Rural Missions Sunday
Village Missions and Bangor, CA
Good Morning. Go ahead and turn to Romans 10 in your Bibles. The passage that was read earlier is going to be our anchor text for this morning. You know, Village Missions produces numerous short videos about rural ministry, and that is far and away, one of my favorites. And they all revolve around Jesus Christ. Preach the Word and Love the People. I love that. And at the end of that video, when the Village Missions logo came up, what did it say underneath? Keeping Country Churches alive.
I don’t know if you guys know this, but we are a country church. This church was put here by God in Bangor, CA for a very specific reason. That is to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost. Village Missions has partnered with this church since 1964. Reading up on the history of this church, it had essentially closed down prior to partnership with Village Missions. God preserved his church here in Bangor for a reason. To Preach the Word and to Love the People.
But what does a country church bring to a community? Why is it important to keep these churches alive? And not just alive. Village Missions stated purpose is that they exist to develop spiritually vital churches in Rural North America. Thats us. Thats you guys out here. Village Missions purpose is to make you spiritually vital, so that you can go out and bring the light of the Gospel to the community.
So, today we are talking about missions. Specifically, rural missions, and the role that you and I and Village Missions plays in rural missions. When talking about missions, we can get some images in our heads. We can think of missions as some one else going to some far of country to teach Jesus to primitive tribes in the middle of nowhere. If we are involved at all, it is through giving money to our church or a missions organization and don’t give it another thought.
Some a couple of things about that. First of all, missions don’t just exist out there. John Piper famously says that “Missions exist because worship doesn’t…” Missions, which is simply sharing the Gospel with those who don’t know Christ. Missions are not just out there. Missions are everywhere. Missions are in out family, missions are in our churches, often. Missions are in our communities especially. In terms of un saved population numbers, The United States of America is the third largest mission field in the world.
And even when missions organizations or churches think of domestic missions, they think of urban and suburban areas, and no one will argue, or no one can argue anyway, that these communities don’t need Jesus. But, as we saw in that video, what happens to the rural areas, the small “picturesque,” towns that dot the landscape of America? They get forgotten. They get overlooked.
And the idea, whether it was ever accurate or not, that the problems from the cities, the problems that plague America, didn’t also effect small town, rural communities, is gone. Today, drugs & alcohol, addiction in general, teen and unwed pregnancy, suicide, poverty, loneliness, broken homes, all of it are just as prevalent, if not more so in rural communities than in urban and suburban communities. Look at the insert in your bulletin and it tells a couple of stories about drugs becoming and, in fact, already being a major problem in these rural communities. Many of you know people or family members or neighbors that are somehow affected by drug addiction.
And that’s where the local church comes in, that’s where we, Bangor Community Church comes in and that’s where Village Missions comes in. Because we have the solution to broken lives, broken hearts, hopelessness, and weariness. That solution is Jesus Christ.
Are your Bibles still open to Romans chapter 10? Lets read again, first verses 9-13, which shows Jesus as the solution to these problems. Romans 10:9-13. Paul writes:
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is LORD and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same LORD is LORD of all. Bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.
Now, we are going through a sermon series through Romans, and we are coming towards the end of Chapter 9, so we will get to this passage in a few weeks, and we will get deep into it at that point. But I want us to just see the point of this passage here.
Call on the name of the LORD and you will be saved. Turn away from your sins and put your complete trust and faith in Jesus Christ as your only hope of salvation.
There is a need. We are a broken people. God created the world perfect and good. The first two chapters of Genesis show us that ALL of creation, all the way through the creation of Adam and Eve and marriage of husband and Wife was created perfect and good. In Genesis 3, everything changed. Adam and Eve sinned and brought a sinful nature that has infected every single person ever born like a disease.
That moment not only left us all sinful by nature and guilty of sin, but it left us spiritually dead. It left us longing and searching for something to fulfill us. Before sin, we had a purpose. We were created to give glory to God, to worship him, in essence.
Now, our purpose is obscured. We don’t want to worship God, we want to be God. We instead worship ourself or our own desires and wants. So we are missing our purpose. We have a need inside of us that is unfulfilled.
That manifests itself in a wide variety of ways. Looking for purpose, looking for acceptance, looking for understanding, looking to numb pain and emptiness. We see drugs and alcohol abuse sky-rocket. We see suicide when we get to what we think is our wits end, when the pain is just too much. We see Sexual sin, seeking pleasure, acceptance, intimacy and love. We see abusive relationships, both sides of them. The abuser doesn’t see that the person they are abusing is made in Gods image. They see themselves as god and the one who gets to decide what happens to the one who they are abusing. On the abuser’s side, they think that this is what love truly is. They think this is what they deserve. They think their abuser has the right to do with them what they want.
