According the Wikipedia, A remarkable 84% of people live in urban or suburban settings, and yet cities and suburbs comprise only 10% of the landmass. Rural areas comprise the other 90%. Other sources suggest that these figures are off. USDA statics state that 16% percent of the population lives in non-metro areas and comprise 75% of the landmass. According the USDA, 50 million people live in what would be traditionally classified as rural areas.
The Diminishing Rural Life
Rural has become more rural over the last thirty years because of diminishing family size, increased economic opportunity in cities, and a whole host of other factors.
Some other shocking statics: Rural populations are aging. The average age of people living in rural areas has been on a steady climb for years. In the next fifteen to twenty years rural may have a lot less people.
Down But Not Out
So is rural obsolete? Not at all. Small towns like Big Timber (where I live) play a much bigger role in this world than most people realize. These small towns are literally the breadbasket of the world. Think about it… 16% of the population feeds the other 84%. Our bread, butter, produce, and meat sustain millions of people who never think about the source of their own stability.
I wonder. Can the same thing be said of the rural church on a spiritual level? Are we a source of provision, a spiritual breadbasket of life, for a nation that is increasingly ambivalent, even antagonistic toward Christianity?
Most of you know that my heart burns for the mission field. However, it would be wrong to think that my definition of the mission field is overseas. God’s mission is wherever believers set their feet. When our feet cross the threshold of our doorstop, we are on the mission field. Every believer is called to the mission of God. Each one is a witness. (Acts 1:8)
Interestingly, Jesus referred to this mission as a harvest. He also asked us to pray that the Lord of the harvest would provide harvesters. In my opinion he has. His harvesters sit in the chairs of our churches every Sunday morning.
Harvesting doesn’t require an ability to preach. It requires people who are willing to walk with Jesus, work, and witness. A large part of our own community (and those like ours) is detached from the church and many if not most of them don’t now Jesus. In addition, we live in a nation that is desperately in need of Jesus. The mission field is here, out there, and to the ends of the earth.
I want to demolish the myth that rural doesn’t mean much. In fact, it would be sweet for there to be a Rural Revolution where rural believers do on a spiritual level what we do on a physical level; feed to world. The bread is Jesus. The baskets are the churches that cover 75% of the landmass of America. The distribution network is the hands, feet, and mouths of the people in the churches. Though our numbers are few, our influence can be large, particularly since the Spirit of God breathes his strength into us.
But we have to take our role seriously. You have to take your role seriously. What would it look like for each one of us to more seriously walk with Jesus, work with Jesus, and be a witness of Jesus? I don’t have an answer to the question, but I am asking it. I really am serious about a Rural Revolution. It would require prayer and sacrifice, but the results would Glorify God. What would this look like?