A WORD FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR - JUNE/JULY 2017
“I love church planting, but the big city makes me nervous.” That was what a pastor recently told me as we sat together at dinner. He serves a well-established traditional Southern Baptist church in the Bible Belt. But he had heard about the great need in the North for new churches and wanted to be involved. He had spent several days in one of the largest cities in our region but just knew in his spirit that serving there was not something he or his church would be comfortable doing. He wanted to know if we had other options in New England, especially ones in small towns. I was happy to share with him numerous examples of small towns across our region that need new churches.
Our national denomination is currently focused on reaching 32 of the largest cities across our nation. This is a focus I support because the spiritual lostness in those cities cries out for the Gospel to be revealed to them. But not everyone is called to plant a church in a city. Thankfully, there are many other options for those who are not called to the city. Nearly half of America’s population lives in small towns, and many of those towns also need a gospel preaching church planted. In our quest to reach the city, we must not forget the small places.
Jim Egli, Leadership Pastor at the Vineyard Church of Urbana, Ill., has identified a number of reasons to plant a church in a small town. He points out that it is easier to get people’s attention in small towns, whereas in big cities it is hard for a new church to get noticed. He also points out that it is easier to reach families and networks in small towns because people’s lives are more interconnected. Egli says “When someone comes to Christ in a small town this often influences an expanding number of people because of how closely people are tied to one another.” From the practical perspective, Egli points out that it is often cheaper to plant a church in a small town because real estate prices are so much less than in many urban areas. I am thankful for Jim’s insights. Take a moment to read his full article.
But without question, the two strongest reasons to plant a church in a small town are that people in those places need Christ and Christ has called us to go to them. Though demographics make it clear that our nation’s urban areas are growing faster than many less populated places, those who still live in out-of-the-way corners of our land need Jesus just as much as the young man at the coffee shop in a gentrified urban area. Let each of us examine our own hearts and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and then respond by either planting, or helping to plant, a church in a town where God has called us, regardless of its size.
Your Missionary to New England,
Dr. Terry W. Dorsett
Executive Director, Baptist Convention of New England