I am two months into my first full time pastorate. I am loving it. It is quite the change from being a full time student.
But even more of a change is being a full time rural citizen after 8 of my last 9 years were spent studying in a large city: four years in Chicago, IL; four years in Grand Rapids, MI.
I have lived in the MidWest for 19 years. I grew up in a city of about 10,000, and worked in a town of 1300 for my year in between Moody Bible and Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. I can see general trends that are the same from one place to another, but I also see vast differences.
That being said, here are a few thoughts after living in a town of 1100 for 2 months.
Everybody sees a place with greener grass. Everybody complains about their home town. There is always a bigger and better place to be. And once someone is at that biggest place (Chicago) they realize that all the issues of a small town still exists there.
You can never outrun your issues.
Also, boredom is a choice.
My father says that only boring people get bored. You always have something that you can do. If you do not think that is true, then get your creativity checked. Or, just get disciplined. There are hobbies that cost very little: whittling, drawing, reading, running, or cup stacking. You can learn new card games and play them with friends. You can make up a board game and play it with friends. You can take a walk around wherever you live and get to know your neighbors. Yes… talk to them. It is scary. I know it is. But if you are bored, then meet someone new. It will be exciting.
Jesus is present. Even where you are.
I feel specifically called to rural “flyover state” ministry because people can easily feel abandoned here. Example: when the average person thinks of Illinois they think of Chicago.
But each person in this world is special. Each person is made in God’s very own image. This makes them 100% as valued and important as the next
You are valuable.
You are important.
No matter your area code, zip code, or time zone, you are made in God’s Image.
God deeply cares for you and loves you. He sent His son to overcome your sin, my sin, our sins. He sent Jesus to overcome death. He sent Him to conquer death and offer us life. We know this is true because Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Jesus Christ then sent the Holy Spirit and the Apostles to make Him known across this world. Jesus loves you, He died for your sins, and rose from the grave.
Because God loves you He offers you a chance to repent of your old life and accept the new life He can give you. This is what it means to confess our sins and believe. This acceptance of a new life is also a commitment to follow God’s ways and not our own.
This offer is available to everyone. Every place.
And I have seen people in every place that I have been who know this to be true.