Recently I heard a well-known, Godly speaker share some huge dreams for himself and his church at a conference full of other pastors and ministers. One of those dreams was to plant additional campuses in what he called “other cities of significance.” While I applauded his church’s desire to further increase the kingdom of God, I cringed when I heard him say “cities of significance,” as if there existed cities of insignificance.
Hi, I’m Jason and I’m a rural pastor.
Our little town has roughly 1,200 people in it and our church is average. It’s a great church filled with people who know how to love God and love their community. We’re not alone. Although there are thousands of little towns just like ours, I wonder how many people from urban areas write places like ours off as “insignificant.”
I know what the speaker meant and I don’t mean to sound like I’m bashing the guy. He’s a great man of God and an inspiration to anyone who has ever been given a vision from Jesus that seemed impossible. But cities of significance is church-planting code for “best chance of success.” He is taking an investment risk and wants to maximize an eternal reward. The problem I have is the terminology used so loosely and without much thought. Perhaps he didn’t mean anything by it, but I know from his ministry experience that he has never pastored an average church in a small town.
How large does a city/town have to be to achieve the status of significance anyway? Fifty-thousand? One hundred thousand? Maybe even a couple million people? Does it need to have Sam’s Warehouse and Buffalo Wild Wings?
You might be saying right now, “C’mon, you’re being ridiculous. What should the speaker have said?” (I’m glad you asked!) How about saying, “We’re going to plant a campus in every city God leads us to”? Wouldn’t that be a good goal? And what if God leads you to a small, obscure town? What if God told you that you would die in rural ministry? Would you still obey God no matter what? (Conversely if you prefer small towns, what if God told you to go to the big city?)
Just think of the many examples of our Christian fore-bearers who were changed in insignificant places. One of which was Charles Spurgeon, the “Prince of Preachers”, who was born in a small town, grew up in an agricultural village, and was spiritually transformed in a rural church. There was someone who said yes to rural ministry and was faithful to preach the word of God to the people in Spurgeon’s church. Was Spurgeon’s town a “place of significance?”
Another great example is of Father Joseph Damien who was also born in an insignificant place and later died on an island named Hawaii in the middle of the ocean in the late 1800’s. Damien’s story was that he had little evangelistic success while working with people with leprosy. Then one day he realized he had contracted the disease. Having given his life for the ministry of those less fortunate, he was able to begin a sermon with this introduction, “Fellow lepers . . .” Because of his “insignificant” ministry, a revival broke out!
Let me be very careful. I’m not advocating that rural ministry is more important than urban ministry – they are BOTH important; both significant! Let’s stop using language that only fits big church models which subliminally feeds misguided goals of grandeur and ambition.
If God thinks every person is significant enough to die for
then every place is significant.