegal activities. Any help they can get would be great, it seems so many of our churches are struggling, not growing and unknown to their communities, I really admire their leaders for tanacity and forging ahead despite their surroundings.
    Thank you so much for this article
    Sharon Underwood
    March, 7 2013

    Back in 1987 I began preaching for a little country church where you had to drive through a stream to park in the yard of the church building. In the summer we had to open the windows because there was no air conditioning and I stood behind the pulpit swatting wasps and listening to the cows feeding outside the windows. But, the ones that gathered there were devoted to the Scriptures. I’m not sure if they are still meeting there because it has been 25 years ago and I have lost touch with them.
    Rick Beck
    March, 7 2013

    In Ghana, almost every preacher will have to start his ministry in rural areas. I started my ministry in the Agona District working more experienced men in Nyarkrom, Nkum, Kwaman and other villages. There are many challenges in these small rural churches. Many of our city churches are products of those village churches…..the villages feed city churches with members through rural-urban movement. I support rural evangelism and church planting
    Chris Arthur
    March, 7 2013

    Great story on the Iowa church and very needed in todays society.
    We have attended several seminars by a bussiness leader, writer and speaker. His first church was in Indiana there were about 100 people in the whole town.There 3 members at this church when he started preaching which included his wife. He was here for a year, when he decided to have a gospel meeting for three months in the future and a goal of 300. The time arrived and there were only 299 in the building John stated he could not preach until they had 300 in the building. He went out he door not knowing what he was going to do. There were two getleman at the gas station across from the church bulding. He asked which man was going to be the hero and reach 300. They both walked with preacher to the church bulding where he sat them on the front row and announced they had reached their goal of 300. Amazing things what God can do if we believe God can do all things. The preacher has traveled a long way from Indiana. Today people know this preacher by My name is John and I’m your friend.
    Bill Sheppard
    March, 8 2013

    I have often heard preachers say that they are limited in the impact they can have working in a rural community. Jesus started with 12 men in a rural community and reached the all the known world. We live in a world in which we can instantly speak to anyone in the world. Each individual you touch in your community is connected to many other individuals. Rural communities often have people that come in, stay a short time and then leave to another place. You have an opportunity to change the lives of many by touching the lives of these individuals. It is possible to have an affect on the growth of the church globally without seeing numerical growth in the church locally.
    For example: Our congregation has had three baptisms in recent weeks of individuals who lived in other communities, but were reached by members of our congregation.
    We are often so consumed with numerical growth that we overlook the growth of spiritual depth. It is necessary for the members of a congregation to have love not only for one another and that love to be seen by those in the community, but also for them to have love for others in order for growth to occur. If you have a program to reach out to the community and your volunteers do not have an attitude of love towards those whom you are serving you will not see the kind of success you are seeking. Our congregation is now seeing regular visitors from our monthly food distribution as a result of this.
    Our rural congregation has an active youth group, a community food distribution program, supports several children’s homes, WEI, and several other groups/individuals, has a Bible class teacher rotation in which each teacher teaches only 2 months out of the year, and a community after school program.
    I get excited when members of the community ask me “What is going on at your church?”
    Don’t think that just because you live in a rural community you have a limited impact. Get out there and make a difference!!
    Stephanie Skelton
    March, 16 2013

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