By Kyle Borg - Posted at Gentle Reformation:
In a recent article Anthony Bradley, professor of religious studies at The King’s College in New York, drew attention to the “deadly crisis in rural America.” Citing analysis from The Washington Post and studies from the National Center for Health Statistics, Bradley noted the unusually high rate of suicides in rural areas. Such statistics, he believes, evidence the hopelessness, despair, and depression found in the same. Without giving any answers, he asks the provocative and necessary question: “Do conservative Protestants care? Have we traded off reaching hurt people with redemptive healing and hope for influence and power in places where Christians can have an ‘impact’ and ‘influence’ the culture? […] Why are evangelicals more excited about planting churches and missions in ‘alpha cities’ among artists, creatives, and professionals rather than the rural areas where people are suffering?”
As a pastor in rural America these questions resonate deeply with me. It is well documented that small town America rarely looks like Mayberry, and a lot like “Methland.” The crisis we witness in these areas is a crisis for the church. After all, hopelessness, despair, and depression can only be interpreted, mitigated, and worked through by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, it is these areas that are becoming a veritable wasteland as Protestant churches are closing their doors in great number–not to mention those churches that are Evangelical and Reformed. If we will not abandon these areas to the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and to the “cosmic powers over this present darkness” (Ephesians 6:12), we are going to have to think hard, work strenuously, and sacrifice extensively for the sake of the gospel in rural areas.
So, what can be done? It’s easy to identify problems, but it’s another to move toward a solution. As one who feels strongly and passionately about the potential and place of the rural church, let me offer a few suggestions that will, perhaps, move a little closer to a solution–: ...