There is a book at the RTS Orlando Bookstore called Rural Evangelism: Catching the Vision. I haven’t read it yet, though I want to. The author’s intention is basically to help rural congregations avoid stagnation and decline by engaging in evangelism methods tailored to the rural context they find themselves in.
Christians in rural settings have some unique challenges that Christians in urban settings might not face. For example, most churches in rural areas belong to mainline denominations and are aging and dying (literally and spiritually). It is very difficult to find a gospel-centered church within a reasonable distance. Some of my extended family lives in very rural areas of southwestern Ontario and face this challenge. Also, for those who are part of healthy churches in rural areas, it is very difficult to grow the church through evangelism because there is both a much smaller population to draw from and a steady decline in population as people migrate to the cities.
Though I haven’t read the book and don’t know of its worth, I’m glad to see that there is at least someone out there thinking through the challenges local churches in rural areas face. While there is good reason to focus on urban churches, as we do today, we need to make sure it doesn’t become an either/or. Rural areas may be becoming depopulated, but the need and the mission of the Church remains. Earlier, when I considered the call to pastoral ministry, I often imagined myself ministering in a rural setting. Still today, when driving through the countryside or even seeing a picture of a rural church building, the issue comes to mind.
Anyway, these were just a few thoughts I wanted to jot down. What do you think? Have you ever considered or engaged in ministry in a rural context? What are the challenges and obstacles?