Small Town, Big Mission
Cities continue to be magnets for young people looking for education and work, and many of them choose not to return home. Two decades ago, old-age dependency was virtually the same for towns and cities. From the 1990s onwards they have diverged, towns getting older whilst our cities get much, much younger. This has left towns at the sharp end of the social care crisis and the low wage economy. An economic model begun under Tony Blair and pursued with enthusiasm by George Osborne, which sees cities as engines of economic growth, has exacerbated this trend. Without spending power, town centres have hollowed out, pubs, shops and community institutions have disappeared and public transport that relies on passenger numbers is becoming increasingly unsustainable.
Does this matter? Well, yes it does - certainly if you are the resident of a town where shops and facilities are disappearing. But it should also matter to all of us who are concerned about social cohesion. And it matters politically. Some of the unexpected things that have happened in both the UK and US over the past couple of years are the consequence of the growing gulf between town and city.
In the church there has been significant emphasis in recent years upon the need for mission to the cities. Tim Keller has been especially influential in this, and we should be grateful for the way he and others have inspired a new generation of church planters to love the city. While applauding this focus we should not lose sight of the need to reach small towns - and all the more so as social need is increasingly located in those communities while the cities prosper.
Mission to the city can feel overwhelming, but reaching small towns can be even more challenging and require at least as many skills in contextualisation, theological application, and ecclesiological nous. So I am grateful for my friend Donnie Griggs who has been helping equip an ever growing number of church leaders and planters to reach small towns.
Donnie is running a number of Small Town Jesus events across the US (details here), and this June will be bringing one of these events to the UK for the first time,
Small towns are full of brokenness and hopelessness despite the popular opinion that small towns are blissful and problem-free. Small towns are big mission fields that are almost totally neglected by modern church planters & leaders. City ministry has become, for many, the definition of godly ministry. However, we need to hear a call to take the gospel everywhere, big or small, because that is what Jesus told us to do.
The Small Town Jesus Conference is a 2-day gathering designed to fill you with faith and help equip you for rural ministry. Our hope is that you’d leave having been built up, and strengthened with a bigger vision for your context.
You can register for this conference here. Spread the word!