Significant Ministry Can Happen Anywhere!

Growing up I thought I lived in a small city. We were not far from beautiful farm lands, yet we could also see Chicago’s skyline within an hour’s drive. I didn’t realize until I was in college that I actually grew up in a big city – with a population of 300,000. I also thought my church was a ‘normal’ size. It was larger than some other churches nearby, but I knew almost everyone there. Most of my family and extended family attended my church. I went to school with almost all of the kids in my Sunday School classes. If I didn’t know someone’s name, their face was familiar or my parents knew who they were. Yes, I was sure I lived in a pretty small community.

That was many years ago, and God has expanded my horizons. I’ve now lived for more years in a community with no stop lights than in a city where more time is spent waiting at stop lights than driving to your destination. God gives us the ability to adapt, and I am truly grateful for that! The traffic isn’t the issue now, it is the distance from point A to B. And, then there was a time period in our early married life when my husband had to break the news to me that the nearest ‘real’ shopping mall was an eight-hour drive away. After I had time to absorb the shock of this news, I came to terms with the fact that it was probably for the best. With that distance between me and a mall, I wouldn’t be tempted to buy things I didn’t need or have the money for! Perspective, it is an interesting thing.

God took me on this journey gently. I went from living in a pretty urban area to college life in a small town – but still less than an hour’s drive to a decent sized city! As newlyweds, God took us out west to a small town of about 7,000 people. We enjoyed many of the conveniences of a city, with a full-sized grocery store only minutes away. Our next stop was back east. By this time, we had two kids in tow. I had a moment of panic when I couldn’t locate the town we were moving to on the page of the atlas (This was pre-google maps)! We eventually discovered that our new home would be situated beyond the city limits and nestled at the bottom of a mountain. We were going to live in the 'suburbs' of a community whose population was listed as 375 in the most recent census. They didn't have a stop light, but they did have a grocery store, a doctor, a bank and two stop signs. Whew! I braced myself for my new reality.

No doubt God has taken you on an interesting journey in life too. Whether you serve a church in an urban or rural environment is insignificant. What is significant is that God has a plan for you and me. I love the verses in the Book of Joshua when God repeatedly commands Joshua to "be strong and courageous” which is then followed by the people of Israel echoing those same words of encouragement to Joshua, “Only be strong and courageous.” Joshua 1:18. 

Joshua's story continues, and there is one event that is not well known but is worth repeating. Many know the story of Moses and the parting of the Red Sea found in Exodus 14, but how many of us know much about Joshua and the parting of the Jordan River? The Bible records in Joshua 4:13 that the whole nation of Israel – including the priests and over 40,000 warriors ready for battle - crossed over the Jordan on dry ground and even when the river was at flood stage! This is an amazing miracle…and yet, many don’t know the story or the huge impact it had on the generations to follow. Joshua 4:23b-24 describes the significance of this event in this way, “For the Lord your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”  

Understanding God’s plan - and perspective - on life and ministry is necessary at each stage of our journey because even the miraculous can become normal and routine. If we’re not careful, we can become too self-focused. Or, we can be lulled into thinking that not much is happening in our little corner of the world. But, that’s not true for me or for you!

God recently gave me a fresh perspective on the unique blessings and opportunities that He’s given my husband and I over our years in ministry. He used the words of a fellow pastor’s wife at smalltownpastorswives.com who said -

"Our adversary wants you to feel that you are alone. But you are not. Our adversary wants you to feel that your ministry is insignificant. But it is not. It may be true that your ministry doesn’t bear the world’s earmarks of significant ministry – the bestselling books, the megachurch, the podcast with a million listeners. But that’s okay. God calls some to very visible, public ministries. For us, though, we’re called to something different. We see our neighbors day after day at the local grocery store, at the post office, at the library, at the school’s fundraiser, at the ranch branding – each encounter an opportunity to point them to the wonderful Savior who loved them and died for them. That is significant ministry.”

I love it! God is not limited by the world’s expectations. He is so much bigger, and He can work in significant ways - even in the most routine and normal things of life.

Oh, and I just have to share one more discovery with you! While I was looking up the technical definition of a city versus a town, I ran across an interesting statistic. In 2014, it was reported that 15% of the US population lived in rural areas. That percentage may not impress you at first glance, but that statistic equals more than 46 million people! And, many of us have the privilege of living with and serving those people - in our little communities and churches. That is beyond amazing.

So, my questions for you today are these -

Do you trust that God has placed you where you need to be?
Do you trust Him to carry you and possibly part the waters - of the impossible - before you? 
Do you trust Him to take the seemingly insignificant moments of life and make them significant in His eyes?

Are you willing to follow Joshua's challenge in Joshua 22:5?

Be vigilant in keeping the Commandment and The Revelation that Moses the servant of God laid on you: Love God, your God, walk in all his ways, do what he’s commanded, embrace him, serve him with everything you are and have.” (The Message)

The ministry God has called you to is significant! Serve Him with everything you are and have. Be strong and courageous. He is faithful. Trust Him to take the seemingly insignificant and make it into the miraculously significant for His glory and honor!


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