As many of you know, I am the pastor of a church plant in Garretson, South Dakota. When I explain this to other pastors they often look at me with utter confusion. Why would a young, gifted, and “charismatic” pastor seek to plant a church in a town of 1,200 people? Surely I am “wasting” the gifts that God has given me, right?
The church I pastor has about 80 people who consider the church their home and an average weekly attendance of around 60 people… oh and we do not even have a building! I even work a second job so that I can do ministry in my small town. Wouldn’t it be better if I applied for a position in a large church with a full-time salary and benefits?
I don’t think so.
Small towns NEED healthy churches. Unfortunately, many pastors go to small towns as a stepping stone to build ministry experience before they can apply for a large church in a big city. This disguises itself as professional ambition – as if pastoral ministry was a career rather than a calling. The reason many churches in small towns are unhealthy is because a new pastor arrives every 3 – 5 years. The people in the church know the pastor is not committed to the people so they refuse to follow any type of vision he/she casts for the church – and understandably so!
This Sunday at Renovation Church we are welcoming our first people into church membership. I am going to share a message from Acts 2:42 – “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.” One of the things I will point out is that the early church devoted themselves to “the fellowship.” Not a building. Not an institution. Not a celebrity pastor. To the fellowship – the people of God in a local area who gather together to receive the sacraments and hear the preaching of God’s Word.
Why should pastors expect their people to be committed to “the fellowship” if we aren’t?
Ashley & my goal for Renovation Church is to remain in the same small church… in the same small town… for the next 40 years or so until I retire. My hope is to pastor only one church my entire pastorate. I seriously have no plans or ambition to go to a more “successful” church.
If you are a pastor in a rural community, I plead with you to consider staying in your community for longer than 3 – 5 years.
Pastoral ministry is a calling – not a career.