This is written with special pastors in mind. If you minister where the most well-read news magazines are Progressive Farmer and the Farmers’ Almanac and not The New York Times, where the local gathering place is not the bar but rather the town's grain elevator, where you can't leave town without everyone knowing where you are headed, and where everyone knew your name before you ever arrived there, then this blog’s for you.
Several times in the Gospels the word “least” is used. For example, in Matt. 2:6 we have the well-known reference where little Bethlehem is said to be the “least” among the cities of Judah yet the Savior is to be born there. A few chapters later in Matt. 5 Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount about teaching or not teaching the “least” of His commandments and what results that will have on those responsible for instruction. What we see when we do a word study might surprise us. Arndt and Gingrich's unabridged Greek-English lexicon gives synonyms for the word “least”:
smallest, very small, quite unimportant, insignificant, very few, tiny.
Those adjectives pretty well describe what most feel about small town and rural congregations today.
When you take the above meanings, survey the rural places in Judea and Galilee where Jesus spent almost all of His ministry, and then consider that the emphasis today is placed on metropolitan growth areas in the church growth and planning materials, you can see why pastors serving in small towns and rural areas need encouragement!
Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to hear a faint echo in my mind that goes something like this:
“Go out into the country roads and deserted lanes and compel them to come in, so My house will be full!” Luke 14:2 NIV
I wonder if anyone else hears it too?