The Ability to see Potetnial
Ron Klassen (RHMA Ministry Update Summer 1996)
“Two men looked out from behind prison bars; one saw mud, the other stars.” So penned one sage many years ago.
Isn’t it amazing what different people see when looking at the same situation? Some time ago I asked a church planter to look over a community to see whether it might be a place for RHMA to start a church. He reported back that he saw no potential there. I felt uneasy about his conclusion, but let it ride a few months. Unable to get this community off my mind, I decided to send someone else. He came back pumped with excitement about the potential he saw there.
The same community – one saw potential one did not. Who do you think is more likely to succeed? The reason many denominations and individuals do not consider planting churches in smaller towns is because they can’t see potential.
Sam Walton, of Wal Mart fame, was an example of one who saw potential in small town America when most could see none. In his autobiography he wrote, “Our key strategy . . . was simply to put . . . discount stores into little one horse towns which everybody else was ignoring . . . In those days K-Mart wasn’t going to towns below 50,000, and even Gibson’s wouldn’t go to towns much smaller than 10,000 – 20,000. We knew our formula was working even in towns smaller than 5,000 people, and there were plenty of those towns out there for us to expand into. When people want to simplify the Wal-Mart story, that’s usually how they sum up the secret of our success; ‘oh, they went into small towns when nobody else would’ . . . While the big guys were leapfrogging from large city to large city . . . they left huge pockets of business out there for us.”1
One who has a similar perspective in RHMA circles is Phil Somers, our Board Chairman. Phil pastors a community church halfway between Mackinaw and Deer Creek (both with populations of just a few hundred). During a workshop which he presented at our recent Small-Town Pastors’ Conference he said, “I am utterly convinced that there is nothing – nothing – by God’s grace and within His will my country church cannot do for His glory. I see more potential HERE than anywhere else on earth. There may be more potential somewhere else but I don’t see it THERE, I see it HERE. And since I am HERE I want to see it HERE.” Is it any wonder, with this perspective from its pastor, that this country church is thriving in a place many would have a hard time seeing potential?
Seeing potential in smaller communities made Sam Walton the richest man in America. Walton wrote, “It turned out that . . . there was much, much more business out there in small-town America than anybody, including me, had ever dreamed of.”2
Through its fifty-plus years of existence, RHMA has proven many times over that there is much more potential in smaller towns and less-populated rural communities than most might think – that church planting is doable in these kinds of places. But it begins with what you see. Looking through God’s eyes it is possible to see potential where most can see none. If Sam Walton could see the potential for Wal-Mart in small towns, then we surely ought to see potential for church planting in small towns.
1 Sam Walton, Sam Walton: Made in America – My Story (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 109-110
2. Ibid., 49-50