Category Archives: Mission

Good Faith

Time and again I’ve heard leaders across the Churches of God General Conference request information and insights about how to engage with the ever-changing culture of the world around us. The requests have come through conversations, our annual ministry reviews, and through a survey I’ve recently conducted. Things seem to be moving at an increasing pace and just as we think we’ve gotten on solid ground, the proverbial rug is pulled out. We’re desperate for an understanding of the culture and a Biblical approach to living and ministering in it.

indexI believe the new book by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons is a tremendous resource for the Church and the CGGC. Good Faith seeks to share how to be a Christian of “good faith” when society thinks you’re irrelevant and extreme. Kinnaman is the leader of Barna and Lyons is the leader of Q. Throughout the book they not only offer information through data, but go the next level by offering practical insights about what the data means for us as the Church.

Two insights in particular caught my attention. The first answers the question of how we live out good faith into an uncertain future. Kinnaman and Lyons offer three essential and balanced components of good faith: love, believe, and live. We first start with rightly ordered love – loving God and loving others. When we’re missing love we come across arrogant, abrasive, and off-putting. The phrase “I’m just telling it like it is” comes to mind. Next we believe, which recognizes that theology and Biblical orthodoxy matters. Belief “allows us to identify and correct distortions in the world, in the church, and in our own thinking”. Lastly, how we live our love and beliefs is significant. We must channel our love and beliefs from heart and head into our daily lives.

The second insight that stood out to me is in regards to discipleship. The authors had done some work in Scotland, a post-Christian context, assessing the difference between growing churches and churches that were plateaued or declining. They listed nine factors that impacted church health in an increasingly secular culture. The first four are external: prioritizing outreach by serving the poor and sharing faith, partnering with other churches and causes, being innovative for the sake of the gospel, and focusing on receptive teens and young adults. Another four factors were internal: teaching the Bible thoroughly, fostering close Christian community, developing new leaders, and leading with a team that has diverse skills and spiritual gifts. The ninth factor was that growing churches prayed missionally and made prayer a mission.

If you’re looking for a resource to help guide your life and ministry in the current state of the world and into the future – you need to read this book.

3 Ways to Be On Mission In A Rural Church

One of the hardest things about being a part of a rural church is engaging in mission. You know you’re supposed to and you actually want to, but where do you start? It’s not the same as our brothers and sisters who live and minister in cities, where neighbors are five feet away. In a city there can be thousands of people in the same space that encompasses one family farm. How then do we expand the Gospel in such a spread-out setting?

Fields in Oxfordshire, England

Before I entered into full-time ministry, I was music teacher at a local school district that was in a rural community. I grew up in a small city only fifteen minutes away from the school, but the cultures were extremely foreign to me. I wasn’t prepared for the different events and perceptions that came with rural life. There was a “drive your tractor to school” day, a week of animals being stored in the school’s bus garage, and I would inevitably be late to work in the fall because harvest season would fill the road with farm equipment.

I also wasn’t prepared for a culture change when my first full-time ministry position was at a church in a village of a few hundred people. It was a tough learning curve to adjust my strategy of mission to such a different context, but over time I found a few things that were extremely helpful to reaching out to those who don’t know Christ. Here are three simple ways to engage with people you don’t know:

  1. Gathering Places – Look for the existing gathering places and events of the community. Usually these will be the school, the post office, and maybe a mom and pop restaurant. The post office in our church’s village was closed because it was too small, which took away one of the primary chatting spots. Other places may be a park or a farmer’s co-op.
  1. Affinity Groups – These are groups that gather because of common interests. Normal ones might be gardeners, runners, and bikers. In smaller villages and rural counties, there are more people in political positions such as township trustees, soil and water conservation committee, and the village council. Farmers and handy men tend to find places to gather to chat and drink coffee.
  1. Just Stop By – There’s a culture present in a rural community that allows people to stop by each other’s homes a bit more easily then in a city setting. I’ve encouraged people that if they see someone out in front of their house as they’re driving past to go ahead and pull in and say hello. Make it a habit to look for those opportunities as you are going from place to place.

Being on mission in a rural church may be a bit more challenging, but it certainly is doable, especially if you take time to reflect on the culture around you.

What about you – what ways have you found to be on mission in a rural church?