Imagine you find yourself in the middle of nowhere and you have a medical emergency. You need help and you need it now but there is nobody around. What are you to do? Where are you to go? In this situation, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a neighbor, a hospital, an ambulance… somebody who can reach out to you with the care you need, when you need it most.
Consider if you will the statistics which tell us at least one third of the United States is “un-churched”. 22% of the population considers themselves to have no religious affiliation whatsoever (also one of the fastest growing groups in the nation) and weekly church attendance is projected to drop from 21% down to 18% over the next few years. Couple this with conservative estimates that tell us approximately 60,000,000 people live in the rural areas of our nations, we quickly see that we have an awful lot of people out there who are in need of help. These people “out in the middle of nowhere” need help and they need it now. In fact they are dying without it. From where will this help come?
What if I told you this could come from more than 50% of the LCMS? That’s right, over 50 percent of the synod’s congregations and membership reside in rural areas and small towns. Yet I’ve heard over and over again, “Why do we need to keep these rural and small town churches going? Aren’t they just a drag on our resources?” To this I answer, “We can’t live without them”!
On sheer statistics alone we can see that there is a need but that doesn’t begin to answer the question. In many places throughout our nation we are the only “real presence” of Christ (I use that phrase very purposefully) for miles and miles around. Our rural and small town congregations are able, equipped and ready to stand and do that which we have done for hundreds of years, bring to dying people the life-giving Good News of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
These congregations are the historical backbone of our Synod and while they may not individually bring great numbers or dollars to the table, they are the collective driving force behind much of the ministry which is happening in the LCMS. From LWML to Men’s Clubs, Sunday Schools to VBS, Youth Groups to Older Adult Ministries these congregations are uniquely situated to provide hope and healing to areas often forgotten and often ignored.
Hardships and roadblocks can make these ministries a challenge to remain viable, but there are many who are addressing this challenge head on. They are creatively maintaining their mission presence so that the lost might hear about Jesus.
Why do we need them? Multitudes can’t live without them!
Luke 10:2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
For more information on Rural and Small Town Mission or for resources, please visit our webpage at lcms.org/rstm.