Change and the Rural Church
I have never taken to foreign languages. Over the years I have attempted Spanish, French, German and Greek, and have sadly watched as each new language remained out of reach. I study for hours upon hours. I ask my professors for help. Yet I still can't seem to know enough to succeed.
I feel the church takes to foreign "things" in the same way I take to foreign languages.
(In a previous post, we discussed the first steps of How to Introduce Sustainable Change into a Traditional Rural Church. After we have earned the trust of our people, instilled in them a sense of our present and active God, discerned that a proposed change is truly of God and not our mere preference, reflected upon whom would be affected by the change, talked with a wise friend outside the congregation, and thought about how to narrate the change, what comes next?)
I. The rural church is not a body that changes quickly. This is a good and right thing. The church should be slow to change: it should take its time to discern, with the patience of the ages, between what changes are of God and which are merely transient, passing fads. Part of the strength of the rural church is its ‘everlasting’ quality, its ability to hold onto the anchor of ancient truth and tradition amid the ebbs and flows of its surrounding culture. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Earlier this week I led a United Methodist District Lay Leadership workshop on Small and Rural Church Ministries. To begin the session, I asked each person to introduce themselves and then tell me about something that their church struggled with, something that they hoped to learn about or take away from our time together.
Twenty-five times, this is what I heard:
“Nathaniel,” Philip says, “we’ve found him, we’ve found the one, the one about whom Moses and the prophets wrote, the Savior, and, are you ready for this, it’s Jesus, son of Joseph from . . . Nazareth.”
And Nathaniel looks at Philip as if Philip has just told him that really, the Chicago Cubs are really, actually going to win the World Series this year.
“Nazareth? Can anything good come out of Nazareth, much less the Savior of the world?”
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Come and see.