By Michael Cooper
Sometimes when you’re serving in a rural context, there’s a temptation to feel you aren’t “making an impact.” Perhaps you look at the numbers and become discouraged, especially when you see fellow pastors baptize more people on a Sunday than your church has in worship attendance.
Perhaps we should shift our mindset. Since ministry rhythms are slower in a rural context, it’s possible to expand your gospel influence to include those outside the congregation you serve. As important as local church service is, remember we are called to reach the community as well.
I had a pastoral mentor say to me, “As a rural church pastor you also serve as a community pastor.” That struck me. Even though I serve a local church, I’m also called to serve as a pastor to the community.
Because rural communities are smaller, many people will automatically recognize you as a leader. So what are some ways you can expand your gospel influence beyond the four walls of your local church?
Write and Communicate Beyond Your Local Church
I’m thankful the local church I serve gives me the liberty to write and speak beyond the four walls of the church. As such, I’ve been able to write for websites and Christian blogs for a few years now.
I’ve also had the opportunity to speak in various contexts outside of the local church, whether it’s speaking at a local community function or opening a 4-H meeting in prayer. If God opens such a door, walk through it.
Harness the Power of Social Media
You can leverage social media to influence others with the gospel. Facebook and Twitter are great platforms to reach others. However, this will require a commitment to sharing gospel material and being intentional with your posts.
Now I’m not one who schedules my tweets, and I don’t have a personal assistant ghostwriting my Facebook posts, so I’m purposeful about what I share. But don’t forget to be human.
Talk about your family, share photos, and most importantly–be yourself! Here are some tips: stay away from fake news, be wise in your interactions with others, and be redemptive in your posts.
Send Out a Morning Devotional
More specifically, another way to make an impact in your community is to send a morning devotional. You can do this on social media, text message, or simply an email.
I’ve seen this put into practice by two friends of mine. Tedd Mathis, pastor of Pueblo West in Colorado, encouraged me to start sending out devotional thoughts through the Text2Group app. Every morning, he reaches 100+ people with the gospel through a text message.
Then there’s Michael Criner, pastor of First Baptist Church Bellville, Texas, who does a great job with his #ReclaimTheMorning devotional on social media. Both are simple and powerful ways to influence people with the gospel.
Be A Kingdom Presence in the Community
I don’t know how much simpler it can get, but just be a presence in your community. Go to the local football games. Attend your kids’ activities. Shop local. Eat in the town cafe. Experience the local community.
Ministry doesn’t just happen in a formal setting like a Sunday morning service. Gospel influence takes place during the normal rhythms of life.
For example, just last week at my daughter’s soccer game an individual came to me and asked for prayer. They knew I’m a pastor, but they had no connection to the church I serve. Just be present and be prepared to love.
Now at the risk of sounding arrogant for writing an article about expanding your influence, notice I’m talking about your gospel influence, not a self-promoting platform. Don’t do that.
As a rural church pastor, know you are a community pastor. And your gospel influence is vital for the community. You may not be the pastor of the biggest church in town, but you can still make a significant kingdom impact beyond the four walls of the local church.