It's hard for me to believe that it’s been over five years since my wife and I moved our family to a small, rural, and isolated community in central Idaho. How small, you might ask? Less than 3,500 people live in Salmon, Idaho. It is important that you understand that Salmon is not a suburb of a larger community; we are the larger community. We are located in the mountains of central Idaho - about a three hour drive away from any community larger than ours. Communities like ours are truly unique in comparison to the suburbs and cities. The vision God has given us for our ministry is just as unique and is in no way limited by our size, (but can be hindered by the fact that we may need to drive for an entire day to get parts to fix something that we need on Sunday).
Explaining what ministry in a small community is really like, can be compared to describing a sunset to a blind man. There is no point of reference. There are some things in small town ministry that you just have to experience in order to get your mind wrapped around it practically and emotionally. This is why, for the last five years, we have been praying that God would send us young men and women, (single or married, who have been involved in some form of Bible College or ministry school) to come spend a season with us and experience rural and small town ministry. We would love to see what God would do with committed men and women that are willing to be sent out and spend their lives and youthful energy infusing the gospel into a small community and see that entire community changed for Christ!
The influence of the Gospel and a solid Bible teaching church in a small community compared to a large city.
For some perspective on this, let’s think about the influence of the Gospel and a solid Bible teaching church in a small community compared to a large city. If you live in a city of 200,000 people and are ministering in a church with, let’s say, 1,000 people in attendance during the week, you have reached .5% of that community. Now let’s say that you are in a small town of 2,000 people, and you have 100 people attending weekly services; you have reached 5% of that community. Imagine that, ten times the influence of Christ in a community of that size with well-taught believers.
To do ministry in a small town, you must have a big vision.
I guess you could say that in order to do ministry in a small town, you must have a big vision. But we have what we call the “bigger vision.” If you are considering stepping into this kind of ministry, or are currently serving in a small, isolated community like ours, you must see beyond the natural. You must daily gaze upon the supernatural glory of God! “Bigger vision” helps us to clearly see our Almighty God and to trust Him with everything! This “bigger vision" reminds us that that there is nothing that God cannot accomplish through the surrendered life of His bondservant (James 1:1).
Our bigger vision starts with two basic principles:
“We can’t!” is not an option because “God can!” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). We have learned not to believe in the no-win scenario. We can’t make it much clearer than what Jesus said. Our God can do the impossible. So attempt great things for God and expect great things from God.
“You can’t!” is also not an option! Paul said in Acts 20:24, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” There are always naysayers in the church and community. Although they have good intentions, (most of the time), tenderhearted folks sometimes sound like the devil, trying to get you to stop moving in the direction that God is moving. My brother, my sister, don’t be moved!
I do recognize that not everyone called into ministry has been given the grace to do so in small communities. How I desire that they were! My wife and I thank God every day that He meets us with His boundless grace, enabling us to do His work in our humble community. But if God has called you and is leading you by His grace to do ministry in a small, rural community, it will be a great venture of faith and an incredible blessing. What might God do?