"Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he
into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum,
is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: That
might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, the
land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea,
beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which sat in
saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of
light is sprung up. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say,
Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Galilee—the land west of the Sea of Galilee, and the ancient home of
tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun—this was the place where our Lord
performed most of His earthly ministry. And thus it must have been.
Isaiah the prophet had stated with divine authority in the ninth
of his book that the Christ would bring light to that dark place. It
been a very dark place, too. A thousand years before, King Solomon
to give Hiram, King of Tyre, "twenty cities in the land of Galilee" as
present for his help in the building of the Temple, but Hiram refused
take them! "They pleased him not. And he said, what cities are these
which thou has given me, my brother? And he called them the land of
[displeasing]." (I Kings 9:12-13) Of His home-country the people of
Jesus' day said, "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" (John
1:46), and, "Out of Galilee ariseth no prophet" (John 7:52). Galilee
part of the land that had been conquered by Assyria as God's punishment
of gross and prolonged idolatry. It had been re-populated with pagan
transplants from other parts of the Assyrian empire (I Kings 17) who
inter-married and religiously corrupted the remnant of Israelites left
behind. What a bad place for the Savior to serve!
When I first visited the State of Israel back in 1981, I learned
something else about the place of our Lord's ministry. Galilee was a
rural area. The towns were mainly small towns, and the people were
country people back in Jesus' day. Jesus went down to the great city
Jerusalem only at the feasts. His ministry there (emphasized in the
of John) was quite limited in its time and extent. Mainly, the Lord
preached and ministered in the country and small towns of Galilee!
How strange often the dictates of divine Providence can seem to us! The
Son of God was sent for an earthly ministry, not to metropolitan areas
such as Rome, the political capital of the world, or Athens, the
intellectual center of the time, or to any great extent Jerusalem, the
focal point of the worship of Jehovah in the world, but rather to a
despised, backwoods, country area, covered with pastures and dotted
small towns. He touched the lives of farmers, and fishermen, and
government agents assigned to remote outposts. He walked rural roads,
slept under country skies, and sat on green hills to teach. Jesus was a
This fact was a great encouragement to me as one who has been sent to
agricultural community to pastor a country congregation. What I saw in
the Holy Land, and what I learned from Matthew 4, have helped me to
at this more isolated outpost as long as God wants me here, and to
the Gospel and do the work of the ministry in a place less populated
the city. What does the account of our Lord's Galilean ministry tell us
about serving God as a country preacher?
1. Rural ministry is God's will for some men.
This may not be logical to the human mind. I had a well-known
tell me when he came to our church that he would have liked pastoring
where I am, "if the world wasn't going to Hell." We are commanded and
commissioned by the Lord Jesus to "preach the gospel to every creature"
in the world, and it is certainly part of this mandate to invade the
However, God's ways and God's will are not always
line with the way we would reason things should be done. The Lord
Philip away from "the city of Samaria" to a desert road literally in
middle of nowhere! There he met one man (Acts 8) who was won to Christ
and then was used of God in the evangelization of a nation! God's ways
are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8).
That's why preachers must stay yielded to God, and serve Him exactly
where He leads for as long as He leaves them in any certain place, even
when it's in the country. It was the Father's will for the Son of God
center His ministry in a country place for three and a half years.
Perhaps He will call you to serve in such a place, too. The people of
Israel traveled through a desert on the principle that when the cloud
God's presence moved, they would move, and that if God didn't move
they would not move!
"But if the cloud were not taken up, then they
journeyed not till the
day that it was taken up." (Exodus 40:37)
Seek the will of God for your life, and do not discount the
that it might take you out into the country!
2. There is a need for evangelistic preachers in rural areas.
In Matthew 4, Jesus was "led by of the Spirit" (the Holy
when he went from place to place. It was God that sent Him to Galilee,
first because it was necessary to fulfill the scripture in the Book of
Isaiah (verses 12-14), and secondly because there was a real need there
for His light (verses 15-16).
"The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by
the way of the
sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which sat in
darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and
of death light is sprung up."
So country places need the Light of Christ even in our day.
