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EDITORIAL: Putting a focus on rural churches

Some of our favorite stories of recent years involved rural Churches of Christ.
We think of the Remmel Church of Christ near Newport, Ark. In 2007, we reported on how men, women and children, many dressed in jeans, drive 10 to 20 miles to where the pavement gives way to gravel — to worship at a congregation that stresses hugs and handshakes, love and acceptance, prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit.
We think of the Gravelbourg Church of Christ in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. We reported in 2009 on how more than 100 children flock each summer — by foot, bicycle and farm truck — to the small church’s week-long Vacation Bible School.
We think of the Lobster Valley Church of Christ in Alsea, Ore. We reported in 2011 on how the 40-member church started by pioneer loggers worked to bring healing — and answers — to its reeling community after a string of suicides.
Without a doubt, there are many inspiring stories among rural Churches of Christ.
We plan to highlight some of the best ones in our new “Rural Redemption” series, starting with our Page 1 report this month on a 156-year-old Iowa farm congregation that refused to die.
Moreover, we see a need to explore the issues and challenges facing small, rural congregations that struggle to survive in the wake of urbanization.
Historically, a cappella Churches of Christ and instrumental Christian Churches split more than a century ago. The non-instrumental churches tended to be rural and Southern, while the Christian Churches were more often urban and Northern, although that generalization was by no means universal.
Our fellowship’s rural heritage makes it all the more critical to examine how our body of believers can maneuver societal and cultural changes in ways that  serve and honor our Lord.
Carl H. Royster, data compiler for Churches of Christ in the United States, a national directory published by 21st Century Christian, notes, “The small, rural congregations find it more and more difficult to, for lack of a better word, compete with more urbanized and usually larger churches located 20, 30 and 50 miles away.”
At the same time, as Royster points out, house churches and small-group ministries have gained popularity among many.
Could the desire for strong interpersonal relationships in more intimate church settings be a potential key to revival for rural churches? That’s just one question worth pursuing as we launch this new reporting project.
As we begin the “Rural Redemption” series, we do so with open minds — unsure how long the series will last or what lessons will be learned. Our plan is for these stories to appear periodically but not in every issue.
We pray that God will guide us in this endeavor and that you, faithful readers, will contribute  insight and ideas.
To recommend churches that we should feature or issues that we should address, write to us at [email protected] or The Christian Chronicle, P.O. Box 11000, Oklahoma City, OK 73136-1100, Attn.: Rural Redemption.

  • Feedback
    I appreciate this editorial re rural churches, and noting our need for sharing our hearts.
    The implication of 1 Cor. 11:5 must be recognized for full participation of the body.
    Praying is severely limited in most churches of all sizes by singing and monologues. The dialogue of Paul (Acts 20:7) is
    rarely found in churches today.
    It is in praying that we are most likely to be convicted of our sin. Nothing bonds us closer than asking pardon for each other.
    Jesus described God’s Chosen as crying to Him day and night, Lk. 18:7. Wayne McDaniel Phx.
    Wayne McDaniel
    Northwest church of Christ
    Phoenix, Arizona
    March, 8 2013

Filed under: Editorial

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