Shepherding a Small Rural Church / Priceless!

I know it seems weird in the brave new GIGANTIC SUPER SIZED world that we have created in modern evangelicalism but I love the atmosphere that my small country church provides each Sunday.  Worship is real but unassuming.  Worship is fun but not over the top.  Worship is predictable without being stale.  It is very much alive without being manufactured.

People are not just faces in a crowd.  I know the story behind every smile, frown, and grimace that I see from the pulpit.  I am personally connected to them in a way that truly makes us like a family.  Sometimes that connection is filled with joy.  Sometimes that connection causes me great pain.  Sometimes that connection even makes me a little angry with them.  That connection always brings us together as we worship in Spirit and in Truth.

Small church is beautiful.  Shepherding a small church has been the most challenging, exciting, and rewarding ministry that I have ever been apart of.  If you are the pastor of a small church I would like to recommend that you attend one of the Impact conferences that will be going on around the country.  Here is the link:  http://sbcsmallchurch.com/

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Published in: on September 29, 2008 at 1:20 pm  Comments (2)  

Dying Healthy

I had an interesting conversation with a West Tennessee Director of Missions.  He said many of the rural churches he was familiar with were dying healthy. He made the statement that “I am healthy relative to a 68-year-old man”. He said, “I could be going through my daily routine one day and die. . . healthy.”  Everyone would be shocked at his passing because of his outward health.  They would say things like, “But he was so healthy.”  “He just preached at our church and he looked fine.”  They would all want to know what happened to such a healthy man?  There are churches who think they are healthy. The lights are on. The doors are open. There is a fresh coat of paint on the church, and the water bill is paid on time every month.  They think they are doing all that it takes to be healthy because they have a level of functioning. They will be going though the motions one day and die, seemingly healthy.

What these churches don’t see is that the essential elements for true health are missing. There is no real evangelistic effort. There is no zeal for pressing toward a deeper understanding of biblical truth.  The worship service could follow a bulletin from 1950 and no one would notice. Since everyone’s hair is graying together, no one notices the wrinkles and the lack of babies crying in the nursery.  There is no objectivity when it comes to determining true health.

It doesn’t matter if you die a long, painful, slow death, or if you just die one day. . . thinking you were healthy.  Dead is dead.

Published in: on September 22, 2008 at 7:17 pm  Comments (5)  

Please Pray

This is the Bullock Family.  They have a fantastic rural church story but it will have to wait.  There are more important matters at hand.  Payton, the big fella on your right, needs your prayers.  On Monday, September 8 Payton had a stroke that was located on his brain stem.  Since that day Payton has fought for his life, fought to breathe, fought to communicate (sometimes by blinking once for no and twice for yes), fought to move his fingers and hands, and his fight continues.  Payton knows that he is not fighting alone.  He knows that God has not forsaken him and his hope is secure in Christ.  Payton also knows that there are many people praying for him daily and he is sustained in that knowledge.  I am asking you to pray for his continued recovery.  Pray also for his wife, Stacy, and his two beautiful daughters as they cope along side Payton.  Thank you for praying and please feel free to pass this along to others who will pray.    

Published in: on September 13, 2008 at 3:40 am  Comments (28)  

Lets All Take A Trip!

We love our little part of the world.  Biking through it helps you appreciate its beauty even more.  At our pace we got to REALLY enjoy it.  

Little “Diddles” here was having technical difficulty with her helmet. 

Nothing to see but barns and trees. 

It’s great to be in a place where the tallest structures are grain silos.

There we go down the home stretch.

We did have a few spectators to cheer us on.

Published in: on September 6, 2008 at 10:40 pm  Comments (1)  

Read This Post

http://lesliepuryear.blogspot.com/2008/09/letter-to-rural-church.html

Published in: on September 5, 2008 at 12:08 pm  Comments Off on Read This Post  

Proud

I am proud of our church.  Not because of what or who they are per say, but because of their love for and obedience to God.  We celebrated what God was doing in our church and in us this past Sunday.  Reflection is a good for the soul.  It is surprising how much you forget during the course of a year.  We are so busy and involved with our lives we rarely take time to look back at what God did.  We rarely look back and say, “Thank you.”  

With so many people out of work this year, and with a sputtering economy, I just didn’t know how this past fiscal year would look.  I knew that we were exceding our budget and were exceding missions giving, but no one could have prepared me for the end of the year totals that we were able to celebrate last Sunday.  Our people passed a $93,000.00 budget last year.  Our people gave $105,000.00 in undesignated offerings.  We give a little over 10% of our undesignated receipts to the cooperative program of the Southern Baptist Convention, 3% goes to our local Baptist association, and a little over 1% goes to the Puerto Rican Deaf Ministry.  That is over 14% of our income that goes directly to missions before we spend a dime.

Our little country church that averages 75 in Sunday School exceded every goal we set for our state missions offering, the North American Mission Board offering, our International Mission Board offering, our Children’s Home offering, the Adult Home offering, a special offering for Union University, and a host of other special offerings.  All told, our rural church gave over $32,000.00 to missions last year!!!!!  That is a chunk of change for a church with a $93,000.00 budget.  It ain’t because we are all rolling in cash either.  It is because people KNOW where the money is going.  A large percentage of our people give.  Giving is an extension of their worship. 

They didn’t just throw money at missions either.  Members of Cottage Grove Baptist Church participated in missions in  Mexico, Puerto Rico, St. Bernard Parish, Jackson, Tn, and, yes. . . Cottage Grove.  They did everything from build wheel chair ramps to building churches.  They shared the Gospel with friends and helped with VBS in New Orleans.

Yes, I am proud to be their pastor and serve along side of them.  I am even more proud of the God we all serve together.  May HIS name be praised for working through us out here between the corn and the soy beans.

Published in: on September 2, 2008 at 3:49 am  Comments (2)