Traditionally in America, country churches have been led by
preachers with little vision or passion for their work. Yet people who
live out of town have as great a need for spiritual, solid,
churches as the people in town do! The children of farm families need
be challenged to live lives sold-out for God as much as city kids.
servant of God that is sent to pastor a rural church should be a man
a vision of the spiritual needs of his community and how they can be
When I first went to pastor a country church, I had trouble
burden for the spiritual need of my new field. When I served in the
just the sight of the crowds pushing their way through the shopping
centers or walking along the downtown sidewalks would move me with
compassion for their lost condition. But out here, there were no
multitudes! The people (if you could see any as you drove along) live
houses and trailers separated by quite a distance along the road.
a year, however, God showed me that there was a great need for the
winning of souls out here "in the sticks." There were plenty of lost
people in the country, but you just had to look harder and go farther
Every country church should have a big door-to-door witnessing
In some ways rural congregations have some advantages over city
in this kind of work. Whole towns or townships can be covered with
tracts in a relatively brief time by a small band of determined
In a city, before you finish one section of town and are ready to comb
the next section, a good number of the homes you just covered have
changed hands! Country churches can stay encouraged about door-to-door
evangelism because it doesn't seem an impossible task to reach
Also, homes in the country are not usually being visited at the same
by two or three different churches or cults. Often your church has the
only groups going house to house.
Every country church should have an active bus ministry.
visit down all the roads in your area, inviting people to ride the bus
church. Of course, rural bus workers should not compare their numbers
with the published achievements of city bus ministries. In our area we
found that the same amount of work on a bus route would produce about
half the numerical results of urban routes. But your workers should not
let this discourage them. We are not in competition with God's churches
in the big towns; we are at war with sin and Satan! Who cares about how
our numbers compare? There are souls to be won for the Savior.
Country preachers should look into getting a Gospel radio
a little rural station. They should also be active in sending groups to
preach in jails, prison camps, nursing homes, and juvenile facilities.
Every open door should be entered with the message of salvation.
If a pastor will stop comparing the population of his area with
his city-preacher friends, he can get a vision of the great
that await his evangelistic labor. Country places are often dark
and country people are often neglected in soul winning efforts. There
many who live around a country church that can be won to Christ!
I can remember, as I said, how long it took me to see my
as white unto harvest. Then one afternoon I was having work done on my
car at a service station in one of the villages near my place. I had an
hour to wait, and I prayed about how to use my time. Quickly I
a family that lived only a few blocks away who had let us take some of
their children to Sunday School on the bus. So I walked over there and
knocked on the door. I was welcomed into the kitchen by a big assembly
adult relatives, as well as a couple of the kids. There were Grandma,
some aunts and uncles, Mom, and some cousins. In a moment I introduced
myself, and invited everybody to church. Then I passed out Gospel
to all the people in the room. To my surprise, the whole group became
quiet. I suggested that they let me show them out of that tract how to
saved and ready for Heaven. The folks seemed agreeable, and before I
a chance to think about what I was doing, I was preaching a Gospel
message to this kitchen congregation! At the end of my presentation, I
asked a few questions to make sure that everybody understood, and then
gave an invitation for people to receive the Lord Jesus Christ. To my
amazement and great joy a good number (I think over ten) were saved in
the home on that day. They all came to church in the following weeks,
I had the privilege of baptizing most of them in a farmer's pond on a
special occasion! As time has passed, I have conducted the funeral of a
few of the folks that were saved on that day in the kitchen. There are
great opportunities to win souls in rural areas, and country preachers
must take them. Your area needs Christ as much as metropolitan areas.
3. There are servants of God to recruit from rural areas.
After telling us about our Lord's early preaching ministry in
the Book of Matthew records the famous call of the fishermen.
"And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two
called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for
they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make
fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed
Not only did Simon and Andrew answer the call, but also their
James and John (verses 21-22). One day these men would be known around
the world as the apostles of Christ, but they began life in the country
as professional fishermen.
Country churches should take care to challenge the young
people, and all
of their members, to the highest level of Christian life and service.
