Ministering in Small Churches and/or in Small Towns

First of all, I would highly recommend you read “Small-Town Ministries and Shepherds.”

Also, read one of my past posts “How To Have An Expository Preaching Church?

Both posts address some aspects of ministering in small churches and/or in small towns in America.

In one of the leadership meetings at a church that I used to shepherd in the Upper Midwest, I distributed the copies of David Van Biema’s Time Magazine article “A Rural Exodus” (February 9, 2009), which I would highly encourage you to read. Van Biema’s thesis is that many pastors and/or fresh out of seminarians are not interested in small town churches. He notes what many guys think: “A town without a Starbucks scares them.”

What also caught my attention from the article is that only 1 out of 5 churches have a full-time seminary-trained pastor in parts of the Midwest. I believe it. I see it. And I know it. Such statistic does not even qualify what type of seminary training, since not all seminary training is equal.

Like many pastor friends of mine who serve in small rural areas, I too get offended by statements like “All you need is a Bible college degree to serve at a small town church” or “You don’t need a formal training to serve at a small town church” and other similar nonsense. First, it is wrong for pastors to think so low of small churches and/or small towns. Second, it is wrong for churches (regardless of what size) to have such a low view of minister’s qualification. That’s like saying, “It doesn’t matter if my surgeon didn’t go through all the medical training as long as he likes to open people up.” What nonsense! If there are standards and qualifications for our local school teachers, dentists, car mechanics, and surgeons, shouldn’t we also have standards and qualifications (more so) for men to accurately handle the word of God?

Missiologically speaking, I see a huge need for churches to revitalize in small towns all across America, especially, in the Upper Midwest. In some sense I am glad to see churches close down when they are no longer qualified as a biblical church. In fact, I’m praying that more would close their doors. However, I do feel for some of the genuine remnants of God that cannot find a healthy church in their towns or surrounding towns so they have to drive 2 hours or so. That is the case in many parts, such as North Dakota, where I helped a group of people who wanted to plant a church there.


6 thoughts on “Ministering in Small Churches and/or in Small Towns

  1. It appears that you believe that all Pastor’s are in need of seminary training before they can Pastor. I hope I misunderstood that. But just in case, that opinion within itself is unbiblical.

    • There are men in church history that God used who had no seminary training. I think of Spurgeon, Moody, Lloyd-Jones, and others. However, you’re no Spurgeon, neither am I. Although I don’t believe that seminary training is prerequisite to preach, I do not belittle its importance.

      While there is a danger of pride in boasting about one’s academic degree(s), it is equally prideful to think of one’s self to be self-sufficient because he is self-educated. Seminary degree(s) may seem nothing to some people, however, it does mean that an individual has sacrificed/invested a portion of his life to sit under his teachers (whom he may sometimes disagree with) for rigorous training academically and spiritually (though like Calvin, I don’t see the two as contradictions). In a nutshell, seminary training offers tools for people to enhance their call to preach and pastor. To me, that’s priceless.

  2. Might I add a quote from B.B. Warfield on this subject? In his address, “Religious Life of Theological Students,” Warfield said:

    “Say what you will, do what you will, the ministry is a “learned profession”; and the man without learning, no matter with what other gifts he may be endowed, is unfit for its duties. “Apt to teach”—yes, the minister must be “apt to teach.” Not apt merely to exhort, to beseech, to appeal, to entreat; not even merely, to testify, to bear witness;but to teach. And teaching implies knowledge: he who teaches must know. But aptness to teach alone does not make a minister; nor is it his primary qualification. It is only one of a long list of requirements which Paul lays down as necessary to meet in him who aspires to this high office. And all the rest concern, not his intellectual, but his spiritual fitness. A minister must be learned,on pain of being utterly incompetent for his work. But before and above being learned, a minister must be godly.Nothing could be more fatal, however, than to set these two things over against one another. Recruiting officers do not dispute whether it is better for soldiers to have a right leg or a left leg: soldiers should have both legs. Sometimes we hear it said that ten minutes on you knees will give you a truer, deeper, more operative knowledge of God than ten hours over your books. “What!” is the appropriate response, “than then hours over your books, on your knees?” Why should you turn from God when you turn to your books, or feel that you must turn from your books in order to turn to God? That I am asked to speak to you on the religious life of the student of theology proceeds on the recognition of the absurdity of such antithesis. You are students of theology, it is understood that you are religious men. In your case there can be no“either—or” here—either a student or a man of God. You must be both. Religion does not take a man away from his work; it sends him to his work with an added quality of devotion.”

  3. Pingback: Advice to Seminarians & Young Pastors « Pastor’s Perspective

  4. I appreciate the post (coming from a SBC ministry B.A. graduate, but non-seminary-trained pastor). I think the sentiments are very correct. Churches are decaying from a lack of qualified men to fill the pulpits and serve as pastors. It’s not that seminaries need be the only “qualifying” and equiping institutions by which pastors can be adequately trained and prepared for the task ahead of them. It’s that the other institution designed for such training – the church – is also doing a horrible job at it. For this reasons, quality seminary training is all the more invaluable. This is why it is so hard to find pastors who are also what they should be…scholars.

  5. Pingback: Serving At A Small Church | Pastor's Perspective

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