by Donnie Griggs
It may surprise you to know that you don’t have to look far in the Bible to get at the heart God has for small towns. In fact, if you’re looking for it, you see it right away.
“And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.” – Genesis 1:9-10 (ESV)
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” – Genesis 1:26a (ESV)
In the first chapter of the Bible we learn that God made the earth and said it was good and God made man and woman in his image. That means that small town or big city- both matter because of these two facts; God made the place and described it as good and God made the people in his image.
These are actually all of the reasons we need to take ministry in small towns as seriously as ministry anywhere else. The place and the people both matter to God.
But, as obvious as this may seem, it is not something that comes to mind naturally. Take our next small town endeavor at the church I lead. We are planting this fall into a town called Havelock, NC. Many of the locals refer to it as, “Have-not” because of the lack of hip restaurants or trendy places to hang out. So, why not skip Havelock and move on to cooler town down the road? Because God made Havelock when he made the earth. God said it was good. And Havelock is filled with image bearers of God in need of the Gospel.
Like with anything else, just because it’s in the Bible doesn’t mean we’re going to do it. So what keeps us from saying small towns really matter? There are three major reasons why I think we don’t take ministry to small towns as seriously as to larger cities.
First, we aren’t convinced theologically. We forget that God made the world, that Jesus was from a small town, that Jesus intentionally ministered in small towns and that Jesus sent his disciples to small towns.
Second, we have a shallow understanding of the brokenness in small towns. We imagine them like Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show, assuming the crime can be handled by a deputy with one bullet in his pocket. Many of us don’t know of the drug epidemic, the human trafficking and the soul crushing poverty. We don’t know that these image bearers are harassed and helpless, like sheep without shepherds who can show them the hope of the Gospel. We assume the work is done because of the amount of buildings with steeples on them.
Finally, we have some mindsets that keep us from taking ministry in small towns seriously. We think if the cities are changed eventually the small towns will be to, failing to think about how cruel that sounds or how risky that is. Jesus didn’t do that, why should we? We know cities have more people so they obviously need more churches. True, but that doesn’t mean that small towns need no churches or worse churches than cities. We have sacrificed the quality because a smaller quantity of churches is needed. Almost every resource is dedicated towards planting and strengthening churches in cities. We need great churches everywhere.
We live in a world God made and said was good, we are surrounded by fellow image bearers and we have been made ambassadors for Christ to fill this good world with the good news in our generation. Let’s take it seriously wherever we find ourselves; small or big.