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Archive for April, 2011

Rural + Urban = Rurbanization

Tonight was the final night of the conference.  Once again it was a day full of great sessions, good preaching and enjoyable fellowship.  As with any seminar, there is much to process and assimilate into my life and ministry.  I am asking God for the wisdom to know what too use and what to ignore.

As I look back on today’s events one seminar really comes to mind.  Marty Giese is finalizing a research project on “rurbanization”.  This is a term which applies to the blending or rural and urban mindsets into a faith community.  The concepts were very helpful to help the pastor navigate this minefield of differing relationships and thought processes.  I plan on doing some further reading and research and will share some of my thoughts with you further down the line.

The main thing I take away for these last few days is the great needs and opportunities in rural America.  I am guessing there were about 400 people at this conference from New Mexico to the East Coast and from Canada to Arkansas.  Each of these people had a burden and passion for reaching their communities for Christ.  It was encouraging to know that we are not alone.  It is easy in ministry to develop the “Elijah” complex that I am alone, but opportunities like this remind us we are not alone.  God has many out there fighting the same battles.

It is my prayer that you would call a fellow pastor this week.  Encourage one another and watch what God does in both of your lives.  A Canadian TV show which is popular on public TV in our area is The Red Green Show.  He ends each show by challenging men to “Hang in there, we are all in this together”.  My fellow pastor – “Hang in there, we are all in this together.”  This week was a great reminder of that simple truth.

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When a dog takes Communion

I just finished Day 2 of the RHMA Small Town Pastor’s Conference. It was another day of great speakers and sessions.   The conference is geared to allow you to choose a series of workshop topics depending on your particular ministry needs.  The 2 I attended today were very helpful, but I thought one had the potential to help many of you out there.  If you go on the RHMA website and look at the brochure for the conference, you can see the speakers and topics.  I am sure that if you contact their office, they can send you CD’s of the sessions for a nominal fee.  They are also having a conference in Waxahachie, Texas featuring H.B. London on October 10-12, 2011.  Next year’s conference in Illinois will feature D.A. Carson and is scheduled for April 23-25, 2012.

Back to the seminar topic that I believe will help many of you.  Dennis Schlappi is executive pastor at New Castle Bible Church in Mackinaw, Illinois.  He has served in that church for 23 years on staff and his Master’s Degree focused on church constitutions.  He has led his church through 2 revisions of their church constitution and he presented a workshop on the process he used to work the congregation and leadership through that process.  After the seminar I asked him for permission to obtain his material and post it on here to help many Pastor’s who struggle with this issue.  He is going to graciously work with me to allow that to be published here.  After I get back home, I will be emailing him and placing some of the material and resources on this website.  He is a tremendous resource and is someone who has been in the trenches applying this material.

I came to this conference excited about the speakers and topics.  Make no mistake about it, the speakers and topics have been extremely helpful, well delivered and pertinent to small church and rural ministry.  They are everything I expected and more.  But that has not been the greatest part of the conference for me.  The greatest part has been the fellowship with like minded Pastors from all backgrounds, denominations, and walks of life.  Each night the conversations at the table seem to go longer and the laughter louder.  Tonight the topic turned to unusual experiences and problems regarding animals in the church.  One Pastor was talking about how he had to deal with a woman with a Seeing Eye dog and she would share communion with her dog.  He talked about how the leadership had to decide the best method of dealing with the problem.  Just when I thought I had heard it all, he comes up with this great story of rural pastoral ministry.

The fellowship with other pastors is reminding me how many of us are out there plugging away in obscure places with unique problems.  It is encouraging to see the passion and love for the people in rural areas.  It is great to hear the stories of how God is working.  It is wonderful to laugh at the unique problems we face and the creative ways we go about to solve them.  In short one of the greatest things I have experienced this week is the fellowship with like minded people.  Somehow, that never gets conveyed in a brochure.

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Lessons from a Volunteer

I have the privilege of attending the RHMA Small Town Pastors Conference in Morton, Illinois this week.  I have wanted to attend for almost 10 years and tonight I got the chance to go.  Small town Pastors from all over the country and Canada are in attendance.  The theme for the conference is “Winds of change in rural America”.

In 2011 less that 2% of people in rural America work in agriculture. 94% of the people living in rural America do not work in Ag related industries.  That is quite a change for the way it was 20 years ago when I came to our small rural farming area.  As I reflect on my own church, the statistics seem to bear it out as well.

Tonight was the first session with Dr. Mark Devers.  He challenged us with understanding the concept that we are not called to preach, but called to preach God’s Word.  He stressed the significance of God’s Word being able to change lives and churches.  A strong focus was on Ezekiel 37 and the story of the “dry bones”.  It was a great reminder of the power and prominence that God’s Word needs to have in our ministries if we intend to see lives changed.

I enjoyed the fellowship and got to meet a great group of guys pastoring in Northern Michigan.   The thing that impressed me the most today was an older couple who sat at the table with us.  They had been associated with RHMA for a long time and were attending as volunteers.  (She had worked as a secretary for a number of years at RHMA).  They were going to help clean up after we left from dinner.  This couple had been married for 54 years, and was still faithfully serving God.  They spent their winters in Florida volunteering for Wycliffe or Campus Crusade.  Wherever they were needed, they were willing to go.  They had a joy about them as they faithfully and joyfully served God.

I was surrounded tonight by Pastors who were serving in rural ministries.  Some who had served for over 30 years in the same place.  It was an impressive group of people.  But I go to bed this evening thinking about an average couple who spent each day trying to find ways to serve God.  I don’t even remember their name, because they didn’t have name tags, but I am sure they have a special place in the heart of God because he greatly values that servant mentality.

I came to this conference looking to learn some great things from some great teachers.   I know that I will learn much in the days ahead.  Tonight I was reminded that it ministry is really about a servant’s heart and faithfulness no matter who you are or where God has put you.  I didn’t learn it from all the great speakers, but from an older couple who was simple serving God tonight by volunteering to clean tables.

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