I have been given a gift and with that gift a marvelous opportunity to use it. As a teacher of the Word, and a servant of ministers and missionaries, I get to travel very widely and encourage many faithful servants of God. This week I have had the opportunity to be among a lovely group of missionary couples (sixty couples in all) who serve mostly small churches in very out-of-the way towns and villages in Canada and the northeastern US. The event, in Schroon Lake, New York, is the annual regional mission conference for Village Missions, a group based in Dallas, Oregon.
I have preached to these folks from 2 Corinthians 1-5 on how Christ’s strength is prefected in their human weakness. I have sought to be transparent and honest, stressing "integrity" and "godly sincerety" from 2 Corinthians 1:12 (TNIV), the theme verse for this week. They have responded wonderfully. I have sensed God’s presence with us, especially in the evening worship times. In the end I am the one who receives the greatest blessing form being with people like these faithful servants.
These missionaries live and serve in places that most Americans would never visit, much less live in. They are often miles and miles from stores and conveniences that you and I take for granted. Most are in towns where it is very hard to win the support of people in the church, much less outside the church. Getting to know these people has been a oppotunity and an encouragement to me.
One thing is for sure, whether you serve the church in rural America or in major cities and suburbs, pastoring is very hard work. Our churches are distressed, very often in pain, and quite honestly sick. The social dysfunction is obvious everywhere. Leadership is undermined, families are divided, teens are often in rebellion, and the culutre is morally and socially in deep water. This pattern is no different in small towns and small churches.
What is so surprising about these observations? Nothing really. Poeple are people, whether they live in cities or in the rural areas. And churches are churches, often reflecting the general tenor and breakdown we see in our culture at large. We really do need revival more than ever!