All of this sin, all of this evil is here because we are trying, with imperfect avenues, with imperfect, broken people, and with imperfect, temporary measures, trying to restore the relationship that we were created to be in with the One, Holy, God.
And even in what I just describes, you can see two different extremes. One side is the side that elevates themselves up to a god status. They are the authority. They decide what happens and who it happens to. There is no need for a savior because they havent done anything wrong.
Also in this group are those who are good, moral people and think that they can be good enough, or do good enough, or somehow earn their way back into Gods good graces.
The other side, the other extreme is the one who knows just how broken and sinful they are, but there is no hope for salvation. God either doesn’t exist, or doesn’t love them. God doesn’t know what I’ve done and if he did, he could never forgive me. There is no hope, no point and I deserve what ever I get.
Both of these extremes are wrong. Jesus says differently. Jesus puts the invitation out to all who hear. He puts the invitation out that there is only one way, what the Bible describes as the hard and narrow path. But that path is open to all who believe. Jesus is the only path to salvation. He is the only way to restore the relationship between us and the Holy, creator, perfect, triune God.
Jesus comes, not to promise earthly comforts, but freedom from our sins. The freedom to choose to do right. He changes lives and hearts and can change generational problems. He brings hope to the hopeless. He gives a father to the Fatherless. He restores relationships and purposes. He offers rest for the weary.
This life, here in this world is draining. It is wearisome. We get tired easily. Especially when we are trying to earn something we cannot ever earn. We get tired of fighting the truth. It wears us down trying to go against God, think we know better than him. When we rely on ourselves, it takes a lot out of us.
Its like trying to stop a train by standing on tracks. And the more we rebel against God, his plans, his offers, the more we trust in our own understanding. The more we try to hold onto what we think we have in this life, the more extremes we will go to.
If you talk to anyone who has been an addict, no matter what it was that they were addicted to. They will tell you, at the beginning, it just takes a little bit. The further things go, the deeper down they go, the more it takes to reach the same level of feelings. The more it takes, the harder it is to stop, both habitually and physically.
Sin is an addiction as well. And we cannot get ourselves out of it. The hold it has on us is too strong. Strong enough, that of ourselves, we don’t want sin to let us go. But Jesus, fully God, fully man is the one who can break those chains that hold us. He will fix the brokenness that is our lives. He will change our lives and our hearts from the inside out. He will bring us from spiritual death to spiritual life.
He will do that, if we repent and believe. He will do that if we confess him as our LORD and savior, If we have faith, But that has to be a real, true, saving faith. Not a verbal confession and we go on living the same life, but a faith that he gives us that breaks the changes of sin and gives a heart for his plans, his desires and helps us to lean on his understanding.
And how can people make that decision, if they don’t know that option is there? Lets read the rest of the passage in Romans 10, verses 14-17:
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?[c] And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
The only way for someone to respond to Christ is to hear the gospel, giving them something to respond to. The only way for them to hear the Gospel is for someone to bring the Gospel message to them. Thats what missions is. Thats the job of believers every where, to share the Good News with every one around us. And, to those called, to be sent, to go out and become a part of a community and to, in the words of Village Missions, to Preach the Word and Love the People.
As we mentioned earlier, missions come in all sorts of varieties. Urban, Suburban, foreign, tribal, and rural just to name a few. Each of them has their own challenges and their own opportunities, their own rewards.
Village Missions tries to identify some of the challenges of rural missions. Once they are identified, we can see how to reach the people of these rural communities. Whats interesting to me is that a number of these challenges all the same solution. Some of the unique characteristics of rural communities, we see that it takes awhile to become a part of the community. Newcomers stay newcomers for many, many years.
When Hope and I arrived at our last field, a month or two after we got there, a guy pulls up in his blazer, introduces himself and as we were talking, he mentions that he is still considered the new guy, having “only” lived in town for 15 years.
In many rural communities and small town, family and social connections go back generation upon generations. Everyone knows everyone else. People come and go, but family sticks around. It’s not uncommon, and we have heard it in our short time here, for the thought towards newcomers to be, “How long til this guy leaves?”
And we know that question doesn’t come out of nowhere. There is a reason that question is common. People come and go. IT takes a while to make a difference. It takes a while to gain and earn trust. It takes awhile to show the people of communities that you truly do love them.
There’s a saying that “People dont care how much you know until they know how much you care.” And showing you care takes time. So when Village Missions places Missionary Pastor into these communities, the idea is for them, for us, for Hope and I, for all the couples that are a part of VM, to be a part of the community, to be there for a long time, to show the People that we are committed to them and that we love them. Preach the Word and Love the People.
