In chapter three of Small Town Jesus we look at “Small Towns, Big Mission”, which talks about the current brokenness in small towns. This is something I continue to find more and more as I travel and speak with church planters in rural areas. Recently, while in West Virginia, a church planter there told me that the state’s legacy is heroin, alcohol abuse and depression. It’s the same sad story everywhere I go, from the Rhondda Valley in Wales to where I live in eastern North Carolina.
Many people from a larger context just don’t realize how bad the problems are in small towns. They imagine life being simple and safe like Mayberry from The Andy Griffith Show. We see church buildings lining Main Street when we are on vacation and we assume that means vibrant gospel ministry. But the statistics keep affirming something much darker and more dangerous.
The Wall Street Journal just published a brilliant article asking the question, “Is Rural America The New Inner City?” In it Janet Adamy and Paul Overberg show how desperate the situation really is. They write,
“In terms of poverty, college attainment, teenage births, divorce, death rates from heart disease and cancer, reliance on federal disability insurance and male labor-force participation, rural counties now rank the worst among the four major U.S. population groupings (the others are big cities, suburbs and medium or small metro areas.”
This article is shocking and paints a very brutal image of what life is really like for many who call small town or rural America, “home.” That’s the bad news. But there is good news! The gospel is the “good news.” It’s hope for the hopeless. It’s medicine for the sick and brokenhearted. It’s freedom for the captive and the addict. But the gospel needs to be preached and lived out to change lives.
“For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” – Romans 10:13-15 (ESV)
Please read this article and, like Isaiah, mourn the brokenness of people who are not being shaped by the reality of the Gospel but are imprisoned by addiction, poverty and fear. Read it and pray for revival in small town and rural America. Read it and ask God to send workers into this field and that His field is ready to be harvested. Read it and pray for those who are laboring in these places to have increased faith and grace for those that surround them. Finally, read it and ask if God wants to use you in some way to make a difference.