I realize that the people living in small towns today are not Jesus. However, small-town believers can still do BIG things for the kingdom because Jesus has sent the Spirit to empower them too. Our small-town church has reproduced churches locally and across the globe. We are doing it out of the view of many in our world, but it is happening by the Spirit of God. We have big dreams and blue jeans.
When a missionary is sent to take the gospel to bear fruit in remote villages across the globe, people get excited. In fact, when a pastor is sent to a tiny town internationally:
- We applaud that pastor
- We resource that pastor
- We speak of their tremendous courage and faith
- We celebrate them
However, typically when I say that we need to train up men to take the gospel into rural areas in America, I am met with the exact opposite reply. Replies such as:
- Won’t that be a waste of their gifts?
- Well, I guess maybe it would be a good training grounds for “real” ministry.
It seems we have adopted an ideology that small towns in America do not matter as much as others do. Ultimately, I believe that this is a theological problem. Why? It is a theological construct that promotes that urban and suburban Americans matter more to God than rural ones do.
Below are four reasons as to why small towns still matter.
Why Small Towns Still Matter
Reason #1: People Live in Small Towns
While most people in society live in urban settings, more than half (1,378 out of 3,142) of all counties in the United States are considered rural. According to the last census from U.S. Census Bureau, 65 percent of counties in the U.S. are rural in population size.
The urban areas of the United States at the 2010 Census contained 249,253,271 people, representing 80.7% of the population, and rural areas contained 59,492,276 people, or 19.3% of the population. That’s a lot of people that need Jesus. According to the census, there were 16,307 towns in America under 25,000 people. That’s a lot of places that need the kingdom of God to be expressed.
Our commission is to make disciples of all nations-everywhere. Yes, we need to plant and revitalize churches in urban and suburban contexts because a lot of people live there. But, I have a sneaky suspicion that God cares about everybody. We also need to be planting and revitalizing churches in rural settings as well. People live there. In fact, my four kids live there.
Reason #2: Small Towns have BIG problems
Small town “Mayberry” or “Bluebell” doesn’t really exist anymore.
The poverty rate of my county (St. Francois, MO) is 20.4% per the 2014 Small Area Income and Poverty Estimate. We have a load of children in foster care. We have a battered women’s shelter and a homeless shelter in my county. At the same time, a sense of genuine community is being lost. We are forgetting how to live as good locals because the world has indoctrinated us to believe that we do not matter as much as urban professionals do, and it seems we have started to believe the marketing. Our schools train us up to send us off. Our community colleges train us up for jobs that often don’t exist in our areas.