Another challenge in reaching the people in rural areas is that many people have moved out from the city, from the suburbs, and many of them have moved because they don’t want to be known or found. In many of these communities, it is really not a good idea to start going door to door, up random driveways.
To meet and get to know people who don’t want to be found, it takes time and presence. Just being around, a part of the community. The church being a presence in the community. Think about what this church has done or is doing to help Bangor. The fire relief, Commodities, used to have AA meetings here, weddings and funerals, even open doors and a listening ear. Those things make a difference. They show people that the church is open, for one. They show people that we are here to serve, to show the love of Christ, to be the arms and the feet and earn a hearing with them so that we can share the Gospel with them.
The last unique thing about rural communities and rural churches especially that I will share is that feuds and loyalties run deep and last seemingly forever. When there are very few churches around, or, as in many Village Missions fields, only one church, it is guaranteed that you will talk to people who wont go to the church because of something that happened years and years ago, sometimes with the church, sometimes with someone else in the community who happens to attend the church. Often times, in these feuds, the initial cause isn’t even remembered years later. But loyalties and feuds run deep.
This works the other way as well. We have some people here who attended when this building was built. We have people whose parents, maybe even grandparents attended Bangor Community Church. The problem comes in when, as is so common in America especially, the Bible Belt and rural communities especially, is cultural Christianity. My folks went to church, my grandma took me to Sunday School, so I’m good. I raised my hand, I prayed a prayer, I walked down an aisle, but with no real relationship with Christ.
Showing people what real, true, biblical Christianity is can take time as well. We get entrenched in our beliefs. We assume there is no more to learn, or no need to learn more. Bible Studies, one on one discipleship, the teachings her on Sunday mornings, all are ways to show the truth of what the Bible actually says. Combined with fellowship, potlucks, work party’s, generally living our lives with each other, walking through the ups and downs of life, as the bible says, bearing each others burdens. Preach the Word and Love the People.
That is the call and mission of all believers. Missions in one form or another. You are a missionary to your family, to your coworkers, your neighbors, your community. Many of you will never be called to pick and go somewhere else to be a “missionary.” But you can still be, and should be involved in missions. Thew two ways that works itself out is through prayer and through financial support.
Now, a couple of things about financial support. First, God calls us to give. He calls us not to give begrudgingly, not to give out of obligation, but to give cheerfully and sacrificially. Our giving is to be considered as a part of our worship.
Now, if you are not a believer, this does not apply. If you are not a believer, you do not worship God so giving is not a part of your worship. If you are a believer, your first commitment is to your home church, wherever that is.
After you have cheerfully and sacrificially given to your home church, if God has blessed you and called you to give above that, I ask that you consider giving to missions. If you have missionaries that you know, or an orginazation that you believe in and trust, give to them. If you don’t know where to start, I humbly submit Village Missions for your consideration.
You can give generally to the mission, you can go online, look up specific missionaries, you can choose specific churches to give to through Village Missions. You gift, your support of VM allows missionary pastors like me, and their families to be placed in these rural communities, in these small towns to ensure that there is a gospel presence, that there is a light in the darkness that is enveloping the our country today.
The prayer part if it may seem obvious and we try to make it as simple as possible for you. One way you can pray is by praying for the Missionary Spotlight of the week that we put in the bulletin each week. Village Missions also puts out Stories from the Field. These are stories sent in from Village Missionaries from around the country showing how God is moving in their churches and their communities. This is usually monthly and when I receive them, I post them on one of those back bulletins boards. Vms quarterly newsletter also gets set on that back ta\ble when it comes in. I encourage you to grab one and read through it, seeing what is happening. Lastly, you can sign up for emails, or like them on Facebook and they will send prayer requests or share updated information with you through that method.
Ultimately, if nothing else, what I want you to leave today remembering is that salvation is only found in a true, biblical faith in Jesus Christ as our LORd and our savior from sin. Romans says that faith comes by hearing, hearing through the Word of God. All of it is ia gift of God, not of ourselves, so that no one may boast. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the Glory of God alone, as revealed by the scriptures alone. And how are they supposed to hear the Gospel, the Word of God, the scriptures, unless someone is there to tell them. It is the Gospel that saves. The Gospel that changes lives, the frees us from our sins. It is the Gospel that brings us out of the jaws of death and into the eternal life that is the loving arms of God the Father.
We are going to close by watching a brand new video from Village Missions, highlighting one of those changed lives and the role that Village Missionaries and the churches they partner played in that life change. Thank you