Rural churches have a special place in my heart. My parents and I attended a church plant that gathered each Sunday in the old high school auditorium of small-town New Richmond, Wisconsin. For the past four years, I’ve been serving in rural pastoral ministry–first, as a pastoral intern and, now, as an associate pastor. In my experience, I’ve learned that rural churches tend to struggle to participate in Jesus’ command for his followers, as members of local churches, to take the gospel to the nations with the aim of seeing them converted, baptized, and taught how to obey his Word.
The Great Commission isn’t just for urban or suburban churches; it’s for all churches
Whether you’re a member or a pastor, I have some good news for you: the Great Commission isn’t just for urban or suburban churches; it’s for all churches. All followers of Jesus are called to fulfill his glorious command.
When we participate in the Great Commission, Jesus reminds us that he has all authority over all things and that he’s always with us, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18–20). Based on Jesus’ authority and presence, rural churches can also participate in the Great Commission.
Partner with Fellow Gospel-Preaching Churches
First, begin by partnering with gospel-preaching churches in your community and around the world. This pattern can be observed in Paul’s ministry when we read his epistles to various churches. For example, Paul mentions that both Macedonia and Achaia made a financial contribution to help the saints who were poor at the church in Jerusalem (Romans 15:26–27). Though this is primarily a financial partnership, the principle of partnering with gospel-preaching churches is important.
We should look at the “tribalism” prevalent among rural churches as a thing of the past. If the shepherds overseeing other flocks in your area love the Lord, preach the Word faithfully, and shepherd well, they’re worth your partnership. The goal of the Great Commission isn’t to be the “dominant” church; it’s to go out and “make disciples of all nations.”
Financially Contribute to Missions Overseas
Not only did churches partner together in financial and spiritual efforts, but many New Testament churches also financially contributed to Paul’s own missionary efforts. Paul’s gratitude for financial contributions is evident in several of his letters (1 Corinthians 16:1–4; Philippians 1:3–8).
If churches of little means contributed much in that time, how much more are we able to contribute to missions? Biblical practices like tithing to your local church help greatly in fulfilling the call. If the Spirit leads, consider making generous donations to missionaries laboring on behalf of Christ.
Train and Send Disciples to the Nations
When we examine Paul’s investment into Timothy (2 Timothy 1:2–4, 18–20), we learn that God uses people from rural communities for his glorious purposes.
Timothy, a co-laborer sent and trained by Paul, is from Lystra, a small community in the countryside of Asia Minor. Based on Paul’s letters to Timothy, it’s clear that the Lord used Timothy in mighty ways for the sake of the gospel.
Rural churches can play a role in training and sending disciples to the nations and seeing fruit from their efforts
By taking a young man from a rural community, discipling him in the faith, and training him in sound doctrine, Paul sets an example of not overlooking those in small towns. Paul provides an example of what we should all seek to implement in our own ministry practice. Spiritually investing in men and women is a joy-filled necessity. Rural churches can play a role in training and sending disciples to the nations and seeing fruit from their efforts.
Pray for Missionaries to Rise Up in Your Congregation
As a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17), every single believer is made for discipleship.
Pastor, my encouragement to you is to pray for missionaries to rise up from within your flock. Your flock sees your heart for the nations when you seek the Lord in prayer for missionaries to answer the call. Your reliance on God’s sovereign plan convicts them to seek him faithfully, and share your same desires.
Layperson, take time to invest in the lives of those around you. When someone shares with you that they’re considering entering the mission field, pray for them. Lift them up in prayer and encourage them. You never know how God can use your genuine desire to see Christ glorified in missions to fan the flame of missions within someone’s soul.