I am very passionate about serving God; therefore, I found the article “Rural Churches Grapple with a Pastor Exodus” extremely disconcerting. I humbly sympathize with the discontentment of the parishioners whose small, rural churches are forced to close their welcoming doors, mostly due to the concept of “money.”
It’s a sad day when the solidarity of a church depends on whether a pastor is willing to pastor the church on a small salary, rather than for the glorification of God. David Van Biema, the writer of the article, explains that areas consisting largely of “farm country, have gotten too small and too poor to attract pastors.” I never considered that location would play such a crucial role in whether a church flourishes or flounders.
My father often reminisces about the small, rural Baptist church his Uncle Alfie pastored when he was growing up. Located in Fountain County, (the area Lew Wallace grew up in), my father remembers that to help make ends meet, his uncle also delivered milk. Some mornings my father accompanied his uncle during his deliveries, amazed at how grateful and kind the country folk were for Pastor Dobbs humility in serving them not only as pastor, but also as milkman. His uncle would often receive payment in food subsidies, but many times gave it away to those that needed it more than he. I realize that this was during the 1960s-1970s, a different era than today, but it further supports my despondency in how our culture has evolved to the concept of helping oneself rather than in helping others.
My father was saved at that church and then later baptized in one of the small rivers surrounding the area (I apologize that I cannot remember the specific body of water. I want to say either Sugar Creek or the Wabash). The church holds a special moment in his life, a pleasant memory of the unselfishness of his uncle. It also demonstrated to my father that serving the Lord is what makes one happy, not monetary accomplishments.
First Baptist Church in Tipton, IN is now celebrating over 100 years of service to the Lord. It began as a rural church, but unlike the areas in Minnesota that Van Biema refers to, Tipton grew into a thriving, modest, town. My mother grew up in this church, and whenever I go to visit relatives in the area, I always attend First Baptist. Everyone knows me because of my mother, and I always feel welcome and at home. It’s not a large church, roughly averaging 200 each Sunday, but it still retains its country roots—the ones in which everyone is treated as family.
Another small, rural Baptist Church I attend when visiting family in Central Indiana is Waynetown Baptist Church (Montgomery County, more of Lew Wallace territory). For those of you that know Northwest Indiana, Waynetown can be equivilated to the town of Kouts. I have relatives that attend the church, and although only about 30 parishioners attend, Waynetown Baptist Church is on fire for God and providing a great service to the Waynetown community.
Although the truth remains that money is a very attractive component, First Baptist Church and Waynetown Baptist Church glorify the teachings of Jesus Christ rather than worshiping metal coins and paper money created by man.