On Sunday I visited two congregations. I installed a new pastor at a rural church. Because of everyone’s schedule, I was unable to conduct this service earlier. Pastor Doug and his wife Ellen are doing a great job, morale is up and things are on the upswing. Pastor Doug is from the little town where he pastors. Rather than being a hindrance it seems to be working out for Pastor and the church. Though there is a process in how we call pastors, I still believe that the Lord leads the process. Though the town is so small that I do not believe it is technically a town, the church is having an impact upon the community.
In the afternoon I went to Liberty Indiana a small town in Union county adjacent to the Ohio border. The church had fallen on hard times. The congregation was decreasing in numbers and then the building was condemned. I asked a pastor who I have known since we were young pastors together in northern Indiana, if he would come and fill in for a few months and just preach and love the people. He agreed and at the end of the allotted time, I appointed him as pastor for a year. Then the building was condemned, they would need to relocate and then figure out what they would do next. Pastor Konkle called me one day and said we have been given the opportunity to hold services in the local funeral home. I thought “I am not sure how that is going to work out.” I went for a visit to the church in the funeral home last summer. Upon entry into the funeral home, I thought I must have come into someone’s funeral service and that the church must be in a room down the hallway. To my surprise the crowd in the funeral home was actually the church. There were four times more people at the church in the funeral home than were there the last time I was with them in their building. It was unbelievable! Fast forward to this past Sunday. The congregation has a new facility on the property where the old church stood. We had a good crowd at the service and I feel that I have witnessed a miracle.
What do these two stories teach me?
- You must get the right person in the right place at the right time. No amount of planning makes this happen. It happens when we pray and ask God to guide us. When you get the right pastor in the right place and at the right time, things happen!
- The day of small town churches is not over. These two churches would be an example of what is happening across the country and the world. People are coming to faith in small towns and villages.
- Small churches can have an impact. Both of the churches that I visited yesterday have a higher percentage of their community in their churches than does any large town congregation.
- A pastor must know the local culture and be a part of the community.
- There is always hope. Perhaps we need to get to end of ourselves so that we can depend on God and see what He decides to do. Both of these churches had fallen on hard times, yet yesterday we celebrated victories. Never lose hope!
- There was joy evident in both of the congregations. Is there joy in your church? Joy is contagious, so is discouragement. Allow God to turn your discouragement into joy!
If it can happen in Liberty Indiana with all due respect, it can happen anywhere! Right where you are would be a good place for something to happen.