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.