By Patrick Bowler
Valley Life Church (Lebanon, OR) 

1. NEW disciples assumes NEW churches.

The mandate to “make disciples (Matt. 28:19)” assumes church planting. This was clearly demonstrated by the Apostles in how they responded to Jesus’ command in the book of Acts. New disciples, new Christians, will require more places and times to gather, more community groups, more places to serve, and so on. From an individual perspective, we make disciples; from a corporate perspective, we plant churches.

2. NEW people to town are more apt to consider NEWER churches.

The sectarian tendencies of the small town church make it difficult for new people to feel welcome and to assimilate. Also, with much of the migration coming from the cities, there is a growing cultural diversity in rural America and with greater diversity comes a need for newer, contextualized expressions of the church. These new migrants may now live in a small town but they have an unavoidably strong urban mindset—thus the new category identified as “rurban.”[1] A biblical parallel is perceivable in the book of Acts. Among the many who were getting saved during the birth of the church following Pentecost were both orthodox Jews and those referred to as “Hellenists.” The Hellenists were ethnic Jews that had grown up outside of Jerusalem in towns with a stronger Greek influence. Many of them had migrated back to Jerusalem for a number of reasons and the cultural impact on the church was of no little consequence. The Hellenists brought Greece to Palestine like the “rurbanites” have brought the city to the countryside. They are impacting the face of rural culture in America and that will require that we plant churches.

3. To crank-up the Gospel volume.  

Religion is, in many ways, a staple of rural living. A little church is as much a part of one’s weekly routine as cold beer and pick-up trucks. All one has to do is listen to country music for a few minutes to understand what I mean—Christianity is more akin to an ethnicity in rural America. Often times the ones that need the gospel the most are those that think they have it. False conversion is a present reality for pastors in small communities and we will continue to wrestle with it. One of the ways we can best combat false conversion is with the planting of new churches. There is an epidemic of transfer growth in America. We are meant to look disparagingly upon it. But let me ask you; if people are attending religious, Gospel-less churches, shouldn’t they transfer? Unfortunately for rural America, “transfer to what?” remains a significant question. So, we need new churches. Not just so that we can add another service location and time to the local Yellow Pages, but so that we can see the Gospel planted in a community.

[1] Ron Klassen and John Koessler, No Little Places: The Untapped Potential of the Small-Town Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996), p. 59.