Rural Churches on the Edge of Suburbia and the “C” Word.

CHANGE!  Church and change are like oil and water.  Rural church change could be the most difficult thing to pull off in the universe.  There are many rural churches that find themselves in a new environment due to suburban sprawl.  How do they accomodate growth and hold on to their heritage. . . or is that even possible.   Here is a 2006 example of a church that faced just such a problem:  http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/25/us/25church.html?ex=1324702800&en=3b51c2c9f5be908e&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

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Published in: on January 14, 2009 at 2:30 pm  Comments (15)  

15 Comments

  1. Now, I have not read all the research nor do I care to. But, the research I have seen reported in various places has always pointed to how little the name mattered.

  2. I agree Perry. The name is a silly thing to fight over. The example was meant to show how difficult change can be in some rural situations if it is not approached carefully and with much prayer.

  3. Why does that church exist? It does not exist to make the historical buffs happy. The church exists in that specific location to reach that specific community and beyond. The name change makes perfect sense. God is bringing thousands of new people to the community. The church must reach them or cease to exist. I am excited to see an 80 year old pastor concerned over the needs of the next generation. The name change will mean nothing however if it doesn’t reflect a new spirit of love for those around them and a willingness to do things differently. The article quoted some girls as claiming the new people were “snooty”. I don’t know them but I wonder who the “snooty” ones really are.

  4. Tom,

    Name change has to be proceeded by heart change within the church. Good point.

  5. yea, I got your point. I was just responding to the article. My point is that people get real proud and excited about doing something like this….and it isn’t necessary. A controversy was created…for no reason. The name change isn’t going to help. Gospel relationships will. It sounds like the name change became a symbol not of a new openness to the community but of the division within the community. The temptation is to say that the division is in the Church….no it is a conflict within the community itself which the Church has now (knowingly or not) taken sides. I personally could careless about name changes or name issues at all. They just aren’t relevant. What concerns me is that we are still at a point where it is considered important. We have far bigger problems than our name.

  6. For the record, my point goes toward the keep the name the same crowd also. I agree with Tom about the “community heritage/history buff” agenda is not the church’s agenda.

  7. I believe a name change can be beneficial when the name hinders the work of the Gospel. Years ago it was common for independent baptist churches to use the the name “Temple” (Town Baptist Temple) This was real confusing for the community and did not help the cause of evangelism so many changed their names. In the case of Hog Mountain, the question needs to be answered. were thir evangelism efforts undully hindered by their name, If so, a change would be beneficial. The question still remains. Does the name change reflect a change of the heart or just a short cut to make people comfortable. A change of heart is needed. If the name furthers that change of heart it is a great idea. Changing the name does nothing if the heart and culture of the church remains inwardly focused.

    Thanks for the stimulus for this conversation.

  8. Right Tom. My response was directed more toward the change the name as method. There are reasons to change a name to be sure. This might have been one. I was trying to speak in generalities. Like your blog, BTW.

  9. I wonder how that church is doing today? I wonder if resentment and suspicion won the day? I just might have to investigate.

  10. I was wondering the same thing. It would be interesting to see the results of the name change. Also, did they build a gym. Thanks all for the discussion.

  11. I love it…”did they build a gym?” Classic.

  12. Perry, not sure about your comment. In the article a member makes reference to the Pastor’s plan to sell a ball field to finance the building of a gym in order to minister to young families. The congregation had voted it down. I just wondered if they had proceeeded with the Pastor’s plan or not.

  13. I didn’t recall that at first but I remember now. But it is still classic. Family life centers? Really? That is what we need to spend our monies on? We need churches. We need missionaries. We do not need another Country club. I am afraid that we have entertained and “ministered” enough people down the path of destruction. My point is this…the change of the name does not seem to represent any change at all. It reflects an old mindset of the past century that has led us to the worst levels of biblical literacy and gospel fidelity in the history of the American church. I know this is direct talk for strangers and I genuinely do not wish for it to sound cold. If we are about the business of reaching the community then we need to be equipping our people with the gospel so that they can go to the gym where the unchurched are and reach them. We don’t need christian gyms. We need Christians in the gyms of the world. We don’t need families leaving their homes so that they can be ministered to. We need families spending more time at home together in family worship. We need change. Not different window dressing. The times are far too serious and desperate.

  14. Good discussion guys. Change is a commin’. The situation is always fluid even in a town like Cottage Grove. One of the strong points of Cottage Grove is that it hasn’t changed much in the last 150 years. We have indoor plubming, air conditioning, microphones, a killer sound system, computers, power point, and a fantastic projection system but at our core we are the same church we were 150 years ago. People know who we are and why we exist. If we changed our name to Po-Dunk Holler Baptist people would know who we are and what to expect from us. If we built a gym we would still be the same church. We have accomodated change around us and remained relevant by sticking to the mission. I have found that change only splits churches that are struggeling with identity. Again. . . good discussion.

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