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BIG ISAAC, W.Va. (AP) - It's an idyllic setting for Sunday worship: a small, white church on the slope of a gentle hill. Outside the sanctuary, two dogs lie in the shade.
The only problem is there are just 20 worshippers inside, a situation that's become common in rural America as small churches struggle with dwindling memberships, aging congregations and less money to keep the lights on, let alone to pay full-time salary and benefits to a minister.
Across the denominational spectrum, rural churches are trying a variety of approaches to the challenge. Some are focusing on recruiting full-time ministers to rural towns. Others are adopting the style of suburban megachurches to attract those who might not normally attend services. Some are holding fast to the traditions of their forebears....
It is not about traditional verses contemporary, its about upholding the word of God, its about preaching a relevant message and teaching people how to apply the word of God. It's about showing them how to use the word instead of just telling them to use it. It's about pursuing love and accepting people with all their junk just as Christ accepted us. It is not about buildings and multimedia. If the word of God is coupled with the power of God lives will be changed, and if that happens you can preach in a barn and people will come!
Since the Lord brought me to Him I have visited different reformed, baptist, and independent churches. I love to hear other Bible believing pastors preach. We recently visited my daughter and son-in-law in Phoenix and visited a reformed baptist church. It was a delight to listen to James White in Sunday School. It was like attending a seminary. I appreciate his ministry to R.C. and took the opportunity to go to the church that he attends. To my pleasant surprise I have discovered that there are many good preachers and fellowships out there who love the Lord. I also believe that in these contemporary churches(the old churches that once were separate from modernism and the ways of the world but have compromised and sent the old guard elsewhere) that the people also love the Lord but the seeker-sensitive church movement is taking over right before their eyes. The buzzword is 'unity'. Not a biblical 'unity with truth' but a 'unity based on unity'. First, this 'new market program' is brought in at sunday evening. A gradual advance to a blended service. A dark haze looms overhead as the old guard dies and the 'anything goes' takes over completely in the future ages. We are at the point where anytime anyone concerned with this onslaught who speaks his mind is considered too critical
Why is it that the pastor has to be the committed one? We can all sit here and talk about how the pastors are no longer committed, but we never put it on the congregation. I think if the people were committed to the church they could give sacrifically to at least allow the pastor to work part time. My dad has work two or three jobs for us to make it while he pastors a small church. I don't think it is bad, but I also see a great lack of committment from the congregation
As an independent Baptist missionary, I've traveled all over, to many different kinds of churches, and seen a lot--mostly in rural areas described in this article. I've also experienced this first-hand through my parents' church (which is not Baptist).
What I've seen is this. When churches try to go "contemporary" in a relatively rural setting, you have too few churches "competing" for the same people. What ends up happening is that the one church that gets it right tends to suck away the people from all the other, competing churches, which either close, or barely survive. Furthermore, the people from all those churches who weren't happy with the contemporary changes, also move out to more traditional churches, thus hurting the losing churches doubly. There _are_ ways to do more than just survive, and to thrive in rural and small town settings, as well as be successful in larger cities without going contemporary (which always strikes me as pandering in the worst degree--"give the people what they want!"). I know of a couple thriving, large independent Baptist churches in some large areas that have done nothing but grow, and they've done it without the Hyles-esque garbage, nor the contemporary stuff. They preach the Gospel with clarity, have standards, separation and compassio
Neil, I agree. I believe my pastor friend does this at times. Have you read Alexander Strauch's(I believe that is how you spell it) book on elders? It is great. I believe it is the only exhaustive treatment of that subject out there.
If elder-qualified men in the church shared preaching responsibilities, there would be no need for any one person to be so burdened every week. They don't even have to be good at rhetoric (the flesh profits nothing, folks). Churches should raise up their own preachers & not rely so much on outside "hired guns." They could get some seminary training on the side w/ church support (e.g., correspondence courses). In this electronic age, most coursework does not require costly college residency, IHMO.
Just a pipe dream, I know. Need suitably motivated men, for starters.
What I can't figure out is why do we have to have full-time salary pastors anyway. I know there is more work involved than just on Sundays but can't Pastors hold down a Mon-Fri job or at least a part-time job, especially if accommodation is paid for, ie living on the church site. Are we that money hungry or poor savers/investors not to make a few sacrifices? Less money going towards salaries could go to pay rates, electricity, etc.
Amen! Where is the real contentment or sacrifice among pastoral seminary graduates today??? I have a pastor friend who has pastored in a small rural church. He has to work full-time but he is committed to God's will for his life. It is difficult but He loves the Lord and is willing to persevere because he is strong in the Lord. At one time he actually was doing services at two different churches.
Satan has convinced people today that without numbers your local church is not a success. Very sad. I told my friend that I believe with all of my heart that the purity of the church in the future will be in some of these little rural churches.
"His method was to completely change the Lead Mine church, renaming it Brand New Church and making over its Sunday services to include casual dress, upbeat worship and high-tech media presentations now popular in megachurches in larger communities."
There you are America how to bring them in and convert the sinners. The right "upbeat" music and overhead TV
All these centuries weve been a`wastin our time Preachin' the ole time religion from dusty ole Books.
1Peter 1:25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
Revelation 14:6 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,