Lost – defined as: no longer to be found.
Evangelical Denominations consider home missions to be: Next Generations; Youth and Children, Urban Centers, First Nations, Quebec and Francophone Canada and Cultural Language Groups.
This means our at-home missionaries both in the US and Canada focus on these groups of people. Urban Centers have the highest numbers of transient and homeless people, the highest rates for alcoholism, gangs, drug use and teen pregnancy. We expect cities to have the highest rates because they are highly populated and make these forms of life accessible. Cultural groups including First Nations and Quebec are a prominent mission field because of their own cultural and religious teachings. Next Generation is naturally a group which needs to be reached if future generations are going to hear about Christ, receive Him and pass it on.
I am very thankful for these identified missions fields and that missionaries and ministries focus concerted efforts on these groups. What concerns me and what God has laid on my heart though is the rarely identified and ministered-to areas throughout North America.
These areas are being forgotten because of their declining populations and because they are not highly visible. When going to other countries as missionaries we first tackle more populated areas, then easily accessible areas, followed by more difficult to reach groups and eventually the hard to find, hidden and often lost tribes. The bible clearly states that all must hear. Closer to home we target the highly populated and visible groups but for the most part others are “out of sight, out of mind”.
Small towns and rural communities are prime targets for Satan. They already struggle with poverty, lack resources, have fewer programs, fewer opportunities and high unemployment rates. Churches in small towns tend to have only one pastor; they are poor, have few programs and usually are quite dated both in their buildings and in their services. They have little to fight the enemy with and little to reach out to their towns with.
Thousands of churches are closing every year and thousands of pastors are leaving the pulpit. Rural communities are no exception. Because they have depleted resources and so few churches that means entire towns and villages here in Canada and the US are not really being reached!
Small towns seldom have youth groups and often when they do they are very limited groups lacking resources to reach the lost teenagers. Sunday school programs in these churches are rare or very small because they lack workers and materials. Outreach services are hindered and pastors are worked weary as they try to do it all on their own.
In our own limited travels we encounter too many teens who have never heard the Gospel message! Our next generations are NOT being reached in these small towns and communities. The churches we do have there are dying out so who will reach them? We drive through beautiful old, tree-lines streets and see the beautiful historical churches on the corners without giving a second thought to how they are doing and if they are effective churches in these towns. Often these little towns have eight or ten churches because once upon a time they were the thriving “cities” long before modern urban mega-centers came into being. Those churches filling those corners do not mean that the town is saved or that is even being reached. Actually it is more likely the opposite. Just drive out of your city for an hour in any direction on a Sunday morning, stop in a little town at a church on the corner and have a look at the empty pews and the tired pastor.
Rural communities are overlooked and soon to be lost: no longer to be found. We need to be praying for these areas, sending resources to these churches. Bigger churches need to pass on equipment and materials they no longer use to these churches. We need to be sending pastors and interns to these towns to ease the burden and provide hands for outreach. Programs for rural areas need to be designed, camps and ministry centers need to develop outreach programs targeting teens in these towns. Denomination offices need to provide free training resources for leaders and churches who can not afford the help they need.
Christians who live in these areas need to be in service and need to see the mission field around them. We have successfully been a part of several church revitalization projects in these areas so we know it can be done and these towns can be reached for Christ.
Will we continue to drive through them, overlook them, ignore them and allow them to become lost?
Lets be people of action both in our own communities and in those in our own countries that are not being reached.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again. Message Bible
What can you do, what are your ideas? Leave comments with suggestions and commitments.
- Doing Missions When Dying Is Gain, Piper (crescereblog.wordpress.com)
- The Upside of Church Decline (holysoup.com)
- Matthew 9:35-10:39 The Church That Fulfills God’s Mission (jimssermons.wordpress.com)
- One By One (lacykitkat.wordpress.com)