Stereotypes limit our urban and rural church growth
Stereotype 1: Rural churches are lost causes for growth, often because of poor educational, social and financial resources. Reality: The rural revival at the Remmel church near Newport, Ark., is an inspiring example of how bold and timely leadership can make a difference.
Rural churches face daunting challenges. The exodus to suburban and urban settings is a pronounced phenomenon in the U.S., but is a global phenomenon, too. Social change is intertwined with these population shifts, so Christians must love one another and communicate carefully to avoid loss of the fragile, golden strands of connection between us.
Suburban and urban Christians must avoid a rush to judgment about what it means when numerical growth is not happening. We must recognize our responsibility to serve and to teach the millions of Americans who live in rural areas. Just as when a suburban or urban congregation declines in strength, godly leadership, timely partnerships and decisive action can replicate the Remmel phenomenon across the nation.
By rethinking our assumptions about rural churches, we can make a difference in rural communities through serving others and taking the hope of Jesus.
Stereotypes damage all the relationships involved. They cut both ways.
Stereotype 2: The main reason suburban and urban churches grow is their compromise of biblical truths so they can blend in with culture.
Reality: Many growing congregations continue to teach and practice biblical doctrines, while at the same time serving their communities in visible programs such as medical clinics, working with addicts and other community-focused ministries.
No doubt complex population, economic and cultural changes affect both urban and rural congregations. Perhaps some leaders do make unacceptable compromises. As the leaders, staff and members of urban congregations face challenges and cultural changes, all of us need to remember that we are united by the blood of Jesus and our love of the kingdom.
Let’s determine to recognize and abandon stereotypes to acknowledge the fact that neither group can fully understand the challenges or culture of the other community without increased communication. Instead of increasing the divide, let’s unite in love, acceptance and support as we struggle for victory over this world’s darkness.
The truth is that both rural and urban communities represent genuine opportunities for the Kingdom, and both must face social change with determination and reliance on God’s word. The revitalization afoot in Remmel renews our spirits, lifts our eyes to productive models of revitalization and inspires hope for what Christ followers can do when they listen to the Holy Spirit, cling to the Word and work together.