Sermons on discipleship and full surrender should be preached, and the
call to full-time service explained. Who knows what great servant of
sits in the pews of your country church? Elijah was from little Tishbe
way over in Gilead. Amos "was among the herdmen of Tekoa." And our Lord
himself was from the hillside town of Nazareth. Big men often come from
4. Rural ministry can have a powerful and wide-ranging impact.
Look at the description in Matthew 4 of the effects of our
ministry in Galilee.
"And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their
preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness
and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went
all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken
divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with
and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he
them. And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee,
from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond
Jordan." (Matthew 4:23-25)
His ministry touched "all Galilee" and "his fame" spread
Syria," down into Judea, and "beyond Jordan." He preached in the
but before long people from great distances, even from the great city
Jerusalem, came out to where he was to hear Him! Rural ministries
anointed by the Spirit of God can have a tremendous effect.
Many of the most powerful revivals of the past happened in
The early awakenings sparked by the ministry of Charles Finney were all
in small towns and country communities. The many revivals in Wales were
played out in rural settings. One reason for this might be the
influence of evil in locations away from the big cities. Another reason
might be the relative importance of one preacher or one church in a
populated area in comparison with the influence of a few in a
metropolitan area. Our country church has had opportunities to effect
community affairs where we live far beyond the influence a church our
size would have in the city. Anyway, if a full-scale revival breaks out
in a country church, the community will feel the effects to an unusual
extent. If a country church operates a quality Christian school, people
will notice. If the people of a country congregation live upright and
distinctively holy lives, the whole community will notice. If the
pastor lives a consistently godly life, pays his bills, treats his
neighbor right, and stays for a number of years, a surprisingly large
segment of the area will give him respect and pay attention to his
message. When a church does something big in a small community, the
impact can be very big.
Every year, our church puts on a big Christmas musical. We go
Usually we have what we call "The Singing Christmas Tree" (usually
"The Living Christmas Tree" in big city auditoriums), and set up a huge
tree-shaped choir loft from which our choir will sing seasonal songs
the public. The "Tree" is decorated with live boughs, Christmas balls,
garland, lights, and ribbons to look like a giant Christmas Tree. It
on our auditorium platform, and reaches to the ceiling. Literally
thousands of people in our area have seen "The Singing Christmas Tree,"
and many of them have been won to Christ. Nothing to compare with it is
done in our county for the holidays. With extensive advertising, and
aggressive visitation, we always get a big crowd.
Every summer, we have a big "Bible Time" (V.B.S.) Program. We
make it an
evangelistic effort, and use our buses to reach (if possible) every
in the area. Many souls are saved every year, and we get addresses of
folks to visit for months to follow!
"Big Sundays" can go over big in a small area, if they are
promoted well. Such things are often unusual for a country church, and
such may be more effective. Get some ideas from big-city pastors and
adapt them for your rural church.
We always invite the best evangelists in the nation to conduct
campaigns at our country church. Do you know how to get them? The best
way is to ask them! True men of God are not disincline to accept
invitations from rural churches, if you are in dead earnest about
souls. We have had both successful local-church and area-wide campaigns
that have accomplished much good.
If God has called you to a rural church, do not fret and sigh, nor
yourself unworthy of bigger opportunities. Surrender to the will of God
for your life, and give yourself to your ministry. Remember that the
Jesus Christ was a country preacher!
Fri, 8 Dec 2000
by Dr. Rick Flanders
currently Pastor of
Juniata Baptist Church
Juniata Baptist Church|
5656 Washburn Road
Vassar, MI 48768
Dr. Rick Flanders Biographical Data
Converted in 1963 through a radio ministry.
Earned B.A. and M.A. degrees from Bob Jones University.
Honorary D.D. from Pensacola Christian College.
Pastor at Juniata Baptist Church since 1973.
On BCPM Board, (Baptist Church Planting Ministry)
and also MACS. (Michigan Association of Christian School)
- Articles published in the;
- Sword of the Lord
- Baptist Preacher,
- Christian View of the News,
- Pulpit Helps,
- Maranatha Watchman
- Church Bus News,
- and other national periodicals.