In my previous posts I have explained how rural communities have been changed by postmodern ideas and people which have moved into rural areas. I have already addressed how churches can make minor modifications to their actions to regain their position as the social, ceremonial and physical center of the community in the eyes of postmodern people. In my last post I began the discussion of the more complicated issue of how rural churches can bridge the philosophical gap between themselves and their postmodern neighbors. In this post I want to list seven specific things churches can do to begin to address this philosophical divide. This is a complicated issue and it is unlikely to be "solved" by a simple blog post, but it is my hope that this post can help churches begin to think more specifically about this issue instead of feeling overwhelmed by the rapid change going on around them.
In order to bridge the philosophical gap, rural churches should consider these concepts:
- Practice the faith outside the church that is preached inside the church through being involved in community organizations and activities that address real community needs.
Postmodern people often lament that while the church talks about serving their community, such service to the community is actually rarely seen outside the four walls of the church. In order to reach postmodern people, churches should consider if their actions match their words. Daybreak Community Church of Colchester, Vermont, has reached many postmodern people by sponsoring community activities that met real needs the church members saw around them. For the past six years they have helped facilitate the annual Relay for Life event in their community. This event helps raise funds and spread awareness of breast cancer. The church receives no direct benefit from sponsoring this event other than the goodwill of the community. Daybreak has also helped with an annual summer marathon. Their duties in the marathon include picking up all the rubbish left behind by the onlookers. This may not sound like a spiritual investment in the community, but as the community has seen the values of the church lived out in real life, they have responded well and many previously unchurched people now worship regularly at Daybreak.
- Show Christian love through compassion ministries.
- Help church members recover personal evangelism by sharing their own difficulties in life and how their faith gave them hope.
- Offer bold preaching that is relevant to daily life instead of a diluted or contrived message.
- Work hard at letting everyone know they are welcome to attend any church services or activities regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof.
- Work hard at expressing love to those who are bound up in sin while patiently showing a biblical way out of the pain their sin causes them.
- Embrace technology and innovation without losing the sacred aspect of church.
Rural churches are finding that their communities are rapidly changing due to an influx of urbanites and the progressive postmodern ideas that increased use of technology has brought to their communities. In order to reach the postmodern people who now live in their communities, rural churches will need to make changes in their thinking and practices. Some of those changes will be relatively easy and will cause little discomfort to the current members. Other changes will be more significant and will bring a higher level of tension to the situation. But if rural churches are to continue to fulfill the vision of reaching their community with the gospel, then such changes cannot be avoided.
Learn more about reaching young people in Dr. Terry Dorsett's book, Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church.