We live and minister in the Raleigh, N.C. area. Our part of the state has not been affected by the economic downturn as much as other parts of the state. Most of the new home building had ceased for a while, which has hindered growth, but things are starting to pick up now.
Some of our folks are out of work, but on the whole, most are holding their own. You can, however, drive east from here and see depressed areas, but in our local town things are pretty much normal. Our stores haven’t closed; churches are holding steady, etc., so I didn’t realize personally the impact in other areas of the country.
Last weekend, however, we had the opportunity to rub shoulders with some church planters at a retreat in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. The group was from the surrounding area; some were from New Jersey. We learned during the sharing time how these young couples were slugging it out in the coal mining towns of Pennsylvania.
Most of us probably wouldn’t even think of going up there to minister, let alone consider the concept of starting a new work in a declining population area. But, they were very enthusiastic about the inroads they were making among the people. Some groups had as many as 150, some as few as nine.
One couple lived in New Jersey. The wife drove two hours each way into New York City to work. That’s four hours a day in horrible traffic. I can’t even imagine it. Although we were the speakers, I came away from the retreat blessed and encouraged by the commitment of these young couples. Most of them had to work other jobs to support their families and were only partially, if at all, supported by their churches.
How many of us, myself included, want the easy road to church planting? We want to go where there is growth, where people are moving in and have jobs like in North Dakota … oh wait, maybe not there, it’s way too cold up there; how about Texas. It’s so much simpler to go to a growing area, isn’t it, but someone needs to go to the unglamorous, downtrodden, lost people of the northeast where results are slow and growth is minimal. Someone needs to minister to the drug and alcohol addicted. Someone needs to minister to the broken people; the jobless.
Nehemiah was called by God to do a specific task. He went back to Jerusalem to build the wall—not the temple, and not the houses. Time and place, your age, personality, and gifts from God … all these things come together to form your unique ministry. I don’t know where you are or how encouraged or discouraged you are.
What I do know is that God has called us to different ministries: some to the country, some to the city and some to the foreign field. You may never know in your lifetime the impact you may have on the people you serve or on the people they may reach—the next D.L. Moody might be in your congregation.
These church planters are facing incredible odds in addition to dealing with tremendous family sacrifices. Please pray for them.